Living with Fear? Break UP with Fear for Good

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Fear began stalking me a couple of years ago. I admit, I let it follow me at a distance for years.

But then I made one of the biggest mistake of my life.

I allowed Fear to move in, along with all its baggage. Once inside, Fear drudged up daily anxiety. Before I knew it, panic plagued my sleep. I even started grinding my teeth, breaking several in the process.

Fear took over my life, steered my every decision, and wringed joy clear out of my life. Fear held me hostage from writing for so many years.

Can I just confess something to you? I have MAJOR social media anxiety. My face flushes and my pulse rises before I hit “publish” on this blog, Facebook, and even Twitter for goodness sakes.

I’m afraid of snarky comments from Internet bullies. I’m scared of people laughing at me, or worse, thinking I love the limelight.

See the fear I’m up against?

For years, I’ve lived in a Fear-spun prison, but that ends today. This week, my writer friend Heather Creekmore challenged me to blog once a week “no matter what”—and to post to social media.

I’ve taken her up on the challenge, and I’ve learned a two huge things about Fear.

#1 If we want to break up with fear, we must defeat unbelief.

If you look closely, you’ll see that Fear’s ugly underbelly is unbelief.

We evict Fear from our lives the same way we kick an abusive boyfriend to the curb. And I’m not talking about getting a baseball bat—but calling in the authorities.

For years, I tried to rid myself of Fear, but it always came back. This time, though, I’ve taken my unbelief to God—the ultimate authority—and asked Him to help me kick Fear where it hurts.

I asked for faith—raw belief—the unshakable kind I can’t stir up on my own. All I can say is, it’s working.

#2 Fear looks scarier than it is.

Remember Scooby Doo? As a kid I lived for the big villain reveal at the end. Once Wilma or one of the others took off the villain’s mask, we saw the truth. Beneath the costume, a person appeared.

This reminds me of Fear. Fear wears a disguise, always duping us into believing the worst case scenario. Click To Tweet

But something wonderful happens when we muster the courage to face it. When we look under Fear’s mask, we will probably laugh at ourselves for being so afraid.

ScoobyDoo

Instead of a big, hairy monster, we see an ordinary problem that God’s already given us the grace to handle.

Do you need to sever your relationship with Fear? With God’s help you can put an end to that toxic relationship.

Will you join me the challenge to kick fear in the face? Leave a comment below about a fear you’re up against, and I would love to pray for you this week.

I’m looking forward to our discussions here every week.

Birthing Dreams and Needing Someone to Believe in You

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They don’t call it the ring of fire for nothing.

The baby’s head was crowning, and my midwife could see his full head of curly brown hair.

“Push,” she said for the fifteenth time. The pain was immense. So was the fear, and as I sat fully dilated in tub of warm water, this wasn’t a great time to lose my faith in natural birth.

I was seconds away from holding my baby if I could just push a little harder…

But instead of pushing I wanted to give up. I questioned my ability to give birth to this kid, and the soundtrack in my head went a little like this:

You’re incapable.

You can’t do it.

They’re going to have to cut this baby out of you.

Almost as soon as I heard those thoughts, they were coming out of my mouth.

“Maybe I need a C-section. I don’t know if I can do this.”

Thankfully, my midwife and nurses believed in me, even when I didn’t. My husband and mother believed in me too.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, God believed in me.

“Push,” she said again. So I did, not the test-the-water, half-hearted pushing, but the real, let’s-get-this-baby-out kind of pushing.

I knew the difference then, and I know it now. Sometimes I want to dip my toe in the water and talk about doing hard things, but other times I do those hard things.

There’s pushing in fear, and then there’s pushing past fear.

Are up against something tough? Or maybe God made you mayor of Toughville? Don’t bow to fear. Don’t give way to panic.

When fear crops up, find friends to ground you. Find a community to believe in you.

A friend recently reminded me of the ugly, beautiful chaos of birth. She’s helping me stay grounded and give birth to my own little bundle of a book.

What dreams are you wanting to give birth to? What tough things do you need to push through?

Find a way to silence the self-doubt and the mental fortitude to bear down and push past the pain. I believe in you and so does God.

It’ll all be worth it.

How to Lead and Be Unstoppable

Propel

I once obeyed without worrying who would disapprove or who would pat me on the back. Before I learned to cower in self-consciousness, I followed God with the bravado only a teen can muster.

I was bold and unstoppable.

In 1998, I sat on my floral bedspread reading the Student Bible when the Holy Spirit spoke to me. As I read about Spiritual gifts in Romans, I heard him tell me how he was calling me to leadership.

I’m not exactly a natural-born leader. And isn’t that just like God?

I knew he wanted me to lead my high school Bible club, Youth Alive. So, I said yes. It was a simple, naïve yes.

I wish I could tell you this pattern continued, but I can’t. Not really.

In the 17 years since, I’ve felt other nudges to lead. And instead of embracing it, I’ve wrestled with the doubt I can’t lead because I’m a woman.

In 2003 after two years of theology classes and ministry training, I stood one exam away from becoming a certified minister. But I didn’t take that next step.

Growing up women’s ministry looked like quilting and gossip, missions bake sales and pot lucks. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to see educated, Spirit-led women step into their God-given passions for leading and teaching.

A gap does exist in our churches, and it’s a leadership gap. For too long, women like me have shied away from their callings.

In the churches I’ve attended since, I’ve often wished I could join the men’s Bible studies. I’ve pined for a women’s ministry that goes deeper than Pinterest and shopping. I’ve hungered for a profound encounter with the Word of God and sensed a gap.

But I never saw myself as a leader that could bridge that gap. For years, fear of judgment and rejection has pinned me behind the scenes.

I’ve wrestled with the Church’s split view on women in ministry, and I’ve been scared of getting it wrong.

But I’ve found I don’t have to look further than Jesus for permission. I love how Jesus empowered every woman he met.

Slowly I’m sloughing off this stubborn, subtle idea men are better suited to lead. Slowly I’m learning to use my voice for God’s glory.

Organizations like Christine Caine’s Propel Women, which launched Monday, help. Propel casts a vision to help “women internalize a leadership identity.”

Caine, the founder of the A21 Campaign to end human trafficking, knows a thing or two about living unstoppable. In her book, Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do, she gives us this nugget.

“Nothing about my birth—or yours—was random or accidental. I was born for this time—and so were you. We were each chosen for a particular, cosmically important task that can be done by no one else.”

I feel my old bravado returning as God awakens in me old dreams, dreams so big only a kid can believe. He’s stripping away my grown-up perspectives and giving me the faith eyes of a child.

I’m starting to see that all things really are possible to the one who believes, (Mark 9:23). I’m starting to believe that God can use me—even me.

And he can even use you.

I’m steeping my mind daily in this truth, wrapping myself in the identity that I’m a chosen—in spite of my gender.

I’m learning to live with passion and lean into a calling so real fear and self-doubt can’t shake it.

How to Kick the Worry Habit

Photo by Francesco via Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo by Francesco via Creative Commons, Flickr

I did something crazy last month—I decided to start my annual health kick one month early. Cutting sugar from my diet was my health decision du jour.

I passed up holiday cookie exchanges and even pumpkin cheesecake, a minor miracle in itself. I kicked my sweets habit pretty quickly. In a week or so the cravings vanished.

I lost a few pounds, but what I learned about worry and how it relates to sugar addiction proved more important.

A 2013 study showed Oreos more addictive than heroine or cocaine. I’ve never experimented with drugs, but I do have a 30-year sugar addiction.

Maybe I should blame Little Debbie snacks in my lunchbox, but I once lived for that sugary fix. It satisfied in the moment, but gut-punched me with a new craving once the sugar wore off.

While driving one morning, I saw the similarity between sugar addiction and the destructive habit of worry. If I give in to the temptation to fret in one area of my life, it’s not long before fretting becomes an hourly fixation.

I wondered if I could stop the cycle of worry the same way I had broken the sugar cycle?

While my car engine idled at a stoplight, I imagined Jesus sitting in the passenger seat. Somehow the holiday hustle that prods the joy right out of my heart began to cease.

Backseat arguments over toys couldn’t invade my peace. In that moment, I shared exhaustion with him. I somehow knew Jesus sat beside me sharing in my anxieties and daily frustrations.

He sat with me. Or maybe better said, I sat with him, united with him.

This picture of him wanting to be with me during all my unlovely moments changed my mood and allowed his love to flow through me.

I’ve enjoyed Brother-Lawrence style prayer before. Practicing the presence of God while peeling potatoes or cleaning my house has never been difficult.

The real challenge is dwelling with the Lord during the chaos.

How do I unite my worried mind to Peace in the middle of toddler tantrums? These days, friends, I don’t have Brother Lawrence’s solitude or a quiet monastery to hide away in seeking God.

But I do have Someone to run to. Or better said, I have Someone who runs to me.

When I stopped consuming sugar this month, I marveled at how much better food tasted. Vegetables opened on my palate in a new way. Sweet red peppers tasted like candy.

New flavors and nuances in coffee and wine popped on my taste buds. I couldn’t believe what I had missed.

The same rings true when we stop the cycle of worry. Life opens up as a feast for us to enjoy. When fear addles our minds, we miss the opportunity to see God everywhere.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words sum up the reality of abiding in Christ.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

As the new year begins, would you consider joining me to break the cycle of fear and worry in your life? Would you consider focusing your attention in a new way upon Christ and his finished work?

I’m looking forward to posting more about this journey. I hope you join me as we “turn our eyes upon Jesus.” And if I could sing on key, I would belt the rest of that old song to you.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

When Trusting God Doesn’t Come Easily

Prov 3

I have a love hate relationship with Proverbs 3:5-6.

God’s Word, I adore, but I’m not great at trusting.

Oh how I want to live out its beautiful simplicity. How I’ve pined for God to direct my path all these years. But lately, I just can’t help feeling mocked by this verse.

Telling me to lean not on my own understanding is a little like telling a height phobic to climb his first ropes course.

I didn’t realize it at the time. I was too busy laughing, but I witnessed this very thing when my 5-year old cajoled his dad onto a ropes course.

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ropes

Sammy

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My little guy couldn’t go up alone, and I didn’t bring closed-toed shoes, so my husband took the bait.

Mike comes from a long line of a feet-on-the-ground kind of people, and I’ll never forget the look of nervous panic on his face the first time our son asked him to ride a toddler roller coaster.

I saw the same look on his face as he stared at the five-story ropes course. But up he climbed and never looked back. He maneuvered the course, careful to avoid the many zip lines.

Not my son though. Once he was comfortable with the harness, he knew it was okay if he slipped. He understood he wouldn’t fall beyond the harness’ grip.

My son moved so fast the workers made him stop and wait for Mike to catch up. I lost count of all the times he zipped along, feet dangling in the air.

The ropes course has two exits. Take a bungee-type leap from the top or walk the ropes down. My son took the plunge. His dad took the long way.

I can’t help wonder how many times I’ve taken the long way because I couldn’t trust that God’s grip was strong enough to keep me from falling.

How many times have I missed the fun of zip lining through life because I couldn’t silence the nagging doubt in my mind?

I know I’m not alone. We’re safety obsessed people in service of a dangerous God.

Still, I watch God wooing me up my own ropes course of faith. My feet long for the ground and my hands ache from holding onto the cord that’s holding me.

Lately, I’ve failed at living Prov. 3:5-6 because I’ve made it all about me. I’ve put all the balls in my court.

It’s like I have an app gauging how well my heart is trusting, and I keep checking it all day instead of checking in with the trustworthy One.

One thing about trust I’m sure of, it doesn’t come by looking inward. Trust happens as we gaze upward.

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