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Excessive Peace

In the book of Philippians, it mentions a “peace that surpasses all understanding…” It’s in the context of praying to God as an alternative to worrying about things. This is in the even larger context of being thankful and full of joy in the Lord.

I am often a worrier. In a less negative connotation, I like to plan ahead and be prepared. This is to avoid unnecessary surprises, which can cause me anxiety. I am great at thinking ahead and preparing for the worst.

But all the worrying and planning in the world doesn’t always change things – it simply gives us this false sense that we are in control when we’re not.

In a recent post, I described how my husband and I have been trying unsuccessfully to have a second child for about a year and a half. At the time of writing it, I felt very hopeless, sad, and even somewhat angry. Achieving pregnancy consumed my thoughts a lot of the time.

Since writing it, we got back some test results that were not ideal. Basically what they revealed was that any quick or “easy” fixes (like surgery to correct a problem, for example) were off the table. Our doctor offered us one last option before referring us to try IVF/IUI – but to me, it felt like a last-ditch effort.

After that appointment, I felt like the answer from God as to whether I would ever get pregnant again was a resounding, “no.” And yes, I know logically that there is still a chance, and we’re still trying this last option, but my mind literally began to process it as if it would never happen. I felt myself for the next few days beginning to go through the process of grieving. It was surprising because my husband and I haven’t totally given up yet, but it’s like my mind and body decided it was time to move on. Maybe this was my body’s way of trying to protect myself.

I didn’t fight what my body wanted to do, I just tried to be mindful of my feelings. For a week or two, it was emotional as I processed the fact that I probably wouldn’t have any more children. But what was even more surprising, was the day when it suddenly didn’t feel that hard anymore.

I found myself feeling more and more content with my life. I started paying more attention to Calvin and found myself becoming more appreciative of everything he has added to our lives. I just began to feel really blessed to be a family of 3 – period, full stop.

It felt like the grief was just gone, as was the painful obsession of longing to be pregnant again. (That’s not to say we wouldn’t be thrilled if I did get pregnant, but that intense pain seemed to be gone.)

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The Power of Now

I recently purchased the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle because I was intrigued by this idea:

Depression is dwelling on the past, anxiety is dwelling on the future, and peace is dwelling on the present.

Maybe you’ve heard something like that before. There is a very similar quote attributed to Lao Tzu, although I’ve heard that it may be questionable who really said it.

But this idea that living in the present moment is the key to peace and happiness has been something I have been pondering for a while.

The premise of Tolle’s book is that depression is experienced because we are dwelling on negative feelings about the past, like regret, guilt, or self-loathing. Anxiety is experienced when we negatively dwell on the future, causing feelings of fear, worry, or dissatisfaction with life in general. True peace and happiness, according to Tolle, comes when we stop living so much in our heads, and take time to be present in the here and now.

There are examples in the Bible that would seem to echo this idea. The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) uses the phrase “give us today our daily bread” (NIV), which could imply that we only need to ask God for things concerning today (we don’t need to ask him for tomorrow’s bread, we just need today’s.) A little later in chapter 6, it says “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert, God provides daily food for them – manna and quail (ch. 16). The people are instructed to “go out each day and gather enough for that day.” Anyone who gathered more than a day’s worth found it to be rotting and “full of maggots” by the next morning.

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present with where we are and what we’re doing, has been gaining popularity in Western culture over the past decade or so, and it also heavily utilizes the present moment, the NOW, to decrease stress and anxiety. Mindfulness meditations typically have you focus on sensations in your body and view your body and thoughts in a non-judgmental way. Headspace, one of my top picks, is a great app to check out for guided mindfulness meditations.

Obviously the idea of there being power in the now is not new or uniquely attributed to one person.

So what does it look like practically to live in the present moment?

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Rude or Kind, Words Matter

Earlier today I had a person speak very rudely to me at work – it was much more jarring than I expected it to be – by that I mean I was surprised by how much their words alone could hurt me. I walked away from that interaction extremely angry, wanting justice for the wrongs that I felt had been done to me.

I’m not the type of person who is particularly graceful at handling moments like these. I wish I could think faster on my feet and come up with the perfect response. But no, I’m that person who replays the event over and over in their head, crafting what would have been an ideal response in varying scenarios. I wish I didn’t get so flustered by my emotions. I tend to feel emotions hard and fast, and all I could think to say at the moment it was happening were things that I knew I shouldn’t. So instead, I didn’t say a lot, I just fumed inside.

As I reflected on the event, I remembered that Jesus went through countless encounters of people being rude to him, hating him, and obviously going so far as to eventually crucify him. How many times did Jesus desire “justice” for himself? How many times did emotions like anger overwhelm him? How many times could he have said, “Do you know who you’re talking to? God in the flesh!” Jesus could have used his power and status to put others in their place if he wanted to.

But he didn’t. He made himself lower. He prayed for his enemies. He forgave. He loved.

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