The days that have followed have been intense. The 'round-the-clock news coverage and my Facebook news feed are inundated with updates, new problems, amazing generosity, constant giving/receiving/volunteering...I have never experienced anything like this. Social media takes calamity to a distinctly higher level of emotional pressure.
My husband warned me a few days into the catastrophe that I needed to back away a bit and take care of myself. He knows how my sensitive spirit empathizes and feels deeply the hard, the loss, the feelings other may feel. I began having nightmares and restless sleep. Agitation and anxiety began to creep into the way that I was speaking to my children. Stress is not a friend to body, soul and spirit.
And yet, I felt like I couldn't look away? That it would be somehow selfish not to "listen", not to understand the problems, not to engage with all the pain and turmoil. My spirit would whisper, "don't turn on the TV right now", but my obligation to be "in the know" would go against that and turn it on anyway. The result was a mama who was emotionally tired, distracted, and overwhelmed.
Yesterday, I woke up with the covers over my head telling Mike that I just couldn't do life today: parent, teach, love, empathize, give. I had hit my emotional limits and was moving into self-preservation. He prayed for and with me, told me to get up, and that I can do what I am called to do: take care of myself and my family. In order to give to my community out of a place of fullness, life, vitality, and sacrifice, I had to put the oxygen mask on us first.
We went to the library. Fresh books heal many ills. I prepared lunch slowly and gently. The boys romped and played outside while I read a new book while sitting on my front porch. I cleaned my laundry room and put fresh sheets on our bed. Decluttered and tidied my neglected kitchen. Spent time teaching my 4th grader and caught up on schoolwork. I tuned the world out so that I could tune in to my heart and my children. I exhaled.
When trauma hits, know your limits. It's hard not to have survivor's guilt that your home wasn't destroyed, that your home has power and water, that your cars work, and as a result, over-work, over-volunteer, over-give. Our hearts hate to see the pain so many are facing. But to love them well, you must live well. Take a shower, grab a nap, drink a smoothie. Turn off the news for most of the day. Listen to worship music. Read to your children. Take a long walk. Pray.
The work to be done here in South Carolina is only just beginning. The broken homes and destroyed land and grieving spirits aren't going to be healed any time soon. This restoration process is more of a marathon than a sprint. In order to stay engaged with the local needs over the long haul, we need to set a sustainable pace which will be different for each person and each family. A long-term crisis situation has the potential to cause burn-out and compassion fatigue.
So this is my encouragement to you: listen to your body, your emotions, your spirit. When a friend or spouse shows concern for you, listen. Listen to the promptings of the Spirit as to where He wants to send you this day. He may ask you to pray quietly, text a friend, donate diapers, pull up carpet or take a nap. The key is to stop listening to the anxiety of the news, social media and your own compassionate soul and to tune in to the Holy Spirit's movement and guidance. He offers an easy yoke and a light burden and provides an entire community to provide for the entire community. Let us not overestimate ourselves but instead completely estimate His immeasurable power, love and provision for His people. He never sleeps nor slumbers. He always provides. His abundance never fails. There is no scarcity in His Kingdom.
May we be His very real hands and feet in these challenging times and listening daily to the Father's will for us in the moment just as Jesus did. May we drink deeply of the love, light, and truth of the Spirit so we have the best resources to give away. May we never neglect the ones under our own roof while seeking to repair another's roof. Amen.