Your fear is lying to you

I remember the last time I got on a roller coaster before I declared them off-limits for me. I used to love them. The twisty, the better. So what made me stop? What made me walk around with this irrational fear of them? Nothing has ever happened to me on one. No known tragedy related to them that triggered this boycott.

No. None of those.

I simply got on one, and felt like I had lost control. Of my body. My voice. My ability to choose. I couldn’t escape the stupid thing as my stomach was dropping. And when I screamed-well nothing happened. The ride just continued.

I swore them off for over 10 years. I had vowed never to feel that “out of control” again.

Have teenagers at an amusement park with you, and you will likely begin to dissect things you firmly held onto for years, because they challenge EVERYTHING! Your irrational fears are not off limits.

Which means I was not immune from being challenged by my teen daughter to get on not one, but two coasters while we were at a local amusement park. Deal was…she got to pick which one.

I could have said no. I mean. I’m the adult. I’m in charge. But was my fear of them irrational? Was I missing out on opportunities to spend time with her because something about the big metal contraptions that fling your body into the air was triggering long (what I thought buried) trauma?

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble? Psalm 27:1, NLT

So, I did it. And what happened? I was fine. There was still screaming, my stomach still dropped to my shoes, but I was fine. I had fun, even. I faced my fear. Completed the task. And I was not harmed. I survived.

Just like I have with so many other fears.

We hold onto our irrational fears, because they provide comfort. Most of all they provide a sense of control. We believe we can’t control the outcome. We can’t control the reactions. We can’t control whether we will succeed. So we hold onto that thing we just won’t do. Say. Achieve. Until our fears control us.

Which is exactly where our enemy wants us to be.

He wants us to stay paralyzed and stuck. Satan will dangle our fears in front of us so we stay stuck in our past pains, hurts, and traumas. He convinces us that no one cares. You have no voice. You have no say. He whispers that your screams will go unheard. That you will never escape your past hurts. Satan convinces us to live in fear so we never fulfill God’s purposes in us, and Satan is lying to you.

Healing comes when we hand those fears to God. The One who provides the strength to help us conquer them.

He won’t let us fall. He won’t let us lose control, because He is ultimately in control. He always listens. Always hears. Nothing and no one will harm us because He is our shelter and our safety. He is our peace when our fears try to take control.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Luke 14:27

Is there a fear you are having trouble overcoming, because your desire to control your present, your past, your future have taken over? Or because you are holding onto some hurt from the past? Give your fear to Him. Ask Him to take control. Ask Him to provide you with strength and power to overcome and move forward-either facing it head on, or healing from the thing that caused that fear.

He will provide safety. And the only peace that will ease our hearts, and take control.

One Word-Perseverance

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I like to think I have a way with words, with at least the written words that express my thoughts, my emotions, my desires. However, sometimes choosing just one word becomes a little more daunting.

Last year I joined a group of women in an on-line bible study in which I participate in choosing one word to live by for the year. This one word would replace any resolutions that would certainly be broken by the second day of January. Deciding on the one word that would define my year was not too complicated, but living it out was often something else entirely.

It is said when you choose this one word that God will reveal how exactly He plans for you to live up to it. And that He did.

While I did prove at times to be far from fearless, I also learned to understand…

Letting go is fearless. Admitting defeat is fearless. Admitting your faults and being transparent is fearless. Telling your story, as ugly as it may be is fearless. Forgiveness is fearless. Asking for help is fearless.

Faith in the midst of doubt is fearless. Embracing the twists and turns of life is fearless. Parenting is fearless. Love is fearless.

This year, this one who thinks she is so great with words, has had a tough time finding the “one.”

Until I lay in bed for the third week of an illness that quickly turned into pneumonia. Gasping for air. Tired. Weary. Worn. More sick than I had ever been.

Crying out for God to just give this weary girl some rest. Cursing Him for not providing the healing He had promised. Angry because the mission He had set out for me couldn’t possibly be fulfilled in this bed. On this couch. Gasping for breath. Tired, Weary. Worn.

Ready to give up on Him altogether.

Ready to give up…something that comes so easy to me.

The one who was “fearless” enough to stand in a room of strangers and tell her ugly story, couldn’t seem to find the motivation or strength to complete the simplest of tasks. To follow through on all the things she needed or desired to do.

The one who can fearlessly wrestle monsters, gives up too easily on other things that just seem to hard.

Like the guitar I played for a week, and then never picked back up.

Like all the books I started and never finished.

Like all the conversations I was too scared to have with the people who needed to hear my words the most.

The ideas and goals I have that I never write down, and then never start.

The good intentions and best laid plans I throw to the side when it gets to tough to follow through.

The “clean” eating. The desire to run I wanted to find again. The dream I so want to make happen. The marriage I take for granted. The prayers I never pray. The time I never have. Too hard. So, I just give up or never start.

And, here I was again. Ready to give up because God was making things too hard.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

So, my one word. The one word God revealed to me as I lay screaming at Him. Angry. Gasping for air. Tired. Weary. Worn.

Perseverance.

Perseverance to pick up that guitar and finally learn to play it. Perseverance to get those dreams and goals written down so they can finally be achieved.

To finish that book. To follow through on those best laid plans and good intentions. To make time for God. My health. My family. My marriage.

To fight the urge to give up on people, projects, hopes when they get too hard. Or, to give up on God when he doesn’t answer.

Perseverance to run the race He will set before me. Never quitting. Never faltering. Never giving up.

Out of the Valley of Fear

The Lord is my light and my salvation-so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? Psalm 27:1

Fear. It is the one word I said I was going to overcome this year. That one word I chose to ditch at the beginning of 2014. That one word I just can’t get over. That one word that keeps me from living the life God has planned for me. My purpose. My assignment.

Fear and courage. Two completely separate armies, and in between the two lies one deep valley. And, if I am going to get to the promised land. Live out the life God has planned for me. My purpose. My assignment. Well, then I have to be willing to get out of the valley. The Valley of Rejection. The Valley of Enough. The Valley of Failure. The Valley of the Unknown.

But, fear is the army I can’t seem to leave, simply because I am scared of most EVERYTHING. I have mentioned the typical fears like snakes, sharks, roller coasters, and spiders. Most of those I am happy to admit. I am not so happy to admit that the brave face I put on to hide my fears, really isn’t hiding a fear of sea and land monsters, but rather all those other monsters that have me reenlisting in the Army of Fear.

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Psalm 27:10

I’m terrified of people. I don’t have a social phobia or anything, rather, I am terrified of being rejected by people. Which means I am terrified of their feelings. Hurting them if I speak up. Hurting mine in the process. Afraid of what will happen when the words do come, and even afraid when they don’t. Terrified I will say the wrong thing. Write something too convicting. Speak the truth a little too harshly. Embarrass my teen. Expose myself too soon. And then watch people walk away. Bruised. Hurt. Confused. Ashamed.

I’m afraid of the “enoughs.” The good enoughs. The smart enoughs. The pretty enoughs. The fast enough. The enough of a mother, wife, friend. The Christian enough. The strong enough. And, even when God tells me otherwise-that I AM good enough, I still have this paralyzing fear that somehow, someday, and someone will find out that I just don’t measure up to be “enough.”

Failure? Oh yes, I frequent the Valley of Failure. It is this place in the valley where I beat myself up every time I get less than a perfect score on a test or paper. The valley I stay in when I pull an all-nighter because I can’t stand the thought of failing to turn something in on time. It is also the fear of failure that keeps me from facing my Goliath’s like David faced down his. That keeps me from taking risks. Taking chances. Making mistakes. Making a change. Because, what if I fail? Miserably? What if I have to admit, “Man, I really messed that one up?”

And, oh…the “what-ifs!” The fears of all of those unknowns. Those dark places in the valley that we just can’t see.

“God has a stunning vision for your life, but if He showed it to you all at once, it would be too much to handle. In His grace He gives small glimpses at a time, and His unimaginable vision for your life can only unfold as you have the courage, like David, to move into the unknown.” -Derwin L. Gray, Limitless Life

Small glimpses at a time. Glimpses I can’t see in the Valley of the Unknown. The Valley of What-If. The Valley of the Why. The Valley of the When, Where, and How.

Small glimpses of the army on the other side. The one I can only see if I get out of the Valley of the Sheep named Rejection, Good Enough, Failure, and Unknown.

A glimpse of my purpose. My assignment. What I was born to do. To be fearless. To step out of my comfort zone. Speak up. To have faith even if I cannot see the result.

To move from the Army of Fear to the Army of Courage.

I Have Run the Race

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 2 Timothy 4:7

At the beginning of the year I embarked on a mission to not come up with any resolutions I would not keep, but to instead let one word shape the next year of my life. My word-fearless. I also mentioned at the start if this journey some of the things I feared-things like snakes, sharks, and being vulnerable. But the fear that is my greatest personal obstacle, and the one that keeps me from ultimately allowing God to use all of me is the fear of failure.

The same fear of failure that had me convinced I would not run that 5k I had added to my bucket list for 2014.

The same fear of failure that had me making excuses to keep from running: I don’t have time to train. I have too many problems with my back. I’m just not a distance runner.

However, God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.                       2 Timothy 1:7

As the year has so quickly moved along, I have seen just how many times fear has threatened to keep me from doing God’s work, from persevering, and pressing forward.

The fear of rejection that could have kept me from traveling outside my comfort zone. The fear of judgement that could have kept me from connecting to others. The fear of facing a less than perfect past.

It was through time spent away in my slice of heaven known as the beach, that brought some clarity to my fear of almost everything! Clarity that revealed I could either let the devil tell me I was too chicken to accomplish anything, or let God provide me with the strength to conquer all my fears…even the one that involved putting on sneakers and running with countless other folks, without any training, and in public! GASP!

So finish what you began to do. Then your willingness will be matched by what you accomplish.                        2 Corinthians 8:11

And, this is where I found my endurance. In the call to finish what I had started.

To stop saying I will start running again when this happens or that happens.

To stop making excuses.

To stop the crippling fear that I will fail before I even start.

To start having faith that God will help me finish this race in the same way he has helped me finish all the races in my life. That he would give me the dedication, perseverance, and physical strength to carry on.

And that I wouldn’t just finish, but would once again accomplish more than I ever could have imagined on my own.

You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don’t you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious. 1 Corinthians 9:24

It is a victory that is not found in winning, or in getting the best time, but in completing the race. Not giving up. Not quitting. Not letting fear take over.

He Goes Before Me

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” Hebrews 13:5

Remember that past I mentioned I had to face on my journey to become a licensed pastor in my district? That past the devil used for weeks to taunt me? Well, today was the actual day I had to travel to meet with our credentialing board to give my testimony. Even though I had come to terms with my past mistakes, given them to God, and embraced them as part of my journey, it was without surprise that I still spent most of the day at war with a devil who wanted me to believe that my history could never be a testimony of God’s grace.

He used one little annoyance after another in an attempt to convince me that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t “called,” that I wasn’t worthy. First, I woke up to a cloudy day, soaked with rain. For those of you who know me, rain is not my favorite thing. It makes me want to find a deep dark cave to crawl into, or back in bed, at least. My meeting with the credentialing board was not scheduled until 8pm, which meant an hour and a half drive in the rainy, foggy night. I did drive in the rain and fog, only to find that I had driven to the wrong place. When I did get to the right place after several wrong turns, I sat waiting with a sinking feeling of dread that the pothole I hit while I got lost, would result in a flat tire as I went to make my way back home.

I knew that God had already come before me, yet, I could not keep the devil from crippling me with fear and doubt.

His taunting continued as I learned my transcript had not been received as I had previously thought, as I waited for over an hour to actually give my testimony, and as I clawed around in my purse for a pen to write these very words in this post (Thank God for that Notes app!)

The devil certainly did not want me to give my testimony. He wanted nothing more than for me to believe that God’s grace is not evident in my life. He didn’t want me to be able to write about how I may have defeated him today, any more than he wanted me to be able to tell a room of men and women how God had defeated Him in the past. He didn’t want me to feel like an overcomer. Instead, he wanted me to feel like a complete failure. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like I wasn’t worthy of God’s mercy, or to call myself “pastor.”

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

And I knew God had gone before me. What could the devil do to harm me?

I sat in the waiting room, and as I opened Facebook, the following post from Joyce Meyer was waiting on the page just for me: Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny.

No, it is my testimony.

A testimony that shows the power of salvation. A testimony that shows the depth of His love. A testimony that proves I do not have to live with the doubts I allowed God to overcome. A testimony that shows how God can overcome our past sins and mistakes, make us new, cleanse us, and wash us with his grace.

A testimony that the devil was not going to convince me not to share.

And, as I walked into the room-a room filled with people who had gone through the same process, who wrestled with their own doubts, and fears, and who had all been forgiven for mistakes they themselves had made, I knew that God had once again come before me. It was finished. The decision had already been made. The battle had already been fought on my behalf, and He had already won.

He had once again gone before me, and I had nothing to fear.

Me, Of Such Little Faith

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have such little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:31

In a few weeks I will head back to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend a week long class. Alone, just like the last time. I have spent many of the past few weeks once again dreading the thought of leaving the cocoon of my home to sit in class with such a large group of strangers.

An introvert’s worst nightmare. And the source of dread and doubt that has plagued me, is one I even convinced my husband to let go off in terms of our finances!

I know. I know. I am not only an introvert, but also not so great at this practicing what you preach stuff.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions. James 2:14

So, I here I sit. A woman who says she has enormous faith in God. Who commands her numbers-crunching husband to have a little faith as well, yet, I don’t have enough faith to believe he will not leave me lonely while I am away from home.

See, I mentioned I am introvert, right? I am not one who seeks out people. I would rather sit in the back of the room with a cup of coffee and a book, people watching, without ever having to engage with anyone. It seems a little irrational, but in reality, I simply fear rejection. I fear not making a connection with people, saying something completely idiotic, or finding out that someone really just doesn’t want to talk to me, or even like me.

Why? Because the devil tells me I have nothing to offer. Because the devil tells me I have nothing important to say, nothing of significance to contribute. Because the devil wants me to believe that no one wants to talk to me. That I am not good enough, and that no one likes me.

And even though I know that I will be surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ; people all working towards the same goal, the devil wants me to believe that I will be all alone.

Even when I know better….even when I know he says he will NEVER leave me lonely.

Just as my doubt begins to take over, and I cannot get over my fear and insecurities about venturing on this journey again:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:6-7

That’s right. Even in our doubt, he can still answer prayers. Even seemingly silly and irrational ones like mine.

Because just as I was praying about my loneliness and dread, someone else was praying about their own journey to Lynchburg that same week! And, what do you know? It just so happened to be the same week I would be traveling too.

I doubted God’s plan last semester, and he placed people in my path to be with me along the journey. I doubted him again, and yet he has provided my need this time as well, putting that same person in just the right place at just the right time.

Oh, me, of such little faith. Worrying about tomorrow. Afraid of the unknown. Not giving my doubts and worries to God and trusting His plan.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

He hasn’t failed me. He has never let me fall. Whether in my finances, my relationships, or a week long trip away from home.

So, it’s time to get rid of all my doubts, all my fears. To lay all my worries, burdens, and cares at His feet, and then to walk away knowing that no matter the task, no matter the worry-God has it all handled!

Forward, Not Back

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14

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You can’t move forward if you are constantly looking backward. These have been the words I have repeated to myself and that have been running around and around in my mind since I chose my one word for 2014.

Let’s face it. We have a hard time moving forward. We like to live in our pasts. It’s comfortable there sometimes. The places and people are all familiar. We have been there and done that. So we know what to expect.

Looking forward. Taking those steps into new territory. It’s scary. We are afraid to be in new places. None of the faces look like the ones we know so well, and it certainly isn’t comfortable.

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. For I am doing a new thing!”          Isaiah 43:18-19

To truly live out God’s will, to live a life that is wholly surrendered to his plan, we must look forward. Sure, it’s alright to look back, to remember the mistakes we have made. But we also must learn from them, move on. We must be fearless. We can’t live and dwell in our pasts.

We can’t constantly look backward, and expect to take a step forward.

So, I am going to strive to move forward. New challenges. New faces. New territories. They are certainly scary, but with God walking beside me and guiding my fearful steps towards His purpose, I do not have to afraid of the road that lies ahead.

I know he will fearlessly move me forward in the right direction.

Fearless in the Face of Doubt

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“Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23

This week marks the beginning of another semester of homework deadlines, on-line discussions, and late Sunday night procrastination panic-in other words, another semester of graduate school. I made the commitment this semester to spend a little time before classes began to prepare myself for what lay ahead. In doing so, I reviewed some of the grades and comments from professors I had not yet gotten to from the previous semester. I came across these words:

“January, we all have areas that we can grow in, but your insight has really increased over this week. Like all good counselors you will get better with practice. Keep your eyes on the prize!”

This after a week at school where I spent most of my time in my head, doubting every little thing I did or did not say as a pseudo-counselor.

Keep your eyes on the prize….

But, so often I keep them on myself-on my inadequacies, my mistakes, my failures, my self-doubt. I can’t see the prize because I am blinded by my insecurities.

And, I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

He who began a good work. Was it not God who called me to this season in life? Is it not God who will equip me with everything I need to see his work and purpose through to the end? Is it not God who urges me in Philippians 3:4 to keep my eyes on the prize?

Yet, I still doubt my abilities, and in turn doubt Him.

So, this semester and those seasons I don’t even know about yet, I want to keep in the forefront of my mind the urging of Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21. To remember, God can do anything-far more than I could ever imagine or desire. Far more than I could ever do on my own, or in my own power.

I have to replace fear and doubt with faith.

I must keep my eyes on the prize.

One Word: Fearless

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

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My children often teach me many lessons on life and parenthood. Having one child with autism has also taught me to embrace the fact that many of the obsessions children with this diagnosis have are often not completely rational, and sometimes others may think their likes are downright weird. Our son, Hunter’s, obsession? Sharks. Despite his love for this ocean creature, I am deeply terrified of sharks. While Hunter learns all he can about them (did you know there was a Lemon Shark?), I can’t get past the only thing I care to remember about them.

They swim in the ocean. Underneath my feet. And they bite. Hard! I’m afraid of the ocean. I’m afraid of sharks.

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Psalm 91:4-5

Yet, there are many things this heart fears.

I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of speaking up. I’m afraid of being vulnerable. I’m afraid of taking big steps, moving forward into unknown territories.

Why? Because it means I may fail. I may have to speak up. I may have to be vulnerable.

I’m afraid of not belonging. I’m afraid of roller coasters, spiders, and snakes. And while its contradictory, I’m afraid of not indulging in and reaching for everything this life has to offer.

I fear not being good enough, and I let this fear hold me back from living a life of purpose.

I fear looking back and realizing all the things I said I would do and accomplish were never accomplished at all.

That’s why this year, I have no resolutions. I will not make plans to do more or less of anything. This year my resolution is simply one word: FEARLESS.

“Don’t be afraid. For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.” Zephaniah 3:16-17

FEARLESS. The word that God revealed to me as I reflected on the past year, and thought about the one ahead. Maybe it’s because too many times lately I have been afraid to speak up, move forward, and be vulnerable. Afraid of what others would think. Afraid to hurt others’ feelings. Someone who is often known for having so much spunk, has been anything but spunky!

I have been so overcome with fear that I have certainly not been FEARLESS.

I can’t tell you what this word will look like for me this year. Only God knows this. But, I do believe that in order to be FEARLESS, my purpose must be to face my fears. Admit I am afraid. Tell myself that being afraid is natural and totally OK.

While it may not mean I get over my fear of spiders or snakes, it does mean I learn to step outside my comfort zone…

To jump into the ocean, even though I know sharks swim in there.

To speak up, even though I may be the only one sharing.

To fail, be fine with it, and maybe even fail again.

To be vulnerable, even if it hurts.

To realize I am good enough, despite what others may think.

To reach for, indulge in, and grasp everything that God wants for me to have in this life, even if the path looks too long, too hard, or too scary.

To be FEARLESS.