Monday, October 09, 2006

Dealing with Stress...define "anything"

I recently wrote this article for a newsletter primarily circulated through moms with younger children like me. i decided to put it on the blog after the kind of week we have just had (more on that later) to remind me to continue to put my trust in Him, who is always faithful to keep His promises to us regardless of the magnitude of the storm we are facing.

God offers this bit of advice when faced with stress, "Do not be anxious about anything, but with prayer and petitition, present you requests to the Lord." (Phil. 4:6) The reassuring result follows, "and the peace of Christ which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus." How often have we created our own definition of "anything"? If i'm being completely honest, my "anything" has always had a few amendments for those extra stressful situations requiring some degree of anxiousness that i'm certain the Creator of the universe just hadn't taken into account like don't be anxious about anything except that overseas move, or selling the house, or writing at the last minute for a newsletter or getting through one more day of diapers, dinner and a dog that can be far more demanding than my baby or that lump my dear friend found. Whatever the situation may be, i think we are all guilty of making our own minor adjustments to the Word of God when He clearly says, "do not be anxious about anything". While the Almighty gives us countless reminders of how to handle and persevere through life's stresses whether it be plainly stated, "Do not worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34) or for those needing a picture explanation like myself (who happens to selectively overlook clear commands and understands illustrations better) He offers the beautiful image of the painstaking care He lavishes upon even the birds (Matthew 6:26, 27), much greater will His care and provisions be for the children He has lovingly created in His own image! And yet, we as women, wives and mothers who continually transition through our day as counselor, cheerleader, chef , day care provider, domestic goddess, physician and these are just to our kids, not to mention the full time therapist we are to our beloved sisters in Christ, it is easy to forget the gentle reminders and clear commands from our Father who loves us so. Have you ever watched your own child struggle with a task? Whether it be trying to stand up for the hundredth time and falling down or willing the triangle shape through the square opening of a shapes ball? If only they would ask your help, you could equip them with the solution with the love and patience that only a parent who adores their child possesses. As their mother, it would give you such joy and peace for them to turn to you, lay down their struggle at your feet and allow you to take their hands and help them stand or gently guide their little fingers holding the triangle to the appropriate opening. Why is it that we, when faced with daunting stress, continue to bear it on our own when God is watching from above as we grow increasingly weary, frustrated and anxious, just waiting for us to surrender ourselves to Him, lay it at His feet and seek His comfort and peace. It seems like we are more willing to keep it to ourselves, vent it out to friends or tune in to see what Oprah has to say about it than to truly give it the One who can actually give us peace, one that transcends all understanding. I have found that giving all of my stress to and concerns (sometimes over and over and over) to He who is ultimately in control not only gives me peace, but also freedom. It gives me the freedom to be available to sincerely share in the joy or sorrows of others while not focused on my own baggage as well as experience true contentment in my own circumstances. One practical way to shift the focus from my own stress is creating gratitude lists. When i'm running late, feeling stress and willing the traffic to speed up, i thank God for a car that will not break down, a lunch date i'm excited to be on my way to, a child that is healthy enough to accompany me and so on. The list is endless as God's blessings are always abundant when we take the time to think of them. This mental exercise works for all situations when we are feeling overwhelmed and overcome with anxiety. It shifts my focus from the stress of the situation to the multitude of blessings He has poured on me. We have dear friends that we prayed for and with for years as they have watched their beloved son endure a liver transplant, countless ronald mcdonald visits, and threats of rejection and yet, i will always remember them saying that regardless of what mountain their sweet boy was facing, they wouldn't trade it for anything any other family at the ronald mcdonald house was facing. they were able to see God's blessings even in the midst of these most difficult of times. Gratitude lists often lead to a much needed, refreshing change in perspective and before long, my stress is clearly shadowed by my thankfulness. I pray this freedom of laying your worries and stress at the feet of God, obeying our Father and trusting that regardless of what you are facing He had it in mind when He wrote these words, "Do not be anxious about anything" and the multitude of blessings for a mental gratitude list will encourage and sustain you as you persevere throughout your days in the most noble of callings, motherhood.