On Anxiety, Jesus, and the space in between.


Recently, I’ve been struggling a little bit.  It’s been hard to talk about, and I’ve wanted to write about it, but I haven’t felt like I’ve had a lot of positive to say, and I didn’t want to sound like I was griping.  I finally have something positive to say, so here I am.

I also didn’t want to be offered dozens of potential solutions that I’d potentially already tried or that would just make things worse when I tried them and they didn’t work.  I’ve been navigating fairly well with the help of a trusted circle of very close peeps.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Here it goes.

Easter weekend, I did something stupid.  Me, hyper-sensitive to caffeine, whose reaction to it can be measured in the increase in words spoken per minute — I forgot to monitor my caffeine intake throughout the course of the day, and because it was a long weekend, I also didn’t think too much of consuming caffeine past my typical 3 pm cutoff.  It started the evening of Good Friday.  I had a Cherry Pepsi with dinner.  It took me a while to fall asleep, but I’d gotten home late anyway and I didn’t think much of it.  I went for lunch with a friend the next day, and had a great big glass of Dr. Pepper with lunch.  Later, (about 5 pm — I didn’t realize it’d gotten that late) we got iced capps through the Tim Horton’s drive thru.  THEN (because I’m an idiot), I forgot about the caffeine I’d consumed throughout the rest of the day, and I had another Cherry Pepsi with dinner on Saturday night, and dinner wasn’t until about 8 pm.

Well, shocking, I didn’t sleep that night.  At all.  Like I got up Easter Sunday morning and lead worship on precisely zero hours of sleep, and was so out of it that I could hardly put music stands together.  But what I discovered in the midst of the night of no sleep is that caffeine also sends my brain spinning down this spiraling tunnel of anxiety, and while I wasn’t sleeping at all, I was over-processing, hyper-analyzing, and pretty much freaking out.  If I could think about it, I was worrying about it.

Sunday night, I went to go to bed, and was fairly thoroughly convinced I was having a heart attack (turns out that’s pretty much what a panic attack feels like).  Long story short, I ended up in the hospital most of the night only to have a doctor tell me I needed to calm down and relax.

There’s been a lot going on, and I don’t need to get into all of it because that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that since all this has happened, I’ve found myself in a place where I have never relied so heavily on Jesus, even though prior to all of this I would have told you that I did, and now that it’s happening often, I’m able to see the differences that reliance, and that open line of communication makes in my life.  I’ve had a few really cool experiences in the past few weeks, and I firmly believe my deepening relationship with Jesus is the catalyst for that.

I’ve had to learn to pray my way through situations that make me feel like I want to panic.  I haven’t had any major panic issues since Easter, but some minor ones, and I’ve learned that when I lean into Jesus and claim the promises in scripture about fear and anxiety, I can come out the other side of my bouts of anxiety with confidence, knowing I’m never alone, I have not been abandoned in any way, and I am safe.

I’ve had to create a bed time routine.  If you know me personally, you know that I’m someone who likes to fall into bed exhausted, as late as possible while still being able to function, because my best thinking, my best work, and the most fun usually happens later.  I’m a textbook night owl, and having trouble sleeping rocked my foundation.  When you’re only used to getting 6-6.5 hours of sleep a night anyway, because you’ve narrowed down the bare minimum amount you need in order to function like a responsible grown-up on a consistent basis, I found that the second I would have trouble falling asleep, my brain would reel into panic again — because “if I can’t sleep, I can’t drive to work.  That’s not safe.” and other such things that I would tell myself at 3 am when I still wasn’t asleep.

My bed time routine involves writing out scriptures (the month of May was actually focused around anxiety and fear, and it was VERY helpful), journaling gratitude (I have a journal where I’m writing down all the things I’m thankful for from each day as I get ready to go to sleep — 1000 Gifts style, I suppose.), reading my devotional book (I do NOT give myself enough time for this in the morning), praying, and having a bubble bath while I read a theology book of some sort in the tub.  When I start to doze, and start not retaining what I’m reading, I know I’m ready to go to bed.  I then fall asleep fairly quickly, which has been awesome.

Sometimes, though, when I get to the time of night when I’m ready to start this process, I can feel my brain spinning and I know that if I don’t process what’s inside, I’ll have a hard night ahead.  I have a journal where sometimes I write letters to God, sometimes I just write what I’m thinking and process that way, and sometimes I just write out my prayers as if I were speaking them.

And here we are, at the reason I wanted to post today.

A couple of days ago I made it to my bedtime routine and I found just that — my brain was reeling and spinning, and I couldn’t quiet my thoughts down enough to even focus on the scriptures I was reading through and trying to absorb by writing out.  So I went back through my scripture journal, and I wrote a prayer to God claiming all of the truths I’d learned and internalized throughout May about anxiety and fear.  I know whose I am, so I don’t need to be afraid.  I know this deeply now, and it’s become a matter of making sure I remember it in my times of greatest need.

I wanted to share what I wrote down, in hopes that someone would need to read this and that it would be helpful.  When I wrote it, I didn’t include the scripture references to which I was referring, but I have here in case you want to go read the verses themselves to see what I based this on.

Lord, I surrender.  All my fears.  They’re nothing and useless when I hold them to the standard of your love, your care for me, and your grace.  Jesus, right now I honestly don’t even know why I’m feeling anxious and fearful, but I know it isn’t from you.  You don’t elicit fear.  Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I will fear no evil.  For my God is with me (song — You Never Let Go).  I have not been given a spirit of fear. The Lord is for me.  Who can be against me?

Father I cast all my cares on you.  I release their weight (Psalm 55:22).  I know your yoke is easy and your burden is light (Matthew 11:30).  I know you have not created me to live in this space of anxiety and fear.

I feel like I’m slipping, God, but I know I’m not, because you’re holding me and keeping me steady.  Please help me to trust my rational and logical thoughts. Your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer (Psalm 94:18-19).

When I lean on my own understanding, sometimes I panic and I don’t even know why!  I choose to trust in you (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 62:8).  You are good.  When there’s nothing good in me.  I’m running to your arms.

David prayed to you in his distress and you set him free. Lord, I am doing the same! You are for me, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me? Yes, you will help me.  You are for me (Psalm 118:5-7).  You work all things together for my good because I love you (Romans 8:28). I see this when I look back at my life’s circumstances and I trust that you stay the same through the ages (Psalm 30:4-5 — also the song Your Love Never Fails), and you will continue to work outside of time to hold my life together according to your plans.

You will never leave me. You will never forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6). You will never abandon me (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Father, I praise you for all these promises and truths, and I rejoice because I know I can trust them. Rest in them. Claim them. Live them (Psalm 56:1-4).

I am pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. I am never abandoned by you. I get knocked down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

My hope is in you! (Psalm 62:5).  You alone are my rock and salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:1-4).

I have all that I need in you. My rest comes from you. My peace comes from you. My strength comes from you. Even when I don’t think I can handle what comes at me, I don’t have to be afraid, because you’re right there with me. You protect and comfort me. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:1-6).

You are always ready to help in times of trouble! (Nahum 1:7, Psalm 46:1-3)

I want to live in the shelter of the Most High so I can find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. You alone are my refuge, my place of safety. You are my God, and I trust you.  You will cover me with your feathers and shelter me with your wings. Your faithful promises are my honour and my protection (Psalm 91:1-6).

You yourself will fight for me.  My job is to stay calm (Exodus 14:14). So I rest in you. I will find my strength in the shadow of your wings (song — My Hope is in You).

 

Anyway — it’s my hope and prayer that these verses find homes in the hearts of those who need to read them, like they have in mine the past couple of months.  In the five days since I wrote that prayer, I’ve reread it three times, and it washes me with peace every time I do.

 

To the Farthest Shores


I took this book everywhere with me while I was reading it.  I even got a kick out of taking some ironic pictures with the book in the basket of my bicycle with the river that’s nearly right behind my house in the background…. not exactly the farthest shore, but the book was always with me so that if I found a quiet bench in a park, I could read there, too.

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I hadn’t read an Elizabeth Camden book before, though when I mentioned it to a friend, I was informed that Camden is an excellent author, and if you like historical fiction (which I do), I’d love all of her books.

I can’t say that To The Farthest Shores played out how I was expecting — in fact, it truly didn’t, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.  I never once knew what was coming, and right up until the end I couldn’t figure out how it was going to wrap up.  I have high levels of respect for an author who can not only create likeable characters, but also deliver an engaging plot line AND make it clear that she knows her historical stuff.  I’d hope that Camden does, given her credentials as a Research Librarian with Masters degrees in both History and Library Science.

It turns out to be a beautiful love story about reconciling past to present, forgiveness, and perseverance.  Camden weaves all of the elements together fluidly, and once I got into this book, I didn’t want to stop.

Naval officer Ryan Gallagher broke Jenny’s heart six years ago when he abruptly disappeared. Now he’s returned but refuses to discuss what happened. Furious, Jenny has no notion of the impossible situation Ryan is in. With lives still at risk, he can’t tell Jenny the truth about his overseas mission-but he can’t bear to lose her again either.

I highly recommend this book, and now I’m off to add some Elizabeth Camden to my Amazon “saved for later” cart 🙂

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Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.