When Anxiety Tries to Win

Quote pulled from post

When I’m feeling anxious, which is often, my husband says he’s going to “sit on me.” This isn’t some idle threat, nor a threat at all. Rather, his words convey a promise to, literally and figuratively, cover me with his strength and love, though he doesn’t actually sit. Instead, he rolls over on top of me, completely enveloping me in his much bigger and stronger self. Perhaps he’s attempting to squeeze out all my angst, or maybe, not knowing what else to do, simply wants me to know he’s there, sees my inner struggle, and that he cares.

The first time he “covered me” in his love occurred around eight years ago. It had been a tough week during which God had allowed some deep, long buried hurts from my past to resurface. In the middle of this painful, fragile time, I received a phone call that left me sobbing so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was as if every hurt once suppressed suddenly rose to the surface. It’s hard to describe the intensity of my emotions except to say that it literally felt as if my heart were shredding .

And in the middle of my ugly cry, as I lay in bed, tears coursing down my cheeks, my husband came to my side and immediately rolled on top of me, squishing me in the strongest, firmest, most immovable hug I’d ever experienced. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said over and over. Then, after maybe the tenth time, realization hit: “That’s Jesus.”

I understood, with tear-quieting clarity, that Christ was loving me through my husband in that moment. Though this experience and the understanding that followed didn’t alleviate my pain, it did make it more bearable, because I knew I wasn’t alone. Through my husband, Jesus showed me that He saw me, loved me, was with me, and would carry me through.

When my emotions and circumstances feel out of control, I love to spend time reading through the Psalms. Many of them were written by a man named David who was hunted down for years and, at one point, forced to hide in a cave. Though proven to be a courageous warrior, many of his psalms reveal he also struggled with fear. But in the midst of his most terrifying circumstances, he never lost sight of what he knew to be true: that sovereign creator God was always with him, would never leave him, and would one day turn everything to good.

When others warned him of threats, encouraging him to flee, he responded, in essence, saying, “I trust God to protect me, so why should I run.” (Psalm 11:1) Even if a thousand dangers lurked in the shadows (Ps. 11:3), David refused to Quote pulled from post
cower, because he knew God was both intimately near (in His holy temple) and reigning from heaven (Ps. 11:4), where He could see all. Though life and David’s circumstances might have felt out of control, truth told him otherwise. He knew with unshakable certainty that the all-powerful, all-knowing God was with Him, in the middle of his greatest challenge, engulfing him in love and truth.

As David Guzik from the Enduring Word puts it, “When David considers the greatness of God, the care of God, and the vision of God, it all outweighs the danger.”

When we’re anxious, may we consider and meditate on those same unchangeable truths, and may we wrap ourselves deeply, completely, in God’s loving, protective embrace. Though this may not alleviate our anxiety, it will make it more bearable as we cling to the certainty that God will carry us through.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what are some things you’ve found to help?

If you haven’t already done so, consider joining my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group where I share daily challenges designed to help all of us move from fear to faith. You can join HERE.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved’s private group where you can share your struggles, celebrations, doubts, and prayer requests and link arms with other women learning to anchor themselves in grace. You can find us HERE.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough

When Our World Feels Out of Control

Tracing Our Fears to Their Proclamations

Faith Over Fear Bible Reading Plan

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia J Newbell

 

 

 

Finding God Amid Our Fear

Quote pulled from post on a water color background

Sometimes God must allow us to experience our greatest fears in order to free us from them. When it feels as if the ground beneath us will crumble to dust, we learn in a deeply personal way that “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed” God’s unfailing love will always remain.

To put it simply, we often discover who God is in all His faithful and merciful glory, not during the tranquil periods but when we feel as if our lives have upended.

Some of you may be familiar with this story I’m about to share. I tell it often because, of all the things I’ve experienced throughout my life, this particular event led to my greatest freedom. Though at first, I felt anything but free!

At the time, I was enslaved to fear, primarily of relational loss and financial insecurity. We were living in Louisiana at the time, in a newly built, gated neighborhood and had plenty of money coming in to pay our bills and then some. My husband drove a company car, had a company pension, and managed our finances well. I had every reason to relax, but anxiety frequently won, resulting in a constant fight for control. I lived as an orphan, as if I were forced to navigate a harsh, unpredictable world all alone rather than the beloved, cherished daughter of Christ Scripture promised I was.

Had God not intervened, I’m certain I would’ve destroyed my marriage. But He did, tearing me from my highly-regulated safety plan and allowing me to land in one of my greatest fears—unemployment (my husband’s). This resulted in a three-year transitionary period where we lived off of savings for a while then moved, first to Texas then to Missouri. And with each move, God allowed falsehoods to rise to the surface so He could counter them with truth.

When I felt abandoned and unheard, He assured me He would never leave and was attentive to my every cry. When it seemed my prayers went unanswered, He reminded me that He was working out all things according to His good and loving plan, for my growth and His glory. For every fear, He gently guided me to timeless promises in Scripture, reminding me of who He was, what He’d done, and what’s yet to come. As my vision shifted off of my problems and concerns and onto my powerful, unconquerable God, my fears slowly died.

When I’m feeling frightened, I love to spend time in the psalms, which often seem to echo the cries of my heart. When it feels as if my circumstances are unjust and perhaps others have betrayed me, I know “the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne” (Ps. 9:7). When I feel exposed and helpless, I know where to turn for “the Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9).

“Those who know Your name,” the Psalmist says, “trust in You.”

Or to put it another way: If we truly grasp the fullness of Christ—His love, power, and attentive faithfulness toward all His children quote from post with blue and green background—we realize we have no cause for concern and every reason to trust. We can attempt to fight our fears countless ways, but nothing soothes and strengthens the heart quite like growing closer to Christ. He is the only One with the power to save. When all our attempts to control and salvage our situation fail, we discover we truly have all we need in Him. He alone stands firm, immovable, at our side, and He always will.

Let’s talk about this! What characteristics of Christ do you find most comforting when you’re afraid? How do those characteristics speak to your current fear? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

For those of you waiting for the Faith Over Fear Podcast, Salem’s target release date is mid to late month. I’ll keep you posted if this changes.

My correlating Bible reading plan is currently available. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and contact her HERE to book her for your next women’s event.

Find her latest articles on ibelieve:

3 Commonly Quotes Bible Contradictions And How to Explain Their Truths to Agnostics

A Prayer of Hope for a Broken Home

What Would Jesus Say About the Church Today

Watch some of Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear video devotions:

Fighting Fear by Living Loved

How Anxiety Dulls Our Spiritual Hearing

 

 

When Anxiety Hits–Seeking God

God has given us everything we need to live confident, peaceful lives. But we can spend so much time wandering about in our misery, we fail to seek out the best way to peace—time with God Himself. My guest today shares a cute story regarding her midnight-roaming feline to illustrate an unshakable truth.

What My Cat Taught Me About God by Karin Beery

When my husband and I got married, we moved into a small rental house. With less than a thousand square feet, there wasn’t room to move things once we put everything in its place. That’s why we never rearranged our bedroom furniture – lack of options.

cat peering in the nightAnd that’s why my cat’s 3 a.m. cries always surprised me. After four years in our small house, Midgie would still wake me up in the middle of the night as she stood in the living room meowing. Even though I always slept in the same location Midgie would somehow lose her way, then cry out in despair or frustration (she’s never confirmed which).

Then I’d call her and give a quick whistle, and she’d trot my way, and burrow under the covers with me.

It always amazed me. Midgie knew where exactly where I was, but it wasn’t until she panicked and cried that she’d finally find me.

How many times have I treated God the same way?

He never changes. He never moves. His words and promises are always faithful and trustworthy, yet time and again when I landed in desperate situations, feeling hopeless, lost and confused, I’d cry out as if He somehow hid from sight!

He didn’t always call my name or give a little whistle, but in the middle of my panic, I’d remember where I could find woman reading her BibleHim—on my knees in prayer or through reading my Bible.

Thanks to Midgie’s late-night meowing, I try not to wait until panic sets in before I talk to God about my concerns. And if I forget and anxiety gets the best of me, it doesn’t take long to remember how to connect with God.

Midgie, on the other hand, still gets lost at night, but I love her anyway, and when she’s frightened in the middle of the night, I’ll be right where I’ve always been—in bed, waiting for her.

***

God makes a similar promise in James 4:8: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT). Therefore, whenever we call out to Him or take the slightest step toward Him, we can be confident that He is already moving toward us.

Let’s talk about this! What do you normally do when you feel anxious, uncertain, or unsettled? Do you normally run to God first, or do you wander about in your misery first, like Karin’s cat did? How can turning to Him first in prayer help give you peace and confidence?

***

Karin Beery's headshotKarin Beery – Writer. Editor. Novelist. Karin writes contemporary and speculative fiction with a healthy dose of romance. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s editing or writing business copy through her business Write Now Editing & Copywriting Services. And when she’s not doing either of those, she teaches – she’s currently teaching Substantive Editing for Fiction through the PEN Institute. You can connect with her on Facebook,Twitter, or at her website, www.karinbeery.com.

Four Reasons Boredom is Good For Your Child

It’s the phrase that makes nearly every mom cringe, and with summer approaching, it’s one most of us will hear a lot of soon:

ID-100361461

Photo by Stoonn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

“I’m bored.”

In our fast-paced, action-packed, activity-centered world where kids as young as seven are given cell phones and spend hours a day watching television, we can easily keep our children entertained from the moment they wake to when they go to bed.

But is that healthy? Could all this entertainment cause their stress levels to rise, their creativity to wane, and their self-confidence to falter? 

Could boredom, in fact, benefit our children, and if so, why do we, the parents, often feel the need to become our children’s entertainer?

I think maybe we’ve been conditioned to believe we, and therefore our children, must always be doing something, achieving something, progressing toward something. Sometimes it seems as if boredom has become synonymous with torture.

But what if this mindset is actually hurting our children? That’s not to say we shouldn’t encourage hard work, goal setting, and social involvement, within reason.

Because sometimes, the best thing we can do for our children is to slow things down to allow them time to experience boredom.

Boredom allows our children to decompress.

child-1146743_1920A few weeks ago, an article circulated Facebook about how even a few minutes of silence benefits our brains and helps to reduce stress. More than that, studies have found constant noise actually harms our children and delays their development (2011, Novotney). Is it any wonder, then, that today’s children show  such increased levels of anxiety (2000, Dr. Twenge)?

I find this interesting, especially considering many of us use the television to help “calm” our children  when they appear rambunctious or agitated when, according to research, our efforts could in fact be exacerbating the issue.

Boredom encourages creativity. 

child-392971_1920

photo by igrown taken from pixabay.com

When our daughter was young, I intentionally limited television and electronics to not more than a few hours a week. I’d read a study that showed how a child’s brain is more active staring at a blank wall than watching television and I decided I wanted more for her. So, I turned the tv off, sat her in a room with access to toys, books, and art supplies and watched her creative side blossom. The result? She created elaborate, three-dimensional, multi-story structures using nothing but paper, scissors, and tape.

I find it interesting that she is now pursuing an engineering degree.

Not only did her boredom spark her creativity, it allowed her time to develop her problem solving skills, skills she leaned on heavily to get through tough classes in high school and now in college.

The thing is, if given the opportunity, children will entertain themselves, and in the process, will learn how to care for themselves.

Boredom increases self-confidence.

Everything we do sends a message to our children. When we’re quick to rescue them when things get difficult rather than encouraging them to persevere toward a solution, we’re in essence saying, “I don’t think you can manage this one.” When we rush to entertain them upon first sign of boredom, we risk conveying the message, “Your incomplete on your own. You can’t entertain yourself, and solitude is bad.”

Fast forward ten years, how do you think such a child will handle sitting by themselves in the lunch room, or walking away from a group of friends venturing into trouble?

Boredom encourages self-discovery.

Our children are vastly different than us, and they’ve been created to embrace and fulfill a unique kingdom role. Childhood is meant to be the time when they begin to discover who they are, what they enjoy, and what they’re passionate about. And they will, if we allow them to do so. But when pack their day with activities and distractions, we hinder their ability to get to know themselves. Boredom gives our children time to think, which in turn allows them to be introspective.

Let’s talk about this! Did any of these points resonate with you? What are some ways you help encourage your children to entertain themselves? How have you incorporated times of silence into your children’s day, and how do you believe that helps them emotionally and cognitively? Can you see evidence of increased stress when your children become busier, and if so, how have you handled this?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other!

Novotney, Amy. “Silence Please.” American Psychological Association, 2011, Vol 42, No 7

Dr. Twenge, Jean M. “Studies Show Normal Children Today Report More Anxiety Than Child Psychiatric Patients in the 1950s.” American Psychological Association, December 14, 2000.

When Anxiety Mounts

angst-802639_1280

Photo by johnhain found on pixabay.com

Do you feel like you go through life white-knuckling it? A quick perusal on Facebook tells me anxiety is a major problem. As I was reading Davalyn Spencer’s post below, and the adventures and views she encountered, I wondered how often I’ve missed out on the beauty of the journey due to worry and fear.

As an added bonus, Davalyn’s giving away a free copy of her novella, Columbia Bride! (Read about the book at the end of today’s post) The winner will be randomly selected form comments left on this blog post. Please note, the contest is open to readers in the continental US only.

My Winding Roads and Toddlers by Davalyn Spencer

When my rodeo bullfighter husband and I set out on the road years ago with our dreams and children, we quickly acquired the skill of traveling light, fast, and focused. I loved it. No suitcases and always at home in our camper. Only the view outside our windows changed.

But the roads—they were another matter. Particularly when we veered off the predominant path.

One breathtaking drive took us through southeastern Washington down into the northeast corner of Oregon to the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo in Joseph, Oregon, land of the Nez Perce. I acquired one of my most important lessons in map reading on that trip: two squiggly lines on either side of a river means go the other way. But by the time I figured that out, there was no turning back.

Home was an 11.5-foot camper, extended-cab pickup, and horse trailer. In those pre-seat belt days, we fitted the back-seat space with a covered, padded board so our toddler, Jake, could sleep and ride and play in comfort.

Rolling wheat fields escorted us across the Washington state line until we began our descent toward the Grande Ronde River

photo by 4dr14nqg taken from pixabay.com

photo by 4dr14nqg taken from pixabay.com

on what the locals called Rattlesnake Grade.

Why were we not put off by the name?

Our “shortcut” to Joseph took an extra hour in our rig, maneuvering the narrow, sort-of-two-lane road that switch-backed down to the river and up the canyon on the other side.

As we rode that grade with all of our livelihood and our precious child, prayer became more important to me than breathing. I’d cringe as oncoming logging trucks whipped down the snaking road, passing us with inches to spare. Or I’d look over the rail-less edge, drinking in the terror of what could happen with one wrong turn.

My husband white-knuckled the steering wheel, his focus shifting between the engine light, the side mirrors, and oncoming trucks. But our son leaned over our seat back and laid his little head on his daddy’s shoulder, cool as a glass of summer lemonade. The sight was a direct message from God to me.

Jake was completely unaware of the razor’s edge we were riding. His daddy was in charge, and he was just fine with that. He didn’t even look out the side windows, but kept his eyes on the view through the windshield. In his childish innocence, he demonstrated the kind of confidence I needed to have in my Heavenly Father.

We made it safely to Joseph, had a great rodeo, and took the longer but quicker way out of the area through Pendleton. Map-reading lesson learned.

Several times since that trip, life has kinked up with curves, steep pulls, and passing concerns that threaten to push me over the edge. But things have always worked out when I rested in the Lord’s care and let Him sit behind the wheel.

We would do well to remember that Dad’s got it under control. He doesn’t need us grabbing the steering wheel, especially on the steep grades. If we let God be God, He’ll get us safely through. He’s faithful and oh so worthy of our confidence.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV).

***

Novella in Old West Summer Brides: The Columbine Bride:

DCS 2014_3.smaller FullOldWestSummerBridesLucy Powell is on a path not of her choosing: widowhood. But she’s determined she doesn’t need anyone’s help to get her neglected ranch back in order and running right—especially the neighboring rancher who keeps showing up at the end of her shotgun. Buck Reiter can’t leave Lucy and her two young’uns alone. It’s just not in him to sit by and watch while someone struggles. But he ends up as the struggler, searching for a way to let Lucy know there’s a whole lot more going on in his heart than just neighborly attention.

But it HERE.

 

 

Wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, author Davalynn Spencer began her writing journey in the national rodeo market and as a newspaper journalist, winning awards in both arenas. Today she continues to win acclaim with her inspirational western romance, finaling for the 2015 Will Rogers Medallion, placing second in the 2014 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, and finaling for the Selah Award and the Holt Medallion. Davalynn teaches writing at Pueblo Community College. She and her handsome cowboy make their home on Colorado’s Front Range with a Queensland heeler named Blue. Connect with Davalynn online at www.davalynnspencer.com and www.Facebook.com/AuthorDavalynnSpencer.com.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Can you share a time, like Davalynn did, when you were consumed with worry but God reassured you with a truth, object lesson, or perhaps an unexpected surge of peace? What do you do when you feel anxious? What helps you find peace when life gets crazy? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I wanted to invite you to be part of my Street Team!

Not sure what that is? Let me tell you. 😉
A street team is a writer’s inner circle of readers. Basically, they’re a group of freaders (friends and readers. I just made that word up. Are you impressed? … Yeah, me, neither.) Anyway, a street team is a group of folks, like you, who enjoy a writers writing enough that they want to tell others about it. (This can be such a huge help to writers!) In return, they get fun perks like free autographed books, first peak at covers, are invited to help name characters that will appear in upcoming novels (if I wrote suspense, that could really be fun, right?? haha!); they’ll get to read deleted scenes no one else will get to see, and more!
Sound fun? It will be, I promise!
Here’s what’s expected of street team members:
  • Tell your friends, family, co-workers, the random strangers you meet on the street, about the book. (Assuming you like it, of course!) You can do this by:
  • Posting reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnesandnoble.com, etc.
  • Sharing links (and links to reviews) on Facebook and Twitter
  • Sending invites to friends and family for an author’s events
  • Inviting friends over for chocolate and Skype with an author parties
  • Attaching post-it notes to random vehicles with the phrase, “Please read this book:–” Um… on second thought, don’t do that one, please. I’d hate to scare people.
So, I’m out of ideas now… Your turn!

 

Tears Not Wasted

portraitI think we’ve all had times where all we can pray is, “Lord, why?” Why me? Why now? Why this? Unfortunately, I don’t believe God always gives us answers this side of heaven, but every once in a while, we catch a glimpse of God’s glorious, loving plan. And when that happens, all we can say is, “Amen!” Today my sweet friend Jodie Bailey, author of Freefall, shares such a moment and the heartfelt praise that ensued. As you read her account, pause to praise God afresh, knowing He truly does work all things to good, that He never wastes a tear or heartache, and that His plans are always, always loving and good.

Because I’d Been There by Jodie Bailey

I don’t know about you, but it seems like, at least around here, Satan is mad about something.  He’s kicking and screaming right now, and it seems like there are a lot of people taking hits.  I’ve seen division, hurt feelings, illness, crazy left-field things happening to families, churches, schools…  Maybe his time is getting short and he knows it.  I don’t know.  I just know it seems to be amping up.  Anybody else seeing it?

And I just realized that’s a tie-in to what happens to Joseph in Genesis 40.  Honestly, I didn’t see it until just now.  But Joseph knew a thing or two about situations getting worse, about hope appearing and disappearing.  Favored son to slave.  Favored slave to prisoner.  Favored prisoner to, perhaps worst of all, forgotten.  It’s one thing to have little hope.  It’s another to have hope brush your fingertips then evaporate.   In Proverbs 13, it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”  I wonder how sick Joseph’s heart was after this?

Genesis 40:23 (GW)–Nevertheless, the chief cupbearer didn’t remember Joseph. He forgot all about him.

Some time after Joseph is falsely accused and imprisoned, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and chief baker land in prison and start dreaming dreams that Joseph–by God–correctly interprets.   In gratitude and, wholeheartedly, the cupbearer promises to remember Joseph before the king… then immediately forgets.

How long do you imagine Joseph sat in prison waiting to get his say?  How much hope do you think he had when the cupbearer headed into freedom?  How long did he sit on the edge of his bed, jumping up at every sound, just knowing this was the moment, unable to sleep for the anticpation?  How long before he sank into dejectedness and came the day he didn’t even bother to get out of bed?  From Joseph’s view, it was hopeless.

I’ve been there.  See, when I was mired down in fear for nearly ten years, I knew God could heal me.  I knew he was 100% capable.  Yet time after time after time, prayer after prayer after prayer, the healing didn’t come.  I begged.  I cried.  I raged.  I gave up.  I hoped.  I lost hope.  I hoped again.  Yet healing didn’t come.  Until my birthday, eleven years ago tomorrow, when He freed me completely, healed me totally, in a moment.  Over.  Done.  Free.

A few months ago, I sat with a student in the throes of a panic attack… and I knew what to say.  I knew how to respond.  And sitting there with 584970_untitledher, it came over me.  It was worth it.  Nearly ten years of crying out prepared me to sit with a hurting child.  And I finally, finally, finally saw why God waited.  He had a reason.  He had a purpose.  And even if it was just to help one heart, it was worth it.

It was the same with Joseph.  God waited.  He had a purpose for allowing Joseph to suffer.  No, I can’t explain it totally, but I know all Joseph went through prepped him to save thousands of lives later.  I know God knew what He was doing, even when Joseph thought he’d been locked in a dark, black, hopeless box.

We can’t see the whole chess board.  God can.  As hard as it is–and believe me, it’s hard to say it even–but that’s when trust happens.  That’s when we have to believe that we believe that we believe that God knows what’s coming, and none of this is wasted.  In the end, it’s going to be glorious beyond anything we can possibly see coming.

Jodie Bailey is Tarheel born and bred. After fifteen years as a military spouse, she’s proud to be a retired military spouse settled back in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. She is the author of the military suspense novel Freefall and is a contributor to Edie Melson’s devotional for military families, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home. When not working on her next novel, she teaches middle schoolers to love writing as much as she does (if she’s lucky that day and they’re actually listening…). Jodie loves to bake, ride the Harley with her husband, and fish the Outer Banks with their daughter. You can find her on the web at www.jodiebailey.com.

Her debut novel, Freefall, has been called amazing, awesome, and explosive:

9780373445691With one accusation, army officer Cassidy Matthews’s name, reputation—and life—are on the line. A Special Forces soldier insists that Cassy’s Fort Bragg-based unit is smuggling drugs. And the accuser? It’s Cassy’s handsome, stubborn ex-husband, Major Shane Logan. Shane knows Cassy is innocent, which is why he’s sure she’s being set up to take the fall. Proving it, though, means working together…and trying to ignore the feelings they still share. The closer they get—to the truth and each other—the more the danger grows from a ruthless criminal who’ll stop at nothing to destroy them both.

***

Have you ever encountered someone going through a trial you once endured, and if so, how did your previous experience help you minister to them? Do you believe genuine compassion deepens with understanding? How might pain and struggle help us further God’s kingdom?

Let’s talk about this!

Share your stories with us in the comments below, on Living by Grace, or join our online Bible study. We’d love to have you!