Sunday, September 24, 2017

This Ever-Changing Life

     The next fear that I’ll mention is probably one of my least favorite things in the whole world and not surprisingly, something that I am currently being confronted with at all angles. And that’s the fear of change. I dislike change, even change that I am looking forward to. No matter how positive the change is, I still have a hard time adjusting. And unfortunately, nothing ever stays the same. Oftentimes, I’ll hear older moms say to younger moms when they are dealing with teething and colic--”This too shall pass.” They mean it as encouragement, and it is, but it’s also sobering. Yes, the struggle won’t last forever--but neither will the mountaintop experience. Not on this side of heaven. Yes, the diapers, and drool, and sleepless nights will soon pass-- but so will the stories, the cuddles and the family time. It all passes too quickly and it seems the older I get the more I feel like I’m trying to grasp too tightly. It's similar to riding a merry-go-round.  When things are hard, I want to spin it faster until the pain and struggle are over. When they are good, I want to set my foot to the ground and slow time down to make it last. But I’m not in control. Learning to be content in every state as the apostle Paul said is not an easy task--and only accomplishable through Christ. Paul wrote that admonition while in prison, but he also made sure to explain HOW we can do this--because that strength doesn't lie within our weak flesh. Thankfully, Philippians 4:13 shares the promise that, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." 

        So much has changed over the last few months. At the beginning of April, I had no idea that I would be penning this post from our new home in Texas. I had never even been to Texas before. Weeks before, Brett and I had been praying for God's direction in our lives--whether to stay or go and what He desired for us to do. In mid April, he received a call from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. They asked to interview him over Skype. The next day, they called and asked him to travel to Texas the following week. We went, strangely peaceful, but mostly enjoying the chance for a quick getaway. That trip altered everything. I can't explain it very well. All I can say is that suddenly, we knew that this was where God wanted us to go. We don't know exactly what he has for us, but there was an unexpected peace about such an unexpected decision and destination. And it definitely wasn't for personal preference or financial reasons. We were comfortable and happy where we were. In the last few months, we have flown to Texas twice, sold a house, bought a house, changed jobs (for Brett), changed churches, traveled 1100 miles and said good-bye to the places and people we loved the most. That decision was not without sacrifice and pain. I've told many people that there has definitely been pain--but also unmistakeable peace. 
     Once the initial change had occurred, the boxes were unpacked, and our loved ones had returned to their homes across the country--that's when the Lord could really start to work on us. When change occurs, one of our first instincts is to buck the change and pine for days gone by. King Solomon warned against this kind of thinking. 

   Ecclesiastes 7:10----Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

It's not wrong to reminisce.  However, it is wrong to spend my time dissatisfied with the present because I am desiring something that I do not have. I cannot follow God's will and be content in every state, when I am constantly wishing things could "be the way they used to be." I have to give this up. Esther, Joseph, and Daniel are wonderful examples of people who were forcefully thrown into change that was against their own will--however, they yielded to the situation and their peace and contentment created reverberating positive effects on the lives around them. Trying not to cling to the past is no easy task. I miss spontaneous playdates for my girls with their cousins. I miss the fellowship and friendships in our church. I miss even just going to familiar places. I miss my best friend. I miss feeling like I knew my place and I knew my routine. I miss not feeling alone. We miss the familiar things because they are known to us--change threatens us with the unknown, which is where faith is needed and tested. 

    I don’t have the answer to completely conquering this yet. The Lord is still teaching me. What I have learned is that there is a mourning process with any change. The old is put to rest and a new reality begins, like when the first child is born/or when the last leaves, or when there is a loss, etc. And sometimes we go through the stages of grief with a change. Perhaps we hit the stages in a different order but there's still denial, anger (irritability, unsettled), bargaining (with God), depression (discouragement), and acceptance. I always think of Peter when I think of the stages of accepting change. He had to change his views so many times to match Christ's message. It’s no wonder he denied Christ, was angry, depressed--and then finally wholly accepted the Truth. He didn’t stay angry or depressed because he yielded to Christ’s way even though it wasn’t what he was used to. I sometimes wonder about his wife (if she was alive at this point)--Her husband started out as a Jewish fisherman and ended up a Christian missionary. She had to adapt to quite a bit of change. The key is to follow his example and not stay in the stages of depression or anger when change comes. 

    When change comes (and it will), praise God in it and thank Him for guiding us and comforting us through it. And pray to Him through those stages of grief as you put the old to rest and take up the new path before you. The Lord has been good to us here, too. We have enjoyed more time to strengthen our family and marriage. When you only have each other and the Lord, nothing else can distract you from those relationships. You cling to them because they are all you have. Gaining that spiritual and physical closeness is invaluable. 

     And most of all, I'm learning that I need to surrender--because the root of most fear is the fact that we are not in control, but praise God I can trust and depend upon the One who is. 

     Fear is not a bad thing--when it is godly fear. Fear of God preserves us. Ungodly fear prevents us--prevents us from doing God’s will and living free of those weights. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Next Four Years . . .

Unafraid of the Future. . .

     The ideas for this post were forming in my head last night, before the election votes had all been tallied--and regardless of who would win. It still rings true today. The next presidential term will, no doubt, bring paramount changes to the United States as we know it to be. Because of the changes at stake, a powerful emotion was brought to the forefront for many Americans--Conservatives felt it before the election and Liberals now after the election. That emotion is fear, making it a perfect topic for my purposes on this blog. I will admit to being more than a little frightened of the freedoms at stake over the next four years. I am grateful that I have been able to homeschool my children, and know that I can effectively defend them from intruders. If I'm honest, I'd admit that I have fretted more than a little over losing those freedoms.
    But, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God," Psalm 20:7.
   And, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help," Psalm 146:3.

      And it seems that Christians, many of them, have put their trust in princes and chariots. They have counted on--and are now rejoicing that--Donald Trump has saved them from the evil of Hilary Clinton. I agree that she is despicable and dangerous. However, I find it foolish to proclaim that God has "spared" or "saved" America by placing Donald Trump in the presidency. We've misplaced our trust and our focus. We were so driven by fear of the threat of Hilary, that we placed our trust and hope in Donald Trump....... That seems ridiculous to even write. Or maybe just desperate...

    While I was worried about the loss of personal freedoms and the chaos that would ensue if Hilary were made president, I am just as concerned about the unpredictability of our next chosen president. However, that's because I've misplaced my trust. American Christians have this illogical notion that they cannot live for God or prosper His purposes without a conservative in office. There are Christians all over the world who serve Him and live their daily lives despite their country's form of government. Some of them live in harsh conditions; others lead relatively comparable lives to ours. I realize a government can make it harder or easier to live for Christ. I'm not blind to that fact, but we've had it "easier" for a very long time and we've taken it for granted. The bottom line is that no matter what--we are to live for Christ and not rest in our government to free us from a "greater evil" or to rescue us from a feared outcome. We've replaced God with government. It's as if many Christians were saying this morning--"Whew. Now we will be fine." We will get what we have chosen.

    In 1 Samuel 8, the children of Israel decide to reject the leadership of God and ask Samuel to anoint a king to fight their battles. Samuel warns them against such a decision and lays out the risks of having a king. They further pressure Samuel to choose a king. God leads Samuel to anoint Saul as their king. Samuel's warnings become reality and Israel gets what they asked for, what they decided to trust.  Are we ready for what we chose?

   I need to place my trust in the Lord for the future and my freedoms. That does not mean I demand that He create a constitutional utopia for me so that I can serve him comfortably. That means I pray for the preservation of freedoms, but trust Him to give strength and provide--no matter who sits in the Oval Office. I do not put my trust in presidents or princes to save my way of life. I give my way of life to Christ.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:
Psalm 146:3-5.

(I don't particularly care who anyone voted for--I just want to make sure I remember where my help comes from.)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Being Imperfect

     I've spent most of my life in the mindset of a perfectionist. As a student, I always earned academic honors and the accolades of my teachers. This attitude carried over into the rest of my life. Many times it brought me great success. I have boxes of useless certificates and medals to attest to that. However, many more times, it brought me undue stress and fear of failure. Any former "Accelerated" student knows what I mean. The deep-down fear that if that letter grade isn't high enough, then--"Maybe I'm less than everyone else?" "Maybe I'm not really smart?" As my life changed and my focus was redirected into the role of a teacher--- my perfectionism manifested itself in too many late night and weekend work sessions, angry rants at my children and husband (who really just needed my attention and time), insecurity when praise didn't come, and self deprecation when a day didn't go as planned. (Does any day go as planned when children are involved? Ever?) Any time where I found myself faced with end results that didn't match my previous plans, I felt off balance, confused, I had failed. I have viewed too much of my life objectively. If I do "x, y, z," then I should be able to predict what will happen every time, similar to a multiple choice test. I always know what the answer would be. It doesn't change. And if I studied hard enough, I knew I'd get the end result I had planned. It took many years before I realized how much my narrow success and attention to detail had warped my perspective. It isn't wrong to focus on perfecting our work or checking our efforts to ensure that we have done our best---but it may be incorrect to assume that I have failed whenever the result of my efforts is valued as less than perfect (or less than I expected). When things do not go the way I have pictured them, I am apt to assume there is something wrong with me or what I have done---but perhaps the problem is more with the picture I have presumed to be reality? Women, specifically, struggle with this through social media. We see someone else's 3-second-snapshot of "perfection" and compare it to our 24/7 reality and are weighed down with the feeling of inadequacy.

   When I say that someone is successful--each one of us will instantly have created a different picture in our heads of what makes a person successful. When we imprison ourselves in our fleshly expectations, we lose our contentment and fail to see God's hand in our lives. When we lost our second baby in December of 2012, I felt the deep sense of failure that any grieving mother would feel. It was my job to grow that little one and keep him/her safe until our meeting day. I had done everything I was supposed to do--nutritionally, hormonally, spiritually--and still we spent the weeks before Christmas in mourning for the child we'd never hold. It took a long time for me to accept that I had not failed. I didn't understand how I could learn to be happy again when things were not how I had expected or planned. It took even longer for me to accept that God hadn't failed. I was angry and weak and felt God had made a mistake. Didn't He know we needed that little one to complete our family? Didn't He know we had been trying for a year and a half? Didn't He know how much this hurt--in every way that a person can hurt? I didn't understand how grief could be His perfect will for us. It's a daily process--but one that gives strength---to really understand Romans 8:28--"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
During the weeks of grieving, I covered the insides of my cabinets with verses. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or swallowed in grief, I would walk from cabinet to cabinet reciting the verses. One of those verses was 2 Samuel 22:31: "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him." 

Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

   My life felt broken--but it was my definition of perfect that was actually broken. We live in a fallen, sinful world. I know that, and so do you. To expect perfect Instagram-worthy moments 24/7/365 is foolish and naive. When bad things happen or reality falls short of perfection---I need to evaluate how I am defining perfection. Four years ago, my definition included having a baby in the summer of 2013. God's plan included two more girls, but not until 2014 and 2015. Maybe your family struggles with health or financial issues?  We assume that we have failed when our situation doesn't meet OUR expectations. Instead I should focus on God's perfect will for me--that I live as a sacrifice to Him, that I am molded by his Word and not the world. THAT is perfect.
   I still find myself falling into the A+ mindset. If I don't think I will be the best, then I catch myself avoiding situations or tasks where I know I will struggle or show myself inferior to others. No one likes to looks foolish or to lose, but I have learned that sometimes I avoid activities where I wouldn't necessarily fail--but I definitely wouldn't be the best. And my flesh wants to be the best. All. the. time. This blog is an excellent example of this. There are so many more blogs that surpass mine in every way. I might not be widely read or circulated. That's why it took me a year to give in to the Spirit's yielding and start typing. I didn't want my best to be mediocre compared to someone else. But what if God's perfect will for me is one random blog post that gets to one random person who is struggling? What if that is the extent of my influence? I should be content with that--because the true success lies in following God's will completely, without the need for an audience. 

Colossians 3:23-“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;”

    So in the Spirit of abandoning perfectionism in my own eyes and yielding to God's leading, I have been shoving down my flesh in an unexpected way lately. I am not a singer. I sing better without a piano to match with, but I'll never be asked to perform. There are any number of women in my church who bring such amazing talent to the songs of faith.  Until recently I never joined them--purely for selfish reasons. I knew I wouldn't be the best and I knew I wouldn't be earning praise after I sang. I knew I might embarrass myself, so I avoided it at all cost. However, the Lord has been putting songs on my heart over the last year or so and showing me that my reasons to not sing are vain, but the reasons to praise Him are endless.  Not singing because I don't want to look bad is just as bad as a soloist performing in church to feed his/her own pride. Why do we sing? For his glory! It's not about me. I assumed it couldn't be a blessing unless it was perfect by my standards. The Bible says, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

     So when we do things that the Lord tells us to--following his will sincerely and with a willing heart is more important than earning man's accolades. When we do that, His Strength shows through because the attention is on the Saviour and not on our abilities.  So I have sung some specials at church lately, alone and in a group. Each time, the performance has been nothing to garner admiration--but I've felt encouraged each time and affirmation from the Lord as I've shared songs that are ministering to me. That's what it's all about! I'm finally learning it's about doing His will--whether it requires us to use our strengths or our weaknesses! It's like Moses at the burning bush when God is sending him to Egypt. Moses debates with God, listing his own weaknesses and how he isn't as sufficient for the role as someone else. God is showing His power in the burning bush and Moses is quibbling over speaking skills(!!!). And didn't Christ show his power to us at Calvary and the Resurrection? 
    Whether you're a Momma dealing with the up-and-down cycle of potty-training, a missionary toiling in the field or on deputation, a parent staring at piles of unpaid bills, a father praying for a hurting loved one, a pastor weighed down under the pressures of the ministry, or a student facing a page of algebra problems---------Struggle is NORMAL. Struggle is EXPECTED. And God knows it. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 103:14--"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."   (Do we remember that we are dust?)
    Our perfection does not reside within ourselves and our efforts. It never will. God knows we are human---that's why grace and forgiveness are needed. And humility is needed to accept them. That means accepting we aren't perfect...and serving Him in every capacity--whether we earn praise, ridicule or the lack thereof. Spend your life--not in the pursuit of that picture perfect dream--but by using your life to direct those around you to the perfect Saviour who died for our sins. Bring attention to His perfection, and then the rest doesn't seem so important any more.

 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.--2 Corinthians 10:12


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The fear of being insignificant...

If I'm going to start this, I might as well start with a tough one--save the easy fears for later. No dipping my toes in the water--I'm going to jump straight in--which is highly out of character for me metaphorically and literally.

We all want to matter....the most introverted wallflower wants to matter to someone---her circle may just be smaller than others. The question I'm grappling with lately is--"Who do I want to be significant to? I want to know that I matter to who?" (I realize these are grossly grammatically incorrect, but my internal conflicted self is influenced much more by emotion than by language standards.) What I am realizing is that my target audience is not who it should be.

I fear being insignificant in friendships....As a result, I'm a wallflower who conversely ends up monopolizing conversations in a desperate attempt to prove to others that, Hey! We have things in common! I'm just like you! Like me!" I've always been shy in the past, so I'm afraid of fading into the background of the lives of other people. I should be comfortable in the background since I've never been an extrovert. However, I've discovered over the last few years how much I enjoy having good friends and being social A part of me is scared that no one would seek my friendship the way I seek out others'.  So what does this look like?--it manifests as jealousy. Jealousy when a friend confides in someone else. Jealousy when an invitation doesn't come for an outing. Beneath that jealousy is fear--fear that I wasn't the confidante or that I wasn't invited because there's something fundamentally undesirable about me. Fear that I hold my friends in higher esteem than they hold me.      And. That's. Stupid.    (Seriously?! I'm sprinting over the whole 'fear of being honest" hurdle right now.)

I fear being insignificant in my family...I know I matter to my children and my husband--but I often feel like I am not making a difference in their lives. I'm sure this thought has plagued many a housewife whose daily contribution doesn't feel to be more than temporarily clean clothes and an even more temporarily clean house. I just want to know that I am acting as more than maid, mediocre cook, and babysitter. Am I truly training my children? or just raising them the same way a farmer raises animals? Am I teaching and showing them God's Word? Am I enjoying them and teaching them how to enjoy life? Am I showing them how to be strong? Am I teaching them and showing them where true strength resides? Am I giving my husband merely a clean home to come home to, or is our home a respite for him? Am I his spouse--or his beloved? his friend? his confidante? his encourager? The problem with all of these questions is that often the answer doesn't become apparent until long after much of the work has begun or is even completed. Many days of constant love, toil, and prayer fill the time between. I tend to see only my current situation. My husband sees the end goal. So I see menial tasks that are immediately unraveled by daily life and work that is never done. I see attitudes in my children or the all-too-familiar nightmare trip to the grocery store---And I think, "I'm a failure. Nothing I have done has made a difference." And my steady husband says, "Give it time. You're doing fine." But I don't want fine, I want success--and I want it now--and I want it everyday. (Post on the fear of not being perfect will be coming soon!)

I fear being insignificant in the world. Will anyone outside my immediate circle be changed by my life? This really became a question once I stopped working. I loved teaching middle school, but I love my girls more. Our decision for me to be at home has never been in question--in fact, we have had complete peace throughout the whole process. However, that does not mean the process has been without transitions--emotional, financial and physical. Only recently (in my second year as a SAHM), did I start to feel insignificant in relation to my lack of a secular career. I enjoyed teaching and my middle school students (most of them) enjoyed me. I love running into them outside of school or visiting with them in the school hallways.  I like being known. I know that sounds prideful, but remember this blog is focused on full honesty. And I suppose every person wants to be known and remembered--that's why men erect huge statues and name cities and streets after themselves. So do I mean that I want constant accolades and popularity? I never thought so, but maybe that is what my human nature desires. After visiting the school where I used to teach recently, I was caught off guard by how much I miss teaching. I still teach my children and the young girls at church. However, I miss the challenge and the relationships I built with students. I miss being a part of their lives. I miss the appreciation. That feels awful to admit, but it's true. We all like to hear we are appreciated and that we have been important to someone else.

So what's wrong with me? Simply put, I'm human, and I'm out of focus. Who should I focus on pleasing with my life? How will I know if my life is significant? (Because I really fear the idea of getting to the end and finding out my life amounts to clean dishes, small talk, and folded laundry...) I want to matter. However, I can't look to other people to answer that question for me. Everyone has a different version of significance and success--family, money, survival, business, athletics, philanthropy, etc. I need to turn to the constant source of Truth. What does God say about my life and its significance? What does He say about who I should please?

  • James 4:14--Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
  • Job 8:9-- (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
  • Isaiah 40:6-....All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
Ouch! Not exactly good for the ol' self esteem. :) But there is beauty in realizing cosmic insignificance is normal. This breeds humility, not stagnancy. It's freeing to realize my confidence doesn't need to rest in my talents, abilities, or lack thereof. It is grounded on that fact that I was created with a purpose!

  • Psalm 8:4-6-- What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
Realizing my life is merely a drop in the bucket of history reminds where true power lies. And it also makes me realize how amazing it is that our God loves, saves, and chastens us, despite our futility and failings! My power, my focus, my purpose (should) stem from Him. 

  • Colossians 1:16-- For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
  • Colossians 3:23--And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
I am significant not in my own abilities, but in the fact that I am saved by the blood of Christ. The measure of my significance should lie in how I fulfill my purpose of pleasing Him. I often feel unappreciated/insignificant because it seems that all I do is not seen by anyone. No one is watching or applauding my efforts. But this is where I am mistaken; my Saviour is always watching. And I should be striving to please Him. Trying to gain the attention and appreciation of my fellow man is as fleeting and frivolous as a young student acting out in class. He seeks the attention of his peers and wants to be noticed---all the while, he is missing out on the lessons of the master and on strengthening his relationship with someone whose purpose is to guide him.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31, 2016
The Beginning. . .
Today is my first attempt, my first entry, my first step  in this written endeavor and in living with its effects in my everyday life. I decided on the title of "Life Unafraid," because I have become alarmingly aware over the last few years of how much of my life is dictated by needless fears. The fear of failing (hence, I'm starting this blog despite the fear). The fear of missing out (read: addiction to facebook; foolish insecurities). The fear of waiting. The fear of feeling fearful. The fear of not making a difference. The fear of being too uptight. The fear of being too lax. It's maddening and ridiculous. My fears range from the serious to the not-so-serious--One day I just might be able to ride the elevator without holding my breath, or maybe, just maybe, I'll stop avoiding that emu inclosure at the zoo. ;)

I'm using this blog merely as a tool--a creative outlet for change that needs to happen in my life, a place to hopefully foster emotional, spiritual, mental and social growth. I'll share my experiences, revelations, failings (did I just commit to that?!) and how God is teaching me through it all. I think the real reason I have hesitated starting this blog over the last few months can be boiled down to another fear--the fear of being held accountable. (!) I can't continue to permanently wallow in my fears when I'm publicly committing to embarking on building a life free of ungodly fears. Some of those fears are obvious, while others are well-disguised. I started this post yesterday and felt great about it--confident, even. Then, something sparked an old fear, and I realized I'm a big, fat phony! Maybe accountability and encouragement are the real reasons the Lord has been reminding me of this blog idea for a while. I need to write it, more than anyone else needs to read it. :) So bear with me as I fumble along and maybe we can find some common ground or kindredness in my both understandable and laughable reasons for trepidation. Maybe it's less about living without fear and more about living boldly for the right reasons. 

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7