Jumble-laya Brain is the term I whisked together this morning, a crazy descriptor for my diagnosis du jour. It’s something like jambalaya, I suppose, but considerably less fun without the sizzling Cajun sausage and shrimp. It’s my own term for the tangle of worries cascading through my cerebrosphere, the iCloud of my own making that makes me want to snarf carbs and watch YouTubes ad nauseam. Suddenly my to-do list is fraught with minefields of despair and anxiety and frustration. Today was to be one more day of “doing the next thing,” but this day the doing just doesn’t get done. Jumble-laya Brain leaves me scattered and listless, lacking gumption, resolve and brain cells sufficient to get ‘er done.
Today I’m thankful to have found two antidotes for my load of woe, two practices I claim and name and offer here if ever comes a day when Jumble-laya Brain threatens to upset your applecart of good deeds and demeanor.
1. The first snap-out-of-it serum was a Psalm—51 was next in line for me—read and re-read in a half-hour of well-caffeinated silence. David’s words reminded me of the God I seek, His unfailing love and great compassion. It encouraged me to take my worries and woes to Him, to submit all that’s less than and broken and messed up within me and ask Him to blot out, wash away and cleanse. The progression of the Psalm leads, remarkably, on toward joy and gladness, crushed bones rejoicing, a steadfast spirit renewed. I was doubtful and read it again, then again, until gradually David’s prayer became my own, “Grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”
I note the double space in my Bible between that verse and the next and I’m learning, too, to wait for the resolve that David claimed, the Light that comes wafting through the fog as Jumble-laya lifts.
“Then I will….,” David writes, as his strength is renewed, his purpose again made clear. David declares praise and goes forward. Most days, I can, too.
2. The second step of the recovery I require at least daily includes a mental roll call of our past and current guests at Lawrence Family Promise. In doing so, it occurs to me that I can occasionally languish in a trackless, traction-less train of thought, I can spend a day capsized in my little ocean of non-performance and self-pity and know that once I get my act together the stage will likely still be set for the show to go on. I’ll still be housed and fed and known and loved. There’s grace sufficient in my circle, in my home, in my life, for an off-day. There’s help, if I need it, if I’m smart and brave enough to ask. I usually come through those lead-aproned days okay. Tomorrow dawns and I’m thankful and most often, renewed.
However, as I think of the stories I know of our guests’ lives, I realize that for many of them, the luxury of malaise, the safety net for occasional sloth, just simply isn’t available.
The IEDs of despair and anxiety and frustration in the lives of our guests and their families are starkly real and catastrophic in their potential. The doing that needs done for the moms and dads in our program is gargantuan in scale, rightfully urgent and critically necessary. Court dates. Job troubles. Custody battles. Child support. Mental and physical health challenges. Lack of transportation. Mountains of debt. A load of doubt. And sometimes, on top of it all, a dark and unshakable down-and-out frame of mind.
Yet, again and again, they pull it together. Motivated by faith and resolve, helped by a community full of resources and our organization’s loving and skilled staff, they press on and make progress. They heal from grievous wounds. They love their children well and, many times, make a loving and joyful home in the midst of great hardship.
Their stories, their great spirits, give me strength and encourage me when I falter in my own clay feet.
There’s a hug from a kid with a new bedroom in a new house.
There’ s a smile from a mom who is positively victorious, having found a way to navigate from the day center to day care to work on time. A dad who had a good interview and thinks there’s a good chance. A teen girl with a grin that lights up the room, talking about a new kitchen she and mom just need to organize.
And there’s a Facebook post from a mom who has seen the hardest of days more often than I know. She writes, “I am so overwhelmed with joy I can’t even start to explain my feelings, but I can give flowers to the angels I have here on earth. So with everything I have in me, I love you all. Thank you for wanting to see me succeed.”
Thank you, LFP Family, for the way you all encourage me, cause me to look up and keep going even through the fog of Jumble-laya brain. The words of an old hymn come to mind come to mind:
I was sinking deep in sin
Far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within
Sinking to rise no more
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry
From the waters lifted me
Now safe am I
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me.