I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted after the Christmas holiday. So much hustle and bustle, this year we had the wicked “flumageddon” as my husband called it, sweep through our home and throw us into a tailspin that we are still trying recover from three weeks later. I feel overwhelmed by the pressure of resolutions and feeling as if I have to master that ongoing task list once and for all! You know the "list," the one that weighs us down in the middle of the night, telling us what we should be doing, who we should be, how we should live our lives and take care of our families. Our instinct is to work harder to prove that we can do it all, over-committing, over-working, over-doing it, inherently exhausting our souls. And when the day is done, we are left feeling inadequate and not enough.
The last week of 2016 we were visiting with my family in Illinois. It was our last day of our trip and decided to have breakfast with my Dad at our favorite diner before leaving for Indy. Our server had just set our food down and walked away when I picked up my fork to dive into my short stack of pancakes and suddenly had a heart palpitation that caused a short blackout. I was sitting next to my Dad, with my husband and son across from me, and remember reaching for his arm because I couldn’t speak and suddenly feeling extremely panicked as I lost all control of my body. As quickly as this blackout happened, it was over, but when I returned, I realized my Dad, husband, and son were all staring at me with panicked looks on their faces. I am sure my face read the same way, but in true soldier fashion, I brushed it off and insisted that we all eat up; after all, we had a busy day ahead! Except I couldn’t shake the experience and the terrified look on my sweet sons face; I knew this was bigger than I was willing to admit and that afternoon I reluctantly made the decision to call the doctor.
2017 started off with a series of tests and doctors appointments. I was always frustrated because I was too busy to be sitting in a waiting room and wearing heart monitor all the time was intrusive and uncomfortable. I didn’t have time to be sick. I should have been with a client or be helping my beloved church with their grand opening or helping in my son's classroom.
One day while I was waiting for an appointment a friend posted a picture on Facebook of a book she was reading for the New Year, and immediately I was drawn to the title; Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist. Wait a minute! I want to ditch frantic for simple and soulful! I ordered it from Amazon right away. Here is the link if for you to take a peek too!
In her message, Shauna shares details about her life as a 36-year-old wife, mother, writer, who was traveling all the time to promote her latest book, or creating new recipes for her next cookbook, and running to basketball games in between everything else.
She says, “In many ways, I loved this life – loved my husband, adored my kids, was so thankful to be a writer. But it’s like I was pulling a little red wagon, and as I pulled it along, I filled it so full that I could hardly keep pulling. The red wagon my life, and the weight of pulling it was destroying me. I was aware I was missing the very thing I so badly longed for, connection, meaning, peace. But there was something that kept driving me forward – a set of beliefs and instincts that kept pushing, pushing, pushing even as I was longing to rest. “
Did Shauna just write about her life or was she describing my own? I longed for meaningful relationships and peace… I would beg God to help me find peace within myself, yet I continued to push, push, push.
She continues, “My prayer is that this book will be a thousand invitations, springing up from every page, calling you to leave behind the heavy weight of comparison. Competition, and exhaustion and to recraft a life marked by meaning, connection, and unconditional love.”
After the month of tests on my heart, my cardiologist came back with the big news. He said, “Julie, I couldn’t find anything wrong with your heart other than the occasional palpation, and you fall into the normal range for having them. You are a healthy 36-year-old woman from a medical standpoint, but I want to caution you,” And then he said it, “Stress can do vicious things to our bodies if we aren’t taking care of them. I believe you need to start taking better care of yourself.” At that moment I had to wonder, Did I just let the chaos and the noise of the life I was living silence the whispers of my spirit enough to physically damage my own body? It was then I realized this was God’s prescription to slow down and rest.
I wish I could say I read this book and surrendered my old way of thinking and living that I threw the chaos out the window and turned over my heart a soul to a new way of living. In the last year, I have failed over and over again, but I am learning how to pause and ask myself, is this is “life filling” or “life draining”? I invite you to join me on this journey of learning to say yes to meaning, connection, and unconditional love and waving goodbye to perfect, self-comparison, and business. Here is my only real resolution for 2018, continue practicing being present and loving myself enough to allow, peace for calm, into my soul.
My prayer for us as we begin to close this week…
Heavenly Father, we are struggling with distracted lives, we rattle our minds with constant activity, we are so often ignoring our cries rest and calm and believing this is a regular part of life. This behavior might be typical but Lord, don’t let this be our routine. Instead of trying to master the chaos all around us, let us rejoice with confidence that we do not have to do this alone! You have already made Your way to us, and because of that, we all have hope within us. Give us the wisdom to listen to your voice and face the next moments with loving-kindness toward others and ourselves. Amen.