by Sue Duby,
Ankle biters. I don’t know where Chuck and I first crafted that phrase or where it came from. We just know they are… and that we get bitten more often than we would dare care to admit.
It’s like my morning rounds in the garden to pull off those pesky Japanese beetles that all too quickly devour my roses. As I tip toe among the plants, I feel nothing. Until… five minutes later, back in the cool air conditioning, my legs itch like crazy. Tiny mosquitoes (I never see them!) craftily camp in low clumps of garden greens. The record to date… 10 welts per leg… all in one short round!
I smiled pondering this and realized that the phrase itself explains a lot. My ankles are down so low… almost to the ground. I don’t spend much time thinking about them and am generally unaware of how they are doing… unless, of course, I twist one and feel pain. I don’t stand watching my ankles in the garden, waiting for a mosquito, else I can’t get on with my beetle-grabbing duties. I guess it makes ankles a prime target!
I wish my only ankle biters were mosquitoes. A bit of bug spray or anti-itch cream would quickly take care of it. Sadly, the real ankle biters that get me are emotional and spiritual. Those unexpected “bites”, that suddenly jolt me into varied measures of discouragement, self-doubt or fear. The ones that lead me down a trail of not-so-great thoughts, before I’m even aware how I got there.
In this season, I’ve purposed to try new things, explore new joys and be bolder. I gave myself a lecture in the process: ”Don’t worry about how things turn out or where they will lead. Don’t worry what anyone else may think. Don’t rate your efforts… just enjoy the journey”. No problem… in theory!
I love flowers and I love creating. That led me to a delightful batch of YouTube videos on water color flowers. I set up a table by a sunny window, found some paints and brushes on sale, played quiet music, and mixed some happy colors. One session and I was hooked. I felt peace and joy. My creations made me smile and I even shared them with family and friends (not to get a rating, just to share my fun discovery). A few weeks down the road, the ankle biters hit.
One day, I excitedly held a brand new brush, ready to follow a video on summer flowers. A young mom, who clearly loved painting, began demonstrating steps for tulips. Ankle biter #1 (out of nowhere): “All these videos are from young gals. I’m not that… and I’ll never be as good.” I followed along until my tulips were complete. Ankle biter #2: “My tulips look like watermelons! I’ll never get this right.” Then I dared to turn off the video and try to create my own version of a lily. Ankle biter #3: “That’s a big orange mess. Doesn’t look much like the photo I copied!”. Suddenly, I felt it – that old battle with perfectionism (thought that one had been put to rest!). Ready to quit. My joy totally sapped. A weight of “work” (trying to make it right) replaced freedom to create.
I’ve been down this trail before… many times. Always the choice looms… to give in to the ankle biters and wallow in misery or remember what I’ve learned before, what’s true and move on with a smile. Some days I choose well. Other days, not so much.
Just a few months before, I’d exclaimed to a friend, “I know it’s in me, how God made me, and it just needs to come out. I don’t really care what it’s for or if anyone sees it, I just need to create”. No performance. No scoring results. No wondering what others might think. Just doing something that brought me joy. How very quickly ankle biters can fog what we know to be true.
Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made – hand-crafted with love, affection, and purpose. (Psalm 139:14) “Fearfully” means with honor, reverence, and respect. The very notion! That God honors and respects me and did so when He created me. Not just “OK”, but made “wonderfully” – distinct, separated, and distinguished. That’s for all of us! Each unique, true wonders, designed by the only One who can perfectly design and create.
And that’s not all. There’s a little nudge at the beginning of that verse I tend to forget… ”I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (NIV). I know in my head what’s true, but do I actually stop to truly thank Him for crafting me the way He did (agreeing with Him in my heart)? Acknowledging His amazing work is life-giving… especially when that work is me!
I know ankle biters will always be lurking. However, I’ve tasted the gift of discovering how He made me and rediscovering truths to guide me back to a place of rest and joy. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”(Psalm 91:1). I may feel those nips (and sometimes pay too much attention to them)… but I trust He’ll continue to strengthen the muscle that allows me to choose to dwell, rest, and continue tasting His joy in the unfolding journey of this life He’s given me.
Join us on September 29th at 9am PST for the Facebook Live session with Christine Sine and Lilly Lewin. The recording will be available on YouTube later today if you cannot join live.