When Change Becomes Overwhelming

I’m in a season of life where I’m reclaiming peace and stability after months of non-stop crazy!

Getting married, moving to my husband’s country (during the pandemic); new schedules and routines; saying goodbye to old jobs and working through processes of new ones; new beds- yes sleep is huge and even the bed you’re in makes a difference in your day and feeling overwhelmed or not; new grocery stores- where do you find basic things that should be simple but aren’t in a new place?!; new places to sit down and do work- this matters for connecting with people and being able to work well; new relationships- who are my friends anyway? Who will really understand when they aren’t even in my physical world, just digital??… and THEN moving back to my original country only to do it all over again.

I’m three months into another huge change and I know I’m not the only one who has felt like a pin ball, bouncing from side to side and up and down with the craziness of life.

Change can be overwhelming. It can be emotional. It can take a toll on our thoughts and mindsets. I’ve learned that besides leaning on the Lord, who helps get me through overwhelming times, I can do a few active things that help me stay on track and regain focus on what’s important just for today.

Today what can you do?

Today what changes do you need to make to feel better about where you are at?

Forget about tomorrow or the next day or next week. What can you do today?

Here are three things I’ve learned that I can do, and perhaps they will help you too!

1. Make Lists

I am a HUGE fan of lists. I like seeing things laid out so that I can focus on priorities and CROSS THINGS OFF as I do them. This makes me feel like I’m being productive and getting things out of the way that I no longer have to think about. Lists are simple, but once you have the details of your day down on paper, you can breathe a little easier knowing you aren’t forgetting things and you can choose what’s most to least important.

Groceries, cleaning, phone calls that need to be made… what is in your head that needs out? Save energy by writing it down and crossing things off one-by-one.

2. Open Up

Overwhelm isn’t limited to schedules and to-do lists. For me overwhelm has included everything from learning to work in a new space to relating with new people again. It’s included processing decisions of moving to new and old countries. It’s included big and small changes that has impacted every facet of life imaginable.

I’ve learned to pick a few trusted friends and open up to them when needed. Sometimes, you just need a listening ear or someone to vent to as you move through each day. That’s okay. It’s good to know who you trust most and to keep those friends close.

3. Let Go And Say “No”

Lastly, but makes a big impact in periods of busy change and overwhelming days, is to get back to the basics and let go of the rest. I cannot show up for some of my friends in this period of life the way I could in other times, and that’s OK. I’ve had to let go of volunteer work that I loved and groups of women I connected with. Again, getting to the basics of let’s just do what we need to TODAY will allow you to choose what to say “yes” to, and what to say “no” to. Let Go, say “No” and focus on the basics in order to simplify life.

All in all, life can be managed well. It doesn’t have to feel like Pin Ball. It can go smoothly and make sense. And in the meantime, there are things we can actively do to get to that place we want to live and be, with Peace and Joy, instead of overwhelm.

Creating Our Own Clouds

Photos by Chris Lawton and frank mckenna on Unsplash

I’ve learned recently something all too true, and somewhat scary… we often in life create our own clouds, our own pain, our own drama.

There was a situation recently where I had a choose to do or not do something regretful, and unfortunately, I didn’t choose wisely. I chose a chaotic storm of events that has filled me with sadness and grief ever since.

What was I THINKING?! I’ve asked myself for weeks. Not that I condone living in regret and shame—there is no reason to replay a series of bad events over and over. But I did and do need to process alone and with those closest to me—what is going on and what led to me making one bad decision over a different good decision?

I created my own clouds, my own STORM really, and didn’t have to.

But then, I realized the hope. I didn’t have to.

I actually had the power to not walk into that decision. I had the power to choose differently. Which means I have the power to choose differently the next time.

Sometimes when there are clouds over our lives, clouds that keep us bogged down, we need to recognize that those painful things that “happen to us” aren’t really happening to us at all, but are a series of choices that we could have made differently. And when we can realize that difference, we become empowered.

We become empowered to see joy in pain, to learn, to walk through the steps of making the wrong right again.

Creating clouds and storms can honestly grow us, if we let them. It’s time to recognize we have a choice and to let those painful things change us into more wise and mature people. Kinder. More loving.

Storms, clouds, and chaos. It’s time to stop worrying about what we did wrong. Or for some it’s time to stop playing the victim. Instead, we need to see where we have control, and need to take control back into our own hands, learn from the pain, and let sun shine on us again.

The Death and Life of a Single Seed

Planting, weeding, digging in your garden or flower bed… Typical summer activities that I’ve been doing more of recently and they reminded me of a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She was talking about planting seeds in her garden, and how a seed, being covered with soil, is almost like a burial. Then, in time it transforms completely, and becomes something new. The seed, now a seedling, breaks out of the earth into new life.

This is a beautiful picture.

A burial. A death. Transformation. Life.

We ourselves go through many life-changing, transformational events. And often these events begin with a “death” …an end of what was before we see the light of positive change and growth. New seed coming through the earth.

Examples of this could be relationships, bad habits, or a big move from one city or country to the next… before we see fruit of change and new life, there is often a death.

Death doesn’t always mean the end. It doesn’t always have a final say. Like the burial of a seed in the ground, life takes root and hold in that dark place and THEN we see it, popping from the earth slowly through the growing stages and taking full force of color, life, and fruit.

But what I didn’t realize in conversation with my friend, that occurred to me recently is: the new life only takes root and produces beautiful fruit under the proper conditions. That little seed needs water and soil for nutrition and growth, and energy that only comes from the warmth of the sun in order to grow and change. The seed will just stay buried, dead in the ground with no hope if not for the beauty of perfect conditions that help move it from one stage to the next.

I think it’s the same for us as humans moving through the world. In order to take root for the new life waiting for us after each burial, we need the proper conditions to thrive. We need kindness and love from and for others. We need self-care and forgiveness of self and others. We need warmth from family and friends. Without these things, we may just remain stuck, buried, or live with anxiety.

Assess where you are at now in life. Where are you in the death to life to fruit producing process? Maybe it was the change of having a house full of kids to being an “empty nester”. Is this new stage in life something you can thrive in? Or will you remain buried with memories in the past wishing to have things as they were?

Maybe it’s the end of a job. As you move on to the next thing will you transition well with excitement and joy, or will you carry resentment if the old job didn’t end well, or fear of the future as you move on?

Seeds of life that carry fruit for the next season will need to go through that burial process. And maybe you won’t see light right away. But the key is to build the proper conditions around yourself to make that transition possible.

Maybe you’re in a season of thriving. The seed you buried cracked and grew. It’s producing fruit and you know you are just where you need to be in life. That’s a beautiful thing. Sow into the people around you and be sure if they need fruit, shade, and someone to lean on… your life can be a safe haven for others. You never know when you might hit a winter cold and need those same friends around you to walk you through the change if it happens.

Seeds, death, life… change, transformation, fruit… beauty, healthy conditions, pouring into others. There are seasons of burial and change and the process can seem daunting, depending on where you are at. But there are also seasons of fruit and life. Joy to be had. Life to be lived.

I’ve had many hours to process when working in the yard/garden through the warm months of spring and summer so far this 2021 year, and I’ve been able to reflect on not just what is happening in the stage of life I’m in, but also the conditions to be able to walk through it well.

I need to pour into healthy relationships and practice forgiveness of self and others if I’m to break out of the tomb into the new life I’m looking forward to next. It’s only with the proper soil conditions and water to help me grow that I know I can move up and truly transform. And I know I’ll be able to. Life is coming… I’m breaking out of the soil I’ve been “buried” in. Planted in. And as long as I keep that soil well-watered with the forgiveness to let go of what was, my next stage and phase will get here, just like spring planting always yields summer fruit. This is my picture of the beauty of the death and life of a single seed and the transformation that’s coming.

“Put the work in now.”

“Put the work in now. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.”

A quote by a friend about three weeks ago in a spin class I haven’t been able to shake. She meant it for biking. She meant it for sweating. She meant it for burning legs and lungs. But I can’t help thinking there was a bigger purpose to those words rattling inside my head these weeks.

Work is good. I love work. I really do. It’s a word that never really scared or felt painful to me. It’s a word that I appreciated. Like I could see the end result of my work before I ever started and that was my motivation to put time, energy, and effort into working toward that THING whatever it was.

Growing up, school was my greatest work and feat, but I always made it through those nine months of school and got to live the achievement with each new grade. Then college and grad school. Both rough, but so good for different reasons. Work in finding and starting some sort of career, still discovering what that means, but I love the journey more each year!

What I really want to talk about though is sports. I’ve always loved sports. My parents were big on getting my siblings and I plugged into sports teams growing up. Kids and adolescents have the potential to learn life changing lessons for the good because of sports. Character, stick-to-itiveness, losing, winning, boundaries (what are they, why are they there?), cheating, teamwork, sometimes being in the spotlight, and sometimes giving that spotlight to others, and lastly showing up to practice even when you don’t want to. When athletes reach a level of skill and honing in on their sports that they can be a leader in their community, or even reaching the highest levels of sports by going pro is a great aim for many kids that carry them through to adulthood. Sports are a powerful part of society and I know I’m a way stronger person because of sports.

I learned to push through physical and mental pain and stress, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll be left behind or won’t reach my goals. And this could be goals in anything! Goals pertaining to relationships, my career, finishing my first triathlon, and being able to run a certain distance, but being able to drop the time.

The key is: part of putting in the work is knowing your “why” as I hear so many coaches talk about. Why the days alone training? Why the early mornings and rigid schedules for your career or athletics? Is it for being the best, so recognition? Is it for more money, so maybe financial security? Is it for staying in good health, so as to live your best quality of life? (Your why should be something meaningful and fulfilling; recognition and fame can be flimsy “whys.” They can be easily taken away. Choose your why wisely.)

My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.

Once you know your why, then putting in the work to get there is the next step. My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. In the moment, though I was on my bike with the music blaring and lights dimmed as most spin rooms are, my mind was on relationships. I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

Putting in the work doesn’t always look like getting sweaty and “swoll” in an obvious way on the outside. It might look like internal exhaustion and setbacks, but still trekking forward because your goals and dreams matter and you’re standing on your “WHY.” Your why puts those hard days in perspective.

Maybe your goal is to be the top sales person where you work or to earn the title of manager, what do you need to learn and do to get there? Maybe it means saying “no” to late night shows so that you can go to bed on time and wake up ready for a new work day refreshed. If you have actual #relationshipgoals as the trending hashtag circled around the world got posted, what work do you need to put into that relationship now, so that you reach the goal? In some cases the “work” might just simply be stating a prayer to the One Above to guide you in your marriage when things seem to be falling apart.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’m not suggesting that work is all that life is about. It’s not. Life is also about enjoying the good days before you and learning to love the people around you well; it’s about practicing the true art of self-care because you are worthy of love yourself.

However, what I do know is that work is good and when it comes to work, the goals and dreams we hold onto (athletic goals, career goals, travel goals, marriage goals, community goals…) won’t magically appear without effort. And as my friend said that day as I huffed and puffed my way through a 26-mile ride in the studio—if you don’t put in the work now, no matter what your goals are, you’re only cheating yourself.

Growing Pains

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Sitting at a family dinner this past Holiday season I was struck by a conversation centered on growing pains. At the table was a 6 month old baby girl, and her mother mentioned to the group that her first teeth growing in and how she was teething and in pain. Then the conversation turned to a 60 year old having pain in her feet as she did simple things like cleaning and laundry. Then my cousin mentioned when he was 10 or 11 how much pain he was in for a couple of years, simply growing! Growth spurts do that to tall people.

I’m only 5’1″ and except for 1 or 2 achy nights in 5th grade, I didn’t have many growing pains as a young girl. At least not physically.

Emotionally and spiritually is another story.

This past New Year’s I got pretty, pretty happy. So happy that I don’t remember falling to my knees a couple of times throughout the night. Club and street- if I were sober I would have gawked at the drunken girl with a pink flower in her hair, unable to stand in her high heels or walk straight.

My soreness the next morning prompted my question to my friend, “Alison, did I fall last night??”

“Yeah. You did. A bunch of times,” was her simple reply.

Pain. Pain in my body, but mostly pain in my heart for being that reckless and careless to my limits with drinking and numbing out the other pain that got me to that point. Anesthetizing my heart with too many glasses of wine and mixed drinks, all the while dancing to loud music, and picking up random guys, points to more than just a cray cray New Years.

“What’s wrong with me?!” I’ve asked myself a few times this week as more bruises showed up on my knees, legs, and a distinct hand print from a man that left purple marks on my forearm as whoever he was picked me up.

Growing up isn’t easy. It’s painful. From little baby teeth, to achy joints just from growing, to aging bodies that we hear about from our elders.

But the pain that’s not so easy to see… that we hide away with a smile, or stare blankly at the wall depressed, that keeps us up at night in worry, that makes our hearts ache, that makes us cry silently in the shower so no one else will hear… it’s those pains that I’ve almost gotten used to throughout my middle school to post college years.

It’s those pains that I want the most freedom from.

It’s those pains that I want to escape.

And I KNOW, without a doubt… I’ve learned the lesson enough times… I can’t just numb those pains with a bottle, fake laugh, and kiss from a stranger in the night. It doesn’t work.

No, no. These pains need something, Someone much stronger and more powerful than too many drinks and stranger’s lips.

The reality is after a night like New Years, I realize how desperate I really am for an answer to my aches and pains. Heartache and growing pain. It’s not easy, but there is a way to heal…

I think like losing weight, or training for a triathlon, or working up in a career, all of which are slow, daily processes… the growing pains of the heart and spirit can be healed, but it looks like a slow process of turning to God, giving up the crap instead of just “dealing with it”, and being okay with good days and bad days. It’s a battle and a marathon, not a walk in the park.

Healing, freedom, and escape come through the Man who gave His life on a jagged cross, and then rose 3 days later for me and for you.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

That’s Jesus talking. That He came to give life ABUNDANTLY. I know the destruction substances can cause. I’ve experienced that from the thief. But I feel like it has been a while that I’ve experienced an abundant life through Him… almost like I don’t deserve it.

I have about six New Year Resolutions for 2017 (in 2016 I didn’t make any), but my main resolution is to let Jesus have more of my heart. To trust Him like I used to when I was a little girl. To let Him take the growing pains and make them something beautiful. To discover with Him this abundant life that He came to bring. That I’m worth it to Him.

And though like training for a triathlon or getting ahead in a career, the process of letting Jesus take control of my growing pains might seem slow some days… we will make it together. And that will be a beautiful thing.

To 2017.

To an abundant life in Him.