I’ll admit it. I am a worrier by nature. When I became a mother, my anxiety tripled instantly. I have always firmly believed that if I keep an anxious vigil over my children twenty-four hours a day, I can somehow will their safety into existence. Frankly, this is an exhausting way to live. Sometimes, I manage to overcome my worry. But just as quickly as I lay that burden down, I snatch it back up because a news story flashes across my Instagram feed about a sinking tour boat or a family found eaten by bears after being lost in the mountains for weeks. Did I mention I live in the flatlands of Indiana?
I struggle daily with worrying about what could happen to my children. Last spring, I gathered my kids up for the last day of school. With the promise of summer days ahead, we laughed and smiled as we packed lunches and backpacks. About an hour after I dropped my 16-year-old off at her high school, my phone rang. Trembling, I answered the phone.
“Mommy,” she sobbed.
I calmly responded, “Are you okay? I need you to tell me what happened.”
“It happened again,” she said. And then, more sobbing. I heard a new voice on the line. It was my daughter’s friend.
“Mrs. Berry. We are okay. There was a shooting at our friend’s school. It’s not us. We’re on lockdown. We are safe. She’s just scared and can’t move out of the bathroom.”
I thanked her friend for sticking with my daughter and then my child and I talked until she was calm enough to return to class. I hung up the phone and shouted to God, “I told you so. It could have been them today, God. Why aren’t you listening to me? I just want them to be safe. I can’t lose them. Don’t you understand?”
The rest of that day felt lonely and fearful. We had no class celebrations, no 5th grade send-off, nothing. We picked our six youngest children up from four different schools and the mood was the same everywhere. Parents were solemnly pulling up to the schools while teachers escorted students to their cars.
“We can’t go back,” my children said. “We’re too afraid.”
I wanted to comfort them, but I felt it also. I admitted, “I’m afraid too.”
The start of that summer brought on more fear. I didn’t want them to ride on their bikes or in a car, go to the movies, or go swimming. Then one night, I was tucking them into bed and began the prayer I pray every night. “Lord, thank you for my child. Please protect…” I stopped.
Something shifted in me and I prayed a new prayer. “Dear Lord, thank you for this child. Thank you for allowing our family to spend one more day together. Thank you for the fun we had today. I can’t control what will happen tomorrow, I just thank you for loving us through it all.”
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
Gratitude—The Antidote to Anxiety
In all my anxiousness and worry, I was missing the most important thing: gratitude. I can’t prevent bad things from happening. No amount of worry will protect my child. But gratitude will protect my attitude. When I thank God for all He has done, my worry melts away. Hard times will certainly come (they always do), but a shift in focus has helped me to not lose sight of all that is good.
My kids started school today, and this morning as I hugged them one last time, we prayed, “Thank you Lord, for this amazing summer. Thank you for allowing us one more summer to spend together. Thank you. Amen.”
My hope is that you will practice gratitude this year as you release your precious little ones and give them space to grow.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
How are you and your children curbing anxiety this school year?