Discover more from Release and Gather
there will be miracles
and canceled grocery orders
Welcome to new subscribers Lauren T., Mark F., Sabrina S., Kathy C., Emily S., blindsayesq, Geana R., Louise, John O., Daniel, Mitch K., Amy M., Lauren F., and Sean F. I hope you’ll find something here that moves you or helps you know you’re not alone. We’re all slogging through this thing called Life—sometimes with bells on, sometimes with unholy words running through our heads, and sometimes wishing we could be more holly-jolly than we can muster. Whatever your mood today, welcome to the club!
And now let’s dive into 2022’s second-to-last edition of Release and Gather! Be sure to check out the Your Turn section at the end and join the discussion in the comments.
Last weekend as I read’s Winning at whelm, I vowed this week would not be like the previous one, which was filled with too many demands on my time, too many trips to the city, and too many holiday gatherings. There was no room for leisure, quiet, solitude, and reflection—and I suffered for it.
I swore in this week leading up to Christmas when three of our four kids would load up their cars and drive to rural Mississippi to spend the weekend with us, I would not become overwhelmed. But then it happened. My ability to hang out in the middle ground of the whelmed went the way of the dodo.1
Those who’ve been following for a while know this year has been a bit like being told there’s no room in the inn and then stepping in cow, pig, and donkey dung while trying to figure out how to birth a baby in a stable. I’ve taken it in stride, mostly. Through my brother’s cancer relapse, countless trips to see him or help him, getting my son checked into a long-term rehabilitation program, and significant plumbing issues at our event venue—I’ve weathered this season fairly well, I think.
Do you know how many times I’ve cried this year? About six. Crazy that it’s only been six, right? But three of those were this month, and two just this week. Dear reader, I am overwhelmed.2
The ship was sailing smoothly until mid-week. On Tuesday I submitted a grocery order for pickup Wednesday evening. Anyone who has ever been responsible for feeding sons—specifically teen and young adult sons—understands when you are an empty nester, you must prepare your pantry for the descending of the locusts. I try to shop with our local grocer when I can, but this order was quite large—I needed to save time and money.
The nearest big box store is half an hour away, so we added some Christmas shopping and dinner at our favorite pizza place to the trip. I say if one must deal with big box stores, one should be rewarded with good pizza.
Our grocery pickup was scheduled for the 6:00-7:00 p.m. time slot, but at 6:00 I received a text:
I was a bit frustrated, but remained reasonable—’tis the season, and human resources are stretched thin these days. I get it.
We decided to use the time to mark off some stocking stuffers from the Christmas list. At 7:30 we arrived at the store to wait for our grocery order because we actually believed that line that said: “delayed up to 2 hours.”
At 8:20 I finally asked a worker if there was any point in waiting any longer. He consulted his handheld device and couldn’t even find my name. And not just because it’s a strange surname—he let me look, too. It was not a good sign.
Bereft of groceries, we exited the parking lot. I opened the store app and selected “cancel” on that carefully curated grocery order then angrily typed in a reason when
prompted taunted by the white box.
On the way home, I lost my shit. There’s no other way to describe it. I descended into a hole of woe-is-me that I could not claw my way out of.
My entire schedule for Thursday and Friday had just been thrown off because I would now have to add grocery shopping to my list. I was a petulant preschooler, slamming things around as I prepared for bed. When I finally settled under the covers the waterworks ensued.
I was, most assuredly, overwhelmed. In hindsight, it seems silly that a canceled grocery order could put me in that state, but I guess that’s the thing about emotions. They often sneak up and sucker-punch you, especially when you are prone to feeling too much.
Jane over at Thanks for Letting Me Share wrote about her runaway emotions this week, which was a great reminder that so many of us struggle with the state of complete overload.
"…the simplest tasks can just completely overwhelm me. Yesterday, I was Christmas shopping for my boyfriends siblings and naturally its was packed in the store I was shopping in, I was sweating my balls off, I didn’t know what to get them and I was so overwhelmed.
Now, because I’m an emotional person that overwhelmed feeling can feel like the walls are caving in. If I don’t get the perfect gift for each person they are going to think I didn’t put any thought into the gift, they are not going to like me anymore, they are going to communicate that to my boyfriend and in turn our relationship becomes 100 times harder because he has to navigate his family not liking me.
Now, one might say “Jane. It’s a Christmas gift…just relax” and while I totally hear you on that point, to me it’s just not that simple. Everything carries weight to me, everything is a ripple that leads to a wave and if I can make those ripples as perfect as possible then maybe the wave won’t be a devastating one.
Walls caving in…✅
Everything carries weight…✅
Packed store, sweating her balls off…✅
She was describing ME. What she wrote next helped me reframe my perceived character flaw:
And as I type this, I’m aware that I need to let go of control obviously but I also think to myself that this quality is just one of the unique things about me. It makes me passionate, and caring, and want to give, and take care of people. So…today I’m going to ride the wave of - do I have to make everything so catastrophic, no. But do I want to be passionate and caring, yes. I don’t want to not feel things so deeply, I just don’t want to feel like the walls are caving in all the time.
Strong emotions are part of my makeup. Feeling deeply is why I care for others. If I’m prone to overwhelm from time to time because of that, so be it.
I’ve learned that when I am in fit-throwing mode, the best remedy is the same one I’d give to a cranky preschooler—straight to bed. The next morning I was in a better frame of mind even if I wasn’t looking forward to shopping for groceries.
The really cool thing is that because I had to actually go into the store for my groceries, I purchased more items than I needed. For example, instead of four large potatoes to make loaded potato soup, I bought a whole bag.
What’s so cool about that?
Our 17-year-old friend DJ, who lives with his 83-year-old grandfather, dropped by yesterday while we were cleaning, cooking, and wrapping gifts. They don’t have a working vehicle, so he was on foot, sporting a backpack and wearing a medium-weight red coat we bought him for Christmas a couple of years ago.
Like much of the U.S., we’ve experienced ridiculously cold temps the last couple of days, and DJ was glad to come in from the 20-degree weather and warm himself by the heater. Their cabin’s3 sole heat source is a wood-burning fireplace in the den, and in his words, “It got pretty cold last night.”
I had just started making some chili and lamented that I didn’t have anything warm to offer him until I remembered the potatoes.
“Would you like me to bake a potato in the microwave for you and load it with some butter and cheese?”
As I watched DJ demolish that potato, I thanked God for a canceled grocery order, a sack of potatoes, and the willingness to answer the door when there were so many preparations to be done for our overnight guests.4 Life’s interruptions are often moments of the greatest lessons.
Whatever you are celebrating this weekend—Christmas, Hannukah, or just a weekend of being alive—I’m sending kind thoughts across the miles and wishing you peace and joy.
I’ll leave you with a few photos I snapped when I found a couple of hours of solitude as I waited for the kids to arrive—Noah, Pam, and granddog Levi; Brittney and granddog Leo; and Jonah (he was thankful Mike went to get him because 20 degrees is not motorcycle weather!). I wanted to document the mood before Christmas 2022—perhaps there were some overwhelming days, but there was also peace and light.
It’s been a few years since we’ve had kids living at home, but I still decorate the tree with ornaments they’ve made or chosen through the years. We also have family ornaments to commemorate trips and remember pets. And there are those given to us by beloved friends and family who are no longer with us.
The smaller tree in our bedroom holds photos of Mike and me from our first years of marriage, a handful of our own childhood ornaments, remembrances of special trips, and a few other special ornaments.
One year I received a glass ornament at a party gift exchange. It seemed kind of odd at the time—not your typical nativity scene or Santa. It simply said:
there will be miracles
This year as I placed it on the tree, the puzzle piece clicked into place. 2022 has indeed been a year of miracles, and I’ll never unwrap this ornament again without remembering that miracles do still happen. Sometimes they just don’t look how we expected.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”5
What miracles have you experienced this year? Let us know in the comments.
As Rebecca explained, “‘Whelm’ is challenging, but still just about comfortable.”
If you like that “Dear Reader” refrain, you really should check out Rebecca’s Dear Reader, I’m lost:
A cabin that was his grandfather’s family home for several generations.
Isaiah 7:14, The Holy Bible.