What area of your life overwhelms you? For a long season, when I thought of caring for the physical needs of our home and family, waves of anxiety washed over me. So many tasks that were always undone. My to-do list was never crossed off and guilt attacked me.
To begin to step out of survival mode, we have to change our perspective. I began to look at my roles in life through the lens of serving, not just surviving. What has God called me to, in this moment, this day? I will focus on that by taking my eyes off the never-ending piles of work and move ahead. God never calls us to do anything without promising to give us the energy and ability to work out that calling.
What is survival?
It is scraping through, pushing ourselves to do the next thing, making decisions based on what will keep us alive and moving, then collapsing, completely spent, when we’ve finished doing that thing.
What is flourishing?
It is operating from a quiet and controlled spirit, choosing the best option over the easiest and having order and a plan, looking ahead with joy and vision. It is breathing in peacefully and liking your life. It’s being thankful and content while also pressing on to the next thing in faith. It’s believing the truth and walking in satisfying relationships with God and others.
It would be easy to write a blog or a book about the steps out of survival mode (God knows I’ve read them all), but this isn’t a simple journey.
It’s external in the doing of dishes every day and retraining yourself in basic habits of self-care and hygiene and decluttering the closet and writing the menus out or sitting down to clean out your email inbox. But it’s also internal, in the daily retraining your mind to think ahead, to choose gratitude, to make harder choices.
It’s physical, in the 5 minutes of core exercises to rebuild your strength that feels like barely enough to make a difference. But it’s also spiritual, in starting your day with 20 minutes with Jesus and a glass of water instead of hiding under the covers believing that catching a few more minutes of sleep will make your anxiety of facing a new day evaporate.
It’s solitary, found in a favorite pen and journal, processing the jumbled pains and joys of the heart, or taking a 30-second break of solitude from the kids or the coworkers to watch the rain and sip coffee for a moment. And it’s relational, committing to serve your loved ones and bring them happiness, and also pushing yourself out of isolation into the sunshine of friendship again.
It’s choosing real comfort over desperate escapism. Reading a book or sketching a picture instead of mindlessly scrolling social media. Taking a few minutes to stir fry veggies and chicken for lunch instead of eating a leftover corndog.
Choosing to sit with your raw emotion rather than numbing yourself when you’re scared of the pain, because you’re ready to start healing and feeling joy and laughter again.
It’s saying yes to the things you love, over and over again, expecting the good to replace the desperate gasping for air, sometimes for months before your feelings follow your actions.
It’s pulling out the weeds of discouragement, complaining, fear and lies over and over again and tilling the dirt so better things can grow.
Flourishing is not a place you arrive. It is a state of mind you have to learn to choose, combined with a plan of action to guide the moments of your day and the state of your home away from chaos toward peace.
Can I flourish with toys and socks and dishes and random messes covering my home while three children simultaneously beg for my attention? Some days perhaps. If my spirit is at peace and my mind knows the messes are 20 minutes away from being tamed. If my heart is tuned toward the Spirit of God’s voice and not the clamor in my brain or the fear in my heart.
Good things grow slowly. One choice at a time. We can take one thought prisoner today and replace it with a grounding truth. We can make one practical goal for the week or month and focus on checking it off every day. And we step one step closer to flourishing.