I Broke Up With Fear

How can I survive this world?  How can I face the day when the tragedy and terror is creeping in?  When the stories on my news feed are more frequent and closer to home?  How can I do everything right to keep myself safe and my kids safe?  What about my parents and others that I love?  What do I do when bad things happen?

 

When I was raising my kids, bad things happened.  They had accidents that could have had much more severe outcomes.  There were times that our safety was threatened.  My awareness for the pain in the world and possibility for pain in my life became more heightened.  Fear became a constant voice in my mind.

 

Fear was not only running around in my head, it had a grip on my heart.  It would wake me up after a beautiful day with my family and parade images in my mind that were not reality.  In turn, I would try to come up with new strategies and plans that would guarantee protection and peace.

 

Fear was a driver.  It drove me to arrange things and avoid things.  It had a front seat and would coach me through realities with “what if”.  I imagined that other people couldn’t see it because I hid it well.  I engaged enough to cover it.  I learned a language that promoted safety and masked itself as wisdom.  I could talk myself into believing I was not trying to control outcomes and sell that belief with “I know God is in control but I am helping”.  “I know God is my provider but I have a back up plan.”

 

This is the extreme of my struggle with fear.

 

The fruits of fear are insecurity, worry, anxiety, control, manipulation, anger, jealousy, competition and sabotage.

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There has to be a better way to live.

 

I came to terms with my fear.  The terms were:  I AM NOT LIVING WITH YOU ANYMORE.  Period. End of story.  I am not entertaining you. I am not planning for the worst thing to happen.  I am not giving up my peace anymore.

 

This became my pursuit.  A better way to live.  When fear would try to motivate my decisions, I would push through and take the risk.  Instead of letting it drive me crazy, I let it drive me to God.  When it would wake me up in the middle of the night, I would pray.

 

I realized that my peace would never come from trying to avoid pain.  I’ve been in pain.  I’ve experienced loss and grief.  I know I cannot plan and arrange my life well enough to have the security that silences fear.  There are things that are out of my control.  There are people who are out of my control.

 

I asked God to open my eyes so I could see where fear was a filter in me and he did.  The picture that comes to mind is a river with big boulders rerouting the water. Then rocks that are seen when the boulders are gone.  Then the stones that are scattered around that I can avoid if I’m looking.  At times, it’s a pebble in my shoe that causes me to adjust my gate until I pause what I’m doing and remove it.

 

This is my journey… freedom from fear. I trust you God, no matter what.

 

Bad things happen.  When I think about the pain people are experiencing, it is hard to imagine their depth of grief.  It takes my breath away.  I can’t go through my day without them on my mind.  It makes it hard to fully believe that I can trust God no matter what.  But I choose to.  I choose to say NO WAY and I’m breaking up with fear.

 

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves… and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  Romans 8:28 The Message

 

Thank you God, that you open the eyes of the blind…. And that is me.

 

Jesus, be present.  Comfort us.  Heal wounds.  Bring hope and freedom.

Thankful For Freedom

I was recently at a dinner meeting with some women who lead various ministries. Each person had a “Thankful” focus at their place setting to think about and share with the group.  As each of the 8 of us shared, it was amazing to hear the different things we are all thankful for.  My question was:

 

“What is something that has taken a long time to develop or come to pass that you are thankful for?”

 

I kept trying to come up with a very meaningful, profound answer.  I thought about my children… they take a lot of time to grow!  I thought about all the things I’ve experienced in my 46 years… relationships that I’ve had for a long time.  My attention kept coming back to one thing:  Freedom.

 

When I truly understand what God has done for me, rescued me from a dead end life and saved me from living in the fear the enemy had convinced me of, I am eternally grateful.  I think about the anger and control I was managing in the early years of parenting and I cringe.   I was so caught up in defending myself and protecting myself from getting hurt that I was hurting the ones I loved the most.

 

By God’s grace, I finally got sick and tired of myself and began to understand the enemy’s strategies against me.  He had me convinced I needed to manage my people and problems so I wouldn’t experience pain, rejection, discomfort or hurt.

 

So today, I am most thankful for Freedom.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to live like that anymore.  I believe what the Word of God says about me.  I can embrace what Jesus did for me on the cross when he defeated sin and death.  I can change.  I’m not hopeless!  I’m not stuck!

 

Don’t get the wrong impression that I’ve arrived!  The measure of freedom I have found continues to increase as I choose it every day.  In the past few months, God has revealed some ways I have been protecting and defending myself.  Ugh!  As challenging as it is to change, deep down, I don’t want to stay that way.

 

I am continuing my journey and doing the work of replacing the lies with the truth that He is my defender.  He is my protector.  He knows what I need and is working out His freedom in me as I surrender to Him.

 

I have some wins!  I have some understanding that trading the lies for the truth is worth it.  I have friends who have found freedom in areas I’m asking God to bring to me.  I don’t want to stay stuck in any way and I hope you don’t either.

 

 “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”  John 8:31-31

 

What is God Doing?

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
Don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He’s the one who will keep you on track.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Chris and I had a conversation recently trying to make sense of a few situations going on.  There are things happening and we really don’t know how they will turn out.  The options are not necessarily bad ones but we just don’t know which scenario will be the outcome.

 

So, naturally, we just sit back and watch God work and wait for His answer and find ourselves completely at peace.  NOT!  Anyone else struggle with wanting to know what God’s doing and how things will turn out?  I mean, I will let God be in control as long as he gives me all the clues so I’m able to understand what He’s doing all along the way.  No surprises!

 

As Chris and I were having probably the 10th conversation about one particular thing, I pictured God looking at us saying, “Really??  You spend so much time, energy, brain space, words, etc trying to figure out what I’m doing.  You draw a conclusion and think you’ve nailed the answer and then you are at peace, for a moment.  What’s up with that??”  (Do you imagine God talking like that?)

 

It’s like we reason in our minds what’s coming and we park there and find our peace of mind in the fact that we think we’ve figured it out or figured God out. So during my prayer time, God put these questions in my mind:

 

Do you want to focus on trying to figure out and reason what I’m doing?

Or

Do you want to focus on being ready to respond to what I’m doing?

 

That got my attention!  I started thinking about what it means to focus on figuring out what God’s doing.  My conclusions are usually not accurate.  I’m preoccupied with what might happen, could happen, what I want to happen or don’t want to happen.  I’m never satisfied with my answer.  I might have peace in the moment but in the next, it’s gone and I’m turning the problem over in my mind again.  It’s the crazy cycle!

 

What does it mean to be ready to respond to what God is doing?  It’s about the present.  My time is spent learning about Him and His character.  I have the opportunity to respond to Him and others in every encounter in my day. My peace comes from knowing that no matter what happens, He is God and He is good.  He will work all these things together for His glory.  I can truly trust in Him.  That verse in proverbs really comes alive!

 

Trust God with all you heart… Don’t lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

 

Which best describes where your focus is right now?  Are your time and energy spent reasoning or responding?

 

My Favorite Thing About God

 

Have you ever thought about what you love most about God?  I have to admit that my answer probably changes depending on my circumstances.  I think about God’s character and what I know about Him but not really what my favorite thing about Him is.

 

I love to worship.  I connect best with God when I’m in worship and have come to crave it.  It could be in a church service, on a walk or in a quiet empty sanctuary.  I hear God most when I take a moment to listen during worship.  He has encouraged me, challenged me, strengthened me and reminded me of the Truth.

 

During a worship service in April, the worship leader asked us to take a few minutes and tell God what our favorite thing about Him is.  Instead of rehearsing my list of what I know about God, I prayed, “God, what is my favorite thing about you?”  The answer took my breath away.  “You love that I’m your biggest fan.”

 

I almost fell over or laughed out loud.  I would have never thought that on my own.  But you know what, He knows me better than I know myself and it’s true!  He is my biggest fan and in that moment when He spoke that into me, I knew it!  It’s kind of funny to me… It doesn’t really sound like it’s about God, it sounds like it’s about me.

 

Think about when you have been someone’s biggest fan or when people have been behind you cheering you on and keeping you focused.  It’s hard to imagine that God is a fan of ours without making it about us.  It’s not really about us at all though.  It’s about His character and knowing that His love doesn’t depend on us.  We don’t deserve it, we mess up, break promises, repeat sin, etc and He is still our fan.  He loves us unconditionally.  That’s challenging for me to wrap my head around.

 

When God spoke that into my heart “You love that I’m your biggest fan”, I knew that at some point, I had made a major shift in everything I believed.  I believe in His love for me.  I am at peace when things are good and when I’m struggling.

 

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Romans 8:31

 

What do you love most about God?

Slowing Down To Listen

This summer, I hope to experience a slower schedule, time to focus on relationships and the opportunity to regroup and listen to God.  Truth:  That doesn’t happen unless I get intentional about it.

 

On of the ways I am slowing down is by mapping out what I want to accomplish this summer within a reasonable timeframe.  I am trying not to take on too much while also building more margin in my schedule.  I still have my usual responsibilities so I have to get creative!  On my days off, I am really trying to take the day off.  This may require me to work a little more on necessary things through the week but it’s so worth it!

 

A bad habit I started which I thought was giving me a jump-start on my day is checking my email on my phone when I wake up.  I realize this is stealing my focus first thing in the morning and the emails will be there an hour later.  When I spend the first part of my day focusing on God, I am way more productive and able to handle things led by Him.  So I decided to change this!

 

Being intentional meant finding several different ways to spend my morning with God.  Here are some of the things I am doing but not all in the same day!

 

  • Bible Reading – I have a great reading plan I’m working through and I have been experiencing the living Word this summer! Even if it’s a passage I have read many times, God is faithful to bring a fresh perspective and truth.

 

  • Worship – I love worship. I am not the best singer but I don’t think God cares.  I turn worship music on in the morning and I carry it around with me wherever I am in the house and even when I move to my car.

 

  • Listening – In the past I have gotten caught up in having to read or pray or worship to the point where I am not really listening. When I listen to what God is putting in my heart or how he wants me to see a situation, my perspective changes and my stress diminishes.  My best environment to listen is when I’m on a walk or sitting on my porch.

 

  • Devotional Study – I love understanding who God is through what he reveals to others. Sometimes hearing what someone else has been through helps bring clarity where we need it most.  My go to devotional right now is A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  Many of the Clubhouse team are reading through it currently and this is what Natalie had to say about it:

 

“I constantly have doubted who I am and if true faith and trust in God was in me.  In A Confident Heart, Renee Swope shares her own struggles and how when we understand who Christ is in us, the confidence in God and faith in Him comes. 

Renee speaks in terms that are so relatable through her own stories and victories! This book is helping me refocus on the truth and principles I learned in Freedom and gave me more proof of God’s love for me. .  I am not letting abandonment and rejection from my past define me.”

 

What are some things you are doing to be intentional with your time this summer?

 

Is This the Devil or Just Life?

Over the past few weeks, I have had the weirdest things going on.  I was calling it random but now I’m beginning to suspect that it’s not random at all.

 

I had a filling replaced about 4 weeks ago and have had nagging pain in my mouth ever since.  I tweaked my back and my neck is in knots.  I don’t have allergies but this pollen is really getting the best me!  That’s just the physical stuff, I’ll spare you the rest of the list…  and now I’m whining.

 

I know there are people who are facing more difficult situations than I am.  At times, that thought causes me to just suck it up and deal with my little aches, pains and issues and try not complain.

 

The problem with this thought is it also causes me to discount that there could be any spiritual connection to what’s happening.  I ignore the truth that God is using all things in my life to work out his purpose in me.  And, the devil is looking for any opportunity that he can to bring discouragement and cause me to lose my focus.

 

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  Romans 8:26-28 MSG

 

To know that the Holy Spirit knows me and knows my condition and keeps me present before God is huge!  I try not to give the devil too much credit but I don’t want to ignore his attempts either.

 

So, this is what I do:

 

  • I look at the pattern and actually make a list of all the things that are getting me down at the moment.
  • I lay them out before God and ask Him to show me if there is a theme to this madness. Am I too busy?  Have I neglected to take care of myself?  Is there a problem I am avoiding?  What does God have to say about all this?
  • I take authority over every plan the devil has to distract me and steal my focus. I break any agreement I’ve made that doesn’t line up with the truth of God’s Word.  Basically, I kick the devil to the curb!
  • I go through my day listening to what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to me and I ask God for healing… in my body, my relationships, my spiritual life, whatever needs healing.
  • I get back to beginning my day in His Word! I resist the urge to put it off until later, and reading early helps me keep my focus on God.

 

What do you do to connect back to God when life just seems to be hard?

How Was Your Day?

Have you ever made arrangements to have people over and your day didn’t go the way you planned?  You were late getting home and the clean up you thought you would have time for didn’t happen.  You end up running around throwing things in closets and cabinets to straighten up.  For me, everything gets piled up on the washer and dryer.  I mean a huge pile!  It’s pretty ridiculous.  I pray no one opens the laundry room door because while my house looks orderly and clean on the surface, behind that door is a mess!

 

 

One of my biggest struggles is keeping my relationships and responsibilities in the right order in my life.  Many times, I have good intentions but what ends up happening is I look like I have it all together on the outside but if you talk to my kids or my husband, or my friends, they might feel differently.   Years ago, I heard a question posed to a woman in leadership, ”How do you keep your priorities balanced?  God, Husband, Kids, Ministry, Friends, etc…?”  Her answer was simple: “If I keep God in first place in my life, everything else will be brought to my attention when it needs attention.”

 

She wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t have a plan to spend time on our important relationships and responsibilities.  She was saying that when we make our relationship with God our first priority and we invite Him into our schedule each day, He leads us.  If something needs some extra attention, He will prompt us and help us make the time.

 

So what does it look like for God to be first in my life?  I think it starts with inviting God to be in charge of each day.  Trusting that He can use anything that happens to bring me closer to Him and show me where He is working.  Putting God first is my choice every day.  When I do, my relationship with Him will grow … instead of reading a few verses in my bible, I might read a chapter.  I’ll find myself praying and inviting Him to direct my steps when decisions need to be made.  When things go different than I planned, I look to Him to help me figure it out and I am much more peaceful because I know He is in control.

 

Here is a simple prayer that may help you.

God, you know the things that are most important in my life.  You know all the things I am responsible for.  As I make my plans, you see where I need to make adjustments.  I invite you to interrupt me and point out the areas I may not see.  Lead me today so that you are first place in my life and I am doing what you want me to do.  Amen