Coping with Anxiety from Storms

The atmospheric river in late January approached as I took a walk at the park.

As I write this, sheets of rain are pouring down on our house. It’s about midnight, and with wind gusts up to 60 mph I doubt I’ll go to bed anytime soon. This storm is one of the strongest I can remember. 

Power surges flicker the lights, but the electricity remains for now. I’m passing these tense moments by writing—something that has brought me comfort over the years when under stress. It helps me break from the paralysis that comes when something traumatic comes. This is definitely one of those times.

The Storm that Exposed a Leaky House

Strong storms that shake the windows do come most every winter here in the Central Valley of California. I grew up in the Bay Area where the storms hit first before moving to the middle part of the state. When I lived in Southern California similar storms would come as well.

One winter, though, exposed every weakness in the townhouse where we lived in Diamond Bar—about 25 miles east of Los Angeles. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day a series of storms dropped half a foot of rain in a matter of days. The house began to leak in no less than seven places—all at once.

I stayed up most of the night monitoring the small window under a downspout on the second level. Heavy rain overloaded the gutter and downspout, which was half clogged with leaves. A sheet of water began to stream onto the window. We learned that night that the installers the previous owner hired did not seal the windows properly. The water passed through the window as if no seal existed at all.

I quickly punched out the window screen then grabbed a cookie sheet to deflect the water away from the house. Once the rain subsided, Lori and mopped up the large pool of water in the house. We then cut a piece of tarp to cover the window—not easy given the height of the window above the ground. I didn’t get much sleep that night.

Another window, in a bedroom above the garage door looking out over the street, also leaked along the inside of the window from the top. That water seeped into the wall, which started to come out of the drywall. I cut out a hole in the wall to get a better view, then devised a way to divert the water coming down a 2×4 in the wall to a bucket below. Water from that storm just about filled that five-gallon bucket.

The roof leaked too—onto the furnace in the garage, from the second story above the kitchen sink down into Lydia’s bedroom on the first floor, and into the attic. Thankfully, the homeowner’s association sent a roofer to inspect and fix those leaks. I never had a problem with the roof again.

The Inept Window Installer

Besides the two leaks from the bedroom window and the side window in the living room, two other windows had minor leaks. I quickly surmised that the installers botched the job when they replaced the original windows in the townhouse a few year’s prior.

The previous owner lived nearby, and told me I could contact him if I ever needed anything. Did I ever need some help after that week of storms and window leaks. He gave me the phone number of the window contractor, a friend from his church. The window contractor replied he could come look at the windows that week.

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The Lord’s Prayer for the Coronavirus Pandemic

Our Father in Heaven,

Today I come to you humbled and desiring more of You. You are holy, and I am not. Your glory fills the Temple and the universe. I pray Your Kingdom come as the world, and my home, faces a global coronavirus pandemic. 

I feel so small to come before You—to send up my petition for You to intercede with great mercy and healing from east to west, and north to south. As the Lord taught us to pray, may Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

I offer these words to You in Heaven as your servant on earth. My prayers for everyone and everything under the sun feel stifled by the enormity of what has come, and what yet still might. My mind wanders, I confess, to how the numbers of people infected might grow exponentially beyond comprehension. I don’t want to think about how I might be one of those numbers, dear Lord. 

No, I just want more of You in this moment, trusting You for the moments that are to come. I can only handle this moment with You by my side.

I pray for my friends and family, my brothers and sisters, and all those whom Jesus came to love and save. For You loved the world so much You sent your one and only Son. I ask You to protect us and provide for our every need during this unimaginable time. I repent for taking daily bread for granted and know that if I have only a small slice it is gift from above. May manna from Heaven rain down on us as weary travelers in the desert this day.

My God, I long to be with my brothers and sisters, to share Your Word, and a simple meal of thanksgiving, but we are social distancing. I desire to be your under-shepherd amongst them. Yet, You make me lie down in this pasture and I will follow. Show me how much I can do while granting me wisdom to know my limitations.

Forgive me, my Shepherd. When all can be stripped away that which seemed to matter so much really matters not. And I too forgive those trespasses against me that felt so grievous not so long ago, but now seem so small. I drop them off at the foot of the Cross. I don’t want them anymore; thank you for taking those burdens, I don’t want to carry them another step.

Deliver me in my weakness, my Savior—You know how sometimes I fall into a deep hole of anxiety and fear. You see how I imagine not taking another breath into my lungs. I try to depend on myself, or what I think I possess, to survive. But my security is in You. My hope is in You. My needs can only be filled by You. Protect me from the lies that lead my mind to wander to dark places where I cannot see Your eternal light. 

Turn my eyes away from the news that seems so bleak and hopeless. Train my eyes to see how I can be Your servant and love my neighbor, wherever they might be. Indeed, anything I might do is to Your glory and power forever and ever. 

I want more of You today, Father. Less of me, and more of You. Protect us by Your loving and merciful hand; may your mercies be new tomorrow morning as they have been since the beginning of Creation.

Amen


The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, 
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Call to Prayer: Northern California Wildfires

The smoke outside the church office built up to alarming levels over just a couple hours. The winds shifted, bringing darkened skies that blocked all but the sun’s outline like an impending storm.

The Northern California wildfires made their presence known in our neighborhood earlier this week as fine ash blanketed the city. I ran to my car, amazed a few minutes later how my asthma flared so quickly.

As of tonight, the fires have taken forty lives and thousands of structures. It does look like progress is being made in containing these fires, but as with the recent hurricanes, the impacts will reverberate for a long time.

Local Wildfire Impact

The winds picked up on Sunday night a week ago. Like last night, they howl through my neighborhood as if through a wind tunnel. The air cools at night, but it is dry. Fire danger warnings remind me this is fire season. The warnings last until at least tomorrow evening even as winds died down this afternoon.

I live about thirty miles from the nearest fires in Northern California. Even though the fires do not threaten my home, we see their impact of health and activity everyday. My son could not run cross country for a few days.One student I talked to didn’t know if he would return to school after a week off due to smoke and fire.

On Thursday, when the air cleared out some, I took him to a local meet in Sacramento. A coach from Lodi mentioned his friends in the wine country who lost a home, and others who evacuated. Tonight I learned that someone at church knew someone who lost a house in Santa Rosa. Everyone knows someone touched by these fires it seems.

From Pain to Prayer

I woke up Monday morning to news of all the fires in the wine country. Fires in the Sierra Nevada foothills and in Southern California also flared. Lori immediately thought of the Tonner Canyone Fire that nearly swept into our neighborhood in 2010. In California it seems we’re never too far from fire’s impact.

Growing up in the Bay Area and going to univeristy near Sacramento at UC Davis, I have a fondness and love for Northern California. My family decided to move back after eight years in Los Angeles partly to return to what I felt like home. It’s painful to see so many of my neighbors impacted by these fires.

As I prepare for Sunday at church tomorrow, I keep coming back to the need to turn this pain I feel to prayer for those impacted by the wildfires. I also want to send out a call to pray.  I think of those who lost their loved ones, homes, businesses, and sense of security. Some eight thousand fire fighters fight on the front lines of the fires, as do many, many others of responders.

Psalm 46 is a psalm I’m praying for Northern California. May God be the refuge and strength of all those who are fearful, anxious, or experiencing loss.

—————–

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

 

 

Great Easter Week—My Skin Not So Much

As I look back on Easter week, starting with Palm Sunday, I’m amazed at how much happened. In the span of two Sundays I spoke five times: twice on Palm Sunday, once on Tuesday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I led a few meetings, including a leadership gathering with about twenty attending.

The Good Friday service had around 250 in attendance as I worked together with a Mandarin translator for the thirty-minute talk. To top off the week I baptized a college student whom Lori and I worked with over the last couple months.

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Speaking on Good Friday at Davis Chinese Christian Church with Shirley, my Mandarin translator. Around 250 attended our service this year.

Easter week overall turned out great. True, Lori and I struggled through some roller coaster discussions about issues we face. But by the end of the week we felt much better about most of the concerns.

Unfortunately, though, my skin did not do so well. I’ve enjoyed relatively stable skin. I don’t mind it getting a little worse, then a little better, if I don’t feel the lesions getting too inflexible, large, inflamed, or itchy. But by the end of the week they did all the above—along with a few new friends who popped onto my skin to join them.

Stress (EH blog) is no doubt the key culprit. Here are some ongoing stressful aspects of my life I feel are contributing to my skin flaring:

Upcoming Conference: Besides Easter week responsibilities, I prepared to head out to the HealtheVoices conference in Chicago. The first day I’ll meet with members of “I Know Pso” group sponsored by Janssen Pharmaceutical. The organizers invited me to share about my experience at the American Academy of Dermatology after breakfast. And I thought I had a break from speaking!

Flying: Travel itself stresses me. I’m trying to analyze why I feel anxious on airplanes. I fly quite a bit, but each time I feel my shoulders tighten up, my breath become shallow, and my heart beats just a bit faster than usual. I don’t sleep well the night before either. My wife thinks it’s the anticipation of the trip, which I agree with. But it’s possibly the fear of dying on the plane too—however irrational that might be.

Leaving Family: I don’t like leaving my family either. Lydia continues to recover from her bipolar episode in January. Lori needs to do double duty on driving kids to school, cooking, and housework. I wonder if all the little things I do around the house, like checking doors and lights, will get done. I miss my bed and pets when I travel.

Social Anxiety: Even though I work with the public and people all week, I do a get a bit of social anxiety going to these conferences. It’s another world to me—the world of patient advocacy and healthcare. I need to shift gears quickly to engage a different group on a different level.

Lack of Rest: At this point I’d rather take a day or two to rest rather than dive into a five-day trip. To take these trips for patient/psoriasis advocacy, I usually need to take vacation days from work. To minimize disruption to my work, I work on my day off and on the trip. Sometimes I don’t get a day off for a couple weeks. With a heavy workload and travel, I easily start feeling frazzled.

None of the above is great for my skin and health, but I hope it’s a temporary effect. I hope to keep up my exercise routines at the conference, and keep up with good eating and sleeping habits. I won’t miss a Sharks playoff game either! The time difference allows me to watch in the evening after dinners are finished.