When It Is Well with Your Soul, But Not with the Rest of You

When It Is well with your soul, but not the rest of you

I remember the somber voices singing at my mother’s funeral. I sat beside my dad, near the front of the church, as the crowd behind us led and echoed the chorus of the hymn “It Is Well.”

It Is Well

             It Is Well

With My Soul

            With My Soul

And though I was a child, a fifth grade girl sitting in shock and grief near her mother’s casket, I understood. Deep down, I knew it was true. The pain was almost unbearable, the confusion made it difficult to breath, and the sadness felt like it would overtake me, but yet I could not deny those words were truth.

It was well with my soul.

I knew God, and I trusted Him. I didn’t have a clue why He’d allow such a tragedy in my life, but in my very core, when I looked past the tears and the heartbreak, I knew I didn’t have to understand my circumstances for God to still be good, and for it to be well.

But the understanding that it was well was so far buried in my soul, that the rest of me struggled to bring it to light.  

My mind, emotions, and actions strained to see it.

My soul knew it was well, but the peace, trust, and hope that wellness could potentially produce were being held hostage in my soul’s white-knuckled grip. My mind, emotions, and actions could not wrestle it away for more than a few brief moments. It wasn’t greed that caused my soul to hold wellness at bay, but instead a desperate need to possess the truth at all.

My mind, emotions, and actions fought to grasp it.

My mind raced with fear and worry. My brain showed me horror films of more traumas I feared were to come. Would my dad die young too? Would my brother and I be left alone? Would I know how to grow into a woman without a mom to show me the way?

My emotions were in shambles. Sometimes I cried at the drop of a hat, and other times I laughed without understanding what was funny. I couldn’t rein in my emotions. Instead, many days they ruled me.

My actions simply followed the suit of my mind and emotions. Some days I’d find myself calmly executing normal mundane tasks; like homework. It felt the same as before the tragedy. Other days, nothing felt the same. I found myself in the hallway at school confiding in my teacher about my fears and concerns before even realizing I’d made the choice to talk to her.

My soul knew it was well, but my mind, emotions, and actions continued the daily struggle to concur.

Now, in the midst of a global pandemic I find myself in a similar state of internal grappling. No longer a little girl sitting in a pew, but a grown woman sitting at home with my own family, the statement and subsequent echo still ring true.

It Is Well

            It Is Well

With My Soul

            With My Soul

My soul once again can confidently proclaim that I know, deep down, everything is going to be okay. No matter what happens, no matter how long we are sheltered in place, no matter what losses are suffered, no matter if, or when, vaccines become available. It is well.

But once again, my mind, emotions, and actions are limping along behind, social distancing from my soul.

My mind races. It’s well trained for such events, where worry and anxiety thrive. What if a loved one is exposed to the virus? What if we have to cancel things we’ve been looking forward to for months? What if our economy cannot recover?

My emotions are all over the map, though I’ve hardly left my house. I’ve acted so silly and laughed until my stomach hurt over a card game, and then choked back tears while watching my child mourn the loss of her fifth grade musical performance.

My actions are sporadic too. One day I feel the need to clean and organize our home, to take advantage of this time. As I’m doing these mundane tasks, things feel much like they did before COVID-19 dictated our lives. Another day, everything feels heavy and new. I decide I’ll eat ice cream and sit and stare at nothing.

When my soul knows it is well, but the rest of me lags behind, I have to remind myself of this:

My soul knows it is well.

Though sluggish and tattered, the rest of me will follow what my soul knows. It may take time, and perhaps some forgiveness and grace, but one day, the rest of me will catch up with soul. It will be a happy reunion, where hugs are not only allowed, but encouraged.

As a teenager, it happened for me. I can’t name a date, time, or a specific reason, but I eventually found my mother’s death was well with my soul… and with the rest of me. The pain and grief didn’t come to an end, but my mind stopped racing, my emotions were more stable, and my actions jumped on the bandwagon too. Time and grace were big contributors to the wholeness.

And I know it will happen again. I don’t know when or what will cause it, but eventually, I will find this pandemic, and all of its subsequent effects, are well with my soul… and the rest of me too.

Until then, I’m going to leave plenty of space for time and grace. And, I’ll keep encouraging my soul to sing.

It Is Well

            It Is Well

With My Soul

            With My Soul

And I’ll wait for the rest of me to join the chorus.

On Fear and Falling Shoes

Hi friends,

With the current state of our world, and the unknown effects of the Coronavirus, many people are gripped with fear and anxiety. I get it. I can fall into the same trap, and it’s a dreadful way to live! But, there are truths we can remind ourselves of to help us guard against fear and turn to peace instead. Peace. Doesn’t that sound nice?

This is an excerpt from the “Worry and Anxiety” chapter of my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake. Yes, I struggle with worry and anxiety enough to write an entire chapter about it! I told you I can relate! This is only part of the chapter, an excerpt! But, maybe it will encourage your heart today.

You’re not alone! We can do this together!

Christy

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On Fear

 

I stood frozen and unblinking. I held my breath, trying to listen. Trying to prepare for the moment of impact. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it did.

It was a size-five boys black dress shoe, to be exact, hitting the ceramic tile on the lower floor of our home.

I had already heard what I surmised to be the first shoe dropping.

Thhuuuuumpp!!

In that super-speed mom-brain mode that can think faster than the Road Runner can get away from Wile E. Coyote, I knew what had happened. It was a Sunday morning, and our then seven-year-old son was getting dressed for church. I knew I had laid out his black dress shoes. I also knew that since recently moving into a home with a second-story landing, that our son discovered a newfound interest in gravity. I thought I had made it clear that no “hard objects” were to be dropped below, but with seven-year-old boys I should have been a bit more specific.

So I waited. I waited for the other shoe to drop. It thumped as loudly as the first, and the sound reverberated off the walls and tile floor. I twisted shut the lid to my mascara and placed it back in the drawer. Then I found Karson in the hallway. We reviewed the “landing rule.” Dropping hard objects is not good for the walls, floor, objects being dropped, or little sisters who happen to be standing below. Lesson learned, it appeared, and so we moved on with our Sunday morning.

But, as I was blowing my hair dry, I thought about it some more. I had literally just waited for the other shoe to drop. I figuratively do it so often that it was interesting to actually experience it for real!

I sometimes use the phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” when trying to explain how I feel about fear. I struggle with fearing what big, hard trial will happen next in my life.

I’ve had some whoppers of a “shoe drop” in my past. My mother’s sudden death when I was in fifth grade. A cancer diagnosis for our two-year-old son. Miscarriages. These things all contribute to my struggle with fear.

Because I know that shoes do fall, when things are going well, I sometimes find myself waiting for the next one to smack the floor. Before I know it, I’m frozen, unblinking, and holding my breath. Instead of enjoying life and living in the moment, I’m listening. I’m waiting for that figurative other shoe. It can be torturous.

The accessibility I have to the Internet worsens this for me. Maybe this is true for other shoe-waiters as well. I find myself scrolling through Facebook, or reading the news headlines, and suddenly fear seizes me. It’s like hypochondria, only broader to encompass things beyond the health-related. Fearing that all of the awful headlines I read or hear about are going to happen to me. A school shooting at my child’s school, a giant sinkhole suddenly opening in my front yard and swallowing up someone I love, a deadly nuclear attack in my neighborhood, an outbreak the CDC is warning about sweeping through my city, a deranged and deadly alligator on my back patio (I live in Indiana). I imagine it all in detail.

Twitter also poses a problem for me in the sense that it’s so blunt and time specific. I follow my local news stations on Twitter, and they report traffic accidents in 280 characters or less. They frankly state that there has been a crash on a specific road and sometimes they throw in the two words, “with injuries.” I am affected and afflicted by these tweets. I cannot simply scroll past them without caring. I worry that someone I know was involved in the crash. I worry for those who were injured. My worrisome thoughts exceed 280 characters, without a cut off.

Speaking of being cut off, Kraig told me one evening that he was going outside to fix the riding lawn mower and to install a new belt on the mower deck. My immediate response was, “Please don’t cut your arms off.” I was serious. He was going to be working near a sharp blade. Granted, the chances of him actually cutting his arms off, especially both arms, seems pretty drastic, but I needed to issue this warning anyway. As with most every time I make such a ridiculous statement of concern, Kraig responded with, “Oh, thanks. I was planning to cut my arms off, but now I won’t.” Then he rolls his eyes, winks, and walks away. I’m glad I’m getting through to him.

I hate, I repeat, hate, living in this state of mind. Worry and anxiety are lies, and they steal from my peace and joy. But, knowing this doesn’t change the fact that I deal with their ugliness on a regular basis. That’s why it’s a struggle…

Time progresses, but the passage of time doesn’t automatically fix things. It doesn’t end the struggle. Sometimes it just changes the scenery for the battle. The fear and worry fight is a daily one for me. Actually, and unfortunately, more than daily. But I’ve learned it helps if I remind myself of two things when it comes to fighting fear and worry.

One, is this: the other shoe is going to drop.

I know, it’s difficult. But, we all know it’s true. This life is full of disappointment, hardships, and trial. No one is exempt. There are going to be some falling shoes, Chicken Little. You’re just going to have to accept that fact and be thankful it’s not the entire sky.

But, as depressing as the first point is, the second point helps.

Two, I believe in and serve an Almighty God who never allows a “shoe to drop” without it passing through his sovereign, merciful hands.

We’re getting into some deep theology here. We’re opening the discussion about God allowing evil and pain. That’s a tough one. Why would He do such a thing?

I’m not a theologian. I have a simple mind and a simple faith. And so if you’re looking for mind-blowing intellect, you’re reading the wrong book. I’ve already referenced Chicken Little, the Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote in this section. Hardly John Wesley-level thinking. But, what I do have is a relationship with the God of this universe. I know Him. I don’t claim to understand Him completely, but, I do know what He says to be true about Himself.

God is the inventor of love and life. He’s the one who thought them up. He then put them into practice by creating us. He loves us. Truly. Deeply. Enough to give us life.

But we, us stinking humans, brought sin into this world by our own free will and choosing, and through a couple who just couldn’t keep their little hands off a piece of forbidden fruit. Before we speak too harshly about Adam and Eve, let’s remember we probably would have been the ones to do it if it had been us in that garden. I won’t speak for you, but I know I’m a rotten sinner, I don’t even need a forbidden fruit tree to prove it.

When sin entered the world, the world broke. It wasn’t created for sin and death. Sin leads to death and death just doesn’t sit well with us. I think that’s why death hurts so much. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We weren’t created for death.

But with sin and death come tragedies and pain. A lot of shoes have fallen throughout history and they have caused significant damage.

Now God, who is perfect, is still in control. That’s what He tells us in His Word. Romans 8 is a good place to start reading if you want to see what He said about this through the apostle Paul.

God could stop every shoe from falling this very second if He wanted to. But instead, He allows them to pass through His sovereign hands. Why? Well, I can’t answer that completely. But, I do know those shoes, and their ensuing pain, have led me closer to God and have helped me to recognize my need for Him. The pain and hurt remind us that we live in a broken world that is not our home. A quote credited to C.S. Lewis (see, I can discuss theology without using cartoon references) says, “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.”

As foreigners in this broken world, we long for home. At least we should. Maybe sometimes God uses those awful shoes that fall to help us yearn for Him. Like I said, I can’t explain it all, but I believe it. And I find comfort in it.

When I find myself in fear and worry mode (more often than I’d like to admit) and realize I’m missing life because I’m holding my breath and listening for the impact of a falling shoe, I remember point number two. God is still in control. He is only going to allow what He knows is good and perfect in His sovereign way. I don’t know how He does it, but I trust Him.

Furthermore, I think about the fact that God allowed a gigantic shoe to fall on His own Son, Jesus. Perhaps now I’m taking this analogy a bit too far. Can’t you just hear the preschoolers telling their mommies and daddies that Jesus was squashed by a giant sandal? Crushed by a sole to save my soul? On a hill far away stood an old rugged Croc? I digress.

Let me start over with this point.

God allowed His own Son, Jesus, to be murdered by the very people He created. God allowed horrible things to happen to His Son on our behalf. God allowed Jesus, who had no sin, to suffer because of our sin. He did this so that those of us who believe, repent, and accept His sacrifice can someday live eternally in a world without pain. That’s the gospel, folks. It really is that simple.

What’s more, in the meantime, before we experience the wonder of God’s presence in Heaven, we have His presence with us here on Earth. God’s faithfulness, provision, unconditional love, mercy, grace, and hope are always available to me. Now. Today! By choosing to acknowledge and accept them, I can start to conquer that stupid worry and fear. I can thaw out from the frozen stances of waiting for a shoe to drop, and instead move and blink again. I can live! I can even take a deep breath knowing that no matter what shoe drops, God is in control, and He will be with me through it.

I don’t know when the next shoe will hit the ground near me. I hope it’s a flip-flop or something light, but I don’t get to make that choice. I do, however, get to choose how I’ll live in the meantime.

Am I going to waste my time worrying about the future and being frozen with fear, or am I going to live joyfully and fully while trusting in my Sovereign Lord?

I know, I know. It’s easy to say, and much more difficult to live. I understand. I’m right there with you in the trenches trying to make this trust a habit in my every moment. I’m desperately working to replace worry and fear with peace and joy. I certainly haven’t perfected it, but I’m nothing if not persistent. I’m going to keep at it. We can do this together.

A boy’s dress shoe began this mental dialogue and had such a profound impact on my thinking. In the future, I hope that’s the only place Karson’s shoes make impact!

Math is easier without numbers.

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I don’t have a beautiful mind like the guy in the movie by that title who is a brilliant mathematician. In fact, when it comes to math, my mind is anything but beautiful. Equations go into my mind to scoff and mock.

“Larry, get a load of this mind! She’ll never get us. We’re safe here!” (Yes, math equations are sometimes named Larry.)

I’d say instead of a beautiful mind, I have a busy mind. It sometimes serves me well. Minds need to be busy, right? We have places to go, people to see, things to do.

But there are times my busy mind is not a good addition to life, but a subtraction. (Wait, did I almost make a math problem? Larry, is that you?)

When my mind is busy with the wrong things, things like worry, irrational thoughts, fears, imaginary scenarios, I suffer.

But I have a little equation that helps me pull out of it. (Okay, maybe I really CAN do math- just not with actual numbers.)

Truth + Trust = Peace

When I find my busy mind is focused on questions like,

“What did my friend mean by that comment? Does she hate me now? What did I do to offend her?”

“What if my daughter doesn’t know how to navigate this difficult situation at school today? What if I’ve completely failed as her mom?”

“Is this health symptom weird? Am I dying of some rare disease?”

When those questions haunt me, I go back to my equation.

Truth + Trust = Peace

Truth. What do I KNOW to be true.

Trust. Who do I KNOW to be in control, no matter the circumstance (spoiler alert: it’s God).

Peace. Ahhh. There is it. The wonderful resulting exhale of relief and hope filled inhale of comfort.

When I go back this equation, this simple formula without numbers, my busy mind becomes more beautiful after all.

That’s right, Larry. Deal with it.

 

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This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write for 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: TRUTH

Safety Pin Surgeon

My daughter had been watching me and was disappointed in my reaction. She had been hoping to witness a little drama and excitement… and possibly tears. But there were no tears involved. Instead I was quite stoic and the emotions of my face were of self-pride and relief. I had just performed a minor surgery on myself and had been successful.DSC_0624

The term “surgery” may be a little excessive. Maybe what I did was called a “procedure” when I dropped the safety pin into a pot of boiling water and then later pried it open to expose its cooled-off needle tip. I had taken that makeshift medical instrument and had dug it into the palm of my hand to free the splinter that had been wedged inside my skin for five days.

When the splinter was finally released from its fleshy prison I held it out on the tip of my finger and stared at it.

It was microscopic.

I could barely even see the tiny piece of rose bush that had been figuratively and literally a thorn in my flesh.

Five days earlier I had been trimming our rose bushes and the result had been better looking landscaping, but forearms that looked like I had been in a fight with a cat. And lost.

I knew I had gotten a few thorns stuck in my skin and I spent a minute or two extracting them. It wasn’t a big deal except for one stubborn thorn in my palm that just wouldn’t budge. I really didn’t give it much thought after a few attempts. I figured it would work its way out eventually and at least my rosebushes were free of its burden.

The days passed and I half-heartedly and periodically would try in vain to remove the little thorn. By day five I realized that my entire hand was beginning to hurt. I was having trouble grabbling onto things and since I’m right-handed I was constantly being reminded that it was painful to touch anything against my palm. The skin around the splinter was red and puffy and actually beginning to look infected.

It was time for this safety pin physician to heal thyself.

And so it had come to this post-op moment, my daughter walking away shrugging and bored and me holding a tiny thorn on my fingertip in the sunlight coming in from the kitchen window.

How could something so small have caused such pain?

The pus that oozed from my palm indicated that my body had been fighting this miniature enemy. It was a foreign object. It had not belonged in my skin and my body had rejected it.

I disposed of my surgical instrument and carefully washed my hands and squeezed some antibacterial goo onto my palm. A couple of Band-Aids were soon in place and I released myself to go back to all normal activity.

The tiny perpetrator was long gone and could do no more harm.

But I have other thorns.

They’re not literal, but they cause just as much pain, if not more. They stem not from a bush, but from fear. They cling to my flesh as worry and anxiety.

I hate what they do to me.

The worry often starts so small and I label it is “concern” or “wise discernment” rather than seeing it for what it truly is.

“This worry is microscopic,” I think to myself, “What harm could it cause me to carry it around for awhile?”

And then it festers.

I half-heartedly and periodically tell myself that I should stop worrying. I should let it go and trust God. I should pray about it and remember that the Bible says “Do not worry.” But often my attempts at removing it are in vain.

Finally, I come to a point where I must make a decision. Will I leave the thorn of worry in my flesh and allow the infection to win? Or will I put some water on the stove and bring it to a boil in preparation for some surgery?

Either way it hurts. That’s the nature of a thorn in one’s flesh. But when I take the time and make the effort to get rid of the worry—that nasty enemy to my soul, then the healing process begins. When the perpetrator is gone, it can do no more harm.

And I know my Father who watches over me will be pleased with my reaction, because I have replaced a thorn in my flesh with not a Band-Aid, but with trust in The Great Physician.