Kick Those Anxious Thoughts to the Curb!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [humble and earnest asking], with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul, author of Philippians] – put it into practice. And the God of peace [contentment, fulfillment, security] will be with you.”

-Philippians 4:4-9 (emphasis and additions mine)

Goodness, I love this passage. 

And maybe you’ve read it many times – but I like to go back and read it with fresh eyes as though it is an official instruction manual for my heart and mind.

(Maybe that’s just the type-A, always-loves-a-good-plan part of me. But it works!)

I have this passage written down on an index card in the form of a checklist (type-A again, folks!):

  • Pray
  • Give the worry to God
  • Give thanks
  • Think about what is true.

Then, when I start to worry, I pull the card out and remind myself to give my worry to One who loves me most.

Or, in other words, I kick that anxious thought right in the pants! WABAM!!! (Also, can you tell I work with kids? I literally just did the slicing-the-air motion with my arm. I think I might be heavily influenced right now by the new ninja moves I’m learning).

Anyway, I’m not a very practical person – emotions are like, way better (kidding! sort of.) – but sometimes it’s good to have plain old practical advice. Here are two practical heart and mind “ninja moves” (I can’t get over this ninja theme!), that I like to use to kick worry to the curb. 🙂

1. The What-If’s and Worst Case Scenarios

Typically, if I have an anxious thought that won’t leave me alone and preoccupies my mind, it’s a “what-if” scenario.

I’m sure you know the thoughts well:

What if she thinks _______? What if they don’t like _______? What if I do something wrong? What if_______ happens?”

Clearly, these thoughts need a good karate chop.

So when I realize I’m playing a what-if on repeat in my mind, then I look back at my heart instructions from Philippians 4:8:

Paul writes, “Whatever is true…think about such things” (Phil 4:8).

Oh!

Because you know what?

“What-ifs” are not true! That’s why they’re called, “what-ifs” instead of “reality!”

So we shouldn’t even worry about them!

Whew! Praise God, right?

(Because what-ifs can be downright scary. Especially if you’re a creative type like me and think up scenarios for a living).

So why worry and focus on what-if scenarios as though they are true?

Because God, in His lovingkindness, has shown us what to focus on instead.

He instructs us to focus on “what is true.” Not on what we’re afraid might happen.

Karate chop number one, folks!

2. The Power of Giving Thanks

If you’ve read any of my posts, or if you’ve ever heard me talk… pretty much ever, then you know I love the writer, blogger, and photographer, Ann Voskamp.

God has blessed and used her book 1,000 Gifts to truly change my heart and my life.

1,000 Gifts beautifully illustrates the importance of giving thanks to God.

Voskamp says, “It is impossible to feel thankful and anxious at the same time. So we must choose to give thanks.”

Do you see the beautiful gift we have here, friends? That we can choose the path of life instead of the path of worry simply by choosing to give thanks?

And not only is a mindset of thankfulness an open window and fresh air for our hearts, but giving thanks is a command from our Perfectly Loving Father.

Looking back at our heart instructions, Paul writes:

“…with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

How beautiful. That very sentence makes my heart sing! Not only are we free to give thanks, but we must give thanks! What a delightful charge.

And yet, how often do we all skip over the “with thanksgiving” part and head straight to the “present your requests to God” part?

…Yeah, me too.

Because when I’m worried, I am not in the mood to focus on things I am thankful for.

And so, I must choose. We must all choose to give thanks in those times of worry.

I also ask God for His help.

And then, quietly but surely, my heart and mind start to think calmly and hopefully while I give thanks.

If you’ve never prayed prayers of thanksgiving when you’re worried, I find it helpful to start off by telling God thank You for the truth about who He is.

We can thank Him for all these things because they are written in scripture, so they are the truest of true:

God is good and faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23),

He is all-knowing and all-powerful (Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 139: 1-6),

He is perfectly loving (Psalm 23:6, John 3:16, Psalm 103:8) .

He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

And then, with a heart growing calmer and steadier through the giving of thanks, I love to move on to thank Him for fuzzy socks and cat purrs and then sometimes cat bites and space heaters and chocolate chip cookie dough and the small but beautiful gifts like those.

And I’ve learned through experience that a thankful heart opens the door to let God’s peace come in, displace the worry, and strengthen the faith.

Karate chop number 2! WABAM!!! (I felt the sound effect was warranted again. Thankfulness makes me so happy!! What can I say?)

Encouragement

Friends, if you are like me, and you get caught in the net of worrying way too much, you are in good company!

Remember how Jesus walked on water that one time, and Peter got out of the boat to walk toward him, but then Peter got scared – started to worry – and so then he started to sink? I love how even Peter, a man who is looking right at Jesus, a man who gets to touch Him and talk to Him in person, who is His very apostle, and who is called “Blessed” by Jesus in a conversation with Him, still struggles with feeling anxious. I also love how even though Peter became anxious, Jesus reached out and saved him. Jesus did not let him sink.

Perfect Love.

Perfect Love Who desires us to “Cast all [our] anxiety on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7, modifications mine).

Now, in a very serious conclusion, if you ever get stuck and are drawing a blank about something to be thankful for, hear this:

“And on that day, God made bacon and said, ‘Men, I love you.’ And then He made chocolate and said, ‘Women, I love you too.’” – Michael.

I like to think God laughs at our jokes sometimes. 🙂

There is ALWAYS bacon, chocolate, and the never-ending love of the God who loves you more than life!

Blessings, peace, karate chops, and bacon and chocolate to you,

Robyn

Those Ugly Stepsisters: perfection & fear

Dear friends, a few nights ago I froze at my computer.

At the keyboard, more specifically.

My brain turned into a blank piece of paper and the words wouldn’t come.

I felt anxious.

And so I prayed and I read Ann Voskamp (highly recommended) and I wrote in my journal and I ate chocolate and I watched a rerun of Boy Meets World.

Then, I told Michael about what I was feeling. He said, “You need to write about this. About how you took on something big and you’re nervous but – God’s in your court.”

And I said, “…Okay. Done.”

Because Michael knows me better than I know myself a lot of the time.

And when that logical, loving man tells me I need to write, I know he’s right.

Now, the “something big” I’ve taken on is becoming a writer professionally.

More specifically, writing books for children.

That’s a big leap.

It’s awesome, it’s scary, it’s for such a time as this, it’s blessed, it’s my dream, and its biggest adversary is this:

Perfectionism.

Ugh.

Even that word is pointy and ugly and harsh, isn’t it?

Back to the moment when I froze at the keyboard.

Perfectionism does that, doesn’t it?

Makes you freeze.

Paralyzes you.

Ever heard the phrase, “paralyzed by fear?”

Yep.

Fear and perfectionism go together.

They are like the mean, ugly stepsisters in Cinderella.

(I relate most things to Disney movies, by the way.)

Like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, fear and perfectionism see beauty and hope and creativity and boldness and God’s glory – and they don’t like it.

So they try to sabotage it.

Remember when the mean, ugly stepsisters see Cinderella in her mother’s dress, getting ready for the ball, and they rip the beautiful dress to shreds so she can’t go and display all her God-given beauty?

Terrible!

Horrible!

Putting that moment in writing is even worse than watching it happen.

It also makes me want to go watch Cinderella again.

Can’t you see that’s what happens to us, dear friends, when fear and perfectionism attack?

Let me put it in non-Disney terms for those who don’t see things quite like me:

Perfectionism is:

  • When you’re afraid to start something – simply because you’re afraid you won’t be good at it. If you procrastinate, then there’s no opportunity to fail, is there?
  • Quitting something because it’s harder than you thought and you were supposed to be good at it, right? But you weren’t perfect right off the bat. So you stopped.
  • When you’ve worked for hours on a presentation and you’re smart and you’re ready, and then you get to the front and start sweating bullets and wondering how you look to the people in the room. What if they don’t like what you’re saying? What if you get something wrong? You get distracted and you fumble your smart words.
  • When you’re teaching, and you teach every day with those kids in mind and you plan for hours and your heart is all in and yet the minute your principal walks in your room to observe, you doubt. You fear. Are you perfect enough in her eyes? What if she sees you make a mistake? What grade will you get on your evaluation? You get distracted and you forget what you were even teaching in the first place.
  • When you don’t want to go on that date with the nice person or agree to a relationship with the nice person who has given you no reason to doubt, simply because you don’t want to get hurt if it doesn’t work out.

I think all these examples can be summed up in this one kicker of a paralyzing lie:

“I want to do everything perfectly, I want to be perfect — so I don’t get hurt or disappointed” (in your job, in your marriage, in your friendships, etc).

Dear hearts, this is no way to live.

Perfectionism isn’t living.

It’s striving. It’s frustrating.

It’s also impossible.

And yet, perfectionism and fear are so commonplace we don’t notice them for what they are most of the time.

But they’re there.

And like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, they will rip to shreds our beautiful gowns of creativity, beauty, intelligence, success, and any God-given glory we have if we let them.

Dear friends, perfectionism does not protect. Fear does not protect.

Rather, they stifle.

I am glad Thomas Edison was not a perfectionist.

He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I like him already. Refreshing, isn’t it?

He’s not saying he doesn’t ever fail, he’s just saying he uses those failed attempts to keep trying.

And I’m glad he did! (He invented light bulbs, for those of you who are scientifically unaware like I am).

Isn’t that what God tells us to do, dear friends? (Not to invent light bulbs, ha!) – but to keep trying?

We cannot pick back up and try again by our own strength, but here is why we can pick back up and try again:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, emphasis mine.

You see, He picks up back up each time. And so we can try again.

Because like the rising of the sun each morning, so does the Lord’s grace fall upon and bless and strengthen the hearts of His children.

And so, we try again.

Because our Father separates our sins from us so far as the east is from the west, we try again (psalm 103:12).

And then, we try again.

We are loved as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11). And so we pick back up and try again.

And when a group of Pharisees (a.k.a perfectionists, if you ask me, because I see my own weaknesses in their flawed perceptions) ask Jesus why He is eating with the “screw-ups” of that society, if you will, he responds with this:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17.

I suppose that is why Paul says to boast about our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). Because when we are real about our weaknesses, about our imperfections, the humble sacrifice of realness sets a beautiful backdrop for Christ’s light to shine brightly into our weaknesses and into the hearts of others, setting hearts free to abide in His love.

So let’s do this, dear friends.

Let’s love Christ without fear. Let’s love others without fear. Let’s stop trying to be good enough for God.

Because we never will be.

But because He sent His Son, we are.

We are.

Take a breath.

He’s got you. And He loves you.

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10, passion translation.

So go put your Cinderella dress back on.

Let the God who loves you most stitch it back up.

And don’t let those ugly stepsisters Fear and Perfectionism sabotage your ball anymore! 😉 

Peace, blessings, and fresh mercies to you in Christ,

Robyn

Behind the Christmas Card (the one with the crazy cat…)

Greetings! Here is mine and Michael’s Christmas card for this year:

P1030795

And here is a more accurate representation of our family: (Tucker trying to escape, and us trying to smile while also making sure he doesn’t run and hide under the bushes just to be difficult while we wait with treats as people drive by and give us questioning looks because we’re outside in church clothes crawling around in the pine straw attempting to grab our furball like what happened last week).

P1030792

Sometimes the holidays can be like that, can’t they?

We want the first picture. The perfect one. The Christmas carols are playing and the candles are lit and the tree is bright and so shouldn’t everything be perfect, just this month, if no other time?

And if things aren’t perfect for me at Christmas, am I alone in that?

Is everyone else having a way more normal and sugary and wonderful experience as meanwhile Michael and I work through newlywed lessons only learned and planted beautifully in the heart while forged in the heat of challenge?

If your holidays, dear friends, at times resembled crawling in the pine straw (probably not, but you get what I’m saying) instead of decorating Christmas cookies, you are not alone.

And I don’t mean things were negative or bad all the time this Christmas.

Lots of times this Christmas season, things were wonderful.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, dear friends! I am so thankful for all those good times!

I instagramed about our tree and cookies and presents, and we drank hot chocolate and sang carols and snuggled and laughed and watched the Polar Express and stayed in our pajamas all day.

But also lots of times this particular Christmas season, things were hard.

Michael and I were (and are) in the process of setting boundaries in respect to how we spend our holidays, based on what is best for our marriage – our marriage, the sacred beginning of our own little family.

Someone didn’t like – didn’t respect — the boundaries we needed as a young family, and it hurt.

Really hurt.

The kind of hurt where you choose to genuinely thank God for His Son while you string the Christmas lights because you must choose joy when the emotion isn’t easy to find in the moment.

The kind of hurt where your husband sits on the couch and prays and wants peace with someone he loves but it’s just not in his control anymore because people have free will.

This was our Christmas, dear friends. Our second Christmas as a married couple. Our second Christmas as our own family. As one flesh. And I am so thankful for it.

It was a beautiful time. It was sacred. It was also messy.

But isn’t beautiful and sacred and messy the story of our lives?

And isn’t beautiful and sacred and messy why we needed Christmas in the first place?

Because who could rescue us from sin so messy, but the God who made us beautiful and sees us as beautiful despite the mess? Who could rescue us but the God who chose to come in the most sacred, pure, loving way: as a newborn baby?

If your Christmas was hard, I know it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.

Especially if you wrestle against perfectionism (you’re in good company here, folks) and your Christmas wasn’t like the picture, it’s confusing, even.

Please know Jesus didn’t come for the perfect.

Christmas didn’t happen for the perfect.

It’s so much better than that.

Like a fresh breath of air, Jesus came for you and me. He came because we’re not perfect. And our situations here on earth will never be perfect, and so we can celebrate Christmas because He came!

Hallelujah, He came!

And so now, because He came for you, He promises when there is pain, there is purpose (Rom 8:28).

When you hurt, He is near (Psalm 34:18).

When you trust in Him, you will live with Him forever in a place more perfect than we can imagine (John 3:16).

Maybe this Christmas was wonderfully peaceful and bright and joyful for you. I pray it was! Michael and I have had those simply sweet Christmases, too, and I know we will again.

Praise God for those Christmases! They are gifts.

With a humble heart and by the grace of God, I echo this: Praise God for these hard Christmases, too. They also are gifts. They are. And you are not alone in them.

This is the promise: everything that happens will be used for the good of those who love God. The hard Christmases will be used for good, and the peaceful, easy Christmases will be used for good.

What an incredible God we serve.

Dear friends, I don’t yet see the purpose in our pain from this Christmas. I don’t.

But I do see little glimmers of hope, like little surprises in the tree: the smile Michael gives me when we pray together, holding hands more lately because we’re a team and we need each other, praising God with hearts freshly bowed at the Christmas Eve service because we can see more clearly now in the pain how He truly is our Comfort, Shield, Savior. The moments where we share hearts because we have to lean on each other instead of watch TV. The moments when we look at each other in difficult situations with eyes that understand and we just know. We’re in it together.

These things are all the little gifts God softened my heart to receive this Christmas.

I pray whether your Christmas was easy or hard, peaceful or chaotic, that God gives you eyes to look back and see the gifts He gave. I pray we’ll all have eyes to see the gifts He gives today.

And I pray we all have fresh eyes to see, and hearts to know the greatest Gift we’ll ever receive in Christ Jesus.

Peace and blessings to you and your family,

Robyn

Dear Newlywed Wives, Before Your Next Argument

Dear Newlywed Wives,

During disagreements with your husband, you probably want “your way” sometimes. Probably a lot of times.

I know this, because I want “my way,” too.

Maybe you want pizza for dinner instead of Chinese, you want to vacation at the beach instead of the mountains, you want to watch Love it or List it instead of baseball, you want to do Christmas at your parents’ house instead of your in-laws because it’s much more comfortable for you, you want to paint the room “Fawn Brown” instead of “Charcoal Grey” because who wants a room painted with a name like “Charcoal Gray?” You like the name James instead of Matthew for your future child who isn’t yet in the works, you want to buy a new piece of furniture to make your little house a home instead of a new remote control for the TV with the spending budget. You don’t want a budget, but he wants a budget. You don’t want to clean the litter box, because you did it last night.

You want “your way” a lot of times because you are human, and your husband is human, too, so a lot of times he will want “his way.”

 Clearly, this will create tension.

My husband and I are very different people (praise God!) We balance each other out and we love our differences. I am so thankful for how Michael’s logic and even-keeled head brings my anxious heart to a steady beat, and he loves the way my creative mind and sensitive heart create fun and warmth in our lives.

But there have been times in our 1 year and a few months of marriage when our differences have caused us to want very different things. Then, we have disagreements. Arguments.

Our conversations during these times can start to run in circles because neither of us is budging and Michael gets tired because I like talking and analyzing situations WAY more than he does and then I start to get frustrated (Why doesn’t he understand where I’m coming from?! Let’s talk about this for another 5 hours until I get my way, please.)

Andrew Strickland Photography (33 of 53)

Fellow Newlywed Wives, I was given a piece of advice from a wise woman married much longer than we at this point. Her piece of advice sat in my heart for about a week, waiting for its moment to reappear when I was ready to fully hear it.

God decided I was ready this morning, and I awoke to this piece of advice knocking gently on the door of my heart and I immediately grabbed a pen and my journal.

The advice is this:

The one thing I wish I’d done better all these years is to be kinder to my husband in our disagreements.”

Oh.

Are you sure your advice isn’t, “Just keep pushing till you get your way?”

Because during disagreements with Michael, kindness toward him is not usually at the forefront of my mind.

Transparency, folks: getting “my way” is oftentimes at the forefront of my mind during arguments.

But, ah! The freedom, the goodness, in this wise wife’s advice. Not for its ease, by any means. But the goodness in this advice, Newlywed Wives, is rich.

You and your husband will disagree. He will want to do different things with money, you will want to vacation at a different spot than what he has in mind, he will not always understand your feelings, and you will not always understand his.

Yet what God gently impressed on my heart this morning is this:

What matters is not that I get my way, but that I am kind to my husband.

 And when I really think about it, at the end of the day with Michael, it’s not things that do or don’t go my way that I remember. Instead, I remember how I treated Michael in the moment. In tense moments. In the moments when I do get “my way.” In the frustrating moments when I don’t get “my way.” If I treated Michael unfairly or with an angry heart, it hurts me later when I remember. And I know it hurts Michael.

I apologize, yes, and Michael is forgiving, but I would much rather choose the path of life initially.

It’s how we treat each other as husband and wife that builds memories, strengthens, blesses, and builds our little family.

It’s not what we decide in a disagreement, it’s how we come to it. Am I giving Michael “his way” in love, or in anger? If I do what he wants in this situation, will I be cheerful about it? Or am I holding this situation nearby as a way to bring up later and get my way then?

Or am I showing my husband grace and sacrifice in love, as The Lord has done for me with His very life?

Andrew Strickland Photography (49 of 53)

On “getting our ways,” Newlywed Wives, God doesn’t have a scorecard keeping track of how many times we have wronged Him (Praise Him!), and marriage shouldn’t have a scorecard keeping track of when we did or didn’t get “our way.”

Modeled after our Father’s relationship with His children, marriage should have only opportunities to show grace and love and willing sacrifice. What is sacrifice if it is not willing out of love, or if it is kept track of? (Writing that sentence is more convicting than I would like to admit.)

We will not always give this loving sacrifice perfectly. Again, dear Newlywed Wives, we are human. So are our husbands. They will not do this perfectly, either. Praise God we have Jesus on our side, showering new mercies upon us and our marriages each morning! (Lam 3:22-23).

Praise God Who also knows the deepest joy and ache of sacrifice for those He loves, and Praise Him for giving us opportunities to show sacrificial love to our spouses.

And yet, regardless of who gets their way in an argument, dear Newlywed Wives, regardless of who sacrifices, I urge you in humility as one who makes this mistake too many times, make sure you were kind to your husband.

Make sure you spoke fairly. Make sure you disagreed with a respectful heart toward your husband’s thoughts and feelings. Make sure you spoke words that breathe life and not hurt.

The decision you both come to will be a fleeting moment.

Your words, however, will last.

 Make sure, fellow Newlywed Wives, you are kind to your husbands in disagreements.

I will prayerfully ask God to help me do this alongside you, dear friends, as we praise the God who gave the ultimate Sacrifice for us, that we might give the sacrifice of gentle words to the men we love most!

 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship…Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:1,10).

 Blessings to you and kind thoughts and gentle words,

 Robyn