Perspective. I love this picture from my recent trip to the central coast of California. It’s sort of an optical illusion, isn’t it? I mean, is the turtle really on a limb, in a grove of trees, perilously hanging who knows how far above the ground below?
There are times in my life when I feel like I am the one perilously hanging on a limb high above the ground without a safety net ~ feet dangling, nails gripping, ready to crash any moment. Recently I received a notice from our friendly taxing authority nicely requesting a tax return. Their request, nice as it was, included a deadline. I did all I could to meet the deadline, but I couldn’t reach our tax preparer to see if she had completed the return. I phoned. I faxed. I used snail mail. I emailed. Silence. The deadline date was quickly approaching and my grip on the limb was getting weak.
In addition to a tax deadline, we had plane tickets to go visit family and so it became even more important to get the return taken care of. I was losing sleep, worried about what would happen if we didn’t get the return filed ~ certainly there would be penalties. Would they also garnish our bank accounts? I spent a lot of time thinking about the problem, wondering if everything was okay with our tax preparer. What would we do if she were unable to prepare the return? Who could we trust to do it for us?
Finally the day had come ~ the next morning we would be flying out of town for over ten days, well past the deadline for our return to be filed and we still hadn’t heard a word from our tax preparer. I felt certain that the chance of getting another extension from the state was slim, but I didn’t have any choice but to try. With a knot in my stomach, I made the call.
Your call will be answered In approximately 17 minutes. If you would like to have a representative call you back, please leave your name and telephone number, the recorded message stated.
No, I thought, I better just wait and talk to a human being, no matter how long it takes.
Within a couple of minutes a pleasant sounding man answered the phone.
“Let’s see what we can do here,” he was so upbeat. I was so nervous. I rambled on about how I hadn’t heard from our preparer, how we were heading out of town to visit my mother-in-law who was celebrating her 86th birthday, how worried I was about getting this straightened out.
“Well,” he said, “no need to worry. Here, how about we give you a two month extension. That should give you enough time to get it in, don’t you think?” I was speechless! Two months was a gift of time I never expected!
“Now go on your trip and don’t worry.” I just couldn’t believe my ears. Then I decided to try calling our tax preparer one more time. Two rings and she answered the phone! Within an hour she emailed over a copy of our return for us to review on our trip.
Because of my limited view of the world, my perspective on the situation was narrow, negative and not right. I worried and wasted mental time and energy for nothing. It didn’t feel like nothing, it felt like I was barely hanging on a limb that hung high over the ground ready to crash any moment. But in reality, my limb was buoyed on water, gently being held afloat by the One who promises to meet my needs. You see, God’s perspective isn’t mine. When I have done all that I can do in a situation, and my perspective is limited, I need to trust the One who sees it all. Oh, and the turtle? He, too, was resting on a limb that was buoyed by water, but unlike me, he knew he was safe and so he didn’t have a care in the world.
Thoughts. When I looked at the beauty all around me, I shook my head and sighed, thinking about how I might not have made it here to enjoy this part of God’s creation. I hiked up this hill located in a nearby state reserve and looked around in awe, grateful that God had found a way for me to be here. It wasn’t illness or a broken car that almost kept me from coming to the beautiful central coast of California ~ it was, and is, the fearful thoughts that seek to sabotage what God has planned for me.
You see, last week I was out of town, in the Midwest visiting family. It was a long week, and if truth be told, a bit of a stressful week. We arrived home on Sunday and my nerves were shot, my emotional basket drained but I didn’t have time to pause. Instead of unpacking, I began repacking to make the trip to Central California where I was scheduled to speak at three separate luncheons. The week in the San Luis Obispo area had been planned many months before, and when I think about it, was an answer to prayer from God for some quiet time to write and reflect. I was provided a lovely place to stay during the week, a refuge complete with a beautiful garden.
When my father heard that I was heading up here and had a place to stay, he decided to join me for the first few days of my trip. What a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with my Dad! And an added bonus was that I would only need to take the train to his house and he would drive the balance of the three hour trip. I would only need to take the train to his house…
That was the fearful thought that almost ruined it. If you can keep a secret, I will tell you something about myself. Sometimes I suffer from anxiety. Many years ago it was relentless and I was plagued with panic attacks. It hasn’t been that bad in a very long time, but there are times when I still struggle; especially when I am tired and emotionally drained and need to go outside my comfort zone. Like Sunday night.
At 1:30am I woke up. I can’t take the train, I thought. What if I have a panic attack on the train? What about transferring at Union Station? What if it happens there? What if? What if? What if? Until the alarm went off at 6am and it was time to continue packing so I could catch the train in a few hours; a train that my fearful thoughts had convinced me I couldn’t ride.
I ended up not taking the train and I am a little disappointed in myself for not, this time, pushing through the fear. Instead, my sweet husband made arrangements for a friend to drive me to my Dad’s. I’m not proud of this. I wish my story had a really great, dramatic paragraph about how I boarded that train with my luggage in tow and even shared my story of triumph with some other poor soul while we clackety-clack made our way to our destinations. But even so, God is so good and so gracious that He made a way for me to be here, in spite of my fearful thoughts.
I know I made it here on the prayers of friends and family. Their prayers brought me the peace and presence of mind to share my story with a sweet group of ladies at my speaking engagement yesterday; and their prayers will continue to carry me through the rest of the week.
I am feeling more rested, my time here with the Lord is refilling my basket. And that is why this morning I decided to walk up the street and hike up that mountain, in spite of fearful thoughts ~ mountain lions, the boogey man, my own anxiety. It was glorious! When a fearful thought emerged, I replaced it with a thought about the Lord. This thought thing is a process. It will take time and practice ~ and come Saturday I will have an opportunity to put the practice into play since I will be taking the train home. I am already imagining the dramatic and victorious paragraph I will write!