Walking through an anxious lent

All the cool girls whom I’m not cool enough to be friends with are laying out on the beach in their bikinis.

I stand out in my athletic two piece bathing suit.

I don’t want to stay on the shore. I want to swim.

I don’t see the ocean on my own. Who wouldn’t want to get to get carried by waves? Whether that week at camp is good or bad, I can count on that. Me and a boy or four enjoying the water.

I’ve swum in the ocean before, but the swells are bigger, the thrill is greater. One crashes over me, and it sweeps over me like a peace as I’m somersaulting in the undertow. I don’t know which way is down or up. I don’t know which way to swim. But I know that if I relax, I’ll get there. I do.

And all that day, and other trips to come, I find this peace floating in the undertow. I like the lack of control. I submit to it. I don’t fight it. I’m not afraid of it.


I’m slowing down in the snow and the car fishtails as I slow. I’m not scared because I can’t stop, but I don’t see any close obstacles, and there’s a way of feeling in control about your safety even though you don’t have full control of the car. There’s a way of feeling secure about the swerving even though the steering wheel has become a guide instead of a control.

I enjoy that feeling. It doesn’t scare me not to have control of the car in a snow storm, permitting the streets aren’t too crowded.


What I think I’m seeing is that, the greater you fight for the control, the worse the outcome sometimes is. I have to relax, not overcompensate and over-correct in anxious moments. I have to let God’s assurance hold me, even when my anxiety prevents me from holding on to it. Because “his hold on me is stronger than my hold on him.” He is wrapped around me, even when I feel like I’ve let go.

I’m walking through it. TheBigQuestion: How do you thank God for rescue…when you’re in the middle of the wilderness?

How many people in the Bible felt that way?

Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to learn how to thank God for my salvation, when around me I see a wilderness or a wasteland. Can I learn to breathe his rescue? Embrace his rescue. Thank Him for the one rescue, even if I’m not rescued from a thousand other circumstances in my life.

If I relax into the undertow, I’ll make it to the surface. If I don’t try too hard to steer the car in current conditions, maybe I’ll fishtail my way to where I need to go safely.

My unwillingness to give up control…doesn’t change His mind on what He thinks is best for me. My unwillingness to say yes to hard things…maybe makes Him see how much of an idol they are to me.

Maybe the wilderness is going to teach me a greater lesson than the rescue.

Maybe I need to learn how to thank God for the wilderness as much of the rescue.



(Still) walking through an anxious lent

I have the world’s best fiancé.
Most people just want the funny side of me.
He is steadfast in the midst of all my fear.

I woke up heart-pounding with bad dreams, wondering if they all meant something. I couldn’t stop the thought-morphing. I called him in a panic. I texted him in a panic.

It was bad.

He can’t fix my fear or anxiety.
He and I both know that.
But he doesn’t let me feel shame about it either.

I am coming to the realization that not all anxiety is spiritual and not all of it is psychological. Not all of it is circumstantial, either.
It’s a combination.

And as anxious as I feel about a lot of things, I’m not anxious whether I’m making the right choice. It’s the perfect combination, where it’s real, deep love and someone who’s really good for me, too. I’m not sacrificing one for the other.

I felt like this before our first date, and I wanted to cancel. Joy followed, and I’m so glad I didn’t call him up and tell him not to come…even though I wanted to.

I’m growing in coping with this new challenge.

And I’m grateful because God showed me today that His healing me will bring healing to others. I’m grateful because suffering begets healing. I’m grateful because I’m learning tools to cope. I’m grateful because this weekend I celebrate my upcoming marriage to my guy.

This weekend is going to be busy. So it’s more important than ever for me to purpose certain things.


Tomorrow I purpose to memorize:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.   -2 Corinthians 1.3-5

Tomorrow I purpose to:
-Do my best to prepare, while not fearing condemnation or judgment if things aren’t “perfect”
-Spend 5 minutes writing down my anxieties and holding them up to God’s truth
-Spend 15 minutes in uninterrupted (Jess Ray) worship

Tomorrow I will:
-Go for a walk in the morning or mid-day
-Chose to focus on people over perfection
-Soak in the moment

For those feeling like the walking wounded

I was driving home, resenting the way that God made me. Resenting being a feeler, a creative, a burden carrier, an imaginer, an anxious Nellie. I wish I had the concrete, logical mind of an accountant. I wish I didn’t have such deep feelings. Wishing God didn’t trust me enough to let me be walking wounded. Letting me dance on the fringe of brokenness and anxiety.

I was still pondering it when I was taking a shower two hours later.

God had said it to Sami through a prophetic healer…”I let you be wounded, because wounded healers make the best kind of healers.”

I was replaying that over and over in my head.

God, why did you have to make it that way? You could have done anything. Why do you have to let some of us be easily wounded? Couldn’t you have worked another way? One that doesn’t involve me being anxious, dancing around the fringe of brokenness?


And then I saw his bleeding hands held up. Joyce. Wounded healers make the best healers. I am a wounded healer, too.

I saw it. Not only the way He let himself be physically tortured and physically uncomfortable for my good, but also the ways I hurt His heart and yet he shows compassion.

To live is Christ, and to die is gain. That means that to live…is to suffer. But it also means to live like that…is to see Christ, know Christ, feel Christ.

A halting surrender

I realize that I’ve done it ever since TheWorstFourYearsOfMyLife.
Fondly called college.

Yeah, I decided I picked wrong because I hadn’t picked for me, and I found no one like me there,
So I sat alone.

Since then, I’ve niche-picked.
I’ve “chosen environments that complement my heredity and values.”

It’s how I chose THEBEST study abroad school EVER (University of St. Andrews)

It’s how I picked the right graduate school for me.

It’s how I decided what meetup groups to join and what places to work for.

When I was looking for jobs, I looked in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont. After all, I wrote in my grad school paper how I’d like to be a rural OT, serving under-served communities of fringe farmers and solitary poor elderly.

And then God said: Philadelphia.

He said it. He told me that the land that He wanted me to take…the land He wanted to send me to…was Philadelphia. Not even staying here.

And it sends me into something of a panic each time I drive down there. It’s so…commercial. And I grew up 20 minutes away from a small Marshalls. It’s big and it’s giving me anxiety and God wants me to go.

God’s plan…is making me anxious.

But wasn’t Jonah anxious? Weren’t the Israelites? Weren’t the prophets?

Sometimes familiarity feels better than freedom.

I can’t force myself to feel better about it. I can only force myself to go. To keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even reluctant obedience is better than disobedience.

So I surrender my niche. And I take a deep breath. And I pack a box.


“I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14 When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew[d] language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15 I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me[e] and to those in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul Tells of His Preaching

19 “After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance.

Walking through an anxious lent

Tomorrow I purpose to memorize:
“But the word of God cannot be chained!”  2 Timothy 2.9

Tomorrow I purpose to:
-Soak in the spirit in worship
-Thank God for the word and that it is alive
-Ask God to unleash His word on my heart and ask hard questions

Tomorrow I will:
-Write for 30 minutes
-Do some core exercise for fun


Past verses:

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself” 2 Timothy 2.13

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message of the gospel might be fully proclaimed and all the gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the Lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.   2 Timothy 4.17

Walking through an anxious lent: Day 2

Tomorrow, I purpose to memorize:

2 Timothy 4.17
But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the Lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.

Tomorrow, I purpose to:
-Declare God’s rescue over every evil attack
-Feel God at my side and let Him give me strength
-Work backwards when making decisions from arriving at God’s heavenly kingdom, instead of forward from my present circumstances

Tomorrow I will:
-Go on a short prayer walk
-Go deep with scripture
-Go to bed early

Feb 25 verse:
2 Timothy 2.13  If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny himself


Walking through an anxious lent: Day 1

Anxiety makes me look down in shame.

Every resurfacing makes me downcast. I don’t know why I’m struggling with this. Don’t know why I went into a crowded mall and felt panic…why I went into a movie theater and spent the first 1/3rd of the movie wondering if I was going to die.

Every breakthrough seems short-lived. There’s a monkey on my back I shake off for a time, but then panic hits.

I remember God all day–but in the grips of anxiety, I doubt all the truth I know all the rest of the time. I preach His promises, His words, and they just don’t seem true. You can quote me the Bible verses about not being anxious and making your requests known to God and being thankful.

I know them already. I tell them to myself. But it turns out that your greatest strength…your mind…can become your prison.


I cannot choose not to be anxious.

I cannot. I’ve tried.

I’ve surrendered my limitations to God. I’ve tried to do it with His help. He has chosen not to lift this from me.

But what I can rest in? God knows me. He created my mind. He knows how it works. He knew that I would experience this. This is not a surprise to Him. I can be honest with Him. He already knows what I’m thinking. He has pre-supplied grace for me. He does not hold my doubt in those moments against me. My salvation is safe with Him. He is empowering me to move forward, even though I’d love to run to New Hampshire or Vermont instead of Philadelphia. Even though I’m afraid and overwhelmed.


Start to look down long enough, and all you see is the dirt when you most need to see Jesus. So this lent, I choose not to let shame defeat me. I choose to build an arsenal.

Who has time to be healthy when they’re planning a wedding? When they’re figuring out invitations and guest lists and favors and packing and shower dinners and I’m supposed to run and write and get plenty of sleep?

But there’s times when a need overpowers everything else. I need God. And if I cut back on distraction, I’d have the time.


Tomorrow, I purpose to repeat:
2 Timothy 2.13   If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself

Tomorrow, I purpose to rejoice:
About God’s faithfulness that is not dependent on my actions.

Tomorrow, I purpose:
To seek the ways that God is faithful to ME

Tomorrow I will:
Go on a prayer walk and outline my next writing project for 10 minutes

On being known

There is someone who knows every part of me. He knows my greatest writing, my deepest thoughts, and my worst mistakes. There is no one else who has as complete of a portrait of me. I carry no secrets from him. And I have made mistakes.

There’s this man who knows the joy and the funny. He knows the way that my mind can poison itself by jumping to the worst “what if” in a moment. He knows the beauty of my imagination and he knows the challenges of it. He knows how well-intentioned my heart is. He knows that sometimes, it is a all-out battle for me to trust God. He knows how much I love who God is. He knows how much I struggle to remember my identity in Christ.

He chose to put a ring on my finger anyways. He chose to love me in total, not just when the good is a certain proportion to the bad.

There have been near-panic attacks when I couldn’t feel my fingers for fear and anxiety. And he stays next to me. He cracks open the Bible and reads to me truth.

He never shames me. He lets me confess. He doesn’t justify me. He forgives me and prays for me. He is patient and he is kind. He protects me.

And it just gives me a picture of the other one who put on my finger and said “I choose you, Joyce. I choose to pursue you, forever.” It’s a picture of the one who just wants me to come close in my fear. The one who wants to tell me who I am. The other one who knows me and loves me. The one who gives me grace, knowing that I’m a repentant sinner.

He knows how I’m wired.

And his love exceeds even my fiancées. My fiancée gets his love from Him. And he paints a picture in full color of God’s love for me.

This is gospel love. Full of joy. Full of laughter. Full of grace. Full of ministering to each other. Full of us asking God to help us.

Full of feeling known, and loved even more intimately for being known.

I’m grateful for the gift today of my fiancée.


Holy Daddy,

I’m in a season of struggle and a season of turmoil, also in the midst of a season of the greatest joy that I’ve ever known.

You’re allowing everything I’ve known to be shaken. Lord, I’m moving and leaving my family. I’m leaving a job that, overall, I love. I’m leaving friends, my church, worship nights, my routine. I’m leaving family relationships and the role I know so well–as the single girl. I’ve been the girl with a carefully curated life that I’ve controlled. I’ve never made a change or move that was permanent before. On purpose. Let’s throw in the fact that I learned in this same period that it may be hard to start a family.

I feel like I’m in the middle of a landslide grasping for a tree or a root, and there’s nothing to hold on to. Even Fiancé is not enough. Books are not enough. Distractions are not enough. Anything less than you is not enough. It’s very clear to me that I am not enough.

Before the promise land, is there always the wilderness? Lord, we’ve been through wilderness periods before. Maybe that’s why I fear it so much. The transition is always hard, and it has lasted four months and four years. Lord, please shut down some of the anxieties. Please help me cope with the ways the anxieties are manifesting. Help me to sing in the wilderness instead of run wild-eyed like hunted prey. Lord, that seems like a better way to handle this. Help me to surrender and then re-surrender and re-surrender. Help me to “lay down my comfort zone, because [it] can be [a] death trap.” (-Ann Voskamp).

God, use this time to rip out the lies that have put down root in my heart. Help me to not be self-focused. Help me to embrace the uncertainty, the process, the walking in faith. Keep me tethered to you. Pull me close. Let this whole uprooting produce a beautiful testimony.

Help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to love you more and more deeply. Help me to be obedient and fight my anxieties.



Sing a song to the Lord

It kept popping up, about learning a new song. Singing a new song. It was all over the Old Testament so I tried a new thing and started singing my prayers more.

The first 6 months of dating bliss caught up with me in a massive way in late November/early December. I started feeling anxious. I started having bad dreams. My mind whirred to try to reconcile everything. Even with the right person, when it seems easy, it turns out it takes a lot of mental energy to learn how to define a new role for yourself.

There were moments that I wanted to bolt, even knowing so deep that this was my one shot with God’s best for me. Thankfully, my boyfriend was very reassuring that I wasn’t “too much” in those moments of panic.

I felt anxious about things that I knew were lies but couldn’t get out of my head. I felt anxious about the permanence of my “yes.” I felt anxious that I wouldn’t be able to live up to my part in the story. I felt anxious about leaving every environment and routine I’ve ever known.

There were moments where it was better for a day or two, but it kept resurfacing. And I knew it would. I was spending lots of time with God and lots of time talking it out with my boyfriend/fiancée, but I knew even after that it was still lurking under the surface. I never felt free. I chose to listen to the voice of truth, but the lies still dogged me.

Until driving home last week, when I sang-shout a song to the Lord by myself about how I can’t do anything on my own. I literally can’t do anything good or right. Any battle that I’ve tried to win on my own I haven’t been able to. I have no power. I just acknowledged that to God. I remembered Rebekah Lyons’ book, and asked God to rescue me.

And He did.

It turns out singing a new song isn’t just for the Christians who can sing on-key. It’s for all of us. I’ve been singing a lot lately, and I want to keep doing it.

I want to sing so many new songs. I want to be so attuned to God and His spirit that I’m seeing and feeling it every day. That I’m watching Him move, because I am able to discern His voice.

Things have been great with my fiancée since. There was never any concern over Him. I’m learning that the enemy just likes to use anxiety sometimes when I’m on the cusp of something Good that He’s afraid of. I felt panicked before the first time D—– took me out on a date and before I’ve done spoken word, too.

Praise God for His healing power. He is a rescuer and an outlover and not ashamed and not afraid. The one beautiful thing I took away from time with Jesus during that time was the sense that He was not ashamed of my mental battle with its wins and losses. He was proud of me for fighting it.