Journey Through October: Conquering Fear

Join me as I journey through October facing fear. I will share with you many short posts recalling my own battles. Sharing bravery. Remembering scripture. Treasuring wisdom.

Dreams are reached through facing fear and persevering through pain.  Pain is by no means desirable. But with God. The very, very dark and desperate becomes bright, full of hope and inevitably beautiful.

~week one~day one~

It was not clear to me when I slammed the first book shut. I had just turned the page and landed on chapter 6 – – From Anxious to Peace: Conquering Fear. Forget Chapter 6, I said to myself. I don’t want to know what I am lacking in the way of peace. I don’t want to open up this topic so God can conveniently use it to refine me, prune me. Nope. Been there, done that. A few hundred times.

I cleverly excused myself to the other book I was reading. The second book needed reading for my Monday bible study anyway. I am a smart girl and I have my priorities straight. I don’t like pain. I will keep the first book shut For A Long Time.

The first book remained closed on my shelf. I continued to read the second book. Some time passed. I reached Part 3 of the second book. The title is God Knows My Fears. Slam. After all, I was a few chapters ahead of my bible study’s reading anyway. No need to get any further ahead.  For now.

It was not yet clear to me why I was slamming books shut on Conquering Fear.  But clarity was on its way.  Truth was reaching for me.  Wisdom was calling.  My answers were on the very next page . . .

Deciding the Design

Today, I consider time.  The arrangement of when something will happen.  Time is also continued progress.  For it to be both, we have to be intentional and creative, and looking upward.  I find myself in the open space of figuring out what that looks like for me.  I’m in the patches rather than the whole quilt.  But since I already know you also aspire to be the Proverbs 31 woman, you know how important the patches are to completing the whole quilt.  There is so much joy in deciding on the design of the patches while God takes care of the progress.

What I am learning as a person: Leaning away from building the components of my life.  Leaning towards the presence of Christ.  In this miraculous transition, I am seeing more fully who I am and what my life can be about.  If I miss this birth in me, I think I miss living in the center of His will for my life – – which is not fully about the daily grind, but pursuing what makes my heart beat with pleasure for Him.

Verse:  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:46

Deep Thought:  I know so little.  But I am capable of so much with Him.  I want to be more intentional, but also a blank slate for Him to write on.  Churning in me is the connection between intention, God’s creativity and time.  My current journey is to work out the tension between my deliberate action and use of imagination towards the time God has given me.  It feels very right, potentially beautiful and worthwhile.

Quote: It’s a beautiful thing when passion and pay align, allowing you to do something you love and be well paid.  If this is your situation, thank God on your knees every day, because you are living the dream.  Very few people ever experience the perfect balance between passion and pay.  It is one of life’s rare and precious blessings.  Simplify by Bill Hybels (Chapter 4)

Book(s)/Blog(s)/People that Shape Me: Simplify by Bill Hybels because he is helping me grab hold of the time I have and guard it for the things to which He has called me and for purposes for which I have been created.  Yes!  – – sigh/breathe/relief – – there is freedom here.

Love Does by Bob Goff also has shaped me. If you are a parent, you really have to read Chapter 20, Ten-Year-Old Adventures and Chapter 10, The Interviews.  It will ignite you to be alive with your kids and to aspire to make everlasting memories with them.  Reading this book gives me something very high to aim for!

Consider reading this recent post from So Beloved.  She gave me peace as I opened my day today.

My Prayer to You: I pray that the bit I shared with you today will begin to set in as a patchwork quilt in your soul.  I pray that you will allow your thoughts to take you to the components of your life: your family, faith, work.  Your community.  Your qualities and desires.  God purposefully imbedded your uniqueness into your soul.  I pray that you would consider your time.  Allow God’s creativity to work out the hours of your day.  Your commitments.  Your priorities.  I pray that you would not miss living in the center of His promising will for your life.

Written by Sasha Katz

Part 1: Boundaries

A wise woman knows that beauty accumulates through loving and sharing in trusting relationships.  A wise woman adds to her beauty by giving many gifts to others.  Her giving is wise.  It is thoughtful.  It is blessing.  She knows that her gifts are not up for auction or for grabbing from all sides.  Her garden offers fruit and friendship with a sensible, compassionate heart.

This type of wisdom in giving was not gained without many casualties – – primarily through many deaths of herself.  If you ask her, she will tell you that her past is splattered with falls down stairs, wipe outs and thoughts of insane asylums.  She learned disappointment as she tumbled down stairs that she thought would lead to faithful fellowship.  As she lay flat faced on the hard floor, she learned that unbalanced relationships can wipe you out.  She genuinely thought she was going nuts when her gifts were received with scorn and rejection.

She has learned that not all giving makes you beautiful.  The truth is that you cannot be a wise giver if you haven’t had a few slaps in the face.  If fact, you are not a wise giver in your relationships unless you have had your world turned upside down.  Upside down is a hard series of lessons to learn.  But, a woman like you takes her life lessons in seriousness and in stride.

Upside down means that you cannot be grateful, accommodating, agreeable, encouraging and hospitable without also setting in place wise boundaries around your garden.  If you have a well-kept, sturdy fence in your yard, you see the value of your labor.  You know what it takes to develop roots that take hold far below the soil.  You know that your garden’s rest under the stars prepares it for the rising sun at dawn.  You know that, if not for food and water, the blazing sun would harm your garden’s fruit and flowers.  You know that, without careful planning for the seasons, your garden may not produce fruit at the right time.  You know the value on your labor.

A wise woman knows when to open the gate of her garden’s fence.  She is thoughtful and mindful of the needs around her.  She is thoughtful and mindful of the hearts set before her.  She sees her brothers and sisters coming from a mile away.  And, she knows well her collection of treasures from the fruits of her garden.  She picks just the right fruit to give at just the right time.  This is true giving.  This is beautiful.

Beautiful

By AbbyA

I want to tell you something about beautiful.  In the same way that first is last or obedience is freedom.  Beauty in God’s eye is not as we see it.  I am not talking about six packs or hair down your back.  I am not that shallow.  I am not talking about sunsets and mountain tops.  We know this beauty is His creation.  I am talking about the kind of beauty that radiates from an authentic, pure connection to the Holy Spirit.  It is one thing to radiate because you have been granted a fair lot in life.  It is quite another to radiate such pure authenticity in the face of less. And to the natural eye, less is not very beautiful.  But to the spiritual eye of the heart, it is the meaning of life.

I have for you two stories of authenticity.  Two men who have been granted less in the world’s eyes.  Pastor Joel was burned all over very much like my Uncle Paul as a toddler.  While speaking to Joel, you might wonder if he ever really saw himself as different at all.  While seeing him, you wonder to yourself how he could have survived such flesh altering burns.  If you met him at church or otherwise, your kids would ask you what happened to him.  And, like me, you would tell your kids that everyone is different, that we are all God’s children and it is the inside that matters to God.  Since he is greeting kids and families anyway, you would probably bring your kids over to say hi so that they can learn to approach rather than look on or stare from a distance.  This time, however, there was a lovely, young woman holding a little squirt in her arms – – right next to Pastor Joel.  Knowing little about his personal life, my own square mind took its time placing the family as belonging to each other.  Joel introduced my Leila to his little round faced baby and his wife.  My mind took a moment to wrap its corners around the face of that little angel.  I walked away with thoughts of authenticity.  I walked away with thoughts of what a joy it must be for Joel to see the likes of his own face.  Without making too many presumptions, it is my thought that Joel is about as authentic as one can be.  If Joel’s not so aesthetically attractive face doesn’t speak beauty to you, then seeing his perfect child is the reminder to us as to what true authenticity is.  Like a perfect child is the way in which God sees Joel.  How do I see him?

You see, gentlemen like Pastor Joel and my Uncle Paul don’t get the pleasure of relying on beauty in the world’s eyes.  Whoever they are, they are.  No mask to paint or inject or lift.  No face to hide behind.

This past Sunday, I began to walk into the sanctuary around the middle of the first song.  I started to walk quite fast – – even though, being alone, in need of just one seat, is rather easy to come by.  The gent in front of me walked a bit slower.  As far as I could tell, he had a disability causing him to walk slightly slower than average.  I decided to walk behind him.  No need to walk so quickly past him.  Without yet the knowledge, we were planned to share a service together.

We worshipped just a seat apart.  We lifted our hands tall with gratefulness for the God we serve.  He caught my right eye a handful of times as he so purely and authentically worshipped the Lord.  We turned to each other and smiled a few times.  It was his smile that tore the veil of my heart.  We both sat there with communion in hand.  His smile was resonating so deeply in me.  My hands holding His body and His blood.  The gentleman’s beauty touched me so profoundly that I paused.  With my communion in hand, I went to the deep place where you know you are so unworthy of His grace, so far from His ways, His economy.  So far from what He considers beautiful.  And my heart just poured out in a desire to see what He sees.  To find beautiful what He finds beautiful.  After communion, I reached over and told him that his smile was beautiful.  He said that he could feel my spirit beside him.  He lifted his hands and said to me that He is beautiful.  Tears kept welling up in my eyes.  He just kept smiling.  It was one church service, in a row together.  But I found an eternal friend.  Two friends, bound to be neighbors in heaven.  In fact, that is what I prayed to God as I left my row to get my kids – Lord, can we be neighbors in heaven?

There are things about the Lord that I love.  First is last.  Obedience is freedom.  Losing your life is saving it.  And, beautiful is a pure, authentic connection to God.  Far be it from me if I ever pretend to know anything about anything.  But I will know for every minute of every day that Pastor Joel and my gentlemen friend are the faces of beautiful.

Loving Yourself When You Don’t Feel Beautiful

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By JMathis

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (New Living Translation ©2007)

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

I don’t feel beautiful when I have my period.

In fact, I find myself feeling downright unlovable during this time. Plus, I’m not exuding that much love towards others during my “ladies’ days”, as all this self-loathing makes me grouchy and surly towards anyone who crosses my path that week (yeah, I admit—not my greatest WWJD moments). Every cycle just seems doomed to present itself to me in exactly the same way:

1)      “Huh??? My period is here?” (This is despite the fact that I am as regular and consistent as the rising and setting of the sun each day.)

2)      “What is on my face, and why is it growing a pair of eyes?”

3)      “To heck with my diet. Find Ben and Jerry and get them here—STAT!”

It is at this point that I feverishly calculate on my abacus-like fingers if my weekend plans to drink Bloody Marys will be ruined by the arrival of, well, Bloody Mary, herself.   

While New Agers would love to see menses as a time of cleansing, rejuvenation and meditation, it’s very hard for me to focus on all of that hooey when my jeans won’t zip up that week. Frankly, loving myself is just not on the menu during my period, especially when my face is covered in acne-fighting gunk and chocolate syrup goop (cut to pity-party scene from Bridget Jones’s Diary, where Renée Zelwegger is singing “All By Myself”…Don’t Want to be…All by Myyyy…Self…Anyyyy…morrrre!!!”)

Yet, without fail, the day after my period is done, there is an extra spring in my step (translation: doing the Running Man in front of my bathroom mirror) and a special song in my heart (“Oh yeah, Destiny’s Child!! Gimme some of that Independent Women!!”). The cramps and road rage from three days before are just a distant memory. I find that I’m in love again…with myself. (“Hey, baby, you come here often? Why yes, I live here–remember??”)

Bring on the weekend!! I feel beautiful once more! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and I’m ready to embrace the world with open arms!



Now, why can’t I just feel this way all the time?

I guess I’m just one of those ingrates who will never fully appreciate menstruation as an expression of God’s brilliance in masterfully crafting a woman’s body for the role of procreation. In fact, I will always have some choice words for Eve around the same time every month (suffice it to say, *love* is not one of those four-letter words I scream at her).

However, when life starts beating me down, when my love for all of my quirkiness turns into disappointment over all of my failures, and when everyday starts feeling like another day “on the rag”, it is then that I must remember that God loves me madly and passionately, and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. According to Psalms 139:14, everything that God makes is breathtaking. So, guess what? That makes me beautiful, even when I don’t feel beautiful and no one else thinks I’m beautiful. That makes me lovely, even when I don’t feel loved and no one else thinks I’m loveable.

This year, I have to learn to love myself—without criticism, without judgment. This is the year that I choose to see myself the way God sees me, and to love myself the way God loves me. I just have to trust that God’s redeeming love makes all things beautiful in their time. Even me.

Prayer: Lord, I have no idea what you’re about to do in my life this year, but I trust You and I love You beyond measure. Help me not to second-guess Your ways when my world starts falling apart all around me. I know that You are transforming me into something beautiful, even when I don’t feel loveable. Make me beautiful and help me to accept Your all-encompassing love for me. Make my words beautiful so that I can love others around me; make my paths beautiful and let my steps be adorned with Your love; make my life beautiful so that Your love shines through me and brightens the darkness that surrounds me. Make me beautiful like You, Lord. Make me lovely like You.