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Tag Archives: stress

Confidently Casting Our Cares: A Bee, the Bus, and a Bumpy Recess

Confidently Casting Our Cares I was having the most peaceful, productive, encouraging day. I had just finished up a videoconference with a professional collaborating with me for a special needs inclusion ministry we were trying to build within our church. After an hour and a half of bouncing ideas around with an expert I greatly admire in the field, I drew in a deep breath, composed an email to the ministry leaders at my church, and made my lunch.

I was jazzed. Passions of mine were not only being picked back up again, but they were riding the surf into deeper waters. This is the stuff I live for! I was being equipped to do it better. That was invigorating!

Then in came Kids One and Two.

Phew, no teen angst. Happy days. They shared a few thoughts and even made me laugh. A complaint or two was offered about it being Thursday and the snacks were running out (wonder how that happens?). Everyone moved on to showers, dressing for karate and dance, and homework. If you interact with any teenagers, you know that you have to prepare yourself for anything coming at you. Kids-metamorphosing-into-adults are a complex breed. I love them but never know which persona will walk through the door.

Ah. Another few moments to ponder the peace.

And then Bus Number 3 pulled up. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Does Your Weary Heart Need to Find Safe Harbor?

safeharborThis past week, I came crashing into Thursday morning. Ever have one of those days/weeks/years? We’d experienced a few days of inflexibility, stress, and angst. There were a lot of extra appointments and assessments going on for one of my children, and the red flag of “I’ve had enough, Mom!” was going up.

And it’s not that I didn’t see it.

It’s that I didn’t want to. It was inconvenient. I was tired of setting things down for it. I was weary of red flags popping up everywhere, even though they are God-given safety measures I am truly thankful for most days.

As it turns out, when I failed to step up to the plate, my child knew what he needed without me.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dear Thief of Personal Peace: Meet the Policeman

peacethiefThis was my post on social media this morning:

To crippling anxiety on the face of my child this morning: I’m about to kick your rear with a blog. If I could have come bounding across the basketball court to punch the living daylights out of you by speaking the peace of Christ and shining Light so the liar would flee, I would have, but I just quietly prayed. I’ll settle for shining the Light into a blog where people can see you for the cheating cowardly thief that you are with just a façade of power that stands on nothing because Christ has already defeated you on the cross. ‘Nuff said. ‪#‎mamawontstoptillyouleave‬ ‪#‎youvebeenwarned‬‪ #‎iknowthevictoranditisntyou‬

 

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Putting the Margins Back into Life, One Latte at a Time

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See this latte? If you’re a coffee drinker, it looks awesome, right? Very inviting. Foamy. Caramel drizzle. Love in a cup, no?

See the mess behind it?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I left it in the picture on purpose. Because lately, that’s just how I roll.

This little story is about more than a steaming vanilla latte on my counter waiting for me.

It’s about mess.

It’s about rest.

It’s about life with no margins versus life with margins.

As a book author, just days away from Not Just on Sundays hitting the public, I am learning a lot about margins. For formatting reasons, I have to have inside and outside margins, so that there is room for the paper to be cut as needed to make a neat, perfect 6 x 9 book. I also need a gutter margin so that there is space in the binding; when someone opens the book, he/she doesn’t want to try to read my words sinking deep into the middle. Needless to say, without margins, books are an epic fail, a mess. They need clear boundaries: distinct “start” and “stop” places for the words. Even the headers and footers need space in-between themselves and the main text. Otherwise, everything lacks clarity.

It turns out life is that way as well. It needs margins. If I plan back-to-back events with my kids, there is no driving time, no accounting for traffic delays, no time set aside to eat. If I overplan our schedules, I can’t pick three kids up from different locations at the same time. Likewise, if they don’t have any time outside of school, cross country, dance, marching band, and karate, they will not be able to do homework, to get rest, to unwind, to restore themselves.

As it turns out, I can’t publish a book and keep my house clean and meet every need in the kids and finish important conversations and remember people’s birthdays and return phone calls within respectful amounts of time and grocery shop. Nope.

For a while, I was putting pressure on myself that I could do all of those things well. Not long after, I quickly swirled into a tunnel of not only can I not do them, but I suddenly couldn’t remember to stop to take my vitamins, shower, read, eat regular meals, etc.

I started living life without margins.

And, like the text of a poorly formatted book, I bled into the margins.

Publishing term for you. Bleed (blēd) (n.) Text or graphics that extends all the way to the edge of the paper it is printed on. Bleeds are used in publishing for graphical effect and for printed tabs. Most printers cannot print all the way to the edge of the paper, so the only way to produce a bleed is to print on paper larger than the final page size and then trim the paper. (v.) To run to the edge of the paper, thereby producing a bleed.

What did living without margins do?

It bled into my relationships (no time to meet).

It bled into parenting and marriage (a lack of patience).

It bled into my sleep patterns (a screen right before bed and a 1:30 AM bedtime).

It bled into my health (one should get regular rest, meals, exercise).

It bled into my prayer life (quickly zapped-off prayers instead of more time listening to Him and dialoging as if we were at coffee together).

But unlike the cover art of a book that is supposed to bleed over the edges for printing purposes, the text of my life was spilling out of the margins. Text needs con-text. And the con-text of my life was living, breathing, eating time up in blog-writing, book pre-launch and launch, and publishing. There was no margin in my context.

So, the latte on my counter? The one with the trash behind it? Today that is my built-in margin. I’m trying to get them back, one edge at a time. The countertop can remain messy for a few days. I’m not superwoman, after all. The laundry is probably not going to make it upstairs, but it’s folded to be pulled out of the basket. The book will be published. It’s just a matter of days now, hopefully.

But I need to get my edges with a little wiggle room again. Otherwise, I’m, well—edgy. And that’s not only not fun to be with, but it’s a hectic way to live…on the edge.

Margins in books are boundaries for the eye to know where to read without too much busy. They are how the mind sorts out headers and footers, but the printer needs the area also to keep the edges clear for paper being cut without taking text with it. I don’t want to have my text removed—either in my book or my life. Without margins, something gets cut out. It has to. We can only do so much.

Margins in life are boundaries too. They are healthy spaces where we are just still. Where we don’t have something scheduled. Where we have down time. Where we say “no” so we don’t lose our context—or the “text” of who we are.

Today the latte mug sits on the counter, happy to be accompanied by trash that will eventually be thrown out. It represents a choice to respect myself and others around me enough to insert margins again.

Is anyone else also needing some?

I want a “rebuke the wind and waves” of life kind of moment. I want to find “completely calm” again in-between the frenzy. Who’s with me?

Mark 4:39, Apostle John-Mark narrating

He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Psalm 131:1-2, David speaking

My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

*Update since this post was written: Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day published October 1, 2014. It is available in paperback and as an ebook.

This post has been shared with Christian Mommy Blogger, Blessing Counters, and Tell His Story.

 

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Pressure-Cooker Culture: Is High School in America Becoming an Initiation into a Lifetime of Stress?


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My high schooler recently sat down next to me and told me about friends taking five (sometimes six) honors classes in ninth grade (the school only recommends three at the most at a time), doubling up in advanced math/science/engineering. These students are 14 years old.

There was an unspoken question somewhere in him telling me that.

So, I took a deep breath and told him that while I would never put anyone down for that, because clearly academic achievement is a noble goal, our family makes a different choice because of our placing equal value on everything else that he does outside of academics: marching band, youth group, karate, robotics. I told him that:

  • We value good grades (“personal bests”)—but balanced with mental/emotional wellness.
  • We want to instill a good work ethic, along with built-in moments to unwind.
  • Statistics show way too many overworked, over-pressured high school students keeping themselves artificially awake in unhealthy (or even illegal) ways round the clockending up in psych wards having emotional breakdowns, or taking their lives. Yes, I realize there can be several factors playing into those situations, but academic pressure is one of them. In my opinion, one kid suffering in this way is one kid too many.
  • Ivy League college entrance letters and highly successful future careers are admirable things to reach for, as long as we keep perspective. Training my kids to live in a constant state of lifelong, self-driven pressure and stress, however, is not my end goal.  

I know some folks feel that the United States could increase education standards. I realize that the bar could be higher. It always can. I also know how well other countries around the world do in math and science. I attended college in one of those countries for a while, and I get it. I do. And I know in this increasingly high-tech world, kids are being pushed to take college-level classes sooner, push math advancement, interface with technology at earlier ages. Nothing is inherently wrong with that. I’m all for seeing what people are capable of and letting kids grow toward greater responsibilities, setting personal goals to do better.

But I also value well-rounded individuals with a wider understanding of the human experience. In the United States, college admissions counselors still look for after-school club involvement, community service, and extracurricular activities on the field, in the studio, and at the track. And they should. I don’t think we are doing 18 year olds a favor having them think the world is so narrow that as long as they can program in Python, they are all set for their future.

On the flip side, they need to learn how to balance stress, work and school, and the people in their lives, so I’m also not in favor of high school students in such a state of relaxation that they play video games for 6 hours straight while parents do the laundry and cook their meals. Either end of this pendulum swing has its pitfalls and dangers.

Honors-level classes are awesome if students can perform at that level. Go for it! Call me American (because I am), but honors classes at the expense of everything else—social interaction, activities that broaden character, serving the community, etc.—is where it can sometimes be out of focus.

Life outside the 40 to 60 hours of work per week these future adults will put in has so much more to it. If we teach our kids that academic achievement is the ultimate striving, then where is their personal satisfaction and fulfillment during downtime, when they are just kickin’ it with their families for a few days, or when they want to contribute something non-academic to society?

As one of my social media friends shared, when I brought this up in public forum: “It isn’t good to base an entire life on performance.” And that’s true of anything out of balance: performance of any kind, really.

In my humble opinion:

  • They need to learn how to talk to humans: their boss, their parents, other people’s parents, their coaches, their teachers, their peers.
  • They need to know how to stop and breathe when stress piles up, to prioritize a hectic schedule, to find a way to rest (which ironically, is designed to ultimately keep them at optimal performing level when they take the gift of rest), to wrestle through issues of faith, morality, and justice. To grow into adults who function emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, spiritually.
  • They need to see know how awesome it is to help in a soup kitchen, to run a marathon, to get a black belt in karate. Of course it’s not about doing all of those things—or even those particular things—just people-to-people interactions in general.

As I read my niece’s college application essays this summer, I thought: Well done! She is a high academic achiever but also mentored younger students in cheer, held a job, babysat, went on mission trips, anchored her school news reporting, among other responsibilities. She doesn’t appear to have let any one of those things get out of focus.

I’m glad my son and I had this talk because I saw relief on his face that we don’t expect six honors classes at a time. My parenting wasn’t so much in my saying “no, please don’t take that many” but rather in the why we don’t expect that. I saw the panic button stop going off. There was a life lesson right there that I hope he teaches his own children someday:

Balance, Son, balance.

Because if there’s anything I want my kids to know going into adulthood, it’s when to rest.

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Exodus 34:21, God speaking through Moses

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Mark 6:30-32, Apostle John-Mark narrating

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 

 

 

 

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