Tag Archives: fear

A new kind of brave

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It has been a hard five months for our little family.  Nothing cataclysmic, just many small stressors piled one on top of another.  A trip to Haiti (more on that some day.  I’ve tried writing about my experiences and it comes out sounding whiny and depressing.  So I’m tucking it away and trusting that God will make sense of it in time).  A ridiculously busy, stressful summer.  Sickness.  Some health challenges.  General, run-of-the-mill relationship frustrations.  None of it huge, but together they have been exhausting.

Oh, and I’m pregnant.  With a girl!

I found out I was expecting about two weeks before leaving for Haiti.  I spent the summer battling constant nausea while chasing a one year old.  Good Times!  We really are super excited – despite the rough start.  I know the immense blessing and miracle this new little life is.

But I am also completely overwhelmed and scared.  It’s not so much about having two kids 19 months apart.  That will certainly be crazy and I might not leave the house for months.  For real.  I’m not worried about having enough love for two kids – enough sanity, yes, but my journey to falling in love with my son taught me a host of things about how love grows and how faithful God is to provide for us.

I am frightened of what it means to raise this baby girl into womanhood.  I knew from the moment I saw that little pink plus sign that I was having a daughter.  I think God told me right away so that I would have some time to process this new reality before sharing the official news with the world.  It kind of gives the wrong impression when you tell people you’re having a girl while crying and looking terribly disappointed, eh?

I feel so ill-equipped to mother a girl.  Boys feel more comfortable, make more sense to me.  Heck, girls make no sense to me and I am one!  I’ve never felt like I fit into the “girl” world – a strange thing to say in this 21st century liberated world of ours, where views of femininity can run the gamut.  I hate shopping.  I’ve never liked to talk on the phone – or any of the social media equivalents.  I refused to wear pink until I was well into my twenties.  I like movies where things blow up.  What if my daughter is a pink-wearing, princess-loving, social media maven and I have no idea how to connect with her?  What if (gasp!) she makes me go to the mall with her?!?

But seriously, it’s that crazy, always changing notion of femininity that has me trembling.  How can I teach her what it means to be a woman when I’ve never been sure myself?  How do I keep from passing on to her the insecurities I have wrestled with for years?  More importantly, how do I teach her what it means to be a woman who loves God when our culture screams destructive messages, and I’m not sure I always agree with the image of womanhood often presented in the evangelical church?  How do I respect who she is – her personality and likes and talents – while guiding her to love Jesus and obey Him?

This is a new kind of brave.  It isn’t an event or task (my comfort zone!).  It is investing in this little person long-term.  It is relationship.  It is facing my own shortcomings and faults.  it is making mistakes and asking forgiveness.  It is gracefully, openly, with abandon loving my daughter even if I don’t always understand the things that make her squeal with delight.  It is a much harder Brave.

Oh, but there is love, too!  I am already madly in love with her, even if all I know about her is her feisty kicks and steady heartbeat.  I cannot wait to cup that little face in my hands and kiss her perfectly misshapen baby head.  Getting to know her will be full of adventure and discovery.  It will be full of joy and anticipation, like unwrapping the very best Christmas present ever.

my story

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Once there was a little girl with curly brown hair and green, serious eyes.  This little girl had a mother and father who loved her completely, just as she was.  She had a sister and brother, grandparents on both sides, aunts, uncles, and cousins, friends and teachers who encouraged her, taught her, and loved her well.  There were dogs to play with, acres of woods to run in, and a lovely little home where she had a yellow (and later blue) room filled with toys and books and clothes.  And she was afraid.

For as long as she could remember, Fear hounded her.  She lay awake at night, afraid to sleep, convinced her house would burn down in the night or thieves would break in to hurt her family.  She was afraid to climb too high in the trees.  Afraid to meet new people.  Afraid to break the rules.  There were few areas of her life that weren’t defined by Fear.

As she grew into a young lady, her fears grew too.  Fear manifested itself in a need for control, in self-reliance, in perfectionism but in reality she was choking under Fear’s tight grasp.  It governed each decision she made, each adventure she refused, each friendship she avoided.  No matter what she tried or how hard she fought, she couldn’t defeat Fear.  Inside she was still that scared little girl cowering under the covers.

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My friendship with Jesus began almost 30 years ago.  At seven years old I believed there was a good and loving God, and I wanted to know him.  My parents told me that God was holy and perfect and that our sins, the wrong things we do, keep us separated from Him.  No amount of good works can earn a place for us in heaven.  But God loved us so very much He made a way for us to be His friends and live with Him forever by sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins.  Jesus’ perfect, sinless life met the requirement I could never meet and His death paid the price for my sins.  Then He rose form the dead, making away for me to live with Him in heaven forever.  Over many conversations I began to understand this story of salvation.  One hot autumn night, after my parents tucked me into my big canopy bed, I asked God to forgive me for the wrong things I had done and to come live in my heart.

That simple prayer born from a simple faith started a long friendship with God.  There was no dramatic transformation, no stirring before and after story.  Instead I have grown to know and love this childhood Friend more and more.   The changes in me have been slow, shaped by Him over many years – but they have been no less profound.  He has walked with me through seasons of intense brokenness that I didn’t want and wasn’t sure I could endure and has consistently and faithfully woven something beautiful and lasting from those tattered threads.  I have stubbornly refused to obey Him, sure that what He asked was too much to give only to discover a breathtaking freedom on the other side of surrender.  He has challenged my pride, my control, my anger, my priorities, my identity- and my fears.

One Sunday in the winter of 2011 I stood singing with the rest of the church.  I don’t remember what precipitated this thought – some conversation or lyric or nudging of Go’d Spirit – but I realized that I was tired of living in fear.  I didn’t want it to control every decision and saturate every moment of my life, and asked God to help me.  What followed was two years of the most brutal, vicious attacks on my mind and heart that I have ever experienced.  I doubted my faith.  I doubted God’s existence.  I was literally choked by fear, panic rising from deep within me.  I felt like I was standing on the edge of a deep, dark chasm, about to fall and unable to stop myself.  I cried and cried from confusion and pain and fear.  Slowly, I began to realize that the way out of this awful mess was through complete, absolute surrender to God.  I cannot describe to you how much this terrified me.  Despite a lifetime of walking obediently with Him, of memorizing and studying the Bible, I knew I did not trust Him.  Could I trust Him, this God who could, who would ask me to surrender all the stuff – possessions, position, people – that gave me comfort and security?  This God who asks me to live a life of sacrifice and pouring-out and yielding of my needs? This God who let people, good people, die too young from cancer?  Did I want to surrender to Him?  I fought it hard.  And then, in the darkness of a hotel ballroom when I least expected it, God met me.  I saw a glimpse of His glory and I was undone.  I was a blubbering mess of surrender, but it was beautiful.  I confessed and He forgave.  He moved mightily in me – and so many other women – releasing me from the fear that held me captive.  Here are my thoughts from that night.

El Shaddai, I confess my sin of fear.  I have loved this world more than You.  The fear of losing family, status, comfort has kept me imprisoned.  I live controlled by worry and anxiety, struggling fruitlessly to gain control.  I surrender.  Tonight I have come face to face with You and You are worth it.  Wherever You lead, whatever the cost.  I tremble to write that, but I have nowhere else to go.  You have the words that bring eternal life.

I have experienced an amazing peace a freedom since that night.  Do I still struggle with fear?  Absolutely!  But it does not control me.  I am finding joy in surrender, in walking into those things that cause me fear.  This little space on the internet is proof of that.  I am learning to trust Him, perhaps for the first time.  I think I will fight fear my whole life.  Part personality, part personal weakness, it will be something that must be faced in every circumstance.  But I am also discovering it is not me that needs to do the fighting.  When I surrender to God, when I say “whatever,” then He sucker-punches fear and I take a step forward in freedom.  When I try to fight fear with control or self-reliance then I get pummeled.  Exodus 14:14 says “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”  In the still of surrender is victory.

When God shows up

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If I never write another word, Allume was worth it.

That’s a pretty crazy thing to say about a blogging conference, right?  And yet I know the truth of it deep in my bones.

I went to Allume as a brand-new blogger, unsure what to expect, unsure if I would have a place in this community.  But the hearts of the leaders drew me from the very beginning.  Their endless prayers for us, their passion for community, their desire to make Jesus welcome beckoned me in.  I assumed I would learn technical skills to help me manage my blog (I did).  I hoped I would be stretched and challenged as a writer (I was).  I did not expect for God to use this weekend to break through the fears and doubts that have entangled me for years.  I did not expect to meet Him face-to-face on the holy ground of a hotel ballroom.  

When Jennie asked us to speak aloud those sins that entangled us and held us captive, it was a frightening and freeing and transforming moment.  I told these women, near strangers, the dark place of my heart that I had not told anyone but my husband.  I tried to hide behind my vague response but this dear sister next to me (I don’t even know your name!) dug deeper.  And God broke through.  In that moment I beheld my sovereign God who is more that enough to meet all my needs, calm all my fears, and carry me when I cannot stand.  Like Isaiah and Ezekiel and John I fell before God, undone by who He is and what He has done for me.

I did not meet many women.  My stack of collected business cards is woefully small.  But honestly? For this shy girl 450 women, however welcoming and beautiful, are incredibly overwhelming.  Yet I know that I am part of this community.  I felt at home with these ladies who love Jesus passionately and serve Him in the hard places and squeal over new books left on our tables like it’s Christmas morning.  Over and over we were reminded to be a host of stars, pointing the way to Jesus instead of trying to outshine our neighbor.  I was challenged to encourage the dreams of others while pursing my own, to celebrate the gifts and victories of my sisters rather than letting the bitterness of jealousy divide.  I was encouraged to throw myself with abandon into the community of influence I have whether it is 4 or 4,000.  This is upside-down thinking in the blogging world.  But it felt like home.

I know that I cannot build a tent on this mountaintop, but I want to move forward transformed.  I am desperate not to slip into the same patterns of thinking and self-protecting behaviors – which only shield me from the very Life I long for.  How do I live transformed when I am knee-deep in diapers and bottles and the laundry that never seems to end?  How do I find adventure in the everyday?  How do I share my story when I’m just now accepting the reality that I have a story?  I want all the answers and a five-step plan tied in a pretty package before I begin.  God has a different way for this fear-choked girl.  Come with me, He whispers.  Lean into me, rely on my sufficiency and I will show you things above and beyond all you could ever hope or imagine.