Anxiously Waiting

It was time to sleep. The following day’s tasks loomed in the back of my mind, nagging, reminding me that I needed to rest; instead, I sat on the floor, head to toe in sweats, my back resting against the bedpost, desperately typing on the laptop resting in my criss-crossed legs. The annoying tickle of fresh salty tears trickled down my cheeks as I wiped my eyes with my gray hoodie’s sleeve. Writing out my thoughts - the bottled up feelings of stress, annoyance, jitteriness, and downright “craziness” - would make them disappear.

They didn’t.

In fact, they still haven’t, not completely anyways.

That night was a little over a year ago. It was the first time I realized I was letting anxiety consume me.

Ironically, I’ve been described as a “free bird” and someone who “goes where the wind blows,” yet I really don’t do well with the looming unknowns of the future. I’m capable of going with the flow, but my head is the clearest and my emotions the calmest when there’s a plan in front of me. It’s part of why I become antsy when I don’t have my next travel adventure planned or irritable if I don’t have an idea of what the weekend will look like. In college, daily checklists became my source of comfort, a concrete format for what was coming next. Now, it’s an unrealistic sense of certainty that I know exactly where I will finally settle down, how my career will unfold, and which special people will be a part of my life until it ends.

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

Do you see how naive it is for me to have such confidence in my own plans, to find peace in worldly arrangements?

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, yet I am left anxious when I feel that I am not the one controlling where my life is headed. As if fear of the unknown did not already show a lack of faith, it also produces sinful feelings of bitterness, sadness, and anger. My anxiety about the future ultimately is a distrust in my Father’s will for my life.

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I’m describing myself, but tell me, dear sister, is this not also you?

I’m not sharing this personal struggle because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’m not bringing it up because a large proportion (nearly 20%) of the U.S. population is affected by it, though that is reason enough for us to desire to be somewhat educated on the matter. I’m not asking that by the time you’re done reading this you become an active advocate for mental health.

However, I’m sharing this raw truth of my life because it ultimately shows our God’s great love for us. As with all of life’s hardships, anxiety is a struggle for which the Great Physician provides a cure. It’s a mental distress that can be lessened with spiritual medicine.

Sin makes us confident in ourselves, in our plans, in our “wisdom.” Yet, this selfish confidence fails over and over again. Then what? What are you left with when your plans fail you? When the world deceives you? When loved ones disappoint you? When life doesn’t turn out like it was “supposed to”?

James writes of people who planned to “carry on business and make money.'' These people were making plans to earn wealth and prosperity. They were seeking happiness and contentment in worldly riches. Yet, even if they found joy in those things, they never knew how long they would keep them; the final outcomes remained a mystery.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

God knows each and every one of our outcomes. What’s more, he has better outcomes planned for us than we could have ever conceived on our own. His plans for each believers’ life is to eternally hold them in His tender arms in heaven. He promises peace and joy unending once we are united with Him in the afterlife. And, on this side of heaven, He promises to walk with us all the way, to wipe the salty tears from our cheeks in moments of heartache and to guide us as we navigate unknown paths. He comforts us with the simple truth we hear children sing: “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

Anxiety is something I struggle with in this corrupt world. Sometimes it feels as if it is controlling my life, and sometimes it feels as if it will never bother me again but simply be a piece of my past. However, when it does rise up and I feel as if my mind will never quiet again, that’s when God is calling me to Him. That’s when my Bible should be cracked open and my hands folded. That’s when my sinful flesh must let go of human reason and trust in a better, holy plan. That’s when I should humbly proclaim, “If it is the Lord’s will, I will do this.”

Sisters, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and thank goodness for that! As if our sinful hearts could handle all that the future holds! Rejoice in knowing that our God, one so much greater, wiser, and bigger than us, holds in His hands tomorrow and all of the days to come.

Be at peace in the unknown so that God may teach us to have joy in the waiting.

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Come Running

Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better I’d have come running with a bucket.
— Nancy Spiegelberg

It's been an interesting two weeks in our house.

You see, we had planned to make it through the holidays and my brother's Nashville wedding first. We had planned to save a little money. We had planned to wait until Spring.

That's what we had planned.

But the void left by the loss of my husband's faithful Springer Spaniel in August (the second dog which we had to say goodbye to in a matter of only 18 months) was too great a hole to endure any longer. I combed every website of any and ever animal shelter, humane society and rescue in a 100 mile radius. I created a profile on PetFinder.com which listed the specifics of what we were looking for in a dog. I received emails every time one popped up that possibly met our criteria. The first few we went to meet just didn't seem quite right. Too hyper. Too big. Too yippy. Too young (and not at all house-broken).

And then we found her: a six-month old, 99% house-broken, adorable and incredibly soft and cuddly Lab/Shepherd/Miniature Doberman mix (or so they think).

Originally rescued from unsuitable conditions in the south (Mississippi, to be exact) when she was just weeks old, the girl had already seen a lot in her short several months. We met her in an incredibly cramped shelter, filled with deafening barks (not from her) and way too much activity for such a small space. She tried to hide, looked at us with such fear in her eyes But she let the kids pet her and rested still in both my husband's and my arms when we picked her up.

And that was enough for me.

We brought her home that night, just ten days before Christmas. And she was terrified. Upon entering our house, she immediately found a corner and sat there, quivering with fear. She spent much of the next few days laying by our back door, tucked away from the hub-bub of our family of six.

We tried everything: squeaky toys, mouth-watering treats, soft voices and slow movements in her presence. And I just kept thinking: C'mon, pup. We just want to love you. your life will be so great; you just have to trust me. While I don't know all of the details surrounding her early weeks and months, I couldn't imagine they were great. After all, there's a reason they call these dogs "rescues". I couldn't really blame her for not throwing herself at us.

But our family of animal lovers was desperate to love her, to welcome her with open arms, empty laps and table scraps covertly passed under the table. If she only knew.

Sitting there one night across the kitchen floor, treat in hand and desperation on my face, I whispered, "Just trust me to love you." And that's when I heard His voice in my own.

Just trust me, Mel. I can and will meet your every need. I already love you with an unending, unconditional love and am just waiting for you to let me show you. Without me, you have nothing.

I sat there. Once again amazed at what He was showing me. Was my lack of trust in the love and provision of God really that much different than this pup and me?

Why the resistance to a God who just wants to love us?

The first six months of this dog's life had been filled with change and uncertainty -- with the exception of the last month in an amazing foster family's home, it was all she knew. And unfortunately, all we know here on earth is the human side of love. The kind that disappoints us, fails us, and doesn't live up to our expectations. 

But with our Heavenly Father it's different. And He tells us that:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.
— Jeremiah 31:3
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27

And this love is not dependent on anything we do and don't do. He gives it freely, no strings attached, not needing anything from us in return. But yet we find it difficult to accept this, don't we? Our minds have a difficult time wrapping around a love that doesn't fit into our human understanding.

He also tells us:

The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made...The eyes of all look to you [the Lord], and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
— Psalm 145, select verses

He's standing there. Waiting. Arms out-stretched, asking us to trust Him. And unlike any human relationship (or one with a four-legged friend), He will not disappoint. His love never fails.

So go. Run to Him with your bucket. And have faith that He will more than fill it.

Side note: "Savannah" is doing much better than that first night in our home. She's become quite the "family dog" and is one of the kindest, most docile creatures I have ever known. The trust-building is slow, but we're definitely making progress :)

InDEPENDence

“Uh ma’am, can I help you with that?”
“Miss, do you need this any longer?”
“Here, let me get that for you!”

Sometimes, people can be extremely helpful. Maybe I should say sometimes people can be extremely willing to be helpful. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone step out of his or her world and offer to lend a hand to a complete stranger and as a wheeling woman, I have certainly received my fair share of “assistance offers.” It really is a beautiful thing and there have been numerous moments over the past few years that I say a special prayer for that helpful person who gave me a boost out of some deep snow when all my wheelchair tires would do was spin or the random dude who brought my chair back to me after it decided to go rogue and roll away in the Best Buy parking lot.  In situations like that (and many others), I couldn’t be MORE happy to be the recipient of a gracious helping hand.

I should also admit I've never been very good at ping-pong and a month after my injury was no exception...

I should also admit I've never been very good at ping-pong and a month after my injury was no exception...

Yet, I should probably admit that I haven’t always been the most accepting of help and I sometimes (read: often) struggle with that feeling of maybe possibly needing someone. I’ve always been a fairly independent person with the catch phrase, “I’m a strong and independent woman, let me do it myself” being one of my favorites. Reflecting over the course of my life and more specifically, my own independence, it resembles more of a ping-pong match than a gradual progression from needy child to independent adult. Sure I was almost there when I graduated from college, but then my spinal cord injury and paralysis changed it all in a jiffy.

You want to get out of bed? You’re going to need help with that. You want to take a shower? You should probably call the nurse. After discharging from the hospital, you want to go somewhere for a vanilla latte? You better ask your Mom if she’s willing to drive you. Needless to say, early after my injury, independence was something I craved and yet could only dream about.

Now pause and think, when was the last time you asked for help?
Was it hard? Did it hurt your pride? Did it bother you? Should it have bothered you?

You know, things are different in my life now. That ping-pong ball has bounced back across the net and I have the independence I love and desired so much. I work a job, volunteer, drive myself around town, and do all the things any “normal” individual does in their day-to-day life.  It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to “be independent,” to not NEED help, and to feel like I’m back somewhere close to that place I was before my injury. And yet that ping-pong match made it very clear that every coin has two sides.

It’s great to be independent, but it’s even greater to rely on God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Boasting of weakness? Boasting GLADLY of weakness? That kind of sounds counter-intuitive and perhaps a little nuts. I mean, when I think of my failures, struggles, or weaknesses, the last thing I want to do is admit them (let alone boast about them). And yet, it’s in those moments, in those trials, in those struggles, in those obstacles that we have this beautiful opportunity to see God’s almighty and amazing power. To see the way in which God provides, cares for, and helps his people better than any earthly person could ever dream of doing.

I will be the first person to say learning how to rely on God is not an easy lesson. It’s a lesson my pride and independent persona have had to learn and re-learn on a daily basis and I’m sure that will continue for the rest of my life.

But how awesome is it that we serve a God who WANTS us to come to him. Who doesn’t tell us to “just figure it out yourself” or begrudgingly respond “okay” when we muster up the courage to ask for assistance. God doesn’t require or even want us to go through this confusing and often challenging life “independent” and alone.

Our loving God calls us to him, comforting and strengthening us through every and all adversity. Yes, independence is great; but our God is so much greater.