Thoughts on… {Gratitude}

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for fear. That’s a strange statement, I know, but it’s true: I’m grateful for what worrying has taught me. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life, and this year I’ve realized that as frustrating as that journey has been, I wouldn’t trade it even if I could. It’s been an incredible blessing in disguise, and today I wanted to explain why. 

Here’s a little piece of my story. 🙂

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I think my life can come across as mostly perfect on this blog. I’m a pretty cheerful person and I love making beautiful, positive posts to brighten your day. But you should know that my life isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. And I feel like I owe you guys a look at the hard stuff since I so faithfully share the good stuff.

I’ve been afraid my whole life. Most of the time I wasn’t afraid of some specific event or object; I was just afraid in general. I only recently realized that’s called “anxiety.” I kinda feel guilty using that term so lightly because “anxiety” seems like a label reserved for people with intense, debilitating fear and insecurity that limits their lives like an illness does. My anxiety hasn’t really stopped me from doing things because… well, if I waited until to do something until it stopped scaring me, I’d never go anywhere or do anything of importance. So I did it anyway – while feeling mildly terrified.

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I’m not sure when the anxiety started. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel worried. Even as a little kid I was always worrying about money, worrying about family and friends, worrying about my reputation, and especially worrying about doing the right thing. I was the most conscientious “good girl” you’ve ever met. When I got home from school (I went to private school through 3rd grade and then was homeschooled), I immediately sat down on the floor in the foyer, opened my backpack, and didn’t go a step further until I’d finished my homework. I was that really annoying child who asked my parents about every little thing because I didn’t want to be disobedient.

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See, I desperately wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to please God, please my parents… please everybody, actually. And I did a pretty good job of it. But inside, I was a wreck. If it looked like we were going to be late to school, if it seemed like I’d hurt someone, if I had to go somewhere or be in a situation where I didn’t know what to do or what was happening, I got so. Stressed. Out. 

Thank the Lord I was raised in a family and a church where I never doubted that God accepted me by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through my own good works. I’d have probably died otherwise. But it’s one thing to know about grace and another thing to live it out. I still felt immense pressure to do right. I needed to please. And to do that, I needed to be in control. So I was either bossy or worried (or both.) My poor siblings. 

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As I grew up, God mercifully put me in situations I couldn’t control, where I didn’t know what was happening and didn’t know what I was supposed to do. And every time the stress of that broke me a little more, it also grew my faith a little deeper. Because it made me understand down to my core that I simply cannot not handle life on my own. I need someone to cling to.

So when my heart was aching with anxiety and stress, I prayed. When there was nowhere else to turn, I turned to Christ. And He held me. Always. Even when the very reason I ran to Him was because I refused to surrender to Him, even when it was my own stubbornness and disobedience that was hurting me, he opened His arms patiently and without judgement.

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The book of Psalms has always been one of my favorites because of the way David unashamedly brings his real emotions, requests, and entire self to God. No holding back. No hiding. My fear stripped away any pretense of trying to hide who I was from God. He was my comfort precisely because I didn’t need to clean myself up first. I came as I was, trusting Him not to leave me that way.

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The more I came to God, the more He alive he became to me. To be clear, my faith is not some warm feeling about an imaginary friend I bring to life in my mind. No, I believe in God’s existence intellectually as well as emotionally because I believe He is Truth. We can talk about that later. But my point here is that while I’ve always been good at knowing about God, my anxiety forced me to know Him. Why? Because you can’t have a strong relationship without communication. The more you talk and listen to someone, the better you know them and the more you trust them.

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Another thing that happens when you really love someone is that everything brings them to mind. The more real God made Himself to me, the more I could see Him and His love for me in so many little things – sunlight on the floor, a smile from a friend, an unexpected patch of mushrooms, a good book or movie or song…

And that’s what I share with you guys on this blog – all the little things I’m grateful for. Looking for those shards of grace helps me slow down and count my blessings instead of my… stressings. (Hehe, that should be a word.) This blog is a way to repay my debt, in a manner of speaking. It’s a way to remind myself of how much I have to be grateful for, but also to share some beauty with you and to remind you to look for the light wherever you are. 

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These days I don’t struggle with fear as much as I used to. This year especially, my stubborn brain is finally starting to accept what God has been patiently teaching me all along: my only hope for rest and happiness is in surrendering all to Him. Although I’ve always trusted God alone for my salvation, I trusted a little bit of God plus a whole lot of “being nice and doing the right thing so everyone likes me” for my happiness.

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I bring this up because we’re heading into the season which often feels like the opposite of rest, a season which carries with it huge temptations to find your happiness in material things or in pleasing other people. My friend, I’ve learned in my short 21 years of life that we need an identity based on something outside of ourselves. If we’re to truly be grounded, we need a foundation that won’t change the way everything in this world changes and fades away.

So do you need rest? Come to Jesus. Come with your weariness, your worry, your desperation. Come with your desire for control, your need to please, your heavy insecurities. Come with empty hands and a full heart – He is big enough to handle all of your fears and failures. You don’t have to hide anything from Him. He already knows. I can attest that His presence is enough to get you through it all, because nothing – not other people’s expectations, not tragedies and hardships, not even your own traitorous heart – can separate you from your Father.

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The world isn’t safe, and I’m probably always going to worry about silly things. But this year, I’m grateful for blessings in disguise and for a life I can’t control, one filled with bumps and battles. God doesn’t promise to always give us what we want, but He promises to always give us what we need. And He promises to be with us in the midst of the fight. 

So why should I be afraid? If the brokenness of life helps me grow closer to Christ, why should I fear it? Maybe those thorns I keep running into are really rosebushes. And maybe… no, certainly, His power is made perfect in my weakness.

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give me the tangled, brushy woods,
the twisty streams,
the rolling mysteries.
let them teach me to
wander life the same:
a divine mystery
waiting to be discovered.
is not God here
even in the most
tangled times?
with him,
the world glows.

-(from my poem book, Seeing Beyond)

***Allison***

62 thoughts on “Thoughts on… {Gratitude}

  1. Hi Allison, I hope this is your name. Mine is Samba. Your story is beautiful and an exact replica of mine. I too have had many fears, even fears to be better, thinking when I’m better I will become too proud and turn away from God. But I thank God that as I know him better, these fears are being turned into more faith and trusting and resting on his promises daily. Thank you for sharing and may God continue to shape you into his likeness. Much love!!!

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    1. Yes, I’m Allison! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for reading mine, Samba. It’s really special to hear from you. Ah, I understand what you mean about not wanting to become “better” and lose that dependence on God. But praise God for His strength in our weakness and for His grace all the same when we’re strong, right? Thanks for the comment. ❤

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  2. Interesting post, its good that you have your faith! Anxiety isn’t a disorder, anxiety is a normal part of life, some people feel it more acutely than others.

    Anxiety is a healthy response that keeps people alive, in the stone age if a person saw a lion, they would get anxcious and it would help them prepare for how to deal with the lion the next time they saw it.

    It still has some purpose today even if its not as obvious. If you are anxcious about preparing a speach, or public speaking, you will prepare more than if you didn’t feel the anxiety.

    I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life, and in many ways, it has limited my life, but I don’t think about it negatively any more, those situations where the anxiety got the best for me, jobs where I was unsuited etc were not meant for me. It was the situations that were the problem and not the anxiety. Like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

    In our society, Canada at least, there seems to be a 1 size fits all approach to life and welbeing in general. This is wrong.

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    1. Yes, you’re right! Sometimes anxiety or fear is the good and proper response – it’s a self-defense mechanism! I just need to be careful not to worry about things for the wrong reasons… Thanks for reading!

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      1. Of course Allison! No sweat involved and I try to speak out to do a bit of good primarily, but, if I drop the ball I’m also as willing to listen!

        I’m like most guys I can be an egghead too at times! But my heart always wins out and rules my mindset! Additionally I also refuse to be a doormat or punching bag!!! Been there done that; so that is a flash point! Watch this Italian if they do that!

        A beautiful essay blog posting by the way, as I didn’t rub that it in which I should have; its excellent and finely done!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Allison. I have also struggled with generalized anxiety ever since I can remember, and social anxiety since I was eleven. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially since those aren’t the only mental struggles I deal with. I think a lot of people don’t realize how many people nowadays struggle with anxiety (and other mental disorders), but it’s definitely become more and more prevalent, and I think that it’s super important that people share their stories so that it can become more accepted.
    I’m glad that you’re able to lean on God for support! Try as I might, that doesn’t come easily to me, but I know I need to keep trying.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Chole – and thanks for sharing your story as well. I know, anxiety is definitely really prevalent today. I think it’s important to explain and understand the issue, but I don’t want it to be “accepted” in the sense that we feel there’s no reason to change. Anxiety isn’t necessarily life-threatening, but it’s not as good as freedom from fear! I don’t have that freedom yet and no human on this earth ever really will, but it’s something I’m moving toward with God’s grace.
      Aww, well trusting God for support certainly doesn’t always come easily to me either. That’s another way I can try to be “in control,” actually – by working hard to feel close to God to the point where it makes me more anxious when it doesn’t go as planned, haha. I’m so glad God is powerful and loving enough to hold me even when I can’t hold fast to Him very well myself.

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  4. Thank you for sharing, Allison. I really appreciate hearing more about you and your life. God bless you, and I hope you have a great weekend. I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

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  5. This was so good to read! I love hearing more about your faith, and where God has brought you through the trials that life brings!
    It’s simple to be thankful for the hard things, the not so good things; but it’s hard to do!! Recognizing how much God uses the not so great experiences in life for good, is truly amazing!!

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  6. Thanks for sharing! You don’t know how much I relate to this. I’ve experienced the same in my life, both the anxiety, and how the Lord has used it to draw me closer to Him. I’m reminded of Paul, who saw his “thorn in the flesh” as something that helped him rely on God. I think anxiety has been a lot like that to me. Thanks again for sharing!

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    1. Ah yes, that’s actually exactly what I’ve compared it to sometimes! Thank you so much for reading, Graham, and for the comment as well. I would say I’m glad you can relate but… I’m not really, haha. You know what I mean, though.

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  7. I like your beautiful post Allison. And I can relate in many ways. My fears are a bit different, but they are still fears and anxiety that can keep me awake at night, or even give me a super tiny anxiety attack. My faith also helps calm my fears, and my talks with God help me turn my worries over to him. Thank you for sharing your story! ❤🙏🤗

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  8. Oh my goodness, this sounds like an enneagram type one. Which is my type…which means YES I FEEL THAT. I think you described my life. Ha Coming to the realization that you don’t have to be perfect TODAY and that this is a process. Allowing yourself to BECOME—a little tiny bit everyday—is such a good lesson to learn. Not everyone experiences such a loud inner critic, but those that do have to work every day to overcome that voice that brings so much anxiety. Yet I am grateful—for the lessons, for the gifts it’s given me.

    (You should research ones! If you think that might be you. There are such good self care ideas and aha moments out there! If you have questions, feel free to ask as well! I love discussing personal growth :):)

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    1. Aww, yessss. ❤ I definitely get how that feels.
      Okay, maybe so! I haven't felt that much like a one in the enneagram stuff I've read, but I also just haven't researched it much. It's fun to talk about, though! 🙂

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          1. That’s actually pretty common with the enneagram, which can be frustrating. Ha It takes so much root work to really know one’s self sometimes! I’d be more than happy to dig deeper if you’d like—but if it’s not interesting enough to you, I totally get it! XD It’s not something everyone loves :):)

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing so openly, Allison! While I haven’t struggled with anxiety, there both have been and are similar things in my life. What a comfort it is to know that Jesus’ grace is greater and that He is using these things to draw us closer to Him! ♥️

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  10. Oh my!
    I never knew you had anxiety ❤️
    Hope it gets better…
    You should read girl online.. ❤️
    It’s about a girl that suffers from anxiety…
    And how she gets over it!

    I’m so sorry for all you’ve gone through ❤️❤️❤️

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    1. Aww, you’re so sweet. ❤ I don't struggle with it as much now, thankfully, but it's still part of my life. Thanks for the blog recommendation! And thanks for reading.

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  11. It’s funny how much our stories are similar. I understand how stressing and the pressure to be in control can affect other people. I hate how bossy I can be to my siblings.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your amazing photography gift. I love your blog.
    I hope you will view my blog

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    1. Yes! I can totally relate to that. Being bossy to my siblings was actually one of the first things I remember praying about when I was little, because I hated that about myself. And although I can still be bossy, God has definitely matured me a lot in that area. Thank you for reading my post, Deanna! I’ll check out your blog too.

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  12. My struggles with anxiety have been minor and always about giving up control for trust in the One who is in perfect control… so I barely relate.

    But… this struck me as very profound… I can’t explain why. You didn’t say anything I haven’t heard and understood before, yet it hit my heart differently and taught me more. I really appreciate it. And I’m grateful, so grateful to hear another testimony of God reaching in to deliver people from anxiety… As one who tries to help people with anxiety on a regular basis this is of great encouragement to me. God never fails to come through! I will be thanking Him for your story in my prayers for years to come as I pray for others.

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    1. Wow. Liam, that means a lot. Thank you for reading my story and for encouraging others who struggle with anxiety. I can relate to reading/hearing something that you’ve already heard before, but being hit particularly hard by the information one time. The Spirit at work, I suppose! Anyway, I’m grateful you took the time to read this post and share a bit of your story.

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  13. This was absolutely encouraging, Allison, especially for the season in my life right now. 🙂 I struggle with being fearful quite often because of perfectionism. I worry about what others may say, what I may say, how things will work out, the future and much more because I want things to be “perfect.” I prefer to be in control because then I can direct how I want things to be done and I crave something that is absolutely unrealistic. But the thing is, the Lord has been showing me that what I want isn’t always best. Just because the desire I have is a good thing, that does not mean it will glorify Him. ❤ I’ve been learning how to truly trust God with my life since I don’t know what He has planned, including the trials. Surely it is still a challenge and I will sometimes leave God out, but He always brings me back to Him.

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    1. Ah, I’m really happy this post could encourage you, Heaven. I can definitely relate with feeling anxious because of perfectionism. Yes, and the being control thing! I understand. *sigh* That’s a great point about how we can go about acting on even good desires in ways that don’t glorify Him. And yes, praise God that He brings us back to Him even when we’re not strong enough to hold on ourselves! Thank you for sharing a piece of your story, and thanks for reading a piece of mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. As soon as I began reading this, I thought of two books that helped me when I struggled severely with anxiety: “Hind’s Feet on High Places” and the classic “Pilgrim’s Progress” and its sequel, the story of Christiana. Have you ever read those books? It was a real pleasure discovering your blog and reading your transparent story here – I look forward to reading more from you!

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    1. I’ve read both of those books and ah, I LOVE “Hind’s Feet on High Places”! One of my favorites. Thanks for sharing book recommendations – and for reading my post! I’m glad you’re here. 🙂

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