Happy New Year!
– yeah, I know it’s February.
If you were to ask me where the month of January went and what I was doing, I honestly couldn’t tell you. There’s just so much going on. We are weeks away from being able to move into our home (yay!), and so it feels like we have been eaten alive by to-do’s and must-do’s and be-here’s…and it’s just something we have had to get through!
But — I see the light!
I wanted my first post of 2018 to be something of importance, and I thought I would start with this. Below you will find something I wrote and shared with my sister-in-law’s MOPS group a couple weeks ago. She had asked me to come and speak on a topic that has become my mantra, my lifeline, my hope.
So, I thought that maybe I should share it with you all in prayer that it resonates with you. I am not perfect at this. I fall everyday, but I am getting better.
Here’s to 2018!
I’ve spent the first 33 years of my life anxious, afraid, worried, and hopelessly trying to control each and every aspect of my life.
As I sat down to make notes for this discussion, I opened up my Jesus Calling devotional, and I found this:
“Strive to trust me in more and more areas of your life. Anything that tends to make you anxious is a growth opportunity. Instead of running away from these challenges, embrace them, eager to gain all the blessings I have hidden in the difficulties. If you believe that I am sovereign over every aspect of your life, it is possible to trust me in all situations. Don’t waste energy regretting the way things are or thinking about what might have been. Start at the present moment – accepting things exactly as they are, and search for my way in the midst of those circumstances. Trust is like a staff that you can lean on as you journey uphill with me. If you are trusting in me consistently, the staff will bear as much of your weight as needed. Lean on, trust, and be confident in me with all your heart and mind. ‘But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.’ Psalm 52:8”
This entire passage is beautiful, but it is also overwhelming. “Trust me in more and more areas of your life?” “Trust me in all situations?” “Anything that tends to make you anxious is a growth opportunity?”
These ideas are bold and exciting, but for a control freak like I can be, they also seem extremely far-fetched and nearly impossible.
But what if I didn’t worry about everything, all at once, right now? What if I didn’t try to give up control of all my days and all my situations, all at once, right now? What if, I simply sighed and said, “God, sustain me for today.”
If all I am able to do is ask God for what I need for this day, and this day only…if all I am able to pray for is what I need in these moments that make up these hours that make up this day, and this day only…if all I am able to trust is that God has me in his hands this day, and this day only… if all I could manage was to ask God to sustain me for today, and we’d worry about tomorrow, tomorrow…
…Well, that would be enough.
And my tired, weary, anxious, exhausted mind and spirit rejoiced and said, “I can do that.”
Sustain me for today.
It came to me as I was lying awake in my bed — Luke peacefully passed out beside me. I wish I could sleep like him, I thought. We have an 8 month old son (and 3 girls, ages 7, 5, and 3), and when he isn’t waking me up 2-3 times a night, I sometimes find that I am not really sleeping anyway. The day’s shortcomings creep in…tomorrow’s uncertainties slip in through the cracks…and before I know it, I am distraught about who my daughters will end up marrying or what if the world is really ending soon or have I messed up my children’s high school sports careers by not signing them up for a team by the age of 4?
But that one night, I told myself to get a grip. I laid awake in the quiet, dead of night, and intentionally tried to turn down the sound of my own inner voice, and listen for the voice of God. And at some point, the phrase, “sustain me for today,” found its way into my mind, melted over my anxious heart, and then I fell asleep.
The next day, I looked up the word, “sustain.” I had heard it 100 times on all those court drama TV shows I like to watch, but it’s not a word I would normally turn to as a source of strength and peace.
But when you look it up, it’s perfect.
Strengthen or support physically or mentally.
The word sustenance means something regarded as a course of strength and nourishment.
Focus on what will get me through this day. What will sustain me? What can I ask God for? What does God already know that I need? I don’t know about tomorrow, or next year, but I do know what I need today, and that is enough for now.
I know the worries I listed above seem relatively small and silly, and you may be wondering if I know what real worries and fears are.
Well, let’s see.
I’ve had four children, two of them were high risk pregnancies involving preterm labor and bedrest. I’ve also had two miscarriages. While my husband was in medical school, I was the sole financial provider in our family, on a teacher’s salary. I have a very small extended family, partially by chance and partially by choice, but I unexpectedly lost my last two living grandparents in the same month this past summer. I’ve been sued (I will write about that another time).
Though I have been blessed immensely by a loving husband, beautiful children, and great friends, I have experienced tremendous pitfalls that left me without much faith in anything except that inevitably, bad things will happen to good people, and life sucks sometimes.
I started dating my husband in high school, and he is part of a big, Catholic family. At the time, when I was 16 years old, I knew I was a Christian because that’s what I was supposed to be, but I had no idea what that actually meant. I was baptized in a Methodist church, and I remember attending when I was younger. Christmas Eve and Easter were favorites of mine because it was an occasion to buy a new dress. I probably wasn’t the most firmly rooted, religious gal, so when my husband, then boyfriend, began dating me, who was not Catholic and saw church as a reason to buy a new outfit, his parents were probably a little concerned.
I began attending mass with Luke when we were in high school and college. It became something we did together, but I never felt like I was ready to go through the conversion. When we got engaged and were going through marriage preparation in the Catholic Church, I was encouraged not to go through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) just for the wedding. My priest wanted me to make sure it was for my own personal reasons, not because I felt like I had to.
We went on to have our children who were all baptized Catholic, and we enrolled them in Catholic school. I still wasn’t sure when or if I would ever go through RCIA. I always seemed to be pregnant or about to have a baby when the classes would start, and it just never felt like the right time.
But this past summer, my grandfather became unexpectedly ill, and he passed away. He was 91 years old and the sweetest man you could imagine. My grandmother had passed away many years ago, and he remarried a Catholic lady with many children. He decided that he wanted to convert to Catholicism as a man in his 80s. As I sat at his funeral mass, admiring the beauty of everything around me, I knew that I needed to go ahead and do it — become Catholic. If my 80-something year old grandfather could get himself to RCIA classes each week, I could, too. I wanted to make him proud of me and share something with him, even though he is not here on this earth with me anymore. A few weeks after he left us, his wife did, too.
So, I began my RCIA classes this past September, and I will officially enter the Catholic Church about a month before my oldest daughter takes her first communion. It will be a special Spring for my family.
I say this to share that my faith walk has not been simple. It has not been without questioning, without fear, without disbelief. It has not been a straight and narrow path but rather a winding road with potholes and U-turns.
And to the controlling, disbelieving girl of my past, doing what was described in that Jesus Calling devotional, trusting and leaning and not worrying and finding the blessings in the struggle, would have once sounded like a bunch of junk.
It still sounds easier said than done. It may sound that way to you, too.
But if we can focus on what we need to sustain us for today? I think we can do that.
So what does it look like in action?
Some days, it looks like me thinking ahead of what I have going on, and what challenges I see myself facing. Maybe it is knowing I will be doing bedtime alone without my husband, and I see my children melting down, wanting Papa, and fighting me at every turn. So, either prior to or during those hard moments, I take the time to ask God for what I need — I need patience. I need kind words. I need calm. I need grace for my children.
Sustain me for this bedtime. Please.
Other days, it looks like me staring down a giant to-do list with too many things on it and not enough hours in the day. So, before I start to tackle it, I pray for productivity. For focus. For happiness while I do the work.
Sustain me during this to-do list.
Sometimes, it’s me worrying about my child’s school. Does it have the best teachers and the best facilities and the best programs and will it get her into the University of Notre Dame? So, when I feel myself caught up in those worries, I take a breath and talk to God. God, I don’t know the future. I don’t know about tomorrow. But for today, can you help me not to worry about these things? Can you give me what I need to focus on all the great things about my daughter’s school? How can I serve the school better? Can you protect me from the people who focus on the negative and help me not to be one of them?
Sustain me for this after-school pick up duty.
Let’s focus on today — focus on right now — and make our prayers with God not something we simply do right before we eat or right before we sleep, but a conversation that we have all day, everyday, asking him for what we need, knowing that He already has it figured out anyway.
Sustain me for today. Sustain me for tomorrow, tomorrow.