Tag Archives: anxiety

Trusting God in Pregnancy

29 Jan

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Yesterday, I talked about the physical discomforts of being pregnant but I think one of the biggest challenges of pregnancy is not letting my mind run wild with scary possibilities. We’ve all heard stories and known women who have experienced loss, and it’s hard not to freak out about every little change or thing that is probably normal, but might not be.

When I first got pregnant, I thought that I would feel more peaceful once I was out of that first trimester window of risk. But no, I still found things to worry about.

Just recently, I had some bleeding and while it stopped on its own and Emma continued kicking around in my belly, I called and talked to a nurse (a week later) at my OB office. She was very concerned and wondered why I hadn’t called earlier. She said that she would feel better if I came in on Monday instead of on Friday, which was when my next appointment was. In the meantime, I should avoid exercise and the activity that caused the bleeding. She was very nice, and I wasn’t too concerned about it.

But then I was watching TV one night and Emma wasn’t kicking around like she usually does. I timed her kicks and technically, I felt her move 10 times in less than an hour, but some of those kicks were really weak… could I count those? What if she wasn’t ok?

Another night, I went to bed and felt nothing. No kicks. Emma always kicks as I go to bed! And my mind started racing with all kinds of very unproductive and worst-case-scenario thoughts. But I woke up in the middle of the night to her doing her standard karate chopping, so she really was fine.

I had my appointment on Monday and sure enough, everything was fine. There is an explanation for the bleeding (I won’t go into detail here) but it’s nothing to be worried about. And Emma seems to be fine – her heart rate is normal, movement is normal and good overall, I’m measuring right on track, etc. So all of that worrying for nothing. (The doctor did have me schedule another ultrasound for next Monday, just to be sure there’s not another explanation.)

Another day at work, I was just sitting at my desk and all of a sudden had horrible shooting/stabbing pain in my pelvis and belly. Like so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. It came and went for about 30 minutes. And because I hadn’t felt Emma move much throughout the morning, my mind started racing with thoughts of preterm labor and having to have a c-section at not even 30 weeks. After eating something and going to the bathroom, it got better for the most part, but I still called the nurse because Emma still wasn’t moving much. The nurse said told me to drink something sugary and lay down for an hour to count Emma’s kicks. And that as long as the pain went away and the baby was moving enough, they didn’t usually worry too much. I left work early to work from home for the afternoon and sure enough, after a glass of OJ and laying on the couch, Emma was fine. (I’ve since had more belly pains like that and I guess it’s just things stretching out down there? It’s definitely not pleasant, whatever it is! I also assume Emma wasn’t moving a ton because she was exhausted from storing up her little baby fat!)

Pregnancy continues to remind me of how not in control of things I am. I can research and worry and overthink and panic until I’m blue in the face, but what do I change with all of that? I only manage to destroy my own peace.

What I really need to do is trust God – and acknowledge that God has given me this gift of pregnancy and motherhood freely, unmerited, and I must hold it with open hands.  That’s where having an eternal perspective is critical – it reminds me that this life isn’t “it”. I can wholly surrender all of my dreams and expectations, including motherhood, because a better life is coming. And there are purposes to things that happen here that are bigger than we can presently understand.

I go back to my theme verse – “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD.” Being meek means accepting all things, even the hard ones, from God’s hand. It means not demanding that things go a certain way. I’m not saying that’s easy to do, because it’s not. But if I really want joy, real joy, I must fight to surrender.

So I’m praying for wisdom to know if/when something really is wrong, and for peace to trust that God is good and loving, no matter what happens.

Do you have a hard time trusting God for anything in your life?

Breathe in freedom.

1 Jun

When your body is challenged in yoga and weight lifting, the natural response is to hold your breath. We need to be reminded to breathe with the movements. Inhale, lift. Exhale, lower. Inhale vitality. Exhale tension. It may not seem like it at the time but breathing actually makes the postures and exercises easier because it gives you something else to concentrate on than just the muscle fatigue and supplies your muscles with oxygen.

I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days because I realized that this applies to life too. This week, I have felt tired and lazy. And I found myself emotionally gritting my teeth to “just get through” the week – essentially, holding my breath to survive.

But is that really what God wants for me? Are I really reduced to just gritting my teeth to get through life?

The trouble is that I associate the fullest life with being on top of things, things going my way, falling into place, being easy.

The fullest life is still available even when life isn’t that way (which is often). Even on the days, weeks, or months when things are hard, I’m tired and feel overwhelmed, and everything feels like a burden. Instead of holding my breath to survive, I can breathe through life’s challenges with God. 

Just like holding my breath doing a Half Moon, it seems easier and less painful to not think too much and just go through the motions. To not care. To resign myself to life being crap for the next few days.

In reality, I’m making the situation worse. And when I actually think about what I’m doing, it seems ludicrous. Why do I think that hard situations are easier to handle without God?

It’s because I think He’ll make me (wo)man up and deal with the situation. And the last thing I want to do is deal with the situation. I want to escape, withdraw, ignore.

What I forget, though, is that living in dependence on God is where I find joy always. Not just when I feel up to it, or when life is going well, or when I’m naturally happy. Always.

I also forget that living in dependence on God doesn’t require me to feel me up to it, or life to be going well, or me to be naturally happy. In fact, living in dependence on God comes most easily when I am starkly aware of my weaknesses and insufficiency. When I feel too small for something too big. When I’m struggling with the same thing yet again. When I’m having trouble even mustering up the energy to not give up.

I find freedom in acknowledging reality. Instead of shutting down and going through life on autopilot, I can admit that the situations I’m facing are affecting me and that it’s not all coming up roses. Jesus promised us peace in the midst of difficulty – not peaceful circumstances.

I stop trying to change reality. Once I acknowledge the tough circumstance, I stay there. I don’t try to change, fix, or manipulate it. That’s God’s job. My job is trust. This is the challenge I come back to time and time again. Asking me to live with God in the midst of my weaknesses and insufficiency is like asking a dog to walk on its hind legs. It’s not impossible but it takes a lot of work to actually stay there because it’s not my natural inclination.

I focus on the moment and give thanks. In yoga, you breathe with the movements to get your mind focused on the here and now. Stop thinking about all the things you’re going to do later in the day, all the bills and laundry and dishes piling up at home. Live in the now. Jesus told us this too: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I especially like The Message’s paraphrase:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

And the best way to live in the moment (I’m discovering) is to give thanks, for everything. Specifically. Audibly. Remember God’s blessings. Remember His faithfulness. Remember His grace.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a quote or two from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts:

“Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow.”

“Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.”

…………………..

When I really think about it, the life Jesus bought for us on the cross is STUNNING.

God’s Perfect Timing

7 Apr

I’ve been very anxious and overwhelmed this week, feeling like there is so much more that I want/need to be doing with my time than I am able. I just recently took on teaching ESL to a couple from our church for 2 hours, 2 days a week. It’s not a huge amount of time, but it does put a dent into two of the days I had with nothing going on. In addition to that, I am still editing curriculum for a nonprofit, writing a book, applying for jobs, doing house projects, reading voraciously, training for a triathlon, and managing my household by doing laundry, grocery shopping, dishes and cleaning. Who knew I could be so stressed out without a job? (I’m that good.)

I am seeing (yet again!) that my anxiety comes from me concerning myself with the big picture and How It Will All Work Out. And the reason I do that is because I am scared of failing. I am scared of letting things fall through the cracks, of appearing like I don’t have it all together and actually not having it together. I let all of these good things settle on my shoulders, until it feels like I am carrying around a 75-lb backpack everywhere I go. I also make all these good things into My Standard for the Christian Life and if I fall short by even one thing, I am racked with guilt and a I-completely-suck mentality.

It is so hard to live in dependence on God in the practical matters of life! It is hard to entrust God with the things you feel responsible for, the things you have on your plate, all the while knowing that for them to get done, you’re the one who actually has to do them. I mean, my dog is not going to send my resume in to potential employers. Travis is not going to train for the triathlon. The book is not going to write itself. I’m the one who has to do those things.

But I’ve discovered that it all comes down to timing. These things have to get done…but when? My answer to that question is usually something like, “Right now. Yesterday. Two weeks ago. Don’t even get me started.” It’s the illusion that I’m constantly behind or that there’s not enough time to do everything that is stressing me out. It’s not the amount of things to do, but the apparent lack of time.

That’s where God comes in. Since He is outside time, He knows what to do with it. I like to imagine God sitting at a table with all of my goals, tasks and chores spread before Him. As He looks over the things on the table, He grabs one and hands it to me. “Do this one now,” He says calmly. When I interject about another thing on the table and how it’s going to get done and when, He doesn’t answer my question but rather reaffirms His initial instruction. He knows what needs to get done and when; I have to trust His choice and instruction.

I have to believe that if a day flies by and it feels like I have not accomplished even a quarter of the things I wanted to, or if I truly feel like reading a book instead of writing one, or if something unexpected happens like the car breaking down, or the Rec being closed, or me getting sick, these things do not throw God for a loop and derail His plan. His plan is not g0-go-go without rest stops or potty breaks. He is a loving God who cares more about my spiritual state and relationship with Him than He does about what I accomplish in a particular day, though I continually run to Things I Got Done to prove my worth and validate my existence.

Ultimately, I have to believe that God’s timing is perfect and He is working in my life in mundane, everyday ways that sometimes I don’t even notice (though I want to notice them more often!). God’s ways are so much higher than my ways that He is coordinating even the slightest, smallest details in my life to accord with His plan.

“For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27)

“The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.” (Psalm 138:8)

“This God–His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true.” (Psalm 18:30a)

Unfettered Joy

21 Dec

I just took my dog Katy for a walk and as I felt the sun on my face and the cool breeze on my face, I also felt something I haven’t felt in a quite a while: unfettered joy.

As I walked along the familiar streets, watching Katy’s ears cutely bounce up and down as they do, I had complete joy. As I type these words, I still have complete joy. It’s amazing!

And I know it’s from God. I’ve been reading Walking With God by John Eldredge and it has really changed the way I think about my relationship with God. There are a lot of things I could mention but I’ll just focus on one: spending time listening to God in my quiet times. When I first became a Christian, I soaked up everything I could about the Bible. I spent hours reading and studying it. I prayed little. Over the past year, I have started praying a lot more. I pray out loud most of the time – a lot of times, I do it in the car instead of listening to the radio. I still do both of those but now I’m learning to listen. To not just tell God my side of the story but to hear Him speak directly to me. (If you want to know more, read the book.)

But this morning, as I was writing about the things the book had brought to my attention about myself, I felt myself getting anxious about spending so much time with God because I had planned on starting work at 8:00 and it was now past that time. One of the thoughts Eldredge writes in his book is looking at the fruit of a thought or action in your life – you can determine where it came from (God or Satan) by looking at what the outcome is in your life. Well, the outcome of whatever I was worrying about was anxiety – definitely from Satan. So I asked God, “Why am I always anxious when I’m spending time with you in the morning?”

This what I discovered:

“Even though I have been praying more often and being mindful of God throughout the day, I have been asking God’s blessing and strength on all the things that I have undertaken. I view my life as my responsibility – I need to make it count. I view each day that way and am stressed out as a result. I need to trust God that He will get done in my life (and every day) what He wants to get done. He is the One sanctifying me. I just need to follow His lead, cooperate with what He is doing. I had made an agreement that God wouldn’t help me so I had to do it myself. I wanted so much to be holy but felt like I continued to fail, so instead of waiting on God to help me, I forged ahead and tried to make myself holy. But here’s the great part: It’s not up to me!”

This was the little dark cloud hanging over my head that wouldn’t let me have complete joy. I still thought everything was up to me. I felt responsible for everything in my life. For making it all work. For making it count. For becoming Christ-like. But now I see that I can relax and just follow Christ’s lead. He knows what I need, better than I do. He will guide me into the areas of my life that I need to work on. I just need to rest in His finished work and in His promise that He will sanctify me.

As I am experiencing this joy, I am very thankful – thankful that God has shown me He cares about my joy, cares about my understanding of what Jesus has done for me. In this process of sanctification, He isn’t helping me – I am helping Him. He is the One doing all the work – I’m just cooperating. God is awesome.

Ugly unbelief

9 Sep

Unbelief is an ugly thing.

My blog post yesterday is some pretty convincing evidence of that statement. Just writing that post made me depressed and discouraged – I can’t imagine what it’s like reading it!!

But instead of deleting it as the insane rantings of an emotionally unhinged lunatic, I am leaving it. This is real evidence of the struggle with unbelief, a struggle which everyone has, to some extent, every day. I just show what happens when you let it spiral out of control.

I woke up today planning to run 15 miles but since our race this weekend has been cancelled due to the Fourmile Canyon fire (and I really didn’t feel like running that much today), I decided to do that run on Saturday, when I will be better rested and can take a nap afterwards. So instead of lacing up my running shoes at 6:30, I cracked open Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.

This is what I read: “A river is victoriously persistent, overcoming all barriers… [Has] an obstacle come into your life and you do not seem to be of any use to God? Then keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you around the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source. Never allow anything to come between you and Jesus Christ – not emotion or experience – nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.”

This is why I love reading Oswald Chambers. So often, his devotions are exactly what I needed to hear. I have been so focused on my problems that I’ve been saying “See how big my problems are?!?! How can God possibly help me with this?” When in reality, I was the one being the problem and God was the only answer.

After a little bit more rational pondering (and no doubt some inspiration from the Holy Spirit), I have realized that I am contributing to this problem of my job more than I was aware. There are 3 main issues:

1. Working from home has definite benefits – I love the flexibility. But it’s that very flexibility that has made me subconsciously feel like a slacker all the time and resulted in a huge burden of guilt. I don’t feel like I am giving a wholehearted effort in my job – I’m doing just enough to get by. That feeling, though subtle, has been wearing on me. And I think, in this instance, that guilt is a good indication that I am not glorifying God in my work ethic right now.

2. I also have been overwhelmed by feelings of not being able to do all the things that I would like to do – and I blame it on work. I think this feeling goes along with any commitment, since naturally, by doing one thing, you eliminate the possibility of doing another thing at the same time. So instead of letting this limitation breed discontentment, I am memorizing the verse, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God has commanded that I focus on the positive things (Philippians 4:8) and be content (Philippians 4:11).

3. Last but certainly not least, I have been very fearful in my job. The modern term is “stressed out” but I’m pretty sure that’s just a fancy way of saying I’m scared. I’m scared about failing (volunteer coordination) and scared about what other people think about me (getting new timing clients). Instead of looking to God and saying “This I know, that God is for me… what can man do to me?”, I have been saying “I can’t handle this!!” These realizations seems so obvious that I feel a little sheepish for my previous blog rant. But that is the effect of unbelief – you can’t think rationally, you believe sinful emotions instead of the truth, and rely on your own very limited understanding.

So in response to these 3 issues, I’m going to take some practical and spiritual action:

With God’s help, I am going to maintain a more intentional work schedule. Instead of working just whenever, I’m going to try to sit down around the same time every day and work for a particular duration – say 9 to 4. I am also going to start keeping track of the hours I work so I will know whether my guilt is sinful (letting my actions dictate how much I’m worth) or godly (I am not glorifying God by being a hearty worker).

I am going to prioritize my non-work time. The things I really want to make a priority are, in no particular order: running (the marathon is only 2 months away!), getting in the Word, praying, reading, cooking healthy food (not frozen pizzas!), and blogging. I need to be intentional about not getting sucked into mindless TV – though I do still hope to watch my favorite shows, like Bones and Desperate Housewives. But that will come second to my other, higher priorities.

And when I feel fearful about failure or human approval, I need to run to God. I need to remind myself of the revelant truth that He loves me and nothing I do or don’t do can change that. And because He loves me, I can trust Him. Just like with sanctification, I am responsible for the practical, everyday matters but He is in charge of the final product. I am called to be faithful in my job, but He is the one who makes me succeed. “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8). I can trust God with the outcome of my job.

Yet again, I am so incredibly thankful that God is who He is – faithful, enduring, patient, loving, gracious. I am ashamed of my unbelieving behavior over the past week and a half and yet, I can come into God’s presence through prayer as if nothing ever happened. That is amazing.

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him, for God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).