Middle of the Night Thinking

night-skySleeping has become a bit problematic for me lately.  In fact I’d say that sleeplessness has become the defining feature of my nights, so much so that I almost dread putting my head down on my pillows…almost.  I’m so dang tired that I gotta at least try to sleep.

Falling asleep.  Not a problem.  Staying asleep.  Feels impossible.

I find myself tossing and turning and thinking. Sometimes that thinking turns into panicking.  Overwhelming fear.  Heart palpitations.  Heavy chest. Shallow breathing.  Fear that makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

And if I weren’t so tired I’d just get up and do something…anything to take my mind off of my fear…off of my thoughts.  But I’m tired…bone-weary, aching joints tired.  And in some weird way I don’t think I want to go downstairs and watch TV and pretend that I’m not afraid.

I feel like I might have to feel this to deal with this to overcome this.  Something can’t be fixed if I don’t acknowledge it, right?

This past month these episodes of over-fearful-thinking have happened a fair amount.  It isn’t even about one thing.  Most of the time, in the morning everything feels a little less daunting.  Still concerns, but not terrors. Am I going crazy?  I’m not saying that to be silly, I’m truly sharing a fear…another fear.

I feel like there is just so much to do and think about and I feel like I can’t do it all…all the thinking.  All the little things and all the big things.

Thinking about my children.  Each one with unique needs, concerns, hopes, dreams, struggles, decisions, issues.

Thinking about the house.  Repairs. Cracks. Drips. Wobbles. Clutter.

Thinking about work.  Lesson plans, class management, expectations, assessments, communication, and time management

Thinking about finances.  How?  How do I get in a better place?  How do I deal with the guilt of decisions I thought were good, but haven’t had the desired effect?  How do I fix the mess?

Thinking about relationships.  How do I love well?  Trust again?  How do I let go of fear when sometimes it’s so physically overwhelming I can barely breathe?  How do I let myself be loved?  How do I make friends when I barely have time for my children?  How do I mourn the changes that have happened with friendships I thought would never change?

Thinking about church.  Thinking about family situations.  Thinking about how to take care of my mom.  Thinking about groceries, toilet paper, toothpaste, and Band-Aids. Thinking about oil changes, car batteries, tire rotations, and brake pads.

It all makes my head spin.

And in the middle of the night, it makes my body toss and turn and my head hurt and my chest ache and my heart pound.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have a spiritually astute solution.  I pray hard.  I beg for rest.  I let things slide.  I reduce caffeine.  I make lists.  I tear up lists.  I pray harder.

But things don’t get better.  And not sleeping has so many repercussions…mentally, emotionally, physically, vocationally, and spiritually.

And then I wonder, is it all spiritual?  Is it because I’ve lost my focus on Jesus?  Because I’ve let the cares of this world overwhelm me? Because the weight of my own failures feels too great to carry.  Because I can’t seem to figure out how to walk this path gracefully, without stumbling.  Falling on my knees…not how I want to fall…in prayer.  I fall in fear, in failure, in fatigue.

And I think, wasn’t it just last week?  What did I even write about?  What did God lay on my broken sometimes healing heart?  What did He reveal to me about Himself that brought me such hope? I don’t have the faintest idea.  Am I truly that tired that I don’t remember the hope?

I had to reread my own words.  How pathetic.  I remember now.

All things are possible with Him.  This life.  This is possible with Him.

Why does sleep, rest and peace still feel impossible?

Sorry, I’m fixated on the sleep thing – it just seems so important, vital, life-giving.  I’m afraid of what will happen if this continues.  I’m afraid of being ill.

I’m trying to trust.  Trying to trust that this season of sleeplessness is part of the plan.  What plan could this be, God?  Why?  What purpose when life is already so challenging?

Tomorrow I go back to work – I was hoping that I’d be well-rested.  Unless there is a miracle tonight, I’ll go back as exhausted as I left.

Bummer.

Ugh.  I sound like such a complainer.  I’m sorry.  I’m wondering though is anyone else struggling to understand why things are the way they are?

I mean I get the whole “in this world you will have trouble” thing, I guess I’m not getting the “fear not for I have overcome the world” thing.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

What does that mean for this place?  This place of sleeplessness and fear and anxious thoughts and overwhelming demands?  Those are the troubles…for me.  What is the overcoming?

Overcoming.

“To get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat; to overcome the enemy.” (Dictionary.com)

To get the better of.

What an interesting phrase.  This struggle has definitely gotten the better of me.

A new day.  A new month.  A new year.  Seems like a good time to turn the table.  But how?

Especially because my table is upside down.  It needs to get flipped completely before it can even be turned.  But maybe that’s the point?

Maybe all my thinking needs to be flipped.

I’m so focused on the struggle (again) – I can’t see any good.

When I was in the process of editing my book, the editor commented on a section where I shared about getting up early and staying up late to study the Bible and pray.  She said that it wasn’t realistic.  Nobody would believe that that was what I was actually doing.  But it was what I was actually doing.  It was the only way I survived that season – God upheld me.

Maybe He is asking me to do that again?  Maybe, in the middle of those sleepless nights, He is whispering in my ear, “Dearest, trust me.”

Trust me with your fears.  Trust me with your anxious thoughts.  Trust me with your mistakes and failures and hopelessness.  Trust me with your anger, frustrations, and irritations.  Trust me with you children, your relationship, your home, your work, your finances, your time.  Trust me with your love.

I think I do, but then I toss and turn and tear up and I don’t understand why it all has to be so hard.

I want to, but I don’t understand what it looks like when things seem so daunting and hopeless, particularly in the middle of the night.

I don’t know how to stop the ache.  I don’t know how to not feel.

There has to be something that can be done…something that can make a difference.  Because, honestly, in those moments I really feel like I’d do anything to get away from all those feelings and thoughts that beat me down.

They are relentless in their assault.

And I’m tired of just lying there taking it.

Time to turn or flip the table…or turn and flip myself and my thinking.

My thinking needs to change.

I’ve learned this before.  Said this before.  Written this before.

I KNOW THIS.

Thankfulness.  Gratitude. Gratefulness.

I know this thankfulness thing.  I know it is the answer.

In those moments when I despair, pray thankfulness.

In those moments of fear, focus on blessings.

Simple. Profound. Powerful.

I can rest in that.  I can redeem the time from tossing and turning to thankfulness and trust.

I can do this.

All things are possible with God.

I can do this…with Him.

 

 

 

 

The Burden of Blessing

IMG_3433Today I am at my home and it is quiet and peaceful and I’m feeling blessed to be here.  The kids are sleeping soundly (and late woohoo!!)  I debated if I should enjoy this blissful quiet asleep or awake.  I opted for awake.  So rarely do I get a moment of solitude and quiet.  I’m so thankful!

For the past 4 months we have been staying with family and I cannot say how thankful I am for it.  But it would be a lie to say it hasn’t been difficult, stressful and exhausting on many levels. And it would definitely be a contradiction of all that I’ve been sharing for the past few months in my blog.  Sometimes blessings can be difficult.  The blessing of a place to stay during our transition is huge, the stress of that blessing is also huge.

Sometimes I wonder if a blessing can’t also be a burden.  I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me because it sounds wrong to say a blessing can be a burden, but I believe it’s true.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I think I’ve known for a long time that I can find a blessing even in my burdens, but I haven’t flipped it around before.  I haven’t realized that my blessings can sometimes be burdens as well.

But the more I’ve pondered, the more I’m thinking this is true.

Parenting is absolutely a blessing, but I cannot deny it is a burden to be sure.  Dealing with my children and the responsibility of raising them well can most definitely be a burden.  A welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless.

As a parent, I burden my children with chores to give them the blessing of understanding the value of work done well, of responsibility, and of being part of a family.  I’m fairly certain that none of them would refer to those things as blessings…well, at least most of the time.

A home is a blessing, but when there are issues it can most definitely be a burden.  Broken things, dripping things, creaky things, wobbly things…just lots of things that aren’t fun, but I’m sure thankful for the shelter.

Work is a blessing, but it seriously can be a burden.

It’s a bit embarrassing to think that at the moment I’m having to remind myself to be thankful for my blessings.

Shouldn’t that be a given?  Unfortunately,  I think it has been easier for me to focus on the burden aspect of the blessing than the blessing part of the blessing.

Maybe I’m throwing that blessing word around too much…but I can’t think of a good synonym for blessing.  Benediction doesn’t really work.  Approval and encouragement don’t really apply either.  Merriam-Webster defines blessing as “something that helps you or brings happiness.”  I suppose saying that something that brings me help or happiness is a burden is a bit odd.

But in God’s economy, maybe not.

I attend a great Bible study on Sunday nights.  The teacher said that when we pray for things, such as patience or courage, God is going to give us opportunities to exercise patience or be courageous. The blessings of patience and courage are going to come with the burden of experiencing situations that require us to be patient and courageous.  (That is one of those think-well-before-I-pray-this-prayer prayers!)  The blessing of being a patient, courageous, kind, or loving person comes with the burden of having to develop those traits.

We have all probably experienced the phenomenon that blessings don’t always come in the ways we expect them.  Many of the blessings I’ve experienced have come by way of difficulties and trials.  Those blessings are some of the most precious.  Just like labor and delivery – the pain and discomfort brings forth a great blessing!

Maybe the housing situation, although difficult, is not just a blessing of shelter, but a blessing of character-building, of refining, of eye-opening.

Maybe a job, although time-consuming and stressful, is not just a blessing of provision, but a blessing of purpose and ministry.

Maybe parenting, although exhausting and overwhelming at times, is not just a blessing of children, but a blessing of understanding the Father’s love for us.

Maybe all the things in our life are so much deeper and richer because God uses everything – those things we perceive as “good” and those things we perceive as “bad” – to bless us both in the present and the future.

I’m blown away right now.  I have been so easily frustrated and upset by things in my life and haven’t been able to see the good in much.  And if I do happen to notice it at all, I’m quickly overtaken by all the feelings of discouragement that keep me from focusing on the blessings for what they are….blessings.  It has been entirely too easy for me to see only the burden and miss the blessing.

I’m not sure that I know exactly how to “fix” myself, but God does.  He has definitely given me some great ideas in His word.

1.Take my thoughts captive.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

2.Do not be anxious. (Philippians 4:6-7)

3.Hide His word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)

4.Take heart. (John 16:33)

5.Trust God.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

6.Keep an eternal perspective. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And once again, I’m brought back to the word of God.  Back to the strength and perspective offered there.  Back to the power of His word…the power of Jesus.

I was reminded recently of one of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23  – maybe this is the prayer we can pray for ourselves and for each other.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

You know, I just have to include the other prayer in Ephesians 3.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…There really isn’t more to say is there?  What a mighty loving God we serve!

And Then There’s Me…

ImageThis single parenting thing is so difficult.   I get confused by all the different situations, personalities, struggles, and issues of my children.  I can’t seem to get my feet under me on any of them!

And then there’s me.

I think I might actually be more confused by my issues, struggles, emotions, and stresses than I am by any of my children’s.

I’m a mess.

Sometimes people are offended when I say that.  They want to correct me and say I shouldn’t say that.

That I shouldn’t be that.

That I should get my act together.

That I should be past the emotions…that’ll be a God-sized task!

That I should get out of the pit, but I’m not in a pit…life is just challenging right now.

That I should just put my big girl pants on already…Yeah…well, my big girl pants are on, believe me.

They don’t fit comfortably…they are sometimes too tight, sometimes too loose, sometimes too itchy, sometimes too stiff, sometimes too soft, sometimes the tag rubs wrong, sometimes they are on backwards and sometimes they are inside-out.  But they are on.  Dang it.

I think I’d like to say this…ITS OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF A MESS!!!

God didn’t say that I’d be perfect here…God didn’t say that life would be all neat and tidy…God didn’t say that people would act properly and not be mean…God didn’t say that everything would work out if I followed a certain set of rules or criteria…actually God said kinda the opposite…

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I looked up trials, tribulation and trouble in the back of my Bible and they pretty much seem like a given.  BUT God does not leave us in these troubles.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, thought the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Psalm 46:1-3

 And these trials have a purpose.  A good purpose…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Perfect, complete, lacking nothing…sounds pretty good.  Perfect is a pretty daunting word, but in this verse it does not mean being sinless.  It refers to our spiritual maturity.

“The testing of our faith drives believers to deeper communion and great trust in Christ – qualities that in turn produce a stable, godly, and righteous character.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary)

That’s totally who I want to be…stable, godly, righteous, not wobbly, messy, and self-centered.

And then I read about Paul…Paul who suffered mightily on this earth and begged God to take away his thorn, shared openly about his struggles…Paul, who had a passion for the Lord that I long for, shared how He wrestled with things…like sin and  circumstances that were by no means ideal.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that swells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:19-25

BUT THE NEXT VERSE IS AWESOME!!!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

After Paul shares of his struggles with sin, he reminds us and himself, that because of Jesus we are not condemned!  How beautiful!

When I share my struggles, like Paul I want to point me (and you) back to Jesus.  Because let’s face it, we all struggle with something.  How much better if we could share our struggles and our victories in order to encourage and bless one another without receiving any condemnation!

It would be such a monumental thing if we as the Body of Christ could be open and share without condemnation.  If we could choose to walk alongside one another through our struggles and the battles we fight in order to share the victories!

And there will be victories because the battle is the Lord’s!

Although I’m okay with sharing it, I’d really like to not be a mess.  I’d really like to get my act together.

But God is showing me that getting my act together isn’t really what I think it is.

I tend to think if I could just get a full-night sleep that would help, maybe some exercise, a well-ordered house, some children that actually do what I ask/tell them to do…you know, basically the perfect life…then I wouldn’t be a mess.

But life is messy.  And people are messy.  And relationships are messy.  And circumstances are messy.

And God tells us we will have trouble in this world…but He also says that we aren’t to fear it.

He has never been nor will he ever be surprised or overwhelmed by trouble, trials or messiness.

He isn’t done with me because I’m a mess.  He loves me always, completely, relentlessly.

When God looks at me He doesn’t see my mess (thankfully!), He sees Jesus’ perfection.

And maybe something positive we could do is remind ourselves again of who we are in Christ.  I’ve not done this before, but I’m going to share a bit from my book.  This morning I prayed and asked God to show me what to write today…there is so much I long to share.  And He has laid it heavily on my heart to share:

“Next, I want you to really take a look at yourself, your amazing survivor self.  Remind yourself of who you are or can be in Christ.  When my oldest was a little boy, I taught his Sunday school class, and we memorized this verse:  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1)

I always thought that was one of the best verses to memorize.  That word lavished is such a wonderful description of how God pours His love on us.  It isn’t a small amount, just enough to get us through the day.  It isn’t a decent amount that comforts us when things go badly.  He gives us limitless love.  There is no end to His love for us.

The chapter goes on to say that we know this is love because “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (verse 16).  My friend, God doesn’t just say He loves you; He demonstrated that love when, on the cross, He rescued you from your sin:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).  How valuable you are in His sight!

God knows you and loves you.  “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [So] fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7 ESV).  To all of us who believe in His name, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).  You are chosen, rescued, and forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

I long for all of us to understand what Jesus has done for us.  We didn’t do anything worthy of His good opinion.  And yet Christ still died for us.  He knew our tendencies, our temptations, and our sins, and He still loved us enough to die for us.  He still loves us enough to die for us.  And He didn’t choose us just because we were all cute and adorable.  He chose us when we were all dirty, smelly, and rebellious.  He loves us even when we feel unlovable. 

Allow Him to “quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17), to calm your anxious thought, and to assure you that regardless of how you’re feeling or what you’re going through at this moment, you are dearly loved.

(“When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting, 112-113)

We might feel like messes, but when God looks at us He sees His precious child.  We might be uncomfortable with our mess, our children’s messes and the messes of others, but God isn’t.

He is willing and able to walk us through the mess.  He will stick with us.  All that He asks is that we trust Him.

Trust Him with our hurting, exhausted selves.  Trust Him with our children.  Trust Him with our circumstances.  Trust Him with our messiness.

I have known God to be faithful.  Another quote (sorry):

“Practically speaking, God obviously wasn’t doing my dishes for me or dealing with my sticky counters, but His presence gave me strength to face each task, whether tedious or terrifying. 

There are particularly difficult times in our lives when we completely understand that God is our strength.  We realize that it isn’t about coping with a situation; it’s about living in God’s strength.  It’s a surprisingly exquisite and painful place to be.”  (p. 24)

Dearest, trust God to take care of you.  You will be amazed at what wonderful stuff He can bring out of our messes!

Snoozing Times Four

Get Up

Today I pushed snooze 4 times and then took a 2 hour nap in the afternoon.  I woke with a throbbing headache.  Not a stellar day…

On top of that I’ve been trying to give up my coca-cola addiction and I completely fell off the bandwagon.  Ugh. 

Although I do have to say, I completely enjoyed my ice cold Coke!  Yummy!

I think life is catching up with me.  I’m soooo tired…even the caffeine from my soda fix did not relieve the exhaustion! Or the headache.

Sometimes thoughts can cause so much pressure in my head.  I believe that is the source of my headache…too many thoughts.

I’ve often said that I overthink things…I don’t believe I’m overthinking at this point.  I think there are too many thoughts in my head to overthink them…I can’t even begin to address them all. 
How do I effectively deal with all I need to deal with when my head is in such tumult?

The verse that has come to mind most often lately is:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock.  Isaiah 26:3-4

I just love these verses!  Perfect peace – how could I not want that? 

Perfect?  I can’t even wrap my brain around that…one of my favorite verses is:

The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.  Proverbs 19:23

I do not believe that God is saying that we will have a life without trouble because He tells us in John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I do believe that regardless of the trouble we encounter in our lives, we will be untouched at our core. I will have peace because I trust Him despite and through the storm.

We will have a life of peace…perfect peace…despite the trouble because we have the Lord. 

If my focus is on Jesus not my circumstances my life is so much better.  If my mind is stayed on Him I am not overwhelmed by difficulties. 

It reminds me of Peter walking on the water…as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus he was actually walking on the water.  It was only when he took his eyes away and looked at the waves that he began to sink. 

I want to keep my mind stayed on Jesus.  I want to keep my focus on Him mentally, emotionally and spiritually with a laser-like focus…I want to settle down and be with Him.  I want to reside in His presence not just visit for a moment.  I want to dwell with Him. 

With Him, is peace.  With Him, is rest.  With Him, is hope for today and hope for tomorrow.

My hope for tomorrow is that I don’t hit that blasted snooze button so many times and that it is a headache-free day! 

But I’m choosing to focus on Him anyway so snooze or no snooze, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.