When I’m stressed, I hoard my emotional resources. The pain prevents my sharing.
A recent bout of stress showed me its most damaging results—stress keeps me from nurturing. I feel detached. I don’t reach out. I wonder. . . Do I do this? Is it intentional? Do the circumstances bring it on? Is this my own protection from the pain and stress? When I felt my return to a position of peace, I made three discoveries:
First: Ideally, stress seems to be an automatic reaction to negative circumstances. I wish I did not take it on, but I unconsciously do. I discovered peace returns quicker if I consciously seek the same soft reactions to my own circumstances and weaknesses that I would give to other people.
Second: During times of stress I wrap the immediate issues together with the long term ones and feel bleak about any resolution. I discovered that by taking care of immediate needs first allows me to set my stress aside and take the pressure of the negative off my day-to-day activities.
Third: I want to remain attached to other people in opportunities to nurture and be nurtured, but I close off. While I continue to mechanically assist and serve others, I don’t give my best nurturing under stress. I discovered physical touch—even the lightest expression of love—brings back sincerity to my nurturing.
This post is an answer to My Daily Question:
Have I Seen the Hand of God Reaching Out to Touch Us Today?
Almost a year ago, last April, I published the post, The Blessings of A Downturn. Today, the downturn is clearly a recession far worse than we anticipated as a nation or as a family. The subject of this post is even more timely now than it was then, and I’m reposting it with an addition of a new point of learning. My husband reminded me of a story about a family long ago, in need of food, who finds themselves with a broken bow. Yesterday, I shared this story, and today, I add what I’m learning from it as my first point.
The economic downturn we face in the United States is now officially a recession, and the financial pressure many families feel is real. Our family relies on the construction industry for our livelihood, and we began to feel that pressure on our finances in the closing months of 2007.
The prospects felt bleak when we did not have a clear vision of what the future might bring for my husband’s small business. Right away, we turned to our faith as a means to gain some perspective and seek help. We did not just pray and expect God to do the rest. We did all that we could do. While I cannot say that we have enjoyed the experience, the situation has been an opportunity for us to learn and grow in several ways:
• Recognizing The Difference Between Problem Solving and Complaining
I love to talk it out. It helps me sort through the pros and cons of solutions and identify which course of action feels like the right one. While my husband is a good listener, he is not a talker and does not solve problems this way. In the last six months, I’ve come to realize that while talking is important to me (I’m a woman, right?), when I point out all the negatives associated with the situation, under the guise of problem-solving, I’m simply complaining.
The blessing: My desire to encourage my husband as a provider reminds me to withhold my negativity in conversations with him and in prayer with God.
• Improved Communication in Marriage
We knew we would need to consider our short term cash flow and needs, as well as our longer term plans. Like most couples, we have never discussed finances very well. “The American Bar Association has indicated that 89 percent of all divorces can be traced to quarrels and accusations over money. Others have estimated that 75 percent of all divorces result from clashes over finances.” (see One for the Money, Guide to Family Finances) I wouldn’t say that we clash over finances, but communication is tense when we need to create a new budget or when we have unexpected financial obligations. But over the past months we have created a new computerized budget, brought our banking up-to-date and learned to discuss and agree upon financial priorities as a couple.
The blessing: Confronting and resolving our most difficult communication issue has led us to communicate better in all aspects of our marriage.
• Differentiating Between Wants Versus Needs
We also have had the opportunity to counsel with our children about the financial and time commitments of our activities. Our 8-year-old daughter led us in charting each activity under one of three columns: good, better or best. We discovered that although some things we were doing were good, we needed to use our resources for those things that were better and the best. We also had to use the same mental chart with all of our discretionary expenditures like food, entertainment, clothing, and gifts to determine our most important needs and prioritize our wants.
The blessing: We spend our time and money on what we really value, and we are more conscious and appreciative of what we already have.
• Planning For the Future
While I would really love to be planning a vacation get-away when the economic picture improves, this experience has reminded us of the importance of paying off debt (including our mortgage) and saving for the future. That is probably one of the most difficult adjustments to make—changing habits to focus on the long-term financial picture rather than the short term one.
The blessing: Our perspective of the financial goals we want to attain in the years to come has become more clearly defined in our minds.
Optimism is replacing pessimism in my life and not because business has increased. Ultimately, my hope comes from something deeper than money. The most important blessing of this downturn has been to remember that “In God We Trust,” is more than a symbolic statement on paper.
This post is an answer to my daily question: Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our family today?Read More
My husband bought me a favorite Carl Bloch print for my birthday last year. It’s a giclée on canvas—mounted, but not framed. I propped it on the back of the piano until we bought a frame and decided where to hang it. Six months it waited there, unframed, until I moved it to the top of a bookshelf near where I eventually wanted to hang it. Another three months passed, and I moved it to a closet to make room for Christmas decorations.
Now that the decorations are down, I still don’t have a frame. The wall where I intend to hang it holds other artwork destined for a wall in my husband’s office, which isn’t ready yet. I’m waiting. Today, I thought of that painting—Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda by Carl Bloch. I needed to unwrap the painting and put it up somewhere, anywhere, even if it is still a transition place like a simple IKEA easel.
I’m healing from a minor surgery last week, and like the painting without a home, I’m waiting through the healing process. When I suffer physically—and probably in other ways, too—I feel like the certain man at the pool of Bethesda, under a cover that needs lifting.
This time, my cover feels like a cloud covering my normal life and disconnecting me from the people in that existence. They surround me and reach out, but I can’t reach back as well I want.
In the past half year I’ve stood beside a friend overcoming a crises and a husband recovering from an accident, but I helplessly wonder what more can I offer? Now that I am the one needing aid, I understand why it is hard to grasp the help that is extended.
Gratefully, my healing comes hour by hour not month by month. And in my short path, I’m being carried closer with empathy toward those still in the transition of healing. Someday, I hope they will be whole, but until then, I might offer my easel.Read More
Almost three months ago my new doctor informed me at a routine check-up that she found something that might really be nothing but that I would need further tests. The tests revealed a small cyst, but as the doctor said, it probably would take care of itself.
At the same time, a tree fell on my husband and he broke some bones. His accident taught me to stop looking for all-the-ways-I’m-going-to-die-from-whatever-it-is-I-possibly-may-have-but probably-don’t.
I relaxed and enjoyed the holidays and forgot about the next test. Until it revealed the the problem still existed. Of all the medical problems one could have, mine is minor and relatively easy to solve.
With that solution in place, I expended my energy on the temporal preparations, showing that I know it is “no big deal.” But agitation, irritation, fatigue and anxiety with those plans revealed that I was scared of the unknown without even knowing that it was fear that I felt.
I write these feelings, not for concern or sympathy, but to acknowledge a reality of adulthood—even when we’ve matured beyond childhood fears, we still need peace for our “troubled minds.”
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
Comfort came to me quietly with . . .
An appointment rescheduled for weeks ahead of what I anticipated.
A competent doctor who isn’t going to “wait and see” but who is ready to make decisions with us and act.
Family and friends who really are there to take care of me if I would stop trying to arrange it all beforehand by myself.
Even more importantly, I felt that comfort when I asked to feel it.Read More
As I give and receive Christmas cards this year, I’m reminded of my first Christmas card from my husband 18 years ago. We were not married or even engaged yet when I went home from college to visit my family for Christmas, but I knew he was the one I wanted to keep. My feelings frightened me, but the homemade card and love notes he sent during the two long weeks away reassured me.
I pleaded with my parents to change my ticket so I could go back early. Of course they couldn’t understand; they kept asking, “Why can’t you wait?”
Ironically, we were engaged two days after I returned to college.
Just the same, when my baby sister announced this summer that she was engaged and her wedding date would be Friday, December 19, I couldn’t understand the timing, either. I said something like, “Couples in love seem to be in their own world.”
I tried to express the practical matters of my world to help her see my perspective, just like my parents expressed theirs to me long ago at the kitchen table: “It’s the worst time of year to travel. The cost. The weather. The school schedules. Our commitments. . .”
In the middle of all these “commitments” I sat on the floor with a pile of old handwritten cards and love notes, still in the old envelopes with 25 cent stamps, from our two weeks apart at Christmas. And, I remembered how it felt. Yes, couples in love are in their own world.
With my cards in the mail, packages wrapped, the baking finished, the entertaining over, and my heart prepared, I’m ready to say, “It’s no better time to be with a new couple in love. And, that’s just where I want to visit this time of year.”
Congratulations, little sister, on your wedding tomorrow!Read More
Around the holidays we seem to live for the big day. The big party, the big gift, the big meal, and the real biggie (at least to our children)—Christmas morning.
I’m all about the big events of life. One of my strengths is to take a thought and build it into something big like a special occasion meal for my family, a blog post or article, a gathering of friends, a creative contribution or an over-the-top presentation.
But, it is also one of my weaknesses. I can create myself into a world of stress, inflexibility, unrealistic expectations and unbalanced emotions.
Even without this weakness, the focus on the big event brings it’s own letdown. My friend bemoaned a lesson she taught at church. The months she had to prepare for it gave her too much time to worry over her preparations, she said.
I’ve been there. I love the build up to such events, but I hate the let-down that inevitability follows.
I teach, too. But instead of presenting something every few months, as I have in the past, I now teach five days per week. The repetitive nature shapes my teaching in a new way. I prepare, but I’m less focused on the before and after, and I’m more focused on the teaching time itself.
This week, I went to teach my 6:45 a.m. class completely unprepared. Or so I thought. I knew the material (Luke 24). I’d studied it. I’d made a lesson plan. Despite this, my outward preparation fell apart. I couldn’t find the picture for my visual. At our just-before-we-go-out-the-door family prayer, I remembered I needed the magazines that were beside my bed, all the way upstairs. I left late. I forgot my scriptures in the rush out the door.
If this had been a BIG event, I may have wallowed in my weaknesses afterward and then tried harder next time. But a small event taught me that that would be relying on myself and not relying on the Lord. When the class started, I was prepared with what mattered most—the principles and doctrines I was to teach.
The result, the lesson developed into the discussion it needed to be, created right in the classroom itself. The feeling wasn’t just me carrying forward my own enthusiasm and emotion for what I learned in preparation but a collective creation of understanding between the teacher and student on the spot.
I’m pondering the application of this life lesson as we prepare for the coming big events of Christmas. Donnetta at My Quiet Corner shared a quote about the Dramatic Versus Ordinary that inspired my thinking. If I’m living just in preparation for the dramatic days, might I be missing out on what I could be creating in both the little ones and the big? What about you?Read More