Be Overwhelmed

Usually being overwhelmed has a negative association. It is easy for me to feel overwhelmed this time of year. I'm overwhelmed by the mountain of tasks I have left to accomplish with my students, even as the calendar ticks steadily down through these last 20 school days. I'm overwhelmed by the end-of-year parties to plan, teacher gifts to buy, volunteer presents to make, boxes to pack. The garden needs maintaining, the pantry has still not started stocking itself. My children inexplicably continue to need snacks and baths and books at bedtime.

But overwhelmed can be flipped over, taken out of its defeatist connotation. It can also mean to affect strongly. And affect in a good way. You can be overwhelmed with love, overwhelmed with joy. Perhaps not when doing the snacks-bath-books dance for the 471st time, but it is possible. It requires a bit more intention. You have to pay attention, look down and really notice what is around you. Allow it to affect you instead of just brushing past it on your way through the to-do list.

At church we've been going through a series on joy.  We can find joy in adversity. We can find joy in knowing God is with us, taking care of us, shepherding us daily through the valley of the shadow. And we are also called to take joy in his creation. Psalm 148 says "Let every created thing give praise to the Lord." We can find His joy in everything: twinkling stars, wind and weather, scurrying animals, even children. The challenge is in creating the space to do so, making the time to look down and notice, look up and marvel. 

I've been doing my best to find at least one small moment every day that has allowed me to take a breath, look around and marvel, be still and know. It's ironic when your to-do list includes "be overwhelmed by God's glory" but sometimes I have to be that intentional about it. And you know, once I start looking for it, it's always there. Sometimes I see it in Violet's face - that unadulterated joy of peddling through a tunnel of green light. Other times I steal a moment to wander away while the children play within earshot and their happy giggles become a fitting soundtrack as I spot that first ripe strawberry.

The Bible says "let everything that has breath praise the Lord." And God, in His infinite wisdom, created our bodies to do just that. In Hebrew, God's name is Yahweh, but it is written without the vowels. And the consonants that are left are the sounds we make as we breathe in and breathe out. The very act of breathing is to say God's name. It is the first thing we do when we enter into life on this earth; it is the last thing we will ever do before we see God's glory in death. We speak God's name. Our bodies, our very beings, praise Him. And if that's not cause to be overwhelmed, I don't know what it.

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