As happens to everyone in all circumstances and for a variety of reasons, life has surprised us this week. We had for a nice long while been luxuriating in a sweet little season of ease and contentment, and now out of the clear January blue, Handsome and I find ourselves in the unpleasant thick of external stressors and a handful of hard decisions.
It’s totally fine. I don’t mean to over dramatize anything; but this bears mentioning. One day this week all of it together gathered like a storm in my heart, and I ached and ached for hours. I went for a long run and cried almost the entire time. Maybe it was the surprise of it all. Maybe it was the sharp contrast of emotion, like the pop-up storms we get here in Oklahoma, when the skies have been so calm and sweet. Violent and shocking. I thought briefly that all of our hard-won peace was lost. (Not just for him and me, by the way, but for our most precious people too.)
Of course it’s not. I know better than that by now. But from time to time peace is ruffled and we have the job of maintaining composure and moving forward in Love. Remembering what is true and how to handle ourselves in crisis is vital. It’s not just about not tail-spinning and making a storm worse; it’s about the difference between surviving and thriving in the midst of it all.
So that’s what I have to offer today: Some lessons I have learned over the years that this week I had to actively bring to the surface, thinking strategies that can transform a deeply stressful, scary time.
Gratitude is so powerful. Take your pulse and breathe deeply. Carve out some time to look around outside of your pain and take stock of all the good things you see. Good things in the world at large, in your life overall, and in your exact situation. Name them. Focus on the most beautiful, amazing, magical details of whatever you are facing, whatever your circumstances are, both abstract and really precise. Even the ugly seeming parts can have hidden blessings, so give thanks for them too. Gratitude interrupts all kinds of anxiety, for starters, which feels nice, but it also has the power to literally transform the truth of things. You can invite light into a dark space with heartfelt gratitude. It’s a choice you can make even before you think you feel thankful.
Focus on the actionable details of your problem then shed all that anxiety and get moving, get out of your thoughts and trust God. I personally get a little paralyzed when faced with a big problem, but it’s unnecessary. That kind of fear is an illusion. Just look at the thing plainly, knowing it is a temporary crisis, just a problem to be solved. Identify the parts on which you can and should act, asking for divine inspiration and direction if needed , and begin. I find a lot of relief in the knowledge that I am only a part of the solution, that God is sovereign over all of it, even the unseen layers I may never see. Trusting Him with all of that makes seeing my part of the solution and acting less overwhelming.
Ask largely and expect miracles. I have to occasionally remind myself of how much bigger our answers to prayer have been over the years compared to the problems we have faced. We have been shocked by grief, sure, but we have always been preserved in those times. More often we have been shocked by life-altering miracles, and because of this my underlying fear of “What if…” has eroded to almost nothing. I have learned to reign in my imagination accordingly, wearing blinders to the wildly negative possible outcomes. Instead, I force my thoughts forward and train them on wildly beautiful possibilities and amazing outcomes. Remember all those miracles and happy surprises from your past? Call them up to your mind. Convert your impulses to prayers, asking God for things bigger than you could ever do alone. I know in my bones that He wants to do big things for us and surprise us.
Recognize that weird internal banter that robs your peace and mute it. Do you ever catch yourself arguing in your own head, either with yourself or an imaginary opponent or even just the situation you’re facing? It’s can be like a dress rehearsal, and I suppose that sometimes it can be useful to help you articulate your thoughts and prepare for a confrontation. But there’s a limit to this banter’s usefulness. I have learned to halt it, to silence the nervous flurry of arguments and deliberately aim my thoughts on something more productive. It makes such a difference in my overall sense of peace and therefore in how I can help my loved ones get through the crisis. Remember all that Worry Door business? It’s still very real. Cracking open that door is dangerous. Silent weird mental arguments counts as worrying. When you hear those demons whispering in your thoughts, mute them. You have power over them. They have no place in your emotions or your decision-making.
Watch what you glorify. Do you spend a lot of time and energy talking about, or even just thinking about, how big your problem is, or how worried you are? Do you feel that common addiction to complaining about feeling victimized or overworked, etcetera? It’s a trap and a nasty one. Problems are real, but that don’t deserve our worship. Stressed is a real and valid condition, but it should only motivate us, not destroy us. Focusing on a perpetual state of being stressed and sad, weighed down by life, glorifying it instead of using it as fuel, only grows it and weakens us. Choose to glorify the healing forces in your life. Spend time and energy glorifying how excited you are about the brewing solutions and the future. Talk about and rest your imagination on how blessed you are, how capable, how far grown. Actively speak Love over the situation. Every detail of it.
Thanks as always for checking in, friends. Handsome and I and all of the Lazy W characters are really great! Just taking our pulse in the midst of some very normal life changes. I hope some of this is useful to you for whatever crisis you are facing now or maybe in the future. Because life is certainly full of such stuff. But more importantly life is brimming with Love and beauty and miracles.
“Peace Be Still.”