anxiety

Dealing with Internal Intimidation

I redirected my energies from my contemplative work into hospitality mid-April. It was to be a two-week hijacking, then a return to the regular route of days. But the pressures and demands didn’t relent. The attempts to incorporate new ideas and habits from classes, the convergence of three young lives summering with me, and some major emotional upheavals suctioned me into silence on my blog. Daily I remembered you and prayed, aching to write, yet simultaneously adding another daily granule of doubt or criticism to the weighted blanket of shame encasing me.

Shame casts imposing shadows and augments reality into mocking illusions. As a young girl I was intimidated by a rocking one-eyed shadow-giraffe glaring down from atop my curtain rod, daring me to foolishly mention it to my parents. I felt stupid for being afraid of it, and sure of being laughed at for speaking of it. So I remained silent, tense and paralyzed under the bedspread. I didn’t yet know the power that humbly laughing at yourself and sharing with others can have to dispel the thrall of fear and shame.

I’m throwing off my bedspread and padding over to you to tell you—I’ve been afraid to write again. The mocking voices inside wonder why I’m making such a big deal over this and try to squelch the importance of it. They leer at me saying nobody cares, no one needs to hear what I have to say—it won’t make a difference, and if you must say something why make a fool of yourself! Just slip under the radar and pretend nothing is happening—you just got busy, that’s all. This is how the enemy’s intimidation works on a soul whose safety is withdrawal and avoidance.

You need to hear it because I need to say it. Because you need to know there is someone else who is facing intimidation while moving forward into a big, exciting, terrifying calling with Jesus. You and I need to see light spill into this hidden dynamic of pressing on in faith and call it like it is: intimidation is real. Its expression can come in a myriad of ways depending on your particular triggers and personality, but it will come. If it silences you like it does me, raise your voice more and let safe people know what ghouls are dancing on your internal landscape. If big-eyed giraffes are ghosting through it, making you feel small and stupid, open the door to those who can provide the brilliant light of truth, hope, and grace. Its strength overpowers the shadows that loom in near-darkness.

Bright Sun

I told my spiritual director about the oppression I felt, and she noted that intimidation only works on those things you hold precious. As we explored the various circumstances where I had felt intimidated, I could see exactly what she meant. I opened the door to her and this realization swung it wide open. In the blaze, the fears have fizzled out, and I can move again. I’ve been avidly writing every day since.

Writing to you is precious to me. I marvel at how God meets me in it, feeding me, then taking it and feeding you, like miraculously feeding five thousand with two fish. His is not the way of stinginess, but the way of multiplication. His is not the way of oppression, but freedom. His is not the way of looming shadows, but of bracing light. Let’s all give our little fishes to Jesus to stretch them further than we ever thought possible—hopeful faithfulness begetting a feast of wonder in full sunlight.

 

Starting next week:

One of the things I explored in my summer class was the discipline of noticing. It’s a practice that I have found really opens my heart to encountering God. Just yesterday, after sending the boys to their school bus, I sat on the front stoop and stared at the dripping plants in our front garden. The water adhered to each in very distinct ways. I noticed how the growing things were all in arches and umbrels, no squares and straight lines. Their flexibility helped them bear the sudden weight of drops without breaking. Not only was it beautiful, but there was wisdom wrapped in the display decorated with water pearls. It encouraged me into flexibility for the day, rather than rigid accomplishment that often fractures under the pressure of unexpected changes. The day felt like a gift rather than a burden because I encountered God in this noticing.

This kind of gift exists in your everyday as well. I’m inviting you into a community exploration on Instagram of these gifts over the next few weeks. It doesn’t have to be long, deep, or fancy, just one thing you notice with a quick picture and however much you want to write about it. I’ll be posting a list at the beginning so we have a focus each day, but it’s open to whatever you notice and however you meet God. I will post the topics on IG in about a week, and thereafter anyone can join in with your posts on that topic with the hashtag #noticeGod and tagging me @writerkimberleymulder. So follow me on IG @writerkimberleymulder, and watch to join in! I will write more in my next post when I kick off this IG practice. I am so curious to see what God has waiting for us to feed our souls! Shalom to you!

Posted by k2mulder in Courage, 0 comments

Beloved in Grief and Disappointment

I am so glad to host Kristen Leigh Kludt on the blog this week. She wrote A Good Way Through, which I have on my resource page as a book that helps you find God in disappointment and gives guidance on practices that are helpful during that time. Be sure to check her offer for you to get a discount on her Field Guides for the Way at the end of the post!

Without further ado, here are her words about finding God’s love in the midst of facing disappointment and disillusionment in the midst of infertility.


Grief in the unknown: It is baffling. How do you grieve the loss of something that never was? I had so much need in that time, so much pain I couldn’t contain. Many days, I just didn’t want to be the sad one. People were careful around me, and I needed them to be, but their being careful didn’t help the pain. My pain was obvious, no matter how I masked it, no matter how high the walls I built around my heart. Even when I smiled, my eyes were glassy, empty. I was ragged, broken, trying to keep it together enough to be appropriate in public, then screaming silently behind closed doors. How else could I function? We have to go on at times like that. There is no choice. So I danced back and forth between grief and pretending. I let out enough pain often enough that it did not consume me completely, and I faked it the rest of the time.

Where was God in all of this? In my heart, God was distant, angry. I assumed God was disappointed with me and maybe didn’t love me much. In reality, I was the distant, angry one—distant, often, even from my own emotions. How could the God I loved let this happen to me? Was I just not worthy of having something to love?

These questions intensified in our months of infertility, but they were not new to me. I first remember questioning God’s love for me in high school.

Behind my childhood home there was a silver maple, five stories high, with branches that wrapped around the house and hugged my room on two sides. Outside my bedroom window was the roof of the downstairs porch, and I used to climb out onto the roof at night, just to sit under my tree, to watch the wind in its branches. I cried, sang, prayed, and dreamed under that tree. In the minutes before a coming storm, I heard the voice of God in that tree, singing anticipation in its branches, silver leaves shimmering in the wind, whipping through the air like my hair on a windy day.

I felt close to God as a child. I prayed a lot and read my Bible. My belief ran deep; faith in Jesus was the ground I walked on. I believed God was good and Jesus died for me to save me from my brokenness. I worked hard to live up to that gift. I was kind to kids who others disliked. I gave 10 percent of my allowance to church. In high school, I met every week with a mentor, and I took summer trips with the youth group. I discovered the power of musical worship in a new way. I loved my God and the life I lived.

When I was a senior in high school, in the month before my first experience of depression, my beautiful silver maple started to split down the middle. It was a windy summer, and I had to sleep downstairs on a mattress in the family room for a few nights before the tree was taken down, in case it fell on the house.

Men came. First, they stripped the tree of its branches. It became a naked lopsided trunk. Piles of limp silver-leaved limbs littered the yard. My beautiful tree, provider of summer shade, creator of golden drifts to run and play and hide in during autumn, the screen through which I looked down upon the white winter world, was now bare, its majesty lost to a couple of men with a chainsaw.

The sky behind my parents’ house still doesn’t look right to me.

What do we do when the symbols of God-in-this-world are stripped away?

There were other precipitating factors, but the loss of that tree sparked my first downward spiral. I had my first panic attack.  I didn’t eat well. I wanted my body to mirror what was happening in my heart—to feel sick, lusterless. My mom cared for me well, talking me through my first panic attack and making me rice with butter when I wouldn’t eat anything else. She trusted, through what I now know was plenty of fear in her own heart, that I would come out of it, and I did. I made new friends, tried new things, and found God and myself in new ways. I grew up a little.

In adulthood it was harder, more complicated. My mom was now two thousand miles away. From the outside, I looked much the same, but inside something was different. My self-talk turned cruel. How could you do that? Why did you say that? That was so stupid. I would never speak to another human being in that judgmental, degrading way. In my deepest heart, a part of me believed this was God’s voice, and God was angry with me because I wasn’t good enough.

I had two strategies to escape the self-talk: I napped a lot, and I kept moving, filling my life with people and activity. I hid from the fear of what was happening in my own heart. I could only hide for so long.

I started therapy. It helped, though it was awkward at first. I wasn’t sure what to do, and Dr. L. didn’t ask a lot of questions, so I just talked a lot and tried not to feel weird. As she got to know me, she said a few things and asked a few questions. She would say, “Wow, your god sounds really angry and hard to please.” I would say, “No, he isn’t!” but then I started to realize my god was angry, and I was serving a god who I would never profess I believed in. The God I wanted to serve and thought I knew was infinitely more patient and gracious and loving than the one I was serving.

People asked if I was angry with God because of my infertility. I wasn’t. That would have been healthier. Instead, I was terrified of God. I was certain God was angry with me. I felt abandoned, unseen, unworthy, and unwanted. I was looking first at myself and then at people around me to figure out who God was. Now I try my best to reverse the order, and look to what I know about God to try to understand myself and other people.

After my first session I brainstormed in my journal ideas for “homework”—what could I do to live differently after realizing some new things about myself? How could I practice a new way of being? My list of ideas was hazy, mostly having to do with trying harder not to try so hard to be so composed all the time, to act and look and be so darned competent and responsible.

It took a few more months before I stumbled into a much better, more concrete practice: field trips. For four months, every Saturday afternoon I went on a field trip. The only rules were that I went by myself and invited God along.

It’s hard to describe how hard this was for me. The person I was least at ease with was myself. Perhaps it was not myself, but this projection of God that I had created based on my deepest fears and hurts. In this moment of desperation, I decided that in order to learn to like myself, I was going to have to hang out with myself. In order to be less afraid of God, I would have to be alone with God.

I began tentative and became joyful. I took myself out for tea a few times and brought books or my watercolor paint set. I tried to be kind to myself. I walked in the Huntington Gardens and remembered that I love to be outside under big trees. I started to look forward to these trips.

Time passed. I came to a place where I could sometimes be happy and I liked myself a little bit. I became less afraid of my own darkness. I didn’t exactly hear from God, but the anger I had perceived from God began to dissipate. I started to believe there was something else surrounding me instead.

Maybe it was love.

Discovering my belovedness required two disparate movements. First, there was an inward movement, a deep dive into my own darkness. I needed to be alone with God in my most tender places and discover I was OK. I needed to find a source of joy within my own heart.

Second, was an outward movement toward other people. In reaction to a broken friendship, I had retreated almost completely. I had put walls between my heart and everyone around me except for Dave. His friendship was enough for a little while, but now I needed to find a measured path toward openness and vulnerability. When I experienced my belovedness alone, I could then experience it more deeply with other people. Out of a growing assurance that I was loved, I could let other people in.


“Excerpt from A Good Way Through by Kristen Leigh Kludt, ©2017. Used by permission.”

Field Guides for the Way, www.fieldguidesfortheway.com

Field Guides for the Way

Kristen now creates Field Guides for your own creative field trips with God. 

Journey deeper into God’s love with spiritual practice kits delivered to your home. Explore, discover, create, and remember you are Beloved. 

Field Guides for the Way offer the intentionality and practice of a contemplative retreat woven into your everyday life. Each beautifully curated kit contains invitations and supplies for a journey deeper into your relationship with God, your own heart, and your life.

As a special offer for you, Kristen is offering 10% off your entire order (enter MULDER10 at checkout)! Purchase by next Saturday, March 2. For more on what the field guides are and to order, click here: Field Guides for the Way.

http://www.kristenleighkludt.com/

Kristen Leigh Kludt

Kristen Leigh Kludt is a writer, speaker, and contemplative adventurer. Creator of Field Guides for the Way and author of A Good Way Through, Kristen is a gifted story-teller and teacher. She is growing daily toward a life of integrity and love and invites others to do the same. She is a member of The Chapter and serves on the board for ReIMAGINE, a Center for Integral Christian Practice. She lives, works, and plays in San Francisco’s East Bay with her husband and two young sons.

Posted by k2mulder in Beloved, Guest Posts, 0 comments

Peace Be With You in 2019

On the precipice of 2019, before we delve into the thickets of the everyday for another year, we consider what faces us. We may be surveying a clear-cut trail that marches off to the horizon, but more likely we see a wilderness. For some it is covered with fog, for others with threatening storm clouds, for a few with dancing sunshine. Regardless, no one knows truly what lies ahead. We all stand looking at an unknown future, and for you, as it is for everyone, that produces anxiety. Every one of us has anxiety at some level about the future. We may not feel it exactly now, or we may be embroiled in the risen blood pressure, sleeplessness, and aching shoulders that accompany it.

As I’ve interacted with a lot of people over these final weeks of 2018, over and over again, I have found the need to pray peace and mercy into their lives—into YOUR lives! I’ve considered many different year-beginning posts, and this is what I felt Jesus wanted to speak into you and your year:

Peace be with you.

Peace be with you, now, and in all the “now’s” that follow, for each step of the journey into the year—for the trembling tiptoes, the aching shuffle, the crippled effort, the leaping plunge, the daring stride, the mundane pace, the exuberant skip, the delighted dance—peace be with you.

My friends, sometimes we have to close our eyes to the vastness before us to better sense who is with us now. There is much to distract, overwhelm, or terrify our hearts when we try to take it all in at once. So, if you are looking ahead into 2019 and it raises your heart rate with fear, close your eyes, breathe deep breaths, and consider that Jesus is looking at you with love. Whatever 2019 holds, it is a sequence of “now” moments. If we can meet Jesus in our present moments, our future will unfold with peace. Don’t look for him in the future, look for him right now.

My 2018 was full of new and challenging things, full of anxieties and new trajectories, each of which tugged at me to rocket off into an orbit in order to see it from all angles and gain control of these unseen possibilities. It was a constant struggle despite the excitement of the good things happening. If I choose this, then what are all the possible outcomes? If I choose that, then how will that affect this? If I could just see what’s next, then I could make a decision now!

It took a lot of courage to still myself in the midst of this, to exercise my will to trust God in all things by forcing a landing in my comfortable orange chair, feet flat, deep breath in and out, the words “Be still and know that I am God” hanging on each motion of my lungs (Inhale—be, exhale—still, and so on) for five minutes. (I wrote more on this in my post on “Courage Amid the Worries”)

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

I discovered that I truly do have an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1), and even more cherished, that I am beloved. This simple practice that is now daily has done more for my sense of God’s personal love and delight in me, for assuredness that he is for me and with me, and that he is trustworthy, than any other practice. This has become foundational for my days and I pray it becomes yours.

My #oneword365 for 2018 was “courage”. I thought it would mean courage to move in new directions, to try new things, and it did, but far more so, it meant courage to be still.

Take heart, my friends, to enter 2019 with your eyes closed, your breath reaching into your toes, and your heart focused on Jesus’s love for you right now as you take your first steps.

Peace be with you.

Posted by k2mulder in Being Present, Courage, 2 comments

Courage Amid Worries

Four a.m. is a sly hour. Sometimes I can slide past it in oblivion, other times it wakes in my sub-conscious as a bright new dawn, a photo-bomber of my picture perfect slumber. Last night, it shed its camouflage, and grinned widely at me, enjoying the time to toy with my mind. This is the hour that is raw; the vulnerable, naked time. It is as if all the swaddling comes off my psyche, and I’m left in the crib flailing and wailing (if awake), or completely at peace (if asleep). Honestly, this hour intimidates me.

Last night was one of those unpleasant rousings where the ugly thoughts come out to haunt and ridicule. At this time of night, I’m not laced into focus, my mind is not nimble, and the shrouding darkness leaves a perfect place for me to be ambushed. Unguarded, unfocused, and vulnerable, I am rather like an infant who cannot control herself, let alone protect herself.

For an hour in the dark, I ricocheted between what I call “worrying prayer” and brainstorming solutions. “Worrying prayer” is babbling all my thoughts, like a litany of desperation, without pause or presence. Essentially, I am bombarding God’s ear with my worry. He is gracious and allows me this, but I have learned that I cannot possibly receive an answer in this state. Have you ever tried to talk reason, or love, into someone wound up like a top in their worried spiraling? It’s like speaking to an infant who doesn’t talk yet. He or she really doesn’t have the capacity to take it in. Likewise, worry occupies all the available circuits to take in these words of comfort or guidance, so nothing can attach to brake the spiral.

I have taught my children to pray in these moments, to bend whatever power of thought they have toward the eternal light of Jesus’ love, to spend their minutes remembering and calling for his help. They have told me of numerous times that Jesus has come and settled them, even within nightmares. This is what I was attempting to do at four o’clock in the morning.

In between ricochets, I kept telling myself to remember that this is a vulnerable time for my spirit, that I have an enemy who wants to distract and dismay, and to recall what the Lord has been speaking to me regarding these things I’m worrying about. Essentially — Be still, Kimberley! Hold your plank! (See last week’s post about holding your plank to develop courage in stillness.)

As I spun around again and again, these internal reminders acted as a visual anchor to my spinning soul, like watching your parent standing patiently at the side of the spinning ride. Even though my mind continued its circuits, I knew peace awaited me. When the mental gyrations slowed enough for me to set foot on the solid ground of truth, I looked intensely for Jesus. I needed my woozy brain to lock into peace.

If you’ve ever gotten off a merry-go-round, a tilt-a-whirl, or any other spinning amusement park ride, you know that finding a focal point for your eyes will ease your head back to stability. As my whirling mind slowed and moved tentatively forward, I asked Jesus for a word, a feeling, something to help ground me and keep me from orbiting back out into anxiety.

Immediately, he gave me a picture. I saw him, not in great detail but definite in presence, stooping low to look me in the eye, motioning with his hand to keep my eyes locked on his. We were entering a narrow passageway in a cave.

I suffer a mild claustrophobia at times. I don’t like narrow caves. Once, in Colorado, I balked at one, almost returning to the surface and waiting for the others. But the guide told me its dimensions, and my husband and he would go before and after me, talking with me to keep me calm. Knowing the length made it manageable; knowing I had help made it possible. I did it, which helped me in future times when I faced a similar challenge.

To add exquisite depth to this story, the reason I was in this precarious state at four in the morning was because we are taking financial risks at the Lord’s leading. I am way outside my comfort zone. Our finances are tight, and likely getting tighter. Cave analogy, anyone?

Not only now for my sleep-addled brain high on adrenaline, but also for the time to come with its consequences regarding our daring choices and the looming “what-ifs”, Jesus gave me exactly what I needed: “Lock your eyes on me. I will lead you through this tight space.”

This is a word that is especially rich personally for the present moment, but its reverberations stretch into eternity. Not only is he speaking peace and courage into my present heart palpitations, but he comforts with the promise that as I follow him through these tight financial places at his bidding, like a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24), my future is secure (Matthew 19:29).

If you, like me, are feeling the pull of a worry spiral, expend your energy on remembering who God is, what He has said to you personally, and focus all your attention on Him. When a moment settles, ask Him to fill it with His presence, a word, a picture, some grace to latch on to.

May you find the ground beneath you,

As you step off the worry-go-round,

Focused amid the trembling,

Sure, maybe not of your steps,

But of His care,

His purpose,

His Love,

Presence,

Peace.

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Courage, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments