Be Still: Lessons from My 30s
Tattoos tell a story. That's why I've grown to love them, which is quite an evolution for me. As I crept closer to the end of my 30s, I realized that I wanted my tattoo to symbolize what I'd learned in this decade. That's when it came to me:
My 30s began in a blur of busy. As a wife, a mom, a teacher, I tried to juggle all of the balls--all too precious to drop.
something to do
somewhere to go
someone to take care of.
Toys to pick up
Papers to grade
Meals to prepare
Clothes to wash
Lessons to plan.
By the time I was 32, I had everything that I ever wanted--my perfect life that I dreamed about in my 20s:
Two beautiful daughters
Perfectly decorated house.
But there was a nagging at the center of my soul. Shouldn't it feel better than this? I am happy but not content. (I think there's a difference.)
My breaking point came in 2007--after Peyton was born, and ironically--when I was Barbie's English teacher. Looking back on that difficult time, I realize that I should have gone on medication for my anxiety, but I was ashamed: I had everything that I ever dreamed of, and I didn't feel peace.
Something had to change.
I began writing in a journal again, a habit that I abandoned in my early 20s.
I started taking online classes for librarian certification.
I changed jobs--leaving the high school classroom to became an elementary librarian.
(Notice that I was focused on what I could do to change my situation...)
I have been a Christian for most of my life but not a true FOLLOWER of Jesus. Up until my mid-30s, I drove the bus: I had MY PLAN for life; all God had to do was get on board and go along for the ride. I've got this, God, was my mantra (and it still is sometimes; the struggle is REAL and never-ending). I prayed all the time, but my prayers were more of a "wish list" for God, my Genie in the sky: take care of my needs, my people, my stuff.
But somewhere in that difficult season of my life, my prayers started to change. I kept praying. "God, I can't do this. Help me."
Rather than constantly chattering to God about my plan, my needs, my agenda, I started to listen. Really listen for God's voice. His guidance.
And that required stillness--
Of my body,
Of my mind,
Of my soul.
I suck at stillness.
But I waited.
It was uncomfortable--painful at times.
And it took forever.
But I finally heard His voice:
"Yes, God. That's what I'm doing! Don't you see that?! What do you want me to DO?"
It came again, "Be STILL."
I dabbled in stillness in my mid-30s. It did not come naturally and took effort, but the more I allowed myself to be still with my own thoughts and listen for the voice of God, the more I yearned for quiet; it became something I craved.
In 2011, in the midst of my stillness, God whispered these crazy words to me, "Invite Barbie to move in with your family."
Most of you know our story. When it became apparent that Barbie needed a safe place to live, God put His hands on my face, creating blinders.
He stilled my anxious mind.
He stilled my questions.
He stilled my doubt.
He said, "Do this one thing. Bring Barbie into your home. Then BE STILL, and I'll take care of the rest."
This was not in my plan--to have an 18 year old become part of our family. But I could not ignore this command and the comfort that came after it.
I will be the first to tell you that this journey with Barbie has not always been easy, but nothing ever is. But when it gets hard and we hit bumps and roadblocks, I always go back to His command:
That God keeps His promises.
This is why I got BE STILL tattooed on my left wrist last Saturday night. It's in Barbie's handwriting because I've learned that when I am still and trust God to lead, beautiful blessings come.
If I followed my own path--if I allowed anxiety (and FEAR--oh, that Evil Fear) to lead me like I often do--then Barbie would not be a part of our family. That's why this tattoo is so important to me: it will be a permanent reminder of the blessings that come from stillness--from following God's plan and not my own.
This whisper from God continues to change my life.
I do not want this to sound like a "pray harder" remedy for anxiety. I think this is a dangerous message that circulates our Christian culture. I still struggle with anxiety, and I've found ways to cope--writing, exercise, stillness. But if it ever gets to that point again--that breaking point--when I feel like I'm going to crawl out of my skin, then I will pick up the phone and call a doctor. There is no reason to suffer, and I hate the stigma that is placed on medical treatment for anxiety and depression. Strong people ask for help. Weakness comes in thinking we can do it all--that's another lesson from my 30s: we can NEVER do it all; it's exhausting and futile to try.
Now I'm looking at you, 40. And you don't scare me one bit. In fact, I am glad that you are finally here.
I don't dread this next decade;
I say BRING. IT.
I am comfortable in my own skin;
I find contentment in stillness.
I will not cower at the thought of aging;
I know that the best is yet to come.
I have so much to learn,
which will inspire my next tattoo. (Just kidding! Maybe...)
So, hello, 40! And thank you, God, for the blessing of another year--a new decade.
I will BE STILL...You lead the way.