(This blog started off talking about stress and how I have learned that kayaking helped me find a release for it. But as I began writing, I realized there was more to this story and how I learned to deal with daily stress.)
I don’t know about you, but stress is something that has always been too common in my life. For a long time, I would not admit just how much it affected me. I would deny it if my friends asked me about it, saying that it was no greater than normal. Yet, if you asked my wife and kids, they knew the real truth. From time to time the stress would build to the point where I felt like I was going to actually explode. For my whole adult life, I have worked in the printing industry, working my way up in responsibility as the years passed. I learned to deal with unrealistic delivery date, customers who knew my job better than I did (just ask them and they would tell you so), unreal expectation from upper management and all kinds of employee issues. The stress of all the deadlines and expectation upon expectation in the printing industry are huge. Just deliver a graduation program with a misspelled word or a page out of order. It is always the printer’s fault, no matter what the external customer dynamics were. Then add to this, the stress of raising teenage kids at home.
Stress was all around me! Why, because I felt like I had to be in complete control of the chaos. So in one since, my stress levels are self induced. Self induced stress all because I want to be in CONTROL! So how do I deal with this stress and my control issues? I would tell my boss that I needed a mental health day and take off kayaking. What a stress release kayaking became for me. It was a way for me to get away from it all and talk to God about what was going on. I found that talking to God and kayaking was reducing my stress levels and allowing me to find some needed relaxation. Kayaking itself is amazing stress reducer. Somehow the smooth strokes used to propel myself through the water helped to create a sense of calmness and a feeling of peacefulness. It allowed me to refocus on what was important to me.
On these kayaking trips I would ask God for the strength to get me to get through these stressful times. My prayers were honest and from my heart. I was seeking Him for strength and I know that he listened to me each time. Somehow I found the strength to get through, but I was still worn out, spent at the end of each day, not having anything to give to those most important to me.
It was not until very recently that I discovered that I was praying of the wrong thing. Yes, I said praying for the wrong thing. I realized that I was asking for the strength to control and deal with these unrealistic demands. I soon realized that this is not what God actually wanted to give me and not what I really needed.
You see, I failed to understand that I really needed to allow God to be in control and for him to provide for me. This has become clear to me since I was laid off from my job 8 months ago. When this happened, I was completely stunned. I had so many questions running through my head that has to be answered. Questions like how could this happen, the university needed me; I was the “Print Guru on Campus”. No one know more about the printing processes on campus than me, how could they do this to me? How would I provide for my family, how would I make enough money to make our house payments? What would happen when I lost medical insurance? The stress that I was facing at work was now gone, but those stresses were replaced by other worries that created stress.
The morning I found out I was begin laid off, God reminded me of a verse in Proverbs. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”, Proverbs 3:4&5. I was in turmoil and stress was all around me. What would I do now? Fortunately, I was reminded of this promise about a month later on one of my mental health kayaking trips.
I began to ask myself what would happen if I really trusted God and did not lean on my own understanding. Would He really do what he promised? Could I really trust Him? Heck I thought that I was good at control things around me. Then I thought that if I had actually been in control, I would not have been laid off. What a thought that was. As I struggled with these questions and talked to God about them, he began to show how he had been providing all along. Wow, and I thought it was my hard work and a little bit of God, giving me strength. Don’t get me wrong, I believe God wants me to work hard at what I am doing. The difference here is who was in control, God or me.
I began to trust in what God wanted to do and in him for my provision. As is began to trust, I discovered something really great. Peace. In a time where I should have been stressed even more, I found a crazy peace. This peace came when I realized that I did not have the strength to “control” what I was facing and that I had no other choice but to “Trust in the LORD with all my heart”.
What a stress release this has been for me. To realize that I don’t have to be in control, even when Diane and I were lead to start Mahanaim Adventures (and doing so using only what God provided us). It has been so cool and wonderful to watch and wait in expectation before God, to see what he is doing next. It has also been reassuring to see God keep his promise that he wants to provide if I just let him. Yes I have to admit there are still moments when I start stressing out. I am still learning just how to truly let go. But I am reminded each day that all I have to do is turn over my weak attempts of control, over to the One who made me and the world around me.
Am I there yet, by no means? Do I forget and try to take over control once again, yes. Am I still learning to let go and trust, yes. I can also say that I have begun to really enjoy the life I have been made for, now that I am learning to relinquish control; relinquishing control to the Creator of the whole world.