Tag Archives: worry

Hustle Along, Little Crab. Don’t Fear the Sea Gull.

3 Feb

Today we’re going to talk again about Brian the Hermit Crab, because some people misunderstood his role as Exhibit A in last week’s message about worrying.

brian_no_worriesI received the following comments:

“All I see is a cat.”

“He may be happy, but the reality is still a dangerous situation. Maybe he should be worried.”

And my favorite, “So, we should ignore the big picture?”

Sigh, no, no, no. Besides, the Big Picture is not the cat (whose name is Aslan, by the way). And the small picture is not even the crab . . . it’s what the crab is doing. In that particular photo, Brian is sleeping. I have other pictures of him zipping around the top of the cage at what he likely believes is lightning speed, taunting Aslan by sticking his tiny claws through the wires. I wonder sometimes if he sees Aslan as a giant sea gull.

The point is, Brian is doing what hermit crabs do. Going about accomplishing the inclinations of his heart: Sleeping, eating, digging, climbing, and nothing else. He’s not trying to take on the giant sea gull, or hiding in the corner in fear. I’m not sure about the brain capacity of a hermit crab, but I do believe he knows about the danger that lurks outside his wire sanctuary, yet he keeps doing what a crab does.

Which brings me to a few side points: A cage isn’t always a prison. Constraints aren’t always road blocks. And sometimes, what we view as freedom might actually lead to a trap. A wise man knows how to discern the difference. (We’ll talk about the wise man in next week’s post).

Brian has outlived the 6-months-to-a-year predicted life-span of a hermit crab in captivity (and for those of you who were wondering, he’s a gift. We didn’t plan this adoption). We’ve had him nearly two years now. I imagine he’s lived so long because he’s not surrounded by stick-fingered, frightening children (Aslan excepted), and also because I’m a nag about such things so he gets regular food and water. Additionally, I believe he has lived so long because he’s NOT trying to take on the dark whiskered beast. We know who would win that battle.

News flash: We all have a dark whiskered beast looming over us, whether we can see it or not. It strikes at different times, and in different ways. For some, through depression, for others, financial woes or an abusive relationship. The beast may use something as simple as a flat tire or missed appointment to get to us, or something as serious as cancer. And it doesn’t give up until we do. If it can’t snatch your claws while you’re happily swinging from wire to wire, it will wait until the door is opened for feeding time and stick its giant paws inside. It waits patiently for an opportunity, and gleefully approves your living in constant fear about the “what if.”

But that dark whiskered beast is NOT the big picture.

So, what is?

brian

Watermelon…the nectar of the ocean arachnids.

In this scenario, it’s us, his humans. Unseen, but very present. He has no idea we’re out here, yet here we are. We know the threats he’s facing, but we also know how to control them. We won’t let Aslan into the cage. At feeding time, we can force him out of the way, or divert him with a treat, or wait until he’s elsewhere before opening the door. Aslan may think he’s going to get in there and shake Brian up one day. He might even dream about it. But he doesn’t have the final say in that. We also do little things to bring excitement (if you can call it that) into the little guy’s life, like putting the occasional bits of fruit and nuts into his cage. He seems to like watermelon a lot. We are, to Brian (or would be if his brain could make the leap) his god.

In many ways, you and I might find it easy to compare our situations to Brian’s, but this analogy only works to a point, because hermit crabs are not humans, and we humans are not God. As humans, we can err. We might forget to feed Brian, leave the cage open, or, heaven forbid, drop the poor creature when we’re holding him. And there are potential woes outside our control, such as the heat going out or the air around him becoming too dry. He could die despite our best efforts to protect him.

However, the most significant misalignment in this analogy is that we did not create Brian or put passions and inclinations into his heart.

In OUR big picture, yours and mine, the caretaker is much, much more capable, sees much more of the big picture, and loves us SO much more than anyone could ever love a hermit crab. Also, God doesn’t err, and there’s nothing outside his control.

For instance, when God made you, he gave you passions and inclinations, and he fashioned your life events in such a way that you are now uniquely suited to do something specific, something nobody else is suited for, and something a lot more meaningful than sitting in the sand, sucking watermelon. What is it? I cannot tell you. I can only tell you that the dark whiskered beast is doing all he can to stop you and to make you doubt that it’s your purpose.

You don’t need to fear the whiskered beast, because you know the bigger picture. You may run into road blocks and wire fences, but trust that they’re designed constraints, put there for a reason. You may get a glimpse of the beast occasionally, but trust that God won’t let him touch you. Just keep doing what it is you’re supposed to do. To the beast, it will be like poking your claws through the wire. He absolutely hates it when you’re freely you.

Stop trying to figure out what God is up to and find your own purpose. Jump in with all six legs, let out your inner crab, and believe in yourself.

God does.

p.s. Is it weird that I’m fixing crab for dinner?

 

——–

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. – Psalm  139:1-6

If Worry Isn’t a Gift, Why Can’t We Let it Go?

19 Jan

This morning, while preparing to write an encouraging note for my friend Aimee, who is worried about undergoing a scheduled surgery today, I hit the synonym button to find a nicer word for “worry,” because it sounded so negative. My replacement options are: anxiety, perturbation, distress, unease, fretfulness, agitation, tension, and stress.

Folks, this is not a good word, any way you slice it. It’s weighed down with oppression and darkness, neither of which are burdens we’re designed to carry. In fact, there is a Bible verse that tells us we cannot add a single hour to our life with worry.

So why do we give worry so much of our time?

We are a nation of worriers. We worry about our weight, our families, the job, the boss, the kids, the bills, not getting the presentation, getting the presentation, getting sleep and staying healthy (both of which are hampered by worrying, FYI), overindulging, under estimating, and WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SPOT!

The list is quite possibly endless. Actually, it IS endless, because many of us, when something we’re worried about does not come to fruition, will find something else to worry about right away.

I’m not a worrier, for the most part. It still astounds my worrier friends that I haven’t used an alarm clock for about 15 years. I let the world wake me up.

“But you could oversleep,” they say. “You could be…” (cue ominous music) “late for work.”

Is that the best you’ve got? Over the many years I worked in an office, I did show up late for work on occasion, whether because of traffic, kids, dawdling, or just plain laziness, but I don’t believe I ever overslept. Even if I had, it wouldn’t have been catastrophic. In fact, I figured that if I ever did oversleep on a work day, I’d consider it a gift just to be able to do so. As corny and Pollyanna-like as it may sound, there’s a bright side to every situation.

I wonder how my worrier friend Aimee might respond when the doctor says, “Everything went beautifully” and hands over her after-care instructions? Will she fret over the possible side effects of the pain meds, or that being off her feet to heal will put a burden on others? Will she wonder how long the repaired ankle could possibly hold up?

Perhaps more importantly, would all that worry change anything? The good and the bad will come. My son is fond of telling me pessimists are never disappointed and sometimes proven right. However, I say, optimists can find something to be pleased about and probably have a more grateful heart.

brian_no_worries

Meet Brian the hermit crab. He is not worried. He’s as happy as a clam, enjoying the world he knows.

I find it easier (and healthier) to remember that I’m in charge of nothing except my reaction to what’s happening at this moment. I don’t even get to decide what’s happening. When I’m driving, I can take reasonable steps to ensure my safety, like putting on a seatbelt and staying in the correct lane, but I cannot prevent an accident. Some texting fool could still come flying through a red light and turn my car into a mangled heap of metal. If it’s to happen, I can’t prevent it, even if I put all my energy into worrying about that specific possibility.

On the other hand, how many of us pull into the driveway or parking lot and pause to be grateful for arriving safely? Considering that this safe arrival happens to us multiple times nearly every single day, we have much to be grateful for, have we not? Like waking up in every morning or getting to sleep in, safe travel is a gift.

So, I would suggest to Aimee that if she were to examine and be grateful for all the aspects of this surgery that went right, instead of feeling the pressures of anxiety, her heart might nearly burst with the goodness of it all (which could be irony, considering the potential repercussions of a bursting heart). But think of it. We live in a country filled with highly educated, deftly skilled doctors, at a time of advanced scientific knowledge where medical procedures considered impossible 50 years ago have become out-patient routines. Our hospitals have technology and equipment out the wazoo that can see everything from our pulse (with a finger cap, for Pete’s sake) to that tiny, squarish-shaped dot of a thingy hiding behind a wall of skin, bones, organs, and whatever we ate for dinner last night, and, we have doctors who know what to do about it. Modern medicine is AMAZING!

Life is amazing.

Every day, every minute, and every breath is a gift, as is every kiss, hug, sneeze and scraped knee, for they all give us reason to be grateful, even if only for the invention of Band-Aids. Find the good in the moment and share it with others. We’ve been given only so many hours . . . shall we spend them loving or fretting?

——

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? — Luke 12:22-26

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Author’s Note: I dedicate today’s blog to my sweet and gentle friend, George, who is now dancing in sure-step with the Lord, free from all worry and the bondage of his earthly mind, and to his lovely Sheryl, who stands at the edge of a new way forward. There is goodness ahead. May you find joy amid the pain, light in the darkness, and comfort in the love of those around you.

 

You Are That Man! Hope for the One Who Feels Overwhelmed

21 Mar

I’m thinking about my friend K, who is carrying a lot on his shoulders these days, and who I’m sure feels as if he’s taken on too much, certainly more than he can handle. He hasn’t come to me for advice, nor would I expect him to, as there are many other friends on his first line of defense. Although I love him dearly, I’m more like the aunt who lives far away.

But if you ever DID ask what I thought K, I’d probably answer with a story (because I’m a storyteller after all) and I’d put you right smack in the middle of it.

I’d tell you to think of yourself as a Dad, sitting at the Saturday morning breakfast table with your 5-year-old son. You’ve just announced it’s leaf-raking day, and his eyes light up like sparklers.

“Oh, Daddy, let me help!”

You say yes, of course. You don’t need his help, and you can probably get the job done much more quickly without his help, but this will be good for him. Teach him about responsibility. Man’s work. Besides, you so deeply enjoy that bonding time.

To the garage you go, you and your little man. You pick out the lightest rake for him, and direct him to the small, level strip of ground beside the mailbox. He starts smacking that ground with gusto, and leaves fly.

“Hold on, son! You might want to try flipping that thing over.” You demonstrate how to use the rake’s teeth and he gives you that grin that never fails to melt your heart.

“Like this?” He pulls exactly four leaves toward his feet.

“Exactly like that.” You smile and watch him joyfully attack his adversaries, and then you turn to tackle the slope with all the bushes, dislodging a mountain of leaves from beneath the tangled mass of roots and shoots.

You pause to check on your little man, who is now holding his small rake horizontally, balancing a pile of leaves as he brings them across the yard.

“Watch this, Dad!” He shoots the leaves upward, laughing as they fall down upon his head.

You laugh with him and return to your work, prying the wet leaves away from the curb. A little later he calls you to come inspect a wooly caterpillar, clearly ready for winter in his thick brown and black coat. The two of you watch together, heads touching, marveling at nature’s ways as the caterpillar forms a tight ball.

You tussle his hair and stand. All that’s left is the area along the driveway. It’s the toughest part because navigating the delicate flower bulbs is somewhat tricky, but you’re enjoying the day so much you have no trouble slowing down to pull some leaves out by hand. Your son starts singing a silly song and you join in.

These are the good times, you think to yourself.

Finally, you’ve amassed a pile for bagging. Your little man takes one look at it and his shoulders sag as he realizes his area is still not complete.

“Whoa buddy, what’s wrong?” You nearly break when you see the tears welling in those beautiful innocent eyes.

He sniffs and wipes his eyes with his sleeve. “Daddy, I wanted to do a good job for you, but I didn’t do anything right.” He gives his small pile a disdainful kick.

“Oh I don’t know about that.” You kneel down to look him in the eye, recognizing the yearning heart and the self-condemnation. “My man, you were great company today, and you made me laugh, and you did make this pile of leaves, which helps more than you know.”

You take his hands and press your large callused palms against his soft pink ones.

“These little hands made that little pile, and the big hands made the big pile. The important thing is, we did it together. When your hands get bigger, they will do more work, but for now, you did just enough. Besides…” You glance at the pile…“We’re not done yet.”

He nods and sniffs again, walking over to yank a lawn bag from the box by the trash can. But when he returns, you kneel again, take the bag from his hands, and set it aside.

“What, are you nuts?” You lift him and carry him to the pile. “How often do you get an opportunity to jump into such an incredibly PERFECT landing pad?”

Giggling, he squirms out of your arms and grabs your hand. Together you fly into the pile in a bundle of side-splitting laughter and start throwing leaves at each other. Finally, as you lie side-by-side, panting, your little man reaches for your hand and again gives you his famous, heart-melting grin.

“I love you, Daddy.”

You sigh, letting those precious words settle over your heart.

It’s been a good day.

————–

handsNow K, I know you can relate to this story, because I know you’re a great dad and you’ve had days like this. So I want to remind you to see yourself in this scenario. Read it again and really see yourself, because, my friend, You Are That Man.

No, silly, not Dad. That’s God.

You are the Little Man.

God’s Little Man.

And don’t you forget it.

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His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. – Psalm 147:10-11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storms May be Brewing, but the Sun Ain’t Goin’ Anywhere

1 Oct

Today is a dismal, bleak, rainy day here in Virginia.

From my window I can watch dirt and mulch, wrenched away from once-splendid summer gardens, tumble in clumps down the street and become caught up in a swift-flowing rainwater river. The debris bumps along on an aimless journey, careening into a pile of leaves at the end of the road, where it rests briefly before slipping through a gaping sewer opening that leads to who-knows-where?

Wet bird in the rain

Hunker down, or deny it’s raining. You decide.

A nor’easter is heading in from the sea, threatening to raise floodwaters, close roads, fill basements, and sweep cars from under people who refuse to believe they’re vulnerable, despite warnings to hunker down.

South of us, Hurricane Joaquin is gathering steam for a pass up the east coast. Hundreds of tree limbs will break off in its gale-force winds, nearly ripened fruit will never make it to harvest, and puzzling objects from the depths of the ocean will stir, and rise, and wash ashore. People will be hurt, and some may die.

It could be days before we see the sun again.

But still, the sun will remain in the sky, peacefully, gloriously, shining, just above the gray clouds and the calamitous vortex of wind and rain. It shines just as brightly throughout this storm as it does on any other day, whether we can see it or not. Regardless of how cold, how wet, how dark we feel over the next few days, it will continue to blaze with its usual fiery heat, sending down to us the exact amount of energy we need to sustain our planet, sufficient vitamin D to keep each of us healthy, and light enough to see where we ought to step (or paddle) next.

I have faith in the sun’s existence, because I’ve seen it and I paid enough attention during science class to know roughly what’s going on up there. I made the requisite Styrofoam solar system and know the sun is securely stationed at the center, even without the help of a wire coat hanger or a tube of Elmer’s glue. I don’t understand why or how it works, but I don’t need to know. I can trust it’s there. I’ll see it again.

Of course, I can chose to deny the sun’s presence, pointing to the eerie gathering darkness as proof of its ineptitude. And when the clouds clear and the rains subside I can still refuse to see the sun by closing my eyes. But that won’t make it not there.

Still, I will prepare for the dark days ahead by stocking the shelves with canned goods, ensuring we have propane for the grill and the fire starter handy for the candles, digging the flashlights out from under last year’s winter coats, bringing family treasures out of the basement, and probably finishing off the coffee ice cream in the freezer, you know in case the power goes out—wouldn’t want that to go to waste. Then, as the winds howl outside my door, I can remind myself: we’re okay, and this will pass.

light peeking through clouds

We can lose sight for a while, but it’s always there.

That’s how it is with God. We can lose sight of Him sometimes, but He’s always there, despite our fiercest storms. We know this because we’ve done our homework and answered that one question we must all answer for ourselves: Is the Bible true? We’ve made the requisite Styrofoam Gospel scene and know that God burns securely in the center of our hearts, even without our duct tape and glitter. We don’t completely understand how He can do this, but we don’t need to know. We can trust He’s still there.

So we’ve prepared for the storm by studying God’s promises, trusting His Word, and telling Him our concerns. Then, as the wolf howls outside the door, we can remind ourselves: we’re okay, and this will pass.

Yet, for some reason, some of us will huddle there in the dark for days, weeks, even years afterward, denying ourselves the warmth and peace He offers. Why do we do this?

We may be angry at Him for not preventing a limb from breaking during the storm, and deny that he’s filling the fields all around us with new life. But we cannot anger him away or close our eyes to the evidence. Just not looking won’t make him not there.

We may be hiding from Him, cowering in the shadows in shame or worry because we’re sure we’ve somehow let Him down, but His light sees into those darkest places, knows everything we’ve done and failed to do, and loves us anyway. He’s there with you under the basement steps, extending a hand. He wants to bring you out of there.

The storms will end soon enough. I challenge you, even while they still rage, to leave your hiding place, venture out, and look up, into the light. Offer Him your hand, your hurt, your sorrow, your regrets, and He will shine on you, just as brightly as He has been doing all along.

The difference between God and the sun, though, is He can make YOU shine as well, because His light is brighter than the sun, and His presence many times more trustworthy. Trust Him. He’s there.

_______________

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:17-18