Coping Mechanisms

During Jessi Connolly’s InfluenceNet class Tuesday night on “surviving + thriving in transition”, she mentioned the difference between Coping Mechanisms and Escape Routes: one God-given, the other dangerous. That entire class really got me thinking, but this section stood out the most and has been on my mind ever since, so I started to identify some of my coping mechanisms during this season of transition.

What is this season of transition? There are a lot of things that cause this part of the year to be so hectic, but this year feels more like I’m turning over a new leaf than just going with the flow of the school year, the weather, the homework, and I think the Lord has put it on my heart to be aware of that. For instance, I went into Tuesday’s online class thinking I would take notes and shore up Jessi’s wisdom for next year, when I’ll be moving on to graduate school, but I left with a whole lot of clarity about just how entrenched in transition I am (thank you, God!). Here are the transitions I recognized:

  • applying to graduate school starts this summer- you’ll find me in a library studying for the GRE, learning medieval Latin and brushing up on my Biblical Greek and Hebrew, and working full-time as a nanny. Yikes!
  • transition of leadership in the non-profit organization I am involved with–and of which I’m now president!
  • moving from one dorm to the next, all without stopping home for more than a weekend to visit and hug my family (and cats!). I love hugs from my family. Oh boy do I miss those.
  • a shift in thinking about my future. I visited a very special place on Monday and Tuesday that has me thinking in a different way about where I feel called to in life.

And through all this, I started to pinpoint my coping mechanisms. In thinking about this, I wanted to make sure that everything that I am doing or using during this season is life-giving and productive to my own self-care. It’s very easy for me to get overwhelmed by stress and eat all the things instead of taking a beat, thinking about what would contribute to my overall wellness, and doing that. I turn to food a lot as an escape route, and I’m praying that the Lord would help me look at my choices more carefully to figure out where I’m escaping and how to use the tools He’s given me to cope instead.

A very lovely blogger Pint-Sized Mama asked the class what their coping mechanisms were, and I found everyone’s responses very helpful in identifying my own, so I wanted to share mine here!

My Coping Mechanisms

saucony

running

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with running, but today I did a crazy thing and I came home from work, about ready to burst into tears, and instead of ripping into that bag of popcorn before dinner, I put on my running shoes and went for a jog. It was nothing to call home about, but the fact is that I chose running over a few other way less healthy and less satisfying options and felt much better for it. I’m so thankful that my body allows me to do this, even if it’s only for 30 minutes! I’ll take it.

ytcu_suncare_bundle

yes to… skin care line

Y’all, I am in no way associated with this genius company, I promise. But there is nothing like sitting down at my desk after a long day and hitting my face with one of their cleansing wipes. It is incredible. I feel instantly refreshed, and since I’m too lazy to reapply my makeup, it means I go get dinner, my evening coffee, and even make a library run without any makeup on, which is never a bad thing! I’m learning how to be less self-critical without makeup. It’s a journey, but I’m taking steps. Anyhow, I can’t even tell you how wonderful my skin feels when I’ve taken my makeup off–without even leaving my desk! It’s become a major comfort factor for me and helps me focus.

taking walks + bookstore stops

This is a spot in the garden of one of my favorite campus buildings. It’s so glorious in the spring, and I like to walk there to think. It doesn’t hurt that one block over is also my favorite bookstore, where I love to browse for inspiration. One of my favorite sections is the cooking section–I can’t wait until I have a kitchen next year!

doodling

Fun fact: I love drawing…on my tablet! I got this for my birthday after eyeing my mom’s for years (she’s a watercolorist), and I love to doodle on it when I’m feeling stressed. I get so self-conscious about my drawing skills on paper, but somehow the computer makes me feel free to do whatever I want. If you do like to doodle on paper, I would highly recommend Zentangles–their method completely freed my controlling left-brain and let my creative right-brain take over on some rainy days this summer.

P.S. Speaking of doodling, I’m in the midst of a blog overhaul! I registered a new domain and am getting to work on the design little by little, so I probably won’t roll it out for a few weeks, but I wanted to tell you now because I’m so excited!! Stay tuned! 🙂

What are your coping mechanisms? How do you make sure they don’t turn into escape routes? 

On Mortality and Faith

My mom, sister and I traveled four and a half hours both ways yesterday to visit my grandparents in upstate NY. We usually stay the weekend, but since I’m allergic to their home (it’s generations old and has goodness only knows how much mold and mildew) we stay overnight in a nearby bed-and-breakfast and join them for church the following morning. However, this weekend was move-in weekend for all the community colleges up near my grandparents, so my mom couldn’t book a room! Who would have thought that there would be demand for rooms in the middle of nowhere?! (And I really mean the middle of NOwhere – the closest things to my grandparents’ house are cornfields, an Amish farm, and more farms. We have to drive 15 miles to find coffee.)

So my mom drove a total of 9 hours yesterday so we could visit her parents (bless her heart).

My grandparents are a shadow of their former selves. They would periodically travel to visit us in Massachusetts when I was growing up, and I remember them napping on our sofas after their long drive, only to wake up and be ready to engage in the witty banter my mom’s family is known for. My grandfather would be the only one bantering, since my grandmother has never been fully “with it” according to my mom, but she would laugh dutifully and add her own one-liners, her hand on my grandfather’s knee and a twinkle in her eye.

My grandpa is going on 93 and my grandma 89; my mom was born when my grandma was in her forties, so I’ve never had young grandparents, which makes this so much harder. They have both have been hospitalized this year for dehydration, and are now both walking with some kind of assistance – a walker for grandma, a cane for grandpa. Grandpa has always been the caretaker for every ailment Grandma has suffered, but now he struggles with being unable to move fast enough to provide for her. Grandma re-told the story of Grandpa’s fainting earlier this year to me and my sister, saying, “I shook him and told him, ‘You can’t do this! You have to stay here to help me!'” I nearly cried.

They’ve been married for over 60 years. They have been through wars (my grandpa was a pilot in the Army Air Force), raised four children (my mom is the youngest of 4 daughters), and have met five great-grandchildren from several of their 13 grandchildren. Their love is tangible.

They look at each other and savor each moment together, realizing that they may not have many more of them. My grandpa has lost 30 pounds in the last 6 months, and my grandma’s heart can’t pump enough oxygen to her brain for her to remember which pills to take to keep it going for another day.

Their time on earth is limited, I know that. But I also know that what is waiting for them will be so much brighter, and I know that they are looking forward to it. They taught me what pure, unadulterated faith is. Their kitchen is filled with Bible verses on ceramic tiles, crocheted on potholders, embroidered on hand towels, and they pray before every meal. At each of their respective “stations” on the well-worn couch and arm chair, a Bible sits open to that day’s devotional verse, highlighted and peppered with notes in shorthand (my Grandma’s) or scrawling cursive (Grandpa’s).

It’s not that they declare their love of God for all to see, because even Matthew 6:6 has its place on a potholder (“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”). Instead, these verses all over the house serve as a constant reminder to my grandmother in her ailing memory that she is loved, cared for, and protected by the Ultimate Father. And when they are in pain or frustrated with their loss of mobility, they have a quick reminder of God’s protection and grace.

That’s comforting to me. That when they are gone, they will be with their Heavenly Father. It provides more than simple relief. It’s abiding peace. And on earth, His Word provides them (and me) with that same peace and comfort, despite daily battles with incurable pain. That alone is incredible, and something for which I am so thankful.

And when the conversation on the ride home turned to my sister’s atheism and my mom’s annoyance with organized religion, I silently prayed that one day they will be able to look back at the faith my grandparents demonstrated through their never-ending love and devotion to each other and to God and decide that they can accept God’s love for themselves. I pray, I pray, I pray.

A Letter to my Eight-Year Old Self: Thursday Faith Jam

My Dear Rachel,

It’s me, your 20-year old self (and if you’ll notice the date, I’m about to turn 21! I remember when double-digits was the milestone to live for…it’ll come soon enough, and in the meantime almost-nine is pretty great too.). I didn’t realize how much I would miss you!

I do, though, so I’m back – here to offer some words of advice about faith, love, and Christ.

You still fall asleep praying, right? Keep doing that, you’re doing it right. “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us, and you’ve got it down. Don’t worry about getting on your knees or folding those hands – God hears you wherever you are, and praying is one sure-fire way to keep the bedbugs from biting. I know you worry about praying “right”, using the right words, the right tone of voice, at the right time of day, but you really don’t have to. God will listen no matter what. If you still feel self-conscious about praying though, pick up that “My Prayer Book” (you know, the little red one in the rolltop desk? It was Dad’s when he was little and he’ll let you use it) and flip through it. You’ll find some really cool ways to ask God for help.

Singing “Hide ‘Em in Your Heart” songs at the top of your lungs is a way to praise God – keep doing that! You’ll remember those songs for the rest of your life. And guess what? You don’t have to worry about having our many Hide ‘Em in Your Heart tapes changed into CDs for your future kids (don’t even roll your eyes, you’ve been worrying about that since you got your first CD!) – they will be online a long time before you have children of your own to share them with (and since I found them on Spotify, I’ve belted out my fair share of Galatians 5:22 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11; they never really left my heart).

Love your body. You have a beautiful young body, and don’t let Alex tell you otherwise in fourth grade (you’ll be in double-digits by then! Congrats!). Remember that God made you in His image and you are perfect just the way He made you, regardless of how fast you have to switch from a training bra to a real bra. Step away from that mirror, stop zeroing in on your pores, and get out and play!

Keep dancing and believing you will be a ballerina with all your heart. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, but just know that some day…some day your body won’t work as well as it used to. You’ll adapt, you’ll move on, and you’ll be just as happy, but take the time now to dance your heart out. Dance like no one is watching, Rach.

Actually, I take that back. Dance like only Jesus is watching, and let that comfort you all the way through your life.

On that note, it’s ok that sometimes being a Christian won’t be as comforting as everyone says. That doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human! It’s ok to ask hard questions about God and the Bible, and it’s ok to not believe everything Pastor Wendy says just because she’s the pastor. In fact (you’re going to love this), God wants us to ask questions and test out His Word for ourselves – it says so in Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Proverbs 3:5 ends: “…never rely on what you think you know.” See? I’m telling you, you’re doing this Christian thing right. I know you do your best to abide by God’s commandments and I know that sometimes it’s harder to do the right thing than others, but God has given you a really good sense of right and wrong. Even when you feel as if you don’t belong, you are still a child of God. Jesus is watching over you and loves you. Just keep talking to God, listening, and reading His Word – stay curious! God will give you the answers, I promise.

Now if you do that, I’ll be in a different place, and I’m ok with that! I’ll let you in on a little secret: for a long time, I lost touch with Christ (oh, don’t worry – you’ll soon have a great Sunday School teacher who will explain the Trinity because you will raise your hand in front of the entire church and ask about the difference between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Don’t cry when people laugh! [but it’s ok to cry, even when you’re big!] They only laugh because they wondered about that too and remember how wonderful the answer is. You’re not alone.). I lost touch with Christ because I couldn’t get in touch with Him for one reason or another. You’ll soon discover that Mom and Dad are humans too, and that their faith is not as rock-hard as you thought, and that will send your world spiraling. Please try not to let that discourage you, and just keep reading your Bible and praying unceasingly –  that would make me that happiest gal in the world (ok, that was a teensy spoiler, but it happens soon anyway).

I’ll make a long story short: college comes and you miss church, so you join the church choir and pour your heart out through song. Not long after that (a few weeks ago my time, actually), you’ll finally get back to praying until you fall asleep and God will speak to you in the most remarkable way. It makes my heart soar just thinking about it. And now I’m back, you’re back (because trusting God to guide you is a lot like being eight years old again – I am His child, after all!), and I’m truly, truly happy. I am blessed and guided and humbled.

One more very, very important thing: Turn all your worries over to God. He can handle them much better than you can, believe me, and it’ll save us both a lot of heartburn if you stop worrying in favor of letting God take over. 

I miss you, but I’m remembering how to be like you more and more each day.

Love,

Rach

P.S. Please don’t tell Ab that sweet peas are edible…