I must confess I've been pretty stressed out lately, in several different areas of my life. Stress--as I learned years ago while still an undergraduate studying psychology--can even come from positive events. I find that lately, this is definitely proving true for me.
I am a middle school guidance counselor. Among my other responsibilities, I am our school testing coordinator for those ofttimes irksome benchmark tests all states are required to administer to their students. This spring, we will be administering all our state tests online for the first time. It will save a lot of headaches during testing, and a ton of work afterward, but there's a lot of extra work for me to do and new information for me to organize and manage up front. I'm also responsible for scheduling, which includes crafting the master schedule as well as scheduling students. Just a month or so ago, our school board voted to operate our middle and high schools on a block schedule beginning with the 2011-2012 school year. I think it's a good decision, but it also means I have a lot of new things to learn and implement in order to be ready for school opening this fall.
At church, I'm accustomed to holding multiple callings simultaneously. Until recently, I held four callings at once: first counselor in our ward primary presidency, choir accompanist, ward music chairman, and sacrament meeting organist. But my new calling--stake Young Women president--keeps me busier than the four callings I held a few short months ago combined! Part of it is probably the learning curve I'm facing, but I can see that this is a calling that will continue to be demanding, even after I get the nuts and bolts down.
I also have concern about my parents' health. My dad is still in the hospital following a head injury sustained in a fall on Thanksgiving Day last year. He's made some slow progress in his recovery, but nothing at the light speed I sometimes wish for. Since my dad was her full-time caregiver, his fall has left my mom in circumstances even more challenging than those she's grown accustomed to since multiple sclerosis left her a quadriplegic several years ago. I'm not close enough geographically to be much help to my parents or to my two sisters, who shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of making sure my parents have the care they need, and of juggling their resources.
One day recently, I pulled my van into the driveway after a long and tiring day at work overseeing the administration of those pesky Standards of Learning tests. As I walked into the house I could see the message light on the phone was blinking, indicating that somebody somewhere wanted something from me. I had a big stake youth activity looming on the weekend, and knew I'd have to go back out later that evening and do all the shopping for it. I plodded into the house, feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained as I trudged up the stairs to the living room.
All of a sudden, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of gratitude wash over me. I felt gratitude that I have a house to come home to. I felt gratitude that I am able to actually walk into my home on my own two feet, under my own power. I felt gratitude to know that people I love and care about live here with me, and others who no longer live here still think of it as home. I fell to my knees at the top of the stairs and sobbed out my thanks to my Father in Heaven.
So my job is stressful--but I have a job! And it's a job I enjoy; one that comes with a good schedule, a short commute, and an opportunity to help other people. My church calling is stressful too. But I don't have to fulfill it alone. I have a wonderful counselor and secretary, a phenomenal stake camp director, and best of all, a Heavenly Father who wants to help me carry out my responsibilities and learn to love his daughters so that they can be blessed. And I've been privileged to recognize many tender mercies in my parents' current circumstances which have reminded me that God remains mindful of them, as He does each of us.
So it looks like I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving at least twice this year.