I had no clue how God would use sidewalk chalk to release me from the bondage of anxiety.
The picnic shelter was the hub of activity. Children blew through soap-filled wands, and bubbles wobbled until they burst. Balloons tethered to tables danced with the wind. Adults chattered as they stacked boxes of pizza and arranged birthday gifts for my granddaughter. Of all the hubbub and party gear, one item piqued my interest.
A large, plastic briefcase filled with chubby sticks of sidewalk chalk perched on the party fun table. I shook my head at the thought of my granddaughter’s graffiti on every imaginable surface. What were they thinking?
When my daughter-in-love reached for the case, she gained my full focus. She lay the open box on the concrete slab, plopped herself down, withdrew a stick of chalk and doodled her own creation. I watched as first one sister then another joined her. These were young women I tell you, not little children!
I was captivated by their sense of adventure, and when one of the girls lay a stencil of an ice cream cone on the concrete, I fought the urge to join. Surely I could have filled in the open parts of a stencil. But who was I kidding? I don’t get up as easily as I get down these days. I stepped closer and drew from their joy. When my husband spoke my name, I flinched slightly as though suddenly awakened.
On the drive home, the vision of those grown-up sisters doodling on the concrete persisted in my thoughts. I couldn’t give words to why that experience touched me so profoundly; I just knew something about their activity stirred my soul.
That big ole box of sidewalk chalk arrived at my house the next day as many of my granddaughter’s playthings do. I felt an undeniable urge to indulge in doodling with her. But we became distracted with other games and events, and the day ended without my fingers touching a single stick of chalk.
Imagine my surprise the following morning when I opened the doors of my barn, and the interior 2 x 4’s of the door displayed all the names of our family, a tiny Peppa Pig, a smiley face, a heart, and a neon green T-Rex. I stood before the barn door canvas and gazed like an admirer of Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel. It was an unexpected joy on a challenging day.
Only a few days passed before the state of our world and the uncertainty of livelihood eroded my joy. Then a call from a friend nearly broke my spirit. I felt as though a wounded creature lay in my hands and all I could do was stare. From the open door of my barn, I exhaled a prayer for help.
Help, it seemed, came in the form of that box of sidewalk chalks. I thought of the birthday gathering, the secret scribbling on my barn door, and I closed my eyes.
I felt faced with a providential offering of two options: I could struggle under the burden of worry or shift it into God’s capable hands. In the most basic sense, doodling with chalks equaled trusting God with my worry.
Joy hung in the balance.
For me, the butterfly stencil was the way to go, and lavender with yellow accents were my selections. I held my breath as I lifted the stencil and puffed away the loose dust. It was nice, but it wasn’t complete. The final touch required the faith to freehand. The sun, complete with orange and yellow rays of light extending in every direction, defied the darkness that attempted to do me in.
Pure joy radiated in my soul and the need to share overwhelmed me. In the span of a nanosecond, I snapped a picture and messaged it to my friend in need along with a brief prayer, “No reason we can’t make our own sunshine! Hope this lifts your spirit. May you know the upholding, unshakeable, all-encompassing presence of God everywhere, all the time.”
She replied with joy.
Three things occurred as the result of my choice to follow joy. First, I noticed how not once was I hindered by anxiety as I focused on my work. Second, I felt resilient even though the circumstances had not changed. Finally, the choice to trust God with the things I couldn’t do allowed me to focus on the things I could.
Sidewalk chalk doodling was simply a way to exercise my faith in God’s sovereign ability to take care of the world while I discovered joy in the midst of troubling times.
Anxiety is vanquished under the power of joy, and joy is always available to the child of God.
How about the next time you slump under the weight of worry, seek the unique ways God provides for stirring joy in your soul? Spread the goodness by getting your kids—your whole family—in on the action. Color pages and snail mail them to the grandparents. Go digital and text pictures of fun with bubbles to friends! Of course, my personal favorite is to bust open a box of sidewalk chalk and wield it like the sword of joy.
The possibilities for trusting God by trading anxiety for joy are both effective and innumerable.
So go ahead—take God at His Word and share your joy with us too!
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him,
because He cares for you.”
· 1 Peter 5:7 ·
coloring page courtesy of Cathy Baker (Visit Cathy at CathyBaker.org).
cover photo courtesy of Sam Haddad on Unsplash