Not the List I Wanted to Make

list pic

I’ve been feeling all twisted up in knots.  If I could attach a video (which I probably can but honestly the thought of trying to figure out how and trying to look good enough in it kinda twists me up in more knots) you’d see me waving my hands all over the place to symbolize how my chest feels inside – all frenetic.

There’ve been many things in the last four years that I’ve felt more acutely than I thought possible – physical reactions to emotional things.  A broken heart really does feel broken.  A lump in my throat really does make it difficult to swallow.  And stress really can feel crushing on the chest. 

Lately, I’ve felt a heavy chest burden pressing down on me.  I’ve felt on the edge of tears often…and have even hidden in my closet and jumped over that edge a few times.  I was trying to explain it to a friend. I just couldn’t say exactly why…all I could say was that the last four years have made me very tired and I feel like a just want to hide – preferably in a nice house on the ocean.

I began listing a few of the things that are doing me in – individually a fair number of them seemed absurd while others seemed ridiculously overwhelming.  My friend struggled to understand…asked questions I had no answers for. I just couldn’t figure out what to say.  I was beginning to feel like I was losing my ever-loving mind.  My poor dear friend.

When I got off the phone I decided that it might help to take the time to write everything out….to make a list of everything that causes me stress.  Definitely not the list I wanted to make.  It was a lot longer than I thought it would be.  And I’d left off lots of things that drive me bonkers…wet towels on the floor, never-ending laundry, things opened and not closed, those potential science experiments developing in the cup holders in the backseat of the car, the food left out on the counter, the rust stain streaking down and the green stuff growing up the side of my house, the giant crack in my front steps, the river that occasionally runs through my backyard, contacts that rip, crockpots that crack…oh and taxes.  Golly, I just made another list! 

The list that I made was a bit unusual as lists go, but it really helped to see it all in front of me and I realized that I’m not crazy.  I actually do have a lot on my plate…and there are a lot of issues in my life. 

At a Bible study in college, we did an exercise that impacted me greatly.  We wrote some of the things we struggled with or regrets we had on little slips of paper.  We then put all the slips of paper in a flowerpot, put the flowerpot in a towel, and smashed it to smithereens.  It was cathartic.  In a very visual way, it demonstrated that when we give things to God they are dealt with…our sins are forgiven and our issues resolved. 

I believe that idea works well with things that cause stress in our lives.  In a sense, I had to write mine down so that I could recognize that I wasn’t being irrational and overemotional.  It also helped me to understand that I’m at a point where I really and truly can’t handle all that God has allowed in my life.  I just can’t.  So if I can’t handle things, what do I do?  It’s easy to SAY just let God handle it…beware of any sentence that includes the word “just”…it’s always a doozey.  I’m trying to let God handle things, but I’d really like to know what His plan is… you know, where we are headed, when we are going to get there, who is going to be involved, and our mode of transportation. He does not often share those insights with me.  I believe I’m supposed to move forward with a small flashlight and trust that He’s guiding the beam. 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Oh that I was better at that trust thing. 

Mentally I get it…I KNOW I can trust God with the big and little things, but I still FEEL like I should be doing something to make things better, to make things work out properly.  I guess the point is that I don’t know how to fix most things and I don’t know what “fixed” really looks like anyway.  Even as I write this I can’t seem to let go of my desire to get things where I think they should be.  Let me give you an example:

I’ve got children who are struggling with things.  Things I feel like I should have been able to help them avoid.  There are things I can’t seem to be consistent on.  Boundaries I can’t seem to keep hard and fast…I’m sorta soft and slow on things.  I’m fearful I will lose my most important battles if I don’t get tougher.  That stresses me out.  Why can’t I trust that God loves my children more than me…that He will completely take care of things? I carry a burden I shouldn’t – I need to carry His not mine.  His is easy and light…mine is suffocating me.

And yet, I have a responsibility to raise my children well.  I can’t just throw my hands up and do a “Jesus take the wheel” thing.  I actually have to do something!  It’s the something that’s getting me.  I know that God is teaching me to not base my self-worth on what I accomplish or how well I do what He has called me to do.  He wants me to love Him and love others.  I believe if I could just stop trying to change everything and everyone, I might actually end up loving God and others much better.  

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

I wish I had some final words of wisdom…some grand revelation I could share that would untie my knots and yet tie this post up with a lovely little bow.  I don’t have one right now.  I’ve been trying to figure one out and I think I’m realizing that this is part of the process of healing and growing and learning.  And it’s okay not to have the answer or the pretty bow right now.  But I promise as soon as I do, I’ll share!

What I do know…God is faithful and He will provide all that I need to accomplish all He has called me to do. 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

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10 Comments

  1. Oh Sue, my heart goes out to you! I separated from my husband in 1994 and was a single mom for 5 years with two daughters — one just entering junior high, the other just entering high school (yikes!). I was on medication for anxiety and depression and still felt like I was swimming in the middle of the ocean during a terrible storm. Every time I came up for air, I was pushed down by another wave. I wish I knew then what I know now — years later with a deeper knowledge of the Lord. It’s pointless to give you more Scripture to cling to or tell you my tale of ‘recovery’ — but I want to share something I learned just this past year. Here it is: the first thing I do in the morning (not all mornings because – well – you know what mornings are like) is to sit down and take my known weaknesses to the Lord. My mentor told me, many years ago: “Come to the Lord just as you are, with your spiritual need.” This past year I learned to be more specific, so I wrote down 5 things that trip me up constantly and cause me to fail in my walk with Him. Since I experienced traumatic brain injury as a child (repeatedly) I get confused and frustrated easily — I don’t even know what it’s like to have a working short-term memory. This affects many areas of daily life, not unlike the the things you have described. I can’t explain how it works — but when I acknowledge these things to Lord and define my need for Him to exercise His omnipotent power over them, before I even begin my day, somehow I’m able to receive His strength at the moment I need it throughout the day.

    God wants to show Himself to you and me in all His glory! Our job is to receive His energizing strength (not find strength in ourselves) — He knows our weakness and that’s why He gave us the INDWELLING Spirit of His Son so that we can know Him in our experience. There is one verse I will share with you, it’s one of my favorite: He Himself knows our frame: He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:14 (Thank goodness for Biblegateway or I never would have found it!).
    Praying for you, my sister in Lord –
    Lori

  2. Sue – I just want to let you know how much I LOVE you and your writing and your courage and your journey. I have experienced so much of the same and you poignantly describe the heartbreak one physically feels and the all-of-the-sudden loneliness that comes with single parenthood. When I read your words, I want to hug you and yell, ME TOO! And yet, your words have encouraged me. I rarely buy books – but yours was one I needed to buy to both show my support and to keep in my back pocket, to read and know there is a kinship that occurs after people fight the same battle. And that kinship is exactly what God reaps from the mess. I will refer to your book anytime someone needs it. God bless you, sister. Keep your beautiful head up, God has big plans for you. And me:)

  3. I listened to your interview on Focus on the Family this morning. I so get what you are saying! You are not alone, and I’ve just realized, neither am I :). Thank you for sharing so openly.

  4. He is faithful indeed. So often we forget what He has done in the past yet in so many verses in His word He tells us to “remember”. With my own children I often have to remind them what we have done and how God is taking care of us. I don’t have any grand revelation for you or words of wisdom but I do have a single word, “Remember”

    1 Chronicles 16:12
    Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth

  5. Hi Sue–

    I just wanted to tell you how much your sharing your testimony on Focus on the Family blessed me! I’ve been divorced for almost four years and my son is going on 8. Hearing another person’s journey and how they dealt with the rollercoaster of emotions that go along with divorce and single parenting is so helpful and powerful. I was also dealing with unemployment until recently, when God blessed me with a new job that will allow me to be more available to my son during the school week. (He is so faithful!) Even in that time of my life it was a test of fully trusting Him to place me in the right position, with the right people and schedule, and truly learning how to “stand” on the word of God. I’m still learning!! But I just wanted to say that your story was such a blessing to me and the strength and resolve of character was incredible. I felt it in every word you spoke. It is just confirmation to me that I need to pull closer to God for the grace and strength to continue to walk as He has called me to, and continue to be an example for my son. I look forward to following your blog and getting the book soon. Thank you for being so candid and open about your life and struggles. May God bless you for daring to bare your soul in an effort to minister and comfort others! Computer hugs!

  6. Sue: Thank you so much for your blog. I just recently found it, but it has already become one of my favorites. My son and daughter-in-law are getting divorced and I am finding it so difficult to forgive him (son)….he is the instigator of this proceeding. I have two beautiful grandchildren and I am so anxious as to how this will affect them. (girl-8/boy-6). I KNOW God has everything under control….but somedays, I really feel like He needs my help…although I’m probably just getting in the way! 🙂

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