Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.
Let's just say today finds me enjoying the gorgeous weather outside (67 degrees today! sunshine!) with my children, the house nicely cleaned and ready for the next showing, and supper in the oven. Let's just say that, because it's nowhere near true. And if the above quote is correct, the antidote to stress is a good imagination.
My head has been throbbing lately -- throbbing from lack of sleep and from the thoughts of all the things I can be justifiably stressed about:
- our house has to be ready to be shown at a minute's notice
- the children need to be schooled so that they are not total idiots when they grow up (they're not behind the ball yet, but only because I subscribe to Bill Cosby's theory that "all children have brain damage" and so they still fit right in)
- how to do the taxes this year when everything was completely different last year (and the thousand-page Clergy's Guide to Taxes is only minimally reassuring)
- we are packing to move -again- in another month
- we have to find a place to move in another month
- who gives a housing loan to people who can't even afford a minimum down payment?
- who rents to people with eight kids (and a dog!) (oh, and two cats, but they're negotiable)?
- what's for breakfast?
- who left these toys OUT IN THE OPEN?
- why is the stroller out of the back of the van?
- why is the back door open on the van?
- is somebody IN the van?
- I KNEW someone would get sick tonight. No, it has nothing to do with the friends they played with or the dinner we ate tonight (clementines perfectly complement the milkshake that followed). It has everything to do with the fact that I changed and washed her bed this morning.
Except now. I CAN'T do it all now. I can't keep the house clean, school the children, do the accounting, fix the meals, love on eight children, find a new house, and smile warmly to my husband at the same time. Or even at separate times. I. Just. Can't.
As I was musing (OK, fuming) about this this morning as I bustled through the bedroom, straightening shelves and grabbing diapers and clothing for the screaming newborns (shortly after I said to my husband, "If I die early, I want you to know it's from stress" to which he sleepily mumbled from his place on the pillow, "Me, too"), it occurred to me that we handle stress very differently. My way is loud and headachy and thundering.
His is pretty quiet, and involves lots of playing with children and sleeping. His way is pretty similar to my mother’s way.
This got me to thinking about stress in general. Why do I have to be the one to make everything run smoothly, the one to make sure everything’s under control? Then it hit me: I don’t, and I don’t. I don’t have to be the one, and anyway, I don’t make it all run smoothly and under control.
I really need to get a handle on this. But I can’t. This is so frustrating to me, honestly. My theology is definitely warring with everyday life. I believe God is in control. How do I act like it? I believe His grace is sufficient.
But what does that mean?
And what do I do – or not do – because of it?
I don’t have the answers. Just ask my kids, who had to listen to me bellow this morning and then apologize this afternoon. Actually, don’t ask them. They’ll probably be a little too dramatic in their retelling.
But I think part of it has to do with what is Real. Because this life on Earth is, yes, very real. It looks real and it sounds real and, blast it all, it smells real (especially right here, where there’s a baby on my lap squirming to be changed).
But the standards I keep kicking myself for failing are all self-imposed ones. So what if my children eat cold cereal for a week? Or a month? Or their entire lives?
So what if we have leftovers tonight instead of a fresh meal?
So what if there are no side dishes?
So what if my babies get the occasional bottle of formula? So what if they always got formula? So what if they never did?
And so what if there’s a stray sock (or more) lying on the floor when someone comes in?
We are real. And more importantly, we are Real. There is a Reality that is above and beyond this reality … yet it’s one that doesn’t ignore this life. In fact, that Reality wholeheartedly engaged in this one.
Whenever one of our kids starts fussing, my husband asks (after he admonishes about the whining), “Did you mean to say, ‘Thank you’? Do you mean to be thanking [whoever] for something?”
So I’m thinking maybe the antidote to stress is giving thanks. Because if God is sovereign, and every good gift comes from Him, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand, what else is there to do?
That’s where I am. Thinking on this and trying to thank on this and starting to breathe deeply again.
(a time I remembered to smile ... photo credit: Lily)
*I’m just using her quote, not endorsing her.