Have you ever noticed that anxiety can creep into your life and you almost don’t notice it?
Until that is, something happens that makes you aware of just how tight a stranglehold it has on you.
This summer, I got back to gardening this summer after a few years’ hiatus. I get ridiculously excited when I see little sprouts pushing through the earth. I find it miraculous every single time.
I planted tomatoes, beans, onions, radishes, strawberries, and a few herbs to round things out. Some of the plants, like the tomatoes, I bought as seedlings, but others, like the beans, I planted as seeds.
There is something very optimistic about a freshly planted garden. After I got done, I stood back and looked at my work and smiled. I do a raised square-foot garden, so instead of rows, my garden was done in neat squares.
Every morning I came out to inspect my plants and see if anything had pushed through the soil. Soon, the beans started making themselves known, pushing various shades of green shoots through the black soil.
And right on their heels, the Japanese beetles made their presence known.
About a quarter of an inch long, a Japanese beetle is actually kind of pretty with its iridescent shell. What they do to a garden is NOT pretty, however.
After frantically googling garden pests and talking to other gardeners in the areas, I found out everyone seemed to be having issues with the little things and I wasn’t alone. That didn’t really make me feel much better though when I looked at my bean plants whose leaves quickly started to resemble lace.
It turns out Japanese beetles burrow down in the soil. They come flooding out during a specific period of time and are drawn to certain kinds of plants. What’s interesting is, despite the many, many, many beetles I saw, the only plants they really attacked were my bean plants.
They had lain in wait in the soil until something new started to grow.
And isn’t that the way anxiety can be? It burrows into the soil of your life and you don’t even know it’s there – until you start trying to grow something new. Suddenly, all that anxiety pushes its way to the surface, leaving our minds and hearts shredded, just like the leaves on my bean plants.
For me, the thing that brought all that anxiety to the surface was writing my book.
I know – that’s supposed to be something good, right? And it was, is. But it was also new territory. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was about 11 years old. While I’ve written a few shorter, chapter books (not published), I’d never attempted anything like a full-length novel.
I’ve also self-published three kids’ quiz books and five devotional journals. While I knew those were different, I felt like I wasn’t a complete newbie to self-publishing either.
But I was wrong.
Self-publishing a novel is a completely different beast than self-publishing something like a devotional journal. There was a learning curve on a lot of things, and the truth is, I’m still learning. It was a bit stressful, and that’s not a bad thing. There IS stress involved when we are learning something new and it’s important to us.
The reality is publishing a book is kind of like going to a big city and not knowing anyone. Traditional publishing is like going to that big city but using all the public transportation systems. Yes, you have to learn how to utilize the subway, and yes, you have to figure out the bus schedule, but someone else is actually navigating the traffic and getting you to your destination. Self-publishing is like going to that big city and doing all the driving by yourself without a GPS.
Depending on how you react to the above scenario, that trip to the city could be a fun adventure or a complete nightmare.
Can I confess to you that I almost quit numerous times AFTER I WROTE THE BOOK? Yep, you read that right. While navigating the busy streets of self-publishing, there were many, many times I just wanted to quit, to throw in the towel. And I had a completed manuscript.
Part of this was because of all the decisions I had to make. I kind of hate making decisions, and in self-publishing, that’s basically what you do – one decision after another. Some of them are really important too, so there is also the pressure of making the RIGHT decision. From picking an editor to deciding on a cover, there are a lot of things you have to decide that will have a big impact on the sales of your book.
The great thing about self-publishing is that a lot of decisions that you make can be changed down the road.
Find out your cover doesn’t quite work for your genre? That’s okay because you can swap it out for a new one.
Discover you need a more compelling book description to get more sales? You can change it up as many times as you want to.
The problem was, while I loved the idea of having control of all these aspects, all the weight of that control started to press down on me. I had so many options and possibilities that, instead of feeling empowered by them, I felt encumbered by them. I felt enormous pressure to not just make the decisions but to get them right on the first try.
Ironically, my life verses are found in Philippians 4:6-8.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all comprehension will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
The truth was anxiety was stealing all my joy in the process. Here I was getting ready to present my book to the world, to see a dream come true, and all I felt was an oppressive dread.
I realized that anxiety had stolen the joy, not only in publishing my book but in a lot of other areas in my life, as well.
I had allowed my world to become small because of anxiety. This was driven home to me when I went to a one-day writer’s conference in a small town near Cincinnati. I realized that instead of looking forward to the event, a vague sense of dread had settled into the pit of my stomach for no apparent reason. I also realized this was the first time I had been outside my little town in over a year.
Anxiety had become my default for anything that was outside my normal routine.
Anxiety, like its big sister fear, IS a liar. It steals from you and takes what should be something joy-filled and turns it into something that feels like the emotional equivalent of a lead balloon. It makes your world small and your focus narrow.
The answer to this problem is found in the next verse in Philippians, verse 9.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Satan likes to use our minds to keep us stuck where we are at. He doesn’t want us to grow new things. He wants to keep our lives barren of the fruit of living in the Spirit. He wants us to dwell on all the what-ifs and feel like every outcome is up to us, that we are in control.
But we both know we’re not the ones in control, and isn’t that a blessed relief?
I don’t know about you, but I’m done doing that. I’m done with allowing the enemy to steal my joy and derail me from having adventures.
It’s time to remember that I don’t have to ever navigate anything alone. Jesus promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me. All I have to do is ask.