Attitude Adjustment

I had a little argument yesterday over whether my stressed-out state was a direct result of my circumstances or rather a reflection of how I was approaching life. I was, of course, arguing that this is my circumstances!! I’m stressed because my life is stressful!! And since I like to win any kind of argument, I took a long dramatic stance that said, Yes, Esther is right. 

Of course, a little while later, after I had calmed down I thought about it. And quickly concluded that, No, I think the other person was right. My stressed-out state has a lot to do with my attitude and how I’m approaching life, rather than my circumstances. 

The first time I ever did therapy for anxiety, I told the therapist that I felt like I was standing right on the edge of a cliff, about to fall off. He suggested that I change the picture in my mind and view myself at a far distance from the cliff. No imminent danger. No falling. And while I have always remembered him saying that, I don’t know if I’ve focused a lot of thought on it. But, I think these past few weeks, in my mind, I have been right back on the edge of that cliff. 

Every day I have woken up with this question of, Can I survive today? And I’m not super confident in the answer. I’m not sure. I’ll at least try really hard to make it. Maybe that will be enough. Maybe. In my defense, the last couple weeks have been hard circumstantially. Lots of new things (new things stress me out), having to talk to lots of strangers (talking to strangers stresses me out), worrying about my sick parents, having to be in and out of the house all day (constantly leaving the house stresses me out). 

I took a long walk yesterday and I thought about my attitude. What if I woke up every day with a sense of adventure? I wonder what amazing, exciting things will happen today? Hmm. Maybe. But, I don’t think that train of thought is going to help me out in the long run. There is not much excitement about folding laundry and washing dishes. But this morning I remembered what I had written about last week, about the purpose of man being to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Now that is something that would be worth waking up for every day. What if my first thought every morning was, How can I glorify God today and how can I enjoy Him today? I think that would be a game changer. 

How can I glorify God today? I can treat the people around me with love and compassion. I can take care of this planet that he has given me. I can obey his words. How can I enjoy him forever? I can look for him in all the small moments of my day. I can be aware of his presence. I can be thankful. I can be observant of all that he has created and take pleasure in it. I can read his Word and wonder at his wisdom. I can think on all that he has done for me and wonder at his love. 

Back to that mental image of me on the edge of the cliff. The real image I need to keep in my mind is me held safe in the hands of God. No cliffs. 

So. This is my goal this week. To work on my attitude. To keep my main purpose in mind every morning as I start my day. And to hopefully stop being a stressed-out wreck. 

The Record Player

I have a record player in my head. Any time I am feeling down, or insecure, the record player starts playing. It’s a voice that goes over all my accomplishments. In high school you did this…When you were in college you did this…Remember that time you did that one thing? And all these things are the “good” things that I feel like I have done. Places where I have excelled. Things I have mastered. Memories of me being great. Basically a list of all my righteous deeds. 

The other day I was having an interesting conversation with someone about different religions and the main point that we landed on was “good works”. I was explaining that in Christianity, we don’t believe that our good works save us. The only thing that saves us is the work that Jesus did on the cross. His forgiveness of our sins. All the good deeds in the world won’t get us into heaven. Just the grace of God that is offered us through belief in Jesus. 

Now, I know these things. I’ve been taught these things for a long time. But that record player still exists. My list of good deeds makes me feel better about myself. Boosts my confidence, soothes my low self-esteem. Justifies my behavior. (Maybe I messed up here, but look, usually I’m a good person!)

Last night I heard the record player turn on, but instead of listening to the voice, reliving all the good memories, I stepped back a pace, and questioned why this record player even existed? Why do I do this? 

I have been trying to take these thoughts captive today. Bring them to a halt. All those good things do nothing to give you worth. Your worth comes from being loved by Jesus. He is one that has done all the work, not you. 

This last Sunday I watched the first episode of the second season of THE CHOSEN. If you have not watched season 1, I highly, highly, highly, recommend it. You can get The Chosen App, free, in your app store and see all the episodes free. Season 2 is just starting to come out. 

Something that really stood out to me was the foreignness of Jesus. He said and did things that the disciples were not expecting, took them off guard, had them constantly guessing what was going to happen next. This stood out to me because I feel like now, so many years later, we think we have Jesus figured out. We have the scriptures to read, we know the stories, we have developed elaborate traditions around the life and work of Jesus. He fits very comfortably inside a beautiful box. We are very comfortable with the Jesus that exists in our heads. And that comfortableness makes us complacent, stuck in our ruts. 

Watching The Chosen brought home to me that I don’t have Jesus all figured out. He is his own person, God in fact, and I do not understand all of his ways, nor do I perfectly walk in all of his ways. And I feel empathy with the disciples. They didn’t get it right away. In fact, even after three years of walking with Jesus, (in person!) they still messed up sometimes. And my heart feels full of thankfulness at the grace Jesus gave the disciples and that he gives me, now. Yes, I’ve been walking with him, most of my life, but I still sometimes completely miss the point. My record player turns on and I cling to my own good works, completely forgetting that I am saved by Grace, Jesus’ work on the cross, His Forgiveness. My worth comes, not from being a “good” person, but from being a child of God. 

How to Survive Mom Life

It’s been a crazy week. (How many times have I written that?) I told my husband, my actual list of stuff to do has not been that long, but my emotional load has been really heavy. We had a home visit this week from our foster daughter’s caseworker, getting ready for an important upcoming court date next week. Several of my children have had some struggles this week that have weighed on me as I try to help them through. National affairs still have me really tense. 

Yesterday I was feeling a bit shell-shocked. Then a friend posted an old blog post online from DESIRINGGOD.org written by Jen Wilkin. Here’s the link to the original post Women, Trade Self-Worth for Awe and Wonder . The basic premise is that instead of focusing on building up our self-esteem we should be focusing on the greatness of God. As we focus on Him instead of ourselves, we develop a healthy “fear of the Lord”. And a “fear of the Lord”, according to scripture, leads to all the good things we want in life. 

I was thinking about this all day yesterday. And I tried to put it into practice. As I felt myself getting overwhelmed with a situation, and I sent out a silent plea, “What do I do?” I remembered, focus on God, not yourself, and I started thinking about his Majesty, sitting on his throne, his Holiness, his Worthiness. And it helped. My problems shrunk back to a reasonable size when I compared them to the Awesomeness of God. And the heaviness lifted some as I lifted up praises instead of complaints. 

Guys, I’m just going to go on record and tell you that being a mom is tough. And it’s not that my kids are unusual. They are regular people with the regular issues that all people have. It’s just that being human is difficult. And raising humans to adulthood is difficult. 

Last night my husband and I snuck away for a very short date night. We went out to eat, but during the meal we were fielding calls from our teenager who was babysitting and was overwhelmed by two small children fighting over a device that neither of them were supposed to have in the first place. We also were texting with another child, and watching the time because we had to go pick up another child when her work shift ended. 

My husband said, this is just for a season, or something like that. And I said, No, we will be doing this for our entire lives. Our youngest is only three after all. By the time he finally has himself all sorted out we will have grandchildren heading into their teen years. Andy said that would be different. But, I hope that we will be involved enough in our grandchildren’s lives, that we will be able to share in their ups and downs. Anyway, the point being, the stress of being a parent isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay. And that is hard to accept sometimes. 

The other day, I found my mind just cycling through a woe-is-me kind of cycle. It was so Me-Focused. And it was tiresome. And I had this revelation that when my thoughts automatically turn to thinking about God instead of automatically obsessing about myself and my problems, when I can get to that place, my peace will exponentially greater. And I think that’s why Jen Wilkin’s article hit me so deep. Yes. Cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord. Yes. Focus on God’s might instead of my weakness. Yes. Spend my energy praising, instead of complaining. These are the things that will enable me to not only endure, but thrive in this crazy job of being a mom.