Thursday, June 11, 2009

Managing stress without stressing

“I don’t know how you did it,” she said. “With everything you had going on, I never saw you stress out.”

My friend was referring to the biggest event of my life in the past few months – my daughter Amanda’s May wedding – planned and carried out in tandem with a full time teaching job, full time position on our church’s worship team, full time calling as wife and mother, and on-the-side writing career.

Wonder Woman I am not, but I had a strategy for stress that saw me through those busy days.

Begin before the beginning

It started with a plan. As a teacher, I’m a binder freak when it comes to organization, so creating a tab-divided binder for the wedding was cake.

As soon as groom-to-be-Brandon ringed Amanda’s finger in diamond and silver, I printed out full-page calendars for each of the next five months. On the calendars, I notated all major steps leading up to and including the wedding, such as, “Order Invitations,” “Bridal Shower,” “Meet Photographer,” etc.

Tab dividers for Flowers, Food, Rentals, Site, and other items helped me record information in easily retrievable fashion, and pockets on the front and back cover held every single receipt for every single penny spent. I can tell you exactly what it all cost, but I won’t. Let me just say, don’t be dismayed by the national average of what “experts” say a wedding should cost, because it doesn’t have to be even close to that.

However, this column isn’t about planning a wedding; it’s about not stressing under stress. Having a frame in which to work helped me keep mishaps to a minimum and, at the same time, see where I was going.

Balance - it's not an act

It’s easy to let something take priority in your life, especially if it’s a very important event. But there’s a critical difference between a priority and an important event. Our priorities are important, but not every important thing should be a priority.

Having a workbook let me see where I was headed, but keeping my priorities in line helped me keep my balance. And for me personally, a time of quiet and prayer every morning is a priority.

Not everyone is a morning person. Not everyone craves quiet as much as I. But I have identified quiet morning time with the Lord as a critical part of my day. It helps remind me that regardless of what is going on in my life, God is still in control. And I’m encouraged by learning of others in similar situations who let God work things out for the better.

Ever read in the Bible of the parent who invited party guests that didn’t show up? Or of the wedding in Canaan without enough wine? What about the great feast called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? By looking into all of these, I kept my balance by realizing that God cares about such events – even my daughter’s.


And finally, my escape. Immature? Irresponsible, you say? Childish to run away in the face of overwhelming responsibilities?

Absolutely not, if the escape takes you closer to the One who gives balance.

I am a fan of award-winning novelist Lauraine Snelling. She has written more than 50 books, fiction and nonfiction, but I am particularly fond of her historical novels dealing with the Red River Valley of Dakota Territory in the 19th century. Every evening after a day of teaching and an afternoon of shopping – whether on the web or at the mall – I retreated into a Lauraine Snelling story. For an hour or so, I escaped to the golden prairies of the north, the challenges of my favorite character, Ingeborg Bjorklund, the sites and smells of food prepared on a wood-burning stove, and her hard but simple life lived without electricity and television.

The books are not Snelling’s most recent releases, but they are dear to me for how they provided a critical mental escape during a stress-filled time. Amanda read them also, and we discussed plots and characters and surprises. I even gave her Ingeborg Bjorklund’s Red River Cookbook, and tucked it into the big crockery bowl I passed on to her at the bridal shower.

But it wasn’t just the escape to a different landscape and a different set of problems; it was how Snelling’s characters faced those problems, how the women in those books looked to the Lord in a matter-of-fact way for their strength and protection – their balance.

Mornings in the Lord’s presence with his word, and evenings relaxing with a Snelling novel gave me the mental and physical relief I needed to think clearly when it came time to pick up the binder. I was tempted to believe that I didn’t have time to spend praying and reading, but thank God, I didn’t fall for that lie this time.

As it turned out, I didn’t have time not to.

Learn more about Lauraine Snelling’s books at and

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