Overcoming Fear of the Future

I was sitting in the waiting room at an appointment one day, paging through a magazine, when an article caught my attention – “How to Overcome Fear”.

I hesitated for a second – I’ve struggled with fear and anxiety for most of my life, and although I desperately wanted to overcome fear, I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to dig into that whole thing again. Curiosity won, and I began to read. And that was the beginning of a lot more than I anticipated.

*

Fear stayed on my mind for weeks after that. I’d woken a sleeping dragon, and it would take awhile to settle the beast down again. But I didn’t want to simply settle it – I wanted it gone. I began focusing on verses about fear every time the old thoughts gripped me, but I was frustrated – how many times had I heard or recited “Perfect love casts out fear”? What was wrong with me? I believe in God’s perfect love, but my fear wasn’t cast out. What would finally get me to the point where I was filled once and for all with that perfect love, and would experience the freedom of fear being cast out? Something wasn’t working for me.

*

I didn’t know if it was a wise choice or not, but in the midst of my wrestle with fear, I read my friend Kate’s new book.

Her heart is right there on the page, and she has a painfully beautiful way of writing about being diagnosed with stage four cancer at the age of 35. Reading about her struggle with the idea of dying and leaving behind her husband and their little boy was tough for me, and added to the weight of what was on my mind. But reading about her darkness was what led me to light.

She described a moment right before she was about to go into surgery, alone for the first time since receiving her diagnosis, and she was terrified about the depth of fear she would get lost in if she were left alone. But she wrote that instead of being overwhelmed by fear, she was overcome with a perfect love so beautiful and strong that it carried her along, not just through those moments before her surgery, but for weeks to come. It was such an amazing love that she didn’t ever want to be without it again, so she began to ask anyone who had gone through a similar experience, “Will it fade?” And they said yes, it would fade, but she would never be the same.

And that’s when it hit me: I do not receive miraculous peace and provision until the moment I need it. Like the Israelites who tried to collect extra manna, and ended up with a rotten mess, we do not get to save up grace – it’s a fresh filling, a supply and demand kind of thing.

*

The magazine article about fear said that most of the time, it’s imagined. If you were in a dim room, and saw a coil of rope lying on the floor in the corner, you might mistake it for a snake. You might feel fear, until the light was turned on, and then you would realize there was nothing to fear. It would feel real, but it was imagined.

This was comforting, but also made me feel ashamed. Kate lives with the actual fear and reality of life with cancer, while I just can’t get my imagination under control.

And Christians are the ones who are supposed to live with “peace that passes all understanding”, but I was stuck with anxiety that passed all understanding. So many times, Ben would patiently listen to my tearful worries and fears, but then he would say, “I just don’t understand the way you think. I want to help you, but I don’t know how to make you see that you don’t need to worry about those things.”

And so I stayed trapped in the same old patterns of thought, with my imaginary snake in the corner.

*

I got a phone call one morning during the early years of being married, as I was about to head out the door to work. It was a close friend, telling me that her dad had passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly, letting me know when the funeral was.

I drove to work in shock, my mind racing. It didn’t take long for my thoughts to go in the direction of imagining myself in her place – what if my dad passed away without a chance for me to say goodbye? How would I handle it? What would it feel like to lose him?

I did what many seem to do – get lost in thinking about their own imagined situation instead of staying in my friend’s current reality. I caught myself after going far too long in the wrong direction. My heart was heavy with the thought of what it would be like to be in her position – but I wasn’t. I couldn’t be present to support her if I was lost in my fear and imagination of what it would be like to be her. I just needed to be with her. It was my first time realizing that God would only give me strength for what was real – I didn’t need His strength for what was imagined.

Many times, I felt the pull to start thinking, “What if it were me?” And each time, for the love of my friend, I chose to stay present, in her moment of suffering instead of getting lost in the fear of my own.

*

When we first think a thought, it is not set in our minds in the beginning. We have some time to choose if it will become a habit of thought, or if we will reject it. If we continue to think it and solidify it, it becomes a well-worn path in the mind. When another similar thought comes along, the brain needs to figure out where to place it. Every similar thought zooms off down the worn path, causing a reaction so fast and strong, you don’t even need to be aware of what’s happening.

I was 21 when I first started having health problems. I had just moved out on my own, and was faced with overwhelming tests and doctors appointments. No one could figure out what was wrong with me, and my imagination ran wild with fear. I knew nothing about how to deal with everything that was happening to me. I tried to trust God and find a way through, but the fear path in my mind took some dangerous turns as I wore it down to a well-travelled path in my mind.

To this day, thoughts of fear and the unknown will immediately take off in the same direction as always, making me feel as though I’m carried along on a ride I didn’t even choose – except I did, many years ago.

The good news is there’s hope and it’s never too late to change the path, and make new thought patterns. But it takes a ton of work, and so I dig in. I face the imaginary snake in the corner, I search for ways to shine light so I can see fear for what it really is.

Another verse sticks in my head – “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” But I’m a master at bringing the imaginary into this moment. If I mentally prepare myself for the worst case scenario, I’ve fooled myself into thinking I will be prepared for anything. It’s a way of feeling like I’m in control, even though we all know that’s not possible.

*

Kate writes about a conversation with a friend about how to deal with her fear of having to leave her little boy. “‘Don’t skip to the end,” he says, “Don’t skip to the end.'”

Suddenly it all comes together in my mind – choosing to stay in this moment, trusting the perfect love to always be there no matter what happens in the future, stopping the fear before it runs down that well-worn path which only leads to a coil of rope in a dark corner.

*

I try to put this all into words for a friend. She listens patiently, and then she says, “When we jump ahead and imagine ourselves in a terrible situation in the future, we’re picturing ourselves standing there in the face of tragedy without the protective covering of God’s grace, and that is terrifying.”

Years of fear are suddenly exposed to me for what they really are – imagining myself without God’s protective covering. Not trusting that His perfect love will truly be there for me when I need it most. Frantically gathering manna before it is time, only to end up with rotten manna every time.

Don’t skip to the end. Stay in this moment. Grace for the present. Strength for today. My daily bread.

Someday the coil of rope in the corner will actually be a snake, and I do truly believe God’s perfect love will cover me that moment. In the meantime, I pray for the strength to keep living only one day at a time. It is simple, and it is hard.

Are You Afraid to Create?

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?

Look, I don’t know what’s hidden within you. I have no way of knowing such a thing. You yourself may barely know, although I suspect you’ve caught glimpses. I don’t know your capacities, your aspirations, your longings, your secret talents. But surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic)

I felt creative fear this last week. I was standing in my sister’s living room, surrounded by piles of shopping bags, and I was about to start decorating her bookshelves.

And just for a moment, I had this paralyzing feeling of doubt and fear of failure. I had flown out to Ottawa for the specific purpose of decorating her house, and I knew those bookshelves were going to make it or break it. They were huge and looming, and I wanted them to look amazing, but in that moment, all I could think was, “I don’t know if it can do this.”

That probably sounds far too dramatic, but let me just say that bookshelves are hard. They need to be full, but not too full. Coordinated, but not too matchy. Heights and sizes and flow are all important, if you want to get it right. If it’s done well, they’ll look awesome. If not, they’ll look busy and cluttered, or just bare and empty, longing for someone to come make them beautiful.

I recently came across a decorating company on instagram that advertised themselves as being “experts” in bookshelves. It kinda takes an expert, because it’s just really hard to do it well.

There was nothing else to do, other than dig in and get started, or else we would have wasted a lot of time and money on all the decor items we’d just purchased. I got through the first shelf, and was feeling a bit encouraged. By the second shelf, I was starting to have fun. “I think this is working!” I was thinking to myself. “Maybe I will be able to pull it off.” I stepped back to see how it was shaping up, and that was a mistake, because suddenly all I could see again were the wide, gaping shelves which still remained empty. Again, I had those sinking, doubtful feelings, but once again, I grabbed more books and got back to work.

When I finally finished, I plopped down on a chair, and just looked. I sat and looked and looked, because I had done it, and I loved it. I didn’t know if I could do it, and then I brought something into existence which was not there before, and I’d created something I felt proud of.

I keep thinking about this because I wonder what else I’m capable of, but don’t dig in and just start trying. My sister says I should start a decorating company. Ben says I should write a book. My friend says I should start a health blog. I don’t do any of them, because I am saying I don’t have time right now, with homeschooling and a three year old, but I wonder if deep down, it’s just because I’m afraid to start, or maybe I’m afraid I’m not passionate enough to make it happen.

I don’t know what is hidden deep inside me and I don’t know what I would bring out if I dug down to discover it. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect, I’m afraid it will be rejected, I’m afraid it’s all been done before, and I’m afraid it’s much too late to get it started. I’m afraid it won’t be significant or important. I’m afraid I don’t know enough to write a book, and there’s no chance that fiction is happening here, which means it would have to be real life, but my life is pretty small. And decorating someone’s house also seems kind of small, because we really could all survive with bare walls and empty bookshelves, so I’m afraid it’s not significant enough.

But when my sister came into the room once I was finished, she said, “NOW it feels like home.” And then I realized what my driving passion really is – home. My whole life, I have just wanted to make a home for my family. A safe, peaceful, cozy place where everyone can come in and feel something – I don’t even know what, exactly. Maybe just like they belong. I spend every single day of my life doing this for my own family, but when my sister said that, I realized I was actually able to give her the same feeling in her own home, and suddenly it didn’t feel frivolous anymore.

This is not a blog post to announce that I’m starting a decorating company or anything like that!! Rather, it’s just some ramblings on that feeling you get when you create something, in spite of being afraid, and know deep down that you did something beautiful. There is a little bit more loveliness in the world, because you chose to create.

I don’t remember to take pleasure in that often enough. I stick it under the label of “humility” – don’t take too much pride in something you made or accomplished. But I’ve swung too far over to the side of not allowing myself to feel any pride. Those twinges are quite persistent, though – when my pantry is perfectly organized, and I want to keep opening the door to gloat over it a little. Or when I put extra effort into making an especially colourful salad for supper, and I feel just a little proud of myself for making it beautiful. Why do I insist on stamping that feeling down and resisting it?

Kaylia proudly hangs her artwork on the fridge. Everett calls me over to see the train track he built all by himself. Anika has a flush of enthusiasm on her face as she tells me about an especially good scene she just finished writing in her book. Even Ben called me over to admire the garden box he built in our yard last summer, and sent me a picture of himself receiving an award this weekend.

I love to celebrate those moments with others – why wouldn’t I do the same for myself? I want to dig deeper, and see what I find when I’m brave enough to bring out what I can do and create and share. Maybe a bookshelf won’t change anybody else’s life. But maybe it could change mine. Maybe I have no idea what could open up inside me if I would take more chances, do hard things, just dig in and get started, and then bask in the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel at the end. Maybe I’ll actually write a book. Or find some more empty bookshelves. Who knows? Maybe it’s just enough to know that when I’m not sure if it will be great, I should just try anyway.

I hope you’re too brave to have any idea what I’m talking about, but maybe not? Is there anything you’ve been dreaming of creating, but haven’t had the courage to start?

All Things Working Together For Good

I had a conversation with a friend a few years ago about worry, fear, and trusting God. She said something that’s stuck with me ever since:

“If we truly believe that ‘all things work together for the good of those who love Him’, then we have no need to fear.”

As I’ve thought back to this over and over, it became clear to me that I didn’t believe it with my whole heart. I wanted to believe it, and I knew I should believe it…but I couldn’t. I’ve prayed about it a lot since then – I love the story about the man in the New Testament who said, “Lord, help my unbelief!” I asked Jesus to make me believe it, right to the very core of my being.

A few weeks ago, while our family was getting sick with influenza on vacation, I started seeing strange flashes in my eye. The first day I noticed them, it happened about six times, always in the same spot of my eye. Since this has never happened before, and struck me as odd, I decided to give my eye doctor a quick call. I was hoping for reassurance that everything was fine, and I had nothing to worry about, but I got the exact opposite – she said I needed to get to an eye doctor immediately, because the flashes could mean my retina was tearing and pulling away from the back of my eye, which can result in blindness if it’s not treated right away.

Fortunately, I was able to see an eye doctor in Florida that afternoon, who checked my eyes carefully, and said everything looked perfect. But she told me to follow up with my eye doctor at home, and to call if the flashes got worse.

Over the next week, as we dealt with lots of sickness and a stressful journey home, the flashes in my eye continued, and my fear and worry grew. I’ve never had trouble with my eyes, but suddenly, my vision was all I could think about.

When we got home, I booked an appointment with my eye doctor, who also examined everything very carefully. I was really hoping she would also say everything looked fine, but when she got very quiet, and kept going back to the same spot on my eye again and again, I started to get scared. Then she said, “I’m just going to make some notes, and then we’ll talk.” For someone who struggles with worry and fear, that’s enough to completely freak out. I started praying like crazy, and immediately, that verse came back to me: “For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.” All things. Could I really believe that, even in such a scary moment?

My eye doctor explained there was a spot in my retina that was very thin, but she couldn’t tell if it was tearing, so she wanted me to see a specialist right away. It was a Friday, so as I waited for them to make an appointment and give me the information, I was mentally going over my schedule for the next few weeks, hoping the appointment would be at a convenient time.

When they came back to me and said, “Be at the hospital at 9am tomorrow”, I felt another lurch of fear – on a Saturday?! What specialist makes appointments on a Saturday, unless it’s a really big deal? Fortunately, this gave me limited time to worry about it, but that night, I was not doing too well with the whole thing. Ben and I talked about it a lot, and I read a bit online about what to expect for laser eye surgeries, because I don’t like the unexpected. I wanted to have an idea what I might be getting into.

The whole time, that verse stayed with me. All things work together for good. I wanted to believe it, but I could see no good in the possibility of losing my vision.

The next morning, I met the best doctor ever, who unfortunately discovered a hole in my retina. He was so calm and reassuring, though, that he was able to make it sound like it was no big deal, and easily fixed!

But here’s the really interesting thing – he said the flashes I’d been seeing probably had nothing to do with the hole in my eye. Most likely, I’ve been walking around with this for a long time, and the flashes started because of the intense sinus pressure I had from being sick. He said lots of people actually have holes in their eyes and don’t know it. The problem is that at any time, liquid in the eye can start leaking through the hole, causing the retina to pull away, potentially leading to blindness. He said it needed to get fixed, probably not immediately, but he was willing to do it right then, to save us another trip in. I jumped at the opportunity, because it meant I had no time to get scared about it, so he led Ben and me through a maze of hallways. Everything was closed and locked up at the hospital, because they don’t normally do procedures on Saturdays, but he got my eye all fixed up and it only took about five minutes. Isn’t that crazy?! Five minutes was all it took to keep me from losing my vision.

I kept thinking about how all things work together for good. In this situation, it was true – I didn’t even know my eye needed fixing, and if I hadn’t gotten such a horrible cold, I wouldn’t have had flashes in my eye, the doctor wouldn’t have found the hole, and sometime in the future, I could have had worse problems with it. I can see the good.

But what about all the other things which cause me to worry and fear? We live in a world with pain and suffering and death. Can I truly believe all things will work together for good?

I chewed on this for a long time. I wanted to believe it so badly, but I kept running into the fact that I don’t want the bad things to happen at all. God might make it good in the end, but what do I do in the middle? When the bad stuff is happening, how do I trust it will all work out in the end?

I kept telling myself, “He’ll fix it in the end. It doesn’t matter what bad stuff happens, He will make it good.”

And suddenly it struck me – it’s like the story of Sleeping Beauty. I’ve never thought about the story of Sleeping Beauty as a spiritual allegory, but it made everything become clear! (I blame it on the fact that I’ve got two girls who have always loved Disney princesses!)

The king and queen are celebrating the birth of their daughter with a huge party, and all the fairies of the land come with gifts for the baby princess. But suddenly, just before the last fairy bestows her gift upon the princess, an evil fairy appears and gives a curse instead of a gift. Everyone is shocked and horrified, but the last good fairy brings hope. She says that although she cannot undo the curse, she can ensure that everything will turn out okay in the end.

The princess still has to fall into a deep sleep, the curse cannot be changed, but everyone sleeps with her, until her true love wakes her up with a kiss.

Sleeping Beauty

We live in a broken, fallen world where pain and suffering are going to happen – it cannot be avoided. But God promises to fix it. We are saved by true love in the end.

I remember watching Sleeping Beauty as a kid, and at that moment when she reaches out her hand to touch the spinning wheel, I remember cringing, and thinking, “Don’t do it! Don’t touch it!” I wished the moment could be avoided, but of course, deep down I knew it had to happen. Even so, I wasn’t afraid, because I knew everything would turn out okay in the end.

And really, if Sleeping Beauty had never slept, there wouldn’t have been much of a story. She would probably have ended up with her prince, but she wouldn’t have needed saving, and he wouldn’t have been much of a hero.

I never want to go through difficulties for the sake of a good story, but the Bible does promise hard times can produce blessing, growth, and perseverance. We fight the good fight, hang on to the end, and we are all saved.

I’m still finding it hard at times to rest in that truth, but I once read negative thought patterns are like well-worn paths in our brain. If we want to replace them with truth, it takes time to wear down a new path. So I will press on, and keep replacing those old fearful thought habits with faith, hope, and the trust that Jesus makes all things good!

On the Upswing

This weekend, I was struggling with what Ben calls my “downswing”. In the beginning, postpartum anxiety made every day hard, but over time, the hard days have gotten fewer, and I enjoy longer “upswings”.:) But Ben still needs to remind me during my times of discouragement that it comes and goes, and if I just hang in there, things will soon get better.

Saturday morning, I could feel the downswing coming on, and I worked hard to resist it all day. In my head, I knew there was no reason to feel fear or stress, but no amount of logical thinking could get rid of the heavy spirit that persisted. I kept praying and distracting myself, but by Sunday morning, I was feeling worn out.

That’s when I remembered something a friend says:

“Worship changes the atmosphere in your home.”

I believe that’s true, but I seem to underestimate the power of it….

I got out my phone, and started looking for a good song on our youtube playlist. Nothing was hitting the spot, so I started searching Bethel music for a good option. I didn’t really know exactly what I was looking for, but when nothing stood out, I decided to just play the first song that popped up.

You guys. This is what I heard:

“No Longer Slaves”

You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mothers womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again, into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
All my fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
So I could stand and sing
I am child of God…
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES??!! God is awesome. I was a bawling mess by the chorus, and for the rest of the day, those words kept running through my mind – “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God….”
How often is He waiting to provide exactly what we need, right when we need it? All the time. How often do I miss it? I dismiss it as coincidence, or I don’t slow down and take the time to follow the promptings in my heart, or I’m not quiet enough to let Him get a word in edgewise.
But this time I got it right, and I’m so thankful I didn’t miss it. He rescued me so I could stand and sing. He takes my hand, and we are on the upswing!

Four Ways to Fight Fear (Or “How I’m Surviving Pregnancy After Miscarriage”)

I want to write about fighting fear today, but here’s my warning: while I believe that these tools can be used to fight fear across the board, I’m going to be writing about mine in terms of pregnancy and miscarriage, because that’s where my life has been at for the last two months.

It is my hope and prayer that whatever you might be facing in your life, these ideas can be of help and encouragement, even though we don’t all fear the same things….

How I Got into This Mess

When Ben and I talk about my issues with fear, he often expresses how helpless he feels about not being able to make things better for me. He would love to help me, but he just doesn’t understand how I think. He doesn’t get why I worry or feel fear. I’ve had a tendency to pick the worst-case scenario, and then imagine how I would deal with it, thinking this would prepare me for whatever might actually happen.

Over the past few years, I’ve gone to war with that kind of thinking, slowly and painfully trying to change old, bad habits of thought patterns. I’ve been told it works a bit like a beaten path through the forest – our minds follow certain trains of thought, until they become well-worn, and difficult to break away from.

My fears over these last couple of months come from the fact that after Anika was born, we went through two miscarriages, and three and a half years of fertility treatments. During this time, I was very weak physically, mentally, and spiritually. All three tie together so tightly, one tends to bring the rest out of balance. I went to see a counselor during that time, but she focused only on the mental aspect, while I needed balance in the other areas, as well. Things only started improving once I was also seeing a naturopath to heal my physical issues, and found some friends who were able to support and mentor me spiritually. I also read a ton of great books, which is one of my favorite ways to learn and grow.

Before this could happen, however, I become pregnant with Kaylia, and felt so gripped by fear, and experienced such terrible morning sickness, I stayed in bed for hours each day. I could hardly function, those first few months. It’s kind of a blur to me now – I just remember it being a very dark time.

It was hard to recover from it – Kaylia was a few months old before I felt as though I had finally gotten over the fear and trauma of that pregnancy. In the five years since, it’s been amazing to see how God has brought healing, strength, and stability into my life. I’ve learned a lot about choosing my thoughts carefully, and fighting fear. I am not the same person I was back then.

Kendra and Kaylia

However. When I found myself unexpectedly in that dreaded first trimester all over again, I was terrified that I would regress. I did not want to go back to my old way of dealing with things, but it was incredibly hard to be faced with those old fears, and NOT slip back into the well-worn paths in my mind.

I cannot claim to have been completely victorious, but I can say that this time around, things were very different.

Here are the tools I used to fight fear:

1) Hang on to Scripture.

Like your life depends on it. I chose a few verses that directly applied to my situation, and I said those verses over and over and over again. I wrote them out repeatedly. I meditated on them. I prayed them.

When I went for counseling years ago, I was told that the best way to redirect the pathways in the mind is to come up with an alternative thought – something truthful and logical that replaces the fear.

But they were still just words. It worked to a point, but it didn’t have anywhere near the same strength that Scripture has.

For this situation, these are the verses I chose:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:27

I chose these verses because I needed to remember that this baby’s life is in God’s hands. My worrying and fear could not extend that life. God already knew how long this little life would be, and I needed to surrender to His perfect wisdom, knowledge, and plan.

No, it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll get what I want. I wanted this baby to live, with everything in me. I wanted comforting verses that would assure me God would only do what is good and wonderful. But it’s not true. Babies die and bad stuff happens, but if my focus stays on Jesus, suddenly even the worst possibilities fade from my sight, and all I care about in that moment is hanging on to Him. He doesn’t take the bad stuff away – He just captures my focus so I don’t see the fear anymore.

2) Live in the moment.

In these last two months, God did not give me strength to survive losing this baby, because I didn’tlose this baby.

The problem with worrying is that you put yourself outside of this present moment, and Jesus isn’t giving me strength for my imaginary scenarios. He’s here. I firmly believe that He will give me strength to go through whatever life brings my way, but He WON’T give me strength for things life DOESN’T bring my way. I don’t need it! But I do have everything I need, for this present moment.

3) Get prayer support.

Sometimes I feel embarrassed about my issues with fear. I don’t want people to know, because I want to appear strong. I feel foolish about some of the things that worry me. I know better, so I don’t want to admit my struggles with something I know I shouldn’t be struggling with.

But amazing things happen when we open up and share. Our vulnerability often opens doors for others to let down their guard, as well. I’m always amazed by how many other people also struggle with fear. Satan loves to lie to us, and convince us we’re alone, but we’re NOT!!

Opening up to my wonderful friends opened the doors for beautiful times of prayer and being strengthened. On one of my weakest days, a friend gripped my arms, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “You are not that person anymore. You do not fear. You are strong, and God has not made you a woman of fear.” And then she prayed until all the junk had been cleaned out.

Don’t ever stay alone in your fear. If  you really don’t think you have someone to turn to, then pray like crazy that God will bring someone your way who can pray with you and speak those words of truth into your life.

4) There is no condemnation.

I felt very guilty about my fear sometimes. I didn’t want it, I was ashamed of it, and I felt guilty for allowing it to cloud what should have been a happy time in my life.

When people heard that we were expecting a baby, I was asked many times, “Are you excited???!!” And the answer was “no”. I don’t know if I ever actually said that, but that was the truth. I spent two months protecting my weary heart, and I was petrified to get attached to this baby. I wasn’t excited. I didn’t even want to tell people that we were having a baby, because I was annoyed that they were more excited than I was!!

I fought with everything in me not to lose control and enter a complete state of panic. I fought to keep my eyes of Jesus, and to get through the first trimester without losing faith. There was no room for getting excited.

So I felt guilty. And I worried that I might not get excited, at all!

But I need not have worried. When I heard that heartbeat for the first time at the end of the first trimester, I was set free. I was suddenly overcome with excitement, and I wanted EVERYONE to know!

Ben always says, “It will be what it will be.” And this is completely true with baggage. I am on my way to freedom in Christ, but it’s a journey. He understands that, and He just keeps loving me and waiting for me as I keep learning and working it out. He doesn’t condemn me for what I’m feeling – He just keeps offering peace.

It was my own expectations that brought guilt and condemnation into my situation. One day, I finally sat myself down, and had to say to myself, “I am not excited, but I will be. I can’t change what the past held, and I’m learning to face a lot of old fears. It is what it is. So I will keep giving it to Jesus, and I will not expect myself to feel certain things. I will accept the past, trust Him with the present, and hope for better things in the future.”

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And here we are. I made it through one of my greatest fears. There are many, many other fears that could potentially creep in – there are no guarantees, even after the first trimester is over. But I’ve gotten stronger. I’ve practiced controlling my thoughts, and grown in my ability to trust God, and now we just keep going!

Same tools, different circumstances.

I’d love to hear what tools you use to fight fear in your own life. Share, and bless the rest of us?:)

3 Reasons Why I Say “No” to God (And what I’m choosing to do about it!)

On Wednesday, I wrote a post about saying “yes” to God, but I’ve been thinking since then about the times when I’ve said “no”, and missed out on really awesome opportunities.

I figure that if I’m aware of what tempts me to say “no”, maybe I’ll be more aware of what I’m doing, and catch myself in the midst of it! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1) I’m Afraid.

This is a big one for me! I’m scared that I heard wrong, and maybe it’s not God speaking to me. I’m scared of what other people will think of me – that they’ll think I’m doing stuff just to act more spiritual, and doubt my sincerity. Or I’m scared they’ll think I’m weird.

I’m scared that things won’t work out, or I won’t have what it takes to do what I’ve been asked to do. I’m scared I’ll make a mistake.

As I see God provide again and again, the fear begins to grow quieter. My faith is growing, a little bit more each time I say “yes”…

2) I’m too comfy.

I liked my life the way it was. This reason is starting to lose it’s grip on me more and more, as I experience the awesomeness of saying “yes” to God – I’m starting to crave His work in my life so much, I’m becoming more willing to be uncomfortable. But there is definitely still a part of me that likes things safe, predictable, controlled, and comfortable.

3) I doubt.

Beth Moore says, “If you don’t trust God, you are saying He’s untrustworthy.”

Well, now. I wouldn’t go that far – I just doubt God. But what am I actually saying by doubting Him? If I doubt Him, I’m not trusting Him. I’ve always seen that as my problem – there’s nothing wrong with God, there’s just a trust issue with me.

But if I truly believe He is trustworthy, which I would say I do believe, then there should be nothing holding me back. All in. Right now. Can I trust Him?

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All of these things are lies from Satan. Crazy how he gets so much done with a bunch of lies, and no new tricks, hey? He’s not all that creative. I’m still struggling with the very same lies that Christians have fought against since Jesus first came to Earth to set us free.

Where is my freedom to be found?!

Well, I’m finding it in God’s Word, and I have something fantastic to share with you today! It’s a list of verses from Beth Moore’s blog, and I’ve been using it for about a year now. It’s a collection of verses to use when fighting back doubt and fear. Beth Moore says that whenever she’s going through a tough time in her life, she writes down every verse she can find that pertains to the topic at hand, and memorizes them until every negative thought can be fought down with Scripture she’s downloaded into her heart.

Ann Voskamp says,

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Well, let’s get healed! No more lies, and no more fear! Here’s the link to Beth Moore’s awesome resource:

Fear and Courage Verses

What makes you want to say “no” to God?

Say Yes.

Well, today is the big day.

I’m packing my bags, and heading off to Camp Cedarwood to spend the weekend with the ladies of Ridgewood EMC.

tree branch

Many months ago, a lady from their retreat committee sent me an email, asking if I was “available, and capable of deep spiritual teaching”.

My word. It was the “capable” part which undid me. My stomach did some kind of weird lurching thing as I read that email, and my immediate reaction was something along the lines of, “Capable??! Nope!!!”

I fully intended to turn down the opportunity. I’ve spoken publicly many times before, but the words “deep spiritual teaching” were a bit too intimidating, and I could immediately think of a number of other women who could do a much better job.

I sent a polite email back, suggesting we talk on the phone the next day, but I intended to say no.

The next morning, I was reading my Bible, and stumbled across a verse which said,

“Do not fear disgrace…”

And I thought, “That’s EXACTLY what I fear!”

A few verses down, it said,

“You will not be disgraced.”

It was for me. I own it now. You know how that is? When the Holy Spirit just jumps off the page at you, and you know those words are meant for you?

And I wondered if it could really be true….No disgrace?

My phone call came, and I think I still kinda wanted to say no, but the Holy Spirit must have been speaking on the other end too, because this lady I had never met said everything I needed to hear, and I knew this was a God-thing.

I still don’t feel deep. Or capable.

But I feel like God is leading, and for some reason, He wants me to do this, so I will go with a “yes” in my heart.

Yet again, Bob Goff sums it up for me:

Am I the right guy? I don’t know, but I’m the guy being asked, and the last thing I want to do is miss an opportunity or make God mad, so I just keep saying yes. Maybe God is doing some inexplicable things in your life. Each of us gets to decide every time whether to lean in or step back – to say yes, ignore it, or tell God why He has the wrong person….We were all meant to save many lives. God is always trying to save lives, and it seems like He usually uses the least likely people to do it.

Have you ever felt unqualified? Afraid? Incapable?

Say yes! You don’t want to miss anything!!

(Ben and I talked about whether I should wait to post this after the weekend – first find out if I’ll be disgraced or not!! Then we decided that honesty and transparency is a good and beautiful thing, so I’m laying it all out there! I’ll let you know how it went on Monday!)

One Emotion at a Time

Ann Voskamp claims you can only feel one type of emotion at a time.

When you feel thankful, you cannot worry or feel afraid.

That thought annoyed me when I first read it. I think it rubbed me the wrong way because it seemed too easy. I kept seeing those lists of thanksgiving everyone was making all over the internet, and I kept resisting from joining in, without even fully understanding why.

Looking back, I think it was because I didn’t believe I could have suffered through so much anxiety and fear, only to arrive at such a simple solution.

It just couldn’t be that easy.

And was it really true that you can only feel one thing at a time?

I finally gave in to the thankfulness list after reading One Thousand Gifts, and I started making my own list.

It’s been changing me, but it didn’t get rid of the fear in my life.

Where was my cure? I knew it had sounded too simple.

There has been no doubt in my mind that counting blessings makes a difference. It changes my thought patterns. It helps me to stop and notice the little things, the gifts I receive every single day.

But always, the fear remained.

I do not get worried and anxious about just anything. With me, it’s usually health-related. I first started experiencing health problems when I was 21 years old, and at a young age, I lost the ability to think I was invincible. I look around me, and see so many people who seem to think, “Those kinds of bad things don’t happen to me.”

But it does happen sometimes, and so at 21, I started to fear, because it all became real for me. For many years, it was the worst-case scenario for me, and I seemed to get stuck in the habit of expecting it.

But one spring day, I realized how unhappy and pessimistic I had become, and slowly, things started to change.  I decided to choose joy, no matter what. My mind changed, and my body changed, and very slowly, I saw answers to some of those prayers I’d been praying for years, begging God for healing.

But always, the fear remained. Always expecting the worst.

My thankful list didn’t fix it.

I’ve kept on listing my gifts, and I’ve added more joy to my life, and experienced more of Jesus, but this “taking every thought captive” has been slow in coming.

Then, a few nights ago, I joined my Bible study group at church, and I was reminded all over again of the idea that we can only experience one type emotion at a time.

This time it stuck. (This time it didn’t annoy me!)

The next day, I tried the idea out. Every time my mind wanted to go down a worried, anxious path, I mentally shouted out, “One kind of emotion!” I grabbed the nearest positive thought I could find, and hung on.

Over and over, I flexed my mind muscles, stopping the bad, and hanging onto the good.

By the end of day, I was mentally exhausted. It is hard to keep things on track!

But this “one emotion at a time” idea is making sense to me right now. I think it’s what I’ve been missing as I’ve listed my one thousand gifts.

It reminds me of forcing our girls to say “thank you”. I can make them go through the motions, but I can’t make them feel true feelings of gratitude, deep down. That’s up to them.

I was going through the motions of making my list, but I was still choosing fear instead of thanksgiving.

I’ve written about my attempts to control my thoughts, and fight back fear and anxiety, many times before. Things go good for awhile, but somehow, I get off-track, and need to be reminded all over again.

That could be discouraging, but every time, I think it goes a bit deeper. I learn and understand a bit more, and get a little farther along on this journey.

So I’ll keep taking one step at a time, one thought at a time, one emotion at a time!

It seems so small – how does one make progress when inching along like this?

But with perfect timing, I come across these words:

“Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

Slow is still progress. And small is okay.

I think it’s supposed to be small. Jesus says to think about today. Today only. Staying focused on what is right here, happening right now.

Oh, that is my challenge and my prayer.

Don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. (1 Peter 3:14-15)

Replace worry with worship. Fear with thanksgiving.

Obviously, I don’t do this often enough, because when I tried singing today as a way of focusing my thoughts, and choosing to worship, Kaylia looked over at me, and said, “Stop singing, Mommy. I don’t need music right now.”

Little steps, right?! We’ll get her used to it.

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What are your small steps? Do you think it’s possible to experience fear and thanksgiving at the same time?

My Thoughts Can Be Like Moldy Manna

I learned something fascinating the other day. It was explained to me that our bodies were not created for stress.

Not like, “It’s a bad idea to be stressed,  so don’t do it”, but more like “Our bodies cannot function in any way when we are stressed.”

So, this isn’t the scientific explanation, but what I learned is that when we feel stressed or fearful about something, our bodies kind of freak out, and go into that “fight or flight” mode, and rapidly crank out crazy amounts of hormones.

But then, there is absolutely no appropriate place for those hormones to go. They dump into other areas of the body that are not equipped to deal with the overload.

When God made us, He did not provide a way for the body to deal with that correctly or positively. All of those hormones have no way of exiting the body properly, and so they turn into toxins. (And if you know more about the scientific side to all of this, you can gladly provide more info in the comment section!)

Our bodies will never adapt to stress. We cannot learn to function with loads of stress. We just aren’t made to do that.

When God said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow”, He wasn’t kidding. He really meant, “I made you to live free from worry. I want you to trust me with absolutely everything, because I will take care of you. Your body is not made to carry that load. At all.

It makes me think about the Israelites. When they were wandering around in the desert, God provided their food. But only one day at a time. Manna came from heaven, and their needs for that day were provided for.

But if they ever tried to keep some extra for the next day, it was rotten by morning. Enough food for one day at a time. They couldn’t disobey that one, even if they tried.

God tells us worry is a sin, but we think we can still get away with it. We don’t want to settle with thoughts only for today. And maybe we don’t see them visibly rotten by morning, but…maybe we do. Studies show that 80-90% of sickness is rooted in stress.

Instead of rotten manna, we have rotting bodies. I realize that these bodies are not meant to last forever, but I fully believe we’re supposed to live with a much lighter load than we do.

I’ve written so many times about my struggles with worry and anxiety and fear. This last year has been full of learning to trust God more. But what I’m seeing now, more than ever, is that I was made for something so much different.

I have no idea if this will be what finally sticks, but lately, whenever those old thoughts come creeping in, I think to myself, “I was not made for this.”

I try to carry something I was never even meant to touch. That can never end well.

I get today. That’s it.

Fresh manna for the day.

His strength and grace and peace, for today.

And His mercy is new every morning.

Oh, that I would figure it out, and stop trying to hang on to moldy manna!

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If You’re Trying to Change a Habit…

As promised in my last blog post, I am here today to tell you about the little secret I’ve learned to living a worry-free life.

It’s actually not a “secret”, because I’ve heard it a million times before. I just didn’t fully understand what it was supposed to look like in real life. Thank goodness for Elizabeth George and her fantastic explanation which finally made things hit home for me.

She writes a lot about this verse:

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own. (Matthew 6:34 )

That verse has never been a comfort to me – each day has enough trouble of it’s own? It sounds like each day is so full of trouble that there will always be lots to worry about. I’ll be mentally busy for the rest of my life…

So I have always just ignored that verse, and worried about whatever I chose to worry about.

But what Elizabeth George writes about in her book, Loving God With All Your Mind, is that this is a command from God. All that we’re allowed to think about is today. He doesn’t want us filling our minds with worries and concerns about the future. He wants us to trust Him, and live today.

Do you know how many thoughts are eliminated by only thinking about today?

That means no thoughts about mistakes I’ve made in the past, and no thoughts about annoying things other people said or did. And it means no fears about the future, no concerns about things that haven’t even happened yet.

Obviously, it is necessary at times to plan for the future, and to be responsible in our preparation for the days to come.

But what I was doing a majority of the time could not be classified as necessary or responsible. On my first day of attempting to “only think about today”, I could not believe how many times I had to remind myself that I was mentally heading into forbidden territory.

“Oh, that’s dwelling on the past.”

“Oops… that’s worrying about the future.”

“Nope, that’s still worrying about the future!”

All day long, I was constantly reminding myself that my thoughts needed to stay on that day only.

And the strangest thing started to happen! I had so much “space” in my head that I hardly knew what to do with it. I had no idea what to think about all day. I could definitely see how it would be about twenty times easier to pray or memorize verses if I didn’t constantly have all that junk whirling around in my head.

For someone who doesn’t struggle with worry, that probably sounds really silly. How could it take me thirty-three years to figure that out? I guess we just get stuck in sinful habits, and for each of us, we have our areas of weakness that seem to get us every time.

So now what? It’s been a week since I started to give my “mind muscles” a workout. I can see how this will take some time to get used to. I’m getting better at recognizing what I’m doing, and seeing my thoughts for what they are. But I think it will be a while before this becomes natural or easy.

There are a couple of things that I keep thinking about:

1) Because it’s sinful to worry, and God commands me not to do it, I will be able to resist temptation, with His help.

2) The body naturally want to do what feels good for it. A while back, I shared this link to a message entitled “A Beautiful Mind”. The speaker talks about how our body begins to think, “Hey, this is a good choice. It makes me feel good. If I continue to repeat this action, I will feel good in the future.” And a new habit is born. Bad choices can feel good, in a different way than good choices do. If we continually focus on the good feeling that comes from good choices, our bodies will help us in the habits we are trying to form.

You know what? It feels so good to have less worry in my life! Who knew! Um, God did. (And Ben did, too! Man, I wish I could naturally be as calm and easy-going as he is!)

3) God created our bodies to function best without worry. Jesus tells us not to worry because He knows it’s best not to. It’s not just a friendly suggestion. It’s a command because He knows what’s best for our lives, and He knows that we were not created to carry that burden, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

4) Changing a habit is hard, but I can do it for today! When I think about the thoughts that pertain to today, the load looks really light. I can carry the load for today! Changing the entire way I think sounds daunting, but…I only have to do it for today!

So maybe worry is not your area of weakness. But most of these thoughts could probably apply to any area that we struggle with.

What’s your area? What do you struggle with that’s sucking the peace out of your life, and making you feel worn out and defeated? I wish I could share of burst of energy and encouragement with you today! God knows! God cares!

We say those things in such a glib way sometimes, and yet that’s what it all comes down to. It’s what I base my life on.

Want to share? Any struggles and/or words of encouragement you want to pass on to the rest of us?