I was fine, until I tried to move. Then pain shot across my shoulders like a lightening bolt in a July thunderstorm. It feels like there is a bungie cord stretched just beyond it’s limit, holding my head and arms captive at risk of a sudden “POP!” followed by  a breaking of the cord,  that will send my arms in opposite directions and my head shooting up like a rock-em-sock em robot.

“Maybe, I slept wrong.”  (Sheesh, I’m a perfectionist even in sleep, now? Is there even a right way to sleep?”

“Maybe, I did too much yesterday.” ( I have no idea how what I do everyday could suddenly become too much..”)

As I wrapped my hands around the warm coffee cup and sank into the couch this morning- I realized the truth: I’m experiencing  Empathy Exhaustion. I’ve spent so much time thinking about how the kids, parents and teachers all feel- felt in the mess, agony an aftermath that is Sandy Hook, that my body is screaming a pain-filled response.  How do I know?

I recognize the signs…

  • I’ve caught myself clenching my jaw, almost non-stop. (TMJ- it’s my first line of defense stress symptom. It’s like my body tries to clench out the stress… FYI? It doesn’t work. Just hurts.)
  • There has been a stiff- tightness across my shoulders up my neck and into my head since last week. I thought it was the weather and my stupid spinal arthritis… (I am approximately 1.2 billion years old in dog years. At least- my body is…:P)
  • My stomach has alternated between… well.. let’s just say fits and starts…. for days.
  • I’ve had a low grade headache for days.

It’s not all from Sandy Hook. I’m not that compassionate. I’m selfish… and well- distracted and conflicted.  It’s also- the Christmas Crunch. The battle between stress and joy and time pressure and financial pressure and the struggle to keep my mind focused on the real meaning of Christmas… all rolled into a giant stress wad the size of Texas. Not to mention the almost constant “Breaking News” induced- mini panic attacks.

All of which creates tension. Tension that today- demands attention.

If I don’t manage this tension better- I’ll be good for nothing. Not my family. Not my friends. Not my todo list or those in Sandy Hook. (As if I actually can do anything to make their pain less…)

This morning- I waved goodbye to my youngest with less fear but more pain, than yesterday. The feeling of vulnerability and helplessness is toned down a few notches- reason and trust are speaking louder to my fear. However, my body is screaming for something…..(The cookies I gave it at 2:00 A.M. while tasty- didn’t do the trick.)

I think it needs a break. So, I called an audible. Instead of the wrapping and housework that my todo list demands- I’m going on what I call- a camera walk. (Confession- I’m a photography nut.It’s close to creating art as my fine-motor challenged self gets)  It’s a way that I can re-focus my eyes on world around me and find the beauty in the simple creation. It’s a way for me to connect with God.  A camera walk- just involves me- and my camera- taking a walk and taking a fresh look…. at the world and capturing what I find.

It’s amazing how your perspective can change with a macro or zoom lens attached…I’m also:

  • Turning off the TV. I don’t need to keep feeling that PLOP of my heart dropping every time “News” breaks…. (Funny how often the news is old……) I’m turning on music that fills my soul…
  • Putting away my laptop. Today, I don’t need to constantly check my “feeds” to see how friends are doing or responding… or not doing or not responding….(Being all judgey- judgey- can wear a girl OUT.)
  • Taking a long hot shower. Without rushing.
  • Spending time listening to God- not barking out orders and questions to Him….
  • Checking my lists and crossing things off that just. Don’t. Matter.
  • Making soup for dinner…. something warm and filling and comforting.

It feels kind of self indulgent to do this. It’s almost embarrassing to post such a frivolous list for the world to see. But here’s the thing- if I don’t do these things- my body will continue to rebel. It will get worse. I’ll end up curled up on the couch with an immobilizing migraine. I’ll end up at urgent care because the physical pain is crippling. I’ll end up snippy and snotty with my family because the tension I feel is snapping out where ever it can….

Not good.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. Today- I’m taking care of momma- so momma can take care of everything else.

Tomorrow- I’m joining in prayer with moms all over the world- to pray for the moms of Sandy Hook and every mom who’s struggling with the impact of the unthinkable becoming real.

Why? Because I’ve taken enough flights and [half] listened to flight attendants enough times- to know that before I can help someone else with their oxygen mask….. I need to properly adjust my own.  MOPS is a place that cares for moms. Every mom. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, afraid, in pain…..or just plain want to do something… anything to help the mothers of Sandy Hook….

Please join MOPS International- in a Moms’ call to prayer- tomorrow- Wednesday, December 19 at 9:45 Central time. I’ll be there.

Moms Call to Prayer- MOPS

So… what are you up to today? How are you feeling? Are you seeing any signs of stress in your body? Your mind? Your spirit? What are they?

How are you taking care of momma, so momma can take care of: everyone? I’m starting with prayer….

Dear Lord— my body hurts. My heart hurts. Honestly? I feel guilty for even expressing my need to take care of myself, when so many others are in incomparable pain. But I know, that in order to do the next thing, and the thing after that…… I need to take care of myself. Please help me see you. Help me release the tension and trust you even more. Help me be a light in the dark….by recharging the battery of my heart-with your presence. I love you Lord- amen. 

My brain just won’t let go. What if that was my child? I keep imagining what it would be like. To get a text. To see a local news show and know: My kid. My kid’s school. My neighbor’s kid. My friend’s kids school….I feel the nauseas knot of terror form instantaneously. I think of the trauma of the children in nearby classes. The children. The parents. The teachers. The janitors. The first responders and people who will clean up the school. I think of the families. The cousins, the aunts, the grandparents. The presents under Christmas trees that will remain unwrapped. I think of the pillows that will stay cold tonight- not warmed by the cheek of a child. I know it’s stupid. I’m obsessing. But my brain thinks the thoughts anyway.

Questions crash in my head like the waves of a tsunami: “Why would anyone do such a thing? How could anyone look at an innocent child and do that? What would make someone do such a thing? Who could cause such heartbreak? “ Darker questions seep into my head like a backed up drain… questions that make me feel guilty– and human: “Why would God allow such a thing? Where was God when this happened? Why didn’t God stop this? How could God allow such a thing?” 

I don’t have answers. Just. Questions. I did pray. I prayed anguished prayers- I railed at God. I whispered prayers begging for mercy and protection and comfort for all those involved. I prayed fervent prayers for my kids. For yours. I prayed for the shooter. His family. What if that was my child? I prayed more. I cried.

The truth is- there is no answer that will make sense of this pain and tragedy. I don’t really want answers. I want: control. I want  the answers, so I can make sure this doesn’t happen here. So I can keep my kids safe. My neighbor’s kids. Your kids.

However-  every time something like this happens- people ask the same questions….  the answers sometimes [eventually] come out… But- they don’t protect. They don’t stop the next tragedy.

Last weeks answers didn’t stop today’s tragedies. Columbine’s didn’t stop Virginia Tech’s. Virginia Tech’s didn’t stop the Theater shooting- or Mall shooting…

Which means….Questions and control won’t fix this.

Which makes me angry. At the shooter. At the world that does things like this. At violence in the media. At news reports that exploit tragedy. At people who politicize tragedy.

In an instant- the hurt and grief and terror of today turned into… hatred. Which- I suspect is the root of this kind of evil. Which scared me. because… if hate causes this kind of evil- and I feel hate… I don’t even want to finish the thought.

Which is when I realized- Maybe- I do have control. Not over shooters or situations or circumstances…

But- over me. Over my choices.

So do you.

Today- as I grieve and empathize-with parents all over the world- I also choose: to love. I refuse to hate. I choose to love my kids. I choose to remember that hate breeds evil. I choose to love those I come into contact with. I choose to love the stranger and the strange. I choose to love and trust God even though I don’t understand Him. Especially today. When I have questions and want control.

Tonight- as I tuck my youngest into bed and feel the warmth of his cheek- I pray for those who can’t tuck their child in. I pray for those with questions like mine. I pray for those with pain and hate…..like mine. Like the shooter’s.  I pray for Grace and love to cover it all.

Maybe- if we all did…. if we all found love to share- and refused to hate- the world would be a different place.

I’ll be honest-and my response today proves it-  I don’t have enough love in me. I am quick to anger. I am quick to judge. I need help.

So I’m asking for that- instead of answers.

Dear Lord Jesus- My heart breaks for the loss and tragedy that happened in Connecticut, today. I pray that you will be close to those who mourn. I pray that you will heal hearts and minds of the trauma. I pray that you would fill us with your love- and that it would overflow and stamp out the hate that creates so much evil in the world. I pray that you would be close. I love you Lord- even here- when I don’t understand. Amen

I gathered some resources to help us all with our questions and the questions of our kids.

Talking to our kids

PBS on Talking to kids

Focus on the Family 

And A Christmas Prayer we can all pray- about today….By Max Lucado—-

Talk, pray, grieve. consider. Then: love. it’s the best we can do.