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I sat down earlier today and tried to write a post.  It has been especially difficult for me to post here the past few weeks.  But then it struck me, many of you are probably feeling similar to how I am.  Stressed?  Overwhelmed?

And now I’m telling you to improve the world – more stress!  No, no.  That’s not what I mean at all.  I’m suggesting that you pull in and pull back.  Yes, like Lori said, we all need to have empathy right now.  But you also need to take care of yourself and that self care needs to include your inner world.

I have to say that I have been doing an especially bad job of this.  Even now, I’ve had deadlines.  My work hasn’t slowed.  So now I’ve just got more to deal with.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job but let’s just say that I had a wee little melt down yesterday.  I’ve been checking hings off my to-do list and getting things done but . . .

Yoga?  Cancelled.

Church?  Cancelled.

These are the primary ways I center myself and two weeks without have left a mark.  Don’t be like Sue.  Take care of this before you too have a tantrum.

Take time to center.  Spend time in quiet.  Take time to breathe.  We each do this in different ways.  You might read your Bible.  Or listen to music.  Me?  I sit and knit.  Or I do yoga although relaxation pose is sometimes less meditation oriented and more nap oriented.  Yeah. I admit it.

But I took well over an hour yesterday just to knit.  And then I spent another hour knitting and listening to an audio book.  And I read my Bible. I’m on Numbers.

And today?  Today I’m coping better but I also realize that I need to pull in and pull back every day.  And I’m betting that many of you need this as well.  It’s okay.  We understand.  Just breathe.

–SueBE

 

rule of thirds photography of pink and white lotus flower floating on body of waterThe narrator on the meditation app that I use called HeadSpace said in a soothing voice, “We’re training the mind to both let go of difficulties and familiarize itself with calm, clarity and contentment.” As it turns out, that voice actually belongs to the company’s founder, Andy Puddicombe. Once I got past the fact that his accent reminds me of the Geico Gecko from the insurance company’s television commercials 🦎, I found the meditations relaxing. 

His suggestion to “let go of difficulties” gave me pause. While focusing on the positive is beneficial for mental health, discontent and anger are red flags that tell you that something needs attention. 

As Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, James Carmody says in this article, humans are wired to worry. “Tension is often unnoticed in the midst of managing everyday demands, but its background discomfort sends us looking for relief in something more pleasant like a snack, a screen, a drink or a drug.”

Those points of tension in your body are the way your psyche asks you for a relief valve. For me, along with meditation, I decompress with prayer, exercise, and knitting. Things that allow me to just breathe and be. 

At the risk of sounding like a guru-gecko, your to-do list will always be there in some form, so give yourself a break. Moments of repose can help bring you back to center.

Image result for british tea kettleOne of my go-to “happy place” programs is the Great British Baking Show (the original version, with Mary, Paul, Sue and Mel). Now, mind you, I’m not much of a baker, but I love to eat a nice scone in the kitchen while watching this show. Does that count as baking? I mean, I am sitting next to the stove, which I use often…to…uh…light candles 🕯 and such. 🙂 I’ll have to check my unimpeachable yet unidentified sources on Google Search and the Dark Web, but I believe that watching this show counts as surrogate baking. 

Often, I’ve had to look up British terms used on the show, such as “scrummy” (it means “scrumptious”) and “Bob’s your uncle” (that’s “you’re all set”), but the culinary creations and genteel charm of the show have won me over. It seems so civilized as the bakers compete politely to impress the judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (incredibly, his real name). Even the judges’ criticism seems less caustic than you’d see on an American cooking competition. After I watch the show, I find that I walk around calling my son and his friends “guv’nah” and using big words erroneously and randomly. Am I being subliminally influenced? Indubitably.😉

The bakers’ “soggy bottoms” are scrutinized scrupulously (that’s the underside of their cakes, not the bakers), and it’s actually the ultimate compliment when judge Paul says of one of the bakers (some of whom are lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc.), “Scientist? No. That guy’s a baker.”

Watching this pleasant show is how I take a break when life gets hectic. I put the kettle on, have a warm cuppa, and escape to a kinder, gentler world. You can’t take care of others if you’re running on fumes and faith alone, so put your own well-being at the top of your to-do list today.

This past week!  Holy bananas.

I can’t say that it was a bad week, but not one single day went as planned.  Plans added or deleted or simply shifted around day after day.  I’m not sure how or why but it made the whole week feel rushed.

So yesterday when I made it to church just a bit early, instead of stopping in the parlor where everyone gathers to chat, I entered through the fellowship hall.  In front of me stretched the labyrinth.  Step by step, I paced around the first circuit, pausing to breathe and reach outward at the turn.  Back and forth I paced, the whole time mentally calling out to God.

“How can I reduce the stressors in my week?”

“How can I reduce the clamor?”

“What can I do to feel more centered?”

And with each pause, each turn, the same answer came.  Turn to Me.

In the center, I paused while people entered the building around me.  Then I made my way back out, stopping, reaching out, step by measured step.

When we hurry through our days, rushing from task to task, we forget to listen.  We accomplish what we accomplish, checking it off our list and then rush to the next item.  Look at me!   I’m getting things done!

In our hurry, we forget whose path we follow.  We forget who lights the way.

Step slowly.  Pause.  Breathe.  And look to him.

–SueBE

Be patient. You never know what someone else is going through.

Not long ago, a group of us were together and one friend lost her stuff.  Full on, grown up lady-tantrum. Yes, we were stuck in a frustrating situation but wow. The rest of us exchanged looks and wondered what the heck had set that off.

Later that evening she messaged me to tell me how stressed she has been.  Um, okay.  As we messaged back and forth, more and more came out.  Everything made more sense. Then a few days later, her husband told me something else that was going on in their lives.  My husband heard about yet a third stressor.

Add it all together and we wondered how they were keeping it together.

Be patient.  You don’t know what someone else is going through.  And they may not be able to discuss it with you.

Be gentle.  Situations are often made worse when we decide a solution has to be found now.  Now.  NOW.  You need some space?  Too bad, my friend.

Be humble.  Maybe you’re made of mellower stuff than I am.  But I know that eventually I’m going to lose my cool and I will be the one in need of patience.  It may be today. It may be tomorrow.  But it will happen.

Christ charged us to love one another.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Maybe it’s just me but I suspect that patience, gentleness and humility were at least part of what he had in mind.

–SueBE

As march thunders to a close with a calendar chock full of Holy Week activities and more, I find myself a little down.  A little blue. Slightly discontent.

It could be me.  A personal flaw.  A tragic leaning.

But I talked to several others who have lately shared this same feeling.  Especially when that is the case, I think that we can agree, something in our environment needs to change.

Just this week, we lost a friend to cancer.  He suffered only a short while but he will be missed in our choir and our hearts.

Things have also been hectic.  Part of that will naturally end this week as we pass through Holy Week.  But I think I need to pay more attention to the calendar and make sure some fun things get scheduled.  I’ve been sitting on 4 tickets to the botanical garden, a bookstore gift card, and a restaurant gift card for about 7 weeks now.  No time!

I think that needs to change.  Some time Easter weekend I think I may be taking my husband out for a date night and using one of my gift cards.

And as long as I’m planning things, I think it is time to get another Wool Gathering (knitting and craft night with friends) on the calendar. We all need to see a shift in our environments.

–SueBE

 

As often happens, Lori’s post spoke to me.  Our family has known a great deal of stress lately with my MIL’s hospitalization, emptying her house and moving her to St. Louis (in one week), cleaning out my father’s house another week, and my son not getting to go to the college of his choice.

In the midst of all this, I got one of those calls.  Alex needed a ride.  Oddly enough, my son’s name isn’t Alex, but Alex and his older brother are friends of my son. Their mom died this winter and dad got divorced this spring.  Good bye, Mom.  Good bye, Stepmom.  Dad found a new job but he’s working retail hours with retail pay. I found out what this means when I fed the boys mac-n-cheese.  It’s good but it isn’t pick-me-up-off-the-floor good.  Apparently they’ve been living on pizza rolls.

As my grandmother would say, that got my German up.  I’ve fed them three times in the past week and they’re on a weekend trip now with my husband and son. Alex is comfortable enough now to ask me for things himself, instead of going through my son, and even teases me about being short.

Amidst all of this, I made it to choir practice on Thursday.  It is our last practice for the summer because our director may be facing hand surgery.  She’s scared and stressed and it showed.  When she asked several of us to sing solos this summer, I knew how to make her smile.  I suggested songs from the Veggie Tales.

Our choir director had never heard the Vegie Tales so we sang various songs for her.  We learned that one soprano does a spot on Larry Boy imitation. She sang Oh Santa.  Another soprano sang The Hairbrush Song.  I launched into Terrors of the Sea (We’re Vikings). By the time we were done, everyone was in stitches.  Seriously, you’d have thought we’d been drinking if you didn’t know how silly we can be.  Even when feeding extra boys and facing surgery.

God gives us laughter and we’re silly not to use it.  Laugh and feel closer to the God who made me, at 5’8”, the short one in the house.  God really does have a sense of humor.

–SueBE

woman with cell phoneI love reading posts like Ruth’s. The little blessing really do mean a lot.

Lately, I have not been feeling blessed. If anything, I feel beleaguered, put upon, picked on and stressed.  Dad has been booted from his assisted living apartment – he is immobile and thus needs more help than they can give. As we work to find someplace for him to live, he’s been in the hospital twice.  We found rehab but not residency and had to keep looking.

Stressful times, yes, but I still didn’t get it. Why was I being such an unholy b-word? I have a hot-tamale temper but this was above and beyond.

I prayed for calm.  I prayed for soothing.  Why wasn’t I hearing that still, small voice that so often contains the answers to my problems?  Instead, my attention kept going to my cell phone. Yeah, yeah. I should check and see if I have another message from my sister.

I prayed but my temper stayed hot. Then came three phone calls and 24 messages in 90 minutes. I was me more than a little frayed. I needed a break and grabbed a magazine.

There I found an article about how to handle the stress caused by our electronic devices. The writer discussed how to get out from under the huge onus of texts, e-mails and tweets. Skim your e-mail and messages by sender.  Pick out the few that are truly important and deal with them.  If you don’t get to the others?  Pfft. A lot of people will message or e-mail you instead of finding something out for themselves.

What a minute.  God, are you trying to tell me something?  The three calls and 24 messages above were mostly “check on what this person says and then get back to me with it” or “tell me again what you’ve already told me because I don’t want to scroll up.”

I picked up every phone including my cell.  I gave them to the teens gaming in my dining room. “Unless someone is dead or dying or there’s a fire, tell them I’m in Australia herding wombats.” Anyone who knew me would know that this meant “I’ve had it and will call back later.”

When one of my texters didn’t hear from me immediately she called.  “She’s in Australia,” said my son.  “Herding wombats,” yelled the others.  “I know she’s been texting you. Now I have the phone,” said my son. “You can talk to her after 5. After 5.”

God, you pointed me at my phone. Why did it take me so long to figure out you were telling me to disconnect?  Truthfully, I can be a little slow. I’m just glad that on the day I figured it out, I had a roomful of willing teen accomplices.

And the funniest part?  Once I listened and removed myself from the equation, they worked things out on their own. Yesterday, I had one phone call and 2 texts all day long. God really does bless us with the answers to our prayers.  We just need to hear the answer he’s sending.

–SueBE

stressLast week, I read a blog post about a radio program. The pastor who led this program firmly stated that if you are stressed your faith is weak.  You don’t trust God. If you had faith in God, you would feel no stress whatsoever. The blogger bought into this hook, line, and sinker.

My initial response was somewhat impolite, assuming that you’re a pirate or a gangster.  If you’re a regular person, my response was pretty darn rude.

You see, my father fell and hit his head this week.  It took 15 staples to close the wound, he was in the hospital for several days and he will probably never live in his own home again. Then he got to move to a skilled nursing facility.  And they’ve already moved him from one room to another.  All in four days.

I have stress, but I also have faith.  God watched over Dad this whole time.  The fall could easily have killed him.  He couldn’t get up but he fell within sight of the front door.  The mail carrier saw him.  If he had fallen somewhere else, some when else, he would have been in real trouble.  And he has finally admitted that he can’t safely live at home.  Blessings all, and I know who to credit with these blessings.  God.

But I’m still stressed.  I’m a hardcore introvert who has been at the hospital a lot.  The hospital social worker seems to think that telling me I need to get x y and z information so she can get Dad transferred will make me feel empowered even if she proceeds without it. And then there are the phone calls at odd hours from family members, extroverts all, who simply must speak to me although they already know as much as I can tell them.

I have stress.  I am stressed.  But I also have God and I know he’s given me what I need to handle this particular batch of stress.  The social worker, God bless her, is now dealing with my social worker sister. The extroverts?  My husband and son are running interference.

I’ve managed to spend a bit of time this morning reading (for pleasure!), knitting, and praying.  Of course, I’m praying.  It helps me feel connected to God, and, when I can take a few moments to breathe and simply be, I feel His Peace seeping in.

I have stress.  I feel stressed.  But I’m not going to let someone guilt trip me about it, because I also have faith that God is by my side.

–SueBE

worshipIf you think that my word for the overwhelmed person is stress, think again.  We all have enough of that, thank you.

No, my word is worship.

The reality is that some stress is unavoidable.  I just finished a contracted job, writing a high school level book on the ancient Maya.  From first contact to delivery of the finished product, I had 6 weeks.  I’d love to say that there were no difficulties but you can’t take on a project like that without some stress.  But it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

We ate a lot of quick and simple meals. People who asked me to take something else on got a firm NO.  Some of them had to hear it more than once, but I can repeat myself quite well.  I am a mom.

But I also didn’t cut myself off from other people.  I met a friend for lunch.  I did things with my family including scouting events and school events.  And I still went to church.  That said, my pastor was surprised to see me there 7 days before the big deadline.

“I’ve been reading your posts on Facebook,” she said.  “I thought you’d be home working.”

If I had done that, the stress would have been much worse.  Worship provides me with time away from the day-to-day.  I don’t have to look at the laundry that isn’t folded, the pages left to write or the messages I need to return.

Our services include some quite time to simply sit and be with God.  For these few minutes, I could sit and be.  I could sit and listen.  I could absorb.

And, last, but not least, worship provided me with the prayer and music that turns my focus back to God.

If you are feeling stressed, worship.  It may mean something different for you than it does for me, but it will turn your focus to Him and open your heart and soul to his Love.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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