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Monthly Archives: October 2012

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The Story of God’s Grace in a Life Unafraid {Day 31}

Thirty-one days of living unafraid has challenged me to think differently about fear and anxiety.

I stand on the squished bus in the early-morning rush of the weekday, and wonder what exactly I used to fear. Way back 31 days ago. I step into the bakery and wonder what is it that makes me anxious? I walk by the window of the hair salon, knowing I need another haircut, and can’t figure out why I get all jittery when I imagine myself walking in and trying to make an appointment. I find myself redefining fear, reworking anxiety, refinding the truth about the true unshaken. This whole life unafraid thing has made me step back consider my motivations for the anxious.

When I walk down the street of unfamiliar, my anxious steps up and makes my heart beat fast. Because of what I do not know. So — is that what I fear? The unknowing?

When I ride on the bus of uncomfortable, my stomach knots up. Because of what I do not like. So — is my fear really caused by the prospect of facing the undesirable?

When I see the scary uncontrollable, my head spins to places where my kids get hurt or sick. Because of what I cannot control. So — is the source of my fear really the fact that I am not in control?

I mean, really, what is it that I fear? What actually gives me the anxious? And why have I been able to avoid it this month? How have I been able to live truly unafraid? How can I remain unshaken when I read about the flooding and winds from a storm with a name?

I made a choice to trust the One Who holds the world between His fingers. I made that choice October 1. And I have made it everyday since. I have chosen to focus intently on His almighty. His always good. To meditate on what it means to put all of my fear in Him, the Lord God is His name. And He has shown me how to live. Unafraid.

It’s a story of God’s grace, this life unafraid. His grace that shows me I really have nothing to be afraid of when I put all my fear into Him. His grace that points me to the unshakeable, unfathomable, always faithful hand of the One Who holds life itself. The One Who has already arrived at the what has yet to be. And, even though my belly flutters at the thought of walking into a German salon and making an appointment, I know that I can do it because of God’s grace. Even though I lay in bed on a Monday night while a huge storm batters my homeland on the other side of the world, I have placed all my reverent awe in the One Who does cannot be tossed like waves or blown around like tree limbs.

And so we come to the end of our 31-day journey, curled up in the grace of Almighty God’s hand. We give Him our scary. And we know that He is enough to handle it. He is the only One Who can handle all that scary.

So I’ve decided I’m going to stay there. Gonna’ keep on wearing my unafraid. Until it gets all stained and holey and then I’ll turn it in for a new unafraid. And here’s where I challenge you to keep it on, too. Why not keep living unafraid? We can help each other when it gets hard. We can remind each other where our fear should be. Goodness knows there are times we each need all the help we can get! So why not join me? Send me an email. Leave me a comment. Find me on facebook. Just let me know. And we’ll keep living. Unafraid.

 

A Prayer for My Friends in the Middle of the Storm {Day 30}

I fell asleep last night wondering about Sandy and the Frankenstorm. Praying for home. And for unafraid.

If you are in its path, know that I am praying still. Praying for peace as the wind howls and things outside crash and fall. Praying for your kids to know the quiet of God’s unshaken. And for the parents who wonder how to bring the calm when they aren’t sure exactly where to find it themselves. I am praying for your own unshaken quiet right in the center of your hearts. That the shelter of Almighty God’s wing keeps you out the rain of the afraid and far from the fear of the mighty wind.

Stay safe, my friends. Safe and unafraid.

Life Inside the Unafraid {Day 29}

Part of the afraid that I’ve always hidden behind was the fear of seeing something bad happen. Like a really bad car accident. Or a fist-fight. Or an old lady fall ing off her bike. I really have no explanation for this fear. Other than an anxiety disorder that, if left unmedicated, has me making my husband check the garage door five times before we kiss good night. And constantly checking the ceilings for spiders.

That’s why I always struggled with the words in Psalm 91, where the writer says

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you (v7).

I don’t want none of that! No desire to have hundreds and thousands falling all around me. I don’t want to see it. No, thanks. I mean, can’t I just avoid everyone’s falling altogether?

But here’s the thing I am learning about unafraid: it is not shaken by anything. It does not worry. Ever. Not even about what it might see. Because it has no reason to. Life inside the unafraid holds no room for fearing things like what might happen. Or what I might see happen. Because all of its fear is properly placed in the One Who will never fail it. The One Who can handle all that fear and will only give what is good. Unafraid has no place for anxious “what will I do if’s” because it hides inside “I trust the One Who is already there.” The One Who knew what would happen. Saw it all before it did. And still, He hides me in His great big shadow.

This is the life inside of unafraid. The life I want to live for the rest of my days.

What does the unafraid life look like for you? Leave a comment (click up there on the little bubble next to the title of this post) or send me an email and let me know.

*Have you missed any of the 31 Days of Life Unafraid? You can catch up here.

What Happens When You Wear Unafraid and Go Climbing {Day 28}

As it turns out, if you don’t start the climb for fear of falling, you’ll never get to the top of the wall. Or the mountain. And you’ll never learn how to climb it. Never learn how to be unafraid. Instead, you’ll just stand at the bottom like a caged little bird that wants to fly and use the wings he’s been given but can’t because of the trap he finds himself inside.

And if you don’t wear the proper harness, you won’t get very far.

If you start climbing without a secure rope and the right climbing tools, you might get all the way to the top, but you will have everything to fear. No room for wrong footing. No one to keep you from falling flat on your back if you do slip.

If you only look at what you fear and wonder what it might be like to face it, but don’t put on the unafraid, you’ll never know how fun it is to float all the way down.

And if you don’t face the afraid, stare it down right in the eyeballs, you will never get to the real kind of living that inspires, enjoys, conquers.

If you don’t know the One Who holds life itself right inside the palm of His hand, then you won’t know where to properly place your fear. And it will come out in the wrong places. And it won’t let you live like you were really designed to live.

That’s why we went climbing the other week. My girls and me. Because we put on our unafraid and went for it.

Why not put on your unafraid, too? It’ll look good on you. I know it.

*This is Day 28 of a 31-Day series called Life Unafraid. Catch up here if you’ve missed any. You won’t regret it.

Learning the Life. Unafraid. {Day 27}


Twenty-seven days in a row of life. Unafraid is teaching me some stuff. I hope you’ve been following along. (If you’ve missed any of the days, you can catch up here.) Here’s a taste of what I am learning. In no particular order:

  • I can live unafraid right here, right now. Because the God of Life is in charge. And He is always good.

You are good, and what you do is good . . . (Psalm 119:68)

  • He created us to need faithful. And mighty. And He is both. Always faithful. Completely almighty. Therefore, God is always enough. So I can entrust all my anxious everything to Him, the object of all my awed reverence, true fear. And fearing Him, well that’s a good thing, because I was made to do it.

  • Whatever control I think I have over what might happen, is only pretend. The things I worry about, as if my worry might change a single thing about any of it, are all inside God’s hand. And when I give up the pretend control and trust that He is in fact directing every detail, He grants me peace. And joy to live fully right where I am. Even if it’s in the middle of a bus next to a scary little boy.

What are you learning about unafraid? Leave a comment by clicking the little bubble next to the post title at the top. Or click on “Let me know you were here” and send me an email. Really, I really want to know what you’re learning about wearing unafraid. Pleeeease?

How to Help Your Daughter Find Her Unafraid {Day 26}

We watched God work a miracle in our little girl during the weeks that led up to her time away at Schullandheim. The girl who, as a one-year-old, shied away from falling leaves. She didn’t like what she could not control. It scared her. She got that from me. But now, my oldest daughter has become braver than I ever imagined. Because God helped us find our unafraid.

She was, shall we say, less than thrilled at the prospect of going away with her class for three days. Her class full of students who speak little or no English. Teachers who know how to translate most words, except when they don’t. But she was going, we had decided, because it was an opportunity to watch God work. To see Him grow her unafraid as she stepped way beyond her comfort-zone and into a foreign place full of unknowns.

I’d been less than thrilled, too. At first. Until my Mann reminded me of the reasons we’d started this whole one-year-in-Germany-adventure. After that, I put on my unafraid and helped my daughter find hers.

She wore it beautifully.That’s what God used to help her get on that bus. And I know that her own unafraid grew into a kind of courage such as I did not know she had. The kind that inspires her classmates and her teachers because of where it comes from. God Himself.

And now, she can say that she spent three days away from her parents in a foreign land full of German-speakers. That fact, I believe will one day serve as a turning point for her.  Yes, she survived Schullandheim with flying colors, even had a bit of fun. She came home wearing the kind of I-did-it-confidence that uses unafraid as a girdle. The kind that stays. Forever.

To say I am proud of how she let God be her enough is to not even touch the surface of how I feel. For, that girl has matured exponentially since she got home that Friday three weeks ago.

All because God helped us find our unafraid. And we weren’t afraid to wear it.

*This is Day 26 of a 31-Day series called Life Unafraid. You can catch up here if you’ve missed any.

When Fear Gives Way to Eternal Focus {Day 25}

Before I had kids, I’d read some email that warned me about how hard it would be to let pieces of my heart walk around outside my body. But I thought it was talking about when the kids grew up and moved out. I was wrong.

Two days before school started, we figured out the school calendar. It listed all the important dates for the school year. Vacation days. Holidays. Field trips. Normally the school calendar is on my personal agenda the day I get my hands on it. (I have a thing for new schedules and fresh calendars.) Believe me I tried the day I got it. But I got stuck days that listed things like Verkehrzersiehung. And voraussichtlich. And Schullandheim. So I put the school calendar away and waited for my friend to come over for coffee. Then I sprung it on her. (Oh, that woman is a gift from God. No doubt about it.)

She kindly translated while I took notes. Day 2 of school: Gottedienst. They would walk to a church and have some kind of service there. That’s cool, I thought. I wish I could go, too. Third day of school: Schulhausrallye. That sounds fun. A game for every class to figure out the lay of the school. With treasures throughout. Then we got to that word at Week 3. Schullandheim. The calendar displayed the word and referred to my oldest daughter’s class in its description. Three days on the school calendar. It’s one of those three-words-that-make-one-word-in-German-which-is-why-they-have-such-long-words-sometimes. Translated separately, the words are School. Country. Home. I learned that day drinking coffee with my friend that my 10-year-old daughter, who speaks very little German would be going on a three-day trip with her class full of schoolmates who speak very little English. Then I kind of freaked out.

Wasn’t it hard enough that we had come all the way here to live for an entire twelve months? Hadn’t we asked enough of our kids, putting them in a German school and praying they would learn quickly how to ask to use the bathroom and other essentials? I mean seriously. Now I was expected to entrust two teachers whom we barely know with our precious little girl who carries my heart around outside of my body? For three days? It was scary. For me. But more so for her. I do not exaggerate even a little when I tell you that she would rather have her orthodontist rip out her glued-in retainer from behind her front teeth than go away with a group of people she did not know and could not understand. For three days.

We tried to get her out of it. My friend and I. She doesn’t know German, my friend texted the teacher. She will learn German. The teacher texted back. And that was that. My daughter’s teacher is also the school principal. She gets the final say. But so does My Man. (Truly. That’s what husbands are called here. As in He’s the Man. And Yes, ladies, that’s right, that’s my man.) So when he got home from work that night, I laid it on thick.

Can you believe they would make her go away for three days? We barely know them! How the heck is she supposed to survive away from us for three days in the land of the Deutsch when she doesn’t even know Deutsch? And what about the food? What if they make her eat Sauerkraut? What if she gets so lonely and afraid that she cries and then her classmates call her a crybaby and she’s not! and the rest of her school year is horrible because her reputation is ruined and they think she’s a wuss? What about that?!?

I worried out loud as my Man listened. I told him what the teacher had texted. And then he said these words: Good. That is exactly what the teacher should have said. We came here to watch God grow our kids. To help them depend on God more fully. We came so they would learn that He is always enough. So they could learn to be brave. And we want her to learn German. What a great opportunity to watch God grow our little girl.

Silence.

Gosh, my Man is so wise. Darn it.

That’s when fear and worry gave way to eternal focus and the truth about what I want for my kids. And focus won.

Why I Don’t Have to Be Afraid {Day 24}

*Today is Day 24 of a 31 day series called Life Unafraid. It’s a challenge to live free from fear for the entire month of October. As I’ve been thinking through this challenge, I have come to realize that much of my life I have sought the inner peace of this life unafraid. And I am amazed at how truly free I am when my fear is placed where it should be — only in God Himself. Below is a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about this lifelong pursuit of peace. I found it and thought it would be cool to post it again, but with new pictures. An old perspective on a lifelong search.

When I stop and really listen to all that goes on, I can get overwhelmed with the possibilities.

Like the friend’s daughter who had a hemorrhage in her throat four weeks after her tonsillectomy.  And the 22-year-old woman who had a stroke and later passed away.  And don’t forget the fire that burned down the home and all the belongings of a friend’s friend.  Or the car accident that left my friend’s husband in a coma for two months.

Yes, overwhelmed constantly lurks in the dark when what if threatens the happy of what is. Threaten the easy of the comfortable I rest inside.

But God’s been showing me things about Himself and His always-companionship lately.  Things that make me feel safe even when it’s not comfortable.  He’s been showing me that this side of heaven is hard.  But temporary.  He’s been reminding me that His Spirit is always with me — to strengthen me, to encourage (give courage to) me, to peacify (just made up another word. Do you like it?) me.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:26-27)

And He’s given me this unquenchable thirst for His truth about peace.  A thirst that has led me straight to the water that is His Word, the Bible.  In it, I’ve been reminded of and taught truths such as these:

  • Colossians 1:11  I am “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that (I) may have great andurance and patience…”  For the temporary struggles.
  • Colossians 2:9-10  “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and (I) have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  So — the fullness of Holy, Almighty, Creator God lives in me.  And I can access His power and strength in any situation I am faced with!
  • Psalm 74:16  “The day is (God’s), and (His) also the night; You established the sun and moon.”  It’s all in His hand.  So I can sleep and truly rest on my pillow, because it’s all under His authority.
  • Psalm 75:1a  “(His) Name is near” !!!  And His Name alone is power.
  • Jeremiah 29: 11-14a  “For (God) know(s) the plans (He has) for (me) . . . plans to prosper (me) and not to harm (me), plans to give (me) a hope and a future.  Then (I) will call upon (Him) and come and pray to (Him), and (He) will listen to (me).  (I) will see (Him) and find (Him) when (I) seek (Him) with all (my) heart.  (He) will be found by (me).” !!!!  And He won’t forget.  Further proof that this hard stuff is all temporary.
  • I Peter 3:10-11  “Whoever would love life and see good days must . . . seek peace and pursue it.”  Because when I seek and pursue real and true peace (the kind that only He can give), I will be able to rest and consequently love life and see good days.

And so, not only do I not have to be afraid, I would be remiss if I let myself stop pursuing peace.  This last verse hit me right where I’m at.  It’s a command based on the truth of Jesus Christ’s endowment of peace that He left us, His children when He sent His Holy Spirit to go with us, always.  The John 14 verse up there in the quote block.  You know, the one that tells us the Holy Spirit, God Himself, will walk with me?  Yeah, that one ends with the command that has left me pining for even more of this peace.  Here it is from the Amplified Bible:

 Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]                    John 14:27 (Amplified)

Yikes!  Pretty strong command, don’t you think?  And yet, before He gave the command, He gave the promise.  Because that’s how He rolls.  He doesn’t ask us to do anything for which He’s not equipped us.  And He will not.  Ever.  Because He goes with us.  He walks us through.  So when car accidents and barf happen, He walks us through, with the very fullness of Himself and in His strength that we don’t even realize we have until He calls us to use it.

And therein lies a peace that cannot be explained.  The kind that can only come from God Himself.

“It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”   Philippians 4:7 (msg)

And so I settle in.  And rest in Him, the Giver of Life.  The Giver of Peace.

The End. 

 

The Rest of the Story {Day 23}

So I found a little boy to be (un)afraid of on the bus. (You can read about it here.) But God used a sharp corner and a cobblestone street to wake up my afraid. That’s when unafraid showed me The Boy as someone to serve rather than something to fear.

When I first saw The Boy as a person, my heart felt sick at my own selfish fear that had kept me from looking him in the eye. Kept me from smiling at him. Kept me from finding a way to show him Jesus. I prayed that day, right there on the bus. I prayed for the boy. Prayed for me, too. I had prayed about him before. But the praying was different now. Before that day, my prayers for him sifted through the filter of my fears. But now, in the unafraid, I prayed for The Boy . I prayed for his peace. I prayed for his mama, who I do not know. And for his well-being. I prayed that The Boy would know how much he means to Jesus Christ, God Himself. I even told God He could use me if he wanted. But first He had to walk me to the closet and help me put on the unafraid.

I wore it the next day. It got a little bit wrinkled when I stepped onto the bus. I sat down right behind him and waited for a chance to dignify this little boy whom I did not understand. Waited for an opportunity to just look him in the eye. I watched through unafraid glasses and found love replacing the fear.

When the bus took off, I finally got my chance to display the beautiful unafraid God had given me to wear. The Boy looked right at me, put his hand on top of mine and spoke. He spoke words I did not know, and my face lit up. Unafraid, I realized that, although the fear had kept me from doling out the dignity, The Boy’s fear had not done the same to him. In fact, this boy was willing to not just look me in the eye but to grant me the favor of a word spoken through a smile. For me, a foreigner in a land where I understand very little and know even less. That boy on the 303 gave me dignity, although I was so unwilling to grant him the same just 24 hours earlier.

A woman got on the bus soon after. She boarded from the front and made her way back, choosing to stand right next to the boy. I could tell she did not know him. But she did what I was unable to do. She spoke with him and smiled. She conversed with The Boy and smiled at me. We shared a kindred care for The Boy on the 303, so we smiled at each other. And The Boy was not afraid that day, I think.

It seems that unafraid’s beauty shines on those around it, too. It turns fear of unknowing into opportunities to show love. Transforms selfish protective walls into climbing exercises that strengthen others, too.

I wonder what I have held back in all my previous afraid. What chances have I missed to grant dignity to strangers? To show love to needy people? All because I was afraid to wear it.

The Boy on the 303

I stepped on the bus, flashed my ticket to the driver, and found it relatively sparse. Especially compared to the morning’s rush-hour squish that’s becoming more routine than nuisance.

After earning the driver’s welcome-aboard nod, I chose my seat carefully, avoiding the kid in the middle. The Boy whose noontime presence on the 303 makes me nervous.

The first time I rode with him, he wandered among us passengers. Holding onto his backpack strings, saying three numbers over and over.

Eins null drei. Eins null drei. He said other stuff, too. Stuff I didn’t understand.

Muttering, the boy approached my fellow bus-riders and tried to make eye contact. He walked up to a lady and touched her like she was his mama. She wasn’t.

Then he wandered away, to the front of the bus. I grew tense with an anxious kind of fear.

Something was wrong with this boy, and he was alone on my bus. He was troubled. That troubled me.

I had no idea how to help him, should he need it, and I didn’t know what the heck I would say if he talked to me. Certainly, he wouldn’t understand my broken-German or the fact that I could barely understand his words.

The Boy made me nervous that day with his wandering and his unknown words. I envisioned a total freak-out, a seizure, a question he might ask.

Most people wouldn’t think twice about that kind of stuff, but it shook me in my boots. Made me wish for different circumstances. Made me wonder what the heck I was doing on this bus in this foreign land.

That was the day I first saw The Boy. I have avoided him every day since.

So today, when I saw him, I continued the streak, finding a seat near the front next to a normal-looking elderly lady. Another successful avoidance.

What is it about people I don’t understand that makes them seem so scary? And why, in my mind, do I treat such people as if they are less than that, not worthy of dignity, my respect, my eye-contact?

It’s not just The Boy. It’s the man with the deformed face. The woman with no legs.

And what is it about the scary that keeps me from seeing them as people?

Why am I so scared to just look them in the eyes? Just validate their presence? Who am I to withhold dignity from someone just because I don’t understand their problems? Who am I to refuse them love?

When an elderly woman stepped onto the bus, I realized she had no seat. So I gave her mine. Because that’s what I do. I willingly give up my seat to those I deem worthy, while fearfully holding back eye-contact from another.

I let my fear of The Boy hole me up. Let it blind me with a tunnel-vision. Let it keep me from seeing over the wall called “I Don’t Understand.”

That’s when I realized I’d have to face my fear and stand near The Boy. Why I was so unwilling to let that elderly lady suffer having to stand up when I wasn’t even willing to give a smile to a little boy with problems?

I stood up casually and headed to the back. But the back of the bus was full by now, so I had to stand in the middle. Right next to The Boy.

He wobbled a bit as he wandered towards the front, the bus turning a corner on the cobblestone street. My heart sunk as I smelled my own stink.

For the first time, I saw The Boy as a person. For the first time, I noticed that the one I’d been afraid of, was himself just a scared little boy.  A young boy in a hat. Backpack full of school supplies. And a mind full of three repeating little words. A little boy, no more than eight years old, alone on a city bus and a little bit confused.

I wondered at my self-centered fear that kept me looking to protect myself instead of seeking to reach out and show him love. Kept me looking inward at all the things I don’t want to face instead of gazing outward for someone I can serve.

A little boy I can love. Even with just a smile unafraid that communicates the grace of Jesus Christ to a little boy alone on a city bus.

Are there fears that hole you up and keep you from showing Jesus’ grace?