We are in the middle of school, a move, and a crazy ministry traveling schedule that is ramping up (Haiti, here we come!) on top of an already busy local ministry schedule.
Otherwise known as a season of life.
Your life, my life, anyone's life...has it's propensity for stress. I know that everyone is dealing with jobs, kids, relationships, moves, etc. Everyone. I am not about to advocate for the idea that my life is more stressful than anyone else's.
And yet, this season, is a full one for me right now. To pretend it isn't because I'm not alone in it, doesn't change my reality that there is a lot on my plate today.
Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes Easter has it's origin in the early days of the Church. Converts, seeking to become Christians, under threat of Roman persecution, went through a final period of "purification and enlightenment" in the 40 days before their baptism at Easter. The rest of the church began to observe this season of Lent in solidarity with the new believers. It became an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their conversion and baptism.
Today, Lent is more known as a season of intentional sacrifices, fasting, if you will...with the desire to deliberately focus a heart and mind on things above in the 40 days preceding Easter.
What does Lent have to do with a stressful season in my life?
Truth moment: I have never done anything for Lent. Never given up anything. In fact, if honest...I've kinda felt it a bit of an eccentricity. I shouldn't need to give up something in order to focus my mind. You know, because I always have laser sharp focus...
However, a few weeks ago at the beginning of Lent I felt the soft gentle challenge of the Holy Spirit to participate. And my sacrifice?
Give up two words: Overwhelmed and Stressed.
I may very well be overwhelmed and stressed out. But the fact that those are my true feelings does not make them truth. And by allowing myself to say them, think on them, I had given them power.
Power to debilitate me, or at the very least, slow me down and steal any hope for finding joy in the work.
It's like when I send Zoe to her room to pick up her toys: She can either 1) sit on the floor crying because she is totally overwhelmed at the work before her, or she can 2) push through, roll up her proverbial sleeves and in twenty minutes be enjoying the rewards of a clean room and happy mommy.
It's time for me to adjust to the work the Lord has me doing. And the very words "overwhelmed" and "stressed" were hindering me.
Sidenote: Let me be clear, I am NOT talking about the stress I create by not saying no or by over scheduling my life. That's a whole other issue of mine that I have put in some hard work finding out what is an acceptable amount of white space for me to function in. I am talking about the seasons that involve things outside my control: moves, parenting issues, sickness, school, marriage, ministry/work schedules, etc.
And so, I have stricken these two words from my vocabulary. And like anything else, it's never enough to just stop doing something. I needed to replace them with new words.
My new mantra is to mentally run through four truths, taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corin. 10:5):
1) I am equipped to do what I'm called to do (Heb 3:21)
2) I am never alone (Mt. 28:20)
3) This is a season, not the entirety of my life (Ecc 3)
4) Just obey (2 Jn. 6)
I'm a few weeks into this process and I would be nothing but a bald faced liar if I told you that doing this process has fixed my feelings. It hasn't. And that's okay. I'm still struggling with overwhelming feelings of stress. But, I'm also learning there is great maturity found in taking my thoughts captive, rolling up my proverbial sleeves, pushing through the feelings, and just doing what needs to be done.
And, like I've written before, if I allow it, seasons of stress create dependency on my only source of Strength, which leads to intimacy. And the joy is found there.