How I am making it through

Confession: I didn’t know for a while if I was going to make it. But I am. Each day I am stronger, by the matchless mercy of Jesus. Some of you have been through deeper waters with less noise, and my hat is off to you.

I’d like to share a few of the things that are helping me walk with Him toward healing, but I want to be clear that any beauty or goodness in this story is entirely because of Him. For some reason this post feels really selfish to me; please forgive.

  1. Buying a treadmill

You thought it was going to be something otherworldly, didn’t you? But I needed something physical to do with the anger. I’ve always hated working out; I don’t like sweating; I never experienced the good euphoria of exercise; I just felt whupped and red-faced and futile.

Fresh air has been good therapy for me. But when you live on a steep hill in the middle of northwestern Pennsylvania’s winters, without sidewalks, with slush and delivery trucks and curving roads and no great visibility… you sometimes need an indoor option.

Alternately walking and running on a treadmill has given me a good sense of power over my own body and my time. I can pick the speed, the distance, the calories burned. I can stop any minute, when a child needs me or when I wear out. I’m right at home, still on call. The wonderful thing about pre-scheduled exercise is that you don’t have to want to do it, you don’t even have to believe in it, you just have to do it. (Which is excellent life training just now.) And I feel exercise endorphins for the first time in my whole life. YAY!

Update: I was going to include an affiliate link in case you want to hear my endorsement on WHAT treadmill. But I forgot. This XTERRA model has been working beautifully for us, and costs less than most.

  1. Talking with a mentor every week

The woman who mentors me, Irene, has known me since I was a teenager. About eight years ago, I started meeting with her once a month to talk about life and struggles. Since then, there have been seasons where we went months without talking, but other seasons where we’ve met often. She is there when I say Can we get together to talk?

Around November and December of last year, when the hard things in my life hit, I knew I needed to be meeting often with someone. I asked Irene if we could talk every week through the winter, at least.

I don’t want to be melodramatic, but there are few things as life-changing as regularly dumping your junk to a safe person, who will listen well, ask good questions, and pray for you. It has changed my perspective and my life.

Later this week, I’d like to offer some thoughts on a question I’ve been asked. “So how do you go about finding a mentor?” It’s a good question. Let’s talk.

  1. Rearranging my furniture

Despite trying to get comfortable with resting in the Lord, I will go mad if I do nothing. So I’ve sewed a few dresses, gotten together with friends, babysat, and (best of all) reorganized spaces in my house. It’s the best feeling: being able to control a few things in this messy world, and to make something beautiful at a time when my creativity is at a low ebb.

  1. Receiving support

I could write a whole post on Ways to Support a Family in Distress, because we’ve been given so much by our family and community. In fact I will do it. Enough said. They have been amazing, in the middle of grief and joy and needs of their own.

  1. Talking to God when I don’t feel like it

There’s a bit of a wall there, in my heart. But sometimes I make myself talk anyway. It’s easier when I’m doing something physically active – see point 1.

I just say things. It’s not very organized prayer, but I speak the names of the people who come to mind, and I talk about what I feel. I try to say both sides to God: what I feel about Him, and what I know to be true.

Jen Miller. The Wengerd family. My brother. Alma. The Lost Boys. I have no idea what you’re doing in my life and I’m angry about that and I don’t know if you’re going to take care of my kids because you don’t always protect the people you love. But I know that you are up to something in this story and I know that you are good and trustworthy and I am going to keep walking forward in faith that you have a plan. I wish I could see you.

I hope I will find more things, too. But that is what I know to do for now. What are your coping secrets?

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Regina S
4 years ago

You have some good coping methods. I recently wrote a blog post on rest and I find myself often needing to go read what I wrote. We have a stationary bike that is good for me to work off my stress. We don’t have sidewalks either on my road. We had a huge snowstorm last week so our road was covered with snow. Plus our road in not maintained by our town so no snowplow.
I’m getting back into crocheting again and coloring books as more ways of relieving stress. One of my favorites is a Psalms coloring I bought at the supermarket.
Shari, I think of you often and please know I’ve been praying.

4 years ago

Thanks for sharing, Shari… I’m on a journey too… we’ve fostered, we’ve adopted, and we currently have a son at Camp as well… among other BIG things.. Having a mentor friend is a huge blessing in sorting all the pieces! Another lifechanging discipline i’ve learned through a Hope for Wounded Hearts retreat is this… Find your quiet spot. Come before Jesus and consciously lay aside everything…seperate yourself from it.. and wait. Listen. It’s made the biggest difference in being able to respond to life vs reacting. In the midst of escalation, or whirling thots, to just find that quiet spot. Journalling helps me cope too. Another thing we are doing while son is at camp is taking time as a couple to meet with a family therapist about 2x a month. It’s been helpful to see the big picture and the impact it had on our entire family. My heart connects to your blog, Shari, and i find myself lifting you all up to God as you journey on.
God bless your day,

4 years ago

Once, there were so many things bothering me in my thoughts and they didn’t want to go away. Then I remembered the verse where Jesus says we should throw our worries on him(I don’t know, if the English Bible expresses it the same way). So each time such a thought came to me I imagined throwing it on him. This really helped me.

Edna Yoder
4 years ago

Yesterday we said goodbye to two little girls who were placed with my daughter over the weekend, and who grabbed at our hearts and will be on our minds and in our prayers always. The situation they came from was heartbreaking, and the situation they went to was probably not good, although we try to hope. Sunday evening at hymn singing we sang, “Can you count the many children in their little beds at night…” and tears seeped from the broken places in my heart as I recited the names that have become dear to us. “Their angels do always behold the face of the Father…”
Thank you for the hope in your post this morning. I am already waiting on your promised post about how to find a mentor.

Danette Martin
4 years ago

Thank you for sharing your ways of coping. They are wonderful. I could so relate to your style of praying, and that line about wishing to see God?
That has been my thought a lot lately.
One of my coping secrets has been to keep a gratitude journal, wherein I write 3 or so items – one per line – almost daily. Today’s entry might go like this: 1. Fluffball of a chickadee hammering on a seed at the edge of birdfeeder 2. God’s Everlasting Arms to hold up the Gingerich family when they mourn the loss of Ian 3. How many times I read Shari Z’s blog and think, “Exactly!”
Journaling isn’t for everyone, but being intentional about seeking out and articulating everyday things/moments for which to be grateful has been tremendously healing for me.

4 years ago

One time our pastor pointed out that when we are distressed about life it is helpful to wake up and think, “what is God’s will for me today?” then, to proceed with that. It has helped me through many a hard time! That, and running my anger out on the treadmill. And, yes….talking my scrambled thoughts to God…praying for you!

4 years ago

I’m proud of you for putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing even when it feels very hard.

4 years ago

Well, I understand why this post seems selfish to you, but it is comforting to me see that I’m not the only one who can be well-clothed, well-fed, relatively healthy, and still feel like life is too hard to bear. Your coping strategies are also helpful to me.

One of the things that has been helping me cope is attending formal, liturgical, church services. It is quieting to me to simply be still and hear the words of Scripture and the prayers and hymns written centuries ago. When my own words are shriveled up somewhere deep in my soul, I can repeat the words that others have written for me.

Another thing that helps me a lot is making lists and crossing things off. Accomplishing a specific item, however small, keeps every day from seeming the same as the one before and the one after. And that makes it feel like these hard times are a time in my life rather than the whole of my life.

Oh, and another thing– and I’m still trying to figure out why this helps me– but I occasionally spend time at a place where I meet a lot of low-income people who are in crisis situations, and somehow as I try to speak words of sympathy and courage to them, my own courage is slowly revived.

4 years ago
Reply to  Unnamed

Yes to liturgy! I went to the Ash Wednesday service at our local Methodist Church last week. It was like coming out of a dark tunnel into light so bright that it hurt my eyes. God’s presence was so intense and beautiful. It was very healing for me.

Rachel J Shenk
4 years ago

This…”I have no idea what you’re doing in my life and I’m angry about that and I don’t know if you’re going to take care of my kids because you don’t always protect the people you love.” I have been so HERE! (I am supposed to believe the same God for protection for my boys {running skidloaders and tractors at ages 7 and 9} when He decided it was time to take my brother at 19 years old!) Cynical and begrudgingly yielded…”yes I know you’re GOOD, but that doesnt mean you wont nearly kill me in the process. And I feel fairly grumpy about that!” A recent message by TD Jakes (if you can get podcasts, just find the 29 min version) called “Ambidextrous God” helped to set things in place in my head. We expect to be rescued by His right arm, but we dont see what He’s up to with His left arm! So so good.
Jim and I keep telling each other throughout the last very difficult year “get your head right”. When you dont see His deliverance or His rescue or even feel His love, just stubbornly stare at the rock solid truth of who He is. But You SAID You will redeem and repay and bless. I choose to believe it because You CANNOT lie. Therefore, my perspective must only be too narrow, too veiled to see what You’re up to.
Chin up girlfriend! There is more strength inside than you’ve known.

Shari Horst
4 years ago

I’m looking forward to your post on how to find a mentor. I think we all need someone to just listen to us and give us encouragement along the way. I would also love to hear your thoughts on how to be a good mentor.

Rachel Habegger
4 years ago

Could you also do a how-to post on convincing a husband that a treadmill is a good idea? ??

4 years ago

I gobbled up this post in hopes of finding some new ideas. I’m doing many of these, except that I got a stationery bike instead of a treadmill. But it meets the same purpose, I think, though I wouldn’t say I’m angry, just, I don’t know, weary? I don’t usually feel like I have the time to ride, but I’m always glad when I take the time.

Looking forward to more posts on this subject. You might convince me that I need a formal mentor.

4 years ago

Yes! Talking to God (yelling and listening, intermittently) during a brisk walk has done wonders for me in my darkness. I have found Him to be very gentle with me and that is humbling because it is easy to blame Someone big and powerful and all-knowing for the pain. A question back to you is this: Does God always get His way? At every accident scene, in every ultrasound room, in every court hearing does God always get what He wants?

Twila Smucker
4 years ago

One huge help in me coping with the deaths of 3 of our parents in 10 days time was working with flowers…the quiet and warmth of the green house, the beauty of bouquets, growing flowers that remind me that God is indeed GOOD even when we cannot understand why He allows what He does.

4 years ago

Good stuff here. Music has been key for me…I listen to a lot of it, and sometimes just stop and weep as a truth hits my heart. I also try to imagine myself in my Heavenly Father’s arms holding me through the hard times. When I’m having a tough day I will just kneel at my recliner and imagine myself curled up in his arms…it may seem elementary, but I’ve experienced some real comfort and healing in those times. Forcing myself to praise Him through the tears has been miraculous, albeit very hard..

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