I started this year in dire need of a perspective shift.
I know you’re probably thinking, It’s January, lady. How could you possibly need a perspective shift? But, alas, the predicaments and conundrums of the previous year found a way to carry over into this one, despite how badly I wished for them to fall off a cliff. So there I was, top of the year, in need of a perspective shift.
By nature of being a detail-oriented person, I absorb even the most subtle of subtleties. This comes in handy if there’s a goal that needs to be accomplished, sarcasm that needs to be picked up on, or a closet that needs organizing. But when it comes to dealing with the details of my life, sometimes it’s operation overload; I have a hard time zooming out.
I often get wrapped up in the little things. What someone said, what I said to someone, how I feel or how I should be feeling. I zoom so far in that, at times, I even contemplate my comments on IG, wondering if my humor comes off right, or if the caption I used can be misconstrued. Petty, but true.
There are a thousand details that go into each day, and I seem to see each one vividly. If I’m not careful, I get sucked in. Awareness turns into anxiety, worry, or fret. Often about things that don’t deserve a second thought.
I know we are not meant to be anxious or worried, and yet, sometimes I just am. It helps to pray, or to talk to a trusted friend (preferably the ones who remind you to pray), but there are moments that try as I might, my anxious thoughts resurface.
With that said, there are situations, and certain people, that have this uncanny ability to yank me to the present moment. When I am in those places or with those people, they have my attention and there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Times like when I’m surrounded by my family in Michigan, hanging in the sunroom of my aunt and uncle’s lake house, sipping coffee and looking out at the trees.
Or when I’m babysitting a newborn, holding him in my arms and watching him as he shuffles positions and gazes intently at whatever is in his view. Or sitting in the car talking endlessly with someone I love and we altogether forget about time, space, and relativity. Sunrises. Belly laughs. When it starts to rain. A favorite face.
Reflecting on those moments, so perfect in their simplicity, brings me joy.
What I’ve learned, not just in my own life, but by watching others, is that the more wrapped up I am in myself and my own problems, the more that feeling of restlessness sets in. Worrying, if I let it, seems to transcend my thoughts and pollute my environment, dimming the light around me.
Exchanging bleak thoughts for ones of gratitude lessens the weight of the perceived burden. As much as I’m aware, I try consistently to replace thoughts of lack with their soluble counterpart. I wish I was making more money becomes thank God I have enough to meet my needs. I feel lonely turns into how lucky am I to have the relationships I do?
The truth is that no matter what our situation, we have so much to be thankful for. We need only to look for the good.
I don’t know if a tendency to worry is hereditary. I’m sure to an extent it is. I can’t help but wonder, however, if we’re a product of our environment as well. In fact, I suspect the whole world is more susceptible to anxiousness than we’ve ever been. With the mere touch of fingertips, news of perilous proportions is fired off around the globe, infiltrating our minds and inboxes instantaneously. As desensitized as we are, we still absorb a lot. More than we realize, I’d wager.
As someone who cares more than she should about most things, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. From learning about the fire in the South Korean hospital to hearing about the flooding in Paris, my heart aches for the lives affected. I learned a long time ago when I visited Haiti that we have a responsibility to care about people, whether they are halfway across the world or in our backyard.
Some of us have been born into more desirable circumstances than others, but we are all one. We all have the same basic needs and a desire to be loved and accepted. Which reminds me, that when I’m too zoomed in on myself, to adjust my focus to those around me.
The world is a big, beautiful place. Much more beautiful, in fact, if we get out of our heads long enough to notice it. That’s not to say that the problems you have are insignificant or that your feelings aren’t valid, you’ll just be doing yourself a favor by concentrating on those around you instead of harping on the things that only concern you.
Connect, in a genuine way, with someone who needs you. Serve others well. This can be taking time out of your day to have a conversation, visiting the elderly neighbor next door who doesn’t get a lot of company, putting the dishes down and playing with your kid for a change. The point is to be all there with whoever you’re with.
Listen actively, putting yourself in their shoes. Try to worry less about solving their problems and instead make sure they feel heard, understood. Set your agenda aside and love on them for no other reason than to love.
Remember to make time for joy. At the beginning of this year, in search of a new perspective, I made it a priority to hop on a plane and visit my friend Kaylie who I hadn’t seen for months. We both needed a break and decided to pile in the car and drive to the Grand Canyon.
If James Corden is the king of carpool karaoke, Kaylie is the queen. Belting out pop songs one after another sounds like something that would grow old very quickly, unless you are Kaylie and I, in which case it makes four hours pass like minutes.
All that to say, when we arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, we were both in great moods. We hopped out of the car, ready for adventure and rounded the corner towards the peak. Kaylie had seen the Grand Cayon before in all it’s splendor, I had not. I felt myself start to run before I even realized I wanted to, all the way to the edge which seemed to be beckoning me near.
Tears welled up in my eyes at the sight of it. If you’ve ever held your existence up in comparison to the vastness of the Grand Canyon, you know it pales. In that moment, I felt so small. All the concerns on my mind seemed to fade into the gradients, my only awareness being that I was standing on the edge of something I wanted to fully take in.
My heart was full. I wanted to carry that feeling with me long after I left, and I realized in order to do so I needed to bask in the awe of things more often, namely nature. Be it the waves lapping in the ocean, the view of the sun setting on a hike, or a hummingbird that is flaps it’s wings 70 times a second just to hover long enough to sip from a flower. There are miracles all around us if we’d just open our eyes.
Joy for me — of sheer joy sorts — more often than not includes nature. I think it’d serve me well to try to include more of it in my life.
Perhaps that’s because, when I’m in nature, I remember who created nature; who created me. The same God that tends so carefully to the wildflowers that will never be seen tends to us, and there is never a concern we could have that we could not hand over to Him. It’s not enough to just pray. We also have to give it to God and trust that He’s at work on our behalf.
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, or too caught up in the details, it helps to remember who is in control of it all. Not in a lofty way, and not in a way that makes us puppets, but in a tangible way that we can see, touch, and feel. We need only to remind ourselves of the way God has walked with us all our lives to know that he continues to do so.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Don’t fret about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Ask God to search you, and know your heart; to test you and know your anxious thoughts. His yoke is easy, His burden is light.
We find rest when Christ displaces worry at the center of our lives. We can trust that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, and know that whatever we’re up against, we are not up against it alone.
Whenever I am feeling insecure about my future or too close to my problems to see a way out, I hope to remember to see myself the way God sees me. Called, chosen, beloved. Saved by grace. Purposed. Made to rest in Him.
Those battles you’re facing may seem like mountains, but from God’s perspective, they’re moveable. The wait that feels like an eternity will be a key part of your story. This moment, good or bad, is not forever.
So step back, get some fresh air, and enjoy what you can find to enjoy. Renew your thoughts with His thoughts of you. Fill yourself to the brim with gratitude for things that others would overlook, pour into someone who needs you, and move forward in faith knowing you are so very loved.
Because you are so very loved by the God of the universe who created you exactly as you are for such a time as this. If ever you feel too wrapped up in the details, take a few deep breaths and meditate on that thought. It’s as full-frame as our life perspective can get.