I recently felt the familiar rise of anxiety. Tension crawling up the back up my neck. Mind racing. Hands slightly shaky. I couldn’t catch a deep breath no matter how much air I filled my lungs with. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience, but it’s like coffee jitters in your heart even when there’s zero caffeine pulsing through your veins.
My mind and spirit were overloaded by deep concern for people I love who were going through really hard things. Things like cancer and chronic illness and job loss and endless unknowns about what tomorrow holds. God gave me very tender wiring. I feel the shock and pain and heartache of others as if it were my own. From the middle of the night when I couldn’t fall back asleep to all the in-between moments of my day, I had been praying for these dear ones. Claiming God’s promises over them. Praising Him for the work He was doing and would yet do.
I was full of faith and hope, yet blanketed in sorrow. It can be both.
Now it was Tuesday evening. My night to write. My husband was taking care of dinner and then treating the boys to dollar ice-cream cones at our favorite local sweetshop. With wet hair and my favorite gray sweater, I was whirling around the house trying to get out the door and make the most of my precious time. Me. Computer. Panera. Stat.
I opened my laptop to eject the flash drive before slipping it into my tote bag when I saw a new email. I clicked. My heart sank. Miscommunication? Misunderstanding? Had I missed the mark or had she? This was a situation without a clear resolution and I instantly felt miserable. My anxiety meter ratcheted up a few more notches. I sat down to compose a response. My mind was a swirl of words and what-ifs, expectations and disappointments. And I still couldn’t shake the underlying angst over my friends who were living big life-changing challenges that put my anxious heart and little work issue into proper diminutive perspective.
“Lord, I just can’t write today,” I whispered. “I just can’t do the work.”
Do you ever feel that way? Like life’s crises and curveballs make the ordinary rhythm of your mom job, career job, your take-care-of-the-home-and-yourself-and-all-the-things job just too much? In that moment I wanted to close the blinds, get a big blanket, curl up on the couch, and watch a movie that would make me bawl. Sometimes that’s exactly what we should do. But this day, I needed to do the work God gave me. I needed to move through (not stuff down) my anxiety.
I needed to acknowledge my feelings, my frustrations, and the weight pressing me from all sides — and then promptly hand it all over to God.
I hit send on the email I had rewritten three times, put my laptop in my bag, and walked over to my couch. I kneeled down. And I poured it all out to the One who holds it all anyway. I named the friends whom I was hurting for. I prayed for the frustrating email, prayed for grace for me and grace for the other person.
In the midst of my praying, I realized my hands were clenched in tight fists. So I made my physical posture a representation of my spiritual surrender.
Fists closed: These things are not mine to hold.
Hands open: I surrender the outcomes to you.
Fists closed: These hurts are not mine to control.
Hands open: You are loving and good, and I entrust it all to you, Lord.
I breathed in with each clenched fist and out with each open palm. It was helpful that I didn’t have children running around, tapping on my shoulder, or asking for a snack. But I have done this kind of breath prayer in a car full of noisy kids and while hiding in the laundry room.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. A rhythmic rehearsing of God’s truth. Inhaling His promises. Exhaling my trust.
My knees started to ache. An injury from high school paired with being thirty-seven is rough. But with the stiffness of my joints came a lightness to my heart. God was with me. He would equip me for the one next thing I needed to do.
This is an excerpt from Becky Keife’s book, No Better Mom for the Job: Parenting with Confidence (Even When You Don’t Feel Cut Out for It) published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Let your breath be a rhythmic rehearsing of God’s truth, inhaling His promises. -@beckykeife: Click To Tweet