Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Do You Do It?

When people ask me how I do what I do every day I always respond with “only by the Grace of God”. Seriously, I feel as if it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus Christ, I would be in an asylum living life in solitary confinement after going insane from my crazy life. For those who don’t know me, I am a single mom to three wild and wonderful boys ages 13, 9 and 7 so I get asked this question at least once per week.

I always thought babies needed their mama’s and don’t get me wrong, they do, but boy was I mistaken in my belief about how much they would need me later on. When I was married, I always thought that I would stay at home with my children until they started school. Then it would be easy enough to go back to work full time because they just didn’t need me quite as much and not one person told me any differently. Maybe they didn’t know either.

Anyway, I have been divorced now for almost 8 years. If you do the math you will learn that my husband and I separated when I was pregnant with our third child and still nursing my second. It was a very unfortunate situation really, but every divorce is isn’t it? I don’t think anyone chooses divorce. Let me clarify that. I don’t think anyone chooses divorce with full knowledge of the consequences for everyone involved. We are so deceived into believing that our actions only affect us and that everyone else will be ok.

With that said, those who ask that question know that I am a full time mom, trying to be dad too. Literally I am either at work or with my kids without any break, ever. My children unfortunately don’t see their father. I am also a full time employee, a neighbor, a mentor, a sister, a daughter, a peacemaker, a volunteer, a friend, a carpool queen, a soccer mom, a football mom, a tennis mom, a referee, a master scheduler, a doctor, a teacher, a plumber, a carpenter, a landscaper, a maid and so much more as any mom will tell you. That is an awful lot for anyone to fit in to one day, much less someone doing it without a partner to help out. Nehemiah 8:10 has been my life verse for some time now. 

So how do I do it? Yes it is by the grace of God but just the other day I came across the perfect scripture to back it up so now I can answer that question with authority. I can answer it and give someone else a real application of how God does it. Not just because I say he does. Not just because he has done it for me, but because he does it for everyone. Isaiah 40:28-31:

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Yes, that is it. Thank you God for showing this scripture to me. Thank you for showing me how living your word is; how timeless your principles are and how applicable they are today. So that is the answer I will give from now on. I do what I do every day because my hope is in the LORD. He renews my strength so that I can run because I have to in order to keep up with my crazy life, but when I run I will not grow weary!! This doesn’t mean that I will never be tired or never feel like giving up. Believe me, sometimes I do. What it does mean is that even when I feel like giving up, I remember where my hope comes from and he alone renews and replenishes my strength so that I can keep going.

As Dori from Finding Nemo says and as my friend Elizabeth constantly reminds me, “just keep swimming”!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Emotional Safety: Avoiding Annihilation When at War Emotionally

So it’s been a rough few weeks. I have been completely overwhelmed in every area of my life. Usually it is just one or two areas and I can manage that through the grace of God, but these last few weeks, that overwhelming feeling, that feeling of being submerged with no way out from underneath has had no limits. There have been times that I just couldn’t stop the crying no matter how hard I tried; times that I felt like I simply couldn’t breathe. Why? Because it seemed that every facet of my wild and normally wonderful life was requiring my presence, my problem solving skills, my expertise, my attention and my self-discipline to the tenth degree. I needed algebra to come to life for me: I needed me⁴. Of course my life always requires these things, everyone’s life does. I can’t really describe it other than to say that it seemed as if everyone and everything in my life needed all of me, all at the same time. But when you are doing it alone and there is no one else to problem solve with, split your time with, encourage you in the areas where you are weak, and give you a little time alone to recharge, it certainly magnifies ones tasks. Heck, it’s hard when you do have a partner that you share life with. But I survived! I made it through without killing myself or anyone close to me; at least not physically. Enter transparency: verbally, I am pretty sure that I annihilated a few along the way and I am certain that the target was those that mean the most to me. Why do we do that? We treat those we love sometimes worse than we would treat our neighbors that we don’t even like.

So how do I manage my emotions when they seem to be so strong and desperately trying to get into the driver’s seat? How do I make sure that my ability to hurt someone so easily when I am out of sorts doesn’t happen again, or at least as often as it used to? I am a work in progress and I haven’t attained the goal of absolute control over my emotions, but I am definitely better at it than I was a couple of years ago. If I take the time to acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them then I become better at it than I was the last time.

So how do I do it? How do I keep them at bay when they seem much stronger than my free will at the moment? A few months ago, a friend of mine and I created what we call the emotional safety list. It may seem silly at first, but it works; at least for me. It is a list that I put on my phone, in my purse, or wherever I can have immediate access to it so that it is always with me. It is a list of things that I do when having a rough day emotionally and I feel like they are about to take over. You know the feeling. For me it is like a time bomb about to explode right in the center of my chest; or when the tears flow way too easily for this usually tough cookie. For you, the signs might be a little different but I bet if you try, you could identify the precursors to your emotional blunders. My emotional safety list includes the following. For you it might be different. I will tell you however that the first three are must haves; most of the time I never make it to#3 and #4 because the first two are generally all I need but everyone most definitely needs the third.

I pull out my Bible and start reading through scripture. This is not the first thing I FEEL like doing but it is definitely the first thing I KNOW that I should do. Do you see the difference? I do what I know I will benefit from and not what I feel like doing which usually makes a fool of me.

I pray. Again, this is not always what I feel like doing but I know I should.

I call a trusted friend, one that I can be completely transparent with that will not judge me in any way shape or form, and I vent. I have three of them. If you don’t have one, this is a priority. And don’t pick someone who is going to tell you what you want to hear. Pick someone that you know will tell you the truth no matter what. I’ll be honest, most of the time all three of these lovely ladies tell me things that I don’t want to hear. I grumble and complain and they support and love me anyway. In fact, the first thing she normally asks is “have you prayed about it?” or “have you gone to The Word to see what it says about it?” She reminds me that #1 and #2 are priority and if need be, she does it with me.

I exercise. This is my least favorite but I know if I can just walk a few miles or exert some energy I will feel better.

So that’s it! I am not perfect at it and honestly, it took me about two weeks to get out of this emotional funk that I was in; probably because I didn’t immediately do #1 and #2 first. I’m a little hard headed and stubborn, even when I know the truth. I am sure that God often says “ok, here we go again. We are going to learn this lesson one way or another, my dear”. He is so gentle and so loving and boy is he patient with me. I try to remember that when my stubborn, strong willed child does the same. I love that God uses the lessons that he teaches us as our father as platforms for raising our own children. Don’t you?

Nehemiah 8:10 "...Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength"(NIV). 

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