Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cause Our Faith to Rise

Has you faith been sinking? Mine has.

Way back at the beginning of what I promised would be a series on the subject of situational anxiety in adoption I shared that when I finally screwed up the courage to ask my former social worker about the phenomena I and so many of my friends had experienced, she suggested it sounded typical of situational anxiety.

We're not in the process of adopting. But I have been feeling the ordinary-life form of situational anxiety.

There have been too many cliffhangers in the past few weeks for my sanity: when/whether the final pieces of my manuscript would come together; whether I could get the Dakota font functional on my computer (my Dakota iapi, Dakota words, in the MS were in English until last week because of a year-long technical headache); whether my co-editor's printer would recognize/print the Dakota font; whether there was a misunderstanding about 147 year old sources being out of copyright; whether the permissions my home research institution customarily writes would pass muster with my publisher.

And that was just on the professional front. On the home front we're in the middle of an FASD eval. for Hope and the requested growth records have been challenging to produce; we're 10 days out from Joy's surgery and she's had two fevers in the past two weeks; Katie turned 11 today (only stressful because, imagining I'd be done with the MS a month ago, I had okayed an elaborate 24-hour sleepover & waterpark adventure with her best friends from her former private school); and I promised friends a conclusion to a series on situational anxiety in adoption, but have been too busy putting out other fires to sit down and write.

However, God is good. By this afternoon, 22 hours into the 24 hour sleepover marathon, He let me see why I was feeling frazzled: a few weeks' worth of sequential situational anxiety crises. And because I've been drafting the posts for the end of this series in my head, I had an arsenal of coping strategies mentally at hand. So, having just tested a bunch of them on myself in real life today, here's what helped me.

First I thanked God for giving me previous experience with SAA and the opportunity to start a series on it, because in the process, I've been refining insights into how my emotional life is wired. So I recognized it when I finally saw it.

Second, I took a caffine tablet to clear the stress-hormone fuzz from my brain and help me focus on the tasks at hand. The box says it is the same amount of caffine as in a cup of coffee. I wouldn't know because I don't drink it. But for me, it is much more effective than a large Coke and some good dark chocolate --with the plus of being calorie-free :). The extra bonus was the chuckle produced by the warning bolded on the box: "Not to be used as a substitute for sleep."

Third, I sat down at my computer, opened this post and articulated the reasons I was feeling overwhelmed (above). Writing gives me some persepective. When I see it in print, I have a little more empathy because it is obvious that there are concrete reasons I am feeling humanly overwhelmed.

Fourth, I consciously recited God's faithfulness.  I went down my list of stressors and articulated each outcome. I saw that He resolved every single crisis --met very need --on time. Not necessarily on my time. Not necessarily in the way I imagined. But before every deadline, He diverted the potential calamity. In fact, He delivered the MS to my editor five days ahead of the absolute deadline. (Silly me: under my plan it was supposed to be in four weeks ago!)

Know what that does to buck up my faith in myself and my ability to accomplish what I set out to do? Exactly nothing. In fact, the opposite: it reminds me I can do nothing. That, I believe, is exactly what God intended: to slash my pride and remind me that any gifts I've been given come from Him and only go as far as He has determined they should go. I was powerless to accomplish 95% of what needed to happen these past few weeks. That feeling of powerlessness was at the root of my anxiety. But instead of refocussing my attention on God's all-sufficiency and allowing my heart to lay hold of the peace that brings, I let myself get emotionally hung up worrying about how I would accomplish the impossible.

Know what that does for the two looming issues on the list that are not yet resolved? It affirms that I cannot cope and gives me great confidence that God will take care of those unknows, too.

Fifth, I'm  going to take melatonin when I go to bed tonight so I can get a solid night's sleep. This isn't a lack of faith on my part. Rather, it recognizes that levels of anxiety I've been experiencing have biochemical consequences and there's some biological equilibrium that needs to be restored. I believe God designed restful sleep to do just that.

Sixth, I am rejecting the temptation to disregard the injunction,"Neglect not the assembling of yourselves together." My husband and I are again entering a phase where we'll be taking turns staying home with Joy on Sunday mornings  until God brings us through the surgery and and out of her body cast, hopefully just in time for Easter Sunday. My husband has agreed to  take the first turn home tomorrow because my soul needs to feed on sweet morsels of truth like this one from worship two weeks ago (the last time I was there):
Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
Your magestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail --
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of your plans for us:
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down for eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on your promises.
And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, OLord, till your church is built,
And the earth is filled with Your glory.*

God is so faithful. Sing a prayer like that from your heart, rooted in scripture, framing exegestical exhortation to will God's will  (John 7:17) , and God will accomplish it. Even if it takes weeks like these past two to bring it to pass.

*"Speak, O Lord" by Stuart Towsend, updated by Keith Getty. Copyright 2005 ThankYou Music.

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