Category Archives: anxiety

Laughing. At the Future.

Every September, I ask for a word for the upcoming year.

I usually do it in the fall around the Jewish New Year, give or take a few days. I measure time a little fuzzy.

Last year, the word was “Healed.”

Incidentally, last year, I also tore my ACL, broke my leg, had problems with my gallbladder, and got a wart. On my face.

Needless to say, I felt a tiny bit confused.

As of this writing, I’m happy to announce that all those things are healed now, or at least well on their way to healing. So in that way, I guess the word held true.

Needless to say, I felt a tiny bit confused.

 

But. It was a long way around on a bumpy road.

This year, I considered not asking for a word. Maybe I just don’t want to know.

I held off for a month.

Lord, have mercy. Keep that word to yourself.

Physical pain and sickness and injury–these things mess with your mind. Pain is a head game. You win if you don’t let it get in your head, if you choose to live every moment like the world isn’t falling apart. It’s a kind of personal terrorism. You can’t give in, or the injury wins.

As my physical therapist says, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

I should know this by now. A body goes through a lot in forty years.

Maybe the most disappointing thing about hurting my leg in the spring was the way I lost my joy. Fast. And it stayed gone. I could reach and grasp and drag it back, but it was a shallow thing. The tiniest upset caused me to lose it again.

I thought I had more joy. I needed to know this about myself.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

 

That’s my verse. My life’s motto. How could I let it go so easily through the greatest challenges?

I’ve listened to hours and hours of instruction on healing this year. I’ve talked to my friends and listened to their advice. I’ve had hours of prayer.

The thing that keeps emerging for me is joy.

I heard Bill Johnson share the many ways that healing comes. Of course, it can come through prayer, but he has seen so many people healed. Some have been healed just by walking in the door during worship. Others spontaneously felt heat or tingling. Others were healed sometime during a service but didn’t even know it until later when they realized they were doing an activity that they hadn’t been able to do for years, lifting a box or moving a table.

One story he shared stood out to me as confirmation of joy. A man was given four months to live. His doctor laid down the files and paperwork and said, “Do you want to know what I would do if I were you?”

The man said, “Yes, of course.”

The doctor said, “If I were you, if they told me I had four months to live? I would go home and rent every funny movie I could find. I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.”

So the man did. The next time they tested him, the disease had gone. No evidence of that disease anywhere. He was cured by laughing, cured by joy.

I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.

 

Sometimes we are so darn serious. It’s such a drag, and there is no breakthrough because our own heaviness holds us down in one tiny spot.

So many things happened this year. And I struggled to hold on to joy.

Every person I talk to starts to laugh as I tell them the crazy things that have happened. Because, for some reason, one terrible thing is not funny. It’s just terrible.

But a whole bunch of terrible things piled up on top of each other? Hilarious.

I think it’s the absurdity of it. Like, that’s not real, right? You have to be joking.

No. I’m not. But maybe life is.

I finally got up the courage to ask for my word for the year.

The Spirit had been holding his breath, waiting for me to ask. Almost even before I finished the prayer I heard my word.

“Laughter.”

Great. Sigh. I’m not going to ponder on what that means.

You have to be joking.

 

I keep thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. How the scripture says, “She laughs, without fear of the future.”

I’ve always read that passage a certain way. Like, it’s a defiant laugh. Like, “Haha, Future! You can’t catch me!!!”

But lately, I think she’s actually sincerely laughing. Like she sees things that are funny. She’s cracking up, enjoying life. She is overwhelmed sometimes by all that she manages. That lady is no joke, but her life kind of sounds like one. Every person I know that manages that much stuff feels crazy at times. The ones that don’t quit are the ones who know how to laugh at the craziness. How to take it all in stride. How to make the messes and the unresolved areas and the failures, because she surely had all of that, how to make it all a joke.

I’m praying for more laughter. I’m watching videos and playing more. I already feel better. I’ll get to the future, but right now I’m laughing at the past, this year of “Are you kidding me, Lord?”

I think He is.

Lol.

Laughter. It’s the word for the year.

***

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Prov 31:25

 

Heavenly Utilities: Power and Light. Shine, You City, Shine. Shine Bright.

Self-pity and power.

They can not coexist.

One naturally devours the other. Self-pity devours power. Power devours self-pity.

And it seems like a daily choice that adds up over time, more than one big ceremonial decision that changes everything all at once.

Some days I feel the power of God on my life, increasing, swelling, calling, inviting. And on those days, it is the obvious choice. On those days, I choose power.

Power devours self-pity.

 

And it feels big. It usually feels really good for a minute. And then, sometimes, scary. Like a heavy weapon, it would be easy to lay it down.

And some days, I do lay it down. Some days, I choose pitiful.

I don’t mean to do it. I don’t usually even realize I’m doing it.

Well, maybe I realize it a little bit.

Self-pity and power can not coexist.

 

I remember one day crying in the bathroom in college, undoubtedly over some terrible hardship, aka, some drama that I had singlehandedly created.  I was good at that.

I remember watching my mascara run, watercolor black tracks dripping down my cheeks.

It wasn’t until I heard Joyce Meyer talk about doing the same thing many years later that I realized how much self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself. How I wasn’t the only one that took some sick enjoyment from digging eye drops out of my purse and patting my puffy face, gently, with concealer, but in a hurry, like actresses huffing through soap operas, as if I had somewhere I needed to go.

At the time of her story, Joyce’s ministry was just taking off, and she was crying her way through some struggle.

In front of a mirror.

Because, as she says, women (and men) in a certain mood love to watch themselves cry to see just how pitiful they really can be.

Self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself.

 

Ouch. Déja vu.

And at that moment, she heard in her spirit, “You can’t be pitiful and powerful.”

You have to choose.

I was taken advantage of very young. I was forced to do things that I went along with because the culture seemed to reward it. I was bullied at school, by teachers and students. I grew up in American poverty. I remember running out of food. I remember no heat in the winter. I didn’t have the advantages that many around me had. I was embarrassed a lot. I was ashamed a lot. I felt self-hatred a lot. I was attacked in college, but I would have gladly pretended it didn’t happen. I was so embarrassed by it that I was already dismissing it until I realized my hair was coming out in clumps, and I was bleeding.

And as an adult, I have felt that, many times, as soon as I won one battle, another came in to take its place. My marriage was a disaster until we got it figured out, and about the time we did, I got desperately sick.

One battle after another.

And through it all, my emotions were a pendulum, swinging back and forth. Pitiful. Powerful. Pitiful. Powerful.

You have to choose.

 

I had days when I felt like fighting.

But for a while, I had more days when I thought about things from the past. Why did they happen the way that they did? What was wrong with me? Why did God bless everyone but me? On and on.

And the more I wallowed, the old pitiful feelings came on stronger and stronger. I didn’t know what deliverance was, but I knew that there were people around me who did life better than I did. I went to them for their thoughts about my situation. I paid for counseling when I didn’t have the money because I didn’t know what else to do. Talking to wise people was my way of not giving up at the time. It was the way that I knew how to fight.

I’m thankful to those who listened for hours, who shared their stories, who encouraged me, and held me accountable.

Fighting for life doesn’t always look like choosing ultimate victory, whatever that is.

Fighting to choose life when you are in a pit is in the little things. Choosing to open your eyes in the morning. Choosing to get out of bed. Choosing to force a smile for your children. Choosing to call someone who can help. That’s what I did.

I was seeking.

And in the seeking, I got some of the best advice from a counselor that I’ve ever gotten:

Press into scripture. Find the scriptures that speak to your worst problem, and write them down. Say them out loud every day, three times a day. Focus on God’s peace, when it comes, when it goes. And then follow that peace wherever it leads.

So, I did it. I read the Bible. I copied scriptures. I read them out loud. It took time, but my life changed.

Fighting to choose life is in the little things.

 

I still have to choose life daily. It looks different now. It was not easy in the beginning, but it has gotten easier over time.

I don’t cry in the bathroom mirror anymore. I don’t miss it. I’m thankful for the life that God provided for me. I’m thankful that He helped me choose it.

I’m thankful for the people He put around me that challenged me with their beautiful lives. I’m thankful that they invited me to join them.

***

You never know who is watching you live well. You have the power to help another person choose life for themselves. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.

Keep choosing power.

You are showing others how it is done.

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life. Deut 30:19b

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-15

Prayer for Troubles and Cares

Occasionally I am asked to blog a piece of writing that appeared elsewhere on social media. Thanks to my friend Lynn for honoring me with the request for this post. 

A Prayer for Troubles and Cares.

Your troubles are heavy. You feel burdened and tired of trying.

Father says, “Pray for their troubles.”

So, today I’m praying for your troubles. For any trouble in your life to lift, dissolve, dissipate, fall away, now in the name of Jesus.

Worry, go in the name of Jesus.

Doubt, stress, anxiety, and fear, leave now in the name of Jesus!

Peace come in, peace like a gentle river, flow in and wash these spirits, souls, and bodies with refreshing. Encouragement come in and cast these troubles in a fresh light. No more troubles, now you are trading in troubles for situations where God can work. No more are these things “your troubles” or “problems or issues.” These things are opportunities for God to show off in your life. He says, “Let me carry it.”

Heaviness and oppression, fall away now. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

There are times when you ask so many questions. You feel plagued by questions. The how, the why, the what to do next. Almost an unstoppable flood of questions, but there are no answers.

These questions are not a mark of responsibility, though they feel like it at times.

I proclaim an end to the plague of pointless questions.

When they start to swirl in your mind, and you become tense, and your heart starts to race, I pray you tell them to STOP in the name of Jesus! And take a deep breath. And see Jesus in front of you, carrying all of it.

I pray for simple strategies from Heaven for you to deal with every little thing. Situations coming into order, God’s perfect order and beauty filling every place in your heart and mind, and tangibly, visibly, in all situations in your life.

And for great, great peace.

Peace that passes understanding as you face whatever the world has thrown at you. Your feet planted on the rock. Your heart in His hands. He is good, all the time, and He has the solutions in safekeeping for the perfect time for His perfect purpose.

I hear Him say, “You have not failed. You are not a failure. Watch me as I take your efforts and multiply them all around you. You don’t see it all now, but one day you will know the fruit of all the seeds you have planted.”

Something bigger than you is happening, and you get to be a part of it. Your troubles are becoming a testimony. One day soon you will testify to God’s goodness in this situation. He will show Himself strong in you as you stand strong in Him.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter 5:7

Too Whatever: Overcoming the Sticky Green Lies

Last year,  I did a post called “Too Whatever.” Upon a reader’s request, I’m writing it again, with a little spin, a little more backstory, a little more dimension. I pray it blesses you. God loves your “Too Whatevers.”

When I turned forty, I had a strong and wonderful moment of empowerment.

Finally.

Old enough to command respect. Old enough not to care what people think. Old enough to bust out and do whatever I want.

It was a fleeting moment.

A sudden fear of being obsolete and out of touch came over me as I studied my hair in the mirror, and the half-inch of showing roots looked whiter than ever. And all that empowerment? Fled away, its whimpering and ancient gray tail tucked between its legs.

I shared this aging angst with my friend, the lovely Chana Keefer.

She understood. She laughed. And she told me that she had the same fear about her modeling career–when she was sixteen.

Sixteen.

At the time, fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields had hit it big, and Chana was one year older. She was, she decided, over the hill, past her prime, antiquated, passé. She hadn’t done enough in her field. She was doomed to fail at life.

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At sixteen.

Chana, of course, went on to do all kinds of amazing things, modeling, acting, writing, living.

And this conversation was an eye-opener for me.

Chana heard the same lies, at a young age, at sixteen years old, that were trying to take me out at forty.

Too old.

The same lies.

As I talked to Chana, the Holy Spirit showed me a dark figure holding handfuls of green slime, like really wet neon green bubble gum. He was waiting for someone to walk by so he could throw it at them and cover them with the nasty goo.

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And I heard the Holy Spirit say this: The enemy has nothing new. He has no creativity or orderly strategy, even though it seems like he does at times. He just stands there and throws the same lies at all of you.

It’s up to you what sticks.

It showed me the truth. The same lies come against all of us, no matter who we are or what we are dealing with.

Too old. Too young. Too late. Too shy. Too inexperienced.

Too…whatever.

We all hear the same doubts and battle the same insecurities.

It’s up to us what sticks.

I shared this story with a friend in the music industry. She said, “YES!! When I was in my twenties and thirties and I went to auditions, I was always afraid of being told I was too young for the part. I thought when I turned 40, that feeling would go away! And it did, but it was immediately replaced with a new one. Too seasoned. I started hearing people say the company told them they were ‘too seasoned’ for a part. Overnight, my fear went from being ‘too young,’ to being ‘too seasoned.”

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Whatever we put our faith in that isn’t God will let us down. We will just trade one lie for another, over and over, until we realize we have to stand on the miraculous power of the truth of God for our lives and nothing else.

His word for us??

OVERCOMERS.

We are OVERCOMERS.

You are an overcomer. An Overcomer of the Too Whatevers.

All the enemy has is lies. That’s all he has. He can’t create, he can only pervert what God has made with lies.

When you approach your destiny, he flings those sticky green lies at you, harder than ever.

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Don’t believe the lies that say, “you can’t,” whatever they are.

In that moment of 40-year-old empowerment, I started my blog. I started appearing on media. I started doing video and ministering online.

Not long after, when the doubts came, I went to the Lord.

“Father. I am too late. I waited too long. I’m too old.”

And I swear to you, He laughed.

I heard Him laugh for what felt like a very long time.

It made me laugh.

And then I heard Him say this: I love too old.

And before my eyes, I saw Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Daniel, Anna, and Caleb.

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They were all “too old” when God did some of the most amazing things in their lives.

“I love too old.”

“Ok then,” I said. “You love too old. Well. Let’s see what you can do with this.”

Truth is, you might be older or younger than the average success story. You might have held on to a vision for years. You might have too much on your plate to see your way to living your dreams or reaching your goals.

But God loves our “Too Whatevers.” He loves showing up in the gap, like He did for Gideon and his tiny army and bringing them to victory.

When I said, “Too old,” God did not try to talk me out of it. He said, “Oh, that? No problem. I love it.”

I felt that He was laughing because He much prefers to show His strength in us than let us lean on our own. When we feel weak, He is strong in us.

I could tell you that you haven’t missed the boat. And ultimately, I believe it is true. God wants to use you. He wants to help you. There is plenty of time. There’s always a place for the thing you carry because it’s never been done by you, in your own unique way.

But even if you did miss the boat, get this–

IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER.

I’m laughing typing this.

Even if you did miss it, your Daddy in Heaven loves a missed boat. He loves too old! He loves when we are late to the party! He loves TOO…WHATEVER!!!

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I love thinking of Caleb, armored up and raring to go. I imagine that he must have felt it too, at least one or two times, that he had missed the boat. It makes me wonder if he was determined not to miss it again, if God used some of that pent up energy from the past to give Caleb a greater measure of courage, if Caleb felt closer to death than the others because of his age, and rather than letting it weaken him, he wanted to go out with a bang in the promised land. It seems that God used the very thing that could hold Caleb back to make him the fiercest warrior of the day.

Never give up. Never, never, never, never, never give up. You have destiny inside you. You carry purpose and a plan. You carry the future. Don’t quit. If you have a commission on your life, He will help you achieve it. Don’t leave a vision because it sat too long, unless He tells you to leave it. He loves missed boats, late-to-the-party guests. He loves your “Too Whatevers.”

***

Father, I thank You that You are the God of Second Chances! And Third! And Fourth! And A Million!!! Thank You that nothing is impossible for You! Even our weaknesses and stumblings–especially our weaknesses and stumblings. You show Yourself strong in our weaknesses. You love our TOO WHATEVERS!

Thank You that we can’t miss the boat in You if we really want to catch it. God, we lay it all at Your feet. Our doubts. Our insecurities. Our struggles. Time. Energy. Inspiration. Skill level. Experience. Team. Whatever we feel is lacking, we give it to You.

We give you permission. Take what we have to give, however we feel about it, and DO SOMETHING AWESOME WITH IT!

We rebuke the lies of the enemy that would come in and shut us down and shut us up! We rebuke the sticky green goo that tries to attach itself to us! It cannot touch us, it cannot stick–because we stand on the word of TRUTH! We are OVERCOMERS IN CHRIST! We stand in expectation, that You will take our “Too Whatevers” and turn them in to SOLID GOLD. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Just Do Today

The last few weeks have been complicated.

On Easter Sunday, I had a freak accident on my bike that seriously damaged the tendons in my knee. The pain has been intense, but more than just the body, injury messes with your mind. Serious pain is a head game.

And even though I’m improving, last week hit me hard.

I sat in my bed and cried.

I know that “why” is not always the most productive question, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why did this happen?”

“God. Why did this happen?”

 

I’ve had accidents and injuries before, but in almost all those other incidents, I could see something I did that caused them. Not that I “deserved” what happened, but I could see a line of logic, things I could have done in advance to prevent the mistake.

This time, I couldn’t see what I could have done differently with the information I had that day. I might go back now and make a different choice here or there. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight is not.

So I prayed and said, “I know that why is not the best question, Lord, but I can’t help but wonder.”

I waited and listened, wondering if He would throw me a bone, some little word that would help me make sense of all the time and energy I spend lugging this leg around every day, a leg that worked perfectly fine just a few weeks ago.

I heard nothing. So, like all men and women of faith and wisdom, I prayed the same prayer, but louder. In case God needed me to speak up.

“I said, I know that WHY isn’t the best question…”

And I waited.

And I heard this.

“Just do today.”

That was all.

Just do today.

I sighed and sat a minute.

And then I said to myself, “Just do today.”

“Just do today.”

 

It did nothing to help me make sense of the accident, but in reality, it did do something to help me make sense of the present and how to go forward in the future.

I had let myself be overwhelmed by questions. Why did this happen? Where is my miracle? What could I have done differently? Was I out of order or out of God’s will in some way? What should I do now? Do I need a second opinion? Why won’t the physical therapist call me back? What’s going to happen next?

And on and on.

I was asking so many questions, I was not making any room in my mind for peace.

And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even  if they are the right ones.

We hear in part, we see in part, through a glass darkly.

He didn’t tell me why.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even if they are the right ones. 

 

He didn’t tell me the answers about physical therapy or what is going to happen next.

He told me what.

He told me what to do, right now.

Just do today.

Just do what you can in this moment. Just do what will make the most difference, right this second.

And it helped me.

It gave me a clean slate. It erased all the questions and replaced them with a simple mission.

It made me realize, there was one thing  I could do. I have a great doctor at home I could email. Then he would have a heads up for when I get there, and he could tell me what I can do in the meantime.

Right then, I emailed him.

I immediately felt better, lighter.

Action gets us out of our heads. One sure way to make progress is movement. If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

If you take a few steps, you might even realize you walked the wrong direction, but then you know which way to go next.

If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

 

It’s simple inertia. Questions that serve no purpose weigh down our minds and leave no room for peace. Overthinking and underacting make a recipe for depression. Movement creates energy.

I pray for clarity for you, for movement, and a freedom from the pointless “whys.” For forward inertia toward the new thing God has for you in this season.

Just do today.

***

What questions are you asking that are pointless and weighing you down? What  “why” question do you need to let go so you can just do today? 

What does “just do today” look like for you right now? What can you do about your circumstance, right now, to move in any direction toward a solution? 

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Sometimes I Sit Down in the Middle of a Mess and Play Webkinz for an Hour.

I don’t know how.  It just happens.

Two weeks ago, my kids and I drove to Boston to stay with my husband while he works in the area.

We have a great hotel.  I’m blessed.  I love it.  I get to be on vacation while I’m doing life.  It can be hectic traveling so much, but, most of the time, it’s fun.

But Saturday was one of those days that was not fun.  A sprinkler head for the fire system started a slow leak in our hotel bathroom on Friday night.  We put a towel down and watched it to make sure it was the sprinkler and not some child spraying water everywhere.  By Saturday morning, it was obvious.  Sprinkler.  Definitely.  Leaking.

I let the hotel know, and an army of maintenance men showed up at my door.

They wanted us to change rooms.  Just in case they triggered the whole system and made it rain inside.

Ok.  Good.  I don’t want to be in here if it rains.  I don’t want my stuff ruined, and it’s super cold.  Let’s move.  Whee.

Down the hall, a few doors over.  We just got all our belongings wedged in to this room, but so what.  No problem.  Easy.

But then I got down there, and the room looked different.  Everything was dirty.  There were holes in the walls and in the ceiling .  And then I found a piece of surgical tape stuck to the kitchen counter.

I peeled that tape off the counter and stared at it sticking to my finger.

A little tear started to creep out.

I took the tape to the hotel desk.  They were horrified and sent maids and the maintenance guys to our new room.  They had the holes fixed in five minutes.  And the housekeepers did a walk through, but after what I had seen, I didn’t think I could rest until i sprayed the whole thing down with bleach.

I called my husband.  “I need bleach.  And sponges.  Stat.”

He delivered them, said I was awesome, and went back to work.

I looked around at the piles and the dirt and the clothes everywhere.  My youngest was having a meltdown.  She is my type A kid, everything in little rows and neatly labeled.  She was looking for a nail file and couldn’t find one.

“Oh, no, it’s going to be like THIS,” she said.

I bleached the fridge so I could put away food.  Bleached the kitchen floor and the countertops and all the chairs.  Then I sat down with a glass of water and told the kids to bring me my laptop.

Once in a while, I have an urge to play a game called “Pizza Palace” on Webkinz.  Usually at the worst possible time, right in the middle of some domestic disaster that I should be casting out like a demonic plague.

Usually, right about then, I want to play Pizza Palace.

The kids stood around laughing.  They were amazed by me and my mad pizza making skillz.  And a little bewildered.  “Mom?  Do you want us to put away our clothes?”

“Um, yeah.  Whatever.  I don’t care right now.  I’m busy.  Don’t talk to me.  I’m on level 8, and it’s getting hectic.  These penguins are the worst.”

I made my oldest daughter get off her math website.  She was slowing down the internet.

I told them to get out their tablets.  Bewilderment became shock and disbelief.  I never tell them to get their tablets.  I’m always the one taking them away.

We sat around a freshly bleached counter with our gadgets and gamed.  Surrounded by a mountainous mess.

And we laughed.

I cleaned up the mess later.  Bleached the whole room top to bottom and put everything away.

I love what Ginny Wilcox said to me recently, “Children know how to play.”

And we are God’s children.  We get to play.  Yes, we need to work hard and do our best, and that mess had to be cleaned up.

But, anytime I rest, it is a confession of trust and faith that things will work out without me killing myself to get them done.  And if I’m hitting my limit, I need to stop a minute.  I need to play Pizza Palace.

I need to laugh, and put my feet up, and recharge.

Sometimes it’s ok to play.  Right in the middle of a mess.

***

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Neh8:10

Jr. High Gym Class. Oh, the Horrors.

Gym class was the worst.

No.  Wait.

Seventh grade gym class was the worst.

The heat.  The clothes.  The coach’s shorts.

Our locker room was concrete blocks, painted–no–slimed is a better word, a pale and institutional mucous pea green.  So shiny.

I hated it.  I can’t think of a strong enough word, so I’ll settle for hate, but I mean, I hated it.  I dreaded it.  It became nearly a phobia.  Maybe a full-on phobia.

I was never a great runner as a teen.  I discovered later that I had a mild case of asthma.  It would have been nice to know back then, why I always came in last, why I couldn’t breathe.  It would have been nice to be able to tell the coaches, with their barely restrained eye rolls, as they clutched their stopwatches and waved the stragglers in.

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At home we played some mean badminton on the weekends.  But softball, football, volleyball, basketball?  Ummmm, no.  Never.

And it didn’t help that I went almost my whole seventh grade year without glasses.  Even though my prescription is in the -5 category.

I did fine in my classes, I just couldn’t see a softball coming to save my life.  At least not until it was close enough to hit me.  Nothing like throwing a softball at a blind kid and telling them to run.  “Come on, kid!  Catch it!”

I spent that six-week-unit out in left field.

Literally.

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It didn’t help that I had gone to a friend’s house the summer before, and a bunch of kids there thought it would be fun to play softball.

I have learned that some things are not fun for me.

Softball is one of them.  Also Starbucks at 6 am.  I don’t get it.  Not fun.

They got a game of softball together in the front yard.  And I went out to left field.  My destiny.

But my friend forgot to tell me that her dad had strung up a single strand of electric barbed wire that was about knee-high on a twelve-year-old.  He put it there to keep the cows out of their yard.  I grew up in Arkansas and, hot wire, it’s a thing.  But I lived in town–no cows, no barbed wire.  I didn’t see it.

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When the ball came my way, I decided I’d actually try to play.  Unlike gym class where I usually wandered off to the bushes in the middle of an inning.

I took off running, stretched up, arms out, glove open like a cradle.  I was going to catch it, one more step, and I would be right under it.  The kids were shouting.  I thought they were cheering me on.

And then.

I connected with the barbed wire, and those electric barbs sunk deep in my knee.  And on a hot wire, I was stuck there a second, shocked and vibrating.

When I finally pulled back and broke the circuit, I was done. Just done. The little white ball rolled innocently to a dip in the pasture.  A cow gazed at me, chewing, and looked away.

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I heard my friend running behind me, “I was trying to tell you!!  So sorry!  I thought you would see it!”

Well, I could see it now, thanks, but just barely.  One string of wire against a green and brown lawn doesn’t exactly stand out.

I was over it.  I completely ignored her.  I dropped the glove on the ground and started walking to the house.  Forget softball.  Forever.

Blood streamed down my leg.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.  I was just done.

I went into the house.  I probably should have had stitches, but I didn’t want to deal with it.  I didn’t show my mom.  I stuck a bunch of bandaids on my knee and never looked back.

After that, I hated anything to do with Phys. Ed. even more.  As if.

I did the least activity I could and found all kinds of excuses to sit out.  I slow counted my crunches and my cotton pickers. I faked sicknesses.  I hung back.  I made it through with a B grade, some coach’s mercy.  And I still had to take two more years of gym class.  I limped through it and was never more relieved than when that last credit was done.

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Fast forward a few years, and my daughter asked me if she could play softball.  I said yes.  She had a friend on the team.  They giggled and wore matching shirts.  They liked meeting each other at the softball field and getting juice boxes after the games.

The first time I visited the field, the wind blew and shook the chain link fence.  The rattle of the metal was Pavlov’s bell, in a bad softball field kind of way.  I broke out in a sweat, and a mild panic rose  up in me.

Shame is an awful feeling.

It takes everything.  Freedom, joy, delight.

When that fence rattled, it took me back to all those years of being picked last, softballs flying toward me that I could not see.  I hated taking my daughter to those games.  I could barely watch, and the rattling of that fence rattled me.  I stood outside the group of moms, trying to focus on my daughter, sweating, and counting the minutes til the game would end.

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One afternoon, I stood and listened to the fence jangle, metal rings on metal rings in the wind, and I watched my daughter play.  She was the sweetest thing, eight years old, all unicorns and cupcakes.  Her smile was so big I could see her teeth from the sidelines.  She was having so much fun.  Out in left field.

The other kids were tearing it up.  Hitting the ball hard, running for dear life, sweating, red faced, focused.

And all the while, my daughter and her friend were lying down on the ground, looking at the sky.  Making dirt angels.  Picking daisies.

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No pressure.  No shame.

And something fell away from me, that fast.

My heart reconditioned in one soft and sunshiny moment.  And that chain link fence suddenly sounded like a song.

It has happened to me over and over again, walking through an old ugly thing in a new way with my kids.  Their joy heals me.  Everything is reframed.  New memories push the old ones away.

What a gift.

***

Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him. Ps127:3

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

Friday the 13th.

Mine was great.  How was yours?

I’ve never been especially superstitious, but I do remember a time when numbers, bridges, black cats, and ladders made me think twice.  Now they make me smile.

So, in honor of Friday the 13th and all the good gifts God gives on any given day, here are

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

  1. Positive messages.  Start pumping them in.  Right now.  Whatever.  Whoever.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows.  Tons of great preachers have free videos on YouTube.
  1. Pump OUT the positive messages.  Fill up on joy to spread joy.  Make yourself a veritable font of joy.  LAUGH.  Joy is strength.  Learn from people who make you laugh, listen to speakers who make you laugh, create a culture of humor around you.  Plan to make someone else laugh.  You reap what you sow.  So, instead of ruminating on negative statistics, politics, news, gossip, and complaints, sow some joy, and reap some strength.couple-1846208_640
  1.  If fear does not budge, you may need a deep healing work in your life.  Most Christians believe that God does deliverance, in other words, cleanses us of any spiritual influence that is causing fear and replaces it with peace.  Get counseling from someone who understands emotional healing and deliverance.
  1. Hope.  For something.  Believe that things can get better.  Believe that you can be free and victorious.  Believe that your dreams can come true, in some form.  Believe that you were made with a plan and a purpose and that God has not brought you this far to drop you.
  1. Do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t back down.  Just keep swimming.  Forward movement is always better than wallowing in emotion.  Remember, no matter how little you are able to do, doing something means you are running circles around the guy sitting on the couch.  running-573762_640
  1. Raise up your voice. Talk back to anxiety.  Recite scripture.  Just say “no.”  Just say “Jesus.”  Say something, anything, to cheer yourself on and give yourself much needed strength.  The most powerful people I know speak over themselves constantly.  It’s a habit that has to be learned and practiced—put up post it notes with verses and sayings, and then SPEAK THEM!  Don’t let random thoughts rule your life.
  1. Move in the opposite spirit. This means that when circumstances look bleak, you look for the rays of sunshine.  Stop blaming everything on the devil and looking for demons in every drawer.  It is not about being Pollyanna, it is about looking for the Easter egg, the silver lining, the hidden treasure of goodness, and focusing on that instead of anything else.  If you can’t see it, ask God to show you.  Ask Him to tell you what moving in the opposite spirit looks like right now.
  1. Watch the crowd you hang with. If everyone around you is constantly spewing negativity, fear, and doubt, it is going to be harder to find courage.  You don’t have to drop everyone, but make your inner circle a circle of courage.  active-1822704_640
  1. Watch the influences you allow. So many of our emotions flow from things we did yesterday or last week, or things that happened to us years ago.  We can’t control everything, but we can control some things.  What are you reading, listening to, watching, thinking about?  Watch your responses to movies, conversations, news reports, etc.  How is your heart rate?  Are your palms and pits cringing with sweat?  Are your shoulders tense?  Do you feel restless and wish you could get away?  Are you reading/watching/listening out of obligation or peer pressure?  What is your body telling you?  Listen, and limit influences that rob you of strength.
  1. Love and draw near to God and draw identity from Him. The more time spent in His presence, the more like Him we will be.  There is no anxiety, fear, stress, or frustration in God.  los-cabos-68861_640
  1. And, as God reveals His identity to you, saturate in that. Pay attention to His love languages with you, like armor, doves, hearts, thunder, etc.  What do “God winks” look like to you?  And then watch for these things.  Billboards, radio, people, little signs.  Wear them, find clothing that reminds you of what He’s shown you.  Jewelry, stickers, artwork, furniture.  Let Him weave His message into every part of your life.  Write down every instance and reminder in a journal, and pull that baby out and read it often, not just on the bad days.  And spend time with people who understand identity.  Celebrate these encounters and reminders with them.  It’s amazing and encouraging to see how much He is communicating with us when we plug in.
  1. Forgive.  Yourself and others.  Confess something if you need to.  Let old and new things go.  Quickly.  Don’t ruminate and take offense.  God is for you.  Forgive and move your focus to the plans God has for you.
  1. Know your why! You’ve heard me say it before:  Your why will help you with your how.  Why do you want to beat fear?  Who is watching your example?  Kids, family, friends?  What are your dreams?  What do you long to do?  As the old question asks, “What would you do with your life if you had no fear?”  Knowing why you’re fighting the good fight will help you push through the hard days.

What habits do you cultivate to keep anxiety at bay and your mind on things above?  When anxiety creeps in, how do you kick it out?

***

Anxiety is doublemindedness.  –Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not be troubled, and do not be afraid.  Jn 14:17