Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Choose Not to Stress

A friend asked, “Why aren’t you stressed out all the time? You do so much but you’re not stressed. So-and-so is always over the top, stressed out with stuff going on.”

My answer came quickly, “I choose not to be.”

My life isn't stressed because I choose not to stress. I choose to enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong – don’t think I’ve never had a stressful, this-has-got-to-be-done-now, I-can’t-handle-everything-that’s-going-on, I’m-going-to-explode kind of moment. I’ve had plenty of them. I used to have a lot of them.
Over the years, I’ve developed a few habits that help me avoid the I’m-going-to-kill-someone moments. I don’t know if the order that I learned them is significant but that’s how I’m going to present them to you —

Be flexible.

This has nothing to do with yoga, although that can be helpful, too. It has to do with a mindset.
I’m a natural plan-maker; I married a man who likes to fly by the seat of his pants. Fortunately, this worked out well in our marriage. Trust me; it could have gone the other way at times. By a few years into our marriage, he had learned life could have some advantages with a little pre-planning. I had learned every detail doesn’t have to be planned out ahead of time. Impromptu can be an adventure.
Sometimes plans are a good thing; plans get you cheaper tickets to a concert, insure you have a hotel to stay in while traveling, and provide a well-stocked pantry when staying home.
Sometimes, though, things don’t go as planned. Sometimes things come up for which we haven’t planned. Accept those things as part of life and deal with them as they do.
I have a friend who calls herself Gumby. She abandoned Plan A and Plan B long ago and now operates according to Plan Q. Years of raising a family as missionaries in a remote location taught her quickly that life doesn’t always go according to plan. We can’t possibly plan for every situation. However, life’s experiences taught her that God’s provision was always ahead of the game. He was there in every moment, waiting with exactly what she needed.

I’m not in control.

I don’t want to start a comment war about the good and bad of Rick Warren but years ago he wrote a phenomenally successful book called “The Purpose Driven Life.” I still remember the opening line – “It’s not about you.” The line changed my way of thinking; I’ve even used it many times in raising my children as the years have passed.
Not only do I not have to plan everything but I also don’t have to be in control of everything. Other people can do it sometimes. They might mess up. They might not do it like I would do it. All of that is OK.

Get away from the lists

This is my most recent step. I admit that sometimes I still crave a to-do list. Just a little one. Just to make sure everything gets done. Just to make sure I don’t forget anything. Just to see what I’ve accomplished today.
The prayer struggle that transpired as I let go of the lists was physically painful. I felt like the kid by the side of the pool whose dad was coaxing him to jump in. The kid wants to trust his dad but the fear etched on his face and flowing through his tears keeps him pinned to the side, unable to make the jump.
Here’s the deal, though. If I can’t plan for or be in control of every situation, then I can’t possibly make a list of what I intend to do each day. But God knows. He knows exactly what my day holds – He knows exactly what He wants me to do each day. Good grief, He knew He wanted me to type this article today before He created the Garden of Eden.
I start most days with prayer for God to show me what He’d like me to do that day. I’d like to tell you I pray every day but that wouldn’t be true. It’s a big trust thing for me. I also choose to view my day – however it goes – as how God intended. Good, bad, ugly, rewarding, messy, it doesn’t matter.
I could write about this one forever but I’ve already done so a few other times. You can read more at Trusting God For... and Getting the Work Done.

I heard K-Love DJ Amanda Carroll say on the radio one time, “A relationship with God isn’t like following an impossible to-do list. It’s like falling in love.” This obviously caught my attention because she not only mentioned life’s impossible to-do list but she connected it to one of my favorite songs, “More like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray. I love this song so much I had to write about it too when this blog first started.
And that’s the point… the whole God-thing isn’t about plans, control, and to-do lists. Those things lead to stress. Those things will never set us free.
The whole God-thing is about relationship – a relationship of faith, trust, and love.

Are you ready to make the choice not to stress? Which of these steps could you take to help you make that choice? Can you think of other steps? I'll be looking for your thoughts in the comment section.

This is the third in a series of articles on busy-ness, excuses, and choices. You can read the first two in the series at 

The Glorification of Busy - Part One
Make Choices, Not Excuses - Part Two

And continue on with the series at—

Choose to Enjoy Life
Choose to Serve God
Choose to Glorify God

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