The Big Steps, I Can Do. The Little Ones, Not So Much.

I didn’t walk into the library for five months. I didn’t turn in our membership application for the local fitness gym because I couldn’t walk through the front door. Appointments for myself will not be called in because I fear talking to what is on the other side of the line–that I will embarrassingly stumble over words and be shamed.

My anxiety is a deep secret that I have held for years. I do not fear the big steps—moving across the world and saying good-bye to family, sure I can do that, no problem. But ask me to walk into a new place for the first time and I will internally freak out, procrastinating as long as possible, for months even. My fear has been so great at times that I have said no to some great possibilities and relationships.

I cover it pretty well. The only thing a friend might notice is that I say “no” a lot or back out at the last minute. Or that I would much rather correspond by texting than by talking on the phone.

One of God’s greatest mercies to me was giving me kids. Without them, I could hide longer and pretend that I didn’t have a problem. But what do you do when you need to call the doctor for a sick child or sign them up for an activity that requires you to go to a new place? You do it.

This last year has been full of stepping out, even before I wanted to. I learned that obedience comes before the feeling or desire to follow through. When I begin to feel anxious, I have to be reminded that God wants me to receive his power and peace. Too often I reject His offer and let anxiety rule.

Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (ESV)

The other day my husband was telling me about a message he heard from Brene Brown. She said we need to be honest to others about the stories we are telling ourselves in our head. For instance, if we are talking to a friend and they act a certain way that causes us to doubt their care or understanding, we say to them, “You know, here’s the story I’m telling in my head. The story is that I have shared something and you don’t care and maybe don’t want to be here. What’s the real story?” Too often we can sit in false stories—we even get some sort of release from clinging to that story; it makes us feel good for a while, but leads us further into darkness.

As I considered Brown’s words, I was convicted. I tell myself false stories all the time! But God wants to reach down into our hearts and minds and help us to receive HIS true story. That we are loved, capable, and gifted. That we are worthy through Him. That He is with us and will give us the power to do what He has put before us. That we are not a disappointment.

What anxious thoughts or false stories are you letting your heart ponder today? What true story do you need to receive so that you can move forward?

12 Comments

  1. Annalisa August 30, 2015

    Yesterday, actually, my husband and I dealt with something along these lines.  It “ended” with me taking the bus home and him running his final errand alone.  Except that it didn’t end there.

    I was having heightened pre-menstrual hormone stress (or PMS for anyone who isn’t sick of that abbreviation), and, well, he still doesn’t get that I go through that.  When it is combined with other cultural faux pas, it is even worse, but fortunately, yesterday was just me being grumpy and contrary about most everything.

    I somehow got home first (by a lot!) and I started writing.  I won’t share all of it with you–and I’m translating it since he only does Spanish–but it went something like this:
    Fact: I made something yummy out of shrimp this week and I was excited to share it with you. [I had mentioned this to him. I had posted a picture on Facebook.  I had asked if he would want to eat shrimp.  He had said he would bring me some shrimp when he came home, but he came home late.]
    Fact: You took me to Hugo’s [primarily a seafood restaurant with a specialty in ceviche] to eat shrimp
    Fact: We often go out to eat.
    What I feel: You don’t like the food that I prepare.  I am not a good cook.

    My list had about 5 things like that on it–my anxious thoughts and feelings–and when he got home, I presented him with my list, and we cuddled and talked about each one.  He had thought I had been mad at him while my stress has nothing to do with him.  And as far as him taking me out to eat?  He loves my cooking, but he doesn’t like it that I have to take time away from us to cook.  If cooking were something we could do together in our little kitchen, he’d like it if we could cook together.  Those were the true stories that I needed to hear.  Today, he had to do some paperwork for work; so I cooked lunch while he worked on that, and then we ate like the typically happy couple that we are.

    1. Danielle Krouch August 30, 2015

      Yes! I think often breakdowns in communication come from the false things we let ourselves believe. Sometimes I’m scared to actually admit what is going on in my head. Good for you and your husband for talking it out!

  2. Laura August 30, 2015

    I’m right there with you Danielle when it comes to the big steps and little steps. I find it often surprises people because they assume I’m brave and good at transition and change; however, I’m not always good at it. Thank you for the reminder that God will give us the power to do whatever He has put before us; I needed to hear that today!

    1. Danielle Krouch August 30, 2015

      think it’s easier for me to trust God with the big steps. It’s much harder for me to let go of the the daily little steps I need to take. I’m glad you were encouraged today!

  3. Colleen August 30, 2015

    I know this anxiety well and I love that Brene Brown imagery. I have finally been able to reach out and make a couple of expat friends in our community. The first in four years. But texting them like you would a normal friend to just check in or say hey or extend an invitation makes me sick to my stomach and I erase things like a hundred times. In my head, I tell myself I am too much for them, they already had lives here before they met me and just want to be casually nice, not actual friends, that they are rolling their eyes to hear from me again. Their is nothing in their response to me that indicates this is true, ever. But I have to fight back this anxiety every time. Maybe being honest about the story I am telling myself is an important step here. Thanks for this post.

    1. Danielle Krouch August 30, 2015

      Over analyzing what I think others are thinking of me has always been an issue of mine. I have found that counseling has really helped me to address some deeper issues that drive me to these conclusions. I will pray that you can accept the true story and take the steps to make some friends!

      1. Colleen August 30, 2015

        Counseling is helping me battle through some of the heightened issues cross-cultural stress has brought up for me too. Therapy for the win.

        1. Elizabeth August 31, 2015

          “Therapy for the win.” YES!!

          “Over analyzing what I think others are thinking of me has always been an issue of mine.” YES!!

          The crazy thing about social anxiety is that you think you’re the only one and that everyone else feels confident, and then you find out you’re not alone! I’ve dealt with major social anxiety in my life. And now I know that lots of others have it too. Counseling has helped me a lot, but anxiety still rears its head from time to time — especially when I’ve had lots of people time, like this past weekend. People time = more opportunities to say the wrong thing, right?? (Maybe that’s why I turned into a writer and an introvert along the way. . .)

          I know my brain tells me awful things, and I rehash all the awful things I must have said or the awful way I must have come across to people. I have to literally tell myself that those people love me, and even if I made social faux pas, they will still love me. And then toss the thoughts in my “brain trash.” (And besides it probably wasn’t as bad as I think it was anyway.) I even do this online. I will probably tell myself later that writing this comment was wrong all wrong! (And I also read and reread emails and texts before sending, Colleen, and then after, too, just to torture myself.)

          So anyway, neither of you two are alone in your anxiety . . . and also, neither am I! Here’s to telling ourselves the truth and being brave in friendships.  xoxoxoxox

          1. Danielle Krouch August 31, 2015

            “Brain trash”–I like that idea! Oh man, I way over think what people think about what I said or wrote. I can never leave a group discussion feeling like I didn’t talk too much. ?

          2. Elizabeth August 31, 2015

            Yeah, “brain trash” (or maybe it was “brain junk”?) isn’t from me, it’s from a book for kids with OCD. Very helpful idea though!

            And I totally get what you were saying in the post itself — I stressed for MONTHS about having to go to the Embassy to get a driver’s license extension notarized. Those “little” things freak.me.out. I’m afraid I’m going to do them all wrong. It’s really nice to know I’m not the only one!

  4. Ashley Felder August 31, 2015

    Great thoughts, Danielle! Is there a link to that Brene Brown message? I think I’d like to hear it. Plus, I’ve heard a lot about her, but have never actually listened to her. 🙂

  5. Brittaney September 4, 2015

    Danielle,

    Thank you for sharing. I have been telling myself “false stories” for the last while. I arrived home in the states after spending a year in Brazil, just a few days ago. I have struggled with the idea that I’m a failure, a disappointment. I didn’t do all that I hoped to have done or all that I wished I could have done while there. Although I am returning at the end of the year, there’s a bit of fear that comes with that.

    Your words spoke to my heart and while I know I still have things to process and work through, to read the words you wrote, “That we are loved, capable, and gifted. That we are worthy through Him. That He is with us and will give us the power to do what He has put before us. That we are not a disappointment.”  This was soothing to my soul. It is TRUTH I can and will cling to even when it is more “comfortable” to cling to the lies. 

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