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 Are You So Afraid Of?

The King's SpeechFor the past two weeks my church has been hosting their annual “At The Movies” event.

It’s something I look forward to every year and last week the featured movie was the The King’s Speech. As we watched clips from this movie, which is one of my favorites, our pastor, Lee Cummins, wove together a message about fear and how it doesn’t have to define us or determine our futures.

It was a message I needed to hear and there was one scene in particular, toward the end of the movie that spoke straight to my heart.

King George of England, who suffers from a severe stammer, is about to deliver the most important speech of his life by way of public radio. His country is about to go to war with Nazi Germany and he knows his people need to see him as someone they can trust. As he stands before the microphone his speech therapist and friend, Lionel, tells him, “Speak as though you are speaking only to me, your friend.”

For me this scene was a picture of Christ and the way He stands by us. In the midst of our fears He is there, reminding us we are not alone.

As I writer I go through phases where writing comes easy, where ideas flow freely, and inspiration can be found in anything from a dustpan on the floor to a profound moment that must be put into words. But the opposite is also true. There are plenty of times when writing comes slow, tedious, and hard. Ideas dry up. Inspiration gives way to hesitation, procrastination, complacency, doubt.

For the past month or two the progress I’m making on my book has seemed painfully slow. My blog ideas seem to fall flat. And while I feel inspired to write my chances to actually sit down and work seem few and far between.

As I write these words I can see a pattern of what “seems” to be and what actually is. And I know this is where the fear comes in. When writing becomes a challenge all kinds of fears invade my mind:

What if I never finish this book?

What if I run out ideas for my blog?

What if I’m only kidding myself with this idea of being a writer?

And when fear creeps in all kinds of doubts and accusations seem painfully true:

You’ll never publish this book and if by chance you do, NO ONE will ever read it.

You don’t have anything new or interesting to say.

Your work as a writer is pointless.

There’s one more scene from the King’s Speech that spoke to me last week. King George has just seceded the throne and in a private moment with his wife breaks down in tears saying again and again, “I’m not a king, I’m not a king, I’m not a king.”

But he was a king.

Fear, doubt, and accusations were taking over his mind, defining the way he saw himself, determining what he believed about his role as king, his future.

But none of it was true.

When I give into fear, and doubt, and accusations all I want, at least on the inside, is to sit and cry like George. With my heart in my hands I shake my head and think again and again, I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer.

But I am a writer. I’m a daughter of the king and I. Am. A Writer.

Seeing this, catching this truth in the scenes of the King’s Speech, in Pastor Lee’s message, in God’s words just for my heart, makes me feel like I can breathe again. Like I can write wholly and confidently in the truth that this writing life was His idea long before it was mine and because I am His I have nothing to fear.

And this is the truth.

So what are you afraid of? How are you letting fear define you? Control your thoughts? Determine your actions, your future?

In the face of this fear, in whatever it’s keeping you from, I hope you’ll remember King George.

I hope you’ll remember that you are a child of the King. You have nothing to fear.

With your courage, your calling, your life, you can stand before the microphone and speak as though you are speaking only to Him…your King, your Father, your Friend.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a figure skater…

I know I’m not alone in saying that Ladies Figure Skating is above and beyond my most favorite Olympic event. It’s the one part of the Olympics I never miss. It has held me spellbound since I was a girl.

Last night I watched as the Ladies Freestyle Program unfolded before my eyes. Every performance was magnificent, but there was one in particular that stirred my heart.

Mao Asada of Japan skated first in the television line up. After a terrible performance in the short program, Asada was in sixteenth place. A silver medalist in the 2010 Olympic games, Asada’s hopes of winning a medal in Sochi were all but lost.

Four minutes on ice stood between Asada and her final chance for Olympic glory.

After making several major mistakes in her short program I watched as Asada fought back tears of defeat while listening to the judges’ scores. Tonight I watched her fight for the performance of a lifetime and when she cried joyful, proud, victorious tears at the end of her program I cried too.

I knew I had just witnessed something amazing, something magical. A glimpse of God and His work in me, His work in all of us.

I am hardly an expert on figure skating, but it seems to me that Asada had a choice to make as she stood in place, poised and ready to skate. She could offer the judges, the audience, the world her skill, her beauty, her passion, or she could crumple beneath the weight of fear, failure, and the pressure cooked voice of her critics.

As the world watched her skate it was clear that despite her fear and failures of the past, despite what the critics might do or say this girl was rising to the occasion, offering her heart and everything within her.

In the end, despite her flawless performance, Asada’s scores were not enough for her to win a medal but I’d like to believe the personal victory she gained from her skate was worth more than gold.

I may not know the glory of a perfectly landed triple axel or a performance that becomes legend but I do know I am faced with a similar choice each and every day.

I can choose to live from the heart, offer my skill, my beauty, my passion or I can choose to run, hide, build walls, shut down, hold tight to fear and failure, fall prey to the critic inside my head.

It’s only when I choose to offer my heart that my own brand of magic is made. It’s when I pick up my pen, cradle my babes, call a friend, or kiss my beloved that my world becomes my rink and glory abounds.

When I choose to offer, He takes my offering and spins His glory every time.

I may not win gold.

I still fall, and trip, and fail.

The critic continues to scoff.

But the real victory is never in the final outcome. The real victory is in all the little coming-outs where I choose to offer my heart and everything within me. Where I choose to rise. Where I choose to turn my back on the fear, the failure, and the critic.

Brave prince, lovely princess, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in a figure skater and the performance of a lifetime. May you take this day, this life and offer the world your own skill, and beauty, and passion. May you watch as He takes your offering and makes it shine.

As He makes the heart of you shine like silver ice and golden glory.