Several years ago I read a book called Strengths Finder 2.0. At the end of the book was a quiz that helped the reader learn their top personality strengths. To be honest, I thought it felt a little hokey when I did it, but after answering a long, long list of questions, I felt like the results were spot on. My top “strength” was empathy. It’s days like today that it feels more like a weakness.
There are so many people in my world who are hurting. Friends and family are dealing with major illnesses. They are facing internal battles that seem to have no solution. They are staring down financial struggles that feel insurmountable. They are searching for something to fill them at the bottom of a bottle. And my heart hurts for every single one of them.
At night I lie in bed and cry for all of the pain that I see in the lives of those I love, and in the world around me. My chest aches, my mind spins, and the weight of helplessness smothers me. I would give anything to be able to take all of the worries and pain away from all of those I love.
But I can’t.
What I can do, however, is pray. And make sure that those around me know that I am walking with them through their battles. I can make that phone call, or send that text. I can mail the card, or sit and listen. I can embrace this strength and love hard.
Have you ever noticed when you hear a word for the first time, or learn a new word, that it seems like you hear that word a lot more soon after? Or when you get a new car, it seems that you see way more of the same model on the road than you ever have before? It’s really about our awareness of something that brings it to our view in a more relevant way, but I think that the way our brains make this happen is pretty fascinating.
Recently I heard a worship song that I know has been around for quite a few years, but when I heard it, it hit me in a new way. Since listening to that song about a month ago, I am certain that I have heard it more in the last thirty days than in the the last ten years. But I believe the reality is that I am more tuned into the message of the song and that I need to hear it right now. I just get so blown away by how that works. However, I don’t think that this song speaking to me so clearly and so often is all about the way my mind is working. I know in my heart that God is at work here. No, I don’t think God is in charge of the K-Love playlist, nor do I think He is creating the worship set at my church. But I do think that He is trying to wreck me with this song by making sure my mind and heart is open to it every time I hear it.
The song is called “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. The chorus of the song has been playing on repeat in my head.
It’s Your breath in our lungs So we pour out our praise We pour out our praise It’s Your breath in our lungs So we pour out our praise to You only
I have heard this song so many times but somehow it is hitting me in an all new way. I have been thinking about His breath in my lungs. That breath is the breath I use to speak to my husband and my children. Those lungs provide the air I use to speak into the lives of my students. His breath in my lungs is how I speak to my colleagues. So, what do my words – carried by the breath He gives me – sound like. Am I pouring out praise with what He has given me? Or are my words harsh, not worthy of the breath He has given me? Is my spirit one of complaining and grumbling, or am I finding ways to be joyful and praise Him in all situations?
Riding in my car I sing this song with all of my heart, and most days it brings me to tears. My prayer is that with every breath I am given by my heavenly Father, that I am pouring out praise. Not only through my words – which can truly speak life into others – but also with my actions. I pray that others see Him at work in my life and that they hear my praises for Him pouring out of me.
I love when I still my mind and soul to take time to see God’s work in every aspect of my life. I know He is always here and that He is always at work. I just have to listen more closely to what He is telling me. Right now, that teaching is coming through the lyrics of a beautiful song that He knew I needed to hear. On repeat.
The minute I opened my eyes yesterday morning, I felt it. I felt that all too familiar pain in my body, in my joints, in my muscles. An all-over pain that makes it hard to even move at times. Before going to sleep I had made a mental list of all of the things that I needed and wanted to do with my Saturday. I had a full day to get all of the things done that lingered from the week. I had a full day to do the things that make me happy and keep me centered. But my fibromyalgia had different plans. I know that on days when my pain is high that the best thing that I can do for my body is to rest. I know this in my head. My body needs to rest. So, why is that so hard?
I got up, poured my coffee and began my typical Saturday morning ritual. Plan the week’s menu. Create a grocery list for the week. That was easy enough and didn’t zap me of what little energy I had. The next thing on my list was to decorate the mantle and coffee bar for Valentine’s Day. (Side note: I was pretty excited about this as I have spent the last month making shelf sitters and paintings, etc to use). By the time I had carried all of the decorations up from my craft room in the basement and organized them, I had to sit and take a break. Pain was now coupled with frustration! Thirty minutes later I was able to muster enough energy to decorate (a “task” that I was so looking forward to) and then hit the couch again.
Now, if you’re reading this and thinking about how whiny I sound, I apologize. Yes, I was a little whiny and upset about the way my Saturday morning was progressing. But keep reading, because I promise there is more that just complaining. There is a lesson (at least there was for me.)
As I laid on the couch, trying to listen to my body telling me that it desperately needed a day of rest, I tried to let go of my frustrations and shift my focus. I asked myself, why is it so hard for me to just rest? Besides frustration, what was I truly feeling in the moment? I thought a lot about what was so hard about resting. And here’s the thing – the feeling that was really eating at me was guilt. I felt guilt and shame. It felt selfish to be lying around all day and not “doing” anything at all. Even though it was what my body was screaming for. I was ashamed of the fact that I was laying around not getting things crossed off my list. Shouldn’t I be busy doing something? Anything? Maybe it’s a mom thing. Maybe it’s a teacher thing. Maybe it’s a lethal combination of the two. I’m not sure I understand it at all, but I know that it is something that I need to be aware of and to “fix” in myself. (More guilt and shame).
It’s okay to listen to what my body needs. It’s okay to NOT be busy all the time. It’s okay if the dog hair collecting the corners stays put for one more day. Rest is not a bad thing. Rest is a necessary thing. I do not need to feel guilty for taking care of my body and my mind. So, I did it. I laid on the couch ALL DANG DAY. And guess what, this morning I feel so much better. I still think I need to process through the feelings of guilt and shame. As for yesterday, I took a big step toward taking care of me and learning to rest.