i won't go through the litany of what was wrong. if i told you the whole story, some of you would become immediately overwhelmed for me...and others of you might feel a little underwhelmed. "come on jody, that's not so bad...give me a break!" and you'd be right -- it's not that bad. but, that doesn't negate the fact that i fell asleep last night feeling overwhelmed and i woke this morning still heavily burdened. children can do that to you, can't they? is there anyone relating to this? i am not especially prone to worry -- but i worried. i am not always prone to exhaustion -- but i was exhausted. i am not even all that prone to frustration -- but, let me tell you, i was frustrated. it all felt like too much. all five of them with some kind of yucky something going on. and the time just before bed wasn't much better. like clockwork, the, "i-forgot-to-tell-you,-but-tomorrow-i-need..." began right about then. i was tempted to get a pad of paper and pencil and go from room to room with all the late night, last minute things they felt the need to dump on me: order this. sign this. read this. buy this. wash this. send this. check this. did i mention it is the first week of school?
yesterday, in one of my attempts to control the chaos and make it all better, i made a quick visit to our favorite new bakery in town and bought a tart. female readers, you understand this, right? i told myself it was a "celebrate everyone back to school" treat. i put it on a pedestal cake plate and gloried in its extravagant beauty. somewhere in the back of my mind i thought this tart was the ticket to making all things better -- all things new. it was going to fix everyone's day -- at least mine. some of the kids began to pick at it and once they started, i figured, i might as well join in. i needed a little help too. bite after bite, i was sure it was helping. bite after bite, i was certain i felt better. bite after bite, i was calming the chaos within. but we all know, eating nearly half a tart does not make everything better.
this morning i woke heavy with burden (probably a little heavy with tart too). i sat down to pour my heart out to someone --- i began to think about the friends or family members i might call. i really wanted to tell someone (anyone, actually) the gory details of yesterday afternoon. i wanted to invoke great, heaping amounts of sympathy. i really wanted that proverbial shoulder to cry on. but as i sat with my phone, thinking about who i should call first, i felt God clearly nudging me. "define overwhelmed, jody." that's (kind of) what i heard. define it. don't claim it just yet, but define it. and so, being the ever-ready english teacher, i dutifully pulled out my webster.
o ver whelm
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf.
2. To defeat completely and decisively.
3. To affect deeply in mind or emotion.
4. To present with an excessive amount.
5. To turn over; upset.
to surge over, submerge, engulf, defeat, affect deeply, despair, turn over, upset...really? is that really what i wanted to claim on this sunshiney september morning? am i truly engulfed or submerged or defeated? or are we just having some bumps in the road? we are, afterall, still in a time of great transition. things just aren't going to go perfectly smooth. and that lake out back, yeah, it helps, but it doesn't make everything better. beautiful sunrises and sunsets are awesome, but they don't erase a child who isn't feeling accepted or acclimated. how can we expect everyone to be hunky-dory when we aren't even sure how to find our locker or we forget our lunchbox? in these past two weeks we've had to adjust to new schools, new friends, new teachers, new routines, new directions, new leadership, new rules, new dress code, pretty much new everything (and, i must add, all without the comfort of a chic-fil-a!)...and in the weeks before that we were adjusting (and still are adjusting) to a new house, new community, new state, new culture...if you asked any of us, we'd all tell you, we are a little tired of the new...tired of being new. remember the theme song from cheers, "sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..." we mcnatts, well, we get that. we just want to hold in our hands a little bit of what feels familiar. we just want to walk into a room and recognize the bits and pieces of life. some days the grand adventure can just wear a girl out!
let me give you an example from last month. it was our first day in the new house. we had spent the afternoon and evening moving stuff and getting settled. if you remember from previous posts, rick was in chicago that week, so it was just me and the fab five. after getting everyone situated, i knew i HAD TO head for the grocery store. it was the last thing in the world i felt like doing, but i just had to. the refrigerator was 100% empty, the cupboards bare, the children hungry. i dragged my tired self into the car and drove blurry-eyed to the nearest cub foods. but once in the store, i had renewed energy and began to toss items into my large cart. everything under the sun went in: family size ketchup bottles, mayo, pickles, canned goods, cereal boxes, bottles of water and what not. i just kept tossing and thinking, "might as well do it all..." and i did. after quite some time in the store, i headed to the checkout line pushing my cart teeming with all the essentials for setting up home for a family of seven. the young man began to ring up my groceries sending down the conveyor belt item after item. at the end, the pile was growing huge. he kept smiling at me. i kept smiling at him. he glanced at the pile. i glanced at the pile. he continued to ring groceries. i continued to stand there smiling and glancing and tapping my fingers. and then the horrifying thought occurred to me: THERE WAS NO ONE AROUND TO BAG UP MY GROCERIES. no one. not a soul. and the pile was quickly swelling from a mole hill to a massive mountain. did i mention we had moved into our house that day? did i mention how tired i was? i stood there realizing the obvious and overwhelming task at hand and began to consider just telling the young man, "forget it, just give me the milk and the bread and i'll come back tomorrow for the rest." i mean it, i really considered taking just the bare necessities and booking out of there. now, i have to tell you, normally, i would be just fine bagging my own groceries and carrying them out to my car. i really would. but for the past 14 years i have happened to shop in a store which did both for me. i was accustomed to this level of care. i was always willing to jump in and help out, but i had grown to expect a certain kind of service. heck, they even gave my kids a balloon and a lollipop back in georgia. i am not one who typically shirks a little hard work, but the difference was, i wasn't ready for this. i wasn't prepared. i wasn't expecting it. AND i was exhausted and alone and hardly 24 hours in a brand new state. i was overwhelmed.
but here's the deal: i don't want to be overwhelmed by groceries or a gruesome afternoon. if i let myself, i can be. easily. it doesn't take much to crumble in the midst of such mess and madness. and for at least a few minutes, it feels really good to collapse underneath the weight of it all -- to just let go and crash. it feels kind of good to whine and vent and seethe. again, anyone relating? BUT i don't really want that. i mean i do for a quick minute or two...but what i really want and what i really need is to be reminded in these moments of God's overwhelming love for me. i need to keep in mind that His great love covers, completely covers, all of these lousy issues and problems and disappointments. it can even cover and consume the despair. it is that big. bigger than that mountain of groceries in cub foods a few weeks ago, bigger than our current chaos level in this first week of school. His love is an enormous love, a crazy love. it is the kind of love which sent His only son to the cross for me and my petty issues. it is the kind of love which is everlasting and unconditional and perfect. yes perfect. nothing. no thing in this entire world is perfect...and yet, God's love is exactly that. perfect.
and here's what's more: He loves me in even in my state of being overwhelmed. He understands it. He knows all about it. all morning i have rolled around in my head that definition of overwhelmed and as i've gone about my tasks and attempted to make right some of the wrong, i can't help but think about the verse which, in my mind, aptly describes God's overwhelming love:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love.
Death can't, and life can't.
The angels can't, and the demons can't.
Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow,
and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away.
Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean,
nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us
from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
aren't those amazing words? God really does want us to be overwhelmed...He wants us to be overwhelmed by His great love. it is His overwhelming love which makes overwhelming life better...maybe even more beautiful. when we are feeling OVERwhelmed it might be time to go UNDER Him. UNDER the protection of His wings. UNDER the foot of His cross. UNDER the vast umbrella of His love.
...and a bite or two of tart can't hurt either!