Overwhelm: noun

All of the worries and cares and
decisions
and deadlines
and plans pressing in compressing
under pressure about to implode
The unknown
Anxious for the abstract of tomorrow
and with a schedule so full I’m forced
to take it one day at a time
but always striving to stay
one step ahead
I can’t help but feel that my mind is behind and
I’m caught catching
up.

I can’t say how much I hate
when people say they’re busy
because all I can think to say
is you want to hear about my week
and they say wow
I thought I was busy
and I say yeah
I know
Today was the first day since
August
I haven’t had either school or work.
And here I am stuck to the screen, caught
catching up.

It’s like I’m being drained
slowly but steadily
restrained by dates and
complaints
They say it’s called decision fatigue:
Noun.
The tiredness induced
by a thousand little choices
can be greater than a single life-changing
one.
Except what if the little ones
also change
your life.

Overwhelm.
Noun.
The feeling of drowning.
A tightness in your muscles
and your mind.

 

UPDATE: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I am currently a full-time high school student. In addition to classes, I spend Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school volunteering in a couple different capacities, and work seven-hour shifts Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So basically the only time not already blocked out is Monday after school and Saturday morning, which I fill with homework and meetings and figuring out all of the other fun things seniors need to figure out. I thought I was doing fine, until I realized I wasn’t.

1. I have no flexibility or opportunity for spontaneity. If my friends say hey do you want to go see a movie tonight, the answer will always be no. I had to consign my sister twenty minutes on her birthday, and that required going to work late, but that was the only day it could work, so that’s what we did.

2. I make it work, but I’m tired all the time. This is not good for me, and it is not good for the people who have to deal with me. ‘Nuff said.

3. Most importantly, though, it means saying no to basically everything but those few things. I’m so locked in on those few things that I’m neglecting basically everything else, especially the people in my life who are actually the most important part of it. And I mean seriously, I’m working at a frozen yogurt shop. Like it’s a job, and I’m doing it to save for college. Oh, yeah, I gotta save for college. But when even my dad, who’s really anti-debt, goes listen, it’s okay, it’s not that much money anyway–and believe me, he’s right–he has a point. Even one of my friends was like hey, you know friends are more important than work, right and I was like OUCH because she is so right and I really, really miss them. I really, really do.

Basically, the upshot is that by trying not to miss out, sometimes you miss out on what really matters.

A few weeks ago before I started realizing any of this, I put in a new availability so I’ll work more during the week (i.e. Monday) and not Saturdays, most of the time, so in a few weeks that will kick in. Maybe that will be enough, but I’m thinking about taking an extra day off because not only do I not see friends or family but I’m also missing out on my senior year. This is the last one. And I want to be able to say I at least made something of it. So something’s got to change, I think.

So that’s where I’m at. Thanks for listening, guys.

–Bre

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Antidote to Anxiety

What a wonderful summer it’s been! I’ve had the amazing opportunity to spend it in full-time ministry for nine weeks, teaching kids about God from his Word and sharing the amazing gospel of grace. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened and the way God has been working in all of it. I’ve been tired, I’ve been worn, I’ve been weak, I’ve been stressed and sick and overwhelmed–but what life I’ve found in this. It’s such a beautiful thing, and my Rock is that God is faithful. None of this has been about me in the first place, no matter how much I may act like it in my pride. He’s shown me that more than once.

My prayer is that I can hold on to that, clinging desperately. School starts a week from now, and there’s so much I still have to do–so many demands and decisions and conflicting commitments. This summer, I’ve learned that when I’m in that place, of being totally lost amid the different demands tugging me this way and that and feeling like I’m going to drown amid all the work and all the scheduling and all the things on my list that have to get done–I’ve learned that there’s only one place to go.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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 minds in Christ Jesus.

He promises to safeguard your heart and mind. Safeguard. There’s something about that word. Other translations use words like keep, protect, et cetera, but there’s just something about the concept of safeguard that I love. Maybe it’s because I know I need it. When my mind is so full it feels like I’ll burst with all the things I have to juggle and all the things I have to think about and everything tugging and pulling me this way and that and my heart is a turmoil of mixed emotion and inconstancy–the idea of a safeguard, holding the good things in and keeping the bad things out, is a welcome thought.

wpid-wp-1439171517282.jpegI picture an actual wall, the kind of thing they used to have in the medieval days, where the outer wall was the first line of defense in your castle. The kind of wall that’s ten feet thick and made of stone and iron.

wpid-wp-1439171619277.jpegThis wall of mine, it has no holes, no weaknesses. But a wall, you say–things can get over a wall. You could dig a tunnel underneath or let fly an arrow over. So let’s add a nice force field as well. An impenetrable orb of energy.

Oh, and just for fun, how about some archers of my own? After all, the Weymouth New Testament translates this passage as “And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be like a garrison to guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Let’s garrison this fortress of my heart and mind with an arsenal of truth.

Voila. I think God’s got me pretty covered.

If nothing else this summer, I’ve learned what a refuge prayer can be. I get so easily frustrated, so easily consumed by the little things that become so BIG in my mind.

But…He is bigger.

Despite all the doubts, anxieties, worries, voices, demands, expectations, choices, pressures, burdens, fears I face, the fear of the LORD is greater. Because when you fear the Lord, it means an awe of who he is. When you’re in awe of who he is, when you see the awesomeness of his power and his might and his glory and his strength and his wrath and his purity and his holiness and his passion, when you recognize who this God is–everything else becomes small.

The antidote to anxiety? Truth and trust. Bury yourself in His Word until you find what it is you seek. The beautiful thing is, his promise is always true. He is with me, whether I necessarily “feel” him or not.

Wash yourself in who he is. Recognize the truth of the God you serve, and realize that he won’t ever fail you when you trust in him, because he is greater than the problems you face. Love him, delight in him, until everything else seems small in light of him.

Psalm 73:26 – My heart and flesh may fail, but the Lord is my strength and my portion forever.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

May the Lord safeguard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May you recognize him for who he is, and take refuge in prayer and in promise. May you build your house upon the Rock and live your life in light of eternity.

–Bre

Cleansing

I need this, as I embark today into uncertainty. I take comfort in knowing that God has a plan, but I guess I still need to…let go.

Letting go is hard. I don’t like it. Because I want control. I need it. I crave it. My humanity seems to starve without it.

But He demands it.

All I want is a little piece. I can try to hide it from him, my little corner of my life that I refuse to give over to him. The area that I continue to hold onto with clenched fists and white knuckles for fear that my grip will slip. But that’s the thing–God doesn’t want just a part of me. God wants my all.

I guess that’s why it’s so hard.

And I mean, I’ve been down that road before. I know that a lot of times, it’s a struggle. It will be hard. I know that a lot of times, following God means the road might feel broken and twisted and thorny–but I also know what it feels like to bask in the light, what it feels like as he chisels away to be made new. And, well, that’s the one thing I want more than control.

It’s beautiful, really. For those of you still searching, take it from me: it is worth it. It is so worth it. And he will come through. That’s the glorious thing about God: God doesn’t depend on how I feel, but on who he is. And he is faithful, and he is in control.

But surrender, it does have to be intentional. These feelings of closedness, these walls around my heart–I have to lower them on purpose. Sometimes I hold onto my own pain just because I want to feel something, not wanting to risk letting him in even though I know that he brings something so much greater. Something holy. Something powerful. Something that will make me whole.

Sometimes I call it love.

But these are the same feelings I was having a month ago when I wrote this poem. It’s not much of a poem, really; it doesn’t rhyme or anything. But I need this, as I embark into my mission this summer, sharing God with kids all season–I need a cleansing. I need to know my heart is whole and wholly his. I need his refining fire to make me pure. So I let go, and call down the Name of God in this place today. Change me.

Take all of your guilt;
hold your shame in your hands–
and squeeze.
Draw out your fears,
and condense all your grief.
Take hold of despair
and crumple your worry,
hidden in your clenched fists,
like a ball of newspaper.
Throw your sin on the pile too.
Hold them.
Gather them and cup them in your open palms and shape them into a leaden ball.
Heavy.
Dense.
Compact.
But at least, at last outside of you.
Feel it’s weight–
and like a lantern, let it fly.
Release it all into the sky.
Relax your tight and desperate grip.
I know you’re afraid to lose it,
for it feels like all you have.
You thought it was a part of you,
and, yes, it was:
it’s made you stronger.
But now it’s started crippling you.
And it’s time
to let go.
Release.
Light it up and watch it disappear
like a blue balloon.
And now,
breathe.
Unfold, and let your colors loose upon the world.

Blessings,
Bre

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Letters to Me

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I found a letter I wrote to myself more than a year ago:

Dear Bre,

I know you’re scared and depressed and so desperately in love that your soul is screaming at the thought of losing it all. I want to tell you that there’s so much more than this out there. God has a plan, He’s in control, so no matter what you do, no step you take is irreparably wrong. You have a purpose, you’re meant to be, you have a wondrous destiny! All you have to do is let it go! “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Offer Him your everything. Rid yourself, ask Him to take it all away. These idols, these lies, these voices that hide inside, they’re not from Him and you don’t have to obey.

Train yourself now in the way of the righteous–form a habit of holiness. Teach yourself by letting Him teach you. Pray constantly, pursue persistently, speak purely, love sincerely, live passionately: fearless and free. Let the truth wash you clean.

Throw your whole heart into His will. Rid yourself of the weight of these worries, these fears, these questions, lies, and tears, and trust in the one thing that remains when all else is stripped away. Clear the stage. Smile, and let your heart believe in joy, hope, light and peace, an infragile truth that will never be taken away. Dedicate yourself to the Lord, and train yourself in His ways with diligence. Don’t be deterred. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into it, and trust.

You want control, you want answers, you want surety of self. You seek pleasure and delight, a greater fate and yet want easy. Let it go. Give it up. And watch the magic happen in your very own heart. Let him chisel, even when it hurts.

When I say hurt, you put up your walls. Barriers return. Knock them down! You’re scared now and apprehensive and full of doubt and fear and frustration and worry. But you know you will find the light and rejoice. Only one thing remains. So be strong and courageous–fear not–do not be discouraged! For the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go!

If you tell yourself something often enough, you start to believe it. Don’t ever, ever believe you can’t.

Take in all the little things around you, and take joy in them: the way the rain patters on the roof, the ink flowing from your pen, the way things have their quirks and inconsistencies. Notice.

Don’t let things bother you that shouldn’t. Be patient with your siblings. See past the masks and respect people for who they are without deindividualization.

Set your values and strive toward them with all your beautiful heart. Know your standards and stick to them. Fill yourself with joy. Remember that what you put in is what will come out. Never forget the things God taught you–in Philly, at camp, through trials and hardships: these lessons are part of you. Keep learning them every day. Pray often until it becomes a habit. Knock down the walls and destroy the idols. Don’t forget to seize the day. Be a dreamer, a maker, a seer, a changer.

Love the heart of God.

Knowing God has a crazy amazing plan,
–Bre

Wow. This is amazing. I have been struggling a lot over the last few weeks, with a lot of different things. Well, really a lot of different life things that are really all one internal issue, I guess. I can’t yet share the most recent thing that happened, but it’s really weighing on my heart and I don’t know how to deal with what God might be asking me to do. It’s something I’ve done once before, and I really, really don’t want to go through it again. I’m really scared. I’ve been asking God for help trusting him, but–it’s hard. It’s really hard. Especially with what this means for me. And while this doesn’t make it any easier, it is a reminder that He’s still faithful. And I’m grateful.

Wishing all the mothers out there a happy day, and with a special gratitude for my own mom–I don’t know what I would do without you. If I can ever figure out this whole life thing half as well as you have, my kids will be pretty darn lucky.

Blessings,
–Bre

Adkjhskdjflmagh!

I have to wonder if it’s worth it, this busy life we lead.
If because of it we’re missing out, on what we really need.

I am so sick and tired of all of this, sometimes. Of all the running around, scrambling to get everything done, my mind split into a million pieces all wondering what’s next, losing the now as I stress over the next thing. How do I have time for it all? How do I get it done?

It’s a cultural phenomenon: we’re all becoming busier. I have so many different things pulling at my attention, I don’t know which way to turn. So many demands to be met, so many expectations to be reached, so many responsibilities to carry out, so many options tugging at my mind, so little time to do it all.

The simple thing would be just to say no to some of it, wouldn’t it? But no–I can’t do that. I don’t want to miss out.

Besides, I like it–don’t I?

Yeah! Yeah, I enjoy all the things I’m involved in–but I keep myself from fully enjoying them, because by the time I get there, I’m already stressing about how to fit in the next thing.

Imagine.

Just. Taking. The. Time. To. Breathe.

This craziness might also have to do with a major indecision in my life: namely, what I want to do with it. I am passionate about so many things…

Writing? Oh, yes, I have a passion for writing. I am absolutely and irrevocably in love with words, the beauty, the majesty, the music of them–of the English language–of all language. Oh, yes I have a passion for these written words. But…I also have a passion for the spoken word: for theatre, its lights and its drama. And I have a passion for the visual arts, the swirl of a paintbrush and the footprint it leaves behind. And I have a passion for science, for biology and genetics. For books with crinkled pages and people with smiling eyes and a world full of wonder waiting to be discovered, yes–I have a passion, for all of these, and above all I have a passion for my sweet and powerful Jesus. So really, you can’t blame me, for not knowing which way to go, not when there are so many beautiful options…

It doesn’t help, you know, the pressure from, well, everywhere, to know. I get asked it often: “Where are you going to college? What are you going to study? What career are you going to?” I’ve been being asked since FRESHMAN YEAR. It instates a kind of learned panic in me, now, the uncertainty of it, because the nature of the question implies that other people–they know. And if you don’t you’re behind.

And frankly, it’s hard, not knowing, because you don’t limit yourself. I’m involved in so many things, it’s hard to focus on just one. But really, should I have to?

My whole family is busy. Today alone there have been four different sports games people have had to get to. This week is tech week for my show (For those of you not familiar with theatre: tech week basically = chaos. At least in that it’s a very time-consuming process). So even when one of us has a moment–like me, this afternoon–the rest are out and about.

And there are times. My family, especially my parents, is actually really good at getting in quality time, something I really do appreciate–more than I act like it a lot of times, because I am so stressed. And it’s not fair that life is slipping away from me, and I feel weary already.

Isn’t this supposed to be the time when I’m at my peak, vibrant and full of life? No wonder more and more teenagers are developing anxiety disorders and depression. In fact, I’ve been there too. And if that’s you, right now, can I just take a second to encourage you: don’t give up. The fight’s not over yet. You’d be amazed at what can happen, if you just, keep, going, even when its hard. Especially when its hard. When it hurts. Those are the times, honestly, for me in my life, that I look back to, and that inspire me to keep going now. The times from which I learned the most. It’s a beautiful thing, restoration, redemption–so keep going. I want you to see it.

Because I know–some days, it feels like it will never end.

It would be nice if we could all just take a single day away from it all, all at once, all together. It would be nice, for a moment, to focus on each other, rather than the next thing on our to-do lists. Isn’t that what really matters?

This weekend was my mom’s birthday. Have I mentioned how amazing my mom is? I don’t know how she does it. If I’m half as good at parenting as she is, my kids will be lucky. But you know what? With rehearsals and schoolwork and projects and exams and tech week and commitments–I didn’t even make her a card. It slipped my mind, and I didn’t have time. But hey, I shot her a text, right? That’s something!

I don’t know. I just challenge you–this week, to take a moment to do something for someone else. Just something small. It’ll change their day. But even if it doesn’t–I guarantee it’ll change yours.

Just a thought.

–Bre

STRESSED?

Yeah, me too.

For those of you who missed the memo, it’s Holy Week. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve been feeling anything but holy. The last few days, I’ve been under a lot of stress from in a lot of different areas of my life. Sadly, it not only leaves me frustrated, exhausted, and irritable, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like, oh, I don’t know, actually stopping to breathe?? Let alone prayer, meditation, Scripture. Or sleep, for that matter.

Once school let out, that helped. But it’s been a rough week, and things aren’t looking to let up anytime soon. I have a long list of things that worry me, of pressures I stagger under, of expectations I struggle to meet, of demands that gobble up my time, energy, and willpower. So much so that it wasn’t until Friday that I suddenly realized: this was the day that Jesus died.

This was the day that Jesus died.

What do you say to that? How do you respond? It’s so ironic that we call it “Good Friday,” when for anyone around when it happened, this was defeat.

The cross was not a symbol of hope, of victory, or of faith. The cross was a brutal instrument of torturous execution, and for anyone who believed in Jesus, it was a sign of hopelessness, of defeat, and of loss. It meant that the man who they thought would be the One had died, and they had lost everything.

They had given everything to follow Jesus. They had left their homes, their families, their livelihoods, their reputations, their possessions far behind. And now he was dead.

And no one would be surprised if they were next.

And think of Jesus. How false the cheers of the crowd must have felt on Palm Sunday, when he knew that the same ones would be calling for his crucifixion just a few days later. Even at the Last Supper, his disciples still didn’t get it. What it must have taken to wash Judas’ feet and hours later receive his condemning kiss. His cries to God in the garden, under so much pressure that he was sweating blood.

How long it took. Trial after trial, flogging after flogging, the mocking cries echoing in his ears before finally, they put him on the cross, and he hung for hours, slowly asphyxiating.

And it was finished. Finally, it was finished.

And death had won. Satan had won. The Son of God was dead.

What if that were the end of the story?

Thank God it wasn’t.

The ground began to shake, the stone was rolled away–his perfect love could not be overcome! Now death, where is your sting?? Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated!

Nothing makes Easter matter more than wondering what if it hadn’t happened. The resurrection was bold, defiant, and triumphant. Christ has overcome! We have overcome! In the moment when all seemed lost–out of that came the whole point.

The resurrection is not a moment of “yay, Jesus is alive, clap-clap-clap, let’s go eat chocolate eggs!” No, the resurrection is a moment of power, when God showed once and for all who is in control. It’s a moment of defiance, of the powers of darkness that hold this world captive. The resurrection is not an event by itself–it’s powerful because Jesus. Was. Dead. Death is final. But…he is alive! Unstoppable, unfathomable, unbeatable love, standing tall in a white fire.

It’s humbling. And it’s awe-inspiring. It’s insane, really, that he should love me that much. I know I sure don’t deserve it, not me.

The disciples didn’t know he would rise again. Now he’s left us–but again, it is not forever. He’s coming back. Do you believe it?