a life as unmanageable as my hair
I will always remember a dear friend’s words. I had three little ones and so did she. Once, when I apologized for not calling her, she said, “That’s okay, Deb. We all know when you have a baby you disappear for about six months.” I loved her so much for knowing me like that. Better than I knew myself.
When I finally saw her again, in the course of our conversation she asked me, “So, Deb, what ARE you doing with your hair these days?” (Only the closest of friends can get away with this stuff.)
Maybe you’ve noticed? I haven’t returned your call or text . . . answered your email.
I’ve dropped off the face of the earth . . . and let my hair, apparently, go to seed.
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I’m not sure I could pinpoint the exact reason for my reclusiveness and coiffure neglect these days. But I know it has to with overwhelmed.
The kids are growing up fast. Our oldest will be a senior in high school this year. Every conversation is tainted with a bit of desperation. What have I missed? What do I need to teach you?
Add up the hours at work, the chores, the activities and appointments that come with four teens and preteens, hitting that age where I must eat right and exercise or I will gain 4 pounds a day, trying to write . . .
* * * * *
So, I’m reading the Psalms.
I love them because they remind me that the greatest king ever — renowned for being beloved by God — had powerful emotions. He wrote and sang about his misery, his joy, his anger . . . and his overwhelmedness.
Beautiful poetry. The best, really.
Lately I’ve been enamored with the phrase unfailing love. All the love I can muster is so weak. I fail at love.
Unending mercy. Lovingkindness. Over and over in the Psalms. A study of verses about God’s unfailing love brought me here:
O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.
O my Strength. A name for God.
Strength. I have none. He is.
* * * * *
I try to avoid the appearance of helplessness.
I hold my cards close. Measuring each play.
But overwhelmed forces my hand.
The whole mess — thrown down on the table for everyone to see.
And it forces me turn to The One who is Strength itself.
When I finally give in — admit my overwhelmed, confess my independence — prayer and quiet times grow longer. Morning prayers become vital. I draw my strength from His well. Reluctant to leave.
Lord, You ARE my Strength. I cannot do this thing you’ve set before me. Help me!
* * * * *
Overwhelmed is a feeling I know too well. Babies. A husband who struggled with addiction. Jobless. Homeless. Poor.
If I’m honest, my overwhelmed today doesn’t hold a candle to the past.
This overwhelmed is different.
Alongside the Psalms, I open familiar and well-worn books written by women who poured out their hearts on the page decades ago. Long before blogs made this laying down of our cards a thing.
Their words strengthened me in days of hopelessness and are still comfort today. The quotations are long and full of archaic phrases and words, but if you are overwhelmed, they are so worth the read:
His thoughts said, I can no longer.
His Father said, Thou canst. Thou canst do all things through Christ which strengtheneth thee. Is tribulation a new thing to any child of Mine? Shouldest thou expect to be without pressure, batterings, toil, tears, discouragements, disappointments, ingratitudes, obloquies? All my servants had these in abundant measure. Look and thou wilt see their footsteps in the dust of the road. But they had strong consolation and so hast thou. Not to be pitied, but happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.
Doth the burning sun distress thee? There shall be a shadow from the heat. Art thou beaten by the storm? There shall be a covert for thee from storm and from rain. Or is it that thou art too weary to know why thou art so weary? Then come to Me and I will refresh thee.
— Amy Carmichael, His Thoughts Said
When I speak of burdens I mean everything that troubles us, whether spiritual or temporal. . . The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own daily living, our frames and feelings, our especial weaknesses and temptations . . . these are the things that perplex and worry us more than anything else, and that bring us oftenest into bondage and darkness. . . You must hand yourself … over into the care and keeping of your God . . . He made you and therefore He understands you and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. Say to Him, “Here Lord, I abandon myself, and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but have always failed. Now I give it up to Thee.”
— Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life
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I got a haircut this week. A desperate attempt to manage the unmanageable. A fail. It was much easier to pull it back into a barrette.
I will never have perfect Nancy Drew hair. (You may not have noticed, but in the books, she always threw on her jeans, pulled a sweater over her head, ran a brush through it and was ready to go, looking amazing.) My crazy, out-of-control-in-this-humidity hair will always keep me from vanity.
And I am reminded that my overwhelmed, as much as I dislike it, breaks down my independence and pride.
Ah! This is the place of humility God wants for me.
To fold. To confess I can’t do this life on my own. It’s not in me.
I’m not self-sufficient. He is all-sufficient.
He is strength itself. He will give me strength.
Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.
“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3
— Celebrate Recovery, Principle One
What about you? Are you trying to manage the unmanageable on your own? Have you come to the end of your strength and found His? Leave a comment. Anonymously if you wish.
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord. You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong. Psalm 89:15 &17