In These Times of Great Anxiety

Credit: Artist-David Bowman

At the beginning of March, I read an article about people hoarding toilet paper and paper towels due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The virus had not reached The States quite yet. I decided to prepare for it during my scheduled monthly trip to Costco.


I arrived at Costco at their opening time and the line wrapped around the building. The entrance of the store wasn’t chaotic, just crowded. However, inside the store, the atmosphere was different. You could feel a level of desperation in the store. People were grabbing things, but not in the Black Friday sense, just 3-4 times what they would usually get. I asked a person why they needed so much toilet paper and paper towels. The person replied, “if we get quarantined for months, I would need this much, and these were the items China ran out of first when they needed to stay inside their homes.”


I began to catch the “fever” of shopping hoarding. I grabbed as many cases of toilet paper and paper towels that I could fit in my cart. As much as I justified the need to buy, this convicting feeling came over me that this didn’t seem right to do.


I took a pause and began to rationalize the situation. We will still have water and electricity. One case of toilet paper and paper towels lasts my small family for many months. Safety and food are much more important than hoarding shopping. I took a few deep breaths and decided to buy one case of toilet paper and paper towels, bleach and other cleaning products for my family and some non-perishable foods.


In the next two weeks, our national government leaders claimed everything was under control but quickly changed their claim to this will be horrendous. The panic in our country began to grow, and more cases of the virus became evident. In the middle of this, my daughter got lice and then lovingly (through all the hugs and cuddles) gave them to me. I focused more on destroying the lice and doing 35 loads of laundry in one week than focusing all my worries on the pandemic.


Thank God, the lice are gone, and the washer and dryer took a day off. My family has been home this last week. Then the underlying anxiety in me rose to the surface at midnight. I truly began to panic. Every tickle in my throat or sniffle I felt began to worry me. My husband coughed, and I would think, “Oh, sh*t!” I thought about the “Downton Abbey” episode, where many characters caught the Spanish Flu and suffered or died. My mind did somersaults imagining the worst-case scenarios.


Stress, lack of sleep and exercise, dehydration, and poor eating habits contribute to low immunity and sickness. An event like this has not affected the world in a long time. There have been pandemics, but not in this day and age. We are all navigating this for the first time together. As much as I want to get mad and criticize our country for not being prepared for this, it won’t do any good. I could not imagine the responsibility that the medical field, the government (state, local, federal), the public school system, and first responders (and countless other entities) have in this situation. The best thing I can do is cooperate, stay home, wash my hands, and pray.


This image included in this post of Jesus holding a child always brings me great comfort. When I get anxious, I have to surrender to God, trust, and allow Him to be in control. While I know the health and financial crisis this pandemic has brought will affect us all, it will be temporary. I am not in any way diminishing the long term effects of it, but we will get through this in some way.

Stay safe, friends. Take this opportunity to do things that bring joy to your life every day. Reconnect safely with family and friends. And if you are having difficulty managing all of these feelings of despair, please reach out because someone would be glad to help.

Lesson Learned: Anxiety does not help me in situations like these. Gaining perspective is better. And, I don’t like creamed corn from a can unless it is very sweet.


Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, I command this virus to cease spreading and be eradicated in the name of Jesus. Heal and restore everyone who has been affected by this virus, especially the victims’ families and the hardest-hit industries. I pray countries that have been devastated by this virus to be re-built. Protect those with low immunity. May family units become strong again. Give our government leadership and direction, which will be in the best interest of the citizens. I rebuke the idea for people to take advantage of the helpless in this time and bring to light anyone who does this. Let love, grace, and mercy rule as we re-build and restore our lives. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

How to Manage Anxious Thoughts

“We destroy thoughts and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

What do you do with your thoughts in times of uncertainty? Are they helpful or harmful? Unfortunately, my thoughts have been unhealthy.

Those anxious thoughts affect me mentally and physically. I can feel my body sink into pain and suffering. My imagination runs wild with every bad scenario it creates. Those around me feel my tension.

A few months ago, I had to let go of a friendship. I had many trepidations throughout the relationship that I had been used and manipulated. Somehow I thought I was the source of the problems. Thankfully it was brought to my attention that it was them, not me.

After our last conversation, I had a lot of anger because I was unable to say what I wanted to say. For the next couple of weeks, I thought about this person. These thoughts woke me up in the middle of the night. In the day, I would get so upset and feel that anger burning in my face and stomach. It was not healthy.

How I Chose To Manage The Anxious Thoughts

As I came to terms with the lost friendship, I saw this quote from Dr. Caroline Leaf from her book, “Switch on Your Brain.” “As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain as we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.” So, I made a decision. Every time I thought of this person, I said, “I choose to forgive them, and I wish them well. And I am thankful I do not need them in my life.” I said this countless times over the next few days. The thought of them faded, and my thoughts were not held captive anymore. I felt light and free.

I wish I could say, I never think of this person anymore, but once in a while, I do. Now, I make that choice not to dwell or ruminate over them. It is not worth it. I have people ask me when we will reconcile. If God wants me to change the relationship status, then so be it. But I know now is not the time.

Life changes are beyond our control. People or things move in and out of our lives, whether we want them to or not. We can retrain ourselves. It is worth the hard work to take every thought captive.

 

Lesson Learned: Take those thoughts captive and dwell on the better things.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, I chose to forgive those who have wronged me. I release that burden onto you, Lord. Forgive me for any pain I have caused on others and myself. I take every thought captive and chose to focus on you, Father God. Heal the wounds and fill those voids with your love, grace, and mercy. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Spike-What My Dog Taught Me About Regret

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

 

Spike was the name of our dog.  We were blessed to have Spike for 15 years.  Spike taught me how to care for a living creature and at the end of his life, to not have regret.

 

We saw Spike at a pet store, and I thought he was cute for a Chihuahua.  But he was expensive so, we do not get him. A few weeks later, we went back to that same pet store to see if he was still there.  Spike was still there, but he looked unwell. He was sneezing, had a runny nose, and was lethargic.

 

I looked at my husband, and he knew I wanted to save this dog.  He said, “this may be good practice for you before having a baby, and since your birthday is coming up, we can get the dog.”  Thankfully, Spike went to the vet the next day and given some medicine which helped him get better (it was Giardia-an intestinal parasite found in unsanitary conditions).  

 

Anyone who saw Spike wanted to pet or snuggle him.  However, Spike did not like anyone under the age of 12 or if you wore a uniform.  He would pretend to go potty to get a treat; everything was about his stomach. He knew my mother would give him chicken anytime he saw her.  Spike would act cute to get out of any trouble. He was a peacemaker when members of my family were arguing. He would do something to get their attention and make everyone laugh.  

 

Several months before we put down Spike, the Vet diagnosed with a heart murmur.  His heart murmur was a stage 5 out of 6. There were drugs to help him be comfortable.  I knew I would have to make that decision to put him down in the next few months. I used that time to prepare myself and the family that he would be gone.

 

In those last eight months, I did not look at walking him as an annoying chore anymore.  We gave him lots of love and comfort. I made sure he played with his other friend dogs in the neighborhood.  We told him how much we loved him every day and thanked him for all the joyful memories.

 

Spike began to struggle.  He would have temporary paralysis, struggle to breathe and drink water. I knew it was time to put him down.  My husband, daughter and I went to the veterinarian office to say goodbye. I decided to stay in the room and hold him when the vet put him down.  At first, my daughter wanted to stay with me, but the vet strongly encouraged her not to be there. My husband took her out, and I said goodbye to Spike.

 

A family member texted me to check on me, and I told them I would call in a day or two.  When I reached out to them, they asked the usual questions. They asked if my daughter was there when we put Spike down.  I replied that she was there only to say goodbye. For the next couple of minutes, I received a verbal beat down of how I may have traumatized my child and how that was a bad decision.  I said, “if this situation has taught me anything, it is that I am no longer going to regret my decisions.”

 

The decisions we make in life always teach us something.  We, either, learn a hard lesson or we remember what served us well.  If we ruminate and keep our thoughts on repeat, we create anxiety. When we do make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and pray to our Heavenly Father to help us get past it.  I hope that my life reflects a life well loved and served.

 

Lesson Learned: Regret is a waste of time and energy.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for any decisions I have made that doesn’t align with your plan and purpose for me.  Thank you for your grace and mercy. Help me to learn from my mistakes. May I become stronger from every trial I face.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

No Sin is Hidden from The Lord

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.” Luke 12:2

There is a small pleasure of not getting into trouble when I should.  I feel it when I perform the California rolling stop when driving.  But the Sheriff behind me is looking for someone else, so they do not pull me over.  While that may be a sign of grace, true sin will catch up to us.

Many years ago, when I was in college, living at home, my parents were renovating the backyard.  My friend and I were at my home studying for a class. Except, we were distracted by the attractive construction workers.  (Hey! We were young and single!) They would have to walk past the kitchen bay window where my friend and I were “studying” next to, to get tools and supplies from the truck.

As they would walk, by we would smile big and do funny dances at them. We did this because the house had tinted windows. Well, we were so wrong about that! The next day, I was outside and walked past that same window and could see inside, when the lights were on in the kitchen.  And the lights were on in the kitchen that day were giving the construction workers googly eyes. From that day forward, I never looked at them and tried to avoid them at all costs.

I remember thinking, I  thought I could get away with acting like that.  If I knew the construction workers could see my friend and me, we never would have behaved that way.  In life, we sin and think we had gotten away with something or hurting someone because they would never find out about it. However, Father God knows every sin.  He knows every move we make. All of these sins will come to light, and we will be judged for it. There are no tinted windows between God and us.  Let us repent for our sins, and the sins were are unaware of daily!

Lesson Learned:  All sin will come to light.  No sin is hidden.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, convict me when I sin.  Holy Spirit, show me when I sin and not realize it.  Thank you for giving us grace and mercy. Give me guidance to always do the right thing. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

You Just Never Know

“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.”
John 7:24

Everyday, we are in contact with the public. Sometimes we have pleasant interactions. Other times we do not (especially when we drive). In the times the interaction is unpleasant you just wonder, “Geez, what is wrong with them?”

In my neighborhood, I have become friends with the morning dog walkers. But some of the dog walkers are the neighborhood gossips. Unfortunately, I get the run down of neighbors and their issues. One lady in particular was bad mouthing another neighbor, who is a good friend of mine. It was hard to hear it and I tried to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible.

I contacted that friend and asked her is everything was okay because I hadn’t seen her walking her dogs in the last few days. She told me a heartbreaking story and I could tell she was overwhelmed. Basically, she was having marital problems due to his husband’s addiction and he had to leave home to seek treatment. They have a child under the age of 1 and she worked full-time, plus she had her 2 dogs and could barely get out to walk them herself.

So, the neighbor who was bad-mouthing her, had no idea of my friend’s current life status and was sore about my friend being curt and seeming to try to leave when they were talking.

How many times when someone has an attitude and you think, “What’s their problem?” Or “Why are they acting so weird today?” They could have lost their parent, spouse or child. Their financial situation could be in distress or have major health issues to deal with. The list goes on.

We shouldn’t be a doormat to abusive behavior, but sometimes in certain situations, we should have grace when someone is rude. Most of the time when I have shown grace, they have apologized afterwards.

In this season of the holidays, let grace be the present we give out the most. You just never know what someone is going through.

Lesson Learned: Instead of taking things personally, try engaging rudeness with grace instead.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for those going through hard times. May they cling to you for strength and comfort. Help us recognize when people are suffering and hurting. Show us ways to help them out. Forgive us for making blanket judgements. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Don’t Leave out a Welcome Mat for the Enemy

“…And give no opportunity to the devil.”  Ephesians 4:27

 

Most of us know to avoid the outright immoral things in life.  However, the enemy uses little things to catch us off guard.  Those little things open the door to the enemy and we soon see how immorality has crept into our lives.

 

One day, I was walking through the neighborhood and noticed a house had a for sale sign.   My neighborly friend, Monica lived next door to this house.  Monica was walking her dogs and asked if she knew the status for the sale of the house.  She didn’t know, but instead told me about what a relief it was to have the house vacant for a while.  Apparently,  that house had some bad renters.  They had parties until 5 a.m., the other days loud music was played at all hours, and had people living in the house that didn’t belong.  The Sheriff was called many times over the years to that home.

 

I did not think these renters could sound any worse until she said that they had cockroaches.  (Ewww…)  And these cockroaches that were living in that home decided to explore through an unknown hole in the wall and come into her kitchen.  She and her husband patched the hole in the wall and bleached everything in their house.  She said it was a miserable experience that she hopes never happens again.

 

After my walk, I came inside the house to see my daughter walking around while she was eating.  I told her Monica’s story about the cockroaches and how she needs to sit at the table when she eats, so we don’t see those bugs in the house.  My tween daughter (tween=can have an attitude when she talks) says, “well they aren’t hear yet!”  I brought her over to the dining room table and said, “just because they aren’t here, doesn’t mean we want to give them an invitation.”

 

I thought about how I have had that same attitude my daughter had about the cockroaches that I have had towards things in life. What kind of invitation have I given to the enemy?  I have heard conversations amongst co-workers that were filthy or were filled with gossip that I decided to join in on.  Music that had colorful language or degrading lyrics that I listened to because it had a good beat.  Watching t.v. shows that had too much violence, sex scenes or bad language so I didn’t want to feel left out because everyone else was talking about it.   My life needed a good bleaching like my friend’s home.

 

It may not seem like a big deal to watch a t.v. show or listen to some music, but it does over time.  This is the gateway for the enemy to take advantage of to bring more opportunities to sin.

 

The fight is exhausting but it is important to stay vigilant or the sin will take over.  All of this sin takes us farther away from the relationship God wants with us.  The competition is too strong.  Keep in remembrance that God’s will for us is better than anything we think of as fun.

 

Lesson Learned:  God’s narrow path is better and wiser than any wide path the world wants to take you.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for trying to fit into the world.  Convict me when I slip up.  Thank you for your grace and mercy since I am not perfect.  Show me the way you want for me.  Guard my eyes and mind from the tricks of the enemy.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”