There are birds at the feeders, chickadees.
They flit nervous.
Oh, yeah, do I get that.
I watch the light out in the trees, the way it falls across the walls.
Across the calendar and these mushrooming to-do lists and yeah, go ahead, try to remember to breathe.
John Calvin and I remember the year we were four.
The year I was four, my sister was crushed under the wheels of a truck in our driveway. That’s my first memory, the day Aimee was killed.
Fear’s have formed me.
John Calvin’s mother died the year he was four.
Scholar and historian, William J Bouwsma describes Calvin as “a singularly anxious man.”
Oh, yeah, you and me both, good sir.
Calvin buried all three babies he and his wife ever held.
He said he found in the Psalms, “all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”
The man understood fear.
Clouds have skirted in heavy from the west. The walls in the kitchen fall grey and silent.
Joshua’s playing it quietly, up and down the piano this morning, the notes of the Music Box Dancer.
A friend laid out in great detail this weekend how the economy is about to implode. Chronic illness flares. Teenagers ask big questions. I keep smoothing out calendar pages, pushing things back. Oh, c’mon — How do you remember how to dance?
You’ve gotta, right? You’ve gotta dance a bit, laugh loud longer than a bit, throw back your head and feel alive and it doesn’t matter a hill of beans if there are bills stacked like mountain of impossible, you gotta live right through to the end or your invite the end to come now.
So yeah — maybe that’s the Billboard Neon Question for a whole new year rolling itself right out:
What is the answer to anxiety?
Joshua’s playing so sure, the house lilting, tilting with happiness.
And that’s what Mr. Calvin wrote,
“The stability of the world depends on the rejoicing in God’s works….
If on earth, such praise of God does not come to pass… then the whole order of nature will be thrown into confusion…”
Our worlds reel unless we rejoice.
A song of thanks steadies everything.
So there, New Year, there’s your Billboard Neon Answer:
The answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ.
Yeah, so there are piano lessons today and already a little brother’s in a mess of tears because some big brother’s rattled his jangling chain, and oh yeah, we’ve got some sisters arguing loud over who’s turn it is to make the bed (for the love!) and I’ve snapped exasperated, ugly, at a whining middle kid who doesn’t want to stomp through snow and cold just to get a bunch of eggs from the hen house for crying out loud! (literally!)
You better believe it:
Anxiety can wear anger’s mask.
Fear of failing, of falling, of falling behind, it can make us fierce. Oh, yes’m: Life can be messy before nine in the morning.
Joshua’s tripping on some notes now.
The thermometer out on the tree, it’s mercury is sluggish and heavy. Hard frost lines windows. So yeah — how do you breathe and dance?
“We are cold when it comes to rejoicing in God!” wrote Calvin.
“Hence, we need to exercise ourselves in it and employ all our senses in it – our feet, our hands, our arms and all the rest –
that they all might serve in the worship of God and so magnify Him.”
Okay, got it:
When exasperation mounts, exercise our song, employ all our senses.
I use my hand, pick up the pen, employ the senses to the see and magnify God in that little dog-eared gratitude journal.
~ The spruce in wind.
~ Comforting worn kids early.
~ Joshua playing the Music Box dancer.
~ Ps 131 words: “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child on his mother”
~ Citrus scent of grapefruit on the breakfast table in January.
~ Chickadees fluffed in the wind.
I’m warmed. Joshua’s practicing the chorus. Exercise. Employ. Exalt.
The answer to anxiety is always to exalt Christ.
The chickadees scuttle at the feeder and fly, warmth on the wing. I watch from the window. A child presses into me and the window, and yeah, we’ve got some time. There is wonder. It’s ridiculous and beautiful how that happens: Everything absorbs into thanksgiving.
Calvin said that, “If we compare a hawk with the residue of the whole world, it is nothing.”
The chickadees, they are flying south.
That’s what Calvin said,
“And yet if so small a portion of God’s work ought to ravish us and amaze us, what ought all His works do when we come to the full numbering of them?”
Uh, wait — Did Calvin number too?
My pen’s laying like there like a dare to joy, right there on the counter.
Joshua’s playing it imperfect but loud and lovely, the Music Box Dancer finding all the right notes, exercising exaltation.
And yeah, you can go ahead and ask — but I don’t think anyone saw me in the kitchen this morning?
How I spun around and danced a bit like a fool, exercising “feet and hands and arms and all the rest,” employing all the senses and smiling happiness anyways?
It can happen — I felt it —
how unceasing thanks can make all these moments dance brave and unafraid.
Annnnd, announcing the Winner of the One Thousand Gift Book Basket:
Annnnnd… If you’d like to enter for 2015’s Nikon D90 Camera?
Are you ready to make this the year you wake to really living & deep joy & squash the anxiety ? Count your own 1000 gifts in 2015… How?
1. Check out the whole year’s Joy Dares! 3 prompts everyday adds up to more than #1000gifts!
2. or… Blog your 1000 gifts, or tag #1000 gifts on Instagram, or record a legacy of your 1000 gifts in the numbered journal, and, if you’d like to be entered into the monthly draw for a JOY BASKET mailed out to you (including a $100 Amazon gift card), share your gifts everyday in the Facebook Gratitude community Joy Dare … and next December (after recording only about only 3 gifts a day) … be back here to enter for the camera!
What do You Really Get when you Count 1000 Gifts?
The research proves this is what you really get:
1. a relative absence of stress and depression. (Woods et al., 2008)
2. progress towards important personal goals (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)
3. higher levels of determination and energy (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)
4. closer relationships and desire to build stronger relationships (Algoe and Haidt, 2009)
5. Increased happiness…. by 25% — (Who wouldn’t want 25% more happiness!)
Related: The answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ… and my story of just that: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
and the 60 DAY DEVOTIONAL with 1000 numbered lines to count your #1000gifts
One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflecting on Finding Everyday Graces