Why Are We Telling Each Other to Breathe?

The first time I remember telling someone to breathe I was following the teenage son of a friend being wheeled into the emergency room several hundred miles away from his family.

I was on staff at a camp and Wesley was playing 3 on 3 basketball. The competition was physical between the older teens, all of them 6′ and more. Wes and an opponent went up for the ball when the other guy fell down on top of Wesley’s foot. His 6′ 3 frame crumpled to the ground.

The hospital was in a nearby town. It was an agonizing ride for Wesley. He was placed on a cart to wheel him into the ER. He bent over his foot holding it in silent agony. I realized in his pain he was holding his breath and I said firmly, yet as calmly as I could, “Breathe, Wesley”.

Today we see that word on memes, mugs and T-shirts. We have it on our phones. We choose it as our word for the year. Breathe

My cousin gave me this necklace as a reminder

My cousin and I have been texting it, writing it and saying it to each other for a few years now.

Why do we have to tell each other to do something we’re already doing? We are all breathing or we wouldn’t be alive.

Just like I noticed Wesley holding his breath when he was suffering we hold our breaths in a figurative sense.

Grief cripples us and our breath becomes shallow. We are trying to hold back the pain.

A hurricane demolishes a community and the effects continue long after the rest of the country has forgotten. Our breathing becomes angry gasps.

Divorce, job loss, miscarriage, empty nest…..they take our breath away. We gulp for air to stay alive but we aren’t breathing in real life-giving breath.

And we say to ourselves and to one another, “breathe“.

To do this we have to loosen our grip around the pain.

Wesley’s pain didn’t go away until he got medical attention. Some of us might need to start with appropriate medication to help us loosen our grip on what’s holding us.

When Beki tells me to breathe I know the she means slow down. Be in the here and now. Stop thinking about the what ifs and what was and what should be. Stop thinking about the unknowns and start with slowing down my mind. When I do that my breath follows and they are in rhythm together. 

The thing I’ve learned is I have to repeat this day after day. My mind is ready to race away with anxiety and worry. When it became overwhelming I sought professional help. While that has brought some relief, it doesn’t release me from needing to create practices that will help my mind and breath find a healthy rhythm.

I often find that healthy pace in the creative process. I read, journal, spend time with people who are healthy and not afraid to remind me to breathe when they see me gasping. I have faith in a God who loves me and restores my breath.

As my son has reminded me, let people help you. It’s how God has always worked in my life – through the hearts and hands of others.

Breathe, friends. Breath in deeply and exhale peace.

Five-Minute Friday {exhale}

It was during those youth ministry days. At a camp in a neighboring state when someone told me Wes had hurt his foot. He was our pastor’s son, our friends, our kids growing up together and being extended parts of our family.

“Breathe, Wesley, breath”. He was being wheeled into the emergency room in the tiny town of Jasper, Georgia, he was in excruciating pain and all I could think to say was “breathe”. Pain makes you hold your breath, unable to exhale and you don’t even know it.

They told us in our childbirth classes to breathe through the pain. It didn’t help. Not the back labor that pushed right through all the breaths.

I sounds silly to tell someone to breathe. We all breathe. It’s part of living.

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What is really meant is to exhale. Let it out. Whatever you’re holding in and holding back, let it out. Inhale grace and exhale peace.

That doesn’t come natural to me. I find myself holding my breath far too often. I say it’s how I’m wired, a bit jacked-up when I’m anywhere but home and sometimes even there. So I try to build in the things that help me to exhale. Saturday walks on the beach to change my focus and sit with God’s creation. Taking that deeper breath that comes through soaking up the words of the Psalms or a good book. Inhaling more of his grace so I can exhale more of his peace.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and a host of bloggers for our Five-Minute Friday party. Want to join this community? Click here to share your voice.

Breathing Today

It was only a handful of weeks ago I chose the word TODAY as my word for this year. It’s so sad how quickly it can be forgotten.

It feels like it’s me and I’ve asked myself why I can’t seem to do, to handle, to endure with energy like I use to. Is it all about age? It seems every doctor I see from dentist, to allergists, to general practice starts our discussion with “at your age”. Everything wearing down on my heart, soul and body?

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Or is it age that brings a more focused sense of balance and how life should really be lived? Please, someone tell me it’s the latter!

Yes, I know the body gets worn with time and my body just doesn’t want to go, go, go. It wants to slow, slow, slow interrupted by moments when I want to cry, cry, cry. No reason other than maybe I’m just tired.

Naples, FL

Naples, FL

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It’s been a week of getting things done ahead for the days I’ll be gone at a women’s retreat in a beautiful coastal town that’s a pleasant drive less than two hours from me but work has to be done ahead to prepare for my absence, pack for the trip, sleep in a comfortable bed but it’s not home so sleep is fitful at times, leave the retreat a little early because we have a special speaker coming in mid-week to start a series, drive directly to the allergists because I missed last weeks shots, home to change, to the center, greet our guest (who is so gracious) and home to finally be in my space, our bed, the comforting noises of our room only to find I couldn’t sleep. (a gasp for breath) The legs wouldn’t still nor the mind and after sleep came for a bit I was awake at 5 trying oh so hard to go back to sleep but it didn’t come.

Today became tomorrow and the next day and next and breathing turned into panting and I. can’t. do. that. anymore.

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The guilt tries to creep in saying, “it’s all good things”. It’s God things even. Hearing words from the sacred books and yes, I am blessed but when I finally slept, finally the body collapsed because it couldn’t go any longer, I heard that word. Those words. Last years and this: Breathe. Today. These words sacred too as God knows my needs and my needs are not your needs and I’m learning that’s okay.

And I’m breathing. Slower and deeper. Today.