Prayer

Thursday’s kind of suck.

They’ve proven to be my busiest and most challenging day every single week. I go from one job to another job to school to sleep and that’s it. From screaming kids to more screaming kids and a workload way too heavy for what I get paid to a three hour class and so on…it’s a lot for one day. I barely eat or stop running around for even a second. My daily schedule is hectic enough – wearing me out both physically and mentally without fail, but Thursday’s are particularly challenging.

Yesterday I was near a breaking point. I was reclusive – unable to talk more than I had to to the people I work with because I couldn’t bring myself to put on a fake face of having-it-all-together, the tremor in my left hand resurfaced, I broke out in hives, I cried when a baby I was holding started crying, and I even managed to fall asleep standing up at one point…in the middle of a task at work I just found myself dozing off and eventually being suddenly woken up by the sound of kids – fresh off the school bus – running toward the computers beside me. It all sounds so dramatic and I know everyone has a busy schedule, but this is beyond anything I’ve ever had to handle. I’ve never known the severity of stress and how much it can physically affect you until recently.

Last night, after all that went down, I made a point to do something for my own mental stability. Just a small thing to keep myself from having an evening that was just as challenging as the rest of my day had been.

I got to school a few minutes early, sitting in my car with my music turned to a soft hum, and I opened my prayer journal. As the golden 6 p.m. light illuminated the page I was scribbling (almost incoherently) on, I felt at peace for the first Thursday in a while. Or, really, any day in a while.

With a rush of calm coming over me, I closed my notebook, took a breath, and walked to my classroom finally feeling prepared for the hours yet to come.

And as I turned the corner to my class, I see a girl who typically sits across from me – a mix of exasperation and relief on her face. “It’s cancelled,” she said. Both of us paused for a moment before letting out a laugh. I think, somehow, she and I felt exactly the same in that moment.

As I got home, with the typical I’m-so-tired-I’m-acting-drunk feeling beginning to creep up on me, I fell asleep with ease. No stress; nothing keeping me awake. Normally I’m kept up by thoughts of everything I have yet to accomplish long-term, everything I didn’t get done today, everything on my to-do list for the next day.

But not last night.

And as I sit here on a Friday afternoon, still in my pajamas, I’m not even a little bit stressed out. Usually by this point I’ve already worn myself thin again, having pushed myself to doing more than one person should be doing in a single day – on my day off. But there is still so much peace leftover from one simple prayer – one 5 minute conversation with God.

Today I woke up hearing God very loudly telling me to make myself a weekly schedule, before I could even allow myself the opportunity to think about getting stressed out today. So I did, and now I know exactly what to expect everyday. I know that Friday is now my “Sabbath Day” in which I am not expected to go anywhere or do anything in particular. I’m still going to take the time to clean and probably do something along the lines of studying, but I’m not allowing myself to get stressed about a single thing. I’m allowing myself to breathe, to sleep in, to do one thing I enjoy today.

Sometimes I underestimate the power of praying just because it doesn’t always give me immediate powerful results. Just because I don’t always get what I want. But seriously, what an incredible reminder this has been. I asked God in pure desperation, on the verge of a mental breakdown, to give me peace. I also asked Him to help me find a way to successfully handle a busy schedule without losing myself – which is exactly what has been happening.

I’ve never been the type to let a lot of stress get to me, not to this level at least, and I always try to be a generally upbeat person who sees the good in most situations and most people…but I haven’t been that way. I used to be resilient; that’s what my mom always told me, but not these days. I’ve been letting every inconvenience push me to the point of tears and wanting to give up. All of it has been a result of letting myself think I can handle everything alone, but all that that accomplishes is putting more unnecessary pressure on myself.

I have a tendency to think I can do everything on my own – that God already gave me the tools necessary to handle everyday life, but that’s not the case. Sometimes all He needs to hear from you is that you haven’t forgotten about Him. Sometimes all He’s waiting for is a simple question – for you to recognize that, yes He can and will equip you when the time is right, but you just need to ask for help first; let him know, not only that you recognize He is the one who’s taking care of the situation through you, but that you know when to ask for help. You know when to step back and say “I’m only human, and I’m only one person.”

Pride is an ugly thing and it’s often hard to pinpoint, it’s easy to justify, but thinking that you don’t need help is pride in itself, no matter what way you try to twist it.

So I’m not saying that everything is magically better now. I’m not saying that next week will roll around and I’ll be so happy-go-lucky that it’s like I’ve forgotten what stress is. What I am saying is that I asked for help and God intervened. He took the first step for me, I chose to recognize what He did, and with that recognition comes a lesson that I can handle what is in front of me. God will equip me, as long as I ask for His help and continually talk to Him honestly.

He gives you what you need, when you need it.

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Trying (to Find Peace)

I’ve been tired for a while.

The past year has felt like saying “I’m trying” on repeat. And that’s exactly what I have been doing – still trying to curb my rising stress levels, still trying to go wherever God leads me, still trying to make progress in my life, still trying to improve myself so I can be better for those around me, still trying to find a healthy balance between being constantly focused on what lies ahead and living for what is right now.

Still, I’m trying.

One of my biggest fears, for example, is the potential need for my dream of being an author to be altered. The older I get, the more that seems to become a reality. When I was younger I’d sit quietly at lunch listening intently to other kids tell stories and prattle on about their daily adventures, and later while they ran around on the playground getting their energy out, I was alone regaining mine – writing down their stories and making them my own – playing fantasy games like they did, just a bit more quietly. Writing has always felt both like home and an adventure, and in more recent years, it makes me feel close to God. It’s the one thing that I don’t feel the need to be the very best at, because it just feels good to do it; but in doing so, I also improve. So, with this intense passion for writing I have developed from the moment I could string sentences together comes an intense dread for compromise. For settling. For giving it up because life may one day get too much in the way. Yes I will always be a writer, but I may not get the opportunity to write in the way I always hoped I could, and that saddens me. Even though I’m aware God has a plan regardless of what happens (as long as I keep putting in the necessary effort and listening to His guidance) what will be will be and I will make it through, the idea still keeps me awake some nights. I’m human; I falter, but I’m improving. I’m trying.

There’s so much to stress out about; to make me want to hide from the world and hope it stops nagging me. But I have a Music Appreciation test tomorrow and pages of notes still yet to take, I have a job to go to in the morning, a book to finish writing at some point, and laundry to fold. So much laundry. The world isn’t going to ever stop nagging me to do a thousand things at once and pulling me in every possible direction. It won’t stop giving you or I reasons to feel inadequate or scared or stressed or, more likely, some annoying combination of all of those and more. The world will throw problems at you left and right. Some bigger than others, of course, but it’s the daily stressors that sneak up on you – building up until you feel like you’re going to burst. (Luke 21:34)

But God’s just looking at you, probably stroking his beard, tapping his foot, whistling as He waits; wondering when you’ll finally realize you’re going to be fine. He’s got this. Even if you have no idea what’s going on, thank goodness He always does. (John 14:27)

Believe me, I have to remind myself of this about ten times a day and I still have my moments where I question it entirely. A million questions starting with “…but,” pop in my head daily, and yet I’m still okay. I’ve made it this far and every situation I didn’t think I would get through, I did. “Just calm down and stop overthinking” is a phrase I use mentally about everyday. The only way that phrase has any weight, the only way it ever works, is when I combine it with prayer – when I direct it to God. Life just seems easier to handle when I pray everyday, and that’s no coincidence. The only time I truly feel at ease is when I prayer journal, which I’ve been getting back to doing at least once a day. You can’t expect anything from God if you don’t ask, you can’t expect answers if you don’t listen, and you can’t expect change if you can’t handle honesty. “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” (Max Lucado)

So my point is that life is stressful and uncertain and there is a lot to worry about, but you don’t have to let that hinder you. You don’t have to be held back by fear of the unknown, because God knows what lies ahead. Talk to Him about it and then build some true faith. What will happen will happen and you can choose to make the best of it by talking to God and being open to what He has to say.

I’m going to wrap this up with a story about a woman I visited in a nursing home today, because she inspired this entire post:

One of my closest friends and I decided we wanted to start scrapbooking, which she ended up mentioning to her grandmother. A week later, we were on our way to visit her so she could lend us some of her supplies. I tagged along, unsure of what to expect and wondering why someone I’ve never met would be kind enough to lend me things that are precious to her. But we get there and I’m greeted by an older woman with a kind smile and upbeat attitude, and I instantly feel at ease around her. She giddily shows us around the building while leading us to the small apartment-style room she and her husband share. When she opens her door, it isn’t the size of the space that I notice right away, but the fact that she made it feel warm and inviting. I didn’t notice the hospital curtain until the end of my visit, because all I initially saw was an inviting couch, photos of family members on most of the walls, and an overflowing crafting table. She talked endlessly about family and friends, but what struck me the most was the fact that she was open about her hesitation with living there. She did not want to move to this place. She’d given up her car, her home, and her friends to live in an assisted living home in which she can’t even cook for herself and her husband. It took her a long time to adjust to the environment. Though she hadn’t pointed it out herself, it was obvious that she was in the best shape, both physically and mentally, out of probably anyone else in the facility. She didn’t feel like she belonged there. She was depressed for a while, and still goes through some “weepy days” as she put it, but she said all this with a smile because she was learning to make the best of it. She put her crafting abilities to use and holds weekly card-making classes, she charges a couple dollars for her pre-made cards (as she pulled out a hundred cards she had made to show us what she can do), and she is lobbying to hold a craft fair so all the ladies in this community can have the opportunity to sell what they make as well. Her crafting classes have gone so well that she has gone from using her own supplies to the staff saying “buy what you need and we will reimburse you.” She proudly told us, “I found my niche,” and she went on to tell us that she believes she was put there to be a caretaker of sorts. To be a ray of sunshine to these people. She took her less-than-ideal situation, made it a God opportunity, and through it she found an overwhelming sense of peace.

She gave me hope that I hadn’t realized I needed until today.

She ended our visit with a piece of advice: “I’ve seen the top of a mountain, and the while the mountain itself is just rock and ice, the view is amazing – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But it is in the valleys that the wildflowers and grass grow. Both are equally important.” (James 1:2-4)