Last week Mia Grace (our cute-as-a-button 2-year-old adopted daughter from China) and I were at her weekly Occupational Therapy appointment with “Miss Julie,” my new favorite person on the planet. Julie Ploetner runs PolkadOT Pediatric Therapy, and her office is pure heaven for Mia Grace. The minute she walks in the door, she heads straight for the rice pool (literally, a blown up plastic pool filled with rice and tiny plastic treasures of all shapes and sizes). She slips off her little shoes (sister wears a size 6-9 month shoe…her feet are TINY) and slips in the rice to play and pour and sift and sort to her heart’s content. After she’s had her fill of rice, she heads on over to a massive cushion with plastic frogs and turtles on top to see how many she can carry in her hands on her way down the massive “mountain” of fluff. It’s always good times in Miss Julie’s office. It’s amazing what spending time on pillows and swings and in rice tubs can do for one’s body and soul. I’m thinking adults should try it more often.
But as I sat there by Mia Grace, watching her sift rice through her little fingers, I was (very unconsciously) holding tightly onto a plastic necklace made up of stars and hearts. I would squeeze it with one hand, and then pass it to the other hand. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. All of a sudden, Miss Julie looked at me and said, “Is that comforting to you to hold on to that necklace? I’ve noticed each time you are in here you like to hold things in your hands. You must have a lot on your mind.” Wow. I’m pretty sure I looked at her like someone had caught me with my hand in a cookie jar.
“Well,” I said, “I’ve never thought about it.”
“But now that you say that, yes, in fact, it is very comforting. I always like to have something in my hands or I feel purposeless. Ungrounded and anxious about just sitting still.”
True confessions in PolkadOT Therapy. I considered right then and there if I needed to slip off my shoes and climb in the rice next to Mia Grace for a little therapy myself.
But Julie got me thinking, all week in fact. This time of year for moms can be downright stressful. Saying goodbye and finishing anything well always is. And saying goodbye to an entire school year with your kids takes a lot of time, focus, and energy. On top of that, the new season of summer looms on the horizon, and a blank slate stares at moms in the face, waiting to be filled in whatever way we think our family needs. No pressure.
But there is pressure. And that’s what Miss Julie picked up on. I often travel through life, especially this time of year, with a low level of continually burning stress. Through every appointment or conversation, I am present in body but my mind is running a million different directions sorting through every list on my desk and in my head. I constantly fight feeling behind or like I will never catch up. So at rare moments when I am just sitting, like I was doing during Mia Grace’s appointment, to focus my stress, to help my out-of-control feel more in-control, I hold things in my hands, or in this case, press the heck out of a plastic necklace.
There has got to be a place for our stress to go that doesn’t have anything to do with plastic necklaces or what we can control with our hands. I am learning, more and more, that I have got to leave things in God’s Hands, especially during times of the year when I am more prone to stress.
My husband, Jason, was teaching on Sunday morning about taking big risks for God. Taking risks to love other people well, to forgive when you don’t want to, to reach out and bless someone with a kind word…because people are dying all around us for a touch, for a word, and for us to be risk takers in this area of love and kindness in the Name of Jesus.
My tendency when the word “risk” is mentioned is to start thinking about risking all of our finances and giving everything away to the poor, risking all of my community and moving to India to share the Gospel, or risking my life and moving to the Middle East. But in the quiet of that moment in Sunday School, the Lord whispered to my heart, “What about risking all of your stress and putting it in My Hands? What if your greatest risk this week began with really trusting Me?”
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – I think God does want us to risk big things for His Name when it comes to our finances and our time and our very lives. But I think He wants us to start with risking our hearts and who we really choose to trust.
The words of Jeremiah 17 came to my mind, and I’ve been thinking on them all week: “Cursed is the one who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
So this week, when I’ve been tempted to press something with my hands, I’ve been working on pressing the words of Jeremiah 17 into my heart. I’ve been working on practicing the presence of the Lord and the presence of people He puts right in front of me by trusting Him with my lists, my time, and the plastic necklaces I hold in my hands.
I practiced it last night when we celebrated Jason’s birthday and the girls made him silly cards and wore silly hats.
I practiced it when we pulled out the dvd player and watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the middle of the week for a birthday treat instead of answering emails and checking more things off my to-do list.
I practiced it by going up to the friend I never see in the grocery store and talking for ten minutes instead of ducking my head and praying we didn’t catch eyes simply because I didn’t have time.
I practiced it when Lizzie asked me to slow down this morning and scratch her back instead of getting on with fixing breakfast.
I practiced it by letting the girls enjoy cake pops this morning as a “last day of homeschool” treat instead of doing our usual routine.
And I practiced it this morning with an open Bible in one hand and a pen and paper in the other, recording all the ways God has been faithful to us this year, even when I have been faithless.
And I’m going to continue to practice it throughout the days ahead by intentionally trusting the Lord, putting all things into His Hands, instead of holding them so tightly with mine.
This morning when I saw my friend Brandy and we were laughing about the craziness of the end of school, she said, “It’s a good thing this is our last week because they either need to shut school down or send me away. At this point in the year, those are the only two options!” Amen, sister. But until the last day of school, the last homework assignment, the last teacher gift, and the last packed lunch, let’s continue to encourage one another to keep our gaze on the One who holds us all together, even our plastic necklaces, with His Hands.