Vaccine Anxiety

Dear God,

Last Tuesday, was one of the scariest moments of my life. For a year now, I haven’t so much lived, as I have survived, in a little bubble, not really exposing myself to the outside world for fear of the dreaded Covid. Tuesday of last week though, took me for a spin. You told me to do something I wasn’t expecting and it turned my world upside down. I was to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine-something I hadn’t even decided if I wanted. Not only was I afraid of what I would be injecting into my body, and the lack of long-term studies, I was very concerned with how my chronically ill body would react. And just when I said “yes”, I sure wasn’t prepared for the steps I would have to take to get the vaccine.

I would have to go get an Alaskan State ID at a hole-in-the wall establishment that had no regard for mask wearing. Not only that, but I would have to risk my life by taking off my mask with several non-mask wearing people in the room in order to get my photo taken. Sitting outside in the parking lot, watching person after person stroll into this tiny building with no masks, made me angry at them for their selfishness and lack of regard for those of us with underlying health conditions. I was fearful for my life-so fearful, in fact, that I was in tears. Doubting that this was what I was supposed to be doing, I heard “go in”. Was this me? Was this really You? I wrestled. Then, I felt it. I felt Your peace wash over me-the type of peace that settles like a blanket of freshly fallen snow-the type that only You can give. You told me to put my entire life in your hands and it was incredibly frightening. I was wrestling with anxiety and with You, yet, I did it, shaking in my boots.

When I walked out with temporary ID in hand, I broke down. A few minutes later, I got the gumption to continue on the path You were taking me down. There was no turning back now. It was off to get the vaccine. Anxiety still present, I kept telling You I was choosing to trust that this was what You wanted me to do, but deep down, I was still scared. Going through the motions, doing my best to be obedient, I filled out the required paperwork and then the vaccine was given.

It was done, or so I thought-done, until the symptoms hit-body aches, nausea, headache, chills. I felt like I had the flu. Anger welled up inside of me. I had been feeling so much better lately. The chronic fatigue had improved some and the Lyme disease had felt more under control and now, I felt awful again. I was mad-mad that I was sick and was losing yet another day of my life and who knew how many more to being unwell. It triggered the years I’ve spent in bed due to chronic illness and missing out on life and on my family. Again, I wrestled with the anger and the feeling of little control.

Putting my fears aside, what I realize now, is that You were blessing me with protection. Not only that, You were giving me an invitation to live-which I haven’t done in quite some time. You were asking me to trust You with everything in my being-which I again, wrestled with. You were teaching me that You are in control and You know what is best for me-far better than I do.

I’m sorry for doubting you, Lord, and for struggling to trust You. Please forgive me for fearing and wanting to have control, when You are the One who has the ultimate control. You know best, God, and so I put my life in your hands.

Waiting with Trust

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. -Jeremiah 17:7-8

Although it was a fantasy of mine, I never imagined we would actually land in Alaska. My husband and I were the ones who watched all the Alaska shows on TV dreaming of the day. Then, this past September, it happened.

During July of last year, we were camp hosting in Central Washington. We had been in temporary living situations since 2018, ever since being forced to leave our home and nearly all of our belongings due to toxic mold causing us to become extremely ill. We had camp hosted the previous year at the same beautiful campground and were given the opportunity again to live in a cabin off-grid while caring for three campgrounds over the summer. Our end date for camp hosting was September 9th and we hadn’t yet found a more permanent place to call home. With the few belongings we had accumulated over the past couple of years in tow and no leads, my anxious self was beginning to mull over the unknown. It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford a place or that there weren’t homes available, it was that due to becoming hypersensitive to mold and environmental toxins because of our previous exposure, our heightened sensitivities have made it difficult to tolerate modern housing and drywall. We found that we do best in log cabins. And these are kind of far and few between-except in places like Alaska. Alaska felt out of reach though, because I still didn’t have my passport. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the issuance of passports had slowed down tremendously.

We began scouring Craigslist and Zillow for possible cabin rentals all over, but were coming up dry. Then, God spoke in the most unlikely place. One sweltering afternoon as I fought off the mosquitos while picking up litter in the campsites and making sure fires weren’t left smoldering, God left a message, on a fire pit of all places, telling me to trust Him. I knew in that moment that all was well and He had us, that there was nothing to worry about. I didn’t have to jump ahead into the unknown, with my searching mind going into overdrive trying to figure out what we would possibly do, like I had so many times before. With a smile on my face, I could just rest, knowing He had it all taken care of, and He did. He had a cozy log cabin picked out for us planted right along a plentiful river filled with fresh salmon, here in Alaska.

See, my husband had been inquiring about cabin rentals in several states: Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, and Alaska. He wasn’t receiving any responses after reaching out. Since my husband works remote and I homeschool, we were free to go just about anywhere God opened a door. And so we prayed that God would open a door. But, we continued to wait. As the days inched closer to September, heading to our dream state was looking slim. Then, my birthday came in August and to my surprise, my new passport had shown up! It was quite the birthday gift! Shortly thereafter, my husband received a call with a rental offer. The one door that opened was this current cabin we are in, here in The Last Frontier. With a rental agreement in hand, we were allowed to cross the Canadian border into Alaska during a pandemic. It was a long trek, but we made it safe and sound, by trusting that this was where God wanted us. It was in this period of waiting, that we grew in our faith.

While it’s not always easy to have faith during seasons of waiting, we can be sure that choosing to trust Him is always the right decision. So, when we are unsure about what the future holds for us, let’s remember that even in these uncertain places, we can still trust our Heavenly Father. It’s in these times of waiting, that we hold fast to Him, not letting our faith waver. Instead we lean in closer, remembering to always be in His presence, aware and expectantly waiting for Him to speak because He might just surprise us in the most unexpected of ways!

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. -Psalm 143:

Rest In His Presence

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” -Exodus 33:14

The word “presence” has “made its presence” (pun intended) in my Bible reading numerous times lately. In fact, I read the Bible on the YouVersion app and I often take screen shots, circling words and verses that stand out to me. Going back through my phone, the words “present” or “presence” appeared at least twenty-five times in my readings in the past few weeks. God’s voice is loud and revealing here. He has been telling me that I need to be in His presence at all times, and now I understand part of the why.

Recently, I’ve noticed my energy dipping during times of stress and anxiety. And in thinking about “presence”, I realized how little time I actually spend in the present. My head is always spinning. Because I’m my own worst critic, I am all too guilty of looking behind me and holding onto the weight of my mistakes. As someone who wrestles with anxiety, I’m also guilty of looking forward-worrying about tomorrow. I find it very difficult to remain in the present, but that is where God is calling me to be.

Presence is the place where joy is found. Being present is being fully alive in each moment. It’s also where the peace is. And, it’s where rest is. It’s where we are right now, not ruminating over our past failures or anticipating what might happen next week. These both are exhausting and empty today of it’s energy and joy. It is the regrets of yesterday and the stresses of tomorrow that take up so much space in my mind, physically and emotionally wearing me out.

God is calling me to be present in Him, present with my loved ones, and present in life in general. When we walk in the presence of God, we are allowing His spirit to guide and shape each moment as we trust Him. We can’t walk in His presence if our thoughts are in the past or on next week. When we are present, we let go of the past and the future, and walk with Him, instead of looking behind or trying to get a sneak peek at tomorrow. Being present in Him, is about trusting and walking with Him through each moment as it comes.

It is when we live in the past or jump to the future that we actually miss out on the “now”-on what’s happening right in front of us. Therefore, let’s give Him yesterday and throw Him our worries about tomorrow so we can live right here, right now in Him. Let’s rest in His presence by fixing our eyes on the One who gives us peace and joy that the world cannot give. And let’s be present for those standing before us in this moment.

Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence. -Psalm 140:13

Quiet My Soul, Lord

Fear, Fear, it’s everywhere

Slips in without me aware

The cycle is endless

The constant fear, chronic stress

The rival won’t stand down

Fired shots in this battleground

A tight grip on my heart

I can’t pry the grasp apart

My stomach’s all a knot

Just too many anxious thoughts

Round and round in my mind

Until I cannot unwind

The fear it keeps me stuck

Continued struggles to trust

You say “Don’t be afraid”

Please Father, come to my aid.

Lord, take it all from me

So in your hands it will be

Help me to rest in you

I need to sleep before two

Give me your peace and calm

Speak your Words of soothing balm

Quiet my soul, Lord, please

I’m begging you on my knees

You say your yoke is light

Show me a little more bright

Why am I so afraid?

In Your image I was made

Please take this dark gray cloud

Hanging over me too loud

Why can’t I just let go?

Surrender, so I can glow

Shower me from up above

Then I can shine Your sweet love

© 2021 Aimee Phillippi

*This was a poem I wrote in the middle of the night in November of last year, when I was struggling with fear and anxiety. It often comes in waves, but is diminishing the more I learn to trust Him in all areas of my life.

10 Verses to Chew on During the Pandemic

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, but as someone who struggles with anxiety, living during this Covid pandemic has been extremely challenging. Fear pops up constantly.

What can we do to put the fear and anxiety to rest? Leaning on Him is first and foremost. We can also pray and meditate on His Word. Here are some helpful verses to get us through these trying times:

1. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. -Philippians 4:6

He says be anxious for nothing. NOTHING. Instead, send your prayers up, while thanking Him, and making your requests known to Him. We can thank Him ahead of time too, having faith that He hears us and will give us what we need.

2. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7

How comforting to know that we can cast it all on Him-every single worry, every single fear, we can throw His way, because He CARES. The definition of care is to look after and provide for the needs of. And He is the Great Provider. He provides for all of our needs, including the need for peace. We must be still and trust, knowing that He is God, and He will quiet our fears.

3. Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs him down, but an encouraging word brings him joy. -Proverbs 12:25

Focusing on our worries and fears will only perpetuate them. If you struggle with anxiety, it’s easy for a single worry to turn into ten and then comes the snowball effect. Pretty soon the anxiety is full-blown out of control and it’s heavy, oh so heavy and hindering. Instead of focusing on our fears, let’s fix our eyes on His word, because it can encourage us. His Word is alive. And He can use His word to uplift us and bring us joy and peace that the world cannot give, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

4. Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28

When we are weary from the ways of the world. and the heavy loads of fear and anxiety are weighing us down, we always have a place to rest. Jesus says “I will give you rest.” Worry and stress can lead to an endless pit of exhaustion, but He will refresh us. Instead of grasping for a temporarily fix, let us rest in Him and be renewed.

5. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? -Matthew 6:27

If anything, stress and anxiety will lower our immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness. And stress, can actually shorten our lives. So let’s put it ALL in His hands-every anxious thought, every concern, every uncertainty that is causing us distress. Let’s give every bit of it to Him. He will carry it for us.

6. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. -2 Thessalonians 3:16

When I am stressing or my anxiety is running wild, I’m not resting in the One who can and will fill me with His peace. When the worry kicks in, I have to make a concerted effort to turn my eyes toward Him and keep turning them towards Him, because it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of this world and glance the other way. The world is not where our peace is. He is.

7. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. -Proverbs 17:22

Let’s break it down. Another word for crushed is overpowered. When our mind is overpowered by anxious thoughts, we can become brittle and more prone to a broken spirit. I think of how overpowering waves crash into land and slowly erode it. Stress and anxiety can do this to our minds and bodies over time.

When I think of crushed, I think of the word defeated. Medicine is used as a treatment for, or to prevent disease. Having a joyful heart can be looked at as being a preventative. It is good for our bodies and souls.

8. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. -Ephesians 6:10-11

We need to fight daily against satan’s schemes to knock us down with our fears and anxiety. And we do this by putting on the full armor of God. We need to guard our hearts, our minds and our souls from the devil’s fiery darts of fear and stealthy ways of worry.

Be proactive and tighten the belt of Truth, so you can stand firm in the real Truth, rather than the world’s ideas. Put on the helmet of salvation and remind yourself Whose you are. Hold up the shield of faith to protect yourself with His Word. Strap on that breastplate of righteousness, staying close to Him, so that he can give you the kind of righteousness that can come only from Him. Do all you can to live and love like Him, being humble, honest, upright, honorable, and good to those around you. Grab hold of the sword of the Spirit-the Word of God, and pray always. And ready your feet to spread the Good News of the gospel of peace.

9. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7

He has not made us fearful. Fear is from the enemy. God gives us peace and a sense of calm that only He can give. And God gives us a sound mind. I like how the amplified Bible expands on “sound mind”. It states:

…[He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgement and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control.]

10. You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26:3

This is my very favorite verse. It’s one I turn to often when I am stressed or anxious. The peace He gives is beyond anything this world can give. He will blanket us with this peace if we keep our eyes fixed on Him and trust Him-but we must not let our eyes wander and let that fear slip in. We must guard our hearts and minds and not allow it to take over. Fear is the opposite of faith. And by putting our faith in Him, we are trusting. If we are in the fear though, we are not trusting.

Riding Shotgun all the Way

We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps. -Proverbs 16:9

We pulled out of a campground in Central Washington with everything we owned packed into a bright yellow school bus and our mid-sized SUV. After months of praying, God opened a door for us to live in Alaska. Having camp hosted at one of our favorite spots all summer long and eager to begin our newest adventure, we headed for the Canadian border. With borders closed due to Covid-19 though, getting there would prove to be a huge challenge.

Like much of our lives nothing went as planned. Isn’t that how life often is though? We think we are headed in a certain direction, the route mapped out in our heads, and then we come to an abrupt stop or we must take a detour. Many times, the detour proves to be a rugged mountain we weren’t expecting to climb. Whenever the terrain is rough and there is a slope in front of us, however, we can count on Him to help us scale it, no matter how steep it is or how unprepared we think we may be to do this next hard thing. We can count on Him because He is our strength and He is our refuge. He is our resting place and we can rest in the shadow of His wings when we need it most.

I need Him all the time, but I most definitely needed Him on this move. He was my strength during this hard thing I still cannot believe I did. And I ONLY did it because He was with me every inch of the way, giving me strength when I needed it most-a time when our big plans were completely thwarted. And anyone that truly knows me, knows I don’t do well when plans change. Well, guess what? Our plans drastically changed.

Despite having all of our ducks in a row and speaking with what we thought was the border crossing three times in the weeks before leaving Washington to make sure our “plan” was kosh, passing through Canada was looking grim. As we stood there at the border at 9 o’clock at night, with our nerves barely intact, all of our belongings in tow, two restless kiddos, and nowhere but Alaska to go, the combative Canadian border officials shook their heads and scoffed at us, stating that our quarantine plan was a “no-go”. Grilling us about why we needed to cross the border, they were not finding our reason to move good enough to let us cross. It was time to pray, pray, and pray some more. We had already put down a deposit on a rental cabin in Alaska, and there was no backup plan in place if they didn’t let us cross. We had to cross, but at the same time, we did our best to put it all in His hands.

As the darkness of the night set in, and we continued to be interrogated for at least an hour and the border agents whispered among themselves about our situation, one officer aggressively questioned if we had the finances to change our quarantine plan. She showed us a list of specific hotels along a another route, telling us that if they were to allow us to cross, the hotel names, nights staying and reservation confirmation numbers would need to be provided right then and there. We were threatened that someone “would come knock” to check that we were there, and told we had to make it through Canada to Alaska in two and a half days, a forty hour drive. Could we do it, she quizzed us? My husband and I looked at each other and nodded that we could, although I was not entirely sure two and a half days was nearly enough time, heck, I was nervous about our original four and five day plan, camping-and we did not know if we really had the extra funds for staying in these hotels. It was a big move and we had budgeted just enough to get us there. The agent strictly stated that we had to have enough food and water on hand to get us through and that there was to be “no recreating”, no camping, no stopping at grocery stores, eating in restaurants or going inside gas station marts along the way. If we did, we faced a one million dollar fine and up to 3 years in jail. And, as if my anxiety wasn’t already sky high traveling during a pandemic with a chronic illness, she also threw in that there was currently an American sitting in jail because he didn’t follow these orders and couldn’t pay the $750,000 fine for going off course. But, after much hesitation and intimidation, they gave us the green light to pass through.

We crossed the border into a foreign country just after 10pm, in the dark and had to drive another 9 hours to make it to our newly confirmed quarantine location. Although we made it through the biggest hurdle, this was just the beginning. After getting turned around, our 9 hours turned into thirteen, so at that point, I had been driving for a total of twenty hours since leaving Central Washington. We were still 3 hours away from making it to our first hotel stop and it was already 8:30am, just a couple of hours before checkout time. I had our girls in the car and I knew I couldn’t keep driving safely. Starting to get delirious, physically and emotionally, I knew I had to stop. This was not allowed, however, and it would completely throw us off course, not getting us to any of our required destinations on time. This perpetuated my anxiety. I tried to pull over and take a short break to see if I could continue driving, but instead I broke down. Either He was going to have to take the wheel and help us get there, or we weren’t going to make it. There was only one way through and it included Him. I had to make a conscious choice to put my faith in Him over and over again because my anxiety would not let up and I was far from calm. Fiercely praying, I asked my husband and our girls to do the same.

I had to pray constantly and just trust. The pressure of not having anyone to swap me out and drive part way there, the stress of plans being turned upside down, struggling day to day with my chronic illness, along with the time constraint and threats of jail time if I didn’t make it, staying in hotels during Covid, and my own thoughts running wild with “what if’s”, was too much. My anxiety was crippling and it was making me physically ill. I felt stuck, but there was no turning back now, so I reached for the One that I knew would help me. There was no doing this huge thing without Jesus, because with Him, all things are possible. They may not go as planned, not even the second time, but with Him, they are possible.

He didn’t completely take away the anxiety, but He drove next to me every mile of that journey. See, He may not take away the hard things, but He will walk with us-or rather, drive with us. We ended up stopping in places that were not on that list, having to go into a gas station store because we couldn’t pay at the pump, and meanwhile were getting several calls a day from the Canadian Health Authority. I called the Canadian/Alaskan border to let them know we would be late. The border official I spoke with on the phone was shocked we were given just two and a half days to get through and said she would have never given anyone that little time to make it. She stated that she would make a note of our late arrival, although we would still be “flagged”.

On Friday afternoon, the second day, around 4:30pm, we made it to Smithe, BC, and my husband accidentally hit the curb parking our school bus. The wheel immediately began leaking fluid and the tire shop across the street wouldn’t touch it. Again, reaching for Him was it, because my mind immediately went to “it’s 4:30pm on Friday and our bus is breaking down. How on earth are we going to make it now and who is going to have a part to fix an American Bluebird school bus on a Friday afternoon right before close with no appointment?” I called two mechanics. The first said we would not be able to drive it further than a few miles to have him look at it-then maybe he could have it fixed by Monday. That wouldn’t work. The other was willing to look at it right then. This was blessing number one. Blessing number two came when that mechanic fixed the wheel in ten minutes for $25 and we were on our way, something only He could have orchestrated.

After the quick fix, we headed to the second hotel, a day late, only to find out the room was moldy. Because we are highly sensitive to mold after living in a home with toxic mold and getting extremely ill, we had to leave. Being a weekend night, no other hotels in town had rooms available, but we happened to find a beautiful remote cabin just outside of town in a Native village, cheaper than the hotel. Again, I prayed and then prayed some more. We were off course and I’m a rule follower-so the anxiety was creeping in every chance it could. See His hand in it all though? He directed our steps and He had us the entire time, even on that dirt road-that rough terrain, late at night driving seven miles up to a remote cabin in an SUV and a school bus. Once again, He had us. 

On day three, we drove several hours, getting us as far as the Yukon Territory, which had its own Covid checkpoint. Being stopped and questioned-especially being late and not having followed our quarantine route, was yet another anxiety-ridden event. Since we were off course already, our current plan was to drive as far as possible to get to Alaska as quickly as possible. We just wanted out of Canada. Again, we had to stay at a different hotel than we had given to the Canadian border agents.

The next afternoon, being so last minute, as we drew closer to Alaska, I scrambled to find a place to reserve once we made it there. There was just one cabin left in the nearest Alaskan town of Tok that allowed dogs. This was blessing number three. That evening we made it to the Canadian-Alaskan border and crossed without issue. We made it to Alaska, ya’ll! And He made it possible. There is no way I could have made that drive on my own without His help and strength. And our plan to camp, which we thought was a better quarantine plan, was actually not a good plan at all. With temperatures dropping into the 30’s at night, we would have frozen, instead God kept us safe and warm in two beautiful log cabins, cozy hotel beds and hot baths to rest and relax in. It was His plan that prevailed and it was better than ours. Even with the extra hotel stays, He had it covered. When I budgeted our move, I had hoped we had a sufficient amount to get us there, but I hadn’t accounted for the difference in currency. The change in quarantine plan from camping to hotel stays that was required by the Canadian border officials, didn’t stop us from getting to our destination because He accounted for it. With the U.S. to Canadian exchange rate, it was just enough to cover our lodging. Sometimes He gives us just enough. This was one of those times. His plans triumphed and it was all we needed. There are times when we think we know what we need, but He knows better. He knows what we need and we can trust that.

Looking back, I wish I had trusted more. My anxiety wasn’t pretty. Despite reaching for Him constantly, I let fear in more than I should have, but I see the blessings He provided in these trials and I have learned to trust Him that much more. My faith is stronger because of this adventure. And despite the ugly anxiety rearing its head on more than one occasion, our girls got to witness us leaning on Him to get us through.

With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. -Matthew 19:26