When the online Bible study (OBS) for the book “Let. It. Go.” was coming to a close I thought I’d have no doubts as to whether or not I wanted to continue being a part of this online community of woman by signing up for future studies – I thoroughly enjoyed it, learned so much, felt so blessed to be a part of it, and loved the ability and flexibility of doing a study online at home, so signing up for the next one sure seemed like a no-brainer to me. However, when the time came to actually sign-up, I had hesitation. Truth be told, I’ve tended to be a “100% or nothing” kind of person and I often set high expectations for myself in everything I do. Recognizing that I was heading into a very busy couple of months in which I already had an overwhelming amount of commitments, I had reservations that I could maintain my usual standard of 100%, and therefore felt I could be setting myself up for failure – something of which I’ve had a pattern of shying away from all too often…and yet I’m here – writing my first blog for the OBS of the book “Stressed-less living” by Tracie Miles.
What some of you are probably wondering at this point is why – why did I choose to do this study? Well, I wish I could say that it was because I’d recognized my unreasonable expectations of myself or that I wanted to break my fear of failure cycle, or even at the very least that I’d realized how utterly ridiculous it was to not do a study on stress due to having too much stress lying ahead already, because really, how funny is that?! Yes, those would all have been fantastic reasons to write about. But no, another truth be told, I was looking at the study as a “keep me plugged in, get me to the next study” kind of deal. It’s O.K. to wince at that statement, I just did. But with as bad as that reason sounds, and maybe even is, I’m so thankful and humbled that it at least got me involved so that I could discover that, while that may have been my initial reason and plan, it was definitely not God’s!
When I picked up the book and began to read the foreword and then the introduction, my suspicions quickly grew that there was going to be more to this study than I had anticipated, for I might as well have underlined the entire sections! I was really not prepared for the emotional impact that what I was reading seemed to have on me. As I’ve shared with some fellow OBSers already, I somehow hadn’t equated all of the feelings and reactions I’d been having for the last five years of my life to stress, so wow, was chapter one ever an eye-opener for me!
I couldn’t deny the fact that Tracie’s words, “it seemed life had become a job instead of a joy,” (pg. 18), described exactly how I felt and that her questions were the very questions I’d been asking myself: “Where was the happiness I once knew? Why did I constantly focus on what was wrong with my life rather than celebrating what was good? Why did I allow the actions and behaviors of other people make me feel so afflicted, angry, incompetent, or hurt? When did I become so negative and melancholy? Why had I become such a pessimist lately? When and how had I morphed into such a frazzled woman? Could I ever feel like myself again?” (pg. 18). Then other words like: “missing the opportunity to enjoy my life,” and “forgotten what it felt like for my heart to feel light and free,” (pg. 19) jumped off the page at me. And when I got to this quote: “Sometimes God allows us to get to the very end of our rope, barely hanging on by one little thread, before he reaches down and pulls us up with one mighty swoop.” (pg.19), and I couldn’t hold back the tears, I knew without a doubt that yes indeed, stress is a problem in my life and that there was definitely no mistake in me taking part in this “Stressed-Less Living” OBS – praise God!
So, now that all that has been made clear for me, I have new and greatly improved goals for this study - to do as Tracie suggests - to start anew, humble myself before the Lord and admit I’m sick with stress. To discover what the real root causes are for my stress – soul search (pg. 24). To “focus on making his peace the pattern of my life instead of living in a pattern of constantly falling in and out of the stress pit every time I experience life’s ups and downs.” To have “true faith and trust in my Savior become a reality in my heart,” and “living less stressed become a reality in my life.” To have “resumed authority over my emotions,” and ultimately to stop self-inducing stress (pg. 31). Those and more are all the things I hope to do, learn, and grow through this “Stressed-Less Living” experience, and reading Tracie’s relatable story gives me added hope that it can be done – I can, with Christ, turn my story around and get back on track living out God’s will for my life. What a relief and a thrill!
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10 NLT
“…our flesh wants to blame – blame – blame, our minds want to worry – worry – worry, and our hearts want to hurt – hurt – hurt. But if we are holding onto that hurt, worry, and blame with both hands clenched, then we won’t have any hands left to grab on to the peace that God places within our reach.” (pg. 32)
“Despite what our society wants us to believe, and regardless of the troubles of this world, God’s normal is always serenity, and his normal can be our normal, too.” (pg. 33)