My feet pounded on the uneven pavement. My side twinged. I concentrated on my breathing. Four steps breathing in. Four steps breathing out. Four steps in…
The road stretched out before me, my white truck a tiny dot on the horizon. I couldn’t think about my peanut butter-feeling legs or worry about that tiny bit of pain in my right calf muscle. I focused on my breath. Four steps in. Four steps out…
I continued to breathe.
My life is so much like a long run these days. If I focus on the pain or how far I need to go, the panic sets in and the exhaustion consumes me. But, if I only breathe, focusing on one simple task at a time, I am given the freedom to keep going.
It is no surprise that Jesus often warned against worry, urging us to keep our thoughts and minds focused on the day. Our loving God knows that the more we live in the moment the easier we will be able to trust in Him, enjoy our life, and become efficient as we use our hearts and minds to the fullest as we remain in the present.
A few weeks ago, when I first started training, that side ache made each run excruciatingly painful. I would be sore for days. Research suggested that I needed to start pacing myself using my breathing. To do so, I had to put away the Mp3 player and concentrate while I ran. Suddenly my long runs became doable and then enjoyable. The side aches were gone, and I could run without weighing down my mind with worries about my body or the distance. It has taken training to keep my mind concentrated on my breathing, but even outside of this physical training I’ve noticed that I am more centered, relaxed, and living in the moment.
When our minds are focused on things outside our current activities and control, we allow a toxic activity to rot away the power of the moment: worry.
When I am worrying about how many dishes are piled in the sink, I am not enjoying Micaela showing me her new block-stacking skills. When my mind fills with the challenges Adela will face in Kindergarten, my heart is not invested in our story time together. In John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” For me, the enemy’s best weapon has always been anxiety and fear.
But, God continually gifts me with new training to negate the enemy’s attacks. What a surprise that running would have brought this blessing.
So, I breathe in, I breathe out. I keep my eyes on the task, my mind in the moment, my heart in the present.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Have you ever tried an activity such as deep breathing to combat fear or anxiety? What other actions have you found helpful? Comment below and bless somebody with some new ideas.
Micaela quickly lost her cool. She held her hand out to the shelves of toys and made frantic noises.
I could guess what she was after. The school bus, a current favorite, perched out of reach. I asked her, “Do you want the bus, Micaela? Bus?” I said the word, exagerating the “B” sound beginning. It was a word she could almost imitate. “Bus?”
Micaela’s eyes widened. She whined, reaching her hand upward.
Part of me wanted to give in. I could pick up the bus, set it down in front of her, and she would be mostly happy for a while.
But, she needs to speak.
It took five more minutes before Micaela finally opened her mouth and tried to say the word.
These are painful days. We know Micaela is working on talking, so we have to give her ample opportunity to work on new words. It is hard for me. As her caretaker, I know her every mood and expression and can accurately guess what she needs or wants. But, if Micaela is going to grow, she needs to start using her voice.
Parenting is often challenging and frustrating, but I love how much I learn about my Heavenly Father in this season.
I too have had to learn to speak and find my “voice” when talking to God.
For a long time, I prayed to God saying words that I believed He wanted to hear. I was more concerned with how I appeared to Him than I was about having a true connection. How silly, God saw it all anyways. When I finally took off that mask and prayed to Him with an open heart, my words often tumbled into incoherent rambles. Today, I love praying with Him. It is sweet conversation with a loving father, an understanding friend, and a generous wise teacher.
God had to push me to find that voice. He had to hold back some of His peace and joy, challenging me to come to Him without a mask and use words meant just for Him.
We’ve got a long road ahead of us with Micaela. Her brain injuries were severe in areas involving speech and muscle control, but she cannot improve without us pushing her forward. Just as we will never find ourselves in true communication with our Heavenly Father until we throw off the masks and give Him an open heart and mind.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
Do you ever feel like you are holding back your true voice from God?
Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the snows come too hard, or not at all.
I’ve lived in agriculture my whole life. Born to a rancher and later married to cowboy, I have watched the seasons rock our world. So much in this lifestyle is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Prayer and faith become essential to retaining peace.
Those who live in agriculture have a special opportunity to witness God’s awesome power in nature and come to trust in His plans and care.
It is so amazing watching these people, farmers and ranchers, live through the rough times and celebrate the bountiful seasons. I’ve watched families have to sell off all their cattle, get jobs in town, and still rejoice in God’s provision. I’ve watched those same families re-stock, plow up their fields, and praise God when their crops come in.
For a lifestyle that requires such intense labor, it is precious to notice how most still believe that they cannot do any of it without their Heavenly Father.
Brandings for me have come to be a celebration of God’s care. As each calf is counted, vaccinated, and marked, ranchers celebrate the new generation of livestock. It is such a thankful time, shared with neighbors and families. It also brings hope. Hope that the fall harvest and shipping will come and another year will end well.
I will be honest, sometimes I wish I came from a family where life and income felt more secure, a life where seasons did not change the number of hours my husband had to be out plowing, calving, lambing, or harvesting. Sometimes I wish we had a life where the number of rains would not determine how much we made for the year or a life where a bad snow did not put our animals in danger. But, I also think of all the hours I’ve spent with my Heavenly Father because I needed my fears soothed, my worries put at ease.
I will take the connection over the perceived insecurity.
After all, my hope is in Him alone.
Are there aspects of your own life that bring you closer to God?
And then she was three.
Micaela’s birthday is a time of immense joy for us. She has overcome much more than we ever thought possible and her future is full of hope. But, the momentous moment is accompanied by one huge change: no more early intervention therapy.
So, to catch some of us up to speed, in the State of New Mexico a child with developmental delays receives therapy at home through an Early Intervention agency until the age of three at which point parents can choose in-school therapy or clinics. We have been blessed to work with Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists, Developmental Specialists, Vision Specialists, and Orientation & Mobility Therapists since she was discharged from the NICU in 2014. They all came to our home and interacted with Micaela in her own environment.
I will miss the constant education and encouragement they brought into our lives.
For months I have dreaded this day, this turning of age that will bring such a great change. It wasn’t until a practical friend told me to think about the pros that I considered the positives. I only had two, but they were big: Less appointments to coordinate for a child who also has seven doctors in her life. Also, perhaps I will relax and be more mom than therapist.
Either way, there are different days ahead.
I am so proud of Micaela. She defies odds and is filled with personality and determination. God had provided for her and our family. As I meet her teachers and the therapists who will provide service for her in the school, I am resolved to meet this change head-on.
Different days are ahead. New challenges. New blessings. New ways in which we will witness God’s awesome power and incredible love.
This time of the year there are many people peering into the future and very different days of their lives. It is wedding season with couples committing their lives to each other. Some parents are expecting their first child with anxious excitement. Countless graduates complete high school or college. For them all, life won’t be the same.
But God, remember, has not changed a single bit. He walks this journey, His hands on our shoulders, His love in our hearts, His peace in our souls.
Can you think back on a season of great change? As you moved forward, how did you experience God's goodness, care, love, protection, and grace? If you are looking at big life changes right now, take a moment and commit your future to the God who will walk this journey with you.
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"...and God was already there with me."