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Friday, May 29, 2015

When Ships Have Sailed

Photo by Muhammad Ali
On my 27th birthday I realized that I would never be Miss America. When I shared this disappointing epiphany with a friend she asked, one eye half closed, “Was that ever actually a possibility for you?”
No.
I never entered a single pageant, or even gave serious time to thinking about perhaps looking into considering trying out for one. Not my thing. Never was.
And I would’ve required coaching and polishing and charming-up that were orders of magnitude greater than those received by the pre-Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen if I ever hoped to make it past the handing-in-my-application stage of the process.
But when it hit me that the max age for a Miss America contestant is twenty-six, and I’d just crossed twenty-seven, a door I never intended to pass through slammed shut. That ship had sailed, like it or not.
Bummer.
Now I’m deep into my forti—I mean, it’s been a few years since my 27th birthday, and I’m finding myself more frequently pessimistic, cynical, and tired than I ever did in previous decades. Am I well on the path to becoming a crotchety old lady? Is a mid-life crisis right around the corner? Have I already outlived joy?
When I compare my present self to my younger self, I discover that the youthful me possessed something my ripened psyche has unintentionally abandoned: expectation.
Back then I believed that all possibilities stood wide open. Because they did. My future potentially held anything I hoped it might. I could become an ambassador to a foreign country. Or study dance and achieve prima ballerina status with a world-famous troupe. Or marry a prince. (Which I kind of did, actually. Sigh.) I could climb mountains, study archeology, win a Pulitzer.
Or be Miss America.
Photo by Caro Wallis
The world was my bowl of cherries, and I only had to pluck out one after another, pop them in my mouth, and feast upon their sweetness.
But at a certain point the concept of opportunity cost begins to figure into life decisions. Selecting one cherry means disregarding another. Walking through a certain door means not exploring the rooms behind others. Sailing into the great blue on one schooner means leaving all the other ships back at the dock. Time, energy, and money are finite resources: every yes uttered to one pursuit necessitates either a no or a not-yet to everything else.
And options start to disappear all on their own, like the Miss America thing.
However, I am not yet old and spent. I should still expect to have quite a bit of time and health and strength left for the second half of my journey.
But if the long years of life are merely a narrowing hallway of ever more doors closing ever more quickly, what kind of expectation is left to me? That of watching my face and body and soul slowly shrivel? The hope of a little peace and quiet and maybe an annual vacation to Florida after the kids launch? An eventual series of hospitalizations that lead to internment in a home for the easily forgotten elderly?
Egad. That’s not for me. I will not go gentle into that good night, thank you Dylan Thomas.
Photo by Tim Green
Although many doors of youth and beauty and impulsive zeal have closed and are closing, there are still other winding hallways, hidden alcoves, mysterious spaces left to explore. In the rooms I have chosen to investigate thus far I have discovered maps, treasures, and keys to new and different places, chambers whose doors only open to those who have learned the secrets necessary to broach them.
I may never give birth again, but I can come alongside a new mom and walk with her through post-partum depression because I’ve been in, around, and back out of that miserable, dark room.
I can write stories about the pain of abandonment and the grace of redemption, because I’ve sailed those seas and I’ve met some of the monsters and miracles that swim out there.
And every single day I can add something new to my bucket list to offset the experiences beside which I’ve already put a checkmark: did scuba-diving, do surfing; studied Japanese, learn Spanish; practiced cake decorating; try sculpting.
Photo by
Will Hastings
The world is still my bowl of cherries, but my palate is more refined now. I may have less time and appetite to gorge myself, but I have greater appreciation for the choicest, tastiest, sweetest morsels.
Instead of racing through the halls and diving frantically through one door after another, I’ve constructed a better map of the grounds, and I know which rooms hold things I enjoy and things I need, and which ones are merely distractions or wastes of my dwindling time.
Rather than trimming the canvas so my ship gets to its port of destination as quickly as possible, I can stroll the deck and breathe in the sea air and practice the pleasure of simply sailing the thing.
There’s still plenty ahead.
Therefore, I’d like to invite expectation back into my life, so we can wonder together at what the days ahead might hold for us. I want to recover the ability to look at the world through the hopeful, mesmerized eyes of a child, who sees more possibilities and opportunities, and fewer problems and obstacles. Who lives with delight and fascination and surprise rather than despair and frustration and cynicism.
Who practices hope.
Then, when I reach the end of things and my last door is creaking shut, I can look back and say, with a sated appetite and a trail of joys and blessings and laughter in my wake, “Who needed a Miss America crown? I had the whole wonderful world.”
With a cherry on top.


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Friday, May 22, 2015

Confessions of a Yarn Ho

Photo by Rachel
I’m a yarn ho.
My husband says I need a twelve-step program for my addiction. I tell him that’s ridiculous. I can quit any time I want to.
I just don't want to.
I’ve taught a number of people to knit and crochet over the years, and I’ve discovered that my students have all fallen into one of two discrete categories: those who never even completed their first potholder because they simply didn’t get that into it, and those whose eyes take on the rabid glaze of a malnourished wolf cresting a hill overlooking a valley filled with thousands of plump, bleating, un-shepherded sheep.
Must. Have. More. Wool.
Idle Hands Are the Devil’s Playground. (I.e., I Am Utterly Unable to Sit Still and Do Nothing.)

It’s a visceral thing, this need to make. The deep and ravenous yearnings of a yarn ho are temporarily satisfied only by endless lengths of fuzzy fiber passing through the fingertips, inch by inch, twirling into intricate slipknots that fall off the smooth, cool hook or needles into swelling waves of gorgeous fabric.
The first five words of the Bible sum it up: In the beginning God created. And we’re infused with that same ache to make, whether it’s buildings or bridges, prose or poetry, theses or theorems, canvases or carvings, movies or magic.
Or sweaters, scarves, and socks.
I Lie Like a Single-Stitched, Torn-Calico Rug.
Telling my family I’m going to pop into the yarn store for “just a sec” is a blatant and shameless untruth of heroic magnitude, and every one of us knows it. The gourmand can’t stop after one potato chip. The boozehound never says “Whoa, Nelly” after the first bottle. And the yarn ho doesn’t walk away till she’s seen and touched and maybe even smelled and rubbed against her cheek every luscious skein in the store. Twice.
And when I tell Hubby, “I just want to finish this row before I come to bed,” what I really mean is, “Don’t wait up.”
Hos hoard.
Like any self-respecting junkie, I keep a stash. I have shelves, drawers, boxes filled with the stuff, in every color of the rainbow, and nearly every weight and fiber content ever manufactured. I could, at this very moment, make an amigurumi bearded dragon, a pair of size 25 clown socks, or a Cabbage Patch Kids chemo wig, without ever leaving my house. If the apocalypse or TEOTWAWKI occurred, I might starve to death or slowly desiccate from liquid deprivation, but I could knit my own body bag and crochet a virgin wool, Tunisian-stitch pillow cover to accompany it.
If I Love You I Will Clothe You.
Greater love hath no yarn ho than this: that she sacrifices her wool stock for her friends. I’ll spend $30.00 on yarn to spend 40 hours making an item that you’d spend $150.00 to buy in a store. Because I love you. I sweater my children, sock my buddies, and afghan new babies and brides.
And I occasionally cross the line into WWGM (What Would Grandma Make?) territory.
I Am Terrified of Channeling Grandma.
My grandmother was a dear and lovely and generous woman. Who made some hideously kitsch crap:
She’d glue seashells onto the oval dome-cups of pastel Styrofoam egg cartons, then attach a dozen or so cartons together in cylindrical shapes to form lampshades. Which she used.
Yarn-embroidered plastic canvas was her go-to answer for everything: toilet-paper snuggies, covered-brick doorstops, Christmas ornaments.
No combination of colors—purple and teal, orange and fuchsia, black and gold and celadon—proved too garish to be woven into placemats, napkin rings, or teapot cozies.
Every time I give a hand-stitched gift I search the recipient’s face for traces of my own birthdays and Christmases past: “Thanks, Grandma. I’ve always wanted a… yarn-covered, Styrofoam, beaded disco ball?”
Grandma was into yarn-bombing before yarn-bombing even became a thing.
Photo by Sherri Lynn Wood
(Love you, Grandma. Rest in peace.)
I’m Scared There’s No Yarn in the Afterlife.
A number of things disturb me about heaven, as described in the Bible. There’s no nighttime, and in fact, no darkness. I kind of like the moon and the stars and candlelight and the way the night smells different than the day.
Marriage will no longer exist. Most of the time that makes me really sad. There are moments, however… never mind.
And there’s nothing in the Word about A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, or Michael’s stores in heaven. But the Bible talks a lot about lambs, especially in Revelation. And lambs produce wool. So, logically…
Oh, God, please. Please don’t ask me to spend eternity without yarn implements. I’ll die.
Photo by
Diane Hamilton
Well, I mean… I guess I’ll already be dead. But…
Keep the harp; just give me some alpaca.
So There It Is: I’m a Yarn Ho.
I’m the woman trying to count stitches with her fingertips as her child passes the bleachers, in possession of the ball, yelling, “Watch me, Mom!” because he knows the odds are good that Mom’s attending to her blanket’s emerging picot border instead.
I’m the selfish shotgun passenger who makes her husband drive every single hour of every single road trip, because her nerves get frazzled by all the screaming in the car when she works both the steering wheel and the circular knitting needles simultaneously. (Everyone multitasks these days. Chill, people.)
And I’m the woman staring with the rabidly glazed eyes of a ravenous wolf at your lace shawl, or your husband’s Coogi sweater, or your toddler’s knitted Rapunzel hat. I’m not a stalker or a home wrecker or a child abductor; I’m just thinking, Oh, yeah. I could make that.
I’m At Peace With My Addiction.
I could have so many worse problems than jonesing after yarn.
Okay, I probably do have a number of other problems, but that’s beside the point.
My obsession hurts no one: it relieves fleeced creatures of their winter coats when such coats are no longer desirable; it produces beautiful and functional apparel and accessories; and it pairs nicely with my husband’s obsession for watching corny martials arts flicks, military history movies, and engineering/technology documentaries. “Wasn’t that weld-by-bolt-by-screw analysis of the construction of the Alaskan oil pipeline fascinating?” the man asks. In complete earnestness.
“Yes, dear,” I lie. “Now go ahead and hit the sack. I’ll be up after I finish this row.”
Sure I will.

Photo by elitatt

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Grading the Mommy

Photo by amboo who?
Last week an outraged mother posted on Facebook a picture of the Mother’s Day present that came home from school with her child: a report card grading her performance as Mom. It’s gone outraged-ly viral.
I do have to wonder what that teacher was thinking when she came up with that gift idea. Maybe she was considering what a teacher friend of mine mentioned last year after Mother’s Day: “Every year I go to a lot of trouble to come up with creative and thoughtful crafts for my students to make for their parents on Mother’s and Father’s Days. And I never, ever hear a word back from any of them.”
Yeah, my guilt-meter hit about 175% when she told me that. Because I’d never taken the time to thank any of my kids’ teachers, the real driving force behind geraniums in adorably hand-painted “I LOVE MONNY” pots on mothers’ kitchen windowsills. (The kid meant “MOMMY”. Not “MONEY.” I’m pretty sure. Okay, it’s a toss-up.)
Well, this year the Mommy-Grade-Card teacher heard about it.
Peace, people. Everybody makes a bad judgment call once in a while. Like the time the pimply-faced sixteen-year-old girl checking my groceries commented on the 80’s music playing over the store’s PA system. I said, “This stuff’s from my high school days.” She looked at me, shrugged, and said, “You don’t look that bad.”
I sincerely hope I’m around the first time somebody calls her “Ma’am.”
But reading about the offended mom’s angst made me wonder how my kids might grade me. So I asked them.
I handed my seven-year-old the grade card first. “Fill this out for Mommy.”
“Why?”
“It’s a grade card. You get to tell me how I’m doing as a Mommy.”
She stomped her little foot and threw her head back with a growl. “I don’t want more homework! I finished my homework already!”
“This is fun,” I insisted. “Look. Circle A, B, C, D, or F for each statement.”
“Do I have to?” she whined.
“Circle the grades!”
She sat down, drew hasty rings around a bunch of letters, and handed it back to me. “There. Can I go watch TV now?”
“Why did you give me a C for ‘My mom is patient and understanding’?” I asked.
“Just because.”
“Well, why? Tell me. Tell me right now! When I am anything but patient and understanding?!?”
“Fine! I’ll change it to A. Can I go now?!?”
‘A’ for being patient and understanding.
The nine-year-old did the grade card next. Her face blossomed into an enormous smile as she reached for her pencil.
‘A’ for being a kind and loving, patient and understanding mother. “Dad is the yelling one, not Mom,” she explained. Hmm. Maybe we’ll hand out GRADING THE DADDY cards next.
‘B’ for my cooking. That’s better than fair. Our smoke detector goes off a lot more often than it should.
‘C’ for keeping the house clean. A little ire bled into my hackles till I read her comment. She explained that her two siblings made it impossible to keep a house clean. True, that. And don’t let yourself off the hook so easily either, sister. The Everest-sized mound of paper snips piled on the table after your last snowflake-making marathon? Yours. The clothes you never fail to leave on the bathroom floor after a shower? Your size. The bucket of perler beads you knocked off your desk and decided was too much trouble to pick up? All you, babe.
The eleven-year-old really got into this assignment. He assigned points and percentages to his grade assessments. I scored 668 out of 700 by his estimation. Where am I slacking?
86% for being patient and understanding. “You yell sometimes but are great other times.”
Yell? I don’t yell. That’s Dad. I enhance my voice for emphasis.
99% for my cooking. I’d glow a little about that, but the boy thinks chicken nuggets doused with Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce represent the pinnacle of haute cuisine.
My biggest deficit, according to my son, relates to me teaching him important and useful things. I rated only 85% there. That's just because he doesn’t like so many of the things I teach him. For example, it is not a truthful statement that if your undershorts have been worn only once, they are clean. Nor is it acceptable to claim that because you did not take them off for a week, they have been worn only once.
I could probably be offended by some of my kids’ evaluations of me. Heck, I’m sure I could be offended by a lot of people’s evaluations of me. I’m not awesome at very much, and I mess up a lot, but I’m doing the best I can.
Just like that teacher who handed out the ill-advised Mother’s Day grade card. I’m going to give her a break. And I’m going to give Outraged-Mom a break. And I’m going to give myself a break.
Because, really. Why do we take this stuff so seriously?
Now go write your kids’ teachers a thank-you note.
I’m signing mine, “Love, Monny”.


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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Breakfast In Bed

Photo by jimmy brown
I get breakfast in bed twice a year, on my birthday and Mother’s Day. And it’s tough. I get up before everybody else in my house almost all the other days of the year, by design. For nearly a decade that was the only thirty minutes all day long that I could be alone with my thoughts. And my coffee. And the Bear Claw I snuck into the grocery cart when nobody was looking and hid under my tented, upside-down Bible which everybody thought was that way because I didn’t want to lose my place.
I always tell my kids the Scriptures contain hidden treasure for those who seek it. They never looked, though.
Suckers.
But on my two breakfast-in-bed mornings, I lie there, wide awake, watching my husband process another REM cycle, until someone else in the house rolls out of the sack and remembers what said they were going to do. One year I threw in the towel after ninety minutes of staring at the ceiling, got up, and made my own coffee.
They all got mad. You ungrateful mother.
After that we agreed on a time-point. If Mama doesn’t smell the java and waffles by 7:00 a.m., all bets are off.
To be honest, though, I’m not always sure I deserve to be served anything other than a visit from CPS or a ride in the loony-bin paddy wagon. I once actually, literally, no-joke climbed onto the railing of our second-story deck in order to shimmy up onto the roof of the shed, so I could hide from my progeny, stare into the tranquil blue sky, and will my 270/150 blood pressure and 185 bpm heart rate down to levels below the cardiopulmonary crash line.
Seriously, me alone on the roof was a better situation for everybody that day. I might've had some hormones going on.
Other times, though, I think I ought to get breakfast in bed every stinkin’ morning, along with a mani-pedi, full-body massage, and a couple of cabana boys bringing me fruity alcoholic beverages as they take turns fanning my maternally devoted self with woven palm fronds. “You are so lucky to have me,” I tell my children.
For example, have you ever ridden in a car with small children for any length of time? Thank you God the baby days are over; sitting in gridlock with a squalling infant strapped in the car seat behind you is a special kind of hell. But older kids bring their own brand of misery to a road trip. Here’s a short excerpt from a forty-five minute drive to the airport with three children:
Where are we going? Stop touching me! Mom, she’s touching me! Did you bring any snacks? Did you bring any drinks? Did you bring anything to do? Stop looking at me! Mom, he’s looking at me! Are you sure you don’t have snacks? Did you look in your purse? Can I look in your purse? I dropped your purse. I can’t pick it up, stuff’s rolling everywhere! I said stop looking at me! I have to go to the bathroom. Can I play Angry Birds on your phone? Why not? Can I play Brick Breaker on your phone? Why not? Can I play Solitaire on your phone? Why not? Stop touching me! I’m going to throw up. She put her foot on my seat! Ouch! She bit me! I’m bleeding! Did you bring any Band-Aids? Are they Spider Man Band-Aids? Do you have any Hulks? Are we there yet? Where are we going?
That my three children are still alive is a testament to the gracious goodness of their mother.
But when I fail, I do so spectacularly. Like the time my youngest, at two years old, woke up in the middle of the night.
Little Girl cried out in the wee hours of the morning. Mother was about to go deal with Little Girl's angst—again—when the older daughter's voice called:  “It's all right, Little Girl.  Go back to sleep.”
And Little Girl did!
The four-year-old has learned to take care of the two-year-old! Mother did a horizontal happy-dance in her bed, rolled over, and drifted blissfully back to sleep.
The next morning, however, when Little Girl tried to climb into bed with Mommy, Mommy discovered that Little Girl’s pajamas were damp and sticky, and she smelled. Bad.
Little Girl vomited all over herself in the middle of the night.
Mother had a talk with Daughter. “I applaud your nurturing skills, but did you know that Little Girl threw up last night?”
Daughter nodded. “Yes, I saw her.”
Mother suggested Daughter should wake Mommy when someone is sick.
Daughter explained. “I was afraid you'd yell.”
Someone please extract the poisoned dagger blade from my hemorrhaging heart.
I can just picture the scene: the two-year-old barfing all over the place, crying out for comfort in her sickness and anguish. And the four-year-old hushing her, shaking her little head, beseeching her younger sister, “Shh! Don’t wake Mommy! Just sleep in it! It’ll be better that way! Trust me!”
Incidentally, I've lost count of how many times people have told me that hearing stories about my parenting experience makes them feel so much better about themselves.
Awesome. Glad I can serve you all as a human “Who’s the Fairest of Them All?” mirror. (Well, the mirror replied, you may not be Mother Theresa, but at least you’re not THAT woman.)
So as our house gears up for another breakfast-in-bed, and the children design menus, pull out the good china, and search for folded white cloths to drape over their forearms, I will continue to try to be the mom I wish I were. The one who gives a towel, rather than a tirade, to the child who spilled his milk. The one who remembers that being a kid can feel more like trying to pen a novel in Gaelic calligraphy with your non-dominant hand than skipping down Drury Lane eating muffins, jellybeans, and gingerbread. The one whose children tell each other, “It’s okay, let’s ask Mom for help,” rather than, “Whatever you do, don’t let Mom find out about this.”
Because my greatest wish as a mom is that someday down the road, when my kids become parents, they’ll do it better than I did.


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Saturday, May 2, 2015

And I Was Afraid

The margins of the daily devotional book I’ve used for more than ten years are peppered with chicken scratches, many of them in homage to the undercurrents of anxiety that flow just beneath the surface of my deceptively tranquil skin. And every few pages my journal inventories a list of stressors that threaten to roll me under like the relentless thirty-foot waves that pound surfers in the Eddie Aikau surf competition.
One woman I know says that most of the things she worries about never happen. Therefore, she figures that the more she worries, the less likely bad things will occur.
Sketchy logic, that.
I do know about faith and trust. I get it. God is bigger than my troubles. God knows the end from the beginning, every step ordained for me, everything that’s coming toward me and each moment till the one of my death, yadda yadda yadda.
Yet…
Photo by Hartwig HKD
My husband’s mother is suffering from frontotemporal dementia, a despicable disease that’s robbing her of her vocabulary, her social awareness, and her self-respect. It will take her life before much longer. And there’s a strong genetic component to it. What if my husband gets it? My children?
What if something happens that requires me to go back to work full-time? Egad. Can you wear yoga pants and college hoodies to an office job? ‘Cause that’s about all I’ve got anymore. I’ve been out of the paid work force for most of fifteen years, and I’m no spring chicken. Who would hire me? What if I lost my house? How would I send my kids to college? What if I couldn’t even feed or clothe them?
What if I die while my kids are still young?
My pastor once said that faith and anxiety exist in reciprocity to each another: the more you have of one, the less of the other. Therefore, anxiety is evidence that I do not trust God.
I’m no minister or theologian or apologist or even a very clever student of the Bible. So I’m not qualified to delve into the subjects of pain and suffering and sin and the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man. Better, wiser, and holier people than I have written tomes on those subjects. You’d get more out of reading one of them, to be honest.
But I do have a few elementary-school thoughts about fear.
Sin’s Shadow
The other day I was reading the story of Adam and Eve and their afternoon nosh break under the Tree of the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil. “And [Adam] said (to God), ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid…’”
For the first time in the perhaps hundreds of times I’ve read this story, it hit me: that was the very first occasion of fear. Ever.
Photo by Stuart Anthony
Fear entered the world as sin’s shadow.
Until that moment Adam and Eve knew nothing but provision, protection, and peace. All their needs were supplied, they had work they enjoyed (who wouldn’t like naming animals, right? “I’ll call you a… Boogernasterdon!”), and everything existed in a safe and proper order they had no reason to doubt.
But once they messed that up—via serpent-prompted doubt, by the way—they immediately got the gut-deep, bone-shuddering knee shakes. I can only imagine what ran through their minds:
“What’s going to happen now?”
“How bad is our punishment going to be?”
“Egad! I gotta find some yoga pants and a college hoodie.”
Then God clothed them with an animal’s skin.
Incidentally, Adam and Eve must have felt pretty low about that, I would think. After all, God made that animal, and Adam and Eve gave it its name. And people weren’t carnivores at that point, either. Unless I’m misreading something, meat-eating came post-sin, too. (And I have no comment whatsoever on whether vegetarianism or veganism represents a more righteous lifestyle. All I can say is you’ll have to pry the crispy, chewy bacon strips out of my cold, dead fists.)
Anyway, if sin is the genesis of fear, the antidote for it must be sinlessness, or holiness.
Holiness. Right.
Holiness has not worked out so well for me. I sinned just this morning, when I yelled at my seven-year-old for drawing pictures in the condensation on the storm door instead of hoofing it out of said storm door to get to the bus for which we were already late.
Hence, I need Jesus—the sinless sacrifice—to stand between me and the justified wrath of God, like that animal skin got between Adam and Eve and the elements that didn’t pose a threat until they stepped outside the boundaries of God’s protection.
So, if I have Jesus on my side, and I’m doing my best to stay inside God’s plans and will for me, yet I still have anxiety, what’s the hitch?
Me, of course.
It’s always me.
I Am the Problem.
The truth is, I’m not actually buying into God’s promises. I don’t really, on a gut level, believe that he has my best interests at heart. That I can trust him to take care of me. That I don’t have to sort everything out for myself.
There are any number of Bible verses I could cite here which speak of God’s faithfulness, provision, and protection. Psalm 91 is one of the biggies. But again, I’m not a thesis-chewing, research-plowing, footnote cross-referencing, intelligentsia type. I’m a simple gal. So I’ll just stick with a simple idea: If He said it, it’s true. And the Bible exhorts us not to fear well over one hundred times. So if I’m doing something the Bible says not to do…
I’m sinning.
Fear is Sin.
Great. Just stinkin’ fabulous. We’re back at the beginning of what is clearly a vicious cycle.
But Fear is Not All Bad, Actually
As he does with everything else, God takes what Satan intended for evil and transforms it for a good end.
Photo by Transformer 18, Amsterdam
Fear alerts me to the presence of a threat, for the purpose of dealing with that threat toward the preservation of my life. When I hear the rustling of the savannah grass behind me, or catcalls from a group of lowlifes down a dark alley, fear does a physiological kick-start to my fight-or-flight system. That’s useful stuff.
But the chronic, generalized, undirected anxiety that so many of us live with day after day is an entirely different beast. And it is beastly.
Still, I think the same principle can be applied to it: this fear, too, should alert me to the presence of a threat. In this case, the threat may be my own double-mindedness. If I am a believer in Christ, yet I cannot move into the assurance of God’s all-powerfulness, all-presentness, and all-knowingness, my mind is at odds with itself. It is subscribing to two different ideologies that are in conflict with each other.
Integrity insists I must choose one or the other.
Who’s In Charge Here, Anyhow?
If I opt to believe that I am in control of my life and future, not only do I negate the power and will of God for me, I also open myself to the entirely laughable misconception that I actually possess some kind of influence over things.
Ha! Let’s be honest. I can barely manage myself:  “Do not eat one more fun-size candy bar, Maria… Oh, well. What the hey? I’ve already had six. Why not seven?” Nosh, nosh, nosh.
So how come I think I can control things like… other people? the weather? institutions and political systems? what’s going to happen in my house or my city or the world tomorrow?
If I have no, or comparatively little power over these things, what’s the point of sweating them day in and day out?
If instead, I elect to presume God’s sovereignty, and spend my time and energy doing the things on which he tells me to spend my time and energy, there is rest and peace for me. The unthinkable may happen, but I can trust that it was neither unthinkable nor unanticipated by El Roi, the God Who Sees Me.
Nothing surprises him, you know.
He Has Overcome the World
The world is not a safe place anymore, not since the introduction of our first parents’ first screw-up all those eons ago. From the tiniest transgressions (water-cooler gossip that erodes a colleague’s reputation, harboring a grudge against a neighbor, taking a five-finger discount on a candy bar) to the gravest of crimes (slavery, oppression, genocide), all sin launches hatred, sickness, and chaos into existence. We suffer from our own folly as well as at the hands of others. But we are not called to anticipatory fear because of it.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV, emphasis added).
He has not promised us exemptions from pain or guarantees against hardship, no matter what health-and-wealth preachers of the "Name It and Claim It" Gospel like to sing to the flocks they’re Pied-Pipering straight over the edge of a theological cliff; instead, he has promised that he will never leave us to walk through anything alone. And only he knows what’s coming at us: Is a tornado about to fell my house? Will I be diagnosed with a terminal illness? Will someone I love be killed or handicapped in a car accident?
I don’t want to spend the precious little time I have on earth letting fear consume me from the inside out. What a waste of time and energy, ruminating on myriad what-if’s, most of which will never even happen to me. That’s like paying loan-shark interest on a purchase I never made, for an item I don’t even want. God and I have such better uses for my resources than that.
So I resolve to spend less time in fear and more energy on faith. I will seek a godly perspective on my circumstances, rather than a circumstantial perspective on God. I will walk in the confidence due my Creator, rather than crumble beneath the uncertainties of the Creation.
And I will not be afraid. “For if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 ESV)
I think I’d do better to mull over that for a while.

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