When life gives you lemons (a.k.a. anxiety)

I wrap up these words on day 364 of living in San Diego, California.

My 20-year-old self would laugh out loud at the sheer ridiculousness. If only she knew.

I want to share with you just a few things that my faithful One has whispered to me this past year. In the midst of what felt like the desert, He was a River of living water. Jesus said -

“You received without paying; give without pay."

All that we have is His first - money, time, experience, relationship, whatever water he pours out - each page of our story belongs to Him, just as the author's work is always her own first, no matter how many pages fall into the hands of others.

These are literally words I've written down in my journals, belted out in the car, cried out in the middle of the night. 

Throughout this post, I have linked to some of those Words of life and some of those songs that have kept me going. Maybe you need them today, maybe you will tomorrow.

I hope that this chapter of my story will remind you that He is still writing yours. His still small voice is still speaking.

"Where is the peace?"

This is the big kahuna.

If I'm being honest, I'm a little nervous about what you might think. But forward I go.

If you know me, you know that I am a self-proclaimed “worrier”. That is an identity I have carried around proudly since I first learned how to overthink. I have always just seen it as a personality trait. But graciously, gradually, and gently, the Lord has taught me about this and helped me to bring it into the light - I am not a “worrier”. I am not just an “anxious person,” not just Type A.

I have had to confess something, to Him and to myself. It has taken a long time to be able to verbalize it, time that has cost me much energy and joy. But I am confessing loudly now.

​I have anxiety.

I have worn it around every day like it was something made just for me, like I was doing the right thing by worrying.

It makes me responsible. It makes me the good kid.

It makes perfection seem achievable.

And then sometimes, it doesn't make any sense.

I’ve had friends tell me to relax before I even realized my shoulders were up to my ears because something was gnawing at my insides.

There have been Tuesdays and Sundays and 7ams and 4pms where a nameless, heavy sense of urgency settles over me and it takes me three days to understand why, if I ever do.

You don’t need an unchecked to-do list to feel anxious.

Sometimes all it takes is…

...nothing.

Anxiety at its root is fear, and fear is sinister as all get out.

I know that sinister “nothing” by the name of Satan.

Our culture today literally mocks anxiety and depression. I see dozens of "memes" and funny Instagram posts every day that have pictures of probably one of the Kardashians throwing a hissy fit and compare them to having a mental breakdown.

I laugh at them. It's all in good fun.

But there is a level of honesty in every joke.

Mental illness is being called a public health crisis by some. 

There is a pervasive sense of emptiness among humanity that is overwhelming and depressive. Read about what's really going on and you'll feel it.

And the only person who can take on that emptiness is Jesus. But we have to learn how to admit our problem to Him first.

Even now, as I reflect to write this post, I see light being shed on past moments of intense anxiety and heaviness and dark voices that seemed to come out of nowhere. A few of them were really important moments. ​Sitting across a table from a friend with a latte hearing her story for the first time.

“You’re alone here.”

Preparing a Bible study for a group of loving brothers and sisters.

“No one wants to listen to what you have to say.”

Finally getting to ride shotgun next to someone who had become very important to me.

“He’s going to reject you.”

Sometimes there is no specific voice, no spoken lie. It just feels like everything is pressing on me all at once: future, past, present, every person I've ever known, everything I've ever done and everything I've failed to do.

And I have to carry it all at once.

Looking back to these moments, I see clearly that I gave into that anxiety. I looked for peace in changing or fixing my circumstances. I was constantly asking myself, "where is the peace?" And then one day a friend told me that I should ask God that question instead.

Jesus said - 

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.”

The best peace there is to be found is only with Him. He will be our peace.

It has been a long road of healing and there is still quite the highway stretched out in front of me, but through His grace I have finally learned, as soon as that urgency pops up, to say His name and ask Him to remind me what my place is in this great big world - in His opinion. 

I've learned to get outside under the open sky and run alongside the Pacific until all I can hear is the crash of the waves and His tender voice.

That sound silences those thoughts, whisks them away and whispers in my ear - 

“You are loved.” 

Funny how that’s completely enough when we allow it the space to be.

"You are not alone; I promise you're not alone."

There were valleys in the beginning of this chapter where I was thoroughly convinced that I was facing everything alone and that I was alone in facing it.

I was convinced that I would be without support and guidance, without people to just do life and have fun with, and without people to reap wisdom from. 

I can genuinely look back on that and laugh now, because I have all that and then some.

Sometimes, though, I don’t remember that I have all that and fear takes over again and I isolate. 

It’s destructive and it hurts the people around me and it hurts me. 

But Jesus is the sweetest and He reminds me that He’s chipping away at my walls and He uses people to do it and yes, it hurts sometimes but it’s going to be worth it once I see all that blessing on the other side, darn it.

So if you've been in my life in any capacity this year, you are the Lord's tangible provision.

I am satisfied in You.

Honestly folks, this may seem like an oversimplification if you don’t take your coat off and stay awhile. Because life with Jesus is NOT a walk in the park. Let me just tell you. (Seriously, I can give you a play-by-play of this past year if you want proof of that.) 

But in spite of it all, never have I been so convinced of the fact that He is completely enough. 

I have been in some of the lowest places this past year - emotionally, relationally, mentally, circumstantially, financially.

Seriously, there have been days where I have cried out and I have yelled and screamed and doubted out loud and in my head and over and over again in circles and I have questioned if God even exists.

I have been so angry or worked up that the only thing that calms me down is running till I can't run anymore.

Y’all. I have never really been there until this year. 

But Jesus has NEVER changed. 

Even when I have failed Him, He has provided in abundance. 

He has gone out of His way to prove Himself to me when I honestly should know better by now. 

He never wags a finger.  Never shrugs my feelings away. Never invalidates my anxiety, even as He takes it on Himself. 

He never gets tired of hearing about the same heartache over and over again.

He is not disappointed in me when I have a really hard day and it takes everything in me not to melt down at the sight of my own inadequacies and that day’s fears and doubts.

He has chased me down on those runs, the mornings and afternoons and evenings when I'm not running towards Him but as far away from Him as my feet will take me

He is so much more gracious than I can put into words. I imagine I have failed to even recognize countless signs of His grace every day.

That’s the thing about Him - He is not a God of “scraping by.” Sometimes by the world’s standards we are digging for scraps at the bottom of the barrel, but our Father has promised to give us even more than we could ever dream up ourselves.

And how could He possibly give us even more than He already has in Jesus? But He still does. 

He gives more grace.

But to get grace, you've got to make room. You've got to let go of your own weakness.

Admitting to weakness can feel like peeling off the armor you've had on for years.

It leaves you completely exposed.

My simple encouragement is this:

He is worthy of your trust.

He has really been chasing you down, waiting for you to admit your need for Him so that He can give you exactly what you need...and more. 

Take heart. 

His love will lead you through the night.

The season will change.

​He has given you all that you need.

Just ask Him to lift your chin and confess your weakness when you don’t have the strength. 

Don't be so buried in the noise of life, no matter what it looks like for you, that you miss out on His still small voice in the next 364 days. 

Get before Him every day and ask Him to speak. 

Get mad if you need to. Get gritty and get honest. He wants to hear it. He can take it. 

Run off the heaviness of whatever weight you're carrying. Run till your feet ache and your knees give out. Do whatever it takes so that you can sit quietly before Him and receive. He is a good Giver. 

After all, He gave you these last 364 days too, and He's giving you and me this moment right now - a moment that He is in.

I think that's all we need.

With His grace unmeasured,

Wheeler

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