Stress

It seems I have seriously underestimated the power of my enemy.

They told me he was smart, that he could slip in undetected in the most unexpected places and wreak havoc on my life. But I wasn’t worried; he couldn’t pull anything over on me. I wouldn’t give him the opening he needed.

I didn’t even see him coming.

School started almost seven weeks ago. I started teaching in a new position, my oldest stated kindergarten, and my youngest went to a babysitter for essentially the first time in his life. The first week or so took some adjustment, but I was pleased with the way we all seemed to adapt to our new schedules. It was hectic, but in a good way. The exhausted feeling I had at the end of each day was weirdly satisfying.

The falling apart was gradual.

I’m about to get real, at the risk of a couple things – one, that I sound like a big whiner , and two, that I sound like a spoiled brat who doesn’t appreciate what I have – and I don’t like the idea of either of those things. So let me first clarify and defend myself and say that I absolutely love the life that God has given me – especially the people in it. That includes my family and the kids I teach every day, kids who quickly became “my kids” as well. And I recognize that compared to many, my problems are minuscule and for that I know I am blessed.

But I am tired. And I don’t like the person I sometimes become when I’m stressed out by a never-ending to-do list and jam-packed days with no sign of any sort of rest in sight. The days when I’m longing to stay home for just one evening, if only to catch up on the piles of laundry I can’t ever seem to get on top of or to clean more than just one room of my house at a time. Or when I’m feeling especially selfish, the longing to just read for fun or write a chapter in the new book I’m trying to write – something I haven’t even touched in over six weeks.

I hear older mothers always saying to enjoy this time while it’s here, that it will be over all too soon and that I will miss it someday and believe me, I GET THAT. But when I’m cooking supper with one hand because the other one is holding a baby on my hip and I’m tripping over my five-year-old, who is clinging to my waist and playing the copycat game, that thought tends to slip my mind.  And I become impatient. I find myself yelling at my oldest over something unnecessary – and I HATE yelling. Or feeling irritated when he asks me to listen to him read a story he’s already read to me three times that evening. I mean seriously, what kind of mom gets tired of listening to her child READ? I think that was the point that I realized that something had begun to unravel, and it was only when I examined the subtle changes that had taken place over the last few weeks that I realized the source of it.

It began when my over-packed schedule became too “crowded” for my quiet time with God. The early morning time I used to spend with Him, studying His word and praying before I began getting ready for my day, began getting shorter and shorter. Though I would force myself to get up with my alarm, I found myself grading papers. And before I knew it, the time was often up and it was time to get ready and I hadn’t even cracked my Bible open. Or sometimes I’d read for fifteen minutes and then realize my mind had been on my lesson plans the entire time and I hadn’t processed a word I’d just read.

He started with a whisper: “It’s okay. God understands. What’s that Bible verse about ‘doing everything with diligence for Him’? He knows you’re putting your whole heart into your job. It’s okay if you didn’t make time for Him this morning. You’ll do it later.”

Later never came. Between school and homework and soccer practice and just making sure my family was fed and bathed and all the other stuff that demanded my time, I found myself falling into bed at night with the final thought that I hadn’t spoken to God that day. Then I began prayers that I didn’t finish because I fell asleep in the middle of them.

And soon I found my upbeat attitude fading. The world slowly became more of my focus. I heard myself participating in gossip that was none of my business to begin with. Though I still continued trying to walk with God daily, it became more of a stand-still. I wasn’t growing in my relationship with Him, and it affected all my other relationships as well.

I’m not saying I need to ignore my other obligations. I firmly believe that I was put on this earth to be a wife, mommy, and teacher, and the Bible does teach that in “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). And I know that God understands the demands that come with each of those “jobs” that I love so much.

But when I stop truly seeking Him, it impacts those things that He put me here to do. And as far as all the stress that sometimes goes along with those things, He promises rest and peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7). He promises that if I seek Him with all of my heart and soul, I will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29-31; Proverbs 8:17).

So as far as my walk with Him, I’m starting to move forward once again. And this time, I’m going to be more diligent in fending off that enemy who lurks nearby, looking for places to worm his way in so he can slowly consume me.

Because this busy mommy doesn’t have time for him and his lies…my son has a book to read to me for the fifteenth time and I can’t wait to hear it.

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