The Tumultuous Years of Ambiguity (Part 4): The Wrap Up
I do not live in the past. Those years are behind. I look forward with anticipation to the next adventure. I do not fear what man can do . . . and that confidence is a product of my experience – not in spite of my experience.
Caleb and I “should” have died – for him multiple times. Our neighbor tried to destroy us, but God delivered us and then blessed us. The fact that we are still kicking around on earth means God obviously has something in mind for us . . . with that view, I am listening for His voice to obey.
Well, I guess I should say that is my goal. I actually listen and obey imperfectly – but hey, most of the “heroes of faith” were in the same boat, so I’m in good company.
I doubt anyone will experience the exact series of events that I have, but I certainly do not have a corner on overwhelming life situations. I meet people every day who are carrying heavy loads – sometimes more than they feel they can bear.
By taking some time to look at the Tumultuous Years, I am able to share some thoughts on how to survive and even overcome difficulty.
God’s Grace is Sufficient:
I was forced to let go of every desire, goal and expectation I had in life . . . even perfectly good ones. I would never say that having desires, goals, and even expectations is inherently bad – just like money is not evil, but the love of it is – but for me, God had to tear away every thing I loved to get my complete devotion. They had become my “idols”.
If I could transport back in time to those “three years of peace” and ask myself these questions – the honest answers would be:
Q. Who/What do you rely on?
A. My ability to analyze a problem, research, and solve it
God’s response: Uncharted Waters
Q. Where do you find security?
God’s response: Root of all Evil
Q. What is your heart’s desire?
A. I invest my time and energy into a clean and orderly home
God’s Response: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Q What is your source of joy?
A. Joy? What is that?
God’s Response: Life is Funny
Pray and take one day at a time.
These verses became my mantra.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
To keep up this focus in the busyness of managing disorder, I made a CD with songs of faith and encouragement. I kept one in my car (I spent a lot of time in there), and one in the house. This was a few years ago and this “old school” method would be replaced by a play list on my media storage.
Maintain my own emotional and physical health.
When I was completely overwhelmed I was often harsh and unreasonable with the kids (and probably complete strangers). I had no time or emotional energy to deal with any of their childishness. Looking back I cringe at some of my behaviors. I was once embroiled in a showdown with one of the girls when Caleb came to her defense, telling me that I was out of line. The irony and absurdity of the situation overwhelmed me. After all, I was the only “normal” one in the family!
I realized I was “losing it”.
I began to insist on at least ten minutes completely alone every day to unwind. I also arranged for each set of grandparents to take all our kids overnight one weekend per month. So every two weeks I would get a break (and so would they). I mostly just soaked in a hot tub, did some reading, and got caught up on sleep. I did not try to catch up on cleaning (but it was tempting)!
Boil things down to what really matters:
The book, The 36 Hour Day by Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins was extremely helpful to me. In it is a story of a woman caring for her mother (who had Alzheimer’s). The mother would put the silverware in the linen closet every day, and every day the daughter would move the silverware back to the kitchen drawer. One day the daughter realized that there was no reason the silverware could not be kept in the closet . . . and life became simpler.
There were many ways I applied this principle and it really helped reduce my stress.
I also had to evaluate all the things that were expected of me and decide what I needed to do, what things someone else could do, and what things were just not going to get done. These were usually things that are really great like volunteering in the kid’s classrooms or being “team mom” for soccer. There are even some things that I really regret not doing, but I definitely did my best in the place God put me and I trust Him for the outcome.
Be content with progress.
This is a difficult concept for perfectionists, but critical for happiness.
For example, Caleb has been building a small fence in our backyard so we can put up a pool (the dog and the pool need protection from each other). This project would normally take a weekend – maybe two weekends. He has been at it for five months.
Bit by bit, he makes progress – sometimes slow, sometimes sporadic. I am optimistic he will finish soon – maybe even this week. My natural response would be frustration and anger which communicates ingratitude and insults his efforts. And our gloomy boat would have bitterly arrived at the same destination.
Instead I have learned to be grateful for his efforts and encouraging of his progress.
These are the lessons that carried me through the Tumultuous Years and continue to give me strength in the ongoing imperfection of life.