Christine Duncan

Precepts & Life Preservers

Tag: Panic (page 1 of 2)

An Eye On The Sparrow Moment

It was my “eye on the sparrow” moment.

In the bustle of a ladies clothing store. Go fig.

I should have taken care of a looming problem long before then. I had put it off several times. Avoided it.

But now it was coming down to the wire. I had no choice.

A special event was coming, and I had to shop.

For clothes.

Ugh. Cue the dark dramatic music

Don’t get me wrong. I love to shop. But shopping for clothes, special clothes, stresses me out.

And it’s not trying on or selecting items that stresses me out, but the people who try to “help” you shop.

When you live with a mood disorder, like chronic D or anxiety, you are already second guessing what you’ll look good in, but won’t draw attention to you in a crowd, what will go with other items you own, but will look fresh, plus you are easily overwhelmed by too many choices, too many racks, too many outfits, etc, etc. And I mean overwhelmed. Like ready to crack and curl up in a ball in the middle of the store for no apparent reason.

This ain’t your average, “hmmm, what should I wear?” moment of frustration, friend. This is mega overload on the dysthymic senses.

So add, to what I just described, the constant chatter of a salesperson who doesn’t understand the principle of personal space, loud, annoying music, how your brain literally can’t separate the sounds to make sense of them, little questions that your brain turns into huge questions you don’t know how to answer, and information overload. Your dysthymia magnifies it all by ten. Trust me.

When your head space is already not good, this is not the environment of pure delight anymore, are you picking up what I’m laying down?

After years of struggling with my dysthymia in public, I started avoiding shopping unless necessary. I associated it with meltdowns and spirals of frustration and panic and self loathing.

I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.

I lifted heart and eyes to God. Placed dysthymic tendencies at His feet. And prayed.

“Lord, this might be a silly request for anyone else. But You’re the kind of God who cares about the sparrow, so I know You’ll hear my need….

Lord, you need to come shopping with me.”

It’s okay, you can chuckle. I kinda did. But I meant it. He needed to go with me. Which He already knew, and already does, but He likes to hear us acknowledge our need just the same.

“And Lord, if there has to be a salesperson, can they be the definition of Your servant? Non evasive, nothing pushy or obnoxious, not trying to be my new best friend? Can they just be…. there?”

People, I had the best shopping experience I’ve ever had.

In and out in no time. Looked at the massive store, looked at my husband like, “oh help!” and there she was. The servant I prayed for. Asked what my mission was. Oh! That was easy. A special event. Easy on the budget. Needed nothing fussy.

“Follow me.” and smiled.

She pulled tops without talking, all from sales racks first, all mix and match in really beautiful fabrics, wrote my name on the door of the change room, and left with, “holler if we need to go in a different direction!”

Done like dinner. I did a jig.

Had my outfit in less than 15 minutes. I’m sorry but that’s a miracle.

But even more… a pretty hefty prayer answered.

At least, for me.

No pounding heart. No second guessing and self-consciousness. No flares of overwhelmed senses, and the brain turned upside down.

Peace. Calm. No sensory overload. No panic. Just confidence and a settled heart. It was enjoyable. It was what my brain needed.

What my heart needed. And that’s what gets the Father’s attention.

All this because of shopping? Well, yes. This felt huge. Too huge. The more I stared at all the possibilities that would stress me out and cause neurotransmitters to override anything easy, the bigger that one simple task felt.

But that sparrow moment? It was okay to feel small, when He was so big. He’s a big God who takes every need into consideration. I didn’t just puff up my chest and ask God to score a crazy deal on my behalf, this was a matter of being able to function for the rest of the day!

And His eye, the one watching over His fold, stemming from how He loves to pour out His love over our needs, saw this sparrow, and provided.

This post isn’t about shopping. It’s not even about the rollercoaster called chronic depression.

It’s about lifting hearts, and laying down our immediate needs.

It’s about trusting He’s there. In all situations, big and small.

It’s about if God cares enough to answer a crazy prayer about avoiding the dysthymic traps of shopping, how much more does He incline Himself to us in the bigger needs, in the desperate hours.

The God from before time cares about the state of your heart.

Let that sink in and redefine your daily communion with Him.

Not just whether you’re saved. Not just whether you’re doing good works for Him.

He cares when it’s restless. When it’s starving. When it’s weighed down. When it’s broken. When it feels rejected. When it’s over the moon. When it needs rest. When it needs love. When it’s fearful.

“Cast all your cares, worries, issues, and anxieties on Him, for He cares for you!” 1 Peter 5:7 declares.

When His creation is in need, He can’t help but respond. He’s big enough to take it all.

Take that into your heart today. Hold it there.

And next time you worry about whether or not to bother God with something, remember the sparrow.

When Things Hit Close To Home

I sit in my writing nook and my mind is filled with all the things that seem to be hitting a little too close to home today, not to mention the last couple of weeks, even months.

We gathered around the t.v once more and felt shock and took note and gasped prayers and felt speechless and looked at each other. An unwanted routine lately.

And the temptation is to let it all settle on my heart and my mind, and without thinking, allow tremors of fear and ripples of heartsickness seep into my being. Those things will always find a reason to try to lurk there anyway.

But the longer I sit here, with tragedy and drama and panic so close to home, the more I am certain that to let those things take up residence is to let those things win.

And doesn’t that apply to anything hard or tragic? It doesn’t have to be radicals on Parliament Hill. It can be our cancer battles. It can be the ruins of our reputations at work. It can be the hurt-filled separation. The forever-long custody battle. The chaos of Superstorms. Trauma still awake in our hearts from our past.
Any awful thing.

And in my heart, while I type this out with shaky hands, I make a firm decision. That despite what evil thinks it has, I ultimately get to choose what it will do to me. To us.

So it cannot take root where Hope dwells, where Faith gleams in its tiny mustard seed mold, where Right is threaded into our very fabric, where Light casts its net and sends shadows away.

And the only shadow I’ll accept is the gentle shadow of His presence, where nothing is so big or scary that we can’t find assurance and peace. Where He asks me daily, “Will you trust me still?” and knowing the story He’s written me into already, and having already learned He Is Answer Enough, I always declare “yes”.

A hard yes. Hard because we want Him to sweep in and with arm outstretched clear the surface completely. Zap every enemy. Stomp every obstacle. Clear up the disease. Look like the hero we think we deserve.

The way they thought He would over 2000 years ago.

But Hope, and Faith, and Right, and Light aren’t for magic wands. And His mandate has never wavered. And like 2000 years ago, He’s still all about the heart of the matter.

And when the heart of the matter is where He resides, nothing else can persevere. Nothing.

We turn the t.v off, gather around the table, eating stew and being thankful we’re just here. Despite the hits the world keeps taking, there’s a kind of reverent solace in tidying kitchens and working in garages and writing tomorrows blogs.

A solace and a deciding of what wins. Of who wins.

And it’d be silly to deny it. I will worry, I will flinch, I will weep, I will shudder.

BUT.

I will choose not to own it, or be owned by it.

For I already belong to the Great Overcomer, the Psalm 27:1 God.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ”

That is what’s mine. And that’s a lot to have at the end of the day, as I sit here and type.

I don’t know how many more things will hit close to home this week, this month, this year, this decade.

But those things can’t win.

Not when we keep Him closer still.

Not when He keeps us close to Home.

Before The Busy

A list as long as my arm. Things piling up, crowding around, demanding action and reaction. And I forgot something very important before the busy.

Chaos closing in, in the form of projects overdue, programs working sluggishly, phone calls not connecting, questions and answers and requests. Places to run to, chores to start, minds to lose! And I neglected something important before the busy.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. How will I do any of this???

And I couldn’t figure it out. But my day felt so much more stressful than normal. Like at any moment, the day and my mind with it would unravel. Do you know that feeling too?

This silent yet suffocating mix of overwhelmed, anxious, panicked, and steam rolled.

Halfway into composing an email, waiting on hold, and trying to get an editing program to load properly, all while staring at the mega list on my desk while my hair dried itself, and my toast sat untouched, it hit me! I did not refuel. I did not plug myself into the Source that morning. I did not reach for that special brand of balance and renewal for my mind and my heart.

And I should know better. But like when you know you feel better after some exercise and yet that fact alone often doesn’t motivate us to make the connection between knowing and doing, I had momentarily somehow thought knowing He was there waiting for me to connect Him to my day, was the same as connecting Him to my day. And they’re not the same.

Not by an everlasting long shot.

And I could feel the difference. In my moods, in my ability to stay calm, to anticipate certain triggers for my anxiety and chronic D… in my ability to stretch myself and be productive.

So what did I do? Schedule time into my busy day? Add it to my list? Swap out my lunch time. Prepare to do penance later when I had a moment free for things like penance?

No. I stopped everything. Every.Thing. Stopped.

If there was going to be any more hurrying, it was going to be a hurrying into the presence of the Life Preserver. If anything else needed to be done in pure desperation, it was rushing to the Giver of all Life before life had a chance to rush on by.

The list changed. Now it looked like Thanksgiving voiced. Then worship lifted. Then truths reminded. Then requests poured out. Then a leaning in. And a waiting. And finally an equipping.

And it wasn’t hard. It was simple. But we’re so used to toughing it out, snapping to, getting it done, shouting “NEXT!”, and hustling on. And I think we don’t equate victory with quiet, deliberate, consecrating, purposeful communion with the Creator. But it’s how to form a victory that counts. We allow Him to become everything, and then the victory is Him, filling every cranny of our day. And every cranny of our hearts.

And before the busy has a chance to come flooding in, pooling into every pocket of our life, drowning our ability to endure, our Everything fills it all up first. A holy flooding. So that there’s no room for anything else. And everything on my list from earlier? Every item has His imprint on them. Directed by Him. Completed in Him.

I read Psalm 62 from start to finish and David lists off his chaos, and in between reminds himself of how much bigger than the busy His God is. And we need to do the same. A declaration of how nothing compares.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

 How long will you assault me?
    Would all of you throw me down—
    this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
 Surely they intend to topple me
    from my lofty place;
    they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
    but in their hearts they curse.

 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
 My salvation and my honor depend on God
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

 Surely the low-born are but a breath,
    the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
    together they are only a breath.
 Do not trust in extortion
  or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
    do not set your heart on them.

 One thing God has spoken,
    two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
   and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
   according to what they have done.”

Fill up with His Spirit, and watch the Busy sort itself out.

The Hardest Thing

Ever have to face something hard? Maybe even today? Maybe you’re cringing right now?

image by c.duncan
Sometimes the hardest thing you’ll face is never what others would call hard at all. But for whatever reason, it’s this huge thing for you. Maybe it’s convincing yourself to tackle that ever elusive task. Maybe it’s forcing yourself to acknowledge a mistake. Maybe it’s just a perception that’s holding you back and you’ve been ignoring it instead of dealing with it.

Sometimes the hardest thing looks remarkably like going to the doctor. Sometimes it looks like making a difficult phone call at work. Sometimes it looks like removing yourself from a situation you’d rather have control over. Sometimes it looks like getting your license renewed. Sometimes it looks like forgiveness. Sometimes it looks like asking for forgiveness. Sometimes it’s jumping into something regardless of how afraid you were.

Hard things are everywhere on so many levels. Giving something up. Fixing something you forgot. Letting someone in.

It’s an endless list. But I can tell you from very recent experience. Until you face them, they’ll never be far away. They’ll shadow and haunt you. Until you take action, they’ll smother you. Make it hard to breathe no matter where you are.
The inspirational writer and speaker Jen Hatmaker, referred to this very thing last week on her Facebook page and it struck such a chord with me… she called them tiny nooses. The things we perceive as hard and scary that shouldn’t be. The little things that get a stranglehold on us and keep us from really living. I read her comment and said, “genius!” That is exactly how it feels, no matter why.

We want to cast off the things, the hard things, that have this strangle hold on us… but it’s hard, isn’t it? Let them hang around our proverbial necks too long and we start feeling comfortable with them in some odd way. Or we strain and hide and find other things to take our minds off them but that only works for so long and then we get a yank! and ouch, right, there’s that thing, still waiting to choke me.

Makes for a limited life. And that falls short of everything we were made for, and all the potential we still have.

I think about how much energy my anxieties and panic have used up inside of me. All my chronic D’s doing. And I think about how a limited life feels. And I’m propelled to the throne of God where I can fall under the weight of His compassion and grace instead of the weight of the hard things I’ve been taking with me every where. And much like the psalmist in Psalm 88 of the Bible, I cry out a prayer that lets Him know I’m ready for Him to change the face of my circumstances…

“Lord, you’re the only one who can save me in this. My soul is troubled, I keep disobeying your precepts, I keep hiding when I should be fighting, I keep allowing things to have this victory over me and I’ve discarded my trust in you up till now. I keep allowing fear and doubt to separate me from your goodness in this situation. But I know you’re the one God who does not change, and you will teach me how to lean into you in this. And I know you hear my cries.”

And then? The hard things better watch out. Because it is no longer just us about to face them. The next time we approach those difficult things that fear has taunted us with, we approach with the knowledge that He has not left us to do this on our own. The Life Preserver goes with us!

Limited life becomes transformed life with His freedom. Nooses small AND big fall away, cast aside the minute we step into His great shadow of obedience and faith. He pulls us up from the miry clay that held us down, had us stuck in one spot. Power that propels us to face whatever lingers, with renewed faith.

I can almost hear the chorus we sing at church. “When mountains fall, I’ll stand. By the power of Your hand. And in Your heart of hearts I’ll dwell. And that my soul knows very well…”

He inclines his ear, He hears our prayer, He supplies right then. And your soul recognizes the response from the Maker.

Hard things? Today you don’t stand a chance.

image by c.duncan

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