Have you ever tried wrestling with a grizzly bear? A tiger? How about a lion? Basically, I wonder if, like me, you have ever wrestled with something that is larger, bigger, and honestly, seems stronger than yourself?
Learning to live with the stress disorder adrenal fatigue and it’s chronic nature has had its fair share of challenges. Simply put, I have found that refocusing my life while managing daily stress is often like wrestling with a grizzly bear. As difficult as it has been, I have found some silver-lining within the challenge. I have found parameters, techniques, benefits, and blessing within the struggle of living with a weakened adrenal system.
Truly, it is a challenge to find healthy boundaries in the role of motherhood and ministry leadership. The struggle with selfishness versus adequate self-care is a real one for me. I wrestle daily with guilt that stems from an unhealthy perspective around the selfishness of self-care. To find healing, however, I have innately known that gaining a healthier perspective on proper self-care is paramount. In my journey, I began to intentionally take hold of the truth that God encourages us to seek Him in the care for our spirit, mind, body, and soul. I have realized it is a lie to believe that He desires us to push ourselves to the point of burn out, even when in service to Him. After all, He created the Sabbath within creation and the forming of the world. He actively calls His people to rest in Him daily, while abiding in Him in a Sabbath weekly. Truth has begun to over-shadow the lie and I have stepped into a season of rediscovery of myself, thus loving myself well while living in balance in service to God.
In my journey, I have looked to the Bible. I have prayed His Word daily. I have asked for His guidance in finding boundaries. Yearning to find boundaries that are pleasing to Him, I also yearn to better understand all of who He created me to be. As I have prayed and listened, I have begun to see where in life my yes should be yes, and my no should be a firm no. My eyes have been opened to where I need to pull back, and how He has been asking me to trust Him more in complete dependence.
Ultimately, I began to see the areas of my life where I needed to make sacrifices for the sole sake of healing. Through this journey, there have been areas of beloved leadership that I have surrendered for a season. I have had to accept, and stop denying, that my passion for long distance running would need to be sacrificed. A reawakening of my mind was necessary for embracing how exercise needed to be modified, less strenuous, thus allowing for complete healing of my adrenal system. In and through it all, God, in His graciousness, came alongside, reminding me of long-since forgotten passions. In His perfect love, He helped me to overcome the fear of the unknown and all that threatened to overwhelm me. He tenderly reminded me of who He created me to be.
Writing, painting, and photography were all hobbies God brought to mind and heart. I soon began to intentionally carve and create more time for these stress-management outlets. Purposefully carving out time for these activities brought joy. It also brought joy to my family. It proved to bring us closer together in relationship, especially when they were invited to be a part of various creative projects. What a blessing to have this time together! What joy to find understanding and freedom from the shackle of guilt as selfless love was poured out to my family, and ultimately to God. All of this became a beautiful act of worship.
I daily pray for the ability to hear His still small voice, along with prayers for courage to obey when and where He is calling me to be the hands and feet in service to Him. With His guidance, wisdom, and help, I have come to understand how He doesn’t need me to exhaust myself in providing meals for all those in our church who are hurting, mending, or hospitalized. He doesn’t need me to come alongside all who are downcast, emotionally broken, or struggling. He simply needs me to sit at His feet, trust Him to guide, and obey where He calls me to minister. Through His grace, I have been transformed in my ability to let go of guilt, accept the gift of grace He readily offers, and trust in His gifting and calling of each and every on of His children to fulfill the needs of this vast world.
Continuing on in this journey of understanding better where the pleasant boundaries in my life needed to fall; I began to understand that I also needed to appreciate the value of rest. When one’s adrenals are compromised, the sleep cycle often becomes broken. Light and inconsistent sleep can occur. As sleep loss becomes an increasingly consistent issue, it brings deterioration to other body systems. Ultimately, it leaves one feeling absolutely miserable.
Understanding the need for rest is crucial for healing, as well as maintaining good, overall, physical health. In this day and age when all things stream indefinitely and we have to fight for quiet, it is crucial to intentionally find time to shut-off, pull away, allowing our minds and body to rest.
What rest looked like in my life was giving myself permission to nap, striving for an earlier bedtime, as well as attending to the hardest issue: asking for help.
My husband graciously committed to a forty-hour work week, while our children respectfully followed-through with responsibilities and chores. Upon vocalizing my struggles within our church body, friends kindly signed up to provide meals for our family. In spite of our society and culture communicating otherwise, I have found understanding for the true need to consistently unplug from all that streams in order to remain healthy and strong.
Time and time again, I find myself reminded of a lesson shared between my beloved neighbor to my children. The lesson was simple: take time in life to stop and smell the roses. In this particular case, however, my neighbor exchanged roses for plumeria flowers, as that is what beautifully grew in his garden. Nevertheless, the message remains the same: savor life and daily living, find time to rest in the Lord, and rest your physical body. Life is too short to live in a constant state of frenzied madness.
Ultimately, this journey has been one I now embrace with gratefulness. While, no doubt, there were times of exhaustion and depression that threatened to overwhelm me, the truth is that I have experienced the sweet joy of God carrying me through each and every day. He has used adrenal fatigue to draw me even closer in relationship with Him. He reminds me of His presence and my need for Him daily, as I continually lean into His grace and strength to live life with healthy boundaries, quality rest, and mindfulness. Needless to say, I am equally forever grateful for those blessed opportunities to stop and smell the plumeria flowers.