Taylor Harris: Peace for Our Anxious Selves - Kate Bowler

Taylor Harris: Peace for Our Anxious Selves

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podcast banner Taylor Harris: Peace for Our Anxious Selves

Taylor Harris: Peace for Our Anxious Selves

Everyone loves to get VERY BOSSY when it comes to our fears. “Don’t worry, be happy!” Just be brave! But maybe ‘being brave’ doesn’t mean ignoring our fears but living alongside them. After all, we live in a world that offers us few guarantees, don’t we? Writer Taylor Harris has dealt with severe anxiety since she was a child. But when she became a mom, she had to learn to hold her fears alongside her love, especially when her son has an unsolvable illness.In this conversation, Kate and Taylor discuss: 
  • Balancing fear with love 
  • What it means to be brave in a world that is so unsafe (and how to parent kids you can’t protect from everything)
  • How to live in the uncertainty of a non-diagnosis
  • How to make sense of God and faith without guarantees that things will work out  
 This conversation will give you courage to hold both your faith and fear, hope and disappointment, especially when we don’t have problems with simple solutions. CW: a sick child without a diagnosis

Guest

Taylor Harris

Taylor Harris is a writer, wife, and mom to three who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work has appeared in TIME, O Quarterly, The Washington Post, Longreads, The Cut, Romper, Parents, McSweeney’s, and other publications. Her debut memoir, This Boy We Made, was released from Catapult on January 11, 2022.

Transcript

Kate Bowler:                Don’t worry, be happy. Remember, do you not fear is the most repeated phrase in the Bible. Just trust God. Those lovely little sayings sound good, don’t they? Like the folksy art we pick up in the Cracker Barrel gift shop? Also, try explaining that place to Canadians. It has a porch. No, it’s a store. No, it’s a restaurant. Yes, people order the meatloaf. As someone who seems to draw the short stick on anything from a rare diagnosis to falling through the bureaucratic wormholes in every customs line, I have never quite understood what people meant when they say, don’t worry. Um sorry, what if the worst possible thing keeps happening. Isn’t my worry a bit warranted? This is everything happens and I’m Kate Bowler, you’re very unlucky host and if you’re listening chances are you’ve known a bit of unluck yourself. People love to get bossy when someone is up to their hairline in anxiety. But maybe there’s a different way, a way that makes room for our greatest fears to live alongside our greatest loves, where being brave doesn’t mean ignoring our fears, but living alongside them. After all, we live in a world that offers as few guarantees, don’t we? My guest today is Taylor Harris. Taylor is a writer, wife and mom of three. Her writing has appeared in Time, O Quarterly, The Washington Post, Parents, and McSweeney’s. She is also a pastor’s wife, so hello ministry. And she is the author of a gorgeous new memoir called This Boy We Made about her beautiful son Tophs, who has a medical condition that has yet to be solved. She is an expert in uncertainty. Taylor, I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. Hello.

Taylor Harris:                   Kate, I’ve wanted to talk to you for like five years, so thanks for having me.

Kate Bowler:                    Oh, I’d love to hear about you as a kid. It sounds like you had so much anxiety that you knew, deep down, that the world wasn’t safe. And you write, “if questions were birth stones, yours would be what if something really is wrong?”

Taylor Harris:               I really see the world through impressions and pictures like visually. And I just have memories of, you know, I talk about in the book like the drug store closing down and you know, I’d gone with my mom to go get toiletries and, you know, they close at 8:00 or 9:00 and they start to turn down the lights and say, like, you know, bring your items up to the front. And I’m like, you know, just frozen like, mom, we’ve got to get out of here. Like, imagine if they shut the doors and then we’re stuck in here all night. I had plenty of those what ifs growing up. I avoided elevators for fear of getting stuck in them. Anything like that was scary. And then just very like normal things like going to school for me was scary. I wouldn’t talk to my teacher. I would just do the work, turn in the tests, and they would even try to bribe me to get to get me to talk and it didn’t matter.

Kate Bowler:                 Yeah. Oh, at one point, Doctor said Taylor is just too aware of her body. Yeah, it sounds like awareness was something of a burden. And I wondered what you did, maybe for treatment in response.

Taylor Harris:                You know, I think both can be true. I think I was noticing things that were true about my body and maybe my heart was pounding, or maybe I was having palpitations. But that’s a lot for a teenager. I think it’s a lot for me to sort of understand what might be dangerous. And so when the doctor said that I think he was right, he was that same pediatrician who I’d had since birth. And it’s not that he was wrong, it’s just that I took it and I went straight to shame. Like, you should be ashamed that you are. You are noticing these things that don’t matter, what kind of person takes normal things and makes them abnormal or extraordinary. Thankfully, you know, there are parents who might not take their kids to therapy right away or might be ashamed themselves or not really know where to turn for help. And thankfully, my parents were all for me getting help. And so really around 15 or 16, I started seeing a therapist regularly. I got on medication and it wasn’t like a magic thing like overnight I was fine, but it did start to help me cope with my thoughts during the school day.

Kate Bowler:                   Yeah. My go to is shame too, so I would I would pick that if you gave me a buffet of bad choices, I would dig right into shame. That sounds very relatable.

Taylor Harris:                  Yeah, yeah.

Kate Bowler:                    That’s a favorite. I love reading about how much you love Paul. You have this very intense, really beautiful love story with like a smooth, strong guy. It’s his love gives you comfort. But also it sounds like he’s a very sort of spiritually peaceful person to be around. Was he? I don’t know. I was just thinking about like the inside out feeling, is he somebody who helps you kind of balance that that feeling of anxiety?

Taylor Harris:                     He is. I feel like there was a time where I sort of didn’t want people to know I’d married someone who was a counselor educator because it’s almost like they would see through me. Like, of course, you would meet a counselor. Gotta keep that under wraps. But now I’m like you know what? It makes sense that I’m married a whatever, like, he has other good qualities. I mean have you seen his eyelashes? Like it’s not just his counseling skills. Very sweet.

Kate Bowler:                         Reading your book, I was in love. I was like, What’s happening with him? What’s his life like? He’s just seems like the world’s most lovable, but like has a strong sense of presence that helps navigate the world.

Taylor Harris:                       Yeah. You know, when I first got married, I think my parents were those people who like, anchored me, especially my mom took care of me a lot when I was sick growing up or if I was anxious, I called my mom. And there’s this shift that has to happen and it almost has to happen organically I think where I had to find out, like, is Paul that person for me? And I think, really, I noticed it when I gave birth to my first child, Elliot. He was the one there at my side, and it sounds like corny, but at that point we’d been married for five years, and it is sort of this slow shift like you don’t just get married and like, you know, you’re not just like Peace mom and dad, I don’t need you. You know, you have to build that. And so that was really helpful for me giving birth to be like, Oh, this is the guy like, this is the person I need in the room with me. And I know, like as Christians, you’re supposed to be like, all I need is Jesus in the room. And I’m sort of like, I’ll take Paul too.

Kate Bowler:                        That’s precious, that’s precious. Yeah, because people’s love really does take up space I find in a room. Yeah, helps me especially when I’m facing something scary or uncertain, or I don’t exactly know how to trust myself, just having that reflected back to me in somebody’s loving face is, that’s the world to me.

Taylor Harris:                       Someone when they were talking to me called him like the backbone sort of of our family, and I didn’t take it as like a sort of like the man is the backbone of society, but it really it really seemed true to me. Like, he’s sort of this quiet, well, he’s an extrovert, so he’s not always quiet, but there’s a sense about him that’s grounded and sort of at peace, and he doesn’t need to be sort of the star of the show. And he does have sort of a quiet strength that holds us all in place and that really me orient myself to the world when I’m all over as this sort of like creative person who can ruminate all help sort of bring me back to Earth sometimes. Hmm.

Kate Bowler:                        It’s amazing too that he’s a pastor and he does not need to be the star of the show. I know many, many people are just like permanently jazz hands for Jesus so that’s a very, a nice change.

Taylor Harris:                    And also, he has to deal with me as if he ever has a sermon, like if he writes a sermon where there’s like some huge front porch or there’s like lots of props involved. I’m going to be like, What are you doing? Never do that. So.

Kate Bowler:                        Amazing. Amazing.

Kate Bowler:                           It strikes me that parenting is one of like a big trapeze act of trying to balance fear with love. When I think about my mom. I think the line I wrote about my mom was, this is the work of a mother’s love, how it must hover without landing. And that like buzzy feeling that love gives us and we get it right away when they’re babies, like, you just want to know they’re breathing. You want to watch them, you want to know the signals, and then you have to build a world in which they aren’t so aware of danger that it it makes them to awake and yet not so muted that they can’t be safe.

Taylor Harris:                   Right.

Kate Bowler:                      You’ve written a lot about right-sizing anxiety when it comes to children, and I wondered if you could take me back to your son Tophs and when you first started noticing that he wasn’t entirely himself.

Taylor Harris:                     There were all these like little sort of finite points you could sort of graph and you’d be like, Huh? I don’t think that matters. Like he was just under six pounds when he was born. Not a big deal. I gained like 50, so I told everybody he would be a ginormous baby and he wasn’t. And I was like, Well, that was the Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich I ate for nine months. So he comes out and I’m like, Huh, OK? He shivers a lot. And that can happen with babies. They sort of have those weird like reflexes. And I was on an antidepressant, and so there could have been a little withdrawal from that. His foot turned blue one time when we were shopping at a running store in Charlottesville and I remember the owner being like, Oh, what’s that about again? His foot went back and I didn’t think of it. Somewhere around 12 months, he started sort of sliding off the growth scale. And he was like, The cutest thing with these tiny feet in this big head, sort of like Paul’s and these big cheeks. And so you’re just like, Look, he’s fine. He likes to dance, and he’s really funny. He makes these like comedic faces, which makes me feel like connected to him. Like, he’s kind of got my sense of humor, maybe, and he gets me and I can see him in that. Yeah. And so we start having these weight checks, and the pediatrician who I love is just like, feed him avocado, feed him oil, and butter. And I think like if we can just get enough nutrients in him, we can get his weight up and he’ll grow. And I’m not panicked because he seems so normal. And then when stuff like really drops off is, you know, he’s twenty two months, it’s I’ll never forget, it’s April 1st, April Fool’s Day, and he wakes up and he just sort of stares and Paul brings him to me. And, you know, I’m a tired mom of two at that point, and I’m just sort of like, you know, I’ll cuddle with him, get another hour of sleep. And we do that. And then when we both wake up, he’s just like, it feels like it looks like his heart is beating out of his little T-shirt. And all he wants to do is chug water. I take him out to this little like wooden kiddy table where he usually eats breakfast with my daughter Eliot, and he just shakes his head. He won’t eat. He just keeps chugging water. And I think when I really know is when I take him over to change his diaper and he falls asleep again. And I look at Paul and I have that moment with him where I’m like checking in like, you know, is this me overreacting? Or do we need to call? And I call. And they see us right away. And from there, we find out that his blood sugar was at twenty seven more like a normal blood sugar, the low end would be about 70. And I’m so thankful that the doctor who saw him at the office who was going to let us go without blood work, and she called us back in from the parking lot and was like, You know what? Why don’t we get the blood work now just to be safe? Yeah. And I mean, for all I know, that could have saved his life. I don’t know. I don’t really want to know exactly what happens to blood sugar once it gets much lower than twenty seven. Yeah.

Kate Bowler:                  I imagine your mind is just like tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Just trying to pick up any new information, synthesize it with what you already know. That you go like the vigilance that you have is it’s useful. I mean, it’s like it’s like one of the most powerful things about us. But I imagine it was hard to know how much to act, especially early on.

Taylor Harris:                  Yeah, and I think, you know, in some ways like my brain protects me, like in those moments, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. And usually for me, scary things are irrational, right? I spent so long worrying about things, having panic attacks about things that weren’t quite real. And so then you move into this space where it’s like, No, actually, you should be frightened. In the book, I say, Paul, who’s like my steady Eddie, comes like running up the sidewalk because they’ve called him at work and he helps me take Tophs to the emergency room. I just was so trained to think, if I’m scared, it’s probably fine. It’s probably me overreacting that in that moment, I don’t know that I felt anything, you know, they called on the phone and they said, I think you guys live close to the hospital. You need to take him right now. We don’t even know if these results could be accurate because at twenty seven, a kid should be like seizing or on their way to a coma. And so I don’t think in that moment I felt much of anything. I just I felt like really efficient, like I got the diaper bag, I got the stroller, I got the kids out and met Paul. And I just sort of go into this thing of like, I will do everything right. I will be fast. I will save the day if need be.

Kate Bowler:                       You write very movingly about how difficult it was to know too in any one moment, how much your son was not receiving the care he needed because he is black in a health system that privileges whiteness. I wonder, how did the weight of that, not just motherhood, but black motherhood contribute to that awful feeling of a vigilance and fear?

Taylor Harris:                        Yeah, it’s tough because. You know, as I write in the book, Paul and I have been around UVA so much, and it’s sort of like this love hate relationship. And it is a different burden. So as Paul was telling friends that we were in the E.R., one of his friends who is a doctor who went to college with us, said, Make sure you tell them who you are. And that’s not something you want to have to do. But what he meant was like, Black man, you go in that hospital like you wear your blazer and your slacks, you know, and you tell them that you are faculty at UVA because we’d had friends who have gone to UVA the E.R. And the first thought, if they have any sort of neurological issues, is it’s drugs. Like, what drugs did you take? Tell us the truth. Like, you’re Black, you’re in your 20s or 30s or 40s and if you have anything, it must be related to drugs. And so that is a whole other burden on top of sort of the anxiety and the questioning that I bring to the table. And then the whole other question of like, what is wrong with my kid and can he be fixed, which is sort of what you go into in E.R. hoping.

Kate Bowler:                     I wanted to talk about that non-diagnosis feeling with you, because I don’t know many people may like instinctively understand how it feels to be waiting in the in between hoping for language and yet being terrified about what language might come down the pike. I have an undiagnosed condition that creates new potential tumors all the time. And so like non-diagnosis creates this mystery between me and other people. And so very frequently the response to that is people are like rushing to hope that I have something in particular like mystery solved. And so much of what you’re describing to is is caught between the desire to solve the mystery and yet also knowing that certainty in the language of a diagnosis isn’t necessarily like the path out. That it doesn’t, it might create language, but doesn’t necessarily create treatment. I think when people hear a story about, especially like the medical fragility of a child, they just imagine like a before and an after. And you write this devastating thing you write: Here’s the thing about after it can stay forever. I just like Taylor, that landed. Holy crap.

Taylor Harris:                    Yeah. You know, I grew up having like strep throat or even something like anxiety that’s not maybe curable but highly treatable. I think I just thought that like if you follow the rules like I said or like get the right specialists like you will be rewarded with an answer like faith is tied in with that too, right? Like if you pray the right prayer, if you have enough faith, like if you’re sort of like on God’s good side. Like, he’s going to take care of you and he’s going to take care of you, probably in this way, and I think Kate, not to give you a big head, but the reason why your work has been so important to me is because people don’t talk about like the prosperity gospel in a way that’s not related to money. So like I’d heard people say, like if we just get like a couple like millionaires and the church will be set like, that wasn’t shocking to me. But when you talk about sort of health aligning with that, then that’s like a whole other thing. I can just say I’ve been in spaces where it’s very common that like you do X, Y and Z, you pray enough, you have enough faith and you’ll get like, Right? I don’t go to churches where people are like playing with snakes. But sort of that idea of like, like no harm will come near your tent. And that and it’s interpreted to mean like right now, like no harm will come to your house or your family. And then what inevitably happens if you like walk in this faith long enough, right, is that like harm does come to your tent. Like if like, really, you’re lucky if like it comes from outside your tent, like, who knows, it could come from anywhere. For us, I had to make sense, right? That’s that’s what I do as a writer. Like, I had to make some sense of this thing of doing everything I was supposed to do and not getting the result I wanted, and at the same time being like I could get a diagnosis that would be terrible or like, heartbreaking. So it wasn’t like I wanted any diagnosis. I think I wanted a diagnosis that could give me community and could be like, well handled.

Kate Bowler:                      Yes. Yeah, I would land on the same place. Yes, exactly, yeah, I had this terrible thing. I’m worried and scared. You give me a diagnosis. The diagnosis creates a path. I am hella compliant. Well, look at me. I will follow all these rules and throughout the process will give me a sense of peace. It has just been so much longer and bumpier and more uncertain than that. I have tried not to keep toggling between two different kinds of prosperity gospel, one that if I’m good, that God will reward me at least with like a something better than what I have, or at least maybe even a sense of peace than, you know, at least I get to have the right feelings. And then the other, which is my health prosperity gospel, which is that I’m so if I’m so good and I’m a great patient, then they will give me a diagnosis and that will create a path for me. And it seems like so much of you loving your son has been. Trying to figure out how to be a loving advocate for him, despite not having either of those prosperity gospels work out in the way you imagined.

Taylor Harris:                    I think that’s right. I think that, you know, like science couldn’t tell us. Sometimes the response from church members would be like, They’re hoping with you, right? I love how you affirm people for trying because they are trying. Like, you might think the best way is to get rid of the fear when you have pathological fear like I do, and that’s not that helpful, but like they are trying to be there with you. I think that in general, less people, especially as people who love Jesus, were not always great at like, who wants to sit in this liminal space with me, like, I don’t sometimes want to sit with me.

Kate Bowler:                      Yeah, yes, totally! Who’d want to do this right? This is this is the garbage not knowing version.

Taylor Harris:                      I think like medically-speaking, church-speaking like we are good at the acute stuff, like the emergencies, like we can respond really well. We show up really well, but what do we do with these sort of searching questions and trauma? Maybe that plays out over generations and then pain that doesn’t have a name like, you know, I think a point I come to in my book in my journey eventually is that like, maybe I’m not wrong for searching and asking these questions, even if I can’t know the answer. Like what if God is big enough, and his plans for us is big enough that something that’s unknowable is there is still worthy of exploration and searching. And I think that that’s kind of where I live right now.

Kate Bowler:                     Yeah, right, right. Right. Yes. Yeah. Is this still good even though it’s not necessarily answerable?

Kate Bowler:                     Genetic screening was supposed to solve the mystery of your son, and instead it opens up like a whole new set of questions and fears for your own health.

Taylor Harris:                    Tophs had something called whole exome sequencing, and we were looking for answers to like his low blood sugar and growth problems and things like that. And what came back was that there was one mutation that they found that they knew could be dangerous and it didn’t have to do with his symptoms. They found that he has a BRCA2 mutation and so do I. Everybody has BRCA genes, they just don’t all have the mutations. And if that gene is mutated it, it could mean that it doesn’t work as well with suppressing tumor growth. And we all want genes that work well to suppress tumor growth. Then, so right away, as soon as the genetic counselor said you have a BRCA mutation, I knew that that meant breast cancer and ovarian cancer. And there are some other cancers that you know you have a higher risk of developing with this mutation. But right away, sort of in my brain, you just start like I just started reeling like, Oh my gosh, I could have cancer. Like, what if I already have cancer? What if? What if I already have ovarian cancer and I’m finding this out and now I’m too late and I just start sort of spiraling? And it does change my life. You are, you know it’s all adult onset cancers associated with BRCA mutation. So it’s this weird thing of like, my son is four at that time, and he’s like watching Daniel Tiger and wearing gloves, and it doesn’t affect him at that time. But what it does do is get me into a high risk program at the Emily Current Cancer Center at UVA. And then it also I’m calling my sisters, my two older sisters, to say, Hey, you got to get tested and then I’m calling my parents, you’ve got to get tested. And so you sort of do this weird backwards trace of your family tree. And just to think that we wouldn’t have known without Tophs needing this screening. It’s a really strange thing that I don’t know what to do with it. I sort of put it in the category of gratefulness right now. I’m grateful that I know, but I sort of still grab for this like cosmic like understanding and this.

Kate Bowler:             Oh no, totally. You could just make it into a different kind of causality. And therefore, right? Yeah. Yeah. If you hadn’t of this, then you never would that. Those sentences are so tempting, but they are it does feel like an incomplete. If this were a movie and it was the plot that you know, then what you discover means that you have to choose, you know, whether you want to get a double mastectomy and also figure out what living and moving forward looks like in the face of of that much fear. What do you do with all these fears that keep coming true? Yeah. And how do you keep it all up close with so much love?

Taylor Harris:                  Yeah, I think one of the biggest sort of discoveries for me in my thirties, I would say, was sort of this revelation that even with Christ that maybe life isn’t safe. You know, one thing I talk to my therapist about was like, What if God isn’t safe? What if? What if God is good? And so what? So I guess maybe it’s defining what what safe looks like? Yeah. And I sort of was very comfortable being a Christian on my antidepressants and feeling like no harm will come to my tent. And then again, like I said before, when harm comes to your tent, you are forced to sort of reorient yourself to the world and to your theology, you know, and say, What does this mean for me and my family?

Kate Bowler:                   Taylor, can you give me advice, before we go, about peace? What kind of peace do you think we can reach for given that really terrifying things happen all the time?

Taylor Harris:                  Yeah, you know, I was praying about our conversation last night, not to not to go all pastor’s wife on, you know, pastor gloves and a hat, Kate. Well, you know, when I first again, when I first sort of came to Christianity in college, I was very careful, wanted to do right, and I sort of felt like Jesus has to be that piece, right? Like it has to be this sort of supernatural thing where like, you feel him in your heart and like you were just sort of knocked out, like laid out flat. And I’m not saying I’ve never felt that like I’ve had these weird supernatural experiences that that were sort of like that. But when I think about us in this world, during this pandemic, where our worlds are made smaller in some ways, and there are just these layers of sort of ordinary sadnesses or mundane sadness or everyday tragedy that we’re dealing with on top of everything else, I just I think it’s OK to say that that people help ground me. Relationships help ground me. Ideas help ground me.

Kate Bowler:                        Yeah, that sounds exactly right to me. That really does. When people ask you like to kind of summarize how things worked out, whether things are OK in the midst of this much uncertainty, like having never exactly found a diagnosis for Tophs, having just managed this much uncertainty, what kind of language do you use?

Taylor Harris:                     I get, honestly, I get help from Tophs. He’ll say things like, You can have a seizure, you can have a disorder, but you can still be your own person and you can be brave and there will never be another like you. And so he’s got this sense of his uniqueness, and he’s got this sense of his own wonder. And he’s also got an understanding of that even if he doesn’t go to school with people who have seizures or who have to check their blood sugar, that there are others out there. And so I sort of land there, you know, I will tell people that he’s doing OK. He does have a firm diagnosis of epilepsy. He may grow out of some of his blood sugar issues. There are still he still gets he has an IEP in school, he still loves music and he roller skates to black violin around the house he, to his big sister’s chagrin he loves Kelly Clarkson and says he wishes Kelly Clarkson was his big sister, and so he’s very much still Tophs. And yeah, I think that’s where I think that’s where we land. Do I still take him to shop sometimes in Philly? Yes. Will we get whole genome sequencing? Probably at some point. Will we get an answer? We might learn a little bit more. But I think you’ve got to keep coming back to Tophs and I’ve got to keep coming back to my expectations and sometimes shifting those. You know, coming back to Taylor. What does success look like for me? I’d like to think that I don’t care about grades and test scores and Ivy Leagues and things like that, but sometimes I still do. I’d like to say, I assume I think I assumed all my kids would go to college and be superstars or whatever that means. But I’ve got to change that and say, maybe he will go to college. But like, what is he really great at? What skills and tools can we give him because he’s already sort of loving a lot of life? You know, I just want to support him in that.

Kate Bowler:                  I guess I feel like the book title This Boy We Made and so much of your line of questioning. It’s so good because it’s so leading like this boy we made is good. These loves we have our good. Like with this, this life we have together it’s approximating a kind of language of enoughness in the midst of uncertainty that I find so beautiful and comforting. And Taylor, I just am so grateful to know your work and to know you. What a beautiful thing.

Taylor Harris:               Thank you, Kate, and thanks for everything you’ve written and all the blessings you’ve written that I really sit with and take to heart and they’ve given me space, you know, and just helped guide me, given me structure for how to think through some of these things.

Kate Bowler:               What are we to do when we may never get the answers we hoped for, or perhaps the peace that we long for? What if our faith doesn’t offer us the guarantees we needed and wanted? What do we do when, as Taylor says, the after may stay forever? This podcast community is full of people who understand that- that feeling. Who live in the uncertainty and discomfort and unknowing. People who reach for a faith that might not always solve the problems in our regular right now lives. We all wish for easy answers and simple solutions. We want a chance to take a deep breath and not feel our heart rates rise when that phone call comes, and we want a minute to worry about something that’s entirely unimportant, like which Love Is Blind relationship will work out, or what baking show will replace my love of any British Bake Off. But instead, we live between a problem and a solution, between sick and healed, between a prayer and a miracle. So here is a blessing for us the anxious and careworn and exhausted all who longed for peace and joy and hope, and maybe God to surprise us when we’re running on fumes. So blessed are we who feel paralyzed by fear. Afraid our pasts might creep back to haunt us. Afraid of what might happen next. Afraid of what might not. Afraid for our loved ones, our kids, our friends, our parents, our jobs, our country and our world. Afraid because so many of our worst fears have already been realized. Blessed, are we who confess I don’t know how to stop this spin cycle of worry. God, you know, our anxious minds. You promise us your peace and the quiet of your love. Blessed are we who need to be reminded that we are loved, loved, loved. May we find one another here in the landscape of the unknown. May we feel the comfort of a God that is not safe but is good. A God who promises to hold us when there is no steady place to stand? Bless us, God. Surprise us with love when we least expect it. Joy when we haven’t found many reasons to laugh. Hope when it’s in short supply. And unexplainable peace when it makes no sense at all.

Kate Bowler:                    Here’s the part where I get to thank everyone who makes this work at the Everything Happens initiative possible Lilly Endowment, The Duke Endowment, Duke University, Duke Divinity School and Faith and Leadership an online learning resource. Thank you for your generous support and my team: Jessica Richie, Harriet Putman, Gwen Hegginbotham, Jessie Broome, Keith Weston, JJ Dickinson, Karon and Gerry Bowler, Jeb and Sami. Your gifts make this work shine. I’m Kate Bowler and this is Everything Happens. Don’t miss an episode. Be sure to subscribe to Everything Happens wherever you listen to your podcasts. Oh, and if you don’t mind, please leave a review when you’re there. We really love to hear from you. We always read those reviews and who really love listening to your stories. You are really special to us. Buy me online at KateCBowler or at KateBowler.com. And it’s not too late for you to jump in and join the sadness Lent train. We’re inviting you to read along with us as we have a Good Enough Lent. Learn more and download a free discussion guide at KateBowler.com/lent. That’s KateBowler.com/lent.

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9 thoughts on “Taylor Harris: Peace for Our Anxious Selves

  1. Thank you for your podcasts. I haven’t started your book yet but I am confident that I can thank you in advance for it as well. After finding myself suggest to more than a few people that they should listen to you, I thought to send you a message of thanks. I am struggling with an “after” moment as you and your guest so wonderfully described what life feels like after an emergency situation has been resolved but left lingering after effects that coat life with an almost debilitating air of uncertainty that never goes away, even when the joy of actually having an “after” is present. I thank you for putting words to how I feel and letting me know I am not alone.

  2. Hi – can you remove this email address and add this one instead? Sadly, I am leaving IJM but want to remain connected. Peace to you, Kate. You are clearly a rock star (and your husband and little son).

  3. I just listened to your conversation with Taylor Harris. Thank you so much. You are helping me navigate some of the uncertainties that come with being a senior. I have a number of health issues that I know will be with me for the rest of my life. And then new things pop up and I become anxious about where this might lead. I like the statement that Jesus is not safe but he is good. I am learning to live each day, each moment knowing that what is my lot in life right now is okay. Keep up your good work.

    1. Oh, dear friend. I’m so glad you are here. You can trust Jesus to be there with you, through it all.

  4. Thank you for such well-chosen guests for your podcasts. One takeaway I feel resonates for me after I listen is I am not alone. Jesus will be there, going with me as I navigate each day and the problems that will always arise. I am really enjoying GOOD ENOUGH. I hear your voice, Kate, as I read each page. I am so grateful to you.

  5. Thank you for another beautiful, vulnerable, love-infused conversation. I also love how you start in conversation with people you don’t know, whom you have never met, and the conversation sounds like one between two old and dear friends.
    Today at the end, when you were blessing us, I realized that my head was bowed, and I was in prayer with you. Thank you, and may God bless us all.

  6. I’m struggling today with anxiety and some health diagnoses that I cannot do anything about. Resting in my Savior Jesus Christ can be such a challenge. I was so encouraged by your conversation with Taylor Harris. May God give each person who knows Him and deals with the sometimes seemingly insurmountable trials His peace. May all who have rejected Him turn away from their sin and trust in God, their Creator and heavenly Father.

  7. This podcast really resonated with me. I’ve had an incurable autoimmune disease for many years but I still question why did I get this and how can I live a good enough life given all my limitations. It’s a constant battle to find some peace from all the anxiety.

    Thanks for allowing me to hear similar stories and to follow in their journeys. I always take away something I can use.

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