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Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

messy

I walked by the mirror in my bathroom and almost audibly shrieked (but I didn’t because it was 5:05am). I had been too tired the night before to blow-dry my hair after washing it the night before, and the results were … Ursula-like (think the villain in the Little Mermaid movie).

I knew a straightening iron would be the most important tool of the day to come!

Messy hair makes me laugh. Well, of course it does, but I laugh because it reminds me of what my insides are like.

I think that most of us do well at cleaning ourselves up, and presenting ourselves to the world as put-together, calm, cool and collected.

I also think that, much of the time, we are a little messy on the insides.

Outwardly, we walk with grace, while stumbling through our days full of stress, worry, anxiety and regrets.

Outwardly, we sit, regally, while inwardly sitting in the remnants of the refuse that has been heaped into our lives, by others or by our own choices.

Outwardly, we smile broadly, while the tears of loneliness, failure and sorrow are held in the ducts of our eyes until we reach our vehicle, our pillow, our shower where they will flow like a waterfall with no end.

And so messy hair makes me laugh. Dust that covers my house makes me laugh. Sticky floors make me laugh. Laundry piles makes me laugh. Words tumbling out of order or words that fail to come when we just can’t think of that one word, make me laugh. They make me laugh because they are real. They are out there for all the world to see.

They are obvious, and messy and real.

The great thing about the messes in our lives is that, once they are obvious to all who can see them, hear them, experience them, they can be dealt with, cleaned up.

Life is messy, on our insides as well as on the outside.

Don’t be afraid to let your mess show to someone … they might even pitch in and help clean it up.

 

 

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As I contemplate today about the first family, I am not referring to Will and Kate’s or  Barack and Michelle Obama’s family, I am referring to the first family of Christmas …

images-7

This first family of Christmas was a unique family, one that was never before, and will not be again. Certainly there have been families that began with a teenage pregnancy, or a long trip (our honeymoon trip was a car drive from New Brunswick to Yellowstone National Park …), or concern for the future, or without a place to live, but never was there a family like this first family of Christmas.

Never was there a family who began from such simple means, with such great purpose.

Joseph was a carpenter, a respected, necessary profession in that time, but not an esteemed position in that society. It is a fair guess that Mary would not have been from a household that was ‘above’ that of Joseph, as marrying beyond your class or level in society would not have been acceptable. They were simple, average Jews, living within the expectations and laws of their place, time and culture. They were engaged, thinking of and preparing for their wedding day, but engagement was a little different than what we know of engagement today. To be engaged then meant that you were already married in the eyes of society, in the eyes of the synagogue, in the eyes of God. And, even though if Joseph had died, Mary would be viewed a widow. They did not live together … they barely spoke to each other, and certainly not alone.

Mary was a virgin.

This was written the book of Luke, and it was the fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14):

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Joseph was a righteous man.

This meant that he obeyed the laws, followed the rules, was respected in the community. For him to choose to wed his pregnant Mary was to live his days as disgraced as she. His response to the angelic messengers who told him that the conception was from the Holy Spirit (relieving him of feeling disrespected by his betrothed) and the direction for Joseph to give the baby boy the name Jesus was evidence of just how righteous he really was, from the inside out.

“He (Joseph) did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25)images-9

The entirety of the formation of this first family was in the hands of God, who provided the seed in Jesus, who grew into the life source of redemption for all of humanity.

Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day
the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him,
and his dwelling shall be glorious.”

 

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duck++nighty+night

It may seem a rather odd thing to awaken to a message titled, “Nighty Night” … and yet, here it is.

I am not a lover of form prayers (although I do love the Lord’s Prayer), but when I saw the one, below, I felt as though I heard the heart of the one who wrote it … no, I felt the soothing words being whispered into my heart, like a child being lovingly tucked into their bed at night by one who represents love and security.

Sometimes, when the day is long, when the pressures are mounting, when the ‘to do’ list for tomorrow is longer than the hours in the day, when relationships are not right, and money is tight and your car’s in the shop, and your head won’t stop spinning sleep may seem elusive and rest a waste of pressure hours.

But today … tonight, at the end of this week of

work and schedules
blessings and disappointments
dirty toilets and cleaned out refrigerators
taxiing kids and sitting through boring lectures
paying the bills and not being able to pay them

whatever you have been dealing with this week …

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Don’t let the weariness steal from you a night time blessing of assurance that you are not alone.

Nighty night!

Carole

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It’s that time of year again … exam time!

ae85c17eda2d3c8bc0cb18388a4075c3Either you, or someone in your life has just finished, just started, about to start or is in the midst of exam season.

It causes stress, manifested in a variety of ways …

anger or tears,
insatiable or absence of an appetite,
sweating or freezing,
insomnia or exhaustion.

The one thing that all exams do is bring to the surface … stress.

For some there is so much riding on the exam … perhaps whether they pass or fail, whether they get that job promotion, or raise, whether they can move on in their studies or not.

3cb8ea67646ee947903be47ac2843dc1For some the risk of the exam is minimal (other than the physical and emotional stress received simply from having to write it).

I have watched students walk into an exam room looking as though they are walking to their own executions. I have observed the laying out of pens, pencils, erasers and calculator more methodically than the steps in disarming a bomb. I have watched the twisting and turning of hair, tongue and entire face as though possessed in a Poltergeist fashion.

They fret, they fear and the f-word that is most dreadful to them is failure.

I often wonder if we called an exam a quiz, would students perform better on it? They do have a very distinct way of viewing the importance of a quiz, a test and an exam.

My greatest memory of exam time was that if our marks were above a certain mark we did not have to write the final, whole year, exam. Let me tell you, that motivated me to keep my marks up all year long. As a student with not great retention of information that I would file as “will never use again in my life,” I was determined to avoid having to write finals (the mid-term exams which were not exempt-able, were enough to convince me to study).

Really we need to remember that it is just an exam. An imperfect, often inaccurate tool of assessment of learned materials. The most important assessment tool is life. I guess we could say it is not how we did on the exam, it is how we did handling the pressure as we prepared for and wrote it.

And soon, if not already, they will be done 😉

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So, I am now at day number two of my Top 10 Goals for 2013, and this time the focus is hubby.

He REALLY does not appreciate posts about him, that mention him, that use him as an example … so, in honor of his preference that I not write about him … heck, I’m just going to do it anyway!

P&C Cropped

He has to forgive me … comes with the whole “love, honor and … forgive” 😉

Here are my Top Ten Goals for my Marriage for 2013:

  1. Do not go to bed angry – I mentioned this yesterday in regards to our kids and it doesn’t hurt to say it again, “do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).
  2. Get away – make time for at least one night each season to get away together, sans children, as a couple. It is so easy, with all of the demands of life, to forget that the family we created started with us, just us, and for this family to continue we need to invest in us.
  3. Respect him – As I write it I just know that some poor, misinformed lady is going to interpret respecting your husband as some kind of response to an archaic male dominated patriarchal society or religion. That is NOT what this is about! He is a child of God, like me, and as such I need to respect him …
  4. Make his life easier – I am sure that there is at least one thing I can do each week to make his life easier … from answering the phone (instead of letting him, because it is always for him), to doing his dinner clean up once in a while (not too often, as I do not want him to get too used to being relieved of ‘his’ chore).
  5. Thank him – so often when we live with someone it is so easy to forget our manners. Please and thank you are words I know I need to use more often with my man.
  6. Let him decide – … and be okay with his decision! My hubby knows that if I say “you choose” his whole future is at stake. I need to trust him to make a decision, and trust the outcome!
  7. Surprise him – there is nothing like veering from the normal, everyday, meatloaf every Monday stagnant way of living to bore a couple to mediocrity! Start seeing excitement and refreshment in someone else. I WILL surprise him … and the details of that, well those are between the two of us 😉 .
  8. Remember the past – I need to reflect on those days, so many years ago, when we only knew adoring love (aka, before we were married 😉 ) … not bills, crisscrossing schedules, and to do lists.
  9. Forget the past – we have baggage, and that is a reality, but the past is the past, and needs to be left there. We cannot move forward if I keep looking back.
  10. Plan for the future – “Where there is no dreaming for the future, the marriage relationship is dead” (that is the Carole Wheaton interpretation of Proverbs 29:18) … enough said.

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As we continue with all of the last minute preparations for the ‘big day’ obligation, guilt and fatigue can begin to take over our existence and moment by moment lives. Our duties, our jobs can come to feel as weights upon our lives.

The guest post today is by Ann Volskamp, who was also my guest post two week ago. It is short, and sweet and will put breath back beneath your sails as you look for purpose in your tasks.

After reading The Best Way to do Christmas Cleaning I think you might just have a new understanding of what it is to do holy work.

Oh, and you might want to purchase Ann Voskamp’s book, for someone you love (or for yourself), “One Thousand Gifts

one-thousand-gifts

 

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How do I introduce a guest post whose writer’s words have so fed my soul, filled my heart, made me weep and taught me that I’m still a newborn in learning to be thankful? As I lay across my bed, with dark shadows of fatigue and stress from choosing to carry the weight of the world all by myself, there are also lines of mascara from the leaking from my tear ducts just minutes ago, as I was gently massaged with words like ointment on my scarred heart.aholyexperience-logo

Let me introduce you to a woman who knows about
delight,
joy,
fear,
pain,
Eucharisteo (Thanksgiving)!

I was introduced to the (Canadian) New York Times bestselling author of “One Thousand Gifts,” Ann Voskamp by two co-workers who said that I NEEDED to read it. I am cheap and thought that signing up for her blog would do just fine, thank-you … I was right … and wrong.

The blog was good, no great! And so I bought the book. I bought the book in early September, and have only read three chapters in the three months, not because it is not good … Quite the contrary, it is too good to rush through! I am savoring it like aged cheese, sweet wine, dark chocolate … No! Not even those favorites can compare. More like those moments when you held your newborn baby and looked into their eyes praying that God would imprint every detail of that moment into your memory … that is what this book is like!

And so today I am offering to you a treat that I think might send you to the bookstore too! Enjoy A Holy Experience

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Last year I was feeling the heat about planning for our Thanksgiving meal.

I was finishing a week-long course (complete with exam), I was adjusting to working full time, our family was still adjusting to the addition of two members to our household, we were in the busiest part of our son’s football season, and so on.

All I wanted was to take the family out for dinner (a rather expensive option when seven people, most of them teenagers, are involved).

At the same time I yearned for the delicious smell of a turkey roasting. The turkey itself is easy, you simply season it, pop it in the oven and it does it’s thing. I had considered simply roasting big bird, and serving it, with a fork for everyone …

I decided I HAD to do what needed to be done, so I headed out (on Saturday) to get the essential parts of a good, home cooked Thanksgiving feast.

While at Costco, I noticed they had pumpkin pies for like really cheap. I stood, I pondered, I felt like I had Rosanne Barr on one shoulder and Martha Stewart on the other, battling it out for my families meal. Finally, I flicked Martha off my shoulder, winked at Rosanne, and thought, ‘this year we are having homemade by Costco.’

I was on a roll, and Martha was in the dust of my grocery cart.

I then purchase baby carrots instead of ones that need to be peeled and sliced. I bought a package of gravy mix … mine was never that great anyway.

I bought rolls, rather than make my own … really, with such a big meal, who would miss them?

I stood in the aisle and considered using stove top … but everyone loves my stuffing, so I thought it was worth the extra effort.

A few days before, we had guests who had brought a bouquet of flowers, and that was to be the centerpiece for our feast.

So, Thanksgiving Sunday morning I seasoned Big Bird, and popped her into the oven at a very low heat … because we would not be eating until the evening. We attended church, had a small lunch, popped the stuffing (which never gets stuffed into the bird) into a big casserole dish in the warming oven, cranked the heat on our roasting beast, and went to our son’s football game.

We returned home, and my daughters set the table, I cooked the baby carrots and frozen veggies, basted the bird, and unwrapped the homemade from Costco pumpkin pie.

We used to have a household of people over to enjoy meal together. This year it was just us, and that was quite okay.

It was a delicious meal, with ridiculous conversations, oodles of laughter, and very full bellies at the end of the meal.

Our beast got her bowl full of heart, liver and whatever else is in that little prize package they shove into the cavity of the turkey, and she lay at our feet while we ate, licking her chops.

As always, the stuffing was eliminated, there were significant veggies left over, and turkey in abundance for the week to come.

I didn’t miss the ‘old’ way of doing Thanksgiving. It was certainly different without other guests, but we got to spend our meal concentrating more on the ones for whom we are most thankful for, and that was a good difference.

So, yes, you can celebrate Thanksgiving without a homemade pumpkin pie.

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Have you ever felt like ‘anxious’ is the most sincere response you could give to the common question, “how are you today?” I would bet my last dollar (which is the bank’s dollar anyway) that your response to that question was not an honest “anxious” but instead the typical response, “fine” with a sugar-coated smile to complete your fakery. I know this because I have done it too, and I think we all have. It is so very difficult to be honest about the things that we worry and fret about.

Anxiety, worry, fear … those are all common feelings to us all. They can rip at our very being, taking over our every thought, controlling our every moment, and even putting our physical health at risk.

Just last night I read the following:

“Do not be calm about anything,
but in everything,
continuing to grasp at control and busyness,
with an entitled attitude,
keep your worry to yourself.
And the stress and anxiety
that overwhelms and suffocates
will eat away at your
heart, mind and very existence.”

Now I do not know if this is original by my friend Jenn, or if she was quoting someone else, but, it really made me stop, and wonder, is that me? Is that how I, really and truly, live my life? Is that who I am in my most furthest place from “fine”, my truest me?

I asked myself, those questions and quickly replied to myself (yes, I do sometimes converse with myself … there is no mind reading in those conversations), “no, not me” … echos of “fine” ringing in my ears.

Then I thought of the day before;

  • I was not calm, but I had so much to get done
  • grasping at control and busyness, but I had to because things needed to get done
  • with an entitled attitude, but they needed to get done right, and that (of course) meant that I needed to do them!
  • I kept my worry to myself, but, well, what good does it do to burden someone else with my problems?
  • my heart, mind and existence were … occupied, full and frazzled … but, but

What my friend had written was the opposite, or flipped version of one of the most encouraging, strengthening, empowering and freeing messages of God to us in our broken, stress-filled, anxiety-ridden world and lives.

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Why would we choose to allow:

“the stress and anxiety that overwhelms and suffocates to eat away at our hearts, minds and very existence”

over

“the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus?”

Thank-you Jenn, for flipping my thinking!

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How is it that you can look at yourself in a mirror every day and still not see what you really look like until someone takes your picture?

As I looked at that picture, containing myself, I realized that the image I have been seeing in the mirror for months has not been a true reflection. Although I saw the realities of the imperfections and flaws, my eyes had somehow missed the significance of just how much I have grown (and I’m not talking growth of character).

A year ago I was celebrating the positive changes that I had made to my daily life. I was walking regularly, I was eating more healthily, I was taking the time to fulfill a passion (that would be this blog), and I had lost over thirty pounds of dense, life-hindering fat.

But, the fat came back.

And now I am hanging my head.

I saw the photo that is the outward expression of my failure, and hung my head in shame, and disappointment.

Oh, I was aware that the fat came back, because I have stood on the torture tool that we keep in our bathrooms … the scales. Somehow, although the numbers where the scale would point were indicating that I had gained it all back, the reality of my sins had not become real for me until I saw myself in a picture.

What I saw was that my face was bigger, and my eyes were disappearing into my swollen cheeks. My normally big mamma arms had grown to look like those of a trucker (without the trucker tan). Thankfully I had worn black on black, so I did not have to see my stomach protruding beyond “the girls.” And my best asset (no I am not talking about my rear) was my legs, because I had shaved them, and they were silky smooth … of course THAT could NOT be seen in the photo.

After the tear fest into my pillow, I had a conversation with myself (if you tell anyone that I admitted that I talk to myself I will deny it completely, and I have sworn my pillow to secrecy).

My self said to me, “it’s been a stressful year, Carole. Last year your hubby was on sabbatical, and that eliminated some of the stresses in your life (and he was gone for about two months, which eliminated even more stress … just joking, hubby 😉 … and don’t tell me that you did not benefit from being away from me for two months!). Then, you worked through much of your summer break last year. Then you had two adolescents move into your home and family. Then you started a full time position, for the first time in eighteen years. Then your dad was dealing with health issues, and living too far away to help your parents just about drove you insane. Then there was the ‘normal’ stresses of life; money, work, marriage, kids. Your weight gain is just a reflection of the stresses in your life.”

And my response to myself, MALARKEY!

Oh, it would be far too easy to claim ‘stress’ as the reason for why the fat came back. The problem in doing that is that it removes your personal responsibility for your decisions. And it just does not make logical sense.

If I were to perform poorly at work, would my stressful home life excuse my negligence of my students? NOT!

If I were to have left my husband, because I could no longer handle the stress in my life, would my children be able to understand and forgive me? I DON’T THINK SO!

If I were to have killed someone, would the stresses in my life be a good rational for my crime? NO!

Stress does not dislocate my brain cells. I may have to concentrate more on the decisions I am making, and be more intentional in what I am doing, but I do still have the power to do what is right, and good, and healthy.

Sure, it has been more challenging to find the time to go for long walks. Sure it has been more difficult to force the multitude of things on my mind aside, so that I can clear and renew my mind and heart and soul. Sure, solitary has become almost an impossibility in our home. And, with house maintenance on Saturday, and hubby’s church-related committments on Sunday, there is an absence of a ‘sabbath’ in my life.

But, the fat came back, not because of stress, but because I lifted my hand to my mouth.

It is time for a change!

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