“Today, I just shut my mouth…and it hurt,” she said from the back seat. “I wanted to keep talking, but I just didn’t. It was so hard.” At school she engaged a person about an interpretation of the Bible that she fully disagreed with. It is no secret that we enjoy a good theology discussion and/or debate in our tent. It’s just what we do. Being the wise teenager in the family, she realized her view of the conversation and the other person’s view were so different, that it was necessary that she just shut her mouth. And she did. But it wasn’t easy. Impressive.
After we listened to the whole story, she had our attention. We responded with affirmations like, “Wow, we are proud of you,” and “How did it feel?” Then we wondered about all the conversations we experienced that day. Did we miss a few opportunities to shut our mouth? Probably. Then I remembered why I often don’t shut my mouth…anxiety.
Anxiety is a funny friend. It comes when I least expect it and takes up residence within the empty spaces of my mind. Then, some way it drops into my mouth and comes out in strong words. The lucky (unlucky) recipient of these words does not appreciate them. But words from anxiety do not have a return policy. Once they leave the mouth, we own them. Forever. A side effect of sharing our anxiety with others through words is that their anxiety increases as well. A never-ending cycle. Unless…I shut my mouth!
One way I gently manage my anxiety is to fill my mind with positive thoughts so there is no room for anxiety. Here are a few mantras that often do the trick. We chose one a day this week as we headed out the door into the big wonderful world. See if you can use one.
- Be a warrior, not a worrier.
- Be still and know that I am God.
- This is where I end and they begin.
- I am loved. I am safe.
- Wag more, bark less.
- Don’t believe everything you think.
- Always choose joy.
- Let go of what you cannot control.
As we head into the holidays, we can purposely not invite anxiety to the party and fill our tents with positive mantras, sacred scripture and the Holy Spirit. With all three of these friends at the table, we are sure to have a day full of thankfulness and love.
Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24
Dear God, help me to just shut my mouth…even if it hurts.
From our Happy tent to yours,
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.