Tag Archives: worry

Shutting down and shutting out

I shut the door to my son’s room to muffle the sound of his screaming and crying from the other side, promising me he’d be a good listener if I would just please not send him to bed early.

I shut off the light in the kitchen so I wouldn’t have to see the sink full of dirty dishes and the stack of recycling waiting to be taken out.

I shut the lid to my laptop, deciding the 65 unread messages would have to wait another day and the blog post I’d been working on for days would go another night unfinished, unpublished.

I walked into my bedroom and shut the door on the unvacuumed floors, and unfinished science fair projects scattered from one end of the room to the other.

Then I lay on my bed and shut my eyes, wanting to shut out the day, the world.

And I heard a whisper deep within my soul “don’t shut me out, too.”

Here’s the thing: sometimes my day-to-day life feels like too much for me to handle and all I want to do is shut-down and pull the covers over my head. This week was one of those weeks. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of dirty dishes and conference calls. By Wednesday I was too tired to keep my head above water. That was the night I shut my bedroom door and, with tired body and depleted soul, collapsed into bed, hoping to escape from everyone and everything on the other side of that door.

But in those first moments after my head hit the pillow and I started to slip into self-pity, I heard God’s voice: “don’t shut me out, too.” And it was then that I realized I had not let God into my week. I had been so caught up in the long list of “to-do’s” I had failed to invite God into my messy kitchen, or cluttered family room for a visit. I didn’t ask Him to look at my full calendar or flooded inbox and give me guidance. Honestly, I don’t know if it was because I was so caught-up in my own “stuff” that I forgot to seek Him or if it was because a part of me felt like these little daily stresses were not important enough to take to Him. Maybe a little of both. But I can tell you that as soon as I realized what I had done, I felt a bit foolish.

In Isaiah chapter 41 God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand…For I hold you by your right hand—I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41: 10, 13, NLT)

Don’t you just love the imagery of God’s very words to His people? I read these verses and I can just feel Him by my side, wanting to be there and to comfort me.

I feel like I’m drowning in chores and work and parenting demands and God says “I will hold you up.” I feel like I am weak with fatigue and worry and He says “I will strengthen you and help you.” I am lost and unsure what to do next or how to get it all done and He says come, I will “hold you by your right hand” and lead you. I want to shut out the world and pull the covers over my head and He whispers, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

Isaiah 41:13

We are taught in Sunday school that there is nothing too big for God to handle, but we must remember there is nothing too small for Him either. He wants to be invited in to our messy house and our messy life. He wants to sit next to us and have a good long look at that “to-do” list and help us prioritize. He wants to hold our hand and help us take deep breaths when our children are throwing temper-tantrums.

My friends, whatever you are struggling with, whatever has you feeling drained and bested, don’t hide from it behind closed doors. I encourage you to invite God to come along side of you. Because there’s nothing He can’t handle…even dirty dishes.

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The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week that really wasn’t

It’s not been a pretty week. In fact it’s been a down-right hairy-warts, black teeth, and yellow eyes kind of ugly.

Some of you might not know this, but my day job entails managing a large network of websites for a global IT company. This past weekend we had a major deployment to the site. I’ve been through a number of these in my career and I’m here to tell you managing online systems is not for the faint of heart. Something always goes wrong! You just pray and hope it’s not something major and it can be fixed quickly.

My team had a whole weekend of fixing and testing and sitting-on-the-edge-of-our-seats waiting. But finally, on Sunday afternoon it looked like the major issues were resolved and we wouldn’t have to roll back before New Zealand started their Monday in a few hours. My team and our IT engineers had been working nights and weekends preparing and most of them hadn’t slept at all in the last 48 hours. So it was with a huge sigh of relief that everyone was sent off to bed to rest up for the next morning.

Monday came and all felt good. The deployment was a success and I was beyond thrilled for myself and my team because we really wanted needed this one. You see, last year we had a crazy big project where we essentially re-did the entire website from the ground up (I don’t recommend this. Ever). To say it didn’t go well would be a huge understatement. We dealt with the fall-out for months afterwards and it almost sent me to the hospital. Seriously, I would feel sick every morning before I logged on to my computer, dreading what emails would come my way with complaints, rants, and new issues that cropped up over-night. I was a complete ball of stress and anxiety and it manifested into physical illness multiple times.

So when I say we needed this one to go well, let me tell you we really needed it. Monday felt good. I sent out emails proudly announcing the successful deployment. And except for a small handful of people (haters gonna hate) the response from colleagues was encouraging and positive.

Then Tuesday morning came and things were not good. The site was loading at a snail’s pace and crashing every few hours. Registration forms were not loading or they had error messages, and the dreaded emails started to roll in.

Thankfully I work with the best team in the world. Seriously. They are the smartest, hardest working, most dedicated group of people I’ve ever seen. Our engineers immediately started working with our developers to sort out the issues. Unfortunately, every time they thought they’d gotten to the bottom of it, the site would crash again.

I will skip past all of the details and reasons, as even I don’t fully understand all of the technical stuff and this isn’t a blog about website development. But let’s just say that it was Friday before the site was stabilized and that’s mostly due to temporary measures put into place. We still don’t have a solution for the root cause. And of course, I was in damage control mode as the angry emails from frustrated stakeholders flooded our in-boxes.

But.

Here’s the thing:

I did not breakdown and cry or worry myself sick, or cower under my covers and fear starting my workday. I didn’t attach myself to the laptop monitoring every email and update at all hours of the day and night or go into hiding from my family so I could focus only on work. In fact, I did the opposite. I smiled. I laughed and shook my head at some of the angry notes. I thanked our engineers for their unending dedication to resolve the issue. I slept. I sat on my porch and read a book. I watched my son perform his “bike show” he’d been rehearsing for a week in our cul de sac. I ate dinner with my kids every evening and cuddled in bed with them every night.

But most of all, I stayed close to God. I studied the word and prayed every day. And this. This is what made the difference, because I was able to maintain perspective. Instead of getting swallowed up in the worry and stress and making it all about me, I was reminded that it’s all about Him. Life is so much bigger, so much more important than some problems at work. I have little people I need to care for and nurture and love on. I have to care for and nurture myself, too. Because that ball of stress and anxiety I was last year? She was not pretty or much fun to be around. She was overwhelmed and a bit lost. And I don’t really care to meet her again.

Psalm 18: 1-2

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I’m not saying I have this all figured out. There were still moments this week when I felt stress and worry. I got annoyed at my husband for something he did or didn’t do and let it flow into a full-blown argument. And I’m sure I yelled at my kids once or twice (sometimes I’m not sure if I’m yelling or my natural volume when speaking to my kids has just gotten that loud). But, for the most part I was able to keep things in perspective and know that it was all going to be OK.

So, as it turns out. This ugly, horrible, no good, very bad week…well it really wasn’t.

This was my prayer this week. If you want to write it down and use it next time you’re having a rough day or week, or even a rough season, please do.

Father in heaven, thank you so much for loving me and being with me this week. Lord, life is not always easy, and sometimes it’s just down-right ugly. But I take comfort in knowing that you are bigger than any of the stress, worry or ugliness that may come my way. Help me to remember this when I start to make it all about me. Remind me to give it over to you and lean on you when I need strength. You are my rock and my shield, always faithful even when I am not. Thank you, thank you. Amen.

My biggest fear

This past Sunday and again last night in our Bible study, the topic was fear. I’ve never felt embarrassed to admit that I am afraid of a lot of things. From the mundane like heights and snakes, to the irrational like swallowing a spider in my sleep (I don’t care what Snopes says about this, ever since I read that made-up statistic I am afraid of spiders crawling in my mouth).

I regularly share with my friends and husband my fears and worries about this whole parenting gig. Fearful that  I’m too strict, not strict enough. That I keep them too sheltered, that I give them too much freedom. And mostly, that in the end I really have very little control over their life decisions.

I have even written or spoken publicly about some of my real-life moments of fear, like the canoe trip I took this summer with my family, or following God’s calling to write, and even being molested as a child.

I talk about my fears because it helps me face the irrational ones, process the past, and glean a little perspective.  I do it to help others know they’re not alone and because it provides a sense of camaraderie.

But, there is one fear I never talk about, not even with my best friend or husband. My deepest fear that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. The one that I’m embarrassed to admit. Afraid to say out loud to people, lest they confirm it’s true.

My biggest fear is not being loved.

Maybe a more accurate way of putting it is that I’m afraid of not being loved enough. That I love people in my life more than they love me. I don’t know how long I’ve had this fear, but I know it started when I was a child. I’ve been through enough counseling in my life to be able to identify some of the events of my childhood that probably contributed to the start of this fear. I’ve also been through enough counseling to know that it’s an irrational and unhealthy fear! But for me, it’s real.

afraid of not being loved

The worst part is that I know that this fear has actually created situations that have almost led to a self-fulfilling prophesy. I recall once planning a girl’s weekend with a group of close friends and in the weeks before it was scheduled to take place several friends either backed out or said they weren’t sure they could make it. My immediate first thought was “this friendship must mean more to me than it does to them. I knew it! I knew they didn’t really care that much about me. They just agreed to go on this trip because I pushed it.” Then I sent a rather unkind email to my friends letting them know just what I thought of their behavior. Ouch! Not a great way to strengthen a friendship in love. Thank goodness these friends do in fact love me, forgave my little rant, and we’ve had several girls’ weekends since that incident.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have been jealous of my friends’ other friendships. Worried over un-returned phone calls or emails. Replayed conversations in my head, over and over again. Been hurt by invitations that weren’t extended. And actually gotten myself so worked up I didn’t attend social functions because I was sure no one there would want to talk to me. All because I have this nagging voice in my head that tells me I am not loved. Not loved enough. Not lovable.

Then 9 years ago my marriage almost ended. It sent me down a dark rabbit hole of fear. While I was brave enough to make it known to my husband what I needed in order to save our marriage, inside I was terrified that I was not enough, not worth the hard work and effort. That I loved him more than he loved me. I struggled between wanting him to love me (and prove it) and pushing him away because I was sure in the end he’d leave anyway, so better get it over with now rather than drag things out a few more years. It was such a desperate time filled with fear and anxiety. In my brokenness I did the only thing I could do and went to my heavenly Father. I curled up in His lap like a little child, sobbing, begging for guidance and answers, and for it all to be over with already.

And God, He is so merciful. He held me and comforted me. He calmed my fears, changed my perspective when needed, gave me strength, and sometimes, just helped me fall asleep, knowing that a new day can bring with it hope.

It was during this point in my life that I really started to get a hold of this fear. Or at least I learned that when I feel afraid of not being loved, or when I start to feel the anxiety that I’m not loveable or loved “enough”, I need to turn to the source of ultimate L-O-V-E. Because, really, could there be anyone more in love with us than the Lord (said in my best Chandler Bing voice)?

And we have it in writing!

I mentioned the book of Isaiah in my post last week, and how it reads like a passionate love letter from God to His people. In the book of John Jesus tells us just how much God loves us, foretelling His death as the ultimate sacrifice of love.

In Romans chapter 8, there is my favorite verse of all time. A reminder that we are loved beyond all means, above all failures and obstacles. I especially love this translation from the Living Bible: “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.” (verses 38-39)

And then, there is 1 John chapter 4. I only just discovered this verse when studying the word this week, but oh my! I’m pretty sure this was written just for me. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (verses 16 and 18)

1 John 4:.16

Um, yeah. So there you have it.

Thankfully, some things do get better with age. While I still struggle from time to time with this deeply rooted fear of not being loved, it has slowly eroded over the last several years. It rears its ugly head less often than before and is replaced with confidence that God loves me. Not just in a “yeah, you’re alright, but most days you’re not my favorite child” kind of way. But in a desperately seeking, all-consuming, nothing can stop it kind of way.

If He can love me like that, how can I possibly be afraid of not being loved enough? And this is how I face my deepest fear.

What is your Goliath?

I wrote earlier this week about how my Sunday morning didn’t get off to a good start. Thankfully, with some Godly intervention, I was in a much better frame of mind once worship service started. A good thing for me because it was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard. We’ve been studying 1st and 2nd Samuel this summer at GCC North, and most recently the story of David. This Sunday the focus was on 1 Samuel 17 which chronicles the well-told story of David and Goliath.

David and Goliath is probably one of the best-known stories in the Bible. It’s the original under-dog story, and Hollywood should thank Samuel for providing the plot line for 50% of all movies ever made. But honestly? I’ve never really found it all that applicable to my life. I mean, it’s a great example of putting your trust in the Lord, but I’ve just never been able to relate to the young shepherd boy who defeated the giant warrior with nothing but a slingshot and a prayer. This Sunday, though, my friend and Pastor, Lee Reams, managed to give us a fresh view of David and Goliath as well as some practical application.

Lee set the tone for the sermon by presenting David and Goliath…MLB style! Check out these awesome trading cards he made for our antagonist and hero:

goliath_front goliath_back
david_front david_back

On paper, David might seem an unlikely foe for the colossal warrior. But David never had any doubt he could beat Goliath. His faith was so strong, and his trust in the Lord so steadfast that he almost seemed matter-of-fact about the whole situation when speaking to King Saul. Lee broke it down into five things (a metaphor for the five smooth stones David picks up before going to the front-line) that equipped David to feel this way. They were: Perspective, Experience, Identity, Knowledge, and Child-like Faith.

Perspective – “David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). David’s faith in God allowed him to be able to look at Goliath with a different perspective. He saw him simply as a mortal man defying an all-powerful God.

Experience – “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death” (1 Samuel 17:34-35). David’s experience as a shepherd gave him strength and confidence to battle Goliath.

Identity – “He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:40). David rejected the armor Saul offered him. He knew he was a shepherd, not a soldier, and relied on the tools of his trade.

Knowledge – “And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:47). David knew that God was in charge of the situation and would protect him.

Child-like Faith – “As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him” (1 Samuel 17:48). David didn’t hesitate, or weigh the pro’s and con’s of fighting Goliath, or try to plan out a detailed strategy. He just ran straight to the battle-line with complete faith that God was in control.

While all of the above are valuable tools that God has equipped us with, the one that stands out the most for me is perspective. How often in my life have I experienced challenges, struggles, hurt, or conflict that could have been avoided if I had simply altered my perspective of the situation?

Then Lee asked us to think about what “Goliath(s)” we were facing in our lives. What are those things that we feel are too big, too unbeatable? It could be an illness, a broken relationship, an addiction — anything really. I wrote down four: stress, lack of patience, the future, and my health. What startled me about my list is that it’s all me. My adversaries are all internal and they are things that (with God’s help) I can change or overcome. Do you know what that means? I am my own Goliath! And for at least the first three of my items, a little perspective could have a HUGE impact. So to help me maintain that perspective, I decided to create my own trading cards and keep them in my Bible as a little reminder. Here they are:

Jelise's trading card
Scary Jelise trading card

Stressed and impatient Jelise is not a pretty sight, huh? She’s my Goliath…looming large and scary, seemingly undefeatable. But the reality is that God has equipped me with all of the tools I need to beat her.

What is your Goliath? How can a little perspective, knowledge, experience, identity, or child-like faith help you to defeat your biggest, scariest struggles?

 

[A very big thanks to Lee Reams for allowing me to steal his sermon and use his trading card images for my blog!]