Sunday, February 10, 2019

Finding calm in the chaos of life

With the new year, Pat and committed to attending church more regularly. Our reasoning was our kids. We were both raised attending church and participating in Sunday School and we wanted that for our kids. We wanted them to have the same opportunity to build a strong faith foundation.

Obviously, taking our kids to Sunday School more regularly meant that we would also be attending church more regularly too. But attending church and being fully present are two different things. I had a choice to make: I could spend the hour daydreaming, making to-do lists, and not paying attention, or I could commit to using that hour to be fully present.

If you know me, you know which choice I made. I committed to being full present. Putting my Apple Watch and iPhone in Do Not Disturb mode and focusing on the songs, scriptures, messages, and sermons.

Since January 1, we have attended church almost every Sunday. And so far, I have left each service feeling like the message was something I needed to hear. Something that was relevant and applicable to me and my life. But none have hit me quite like the message today.

Before I can fully explain, I need to back up to last night.

Pat and I had gotten our kids to bed and were getting ready to "relax" and watch a movie. In preparation of this, I gathered my planner, computer, phone, and pens. Because this is what I do. I'm always multitasking. Even if I'm not physically multitasking, my brain always is.

*Full disclosure: one of the reasons I multitask during movies is to increase the likelihood that I will actually stay awake for the duration of the movie (which didn't work, by the way).

My brain never stops! It is constantly frazzled and spinning and thinking of all the things I need to get done. So during the movie, I was reviewing next week's calendar, including my work obligations, our kids' activities, planning for meals, etc. Then I did a complete "brain dump" where I wrote down every task and to-do item I had spinning around my head.

By the time I was finished, the list was a full page long! And yet, surprisingly, I didn't feel overwhelmed by it. I felt relieved to have it on paper and no longer cluttering my mind. (I highly recommend this practice, by the way). I thought through ways I could complete the tasks and started to put a plan together. Because when I have a "plan," I feel more calm. A "plan" gives me the illusion (albeit a false one) that I have some sort of a grip or even a moderate amount of control over my life. Because when I feel in control, I feel more calm and relaxed.

Now, back to today's message at church.

"Write your plans in pencil. It is okay to make plans, but write them in pencil and remember who holds the pen. No matter what happens, He is in control. Sometimes you can plan. And sometimes you just go."

Wow. Did I need to hear that or what? Could that not have been directed right at me? Having spent the prior evening "relaxing" by making all of my plans for the week and months ahead, not once did I think about the fact that God is the one really in control.

The ultimate challenge for me will be to learn to rely on God so that even amid unexpected chaos and disarray, I can still feel calm and relaxed. To learn to be comfortable when things don't go as planned (also known as every single day as a parent) and know that even though I am not in control, God is.

I will still use all of my pretty planner pens, because they make me happy. But I am going to try a little harder to give myself grace when I have to put a big X through the things that didn't happen or had to be rescheduled.

And when life throws me curve balls, I will remember Psalm 46.1: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble."