What If You Thought?

In the movie, Casablanca, Vichy France’s prefect of police (Captain Renault) tells his men to “round up the usual suspects” when a Nazi officer is shot. That famous line is something I tell myself:

“Karen, whenever your thoughts go wild, round up the usual suspects.”

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For a long time, I thought my usual suspects were fear and worry because those negative emotions robbed my joy, woke me up at night, and prevented me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Then I realized my thoughts were the culprit, instigating all kinds of wild imaginings especially over my kids’ safety.

What if my toddler chokes on a hotdog? What if a stranger steals my kid? What if my teenage child gets injured in a car accident? What if my husband and I die, who’ll raise our kids?

My children grew up, but the wild imaginings continued. I felt more vulnerable with age, and realized how little control (if any) I had over the well being of others. I’d also witnessed enough tragedy in the news and among friends to justify my what ifs.

I told myself worry and fear couldn’t prevent bad things from happening. I told myself worry and fear were a waste of mental energy if these trial weren’t going to happen. I told myself fear is not from the Lord. But all that self talk didn’t help because I’d failed to recognize the source of my worry and fear.

Finally, someone listened to my wild imaginings and said, “You need to capture your thoughts so you’ll experience God’s peace.”

Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?

I understood the impact thoughts have on our moods, words, and actions. I’d often told my children, “Think happy thoughts.” I’d quote Philippians 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So what was I thinking?

If I was going to capture my thoughts, I had to recognize my malicious thoughts so I could round them up at the first sign of goosebumps or dread. When a fearful moment arrived, I envisioned minuscule soldiers stationed in my mind—arresting that terrifying thought before it got out of hand. No visitation allowed. I refused to let my mind entertain that thought.

 

police-306317_1280But the nagging thoughts hollered:
What if your negative thoughts are valid?
What if your worst nightmares come true?

That’s when I mustered my second defense. It wasn’t enough to capture my thoughts, I had to renew my mind by reading God’s Word. Then, I challenged myself. “You like to dwell on what ifs. Think about this:

What if you controlled your thoughts instead of allowing your thoughts to control you?
What if you believed God is able to do more than you can imagine instead of focusing on your wild imaginings?
What if you believed God’s promises to provide, comfort, and guide you instead of wondering how you’ll cope?
What if you trusted God’s sovereignty instead of worrying about the future?
What if you believed God’s grace is sufficient even in your worst nightmare?
What if you believed that nothing—no sin or failure—can separate you from God’s love?
What if you believed to be absent from the flesh is to be present with the Lord?
What if you gave thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you?

Would these thoughts, these mind-blowing truths, alleviate your worries and fears? Would they free you to live? If so, round up the usual suspects–even in this moment!

 

Images: Pixabay.com

 

 

Why a Mammogram?

House phone rings while I’m on the couch in my living room, sipping coffee, and reading my Bible. I allow the message machine to answer.

“Hello, Karen. This is Patty from the Women’s Imaging Center. Please call our office. We need to schedule another mammogram.”

My pulse quickens.

Another? What’s wrong with the mammogram I had two days ago?

I walk to the kitchen and replay the message.

It’s probably nothing, but then again…

There’s a reason October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Pink memorabilia such as t-shirts, water bottles, and bandannas are on sale in retail stores. And every grocery store transaction affords me the opportunity to donate dollars towards “Hope for a Cure.”

More than once this month, I gave money in memory of two friends who died from breast cancer, and one who survived.

Because I witnessed their battle for life, I refuse to gamble with my health. Each year, I have a mammogram. I’d rather give blood than have my breasts flattened like pancakes, but early detection increases survival.  

Last week, I went for my annual mammogram. I joked with the technologist; asked for an 8 x 10 copy while she placed my breast on a platform and lowered another platform from above, until there was enough compression to make my eyes bulge. As the digital image of my breast was taken, she told me, “Hold your breath.”

Part of me always fails to breathe again until my test results come back normal.

Even now, as I dial the Imaging Center, I have to remind myself to breathe deep. Ignore the warm tingling on the back of my neck.

Patty is just the messenger. There’s empathy in her voice, but no explanation as she schedules another mammogram.

“Have a nice weekend,” she says, before hanging up.

Sure thing.

I slump on the couch, swallow lukewarm coffee, hoping to drown the worst-case scenarios percolating in my head.

My Bible is open to Psalm 121, the place I paused when the phone rang. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”  

I lift up my eyes as I touch my right breast; the one in question.

And wait between today’s imaginary what ifs and the reality of next week’s test results.

Assured that even in this circumstance, God knows, He is my help ….

Even when “what ifs” happen.

What if?

“What color bathing suit was your son wearing?”

 The Sheriff’s voice on the other end of my cell phone is calm, matter of fact. He can’t see my wrinkled brow as I struggle to recall the photo I’d taken of my son four hours earlier.

He was standing ankle deep in the river wearing a red life vest and…

“Black knee-length swim trunks.”

“How much does he weigh?”

Am I really having this conversation? I’ve never dialed 911 to report a missing person, or in this case, persons. My teenage son went river rafting with my grown daughter and her boyfriend.

And now I’m standing on a tall embankment, with my husband, staring down at the river’s swift current. Thankfully, the water is shallow, but the boulders on the riverbed would have slowed their progress; made the trip challenging.

What if the raft deflated? What if someone’s injured? What if they’re stranded on a riverbank?

“I wouldn’t bother you Sheriff, but they should have been here an hour ago. And the sun is setting!”

My voice is steady, but there are high-pitched voices in my head: What if they got separated from each other? What if their raft was carried further down river?

Warm skin tingles as dusk settles over the mountains, ushering in a cool breeze. What if they have to spend the night outdoors?

“Stay by your phone,” he says. “I’m calling search and rescue.”

His words conjure horrific news reports. I tell myself, Don’t go there!

My husband and I drive a short distance along a gravel road that parallels the river. We stop, searching the horizon for signs of life.

Within minutes, my heart jumps. “A beige raft!”

“How many people?”

“I only see two.”

I wave my arms like sheets in the wind until my daughter waves back with her paddle.

“Three, I see three people!”

 My husband hurries down the dirt path to the river’s edge while I notify the Sheriff. “We found them!”

Three exhausted, dripping wet, shivering bodies walk into my eager embrace. They reassure us, “We weren’t in danger.” But relief is written on their somber faces.

A half hour later, back at camp, night is dark as coal. Tears stream down my cheeks as I praise God for protecting our children, and sparing us from the multitude of what ifs that could have happened. But didn’t.

  “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23)