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Stress

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As women, we fill many roles: spouse, mother, caregiver, friend, and employee. Sometimes our day begins at 5:30 am and ends with a slow crawl to the bed around 11:00 pm. Downtime is only during our five or six hours of sleep, and that too is sometimes disturbed by the needs of others. This lifestyle can cause long-term stress that eventually may cause problems both physically and mentally.

It is hard for us to admit that we are stressed out. As Spirit-filled women, we are supposed to stay calm, relaxed—and oh yes, smile. Long-term stress can affect our health. Some warning signs may appear such as sleeping problems, headaches, upset stomach, difficulty concentrating, and feeling tired most of the time. We may also feel irritated with others for little or no reason, have feelings of depression, anxiety, tension in the neck and back, in addition to changes in our normal weight.

During stressful times, God has provided a very unique way for our bodies to handle pressure. Our brain produces a chemical called oxytocin which has a calming effect on the body. This chemical is released in higher levels during childbirth, breastfeeding, and when we seek support from female friends.

I am reminded of a story in Luke chapter one where Mary was informed by an angel that she, an unmarried young woman, was going to have a baby. There would be no announcement in the local paper regarding her marriage to Joseph, no planning for the big wedding of her dreams, no choosing her wedding party, no showers or walking down the church aisle—yet a baby would be born to her.

I can just imagine that Mary was stressed to the max! So what did she do? First of all, she probably had moments of anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches, a little tension in her neck, along with worry and irritation like she had never experienced before. What in the world was she to do about all this stress in her life? Well, she just packed her little ’ole suitcase, got on Cleo, her donkey, and headed for a town in the hill country of Judea to visit her relative, Elizabeth.

Much like us today, these two women, whose stress levels probably hit number ten on the one-ten scale, begin to talk. As Mary poured out her feelings to Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and began to encourage Mary. Mary in turn began to sing a new song: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” You talk about oxytocin levels on the rise. I can just imagine there was an abundance of it flowing!

Oh how great is our Creator, to create within our brains a chemical that calms our stressed minds with just the simple act of talking with a friend. God knows exactly what we need; how marvelous is God’s plan for each of us. So get on Cleo your donkey—or better yet, get in your car—head out to the home of your best friend, and talk. Let the oxytocin start flowing. Move from stressed to blessed!

 

Doris Dollins has been in the nursing profession almost twenty years. She has been a hospice RN for the past twelve years. Doris is the mother of four children and thirteen grandchildren. She is a member of the UPC of Paris, Texas, pastored by Robert Myre.

Reprinted with permission from Reflections Magazine.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, New King James Version).

One of the unpleasantries of summertime travel is the detours around road repairs. Oh, road repairs are necessary, but who has time to sit in long lines of slow traffic as we work our way around plastic cones and various pieces of construction equipment. Not me!

One summer my route to work was blocked for several weeks as the city replaced a deteriorating bridge. It wasn’t a large bridge and it wasn’t a major thoroughfare, but it was where I needed to travel every day. I could have allowed the detour to start my day with stress. Instead I decided to enjoy the view of the new route. I noticed the bright, blooming flowers surrounding some homes, watched the progress of a house being renovated, and observed the various styles of homes I passed. I turned an unpleasant detour into a pleasant morning routine.

Life sometimes takes detours as well. All will be going smoothly until we suddenly face a barricade across our path. We are forced to divert onto unfamiliar side streets. Our detour may be a serious illness, a job loss, family discord, or other life-disrupting event. It is difficult to see any good coming from the situation, and our stress levels rise. We do not enjoy this new route our life is taking.

We may struggle with the problems life brings and wonder what good can possibly come from them. Perhaps we have faced a situation for a long time and see no end in sight. But on the other side of the detour, we will be able to see God’s hand was sustaining us all the time. As you go through this detour around the “normal” of your life, realize that He is there with you the whole time, guiding your every move.

Prayer: Lord, sometimes life seems so difficult and I can’t see around all the detours and roadblocks along my way. It’s easy for me to feel lost and alone at such times. Thank You for the assurance that I’m really not alone. You are there protecting me and guiding me around each obstacle. You will bring me safely through.

Devotion by Mary Loudermilk

In case any of you dear readers are thinking that my “Lessons in the Wilderness” posts are just sweet, inspirational thoughts from a person who has it all together and wants to help to rest of the world as they limp along in life…

They’re not.  In fact, the reason my blog posts lately have been spotty, at best, is because I’m smack-dab in the middle of my own wilderness, and honestly, some days I’m just proud of myself for making my bed and showing up to church (and I’m the pastor’s wife!).  I’m just being real with you.  Because if we’re not real, after all, what’s the point?  No one likes fake. And fake can’t hide your flaws for long.  Even Jesus told His disciples,

“For nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light.”

Luke 8:17, NET

So, why hide our flaws?  Why be fake?  It’s so much work to keep up the façade of perfection, anyway!  (I know; I’m exhausted!)  Fellow recovering perfectionists, YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL!  In fact, you weren’t created to!  You were created to do your Best Thing, and do it well.  

What is your Best Thing??  That’s truly your assignment- find your Best Thing, and do it well.

Jesus has gifted you with talents and interests and skills that only you can do, like you do. What are they?

Loving your kids and your husband?  Cooking delicious, whole foods for your family? Sitting at Jesus’ feet in Bible study and meditation?  Interceding in prayer for the unreached peoples of the world? Starting a business? Teaching a women’s Bible study?  Creating art?

What is your Best Thing?

I’m asking myself this very question.  Because what I’m attempting to do now, and what I have attempted to do for many years (aka, everything), just isn’t working.  I’m always coming up short.  Not good enough.  Not meeting expectations.  Letting people down (or worrying that I’ve let someone in the universe down, somewhere).  Exhausted.  Stressed.  Frustrated.  Feeling sapped of energy and joy.  Constantly wondering, “Is this it?  Am I really living life, or did I miss my turn somewhere?

Have you girls also asked yourselves questions like, “When does Life begin?  When I get married? When I have my first child?  Or buy my first home?  When I get a dog? When I…?”

How about, NOW?  This is Life.  Today.  This moment that we’re in together, right now.

So it’s time to start living.

What will this mean for you? I think I can tell you what it means for me- at least, what it is beginning to mean for me.

It means doing LESS, and loving MORE.  Loving myself, as I was created, wonderfully and marvelously shaped and formed by my Creator.  Delighting in my normal, everyday life- grocery shopping, Bible studies, cleaning our cozy little apartment, holding hands with my amazing husband, sitting in God’s presence in the early mornings with my coffee and my journal, FaceTiming with my precious family….

Instead of squinting my eyes off into the hazy horizon of the “whens“, I’m going to live and delight and love in my NOW

(Lord Jesus, help me!)

So back to my original thought…

You can’t do it all.  I can’t do it all.  We were never meant to.  And no, I am NOT writing this blog from a place of “got it all figured out”.  We’re in this beautiful, messy journey of life together.  (And that’s the only way we’ll get through this thing, anyway- is TOGETHER.  My lovely ladies, we need each other!!)

The question remains, then,

“What is my Best Thing?”

One of the chapters in my Bible reading plan for this morning was Luke 10.  I read about the seventy being sent out, and their excitement at being able to cast out devils, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, and all that good stuff…and then I got to Luke 10:38:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And I was like, “Oh…this Martha girl again.  I am SO her!”

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

And here I was like, “Why can’t I be like Mary and just lounge on the floor at Jesus’ feet?”

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Now, I’m sure I’ve read this story about a hundred times.  But this time,  I stopped at the word “cumbered”.  I wondered, “What does that word really mean, anyway?”

So I looked it up in my trusty Bible app that finds those sorts of things out for me.  And here is what I found:

The Greek word for “cumber” is perispao, and it means:

“perispao”:

1. to draw around, to draw away, distract

2. metaph.

a.  to be driven about mentally, to be distracted

b.  to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing

Oh.

Wow.

I’m not going to fully unpack this definition for you…I want you to just sit on it and let it soak in.  Ask God to reveal this to you, for you, where you are.  What are you distracted by?  How are you “driven about mentally”?  What is the “thing” that you’re over-occupied about?

And now, what our dear sweet Jesus has to say to Martha’s (and our) frantic, frenetic heart:

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Sisters, only one thing is needful.

Truly, completely, totally, LIVING.  Not doing.  Not tasks and to-do lists.  Not rushing around to meet everyone else’s needs.  No.  What that one thing is, really, is CONNECTION.  Connection with those that matter the most.  With Jesus. With amazing women and people who love us even though we’re a wreck.

Then, and only then, will you find your Best Thing.  Because it’s a thing that can’t be found in our striving and our working.  No, it reveals itself in our hearts as we allow ourselves to live and to love and to laugh, with people who love us in spite of us.  It’s found in the living of Life.

Another clue-  your Best Thing is that thing others are always telling you you’re “so good at”.

I leave you with a question to aid you in your quest for your Best Thing:

What is essential, and beautiful, and life-giving for you?

Do that!  And in the process, you will find your Best Thing…and finally be really LIVING.  Surrounded by people you love, doing what you love, creating beauty in just being absolutely, imperfectly, authentically YOU.

Because YOU, my dear girl, are amazing, and you rock God’s world.  He’s crazy about you and He’s so behind you on this.

And I am too!