I lie on the guest room bed at my dad’s house, eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply. Anxiety grips me like a vice and makes me feel like there’s a rock in my gut and a weight on my chest.
The anxiety itself causes more anxiety, as I wonder why I’m having anxiety attacks even though I’m walking close with God. He fills my thoughts and the instruction to pray unceasingly is easy to follow.
There isn’t anything particularly wrong with my life. It’s just full. As our six children have grown and five have entered their adult years, their problems have grown with them . . . big kids, big problems. Mothering doesn’t get any easier.
It was hard to learn to sacrifice sleep and daytime hours for our first child. It felt like a death of sorts. As each one came along, I “died” a little more. Infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, and now young adulthood all seemed to require another piece of my peace and the tenuous control I sought to manage.
As soon as you figure out one season, one child’s temperament, one set of life’s challenges . . here comes the next. The lesson for this season of my life is Letting Go 101. But after so many years of training my heart to care for, provide for, and protect them, learning to let go feels like the most unnatural lesson I’ve had to master yet. At times it feels like a 180 degree turn.
Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone
Your dream of “launching” your child comes with images of freedom. What they don’t tell you is your child will take a piece of your heart when they move on. And that piece keeps beating and racing and rejoicing and breaking with the up and down circumstances of their life. Multiply that by a few times, throw in some spouses and grandchildren, add your own marriage and life’s changes, and my battle with anxiety begins to make a bit more sense.
Sleep eludes me. I open my eyes and glance around the room. Family photos fill every space. My dad has chronicled our family’s lives with photographs, and Mom framed them. With only two daughters, their small family grew and “produced” ten grandchildren. Those faces smile back at me wherever I look.
There are photos of me as a one year old, dressed in a red sweater dress with red tights. I’m standing on my own holding onto a chair. It looks like I’m just learning to walk.
Then there I am, twenty-some years later and twenty-four years ago, with our second son Daniel. He’s only five, but he’s dressed in a cap and gown for his kindergarten graduation, a sweet and silly precursor of his future.
In the photo beside, my mom holds our infant son Ben and his cousin, born just three weeks before him. They’re both twenty now.
As my eyes shift, the years jump forward and backward by years and even decades. Weddings, new births, birthday parties, and joyful every-days . . all frozen in time, framed by love, and celebrated. The life events captured in these photos become the memories that begin to define our past.
But I know the past wasn’t all smiles. Heartache, trials, and even crises filled the in-between of our joys and sorrows. No one took pictures to remind us, but we have the scars.
Nevertheless, we smile. The photos testify to God’s goodness and mercy. And my heart’s steady beat slowly begins to inform my mind’s anxious thoughts.
God has been faithful.
He was there on the days we celebrated and photographed, and He was with us when we hid under dark covers and cried.
He has comforted and held us and taught us lessons only dark days avail. Like Joseph, we too can say to our enemy “You meant it for evil. But God meant it for our good.”
Anxiety loosens its grip.
The images surrounding me aren’t just photos. They are star witnesses of His faithfulness.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God,
the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love
with those who love him and keep his commandments,
to a thousand generations,
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