When You Want to Escape

Are you experiencing a difficulty in your life that you want to escape from? Living in denial of its very existence? Trying to pack it into a small box so you can hide it in the darkest corner of your mind?

In case you wondered how I managed to describe evasion of life’s problems so well, it is because

 I happen to be the queen of denial, the diva of distraction, and an expert in avoidance. 

Don’t want to think about the event you commited to being in charge of because it suddenly became scary and unrealistic? No problem! Make some dark chocolate brownies and play Monopoly Jr. with your seven- year -old. The chocolate will numb your emotions while your child’s inability to cope with losing will distract you from the reality of your situation!

All humor aside, it is common to find yourself in a place you would rather not be. While the easy solution is avoidance, denial, and distraction, it is not always the right thing to do.

King David found himself longing to “flee as a bird to his mountain” when life became difficult. Yet he knew it was not the right thing to do. He knew God had promised to get him through the difficult time.

“In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?’ – Psalms 11:1

Why should I trust God?

He promised to shield us away from life’s impossible situations. To not give us more than we could bear. He promised to comfort us, and hold us in His hand. To never cast us down when we fail. He promised to be our rock to cling to in the storms of our lives, and to hide us under His wing. He promised to never let a trial be a waste, but to make it into good. Most importantly, God promised that NOTHING would ever seperate us from His love.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” – Psalms 28:7

So whatever it is in your life that makes you want to run away, remember a few things:

1. This trial won’t last forever.

2. You can run away, but your trial will probably follow you.

3. God will help you face it. You can trust Him!

5 Ways to Keep Your House Together When Life Gets Crazy

Before I had kids, I would scrub my house down every Saturday, just because that’s what I was taught to do.  I never went to bed with a messy house. I never once left the house with dirty dishes in the sink, or the floors unswept. Even dirty laundry had its proper place, and that was never the floor.

Over the years, children changed my routine to some degree, but I was still able to manage control over the condition of my home.

However, in January of 2016, we began my husband’s journey with his health. Our lives exploded with doctor’s visits, tests, surgeries, and treatments. This, of course, was in addition to the already crazy schedule we had.

My house began to suffer. For the first time in my life, I left dirty dishes in the sink, floors unswept, and dirty laundry stayed wherever it landed. There were days when I felt so overwhelmed by my house that I determined I was going to call Molly Maid.

A few months ago, I realized I had a day with no appointments scheduled.  I began to focus on all the cleaning that needed to be caught up. I was very overwhelmed by my to-do list. While sipping my coffee (still in my pajamas), I added a few more things to my list, when my husband came out of his office.

“Pastor Jon and Jess just called. They will be in our area and want to stop by. They should be here in 15 minutes.”

My heart stopped. I began to panic.

“What???!! Look at this house! I can’t have our pastor over with it like this!”

The dishwasher was stuffed with clean dishes and the sink was piled with dirty ones. Mountains of laundry sat in my living room, waiting to be folded. I needed to vacuum badly. I wasn’t even dressed!!

Somehow, I managed to drag the laundry to my bedroom, where I promptly shut the door. I was able to vacuum, and instead of doing the dishes, I put them in hot soapy water.  I hoped my pastor and his wife wouldn’t notice I hadn’t polished in over a week or that the kitchen floor needed to be mopped. Somehow I managed to get dressed, and do my hair, too!

After that day, I realized the only person that really cared about my house being perfectly clean, was me. I began to change the way I thought about my house, and change how I kept up with it, too. Yes, I still like a clean house, and if I have a day I can devote to cleaning, I gladly clean (it’s actually good therapy)! But if I have a week of crazy schedules, and no time to devote to my weekly cleaning, then I don’t sweat it. It’s not important enough to stress about!

Five ways to keep your house together when life gets crazy:

#1 – Relax! If seeing your to-do list hanging on the fridge stresses you out, throw it away. Realize that the laundry will still be around tomorrow, and the carpet will need to be vacuumed tomorrow, too. You are doing the most important thing right now – taking care of your family! Your house is lived in, so it’s going to look like it sometimes!

#2 – “Surface” cleaning is still cleaning. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to get out a bucket and scrub brush every Saturday to keep your house clean. If all you can do is sweep the kitchen and grab a damp paper towel to wipe up spills, then that’s still cleaning!

#3 – Set small goals. If you have a super tight schedule this week, then it is not the time to dig out the bucket and scrub brush. Making beds, vacuuming carpets, and washing dishes are small goals you can focus on.

Keeping up on smaller tasks on a daily basis can make your home appear clean no matter who drops by unexpectedly. 

#4 – Let the kids help. I have older kids who are easily inspired by a little cash. If it’s been over a month since my floors have been mopped, then it’s time for me to call in reinforcements. My 13 year old son and 15 year old daughter can get my house scrubbed and sparkling in just a couple hours, and they are not only happy to have accomplished something, they are thrilled to have money to spend at the mall! Don’t feel bad when delegating large cleaning tasks to your children. Parents today who don’t teach their children to complete large tasks are doing their children a great disservice. Not only does it prepare them for a real job someday, it builds character and confidence!

#5 – Don’t put your house before your relationship with God. In years past, I would allow sleepless nights with babies, crazy early mornings with toddlers, and my cleaning routine to keep me from having daily devotions with God. Once I began to make it a priority​, I realized I didn’t handle life as well without it. I was more irritable and impatient with my husband, kids, and even house chores. When I become more irritable, I started getting clumbsy, and when I was clumbsy, it took me longer to accomplish a task. Not worth it! I need my time with God every morning!

 If you are going through an exceptionally crazy time in your life and you don’t already spend mornings with the Lord, I strongly encourage you to make this your first goal!

I am in no way an expert when it comes to cleaning the house, and I am certainly no expert when it comes to keeping calm. But over the last few months, the Lord has taught me how to change my thinking about my house cleaning. He’s taught me how to do better at little goals, and to not go crazy over the things I just don’t have time for. My house might not be scrubbed, but it is still “together”. My life might still be crazy, but I am much calmer and happier.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” – 1 Corinthians 14:40

Abundant Little Blessings

Summer is here! And despite a few minor setbacks due to my reaction to stress (anyone else allergic to stress?) and Gabe’s port failing, our family has been able to enjoy the first official week of no school. This week marks the end of phase 1 in Gabe’s treatment. Radiation and chemo begins on Monday.

Although it was hard to deal with the setbacks, I am very grateful that we experienced them.

For it was through the difficult moments that God decided to show Himself to me in abundant little ways.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think….” – Ephesians 3:20a

From gifts handed to us at church on Sunday, packages sent in the mail stuffed with gift cards on Tuesday, texts and email messages from friends near and far all week long, and the extraordinary kindness of neighbors, God was pretty busy this week.  Not to mention bumping into friends at parks, and hour-long phone conversations with family and friends offering hope and prayers. All of these little blessings added up to be one extraordinary message from God. He was thinking of us.

We kicked off the summer last night with the family getting ice cream after church. Since Gabe is not having any of the side effects of his chemo right now, he thought it would be a good idea to get a taste of ice cream before the chemo starts again. (I don’t know why he’s making this face, but he did it on all five pictures we took!)

Don’t underestimate God’s thoughts of you. When life gets stressful, He’s thinking of you, and He really wants you to know it!

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” – Psalms 139:17‭-‬18

Getting Through the Crazy

I should have seen the warning signs. The increased headaches, sleepless nights, and loss of appetite were all classic signs. But for some reason I ignored the signs and continued on, without thought, with my crazy life. 

It wasn’t until I was sitting in my van yesterday, trying to breathe through severe heart palpitations, that I realized ignoring those signs was a bad choice. That realization came too late, however. 

The palpitations turned into a panic attack, and I just sat there in my van, breathing deeply, fighting the urge to get out and run. Adrenaline rushed through my body, making me feel weak and shaky. 

Oh brother, who has time for this? 

To say that I was feeling overwhelmed this week would be an understatement. I have woken up everyday feeling as though a truck ran over me during the night. Monday I began wondering if it was Friday yet. I even looked at my calendar for the following two months and begin to cry.
Being as this is something I am working through still today, I thought I would open myself up completely to you, dear readers. I can’t give advice on how to ignore stress, or reveal three new steps to avoiding panic attacks. If I had the wisdom to do so, there wouldn’t be a need for me to share these very personal details of my life with you. 

I do know one thing, however. I know where to go when my body betrays me and I am in the midst of fighting anxiety. I know where I can run to find peace again. I don’t need to stop and analyze why I had a panic attack yesterday. I don’t even need to try and change this crazy life of mine. I just need to slow down enough to remember God is there, waiting for me to turn to Him.

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.” – Psalms 142:3a

Even in the midst of a panic attack, I can feel peace, because God knows the path I’m on, and He knows what is ahead. 

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.   Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:30‭-‬31

I know in the midst of a panic attack, God knows exactly what is going on in my body, and He cares. 

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalms 139:7‭-‬10

In the midst of a panic attack, I know that God is with me. No matter how awful it feels, or how alone I may feel, God is there. 

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” – Psalm 91:4

I know that I can always run to God. There is always peace to be found, no matter what circumstance we are in. I may not be able to change my circumstances that are causing the stress and anxiety. I can, however, find peace in just knowing I’m not alone. God promised to be my shield in my crazy life. 

So, although I felt pretty terrible yesterday for a few moments, these verses brought comfort to my very being. I was able to breathe normally again, and walk into my kids school. I even smiled, and chatted with teachers, hugged my boys, and laughed with other moms. This morning, I am thanking the Lord for the panic attack I had yesterday. It put my mind where it needed to be, in order to get through the crazy! 

Pits of Despair

Opening my front door, I paused, surveying the mess before me. Sighing, I walked pass the massive pile of coats and shoes, a sure sign we were running late for school this morning. Dropping my keys on the kitchen counter, I pushed aside dirty bowls and mugs, searching for my half finished coffee. After I rinsed out the old coffee, I began to brew another cup. Eyeing the open box of Cheerios on the table, I decided, why not? Carrying my coffee and the cereal box to the couch, I kicked off my shoes. Unzipping my jean skirt, I let it fall to the floor, shaking my pajama pants lose. Wrapping myself up in a soft, fuzzy blanket, I sat down on the couch and turned on Netflix. I strategically kept my eyes from veering to the corner of my living room, where a tall stack of laundry baskets awaited my attention.

I stayed on that couch for 5 hours, and nearly got through an entire season of The Andy Griffith Show.

 I ignored my phone. I ignored my house. I ignored my husbands cancer. For an entire 5 hours, I was living in a small town called Mayberry, laughing at the antics of Barney and Andy.

At 2:00, I finally got off the couch. I spent the next 45 minutes quickly picking up my house, throwing dishes in the dishwasher, and washing the grease out of my hair. I got dressed, and found pizza coupons from yesterday’s mail. Tonight was going to be a pizza night. My kids would love me.

Arriving at the school at exactly 3:05, guilt began to fill my entire being. What a hypocrite I am. What a loser. An entire day wasted! And what a liar, because when the kids and I finally walked through the door, the house looked clean, like I had actually done something that day. Worse yet, I offered my kids a dollar for each basket of laundry they folded. By the time my husband came home from work, he wouldn’t have the slightest clue that I had visited Mayberry that day.

Looking back, I am able to say with confidence, I had fallen into a pit. Or as Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables would say, I was in “the depths of despair”.

“I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:  Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.” – Psalms 88:4‭ & 6

Here is what I learned about being in a pit.

#1 – It happens, and it’s OK. When we go through trying times in our lives, it is common to find ourselves having a “blue” day.  It has been scientifically proven that stress effects our bodies physically and mentally. Taking a day off from the stress of life can help rejuvenate our souls, giving us the strength to continue the journey we are facing. Don’t feel guilty for needing a day off from stress.

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.” – Psalms 142:3a

#2 – It’s easier to get into a pit than it is to get out. It’s not like we went looking for a dark hole in the ground and said, “hey, that looks fun”, and jumped in it. Yes, there are circumstances where we actually digged the pit we fell into.  Sometimes, however, we are just walking along, not paying attention, and we fall in. Getting out is going to require some work. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are struggling to get out of a pit.

“I waited patiently for the Lord ; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” – Psalms 40:1

#3 – You can’t get out of a pit by yourself. Sometimes all it takes is meeting a friend for coffee or going to church and talking to your sisters and brothers in Christ. Strike up a conversation with someone you know will make you laugh! Maybe your pit is a little deeper and you need to consider counseling from your pastor.  If you have found yourself in a pit, you are going to need someone to throw you down a rope or a ladder. Don’t be too prideful to ask for help!

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…” – Hebrews 10:25a

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..” –  Proverbs 17:22a

#4 – God promised He would bring you out of your pit. He has offered His Holy Word to anyone who will accept it, and it is full of amazing truths and promises of comfort and love. Reading through Psalms is a good way to soothe and encourage yourself in the Lord. Singing songs of Praise is also good way to begin your climb out of the pit. Praising God when we find it hard to do not only lifts your spirit, it pleases God, and glorifies Him! Don’t neglect God’s offer to pull you out of your pit!

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” – Psalms 40:2

Dear reader, if you find yourself in a pit, don’t get discouraged. You won’t be there for ever! By the end of the week, the blue cloud that had been hanging around me finally lifted. I was able to get up and take better care of my crazy family. I was able to actually shower and dress for my day, shop for groceries, clean my house, and even take my husband to his doctor appointment. Oh, and I made a delicious dinner that night!

Stand Still

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord ,” – Exodus 14:13a

Sometimes I view my life as a swirling tornado. The wind is blowing everything around, sucking it up into it’s dark cloud. I am standing in the middle of it, my feet firmly planted to the ground, holding on to as much as I can, trying to keep everything from being swept away.

Lately I have felt a bit overwhelmed by our schedule. Nuerologist, cardiologist, PCP, oncologist, endocrinologist, chiropractor, orthodandist, dermatologist, dentist, chemotherapy, radiation – just to name a few things that have taken up my time in recent weeks. Let’s not forget laundry, house cleaning, library trips, grocery store trips, post office trips, trips to the school office, forgotten-lunch-runs, piano lessons, basketball, soccer, volleyball, school programs, baby showers, bridal showers, sports tryouts, field trips – please, someone stop me!

Those are the physical things that can tend to be overwhelming. Now let’s talk about the emotional stuff.

There is the fear that seems to rear it’s ugly head into my thoughts every so often. Fear that my husbands cancer will spread to stage 4, or show up in five years to surprise us again.

Another emotional drainer is the battle with being content. Remembering we are where God put us right now, and that He will continue to take care of us, is something I need to do daily.

I have two teenagers at home. That is also another emotional strain. They at times will bring me along for a drama-filled roller coaster ride! My two grade-school boys are still trying to understand “why can’t we go camping” and “why can’t daddy play basketball with us”?

I don’t believe any of these “objects” that I mentioned that are swirling around in my stormy life are much different from anyone elses.

Maybe your storm isn’t illness. Maybe it’s a struggling marriage or a wayward child. You may be struggling financially or have a big life-changing decision to make.

Sometimes when it all starts getting crazy, I find that I’m trying to hold on to as much as I can, hoping it doesn’t fly away into the storm. It is in some of those moments, when I feel that things are slipping from my grasp, that I  can’t help but ask, “is God really in my storm?” 

Yes, He’s here. In fact, He’s on top of the storm. He is in the whirlwind, directing it’s path.

“…the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” – Nahum 1:3

I have learned the hard way, that I can’t hold on to everything. I have to let some things get swept away into the storming clouds. I can’t keep my house as clean as I used to or have my perfect laundry schedule and get my husband to all his appointments. I mean, I could, and then I would go crazy! Sometimes, I have to tell my kids “sorry, but I just can’t take you to that thing you want to do”.  I mean, I could, but then I might go crazy!

Sometimes I just need to stand still in that storm, my feet planted firmly into the ground, and watch everything I am trying to hold onto, be swept away into those swirling clouds.

Standing still in a storm is not easy to do. Yet, if we make ourselves do it, and listen to God’s voice, we can see God riding the storm.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10

And then – when we have finally stopped trying to hold our lives together on our own, and we are standing there watching the storm destroy everything – only then, does God move in and bring peace.

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” – Mark 4:39