Anxiety and Choosing Joy



           I tend to attract wild seasons.

          My heart continually and precariously balances between the idyllic blend of adventure and normalcy. On one side, I am restless, bored, and numb when life starts to feel like Groundhog Day. On the other, I am a homebody who loves routine and craves consistency. This, as you may imagine, is a recipe for disaster.

          Our friends like to say we tend to go big or go home.

          2017 began with traipsing around Uganda with my husband, our two darling children, and several of our closest friends. We volunteer with an organization that we love deeply. It was a wonderful month but it came (as many things do) with its own cocktail of complications. What we didn’t know then, were these complexities were really a foreshadow of the next few months.  Life was anything but normal upon return stateside. The Lord began to shift where He wanted to use our gifts and time.  

Here are a few snippets of the "Great Shift" we have experienced thus far:

  • We immediately began the process to become foster parents, a decision we made prior to leaving for our trip. It has been a long journey, and we expect to welcome a little life sometime within the next month. (By the time you read this, I will once again be in the throes of newbornhood… foggy brain, tired eyes, and diaper blowouts.) The reality of adding a third kid is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, but a third kid that has a traumatic past and an unknown future? There is no way to fully prepare your heart for this.

  • My husband is transitioning his role in his job and returning to graduate school in the fall to get his masters in business. I am thrilled for him, as this has been a dream since we met eleven years ago.

  • Through many conversations, I decided it was time to step back from my job, too. For the last six years, I had been working very part time as a RN in a neonatal intensive care unit. I loved my job, and it entwined in my identity. Letting that part of me go was like tearing muscle from skin.  However, I knew I would never ever regret the decision to stay home with my babies; they grow entirely too quick.

          As my plate grew fuller, my stress level grew, too. I was now leaning heavily towards the “adventure” side with no end in sight.

          These exciting changes brought about a lot of NEW: new routines, a new financial load, new responsibilities, and an unknown horizon (which was a new experience for us). Even though I knew God was leading and allowing us room to trust Him, I wanted the life I knew back. I craved routine. The wind could blow funny and I would melt into a puddle. I hit my threshold.

          Does this sound familiar? I am told there is a word for it.


          It took me weeks to swallow that pill. To admit anxiety is something I struggle with. Admitting wouldn’t be so hard if it didn’t mean you were automatically labeled. A label that is tempting to hide behind when things grow difficult.

           I believe that at the core of who we are, we desire most to be fully known.

          Our people want to love and help, but sometimes the easiest thing to do is to flash our labels instead of doing the hard work of digging deeper.

          “Her anxiety is rearing up again.”

          “He just has a short temper.”

          “That is how she deals with her feelings; she will be fine.”

           I wish I could tell you there is a magic elixir that made it all better, but really the most helpful antidote I have found in these seasons is to lean on what I know, which has boiled down to four things:

  1. Identify my protective factors.

  2. Find the root.

  3. Allow space for intimacy.

  4. Choose Joy

          Protective factors are things that fill us. They bring life. Energy. They help to keep depression at bay. But they also take discipline.

          I love to run. I gain energy from working out. I’m a verbal processor, so a coffee date with a trusted friend can do wonders. A quiet moment alone reading a book fills my cup (introverts unite!… separately, in your own homes). But above all else: worship. Worshipping quiets my spirit and puts me in touch with my creator, and it changes e v e r y t h i n g. See (Psalm 63 & 100:1-5).

          These are my protective factors. What are yours?  Those activities that make you come alive. That remind you who you are and whose you are. The people who show you grace and compassion and love. The moments that instill rest and self-care.

          Eventually, we need to ask ourselves: what is at the root of our struggle? Is there a previous trauma that needs to be identified and addressed? Are we holding expectations over ourselves (or others) that are impossible to maintain? What is our motivation behind the things we choose to spend our time and energy on?

          I am a huge proponent of therapists in every season of life, but they can be particularly helpful in this quest. Sometimes we just need an outside perspective, or someone who knows how to ask the right questions.

          Dig deep. Allow people to get intimate and go there with you. Be vulnerable. Be brave. Fix your eyes on Christ.

          "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:7-8

          When we press into Jesus, we draw nearer to the things he has for us.

          Yes, set healthy boundaries. Identify safe people and invite them to speak into your life. Give them permission to call you out when you are piling that plate a little high. But please, also find people who encourage you to take risks because we do a disservice to ourselves by setting the walls too high and too firm. We stay too comfortable and any sort of growth is slowed at best and stagnant at worst.

          The balance beam is not a terrible place to be. There is something wild and freeing living in suspension between the mundane and the unknown. It reminds me of Bilbo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

          So find the people that you can lean on and who will speak truth over you and who will challenge you to step out the door. Find the rhythms of life that will hold you and fill you. But don’t miss the adventure of this one wild and precious life.

          Don’t dodge the chaos; choose joy in the midst of it.

          "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9


Kelsey is a 30-year-old retired NICU nurse who now stays home with her two darling children. Kelsey is a virtual fitness coach, always looking for people to join her wonderful online community where finding joy, health, and balance are of upmost importance. She and her husband of eight years foster infants, serve at their church, and periodically take their crew to Uganda. These, along with red wine and dark chocolate peanut butter cups, are her favorite things.

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— H.B.W.