There are some things that have the ability to rob us of life. One of those things is the “what ifs” that live in our minds. They take up free space and cause us to loose sleep. Sometimes our “what if” thoughts sound like this, “What if I say the wrong thing?” “What if I loose my job?” “What if my loved one doesn’t come home?” And the list goes on and on. These thoughts keep us from living in the present by keeping us in the past or the future. We think of the mistakes and missed chances of the past or we think of future scenarios that we have no control over. Once the “what ifs” calm down in our minds, they leave us a gift…anxiety. They don’t ever really just go away, they just calm down for a while and then come back. Until, we do something really different.
In my early 30’s, I made a change. I decided that I was no longer going to wear uncomfortable shoes. I went to my closet and purged my shoes. I only kept the ones that felt good. Many of my high heals went in the donation box. Many of my old tennis shoes went as well. I got rid of the ones that I might wear some day and the ones that I used to wear. I only kept the ones that felt good. At the end of my purge, I had a lot less clutter in my closet and my feet were happy.
One little Bible verse tucked inside the New Testament says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). I don’t know about you, but this verse tells me to trade in my “what if” thoughts through prayer in return for peace. God’s peace! That sounds like a pretty good deal.
Doing something really different means that we have to create new practices to help us keep our “what if” thoughts in check. When they attempt to take over the joy in our days or the sleep in our nights (God is always awake!), we have the option to trade them in for peace through prayer. This is not a new idea, but it may be a new practice. And a new practice takes practice. One step at a time.
P.S. Join me in reading (or rereading) Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow over the next few weeks. I would love to hear about your experience with this helpful book.
I love this passage from Proverbs 16:9. It gives me comfort and peace when life is uncertain – when things are a bit out of control. Right now our family is in the process of moving. We are transitioning out of an area where we have lived for 13 years. My prayer every day is, “Lord, direct our steps.” And I truly believe God is doing just that.
Back in the Fall I was outside raking leaves in our front yard when I felt a presence. Something was walking towards me – some things! I quickly looked up to from my perfect pile of Southern Red Oak leaves to see the vile villains with whom I was about to engage in battle, but all I saw were three ducks who had taken notice of my labors (it feels good to be noticed). I thought they were coming for a friendly visit, but they had ulterior motives. They were walking up my street in front of my home for only one reason – smushed acorns! You see, a street runs right in front of our home, and as I raked, acorns rolled into the street. Then cars drove by (some way too fast – so slow down!) and smushed the acorns. Then the ducks waddled into action to nibble the deliciously smushed acorn tid-bits. These ducks knew exactly what to do (eat smushed acorns) and when to do it (right after the acorns I’d raked into the street had been smushed by my neighbor’s fast-moving car).
The question is, “Do we?”. Do we know what to do and when to do it? I believe we can, but it’s neither easy nor normal. We all have plans and agendas (and pursuing these plans and agendas is how we spend much of our time and energy), but there is One who directs our steps. Our plans and agendas may or may not come to pass, but can we trust the One who directs our steps? It seems we have a lot to learn from ducks!
On the sidewalk, just outside our tent the other day, I enjoyed a “glimpse.” It was one of those days with nothing really to do. It was too early to start cooking dinner (but I really haven’t been cooking much lately because it is so nice outside…just being honest…cereal is a life savor!) And kindergarten homework just does not take up much of our precious time, so we journeyed to the sidewalk. On the way, I picked up a bucket of chalk…sidewalk chalk.
We spread out down the sidewalk and spontaneously added our artwork to each section of the sidewalk one square at a time. A rainbow. A flower. A heart. A butterfly. Once we ran out of ideas, I started to just look around. The weather has been beautiful here in Texas for many weeks. Just beautiful. A few weekends ago, I visited our ranch and the wheat in the fields was so high that it was hiding the new baby calves. It was truly a perfect spring sight.
On the sidewalk, I saw another perfect spring sight…flowers, green trees just showing off, birds…red birds, butterflies. It was all there just outside our door and on our sidewalk. Just there waiting for us to notice.
In a time when we are overwhelmed with disturbing news all around us we can chose to take a moment and step away. One of the ways we can step away from what we think is important (work, technology, perfection, phones, drama) and step into what is important (family, friends, solitude, peace, faith) is to just step outside. Walk on the sidewalk and discover nature again. Follow the path and let go of your agenda…just for a little while. You will be surprised at the lasting effects. Try it. And don’t worry. If dinner is not ready on time, there is always cereal!
I appreciate how life gives us natural stopping points. The New Year, seasons, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations and Sundays. For me, the beginning of September is a stopping point. It is when I clean out our swim bag that we have faithfully carried all summer long to our fun adventures. It is when I toss out the old lunch boxes and my children thoughtfully select which pattern we will to live with on the new box for the next year. (This year I will see Barbie each morning!!) It is when I take a look at our schedule and activities that are available.
Spiritually, it is a time to simply stop and breath. I reflect on the new season that is beginning. How many have I already lived through and how many more will I have to enjoy? What do I need in my life that will bring more experiences of peace and joy? Who do I need to connect with or reconnect with this season? Is God calling me to try something new or calling me to enjoy life as it is?
I no longer carried around a backpack in September for school that you can see. But maybe I carry around one you can’t see. Maybe I carry a spiritual backpack. This is a great time to decide what needs to be taken out and what needs to be put in for this next season. I have to decide how much I want to carry around and how much I want to let go. The more seasons that I live through, the more I realize that life is truly a long process of letting go.
What about you? What are you looking for this fall? How can you make yourself available for God’s presence in your life? What needs to go and what needs to be added?
Lord, you have examined me. You know me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord, that you don’t already know completely. You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. Psalm 139: 1-6