Emi Dawn’s Bookworm Corner

Linda Dillow, “Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment” (Audiobook: Oasis Audio, 2007)

 

How do you try to get rid of anxiety? Do you think of solutions to the problem you’re facing? Do you cover up the anxiety by being busy? Or slide down the slippery slope of endless worrying? Today’s book is one that will speak to such an anxious heart. I listened to this as an audiobook, but there are Kindle and paperback versions available from NavPress.

 

Because the contents of this book was filled with nuggets, I had to re-listen to the book over 3 times to let the contents sink in. Being one who is prone to worry from an early age, I was recommended this book at a time when I found myself finding it difficult to secure another job, all the free time and nowhere to go…and finding no reason to get up in the mornings; with my anxious heart growing by the day.

Although the Bible repeatedly tells us “do not fear” and “do not worry”, how is it practically done? It is “to have a heart of contentment”. It sounded obvious, but then, upon further inspection, I found out that my heart was very far from being content.

 

Dillow writes that one is able to grow a heart of contentment in these areas of life: circumstances, self (personality and body), circumstances and relationships. Today, I would like to zoom in on the area of “self”. What does it mean to be “content to be me”? Personally, I was the type of person who was never satisfied with my personality. If only I were more like this…if only this part of me would change…if only I were like that person…those thoughts would parade my mind under the banner of “self improvement”. However, Dillow rains on my parade. She tells me that the God who created me specifically gave me certain strengths, weaknesses and personality traits. To deny that would be to deny the work of the Lord, as well as a waste of time. Things that I can and cannot do were intentionally placed so that I can fulfill certain purposes that the Lord has placed in my life. I learned the importance of living with intention, as well as using my personality for His glory.

 

I loved Dillow’s proactivity throughout the book. She talks about how she realized that she was a control freak, and decided to let the Lord be the “blessed controller” of her life. This is not to raise both arms up and give up; it is about knowing what areas of life are under our control, and leave the rest in His hands (needless to say, it is not an easy task to discern between the two). How then, are we to control the areas which are entrusted to us? It is to “choose”.

 

There are many choices in our lives, but one of the biggest choices is the choice to be grateful. It is remembering what the Lord has done in the past, and believing that He will continue to lead us. Dillow specifically wrote these things down when she was anxious. This, I think, is such wonderfully practical advice to battle anxiety. It’s not just making a mental list, but writing them down. And to see that list, and prayerfully declare with gratitude all that He has done. This is not the same as making a simple “gratitude list” as the world is hyped up about. It isn’t about having a “Hakuna Matata – problem free philosophy”. It is declaring, with faith, that Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will continue to lead us as He has led us until now (Hebrews 13:8). 

 

This book is full of Dillow’s experiences as a missionary to countries that were under Communist regime, as well as stories of the strong faith of the women she met there. Also including quotes from famous Christians throughout history, this entire book does not feel old (even though it was first written in 1989). It is quite relevant to those living in the 2020’s, because the solid foundation is on the living and active Word of God. Dillow’s honest confession of her heart as she went through different trials was also very encouraging to hear.

 

Throughout history, there has never been a shortage of things to be anxious about. And we are not told that we are to wipe away our anxiety in our own strength (although the world loves to dish out books on how to do that…in just 3 simple steps!). At the same time, however, it isn’t just about praying that God will take away our anxiety. It is about discerning between the extent to which we leave it up to the Lord, and the extent where it is our responsibility to take action (and oh how we need to pray for wisdom to receive even that!). There are times when all we can do is to pray for the strength to even take that one simple step forward. And that is okay. For it is from there, we can start growing a heart of contentment.

 

Central Conference 23Testimony ① by Jessica Suzuki

I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity to share how God’s been working in my life through Central Conference 2023.

To be completely honest, CC or anything that involved being in a Japanese community was something that made me uncomfortable. I had been away from anything Japan related since coming to the States for college in 2016. For the past 7 years, I struggled with my identity as a Japanese American who grew up in Japan. I spoke the language less and less, I worshipped or read scripture in Japanese less and less, and my main way of expressing my faith became predominantly English. Japan and what it meant to me became less in my life over the years. Deep down, I believe a huge part of me grieved that.

In the past two years, a friend would always invite me to CC or other Japanese events, and I would always decline – I was hesitant to open that door back up again. A huge part of my hesitancy had to do with the Christian communities that I was a part of growing up in Japan. Growing up as a Missionary Kid in Japan, I had moved around at least 8 different times, and had been to 6 different schools up until college – but my home Church in Japan was the most consistent place I had growing up, attending there for 10 whole years. Unfortunately, the one place of consistency was the place that created the most pain. Looking back at my teenage self, I remember feeling nothing but spiritual loneliness. I wanted to know God deeper, I wanted to have conversations of depth, but felt as though the cultural and language barriers hindered opportunities for that. That loneliness turned into bitterness for me. I remember always asking God, “Where are you? I want to know you more, I want to be a part of a community that seeks you, but I feel stuck”. I know there are passionate Japanese Christian communities out there, but I’m sad to say that I’ve been to more churches that were spiritually dead than alive. Not seeing God move in such a dry space created this bitterness and hurt in my heart that I still am working through. However, after hitting rock bottom in early 2022, God’s been softening my heart to rediscover my identity in Him, and to seek out healing and transformation in all aspects of my life. This included rediscovering myself and my roots as someone who grew up in Japan. It hasn’t been until this past 2022-2023 year that I’ve been open and stepping into Japanese communities again.

 

Therefore, CC came at a perfect time for me to lean into that. I had no expectations for CC; I just knew that God was calling me to experience this conference with open arms. and sure enough, God moved and softened my heart. Meeting Japanese Christians that genuinely love Jesus with all of their hearts, meeting non-Japanese people that have a heart and passion for my home (some of them have never even been to Japan) broke me. God reminded me of His deep love for Japan and its communities, and how present He is and has been all along. I thought to myself, when was the last time I’ve prayed for my home? When was the last time I actually put my hope in God moving in a place like Japan? When was the last time I’ve prayed for a revival in this place? To witness other Christians fiercely praying for this revival made me realize how far I am from putting my trust in Him and how He can move in this place. Being surrounded by people passionate for change convicted me that it starts with me; it starts with the cold hearted, bitter, clenched-fisted me to change my heart in believing in something bigger than myself and my hurt. God kept asking me throughout the conference, “Jessie, are you ready to let go? Will you open your heart? Does your heart break for what breaks mine? Because I’m here in this place. I’m moving, even when you don’t see it. I love Japan and I have not abandoned this place. Will you make more room for me so that I can work in you? Will you make room so that I can work through you even more? I can’t work through you if I don’t work in you first, and I’ve got so much more planned for you”.

 

CC confirmed over and over again of my love for Japan. I’m beyond grateful that CC was the launching pad for my healing journey in reconnecting with my roots and meeting people that share the same passion and love. I don’t want Japan to just be a part of my past anymore… I have no idea what involvement with the Japanese community will look like for me personally in the future. However, I come with open arms and a posture to receive whatever He has planned for me.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36)

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