How many times have you just said to yourself or to your girlfriends in conversation, “Well that's just the way life goes...” or "I just don't understand how I let that happen..." Or “I just learn to roll with the punches.” What about, “When I get my schedule organized...” “After I get that promotion...” I don't know how many times I said those things to myself as my plate began piling higher and higher with pleasing people, meeting deadlines, turning in papers for school, working extra shifts for someone else, apologizing profusely for missing school concerts, or canceling dates with my husband before I realized I wasn't living life intentionally. I was merely drifting in the ocean of busy-ness. I hadn't realized how overwhelmed, overworked, and unbalanced my life had become until certain armed authorities decided to put me in a much needed Time Out. I landed in a mental health hospital for a reprieve from the snow ball effect my schedule had on my life. I remember staring out the door listening to the administrator tell me about my options. I could either sign myself in willingly for a 48 hour stay; or she would use the state statute of 'Emergency Precautionary Care' and have the nice police officers escort me back into the building in handcuffs if I so much as set one foot outside the entrance. My stay would then be a mandatory 72 hours.
“Describe exactly what you mean by one foot,” I heard myself say as she handed me over the paperwork, glaring at me over my sarcastic responses. After being escorted to my lovely room of speckled linoleum, a twin sized hospital bed and bare furnishings, I dropped onto the bed and tried to ignore the voices screaming in my head about how badly I had dropped the ball.
“How did you miss the warning signs? What were you thinking? What is everyone going to think? How is Chris going to handle this? What about Cheyenne, how are you going to explain to your baby girl that you got grounded in the loony bin? What is the purpose of all this? How did I drift out of control?” (As you can tell, my mind races constantly.)
Women these days have so many choices. Between career, family, church, and the community, it's easy to get lost and pulled into a thousand directions. And that's what happened to me. I was too busy pleasing everyone with what was expected of a woman in this new millennium. I didn't hear that still small voice who loved me exactly as I was and had a clear cut purpose for me. Instead, I listened to voices that were telling me I ought to get a four year degree and climb the corporate ladder. I also was supposed to balance pouring every effort, moment, and experience into my daughter. Let's not forget that because I wanted a family that I also felt pressured to contribute to half the income. Then there was gaining ground in the community with volunteering time and skills I didn't have. And working in areas that were not my passion in my church because I wanted to be included, to feel as if I fit in. Before I knew it, one thing or another was being added to my daily list of to-do's that it was no surprise I fell flat on my face when I fell into a deep depression having lost myself in the daily madness of it all.
Overwhelmed, exhausted, worried, stressed, and utterly alone was how I felt at that moment and I came realized I had felt this way for more than four years. It was time for God to get my attention and because I tend to learn lessons the hard way, He took drastic measures!
My friend Tricia who is currently planning a women's retreat found just the right scripture for living life intentionally. Ephesians 5:17 says “ Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Be sure you understand what the Master wants.” God didn't say that I needed to get a degree, nor did he tell me I needed to be on every committee in the tri-city area. He also didn't tell me that I needed to make every moment a big moment with my child. Instead, He simply asked me to follow Him. We humans feel the need to make situations and life more complex for it to be meaningful. Somehow in the madness of it all, I left myself unprotected and lost all the armor needed to ward off the enemy's attacks, hence the lovely two night stay in a mental health hospital. I spent those two days realizing that in order not to have another mid life crisis, I needed to begin living life intentionally.
Upon arriving home, I set to work on focusing on where I felt I was called to be. I then looked at my schedule and saw what areas were causing stress and made all the calls needed to cancel out those activities and commitments. Finally, I laid my life in His hands and asked for the wisdom and guidance needed to chose His will, and His plans over mine. It was time to become intentional in knowing what the Master wanted. The next few months became sweeter with each passing moment after I chose to clarify each step in serving the Master. I woke up one day noticing that I was smiling and joyful. I had said goodbye to the working world, tossed out all time wasting activities, reduced my commitments and centered my schedule around my children and husband. I found that the more focused and intentional I became about each day, the less stress I had, and I discovered out new interesting aspects about myself.
As I transitioned into this new sense of self, I realized that the only thing that mattered was people. Relationships. Clean floors and laundry suddenly fell to the bottom of my list. I made sure I was taking care of three areas that helped me keep my focus and my sanity for that matter. Did I spend time with God today? Did I spend time with my children and husband? Did I reach out to a friend or two to stay connected outside of my family?
Maybe you were like me and you are in need of a time out. While I do suggest getting away from the demands and stresses of daily life, I don't recommend a suite in the hospital ward. In this day and age, it's so easy to lose our sense of self and be carried out into the current of busy-ness. Living intentionally for God with His goals in mind is a life long process. It's a step I recommend if you're feeling like your list of to-do's and schedule is a mile long with no end in sight. I invite you to come as you are and partner up with the Master. He will indeed guide you through.