Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.

—Isaiah 43:2

Today, I had to get on the treadmill and blast a little bit of gospel music, and when I say blast, I mean BLAST. I had that music turned up so loud, I didn’t hear H when he arrived home from his meeting. Apparently, Santana didn’t hear him, either because, when H came around the corner and into the room where I was running (effectively scaring the crap out of me), Santana barked, causing me to scream and nearly fall off the back of the treadmill.

“I said, ‘Hello,'” H apologized, standing there, innocently petting the dog, while I clutched my chest.

It’s been that kind of week for me. I’ve been caught off guard, overwhelmed, frustrated, and just a bit cranky and sleepless about it all. Hence, the treadmill. I thought I’d work off a bit of the stress and, until H arrived, it was working well.

Like me, you’ve probably got a few things that stress you out. Included on my list are things like unanswered questions, the potential to be embarrassed in front of other people, the possibility I may fall short of someone else’s expectations, the prospect of not being in control of my own schedule, being mediocre, other people who are stressed out, deadlines, details, and money. To name a few.

Mostly, I don’t like feeling as if I’m in over my head. I don’t like it in a pool, and I don’t like it in life. This week, I’ve felt like I’m way down at the bottom of the deep end.

So, I went downstairs today and cranked up the gospel music, along with the speed on the treadmill, and I started singing along. I tried not to. I tried not to give in. But really. Have you ever listened to the words of a gospel song? Talk about storytelling! Man!

There I was, feeling all cranky and tired and sweaty and winded, and that one lyric about how God’s eye is on the sparrow unlocked a flood of worship in me. Right there in my basement.

Just before New Year’s, Josephine passed away. She was a treasure. She stuttered. She wore support hose that sagged around her ankles. On her feet she wore thick, beige, orthopedic shoes. She had struggled with mental illness all her life, but she also had decades of sober living under her belt. Most of all, though, Josephine loved Jesus.

H and I went to visit Josie (that’s what the Hospice nurse called her) just a day before she slipped away. She never knew we were there. H read scripture over her and I pressed my palm to her forehead. I leaned in close to tell her how much her one life had blessed me and how thankful I was to God that he’d let Josie be part of my life. I thanked her for her faithfulness to God and for how she always pointed us — anyone who would listen — back to Jesus.

No matter who you were, if you’d listen, Josephine would tell you about Jesus. She sort of had it on repeat and, if a person (me) wasn’t careful, she might just gloss over it each time Josephine stood up in front of the church to give her testimony (which happened to be any time the opportunity presented itself). Josephine would make her way to the front of the sanctuary — socks around her ankles and using a cane to steady her — and she’d stammer and stutter her way through her mantra, “I put myself in God’s hands and pray, and keep on going on God’s strength because mine gave out a long time ago. If I wasn’t doing that, I would not be going at all.” Years ago, Josephine had those words printed out, and she gave them to H as a gift.

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And don’t you know those were the words I heard while I was running and panting and sweating and blasting that gospel music today (after I’d recovered from the sudden appearance of my husband)? God’s eye on the sparrow and Josephine’s mantra wrapped themselves up together right there in my basement and I let myself cry it out while I tried to sing and run and keep my balance.

“You alright?” H asked me when I made my way upstairs from the basement.

“Yeah,” I answered. “I’m good.”

“Good,” he said. “I guess you needed that, huh?”

And I did. I needed it. Minus the scare. But, yes. I needed it.