The winter has been rough on many levels. The weather is the most tangible and obvious brutality this season. Temperatures in below zero degrees Fahrenheit on multiple occasions. I’m a southern girl, and I am not used to that. After one good snow, I’m good, so the multiple accosting of several inches of snow has been oppressive. Not to mention the days the children have missed in school, which is hard on them and their families who are trying to maintain routine. It throws everything off when there are cancellations of what was expected. This winter has also seen two funerals in our congregation, as well as the deaths and health concerns of friends of friends, and beloved celebrities. Not to mention the flu!
Now, before you think I’m just complaining, please know, I’m describing this experience so you can understand the ethos out of which this post is written. This kind of stress, for some is no big deal, just roll with the punches, right? But for all the similar tweets and Facebook posts that have echoed this sentiment all season, I have a sense that many are sharing the feeling of being under attack this season. (And that’s not even from the people who have lost power or been without enough resources.) It feels like a prolonged crisis.
At one point I related it to pregnancy. There is a moment in most healthy pregnancies where mommy-to-be begins to need to be done being the incubator. Everything begins to get really uncomfortable and yet there are still a few weeks to go. And mommy’s mind/hormones begin to play tricks on her so that she begins to wonder if this will ever end, really, ever!?! The logical part of the brain understands that new life is just on the other side of those few weeks, but the emotional brain says this is never going to change, you are going to have to get used to living this way. That’s been this winter.
In light of that sense of dread; parenting, partnering in relationship with my spouse, even leading in ministry has been less than the best. (This brings up another conversation about what our goals are: to be the best? But I’ll leave that for another blog…maybe.) The heavy weight of, “what else could go wrong?” has shadowed the message we just celebrated a few weeks ago of “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” It’s exhausting living with that kind of constant change and inability to get back to some healthy routine. It’s like a stubborn elephant has plopped itself down in your way and there is nothing to do but wait.
Here is what I’ve learned from this winter:
1) It WILL end. The last two days have brought temperatures high enough to melt the snow off of the concrete and asphalt, twice. That is promising. Routine will return, thus we need to be ready when it comes, otherwise the new routine of chaos will become the way things are done.
2) Blessing breaks are essential. On one particularly difficult morning I found myself excessively complaining. I sat down in that moment and named 10 things for which I am thankful. It changed my whole attitude. If you are going to make it through the higher stress times (particularly if they feel like crisis) you have to take time to consider your blessings, otherwise your complaints will rule you.
3) Take time to welcome the love. In the frustration of cabin fever next to a week of too many evenings away from home, next to a week with stomach sickness, tensions can run high. Wills can become stubborn. Feelings can be sensitive. And then there is what the children feel. When your children want to snuggle, say, “yes” even if they are challenging your authority, say “yes.” This connection eases your (and their) tension. The physical touch releases endorphins that calm the stress. Along that same line of thinking, when your spouse wants to be romantic, say, “yes.” Not because you are in the mood, but because the physical and emotional connection will dispel some of the feelings of being overwhelmed and it will remind you both that you are partners in this life together.
4) The mountains in front of you are just an illusion. Everything that becomes overwhelming in the midst of a crisis is a matter of perspective. Some things take time and need to sit on a shelf for awhile, but most things are not as big as they seem. If you work on them a little at a time, you can accomplish small goals to accomplish your bigger ones. Take your challenges one day at a time. And those days of failure, do not make you a failure, they make you human. Humans are not made to live in constant crisis. Give yourself room to fail, or even just fall backwards. You can try again tomorrow.
5) Find an accountability partner. If you have someone who will work with (probably not a spouse or parent or child), to set small goals, there is a sense of moving toward your goal because someone else cares if you are making progress. They can help you be realistic about your choices, and they can support you on your off days. They can also challenge you when you are not pushing hard enough.
6) Set priorities. The most important things on you list of priorities should get the most of your attention. It’s as simple as that. If it’s not a priority put it on the shelf or get rid of it all together.
7) Pray. This is your most humble and your most confident space. In God’s hands you will remember you are important to God, and you will also remember you are not God. God is good, and you are being prepared, equipped for something yet to come.
Here’s to spring, and new life resurrected from frozen winter.