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What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common

What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common

I was out of the house for a while one day not too long ago, and when I came back, the kids were very excited to tell me how our 10-pound Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, scared off wild turkeys in our yard. Apparently, they howled and howled, diligently assuming their roles as our protectors, and when the turkeys returned a second time, the kids took Samson and Delilah out again so they could give those birds another talking-to.

I thought a lot about how my pups are really not any different in size than these feathered impostors in our yard. And how in that moment of angst, Samson and Delilah took their job seriously, no matter the cost. Yes, they bark at butterflies. They also bark at the black bear that visits our neighborhood each spring and fall. It really doesn’t matter the perceived foe—big or small—they’re at the ready to scare intruders off, tiny Shih Tzu teeth and all.

And isn’t that really what hypervigilance is? Don’t we all get that way sometimes? With some of the anxiety struggles in one of my children this past year, I have remained in a constant state of “watch,” not being able (or willing) to let down my guard. I think at the root of it is a trust issue. I wrongly believe that the minute I take a deep breath and sigh, all of the balls I think I am holding up in the air will crash down on our heads and shatter, never to be repaired. But, isn’t that really arrogant in a way? Do I really even hold them up? When I look in a mirror reflecting back, I see them up there, but it’s not my hand keeping them spinning in the air. It’s an invisible, mighty one attached to my Father in heaven.

And, the truth is: I have had to scare turkeys this year. There have been wild flocks coming into my life pecking at what doesn’t belong to them. There have been bullies (in adult form), anxiety, depression, toxic people, gossip, malice, slander, you name it! Things have been taken, or attacked, that were mine. And then beyond our own home were dear ones struggling through job loss, affliction, mental illness, death, disease, injury, personal loss of other kinds.

Sound familiar? It’s the world outside of the Garden of Eden—

—And we all live in it.

So, it’s easy to see why we get catastrophic in our thinking after a while. After a year (or even a few weeks) of one thing after another slamming up against us, we don’t live just “at the ready.” We live at Disaster Preparedness Level 10.

And that’s where I was sitting when I went in to see my son’s therapist to check in, only to have her tell me I was readying for a war that isn’t really even on the horizon. And while I wasn’t suited up sitting in a tank, I was definitely eyeing the property line for more turkeys. She more or less told me I could relax my shoulders now. It’s not all up to me. The turkeys aren’t there right now. At ease, Bonnie. At ease.

Say what now? It’s not all up to me?

That was such a huge relief.

I cried for days after that.

Because she was right.

If the Time of Great Sadness comes back into our house again, God will be with me just as much as He was then. Like Samson and Delilah, I will naturally kick into protective mode, but I don’t have to live there all of the time. I can enjoy the in-between moments and live. My Shih Tzus bound around fighting over a rubber alligator and see how many different ways they can jump on my couch when I’m not looking—and practice quick jump-aways for when I am.

The turkeys aren’t actively hanging out in our yard right now. They’re probably a few streets over taking their good ole time crossing a road in rush hour traffic—just because they can. Samson and Delilah aren’t staring out the window in expectation of them. They only scare them off when the need arises.

When anxiety strikes and we can’t let go, we need to know we don’t have to walk around scaring off turkeys. They will find us; they always do, eventually, and if we’re prayerful and consulting with our Father in heaven, we’ll know how to scare them into retreat when they do. But not everything is a wild turkey.

And there’s so much living to do in-between the times the turkeys visit. Catastrophic thinking steals our joy, drains us of the energy we need when it is time to protect, and cheats us of the peace of looking up into the very capable eyes and arms of the loving Peace Giver.

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah the Prophet speaking

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27, Jesus speaking

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

This blog has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

More anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

 

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Pushing Through Fears

Pushing Through FearsDo you have any fears that hold you back from fully functioning? Does it sometimes feel like you are pushing against a weight of overwhelm? Maybe your fears taunt you in the middle of other areas where you feel accomplished. They may look different for each of us, but they can be paralyzing and growth-stopping.

You know what else they do? They deliver a feeling of defeat.

And you know what? That’s not Kingdom (-of-God) living.

Some of my fears are irrational. For example, I fear that if I stop advocating for certain injustices or for my son with special education needs, the world will stop turning. That’s called hypervigilance and sometimes crosses the line into catastrophic thinking. I usually can do the self talk involved to chill myself out, talk myself down.

Like many people, I am afraid of letting people I love down, not meeting expectations, or  unintentionally hurting someone.

I back out of my driveway panicked that a child on a bike will go by.

I fear the local black bear entering my yard (it has entered my neighbor’s property) and eating my Shih Tzus.

I can’t say these fears regularly keep me up at night, but they definitely steal joy.

Know what I mean?

Here are the ways they thieve me of peace: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Nothing Can Block Out the Son

Nothing Can Bloc-3No, that is not a misspelling. And yes, I meant “Son.”

You see, years ago my husband and I made a promise to our now-17 year old son that we would drive to the path of totality to see the solar eclipse this year—a “bucket list” item for him before he left the nest for college.

And so it was. We headed to Kentucky, meeting up with some family in the Midwest along the way. From where we were staying, we drove three hours to stand in a parking lot in Hopkinsville, KY, that afternoon in time to see, through ISO-certified glasses, the eclipse begin and end.

It took some coaxing for my anxious younger son, 11 years old, to trust us that the glasses would do their job to protect his eyes. Once he overcame that obstacle, he was amazed like the rest of us at the show God put in the sky that Monday afternoon. It was worth tolerating 12 hours of gridlock on the way back to the hotel.

As the sun moved behind the moon (from our vantage point, anyway) to where it was safe to remove our glasses for two minutes, we noted so many observations, among them:

  • The temperature dropped.
  • The sun set around us panoramically 360 degrees.
  • The light never went fully out.

Hmmm.

Even with the moon in front of it, a ring of light still haloed from the sun. The light could not be fully turned off. And really, the moon only had just over two minutes of blocking time. The sun then continued its determined glide back into full view.

It was surely magnificent. No doubt about it. But it did not completely darken my world. It did not shut off the lights.

It struck me (as I had 12 hours to reflect on the way home!) how true this is of Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt

The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt

Do you ever need tangible reassurance when anxiety and self-doubt whack you around?

I’ve had the kind of week where I realized nothing was in my control. Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but I still find myself thinking I’m at the helm. It turns out I’m really not.

Nothing earth-shattering was wrong. It was more like low-level frustrations piling up. I chased down a new specialist for one of my children, playing phone tag for days. I could not get a professional I was working with to fulfill an expectation. My traveling husband was gone when I needed to be in three places at once and could have used his help. Christmas wrapping and packaging exploded all over my bedroom. And some of the goals I set for myself post-publishing to market my book were not working out. One of my kids is learning the responsibility of texting and emailing apps for the first time, and her emails went out 70 times to a friend because of a glitch. Yeah, that was just awesome.

Not being able to control other people’s end of an interaction (or computer glitches, LOL) can feel like personal failure some days. But the truth is: It’s not. Some days we wait for a reply, a response, someone to do something we asked them to or paid them for, a problem to come right that we’re working on. It may feel like we’re spinning our wheels on so many things in life. I felt like I could not propel myself forward in any way this past week. Everything I attempted fell flat on its face or blinked at me like a “No Walking” signal that allows traffic to keep moving from all directions but never seems to let me cross. The world seems so slow in those moments, as if the clock is ticking only intermittently, and it can feel like everyone is looking at us waiting for our next move.

When life moved that slowly for me this week and I could not accomplish anything, the temptation was to spin into endless cycles of self-doubt and catastrophic thinking. Know what I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When We Humans Find Ourselves Barking at Everything

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My otherwise laid-back, lazy, happy-go-lucky Shih Tzu Samson couldn’t care less about much most days. The world goes on around him, and he sometimes gets up to engage, but he’s often very content just to lay in his warm bed and give us a toothy grin or a quick glance of acknowledgment. Unlike his high-strung sister Delilah, he is easy to be around, low-maintenance, easy-going.

Except when he perceives something different outside as a threat. 

Usually this is a trash tote at the end of my neighbor’s driveway or a lawn mower my husband left out in the yard for a time. Sometimes it’s a squirrel, turkey, or deer, but most of the time it’s an inanimate object casting a shadow that isn’t usually there and therefore is a threat.

Samson can sit at our window-paneled door for 20 minutes solidly barking away at said “threat.” I often wonder if he finds it confusing that the trash can and/or lawn mower don’t therefore scurry immediately off—or at all.

And when I watch him going crazy for a while, spending all of whatever little energy he has being fierce protector against a mythical enemy, I see myself.

I see all of us.

How often do we, in times of stress, bat at everything in sight in front of us, viewing everything as a perceived threat?

How often do we live in attack mode, ready to pounce? This subject is touched on in “What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common,” but looking at it from a slightly different angle: Whom are we screaming at, coming against, jumping on, cutting off, and defending ourselves against, when really, that person is just a lawn mower—coming to, of all things, mow the lawn?

I think so often we do this to those closest to us, with whom we are most comfortable, because we know they’re here to stay, and we need to attack something, after all, and they’re a ready, available, easy target. But I also think we run around in times of stress seeing everyone and everything as the enemy, against us, ready to snatch our time, money, or resources. Dumb as it sounds, it could be the driver in front of us some days whose mission, we’re convinced, is to keep us from getting to that appointment on time. (Yeah, because we know perfect strangers wake up every day plotting to make our lives difficult.)

Or maybe it’s the child coming into the room for math homework help when we finally sat down to pay a bill that’s overdue. Or maybe we just took our first few sips of coffee that afternoon? Maybe we were about to “get our peace on,” and they came into the only time of quiet we have had all day.

Could it be the phone call coming in from a friend who might need help? Do we see that as a drain, a struggle, a time suck, a distraction, keeping us from something else? Something we are frantically trying to cross off our to-do list?

What about the well-meaning neighbor kid coming to the door to sell popcorn for a cause? Is it his fault dinner is burning, our phone is ringing, the toilet is clogged, and the husband is home late?

How about the husband who just walked in the door and straight into Mama Rage without warning because an injustice in the kids’ world needed to be set right, and he’s the first adult she encountered since her anger started smoldering?

Not always, but often, our short, sharp, barky replies in response to anything that moves—or even things that don’t but we think they should!—are the result of us being way…too…busy and overplanned. And when we realize for a fleeting second that we are not God and can’t possibly accomplish all we set out to do that day, we notice we actually have no margins. Life quickly becomes ugly, frantic, stressful, and impossible, really. Nothing feels doable. Even the next crisis needs to take a number. We simply have no room for anything extra to squeeze in and need our attention.

Everything unplanned is “in the way”—and therefore barked at.

We are edgy, grumpy, short-of-temper, and really of no use to anyone.

Maybe that is never you. Or maybe you are around someone who is stuck in this rut and can’t see the light leading him/her out.

The first step is recognizing we have our bat out and are taking a good, solid swing at everyone in sight. (That might feel good in the moment, but we leave scars and dents all over the place that we later have to deal with. They don’t usually repair on their own, as I’m finding out.)

The second step is breathing deeply, being still, taking a moment to regather our thoughts. Pretzel breathing has become one of my new, closest friends. We need to clear our heads and allow for some self-reflection. Taking a few steps back can help us to see at whom and what we are slamming and to decide if that is truly warranted (it rarely is).

Third, for my family, we believe we need to ask God to cleanse our hearts:

Psalm 139:23-24, David speaking ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 51:9-12, David speaking, ESV
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

and bring us fresh peace: 

Psalm 29:11, David speaking, ESV
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! 

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah speaking, ESV
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27, Jesus speaking, ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Philippians 4:4-7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. For us, these verses give us hope that we can stop barking. They offer a fresh start after repenting and then getting our peace on.

We’re not really in control, and barking and swinging are mere attempts to try to grab some control, order, and structure back. What we really need is to be still, examine ourselves, ask God to examine us, and let His peace wash over us to refresh us for the next thing coming our way.

Spoiler Alert: The “next thing” might not be in order on our list. It might very well be an interruption. Either way, we need His peace to keep us from sitting at the door ready to attack anything walking or standing by.

I’d rather live employing defense when I need it and not remain tense and rigid in a constant posture of offense. What about you?

Referring to this book again, because it’s pretty awesome:
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem 
by Kevin DeYoung
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/

 
 

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