The Gifts of Anxiety (and a free course for you!)

We’re a week and a half into Lent and I’m curious. What do you find the hardest about Lent? What do you love the most about it?

One of the things I love most about Lent (and about life) is that it’s an invitation, not an expectation. Jesus knows I can’t fix myself. Instead, he invites me to open a little more to him, to let him into the places that I’m hurt and hiding, and find him loving me there and calling me out into his love and light.

Lent is about opening, in the same way that bulbs at this time of year (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) are sending roots down into the dirt and shoots up into the light and the sun’s first warmth of spring. 

Sometimes, though, the process of growth seems complicated and discouraging. 

I opened the blinds this morning to discover that squirrels, unperturbed by the generous helping of cayenne pepper that I’d sprinkled on the soil, have made a meal of my tulip bulbs. Last week a solitary squirrel snacked on a single bulb. This morning my planters look like the scout posted an e-vite and brought a whole group of hungry friends to the feast.

I don’t mind helping out one hungry critter, but really? There are so many trees around here, so many bulbs planted right at ground level, I do wonder why the squirrels chose to bring their party to my second-floor balcony. Maybe I inadvertently created a favourite new menu item: hot and spicy tulip bulbs. Maybe the second-floor view provided a better party atmosphere. Either way, I’m saddened by the destruction of the beauty I was trying to nurture, and, yes, also frustrated with my furry friends. 

Sometimes my insides feel like the planters on my balcony. I’ve planted and watered and waited and just as the green shoots come up, bursting with promise, a horde of anxious thoughts creeps in when I’m not looking and makes a meal of my hopes.

That’s when I need to be reminded of this all over again: The invitation in life, and Lent in particular, is to let Jesus into those many places that I can’t fix myself, the places where the cayenne pepper isn’t working to keep away the habits that are hurting me.

And here’s the beautiful not-so-secret secret: In God’s up-side-down way of working, he takes those places that I can’t conquer and makes those the very places where he comes closest and loves me most deeply and heals me in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

The anxious thoughts that come like hungry squirrels digging up the quiet beauty that I’m trying to cultivate don’t get the last word, because I’m learning how to open my anxiety to Jesus. And what starts as anxiety quickly becomes a place where I get to know Jesus better and find myself more deeply and gently loved than I could have imagined.

I know I’m not the only person who sometimes finds the calm, colourful garden I’m trying to grow threatened by anxious thoughts, so I’ve written a five-day contemplative course for you called The Gift of Anxiety. Anxiety has been a frequent companion of mine over the years, and gradually I’ve discovered that anxiety has helped me grow closer to Jesus in ways that my strengths haven’t. In this course, I share some practices that have helped me work with anxiety so that it brings me closer to Jesus rather than distracting me from him. If you’re curious to see how Jesus might meet you in your own moments of anxiety, click here and enter your email address to sign up for this (free!) course. I hope you find it helpful!

In the meantime, as we continue to walk toward the cross with Jesus, intentionally opening the anxious and painful parts of our hearts to him, may Jesus continue to do in us what only Jesus can do, settling us a little more deeply into his love.


Photo by Leon Overweel on Unsplash

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Marny Watts

    So sorry to hear about your tulips, Love! But how delightful – and lastingly beautiful – to go on and read the lovely art God inspired you to make of the destruction! Hugs, Dad and Mom

  2. Margaret Schulz

    Hi Caroli , I clicked for your course but the site didn,t like my email address. I am not sure what to do. I thought the idea that anxiety was a gift was interesting.I hope you can still have flowers in your windobox. love you Hannah

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks for letting me know, Hannah. Very weird. I’ve entered your email address again to receive the course and it seemed to accept it fine this time. You should receive an email asking you to confirm your email address and once you click the link to confirm you should then get the first email in the course right away. Please let me know what happens! Love, Caroli

  3. Klara van der Molen

    I too clicked on the site for your course, but it did not work I think?
    I forgot to answer the beginning questions.
    Love the beginning of lent as in all things new, spring around the corner to remind us it is always a new start. Second question–I forget to remember to let go of the past, the winter in my life, the anxieties and all the negatives as such.

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks for letting me know, Klara. I’m not sure what’s happening. Did you enter your name and email address? Did you receive an email asking you to click to confirm your email address? I’ve just entered your email address again so you should now receive an email with a link to click to confirm your address, and should then receive the first day of the course right away. Please let me know whether or not it works. So sorry for the trouble! Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough in the blog post that you need to enter your email address and click to sign up for the course. I’ll fix that right now. . .

  4. Janna

    The hardest part of lent. Being swamped with daily life, Guests, Commitments to church and family etc.

    The best part of lent. The constant reminder of how much Jesus loves me even when I feel swamped

  5. merry morris

    I love this piece, Caroli,taking something beautiful and uplifting out of a mini disaster on your balcony.
    I find Lent a bit of a confusing time…a vague feeling that all is grey with the prospect of the events of Good Friday and yet Spring is bursting out all around us. A promise, I guess, that all will be well !
    I can’t seem to log on to your course. Would love to follow it. I seem to get more anxious as I get older, rather than less so! More trusting required….so your words are specially relevant Merry xx

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks for these thoughts about Lent, Merry, and I’m so sorry for the difficulty logging on to my course! I’ve entered your email address from my end. You should now have an email in your inbox (or possibly your junk folder!) which asks you to click to confirm your subscription. If you do that, you should then begin to receive the course emails right away. Please let me know if there are any further problems with the process. I clearly need to find a way to make this process simpler! Love, Caroli

  6. Barbara Abraham

    As always, Carolyn, I just love getting “Hearing the Heartbeat “ I just wait excitedly each week for it to arrive as it always feeds my soul so deeply and often reduces me to tears. You always seem to know exactly what spiritual food I’m in need of. I agree with the previous comment, that the older I become, the more I seem to be troubled with anxiety.
    Thank you for your devotion to your writing each week.
    Barbara Abraham.

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