Dear Fear,

 

Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform, it is clean, and uncluttered. I have found so much inspiration there. (Now if only I could just bring myself to ditch that time waster of FB). I was scrolling through my feed on my lunch break at work the other day and came across the above image re-posted by a friend of mine. It literally took my breath away for a second. So good.

Addressing your fear, acknowledging it, giving it a voice, but not giving it control. (Even of the radio.) Fear is something I have dealt with throughout my journey, at different times and in different ways. It is indeed familiar. So familiar that sometimes it sneaks right in and starts making suggestions without me even noticing. But I have gotten better at recognizing it over the years, and better at shutting down those suggestions before they start taking me on detours. But every time some new situation or choice arises, it is there, that familiar tightness in my chest, that ‘what if,’ worse case scenario playing in my head,

The sooner I recognize it, the easier it is reason myself back to reality, a process that sometimes has to occur multiple times a day. Sometimes that requires listening to fear and walking with it for a while. In one of Beth Moore’s bible studies, she says something to the effect of, to break fear’s hold on you, sometimes you have walk out with it to the end. This seems counter-intuitive, but in order to do this you first have to recognize what it is that you are specifically afraid of. Often times we have a fear response but we can’t really put into words what exactly it is we are afraid of, and we just end up with this vague anxiety that paralyzes us. Secondly, once you realize what exactly you are afraid of, you go there. You go there in your mind, you walk with fear down that horrible path of ‘what if’. When you get to the end you sit and look around and see if it really as bad as you thought. Is it really the end of the world as we know it?

For me, this is what this looks like: Ok, this would hurt, this would be hard, this would be difficult, BUT if I end up here, is God still in control? does he still love me? will he teach me and guide me and give me the strength I need to walk through this?  And once I have sat in that place and looked fear in the eye, the answer is always, yes. Yes, He will be enough even in that place, and suddenly fear loses all control.

It goes back to the question I have asked myself every step of this journey. “If I really believe what I say I believe, then what? If I believe what I say I believe, then I simply can not let fear drive.

Words

“When words are written down they can be the finest expression of the human soul. Once words are marked down on paper, they cannot be taken back, they are in the world for good or for ill. They wither or they endure. Words can be dangerous things. They might find expression when we least expect it. Or they can desert us altogether”” – From Larkrise to Candleford

I wrote this quote down while watching TV because I thought it was so true, and I wanted to share it here. That was months ago. Apparently my words deserted me. I went from twice a month blog posts, to once a month, to now 4 months of silence. I don’t like being silent. But there are times when I don’t want to know what I think.

Words aren’t only an expression of my soul; they are the way I find my soul. In sitting down to write, I figure out what I really think and feel in ways I never do otherwise. Writing is as much self-discovery for me as it is self-expression. And sometimes it is just easier to just not discover.

Where to begin? The last 4 months have been a whirlwind. I graduated from nursing school, my son graduated from kindergarten, we went to the mountains, my grandma fell and broke her hip, I took a board review class, I took and passed RN boards (woohoo!), one of my dear friends got married, I had jury duty, we got two puppies, my ex-husband moved to North Carolina, we moved my grandma home on Hospice, and my son and I went to Legoland. And those are just the highlights from glancing over my calendar.

 

Within the next month, my son starts soccer, first grade (at a new school), and AWANA. Throughout all this I am caring for my grandma, looking for a job, organizing and boxing things in my home and in storage in preparation for moving. Tired yet? I am. The kind of tired where it is easier to pop on an episode of Downton Abby in the evening, than to face thinking about anything.

The uncertainty of my life right now is overwhelming. While nothing has changed, everything has changed…and everything is about to. I have been looking forward to this change, but so far it is not looking like anything I had planned. But isn’t that what they say? Life is what happens when we are busy making plans? So I am just trying to go with the flow. And breathe. In. And out. And not panic. And not hold on too tight. And not drowned in the overwhelming loneliness of it all.

See, there is that darn self-discovery sneaking in. I had not thought about loneliness, and certainly didn’t intend to write about it. But there it is. Marked down on paper, so it cannot be taken back.

When one reads the list of things I have been up to, loneliness would not be the first thing that would come to mind. But loneliness does not come from being alone, and it does not leave in the presence of busyness. It comes from not having someone to share your thoughts with at the end of a long day. It comes from having no one to help you figure out the logistics of getting your kid to practices and games and school events, and how in the world you are going to do all that once you get a job. It comes from boxing up baby clothes and not knowing if you will ever have the chance to use them again. It comes from lying in bed at night and wishing there was someone next to you, just for the comfort of it.

And this, my friends is why I have been silent. Because I just can’t face it.

And even if we never talk again

“And even if we never talk again, please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me”

This quote hits home and has inspired me to write about something very personal.

This time last year I was in a relationship, my first (and only) one since the divorce. I had told God that if he wanted me to be in a relationship with someone he was going to have to make it very, very clear, because I was too afraid to trust myself to make a decision like that. Of course being God he came through, and not only did he make it very clear, but just so I couldn’t talk myself into thinking it was coming from me, he made it someone I would not have chosen on my own. And in the process, taught me a very important lesson that He “does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance (and circumstances), but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16: 7)

So knowing 100% that this was a relationship that God wanted me in I entered into it with my heart open, not holding back.  I have never known anyone who probed so deep into my heart and required so much honesty from me. As a result deep places of fear, scars, and confusion that I didn’t even know were there, were opened to the light of day. God taught me so, so much and I had a period of very concentrated spiritual growth.

Then it ended. I was confused, hurt, and angry, not with him, but with God. Why had he put me in this relationship, just to take it away? Had a misread the signs? What was the purpose? It took me a while to wade through the emotions. But I came out the other side with a better understanding of God and of myself.

A bit of back-story: I was raised with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and was taught not to give my heart away. I married my high school sweetheart. It was what I always dreamed of, I didn’t want to give pieces of my heart away; I didn’t want to have a broken heart. After less than a year of “dating” I told him I didn’t want to be in a relationship, if it was just going to be a short-term thing, he agreed and we decided that our intention in dating was to develop a relationship that would lead toward marriage. Heavy stuff for a 16-year-old. Fast forward. After 5 years of marriage, we separate and eventually divorce. And here I am, single for the first time since I was 15. Never having “dated” and left to sift through my previous thoughts and convictions on relationships and dating. Talk about baggage.

Based on my previous “dating is bad” and “don’t give your heart away” ideas, I never would have opened my heart up the way I did, if God hadn’t been very clear from the beginning that I was supposed to be in this relationship. My problem was, based on these ideas, I assumed that because God led me into this relationship that it was going to be a permanent thing. I assumed I knew what God’s purpose was and it was only my assumptions, me trying to be God, which caused me hurt.

As I sorted through things, God was very clear with me, the relationship was exactly what it was supposed to be. He used it to bring things to light that needed healing that I didn’t even know were there. He used to test me, and grow me. He used it to make me a better person. He used it to change my assumptions. And most of all He used it to show me how much he loved me. Based on my old view, by loving this man, being emotionally open and vulnerable, I would have somehow lost something. But I didn’t lose a thing; I gained so much!

He also used it to change my views on relationships. There is no “right or wrong” way to go about “dating,” as long as I follow His lead I will be doing the right thing. If God brings someone into my life, he has a plan for that person, for that relationship, and for my heart. I have learned to have an open heart, that there is nothing to fear. I don’t need to fear loving, and I don’t need to fear losing.

Again it comes down to “do I really believe what I say I believe”. If I believe that God loves me and has a good plan for me, how can I not trust him with my heart? If I open it, it might get hurt, but if I keep it closed I will miss the opportunity to learn and grow.

God Gives and Takes Away

“Do you believe that God is a giver or a taker?” “Is what holds us back from the wild ride, the fear of what He may take from us?” And “ Do we fear how much He will have to take from us to get Glory from us?” These are the questions Beth Moore asked tonight in Bible study. These are hard questions, we may say one thing with our mouths, but in the deepest parts where fear hides, we may believe the other.

I used to believe God was a taker. I remember standing in church with my big pregnant belly and singing, “he gives and takes away, my heart will choose to say, blessed is your name;” And being terrified that God was going to take my baby from me. Because I hadn’t suffered loss yet in my life, and somehow I thought in order for God to work in and use me for His Glory I would have to suffer. What a twisted view of God.

Fast forward a few months, I am kneeling at the side of my bed, (because if I kneeled God would hear me better) sobbing, and crying out to God to give me my husband back.  One month later he would leave for good. Loss, with a capital L. Did I have it coming because I had never lost anything before, because I hadn’t suffered yet, was it was just my turn? Is God like that?

God did not cause my divorce because he wanted to test me, or grow me, or get Glory out of me. All of those things have come from it, (at least the first two, and I hope the last) but he was not the one who caused it. God hates divorce; he would never cause it. Sin causes it, plain and simple. And sin is the absence of God. But that does not mean that he can’t take the results of sin and use them for his Glory.

I always believed that God could do a miracle, and answer that sobbed out prayer. But he didn’t. He allowed the sinful choices to play themselves out, and there was never the change of heart to bring about restoration. Does this mean God didn’t care, that he “took” my marriage from me? Does he take more than he gives?

No. He chose not to restore the relationship (even while asking me to consider the possibility, see Belief Part 1) that much is true. But in that process he gave me so much more. I had a realization last semester that floored me. For school I had to attend three AA type meetings. For one of them, my friend and I chose to go to an Alanon meeting, which is a meeting for the families of those with addictions. During the meeting they read from one of their pamphlets a list of the crazy behaviors and things that people do when they are living with an alcoholic, just to try to get through to them and to try and change them. Now my husband was not an alcoholic, but he had some unconventional addictions that seriously affected our relationship. As the list was read, I sat there realizing that I had done every single one of the things on that list, as it pertained to my situation. I realized how crazy those behaviors were, how desperate I was, and how hard it was. And this weird little thought, that had been bouncing around in my head for a while, even thought I tried to press it down, came to the surface. “I rescued you from that.” God didn’t give me my husband back, but what he gave me was sanity, he gave me strength, he gave me peace, he gave me stability. I may not have seen it while I was going through the pain, but in that moment, he gave me the tiniest glimpse into the big picture.

So tonight when the question was asked, “Do you believe God is a giver or a taker?” I can honestly say I believe he is a giver. I may still struggle with fear, but if I recognize it for what it is, I can confront it with the truth: God wants to give good gifts to His children. It may not always look like what we think it should look like, and yes sometime he has to take things in order to give better things. But He gave his SON. How much more proof do we need that God is a giver?

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things” Romans 8:32

Broken Hearts

Tonight my heart breaks. It breaks for all those whose hearts are broken. All around me people are hurting, lives are falling apart, and people are struggling to hold them together. My heart aches. It is not just one person, and the ironic thing is that is what enables me to write this, if it was I wouldn’t write because I wouldn’t want to jeopardize their privacy, or make them feel like a burden, but it is not just one, it is many.  (And none of them are a burden)

I have been called to reach out to single moms. Called, that is such a serious sounding word. But really all it means is that God wants me to use my experiences to help others. Over the last few years, he has filled my life with single moms, some have helped me, others I have had the privilege of helping, all of us have shared a little bit of this crazy journey we are on. Common experience draws us together.

Lately another common experience has been drawing me together with others. Heartbreak. That terrible thing, which led most of us into the land of single motherhood. Those heart-wrenching experiences, that we would much rather forget, now that we have reached a place of relative contentment with our situation. When friends have poured their hearts out, I have had to remember, it all comes back. Empathy is such a wonderful thing to be on the receiving end of, but often difficult for the giver, because you have to remember what it felt like.  What it felt like to have your heart ripped out and trampled on, the uncertainty, the fear, the guilt, and the failure.

I have been comfortable with sharing life with single moms. I have such a heart for these amazing ladies. This new phase is not comfortable. It is quite uncomfortable to relive emotions that I have long since put to rest. But I know that it is where I am supposed to be. Using the pain that I went through to help others, somehow makes it, if not worth it, less pointless.

Seeing the same kinds of things happening over and over again does not make it easier to explain. Every time, I shake my head in bewilderment, how could he be so stupid, how could be so selfish, how could he not see the amazing thing he has here, how could he walk way (unmarried), how could he not honor his vows (married), how could he not obey God.  (Disclaimer: I am not bashing guys, it is not always the guy, there ARE great guys out there, but in the situations I have encountered lately it has been the guy) But today I was struck with a thought, sin is sin, and it all looks disturbingly similar. Satan uses the tried and true methods of self-centeredness and deception, if it works, why reinvent the wheel. So while the details may be different, the underlying factors are often the same. It is a relief to know it is not just a bad case of counter-transference on my part. And it points to the only answer to fix any of it, more truth and more God.

Bringing up all these memories and emotions stirs up fear. I wonder if it is really worth it to do it all again. With the full-scale spiritual war being waged against marriages and families do I really stand a chance if I try again? Is it worth the struggle, is it worth the pain, and is it worth the risk. And then I remember that fear is the enemies number one weapon again me. It is my Achilles heel. It can paralyze me. But since I have realized that, I can fight against it. I don’t have to live my life in fear; I don’t WANT to live my life in fear. I want to live my life in love and trust. I want to be secure in the love of God, trusting that He has a plan. If I listen and follow his leading I have nothing to fear. Except fear itself. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Just As I Am

It is quite appropriate that the last time I wrote, I wrote about fear, because right about now I find myself gripped in the icy claws of fear. Afraid of what I really want, afraid to settle for less. I have asked God for some very specific things in my life, and I don’t want to settle for less. But at the same time settling seems a lot easier and more gratifying in the moment. I have never been very patient, I keep seeing the stupid quote pop up on Pinterest that says “Trust in God means trust in his Timing” and I need to see that each and every day because I have such a hard time just waiting. At the same time I have been in a place in my life for the last 6 months or so where my relationship with God resembles an angry teenager, who knows that their parents know best, but they just want to do there own thing and have fun. From this place, realizing what it will take to have what I have asked God for, it seems like I am impossibly far away. And looking at it straight in the face terrifies me. I feel so incredibly inadequate; can I really trust God enough?

I know the answer is yes. Because from the place that I wrote the last entry, I had faced my fears and gladly said yes I will follow. But when that didn’t turn out the way I expected I drew back, and questioned why God would mess with me like that. I knew it was for the best, but it caused hurt and confusion and it took me a while to see the big picture. I went from being very close to God and putting trust in him every day, to pulling back and while still feeling the loving Father, my heart was that of a spoiled little brat, who was throwing a fit because they didn’t get what they wanted. So how do I get back to that place of daily communion with the Father?

Through the complete destruction of my life, hopes and dreams I was close to him. I had to be. Sometimes it hurt so bad I could hardly breathe. I trusted him as he led me through the process of healing; I trusted his timing and gave him the desires of my heart. When he finally led me out of the lonely journey I was on, I was close to Him as I rejoiced in what he was doing for me, for the joy that he was putting back in my life. I trusted him every step of the way because I didn’t know how else to do it. But, I also made the mistake of assuming that I knew where he was taking me, and guess what, in true God fashion, He had other plans. And some how even though I was trusting him to lead me, and was still trusting that he knew what was best, I lost that connection. Just like that spoiled teenager I mentioned, I said ok God, that great, but I am upset and I am just going to go sulk in my room, I still trust that you are going to provide and take care of me, but I don’t really want to talk to you. How stupid and immature. I desperately want to move on to what he has next, but I know that won’t happen till I get that connection back so I can know where he is leading me. But I feel like at the same time that I am just trying to connect so that I can move on, and that seems selfish too. I need to want God, for God, not for anything he can do for me.

On Sunday the speaker challenged us to pray for 10 minute every day. I have done it one day so far, I thought it would be hard coming from the place I was in, but I just went back to the place of desperation I was in before and I poured out my heart, all the junk, and the hurt and confusion, just like a used to, and guess what, He was still there right where He has always been. Even though I haven’t done the 10 minutes more than the one day, things have been much different, and I plan to chat with my heavenly Father much more. I don’t have to have some amazing revelation or calling, I just have to come to him, just as I am.

Fear

Fear: such a small word for something that can be so big, so real, so controlling. But it starts small, it comes creeping in and we don’t even notice it at first, we can’t put a name on it, until it has us gripped in it’s icy fingers, and then we feel helpless to do anything because now it seems so big.  Fear is something that we all experience in one form or another, and it is something that God has been teaching me about lately.

The sermon last week was on fear and anxiety, he said fear comes down to, being afraid you won’t get what you want, or being afraid you will get what you don’t want. So in it’s most basic form fear is about not having control. As I have written before I have been on a journey with God to learn to trust him, to learn to leave my life in his hands.  What I have learned lately is that is a lot easier said then done. I know in my head that God loves so very much, that he will never leave me. And because of that he has my best interested in mind, and he is not going to take me somewhere where I can not trust him to take care of me. That was relatively easy to believe when my life wasn’t going anywhere. And even when I started to move, I could trust because I knew God’s hand was in it, but as things move on I find myself trying to grab on to anything that I can to have some sense of security, some sense of control. It is like being on a roller coaster, when you have a harness over you that you know will hold you in, but yet when it gets fast we hold onto the handles for dear life, thinking that somehow we can help keep ourselves safe, when instead we should throw our hands in the air and enjoy the ride.

I was struck yesterday by how fast I can go from professing faith and trust in God, to being paralyzed by fear and doubt. It is absolutely crazy, but I don’t think I am alone in this. Peter got out of the boat, fully trusting in his Jesus, but yet in the middle of the miracle of him walking on the water the doubted, and he sank just like that. This makes me feel better, if Peter who had Jesus standing right in front of him could be trapped by fear, maybe I am not such a failure.  Fear is part of the human nature; otherwise God wouldn’t have to tell us so many times in the Bible to “fear not” or “do not be afraid”.  The thing that the pastor said, that I need to work on embracing is that “The answer to fear is not more faith, it is a Father” Faith is the opposite of fear, if we had complete and utter perfect faith in God we would never fear, but we are human and fear comes creeping in. So what do we do then, when these two opposites are warring within us? The key is to run to our Father, to go to him and say, “I am scared” If we understand the nature of a loving Father we can do this because we know he is not going to condemn us because we doubt, he is going to gather us in his arms and remind us of how much he loves us.  And that love is what is going to cast out the fear.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15)

There is no fear in love; instead perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18)

I need to learn to cry out to my Father and allow his perfect love to drive out my fear. I have not reached perfection, but each time I cry out to Him and allow him to take the fear from me, I get one step closer.