How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less

Until very recently, worry and anxiety have not been challenges for me.  I have the kind of mind that just doesn’t hold on the those kinds of things.  Unlike my husband, who is consumed with worry pretty much all the time, making him miserable, I have always been able to put problems aside to deal with whatever is right in front of me.
Lately, I’ve suffered from anxiety of the free-floating variety.  Because it isn’t rational, it doesn’t respond to rational techniques.  I tend to treat it by whiffing essential oils or going outside to sit in the sun.  What’s worse is when it attaches itself to legitimate areas of worry that I would have been able to put out of my mind in the past.  When that happens, and chanting my usual mantra (Cast your cares on God; that anchor holds.) isn’t working, there is one Scripture passage I turn to.
You know the jokes about Catholics–we don’t read our Bibles and we can’t quote chapter and verse like our Protestant brethren.  Of course that’s not true of all Catholics, and the fact is that most of us are exposed to a lot of Scripture via the Mass readings.  According to this source, a Catholic who attends Mass on Sundays and major feasts will hear about 41% of the New Testament and 4% of the Old (that doesn’t count the Psalms), even if they never crack open a Bible at home or in a study group.
So I know lots of Scripture, even if I don’t always know exactly where to find it.  But I always remember that the passage about anxiety is in the book of Matthew, Chapter 6:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
Even if I have trouble believing it right in the moment, I know that if Jesus said it, it must be true.  Even if I can’t see how, I know He is working all things out for my good.  Even though I can’t always manage it, I want to live as though I really, REALLY believe these words all the time.
And thanks to a new prayer practice I adopted this Lent, I am growing in this area.  More than once, after I have shared my anxieties with God in my prayer journal, insight, answers, and comfort have followed within days.  I find my thoughts turning toward journaling when I am facing a knotty problem in my life or when I am overcome with worries and anxiety.  I find myself really trusting that it is all in God’s hands.
This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network Blog Hop.  For more articles on faith and worry, click below.
How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less

The Best Laid Plans . . .

So the past few days have been an exercise in stress (not that I needed any more exercise in that area), endurance, and the necessity of flexibility.  I guess it all started around midnight on Thursday . . .
Many of you will remember that John’s grandmother died last year and that we were at her funeral in Baltimore when our house burned down.  Well, her house sold a few weeks ago and all its contents had to be packed up and sent down here.   I was expecting them to arrive on December 17 (because that’s what the moving people had told John’s mother–they were combining us with another move to save money), not exactly an ideal time of year but at least we had a couple of weekends to prepare.  HOWEVER, at midnight on Thursday, while we were lying in bed, John just CASUALLY MENTIONED (didn’t volunteer it–in response to my question about whether he had talked to his mother lately) that the moving van was coming MONDAY.  I was all like, “What?  When were you planning to tell me?  In the morning when they knocked on our door?”
On Friday I had too much work to do to get started on the cleaning out of the garage (more on that in a minute), but I was happy that at least someone was coming to straighten up the house (a client who works in exchange for representation).  The house was filthy; I didn’t want movers seeing it nor did I want Emily to come home to such a mess.  But our helper called in sick.  At this point, close to a nervous breakdown, I whined to my little sister about my plight.  In short order, she informed me that my mother and my other sister were going to treat me to a paid housecleaning, so that was a spot of good news (the one thing that probably kept me sane).
Did I mention that John was leaving Friday night (taking Willie with him) to go pick up Emily and therefore would not be available to help me with this project?
So all day Saturday was spent in the garage (about which more in another post).  I filled five trash cans to overflowing.  Lorelei helped a little and Jake did too.  Why the garage?  Well, the whole project was like a domino effect.  We were getting new dining room furniture, which meant the current stuff had to move to the garage.  We were also getting a slew of boxes that I had no intention of unpacking immediately.  They, too, were headed there.  We were getting new bedroom furniture.  Thus our furniture was heading for Emily’s room, and hers was heading for the guest room.  (Which Jake had therefore to clean out since it is part of the basement domain that is “lived in” to put it charitably.)
I worked so hard all day.  I was looking forward to a soak in my tub and blogging about some of the emotional impact of cleaning out the garage.  That’s when (around 7:30 p.m.) I got THE CALL.  John, Emily, and William were stranded in Chattanooga, because MY VAN had broken down.  A Good Samaritan who actually owns a car repair shop had towed them to his place (in a somewhat scary part of Chattanooga) and they needed to be picked up.  Now.
Leaving Teddy (none too happy at having his evening disrupted) to stay with Lorelei, Jake and I got in his car (which we had just retrieved from the shop that afternoon, thankfully) and took off for Chattanooga (that’s 90 miles away, folks).  We did not get home until 12:30.
But I still had all day Sunday, right?  I thought I’d get to sleep till ten, go to Mass, be home and cleaning the garage by 1:00 or so.  But Lorelei came into my room at 8:30 a.m. crying with pain from an earache.  By 10:15 we were sitting (and sitting and sitting and sitting) at the Walgreens clinic.  We were there for FOUR HOURS (have you noticed me shouting a lot in this post?).   By the time we got back home and fed all the hungry people waiting on me, it was well past three.  Luckily, now I had Emily to help (she was actually working on some of it while I was out) so she and I finished in there around dinner time.
At 8:30 I left to pick up Jake from his girlfriend’s house (something John usually does but did I mention that he was also sick with that upper respiratory thing that everyone has? William, Lorelei, and Jake have it too, and I’ve just started with it.  And Teddy has a fever–that might be the flu.  But I digress.).  With one thing and another (stopping to buy him food, going to the grocery store and having my card not work until John transferred money from one bank account to another), picking up Jake’s friend) it was 11:30 before I got home.
The only good thing about Monday morning was that John and the little kids stayed home sick so we got to sleep a little longer.  We had to be and at ’em by 8:00 though because that was the earliest the movers could arrive.  Latest was 10:00 but of course it was more like 10:30.  After they looked around the house they told us they needed payment before they brought the stuff in.  The only problem with that was that we were not supposed to be paying them.  This took over an hour to straighten out.  In the meantime the car place called.  We can fix the problem for $1200 or get a whole new engine with a warranty for $1500.  So there’s that.
I don’t even know how long the movers were here.  It was long.  After they left I discovered that a piece of wood that is supposed to go on top of the vanity table is missing.  We called and this still has not been resolved.  Then John noticed that the glass shelves that go in the china cabinet aren’t there.  We still have some hope they are in one of the boxes in the garage.  (They left all the boxes they unpacked and the tape pieces and everything in our driveway in the rain, by the way.  Are they supposed to do that?)
We still have work to do on the transition.  Our old furniture is sitting outside our bedroom door.  Some of the things that came still have stuff in the drawers I haven’t gone through.  John is impatient and wants to open all the boxes RIGHT NOW and I am trying to stop him.  We spent several hours last night going through boxes of books that we removed from the garage and now have many boxes to take to McKay’s (the used book store).
So that’s how I spent the past four days.  Not stressful or anything.  And it’s not like, you know, it’s two weeks until Christmas or anything like that.

 Emily models an umbrella hat
Emily models an umbrella hat

Just a sample of all the fun things we will be unpacking in the coming days!
Just a sample of all the fun things we will be unpacking in the coming days!


Drowning in a Sea of Responsibilities

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by life?  Have you ever had one of those days–or weeks, or months–where you just couldn’t get on top of everything you needed to do?  Have you ever felt like you were drowning, or being crushed by the weight of your responsiblities?
Of course you have.  That’s modern life, isn’t it?
I’m having one of those weeks, and since this is my space, I get to vent about it here.  Will it help, or should I spend this time doing the work instead of writing about it?  I’m going with writing about it. 🙂
Where to begin . . . a few weeks ago I thought I would try to get organized by making lists of “the next right thing” to do in various areas of my life.  Only what do you do when your “next right things” occupy about 15 pages of a yellow legal pad?
I’ve had Emily calling me multiple times each day to remind me that the FAFSA was due today.  But to do the FAFSA I had to at least take a stab at the taxes.  We are self-employed and I’m trying to do this myself with the help of H & R Block At Home.  Not easy.  Not fun.  The records all burned in the fire.  I guess that’s a plus if they audit us.
Two days this week were completely consumed by a client matter I had to help with.  Spent most of yesterday going to court with John.  Most of the day before that writing pleadings and making copies.  I have a stack of time to enter that’s about a foot high.  A stack of new files to set up.  A two-foot high stack of files to write closing letters on.  At least two cases to bill.  To-dos that I have fallen behind on.

Two out of three cars were in the shop this week.  The cat had to be spayed.  William’s birthday is coming up.  Income fluctuates when you are self-employed, and things are tight right now.
The house is a disaster area.  After doing so well for so long at keeping it neat, I’ve really let it go the past couple of weeks.  There’s just not time for more than cooking, dishes, laundry, and the occasional sweeping right now.

John had blood work done last week.  It came back positive for diabetes.  I haven’t even had time to process this.  They just want him to take more pills.  I have a sneaking suspicion that there are other things he could or should do as well–like change his diet.  I now need to become a diabetes expert.  I’ll pencil that in for this weekend maybe.
I have some ungodly amount of grants I am supposed to be preparing proposals for this month.
I am trying to “grow” my blog which really requires attention to social media.  I have about 20 windows on three browsers open at all times so I can keep up (or try) with that, plus all my work stuff.  I’m supposed to blog every day during Lent and I missed two days this week because I had to be gone during my morning blogging time.
I don’t have time to clean the house, order gifts, make a cake, or plan a party, so poor William has to wait until after his birthday to celebrate it.
I’m worrying about William.  He needs to go to school next year.  He has some specific learning issues I want to see about having him tested for.  I need to continue investigating schools for him.  I’ve been trying to give him some assessment tests this week, and he is very resistant to that.  I need to make appointments to visit some of the schools.  I need to make calls.  I did buy him shoes last night, so I can cross that off his “right things” list.
I’m worrying about Jake, who thinks he’s grown up but has a few important things he needs to do before he REALLY is, like graduate from high school, learn to drive. and get a job.
I’m spending hours each day in my car.  Every time I have to leave the house it fractures my concentration and makes it difficult to get back to work.
It seems to be more or less springtime now and thank God I at least have a window.  What I’d really like to do is go dig a garden.

There are 1082 messages in my email inbox.
You know, this is not nearly all of it.  Not nearly.  But I am going to stop because it’s actually not helping.  I think I’d better just keep plowing through it instead of trying to analyze it.
Thank God I at least gave up Farmville for Lent.

I'm Tired of Being a Human Doing

Take time just to be; remember, you are a human being, not a human doing.
I think I clipped it out of a Reader’s Digest long ago, and for years it hung inside the kitchen cabinet of my first house, along with similar uplifting sentiments:  “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and discover that they were the big things.” “Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.” “We cannot do great things; we can only do small things with great love.”  There were many more, and they were wonderful, and I think I need to dig them out of my junk drawer and hang them all around my desk.
Because when someone remarked upon that first quote, which they read in the signature line of my email, I realized–not for the first time–that I no longer act like a person who believes that.  And that makes me sad.  Where did that person go?
Even though I worked part-time outside the home most of the time until my third baby arrived, there was time for twice-daily walks, for four-hour trips to the pool, for preparing a hot dinner and sitting down to it every night.  Even when I had three pre-schoolers there was time for afternoons planting bulbs, whole Fridays spent with my mom friends at playgrounds or homes or McDonald’s, hour-long story times every evening.
In those days I didn’t feel guilty about taking a walk outside to see what was blooming in my yard, or going out by myself every Monday night to write letters and X-Files fanfiction, or spending Saturday doing something fun instead of something productive.   I didn’t constantly feel like there was something I needed to be doing.
That seems like a long time ago and I have turned into one of those people I never wanted to be, a member of the “rat race” even though there are days I don’t leave my house.  No matter what I’m busy doing–and I am almost always busy doing something–I am neglecting something else, and often I am having to neglect the important for the urgent.   The only time I feel free to stop being a “human doing” is when we go on vacation–can’t do dishes, laundry, or work so I am free to relax.
I’m not sure how this happened to me.  It would be tempting to blame it on my having taken on the job as my husband’s legal assistant.  It’s true that hasn’t helped, since I probably spend 20 solid hours a week on it–maybe more.  But it’s an attitude change I’m really talking about, and that took place years ago.   I’d like to wind up this blog entry with a revelation or words of wisdom or a plan for change, but I am at a loss.  I’m open to suggestions, though.

Crazy dreams and the wisdom of children

Last night before we fell asleep I was telling John about an upsetting dream I’d had that morning and of course Lorelei was right there listening.  I have a lot of anxiety dreams, and this one definitely fell into that category.  I’d invited two of my best friends from high school over to work with me on a term paper we had due (yes, high school very often figures into my anxiety dreams–and if it’s not high school, it’s usually Christmas!).  They had just arrived when a client called and wanted me to come over to do some work, so I took my friends and several of the kids along.
When the work was finished, the client wanted me to go to lunch with her.  I was worried about abandoning my kids and my friends and the paper, but she said it would just take a short time.  She left ahead of me and when I finally found her, I realized I only had one  shoe on and had to run back upstairs for the other one.  This scenario seemed to go on forever, sometimes with mismatched shoes, or someone else’s shoes, but never with two of my own that matched.  Finally I sat down and started to cry, saying, “I’m sorry.  I just can’t do this any more!”
There was more, but you get the drift.  I’m really quite good at interpreting dreams, and had my own ideas about what this meant, but I still wanted to know what John thought about it.  Unfortunately he was starting to fall asleep.  So I said to Lorelei, “What do you think that means?”  And she told me, “I think it means that you are working  and working and working all the time.”
Out of the mouths of five-year-olds . . .