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No Worries

There has been a lot in the last several weeks that has not gone right in my world. And that's kind of an understatement.

The school where I serve, Haven of Peace Academy, has been hit with a number of major blindsides. We have suddenly been faced with circumstances that are completely out of our control, yet have huge implications for our school. We delayed the opening of school for two days, then for four days. Finally we opened a week late, thinking that the problems had been resolved, at least temporarily.

Except they weren't totally resolved. And now, as a result, I'm teaching third grade for the next several weeks....while still being principal. 

I was born as a Type-A, high achieving, task-oriented, determined person. Strong Willed should be my middle name. Just ask my parents. If I was told not to call people "stupid," I would look my mom straight in the eye and say, "Stupid." I knew the taste of soap in my mouth from a young age. If they told me not to get out of bed, they would have to hold my door shut until I fell asleep on the floor, exhausted from screaming. James Dobson's Strong-Willed Child didn't work on me. You could say that that being tightly-wound was built into my DNA.

God bless my long-suffering parents, who managed to help me channel that Strong Will into more constructive outlets. But I've always envied those people who have the ability to let things slide off their backs, seeing the bright side and staying optimistic in the most stressful of situations. Some people seem to be born that way (my eldest daughter being one of them), but that has never been me. Anxiety is often a nagging companion, ready to hijack my emotions when the slightest thing deviates from the plan. And if not Anxiety, then Stress stands ready and waiting to take her place. The temptation is there to resign myself: Well, that's the way I was born. I guess I just have to live with it. Or rather, I guess everyone around me has to live with the implications of being around a tightly-wound, stressed out person. 

Except, that source of Truth tells me otherwise:

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

Seriously? This is possible? People can actually have no worries in a year of drought? This passage, among hundreds of others in Scripture, tells me that finding my confidence in God will bring me peace. Maybe that's true for others, but not high-strung people like me. Right?

Except.

A little over a week ago, as I sat up late at night and wondered what on earth I was going to do with third grade, the thought emerged that I needed to be the one to teach it. There just weren't any other viable options. And remarkably, despite what I would have predicted about my reaction, I was okay with this idea. Not thrilled, but okay. It was so unlike me to not freak out. Weird. 

I thought, I don't know what the heck God is doing, but I know he's got this. And I actually believed it. Like, my emotions believed it. It wasn't just head knowledge, but it was a fully developed belief. I was shocked.

The thing is, I always have known this. In the midst of seasons of Anxiety, I have told myself these things repeatedly, but it was like telling them to a brick wall. And as anyone knows who is in the midst of a Big Emotion, that emotion feels forever. Like it will never change, never back down, impenetrable to reason.

Yet I am fascinated by brain research on the concept of neuroplasticity--the ability of the brain to change. Like, the neurons of our brains can actually be rearranged by how we change our thinking. How utterly astonishing. Being anxious and stressed out might be programmed into my brain, but I can actually re-program it.

And that's what I'm seeing in myself. Whoa. It actually works. Lo and behold, if I tell myself the Truth enough times, even during those times when my emotions yell and scream and overpower that Truth, eventually the Truth starts sinking in. Those overpowering emotions don't have enough leverage to take over. Romans says: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Huh. What do you know? Science and the Bible are actually friends.

I wrote once that my emotions are like untamed horses. Yet those horses can be tamed. Of course, it would be stupid to think that I've arrived, that I'll never fall apart again, that I have become impenetrable. Haven of Peace Academy still is facing huge challenges. Many, many things are uncertain. I don't know how long I'll be trying to do two jobs. I don't know how many more blindsides are coming. But at least for now, my leaves are staying green in drought.

Well, at least green-ish. And that's something new.


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