The year had been filled with victory after victory. We moved while pregnant into a basement apartment with no windows, no oven, no stove, and no dishwasher. Sometimes I heard, “I love it. It’s like camping inside,” as guests looked at my kitchenette and box covered walls. More often I heard, “I don’t know how you can do it. I couldn’t.” I smiled and all was well. I mastered Crock Pot cooking. Pipes froze. Bedrooms flooded. Stomach bug hit us and hit us. I began to waver. My husband was gone six to seven days out of the week between work and construction of our new home. I leaned into the Lord, tired and weary, desperate for aid. On we walked, and I lived in victory. It was a recipe for a serious meltdown. No one could believe how well I was doing. Maybe anxious Ellen was not anxious anymore.
Fast-forward six months. Waves of anxiety fall without pause as the adjustment of a new child and a new home take their toll. One too many times I heard, “I don’t know how you do it,” as I went about my life with my five boys in tow at the grocery store, the library, church, errands. I knew I was floundering because I began to wonder, “How do I do it? This is crazy! I can’t do this, at least not well, and with ALL boys.” I reached out to friends. I knew I needed help, perspective; but the exhaustion of the year before, a new baby, mothering five busy boys, a two year old, unpacking, cancer in the family again, and childhood wounds opened wide…It was too much. The questions and doubts exposed once again anxious Ellen. All of a sudden, I was falling apart from the inside out. I needed one thing, the little pill that gave me space to respond to anxiety.
I didn’t need Jesus. He was already with me. I didn’t need more prayer. I prayed constantly about my need, talking and listening, waiting and seeking. I didn’t need just the right Bible verse. I had not suddenly forgotten or questioned the meditations born into my heart. They were the light in the darkness. I needed the one thing I did not have: space to respond to anxiety. Space to make order of the chaos. Space to rest in the midst of panic and fear. Space to see and hear what was pure and true about my life, about me. Space to know that the ground Jesus and I had walked once before was not lost. I was not anxious Ellen exposed for her true self. I was Ellen in a state of anxiety. My old victories were not undone. A new victory was mine just ahead.
I did not need to wait any longer. I did not need to have another anxiety attack. I needed help, and it was there waiting for me to receive it.
God ordered my days. I stopped my errands mid-stream and drove straight to the walk-in clinic with all five kids in tow. All of my needs were met. An old friend was there who offered to keep the boys. I was seen promptly by a gracious caregiver. Moved by compassion, she made exceptions to the rule, insisted on a follow-up with my doctor, and called in my prescription. I had the space I needed for the appointment and soon I would have space to respond meaningfully to the anxiety. I greeted my children and thanked our old friend. As we said our goodbyes, she was called back for her appointment.
I had a lot of fears to cast on the Lord. I had been casting them, but before they seemed to bounce back. With space, I could see them, cast them, and not be beaten by the constant return. I cast my fears on the Lord, my fears as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend—and He cared for me. In countless ways, I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of the Lord day after day.
And once again, I find freedom that in our weakness, His strength is made known. My weakness can be His strength when He is mine and I am His.
People still ask me, “How do you do it,” but I no longer feel anxiety within. Now, I feel thanks for the kindness of God and a little pill. I live day to day in victory with my five kids in tow, and I am grateful, so very grateful that the pit of anxiety did not swallow me up. I reached out for aid. I took hold of the gift given. I am overwhelmed by the new victory of it all.
To those who suffer, may you too know victory. You are not alone. It is not your failure, but your circumstance. Accept every aid he has for you without shame or doubt. Hold fast to Him in the valley of the shadow. Our God is the one who brings life, sets the captives free, and walks with us every step of the way. He is good and His love endures. May we sing together this song of victory even in the valley of the shadow because the darkness cannot swallow those in Christ. It just feels like it sometimes.