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Finding Rest in the Stress

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:6-8

Do you have those quarks you feel the need to share with almost everyone around you, no matter the relationship or amount of time you've known them? It can be your sister, best friend, spouse, or an entire room full of people you don't know (never done that...). Do you do this as a way to provide "warning" and get the story straight right from the gecko so they can't be that surprised when you breakdown crying because you changed five times and still don't like your outfit? I don't know about you, but I can absolutely answer yes. What leads me to feel the need to explain myself to a person before they get the chance to figure it out on their own? Anxiety. That gut wrenching, eye twitching, break into sweat no matter the amount of deodorant you have on kind of feeling. The fear of not knowing the definite. Anxiety is real, ever present, and has a strong tendency to take over responses and actions. Truth be told, I tend to place myself between a rock and a hard place in most situations due to my ability to become anxious over anything in a matter of seconds. It's somewhat of a talent, actually (okay, not sure if that's something I should reference as a talent, but there you have it). To give some insight on how I'm currently facing anxiety and what I'm taking from the storms I create in my mind, I want to talk about a couple recent instances where I've caught myself entangled in the cycle of stressing out over my anxiety (such a great way to make time fly). Pre-Coffee: AnxiousPost-Coffee: Anxious and with a Faster Heart RateThis morning I was trying to decide where to go to write today. There are so many coffee shops I haven't yet sat in, let alone grab coffee from, and I thought it'd be great to check out those places. Then I would consider the usual place I go. But what if it's too loud? What if there's no good seats? What if all the outlets are taken? What if I drive all this way and the coffee sucks?Since you're reading this, I obviously made a decision: the usual place. The cons? It's loud (what coffee shop isn't?) and people are not as pleasant as I wish they were. What about the pros? I got an amazing spot in the corner (score) and the cold brew here did not disappoint. However, my heart is still beating a little faster as I sit here questioning whether or not I made the right choice. Does this ever happen to you? There's a decision to be made and you don't know which way is best because all of the options in front of you possess equivalent pros and cons. How are we supposed to decide? Can God just nudge us in the right direction in some way so we can confidently know we've made the right choice? It drives me crazy sometimes not knowing if what I'm going to do is right, and it gives me the worst anxiety, leading me to what may not be the best decision. Action based on anxious driven responses hardly ever turn out for the benefit of ourselves and those around us (though, we tend to forget about others when we're caught up in our own world. If anything, it causes heartache, regret, anger and breaking out (because acne is anxieties best friend). No, I'm quite positive God's intention for me is not to over think the small and big decisions, from where to buy coffee today to where to move next month. We can run around like a dog chasing its' tail with how we believe something is going to pan out, when we just won't know until we face it.This can result in us staying still, not making any move whatsoever. It's best for us to move. To go. To act.

Today, I'm learning to step back and say "even if" rather than repeating the countless scenarios of "what if" in my head.

Even if there's no parking, it's going to be a good day. Even if I don't meet my own expectations, I'm still enough. Even if the heartache lasting into the night stays into the morning, I will choose to see God's mercies in it still. When anxious thoughts are present, give thanks and pray. Taking the Lead in Social AnxietyNot too long ago, I attended a "self-leadership" training for work. Everyone in attendance has somewhat of a leadership role in their franchise for the company we all work for. Before I left for day one of the conference, I was a hot mess. Seriously.I changed my outfit about ten times, paced back in forth in the living room for a good five minutes going over all the worst case scenarios of social interactions with Jason, and felt like there was a family of butterflies living inside of me.I couldn't catch my breath until I finally arrived (thank God for a husband who prays over me when I have literally no words).I arrived a few minutes early and met some pretty amazing and successful people before I grabbed some hotel coffee and found a seat. The room where the training took place was set to where the tables formed somewhat of a circle so everyone was facing somebody else. This alone made my heart skip a beat or two. Once everyone was seated, the speaker asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves. We were to say our name, where we were from, and what our passion was. Up until it was my turn, I was trying to figure out what my passion was and how I could sum it up well enough for a group of 25 people--most of whom I hadn't met yetBefore I was even close to ready, the room was quiet and all eyes were on me. Little to my surprise, what came out of my mouth was not what I had rehearsed in my head for the last sixty seconds: *with a shaky voice and red face* Hi guys! My name is Kimberlee and I have a passion to affirm others because I've stood where a lot of people have stood with insecurities. Also, I have social anxiety. Remember how I mentioned in the beginning of this post that I tend to unnecessarily share some things that aren't asked of me? There's one example. Looking back (because I sure did not see it this way when I was sweating bullets from my social anxiety), I'm relieved that's what I said.From my little "about me" rehearsal, I so badly wanted to say what I thought would drive people to think of me in a positive way. I wanted to be seen as put together, confident yet humble, kind and brave. I wanted to be perceived as all of these things without giving others a chance to see it through my actions. I wanted to camouflage the parts of me I didn't like (the authentic), and reveal the parts of me that were clean and crisp (not so authentic). So often when we come in conctact with new people, we do our best to look good, sound good, and come off like we have it all together, when we know darn well we don't. We want so badly to meet the expectations of strangers with the hope that we'll be accepted. Painting a picture of ourselves that isn't real. We exchange the authentic for the illusion of perfection with hopes we'll never face the shadow of loneliness.

What happens over time as our confidence crumbles is we realize the foundation which we believed to have been rightly built on the ground that is approval of man, needed to be placed elsewhere.

When I finally come to realize this, I turn on my radio and listen to worship music. Not just for background noise, but to intently listen (highly recommend). Right now, for example, I'm listening to a new song by Elevation Worship called "Do it Again" (look. it. up.). The lyrics are an incredibly beautiful reminder to the testament of Gods mercy and constant love. How often do we forget about this when we are battling against ourselves? One line states:

I'm still in your hands--this is my confidence--you've never failed me yet

Our true foundation is Christ, and in Him our confidence is found. In the hour that feels dark and twisted, remember how He has made a way when there was no way. Our confidence does not lie in the hands of others, but in the One who created us. Through all the battles I've had with anxiety, I've found the ultimate place I should turn to in moments of uncontrollable stress (and really any day) that provides the peace my soul thirsts for is in God's Word (the Bible). Sure, it can take me a good 30 minutes spent pouting until I realize this is what I needed all along, but I get there. No matter what passage I turn to, what I almost always take away from it is that we must:

learn to give thanks without any certainty of how things are going to turn out

choose to trust God no matter the circumstance

remember how much better it is to be in the "lion's den" with God than it is to be anywhere else without Him

Despite the long nights that are drawn out by our "shoud've, would've, could've" mentality, there is abundant joy and grace to be found. There is rest to be had in the midst of the stress. Sipping this iced coffee like it's my day job, Kimber

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