Waves of Panic

Waves 2

(Join Robynn as she sorts through circumstances that have jumbled her emotions and mixed up her metaphors!)

My passport application is being processed. It was rejected the first time because the photo had some flash glare on the forehead and some shady shadows lurking along behind my neck. That put us at least three weeks behind schedule. We frantically searched out a place in Kansas that successfully takes Canadian passport photos. That took a couple of days and involved an unexpected drive into Kansas City. I couriered the application with a new photo again to Passport Canada in Quebec.

Now I wait.

Once we receive the passport back we’ll need to quickly send it to the Indian Consulate to get a tourist visa. That takes 10-14 days too I imagine–although maybe longer since I’m a Canadian applying from the US.

We have tickets to fly out at the end of November.

To further complicate things, a couple of days into the waiting, we received notice that our credit limit on our credit card was over-extended. Of course there are tickets on there and a large order of Lowell’s recently published book. Lowell’s visa to India and the children’s visas are on there too.

I wrote a check to cover our credit card bill. Lowell called and had our credit extended.

And then it hit me: That’s the same card we charged the passport to. The panic wells up inside my stomach and up into my chest. When did the book charge go through? Would Passport Canada already have tried to charge the card for the passport? Or maybe not yet?

I want this trip to India so badly. It’s a trip home for me. It means more than a simple trip overseas (although are those ever simple travel trips for anyone?). To me this trip is an oasis. It’s a true holy-day. It’s childhood and memory. It’s revisiting deep friends, deep places. It’s revisiting me.

And yet, I am completely out of control in this situation. There’s nothing more I can do. I’ve done everything I can….including plead-praying and soliciting others to pray more steady prayers. All I can do now is wait.

In the waiting I do have these waves of peace. The dates and deadlines become fuzzy and I can just about see past the timeframe to Jesus. He stands there reassuringly. I can nearly hear him whisper that it will be okay. I breathe in and I breathe out. I am consoled.

Suddenly, without warning, another wave washes up on my face. Saltwater is in my eyes. I can no longer see Jesus….or anything at all, really. It’s blurry and teary and water stained. I’m blinded by fear. It wears me down pushing me into the surf, the mealy sand down below. I hurt. I’m disoriented. I’m confused. I’m walking visionless. But I manage to stand. Sort of. And I toddle back in toward the beach.

Straightaway another wave hits. But this one is calmer and quieter. Peace wets my toes and washes up my calves. My soul is once again ordered and stable, serene. Life is good. I can do this thing. I am at rest and confident. Jesus walks with me. I sigh with relief and contentment. My faith is restored. It will be okay. I will not be destroyed. The trip will happen.

I’m walking up the shore and unexpectedly I’m soaked from the rear with yet another huge wave. It washes the sand out from under my feet and I fall face first into the grit and grief. I didn’t see this one coming. It soaks me through. Once again I can’t see: water in my face, grief-grit in my eyes. I’m choking on salt-sobs. Panic-drenched I shiver with fear. I can’t swallow. I do the math. I count the days. There’s no way this can possibly work out.

Waves of peace; waves of faith; waves of panic; waves of fear.

I’m tossed and in turmoil.

I used to think being a person of faith meant that I would never doubt. Any flicker of doubt was met with disappointment. Did I not believe? However, now I think that having faith means experiencing a range of emotions, some even seemingly in conflict with true faith. Faith is shallow and meaningless if it cannot handle my queries and my questions. I need to be able to express my fear and my rage, my angst and my agonies to God in order for it to qualify as sincere believing faith. It’s going to be messy and untidy. Faith doesn’t organize well. You can’t alphabetize it and file it. It involves a type of continuum tight-rope-walk crossing. The continuum that lies between belief and doubt, strength and weakness, bravery and fear. Faith takes us out across that continuum. It walks us through those waves of fear, panic, peace and faith.

So I wait, with my faith in my throat, by the mail box. I keep looking and believing and hoping and wondering how this story will end. I brace myself for the waves. I squint my eyes and try to see Jesus in it with me…sometimes I think I catch glimpses of him; sometimes I don’t.

The apostle James wrote in a letter once, “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”  I am certain that my loyalties are not divided. I keep coming back to God. I know He really is my only option. Where else can I possibly go? But in the believing there are real waves of wet emotion. And it’s the emotions that toss me about, wave after wave.

As long as we come back to faith, come back to our Solid Ground, come back to Jesus our forays into fear and sinking sand don’t destroy us. They don’t weaken us. We come back and we find that reassurance and rest available in Jesus…who’s perfect love casts out our fear.

Until it resurfaces.

And then His love casts it out again.

And so the cycle goes on….in an honest real experience of faith. Meanwhile I’ll keep checking the mail!


When the Sh*t hits the fan!


We love to watch the show, MythBusters. On MythBusters  Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman and their team use the scientific method to prove or disprove movie stunts, YouTube videos, rumours, myths, news stories, idioms or even their own personal curiosities. They tackle seemingly impossible hypotheses to see if there is any truth in them at all. My personal favourites are their attempts to test idioms.  In season 9, episode 3 they tested the plausibility of the English expression, “When the shit hits the fan”! A series of ridiculous experiments revealed something quite unexpected and it certainly made me laugh and gave me pause to think.

According to the online urban dictionary “shit hits the fan” when ‘things get chaotic or uncontrollable’ or it’s ‘the point at which an already unstable situation devolves into utter chaos’.

Our family has a long-standing attachment to the word ‘shit’—I know it’s shocking but true! My mom and dad never permitted us to use swear words or foul speech when I was growing up. The word ‘fart’ was even off-limits. In our home we passed gas. At the very worst we “tooted” or “cut the cheese”.

We never farted. That was crude and crass and completely unacceptable.

The only exception was the word “shit”…and that only if we said it with a Pakistani accent. Something about that combination made my dad start to shake. The little lines around his eyes would start up first and eventually his convictions would melt off his face into complete laughter. It never failed. Dad would laugh and mom would say his name, “Gary!” with as much as sternness as she could muster as if dad himself had used the offending language!

Later when Lowell and I moved to India we had other opportunities to use the word. In our experience in North India, shit is the expletive of choice for anyone who speaks any amount of English. It’s not really a cuss word. Shit is used to denote poop, plain and simple. The ancient place we rented on the banks of the Ganges River provided ample opportunity to use the word. Frequently the sewage backed up on our bathroom floor. Using the word was a way to secretly let off some frustration but it was also a way to communicate to our landlady what was going on! She understood that word.

The word shit isn’t just used to talk about sewer– it has a variety of uses in India. It was a word that sympathized. When I told our landlady that my dad had been in the church that was attacked by terrorists in Islamabad in 2002, her first response, with her hand quickly coming to touch my arm and her face contorting in sadness and sympathy was, Ah shit!”  When I told her that Lowell had dengue fever, I got the same face with the same concern and the same word of choice, Ah shit!” When I told her something funny that had happened in the market she would laugh and say, “Oh shit!” When I showed her the bathroom floor where the sewage had backed up she’d groan and appropriately exclaim, “Oh shit!”

So you can imagine my intrigue and my amusement with the episode on MythBusters where they try to prove the validity to that interesting expression, “when the shit hits the fan”!

The funny thing is after Jamie and Adam had gone to the work of creating their own blue simulated poo, making a testing site, setting up a fan and then throwing the blue poo into the fan, not much happened. It was so anti-climactic! The blue poo just sort of hit the fan’s protective grate and then fell with a disappointing thud to the ground. They made some changes. They made their blue poo more gooey, they increased the size of the fan, they removed the grate. Eventually they were not disappointed. The blue goo flew! The anticipated results were finally actualized.

It made me stop and think.

Sometimes we expect our stresses and our strains to be far more grand and far-reaching than they are. Our imaginations move into our fears and we become anxious and over-wrought. We dream up horrors and hells and we allow them to paralyze our souls. These fears keep us awake at night. They force us to the edge of our calm. We live in dread of the “shit hitting the fan”.

But what if the shit just sort of plonks against the grate and nothing much happens? What if our worst fears are never actually realized? Or when they are realized we see it wasn’t as we thought it would be? Perhaps we’re stronger than we thought we’d be. Perhaps God was more Present than we thought He’d be. Perhaps our support structures held more than we thought they would.

I think about all the time I’ve spent dreading, fearing, and imagining the worst. (I’ve written about some of them: Better Widow than a Wife, When Fear Proves Love). I’ve spent hours blowing up my anxieties, like balloons for a funeral. I’ve wasted more hours trying to think up ways to protect myself from those same dreaded outcomes.

Like Jamie, on Mythbusters, I’ve donned perfect protective gear to safeguard against the flying poop.  More often than not, it never hits.

I’m not entirely sure what the answer is. I do want to live more fully in my now, in my here. Hopefully the pathetic results of Adam and Jamie’s test will remain with me and tutor me. What they worst feared didn’t actually happen! Jesus didn’t use the expression, “when the shit hits the fan”, but he did teach on imagined future dreads.  He wanted us to live today!

                So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Repost Because It’s so True! ~ A Penny for “Don’t Worry”

If I had a penny for every time one of my children said “Don’t Worry!” I’d be a gazillionaire! I don’t even know if there is such a thing but I would be one.

Me: “Make sure you get the paper in to your history teacher!”

He: “Don’t Worry! I’ll get it in!” …. 9 hours later

Me: “Did you get the history paper in on time?”‘

He: “Oh no – Mom, I’m so, so sorry!”

Next scenario:

Me: “Make sure you’ve let your work know that you won’t be available this next weekend”

She: “Don’t Worry! You know I won’t forget”….. Weekend comes.

She: “Oh crap, I forgot to let my work know I wouldn’t be there”

Me (under my breath): “Don’t Worry!” (Said the way no mother should ever speak: with sarcasm)

The scenarios differ but the words are always and forever the same. Need the garbage taken out? Don’t worry! Need the cat fed, plants watered, dishwasher emptied? Don’t worry! Need a GPA that will allow you to graduate from high school? Don’t worry! Need to save yourself from going crazy? Don’t worry!

It’s amazing the power those two words hold for teenagers. In their minds this is the answer for everything, better still, isn’t it what moms want to hear? Somehow the words sink into their brains and convince them that their moms really don’t need to worry, that they have everything under control. They, with their tiny bank accounts, hair from hell, and inability to get to school on time are in control?  Awesome.

But worst of all, when they use those dreadful words, and later come and look at me with big, sad eyes and true conviction that I am right, I melt and forgive them on the spot. I temporarily forget that the words exist and hug them thinking how boring my world would be without these ingrates.

When I look closely at the penny there are four significant words at the very top. It is these words that challenge me and make me think maybe my kids are right about this  “Don’t worry!” mantra.  In reality, the only words strong enough to combat my worry are the words “In God We (I) trust”. It’s those words that will sustain me until the next “Don’t worry.”

And now I need to go and phone one of them. Somehow I know the conversation will go like this:

Me: “This is your first day of work. Make sure you’re not late!”

He: “Don’t worry!”

One more penny for my growing savings account.