Dread is an emotion I battle. It is a sin of mine. It is a sin that stems from living outside today, focusing on tomorrow, and not trusting God.
I am a planner. I am an organizer. And like so many of us, my greatest gift has the tendency to turn into my greatest weakness when my focus falls from Heaven and settles upon worldly cares. You see, as a planner, I am always focusing on the next step. My mind is never at rest. I am always planning three moves ahead in fear of dropping the plates I have so carefully balanced and spinning above my head.
My ability to plan and organize is a gift that God is able to use and bless others with, but only when I am focused on Him. It becomes my greatest weakness when my focus falls away from Him. That shift in focus turns an asset into sinful control when used to do all that I deem necessary in the course of a day rather than surrendering my time to the giver of all time and rest in the gift of the present moment.
That sinful need to control leads to the paralyzing emotion of dread. I hate feeling dread. I hate being so worried about what is coming tomorrow that today is stolen from me. I hate that rock in the gut feeling that comes from worrying about the uncontrollable and the unpromised time of tomorrow.
When I find myself consumed with dread I know it is time for reassessment and redirection. Not necessarily in how I am using my time but in who is directing my time. You see DREAD is much more a symptom of a spiritual deficit rather than the time deficit that it presents itself as.
The month of May brings many additional time pressures as we wrap up the school year. There is the pressure to finish our lessons for the year as well as the new addition of outdoor responsibilities of yardwork and putting in the garden. September and May are hard months for me as a homeschooler because they are the months when school year responsibilities and farm responsibilities overlap. With the coming of June the burdens ease as my time and energy can be focused on summer chores, but for this short season it feels like the weight of responsibility is doubled. Add to that the fact that we are ALL ready to begin summer break, but must push through these last few weeks of school work, and the result is a Momma that is dreads the alarm going off in the morning.
Tuesday was a DREAD day. Monday night I climbed in bed already carrying the weight of responsibility for a day that hadn’t even arrived yet. I felt that weight of worry in my gut as I surveyed the 24 hours that lay before me and wished I could just fast forward to Friday. I hate feeling that way. I hate wishing away the days of my life in hopes for easier days tomorrow.
I stopped myself. I knew what the answer was. I just needed to apply the solution that has proven itself time and time again as the best antidote for dread…
When I find myself counting the worries I must hit the breaks and start counting the blessings.
In therapy with Tyler this week Tina introduced us to a book called, Baditude.
It is the story of a little boy who goes through his day consumed with the thought that his life “Stinks!” It was a charming read that made Tyler laugh out loud at the little boy’s view of the world. Every situation he encountered was viewed with distaste. The book concludes with a lesson by the boy’s mother who tells him that he has a “baditude,” and that the only way to get rid of a baditude is with gratitude.
It was a reminder of how powerful a point of view is. And while I consider myself and optimistic, glass half full, sort of person, I was dealing with some internal “baditude” that was morphing itself into “dread.”
Rather than lay awake, overwhelmed with the crazy day that lay before me, I decided to use that time before sleep overtook me to count my blessings.
In my favorite movie of ALL TIME, White Christmas, Bing Crosby sings a little number that goes:
“When you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”
Well that is just what I did, and when alarm woke me the next morning I found myself facing a very different day. The tasks and errands hadn’t changed, but how I saw them had. And what had been a dreaded day became a day of many blessings. Here are some of the blessings I can count from Tuesday.
My day began with a trip into Pittsburgh.
After a two month wait my neurology appointment had arrived. As we drove into the city I gave thanks for the great blessings of:
1. Having a Myasthenia Gravis clinic with specialists that treat my rare disorder, right here in the Pittsburgh area.
2. Having a husband who is able and willing to go into work late so as to drive me into Pittsburgh so that I don’t have to do it alone.
We were the first patients of the day and the appointment went 100% better than I could have hoped. The doctor did a full assessment of my muscle strength including a breathing test and bloodwork to get an antibody count, but was amazed at the improvement that we were able to achieve over the last two months through diet and supplements. He gave me a script for Mestinon to use as needed for my muscle weakness but felt that immunosuppressant drugs and steroids weren’t needed at this time.
Which is such a blessing from God!
3. I am grateful that He led me to the other Tina in our life: who has helped me find healing through more natural means.
4. While all this was going on in Pittsburgh I was also counting the great blessing of dear friends, in particular my friend Lana, who graciously offered to take Molly to Keystone testing.
Molly has had state standardized testing yesterday and today. I was a bit panicked when I realized that Molly needed to be two hours north of Pittsburgh for a full day of testing at the same time I needed to be in Pittsburgh for my appointment.
How grateful am for the friends in my life who help catch my balanced plates when they fall!
From my neurology appointment I said goodbye to Toby, who headed into work, while I drove Tyler to therapy with Tina.
5. When I count my blessings I count Tina twice…or 100 times! Talk about one of the greatest blessings in our life. I feel like in her I have found a guardian angel, a mentor, a friend and a long lost sister. She has had a bigger impact on our family than just about anyone. She has helped bring healing to our boys, and peace to our home. She gives me the tools to be a better mother as well as the confidence to believe I am a good mother. She brings objectivity and hope to what seems like hopeless situations and helps me find laughter when all I want to do is cry.
This week I needed her. In therapy we have been doing REALLY hard work. The wall behind which Tyler had buried memories of his birth mother has begun to fall and with the surge of trauma memories comes traumatic behaviors. I know no other way to describe the behaviors than to say we have entered the world of the “terrible twos.” I told Tina this. I explained that Tyler’s behaviors have not been aggressive or violent, but rather destructive and nonsensical. I feel like I have a two year old in the house again with cabinets being emptied, nonstop busyness, coloring on walls and furniture, temper tantrums, bed wetting, and this…
On Monday night Tyler got up in the night, found a pair of scissors and gave himself a haircut.
I told Tina that I didn’t know what Tyler was thinking or what was going on other than to describe it as Tyler has been acting like a “terrible two” year old.
Then with her amazing wisdom and insight she said, “That is to be expected.”
I waited for her to elaborate.
“In therapy we have gone back to when he was separated from his mother. Memories are flooding back and he has regressed emotionally to the age he was when he was taken from her…2 1/2. he is responding to the overwhelming emotions connected to those memories as he would have at that age…at the age he is emotionally stalled at. The coloring on walls, dumping toys in the toilet, and cutting his own hair, while nonsensical for a nine-year-old, is perfectly age appropriate for a 2 1/2 year old.
She then gave me tools to parent some of these hard, exhausting behaviors, all while explaining the importance of making sure the consequences are age appropriate (for a 2-3 year old, not a 9 year old.)
I left feeling more hopeful and more patient and more capable as a mom.
After a couple hours at home we were back on the road to pick up Molly from Miss Lana’s house. At the same time I picked up Molly, I dropped off Grace. She was invited by her best friend, Olivia, on an impromptu road trip to Cleveland to a book signing of Olivia’s favorite author (who has also become one of Gracie’s favorite authors.) Woody, Olivia’s dad, kindly agreed to drive the girls to Cleveland to meet Maggie Stiefvater. The book signing was held at a Barnes and Noble where Maggie told stories and had a Q and A session with her fans before signing their books.
Both girls made Maggie a friendship bracelet. Maggie wears the bracelets that her fans make for her (“until they get stinky or fall off”…her words!) Gracie then spent the night with Olivia since they didn’t get back home until almost midnight.
This got me thinking about how grateful I am for:
6. The sweet, deep, enriching friendships my kids are blessed with.
7. A dedicated Dad that would spend his evening driving two teenage girls to a book signing after a full day of work.
8. A daughter that “fan girls” over authors rather than pop stars or Hollywood icons.
After dropping off Grace and picking up Molly (who reported a good day of testing) we were back on the road towards Pittsburgh to take Ozzie to Tween Group.
Tween Group is a support group that is offered through our adoption agency for adopted children 10-12. (There is also a teen group.) In this group of kids Ozzie has found friendship and support from other kids who “get it.” These kids come from many different backgrounds (infant adoption, international adoption, foster care) and their stories differ, but they share the common thread of adoption. The ladies who run this support group are amazing! Tween Group begins with a dinner, followed by social skills activities, games, and discussion that addresses situations specific to a child who has been adopted. Ozzie looks forward to his Tween Group that meets once a month. This was their last meeting before summer break.
This night the kids tie dyed shirts, made friendship trees with each other’s fingerprints as the leaves of the trees, made a movie trailer, and then invited the parents back at the end to view their movie trailer and see some of the adoption work they did this year.
One of the activities they do each month is to highlight a famous adoptee and then post a question connected to that adoptee that the kids all get to answer.
Watching Ozzie blossom under the support of this group is another blessing to thank God for.
9. I am grateful for our amazing adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, that support their families on so many fronts.
10. For adoption: a unique and beautiful way to bring families together.
We arrived home to find Toby doing some repair work on Tyler’s creative cutting job. The only way to salvage the situation was to take it all off….
Even in this I find reasons to be grateful…
11. I am grateful there is not a family photo session scheduled for next week.
12. I am grateful we are going into summer and not winter, because that would be a cold style for January!
13. And I am grateful it was just hair…
because hair grows back.
In all that I was dreading, I found joy.
Not because my day miraculously emptied and cleared,
but because I emptied and cleared…
I emptied my mind of worries.
I cleared my thoughts of tomorrow’s tasks.
and I found gratitude in today.
And that made all the difference.
God is good.