When Anxiety Makes Your Mind Run Wild

I-94 MapI could tell by his side of the conversation that I was not going to like what my husband was about to tell me. He hung up the phone and proceeded to inform me that a company he recently rented equipment to was ready for him to come do a pick-up.

“I have to be there tomorrow at noon,” he said.

“But we have to take Beth to the airport tomorrow,” I said as my stomach started to tangle into a great big knot.

“You’re right,” he said. “Looks like you’ll have to get her there by yourself.”

Make that two knots…

Our dear friend Beth was visiting from China. I was already dreading the next day when we would have to say good-bye. This was not the way I wanted our time together to end…with the three of us not together. With me alone on the highway.

I have this little thing I like to call “1-94 Anxiety” or perhaps you could call it “Highway Anxiety” in general. It’s not that I don’t love to drive, I do. I love moments in the car by myself. Moments to listen to a favorite CD or enjoy a little peace and quiet. When I lived in the south, free of young children, with family and friends nearby, I never hesitated to hop in the car and drive the two to six hours that carried me their way.

But there are other forms of driving I don’t enjoy. Driving by myself, in the middle of winter, with two small children, a nine-month pregnant belly, and my husband hours away is not my cup of tea.

I know this might seem silly. I know millions of people do this every single day. I know, at least on some level, this is nothing I can’t handle…but…

But…what if something were to happen?

What if we had an accident? A flat tire?

What if I ended up stranded?

Just one week ago a 150-car pile up occurred on the same highway I would be traveling…what would I do if this happened to me?

In no time flat my imagination kicked in the very worse way. I pictured myself traipsing through snow with two young children behind me. I pictured myself trying to fix a flat tire with a belly as round as beach ball, and stretchers loading all three of us into an ambulance parked beside our mangled van.

Anxiety and fear can do this, make our imaginations run wild. They can paint a vivid reality, a clear-cut future, that hasn’t even happened.

I believe our imagination is a gift from God, it’s a beautiful and powerful thing but this is never the way God intended for our imaginations to be used. This is why the scriptures tell us, “take captive every thought.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

When we fail to take thoughts like these captive we set ourselves up for all kinds of stress, all kinds of worry, fear, and torture. And for what? For something that isn’t true. For a future that doesn’t exist.

In Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes,

“As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you—now and always. Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way! Instead, come to Me, and relax in My Peace.”

Instead of allowing our anxieties and imaginations to rule our thoughts God wants us to stay close to Him. To come to Him with all our fears, anxiety, and doubts and trust that we could never be more loved, never be more safe and secure than we are with Him.

This is what’s real. This is the future we have. A future, a reality, where God is present and always by our side. He loves us. And because He loves us we have nothing to fear.

In the end, my husband was able to get up early, do his pick-up, and get home in time to go with us to the airport. My worry, my anxiety, my fearsome imagination was literally all for nothing. God worked everything out in perfect detail. All I really needed to do, all along, was trust in Him.

So how about you? What makes you anxious? What fuels your imagination to run wild in all the wrong ways? What scares you or looms in your future?

Instead of letting your imagination run wild with all that could wrong, let your imagination run wild into the arms of Jesus. Into all that is good, and true, and right.

With Him you can face anything…I-94 included.

What You Really Need to Make this Year New

CalenderI had such high hopes for this week. After an amazing Christmas and New Year with family that spread itself wide over the first weekend of January I felt certain come Monday morning I would be ready and able for my life to get back to normal.

I set my alarm for 6:00 am for the first time since before the holiday. I woke up and headed downstairs to spend time with God and to write before the rest of my family woke up.

What is usually an hour or two turned out to be a measly twenty minutes when my youngest daughter woke up early crying for her mommy.

“No problem,” I thought as I rocked her back to sleep. “I can still use this time to read and pray. I can organize my thoughts for this week’s blog and let my mind mingle over the next scene I’ll write when I do get back to my story.”

In addition to my daily morning routine, I planned to get back to our daily homeschool schedule, to pack away Christmas, to unpack the box of baby clothes waiting anxiously in the basement. I planned to fix healthy meals and start our new year with a Daniel Fast tailored to suit our family.

Easy-peasy, right? After all, it’s the first week of the New Year. Every thing seems hopeful. Every thing seems bright.

Well, as the week bumped along I didn’t get back to my writing.

I didn’t wake up early to spend time with God.

I have yet to do my lesson plans and get back to school.

Christmas boxes fill my hallway.

The nursery closet sits unnervingly empty while that box of clothes remains neglected in the basement.

And I’ve fallen off the health-food bandwagon more times than I can count.

As I sit to write this blog and look back over the week (Has it really been only a week?) I can’t think of a single thing I managed to accomplish.

And I don’t feel hopeful, I don’t feel bright. I feel discouraged and sick in my heart. I feel like I’m about to wither and fall right off the vine.

Just before Christmas my sister wrote an amazing post for me about our longing for the ideal. How sometimes we get so wrapped up in wanting things to be perfect for the holidays we miss the truth that the very first Christmas was anything but perfect, anything but ideal.

While this is an important truth to remember before Christmas, I am finding myself returning to it again and again at the start of this new year.

Because, when it gets right down to it, ideal is what I long for, so often more than Christ.

And isn’t this the problem? That when we long for the ideal we don’t have more than we long for the ideal Savior we do have, we miss the grace that exists all around us.

We miss the grace that He is enough…even when we’re not.

We miss the grace that He is our strength…even when we’re weary and weak.

We miss the grace that He supplies beauty…even in our mess.

At the beginning of It’s a Wonderful Life, God tells the angel Clarence that George Bailey is in trouble not because he’s sick but because he’s discouraged, and according to God being discouraged is the worst of the two.

When I consider how discouraged I feel at the end of this week I know this is not what God wants for me. I know this isn’t what God wants for any of His children when we fall short of our own expectations, or our own ideals.

Instead of feeling discouraged over what we can’t or haven’t accomplished He wants us to draw close to who He is and remember what He can accomplish in us. In our failings, our weakness, our mess.

So if you’re like me, a little banged up, a little discouraged, a little disenchanted at the start of this new year, let’s make a new resolution. A resolution to forget the ideal, to forget the discouragement, and remember the God who makes all things new.

The God who makes all things fresh and full of grace.

Every year.

Every week.

Every morning.

Every moment we choose to turn to Him and find all we’ve ever longed for.

P.S. To the handsome man that came up to me in the kitchen last night, and graced me with an out-of-the-blue kiss, and told me I’m doing a great job…thanks! I wouldn’t have written this one without you.