Tag Archives: faith

Freedom from fear, or life outside the bubble

What’s the purpose of living? Is it to wrap myself up in a little bubble, insulated from the dangers and troubles of the world? In college, we used to refer to the “Wheaton bubble”, the Christian college environment that seemed to protect us from some of the realities of life. I know we were naive, but there were some perks within that sheltered cocoon.

Sometimes I honestly wish I could be in that kind of bubble.

Comfortable.

Safe.

Secure.

But does that kind of security even exist?

Senseless death and unfathomable loss seem rampant these days…although it’s really nothing new. It just feels fresher lately, with the most recent crop of tragic news in our area. Police officers slain in cold blood. Bullied teens seeing no way out but suicide. Foolish driving leading to deadly crashes.

At times, it’s all I can do not to give in to fear.

Thoughts of “what if” plague my mind all too often. The worries over hundreds of things that could go wrong on any given day, changing my life and others’ permanently. Stories of real heartbreak and loss abound, giving me more reason to be afraid.

Sometimes it’s absolutely petrifying to get behind the wheel every morning. Driving the same roads I’ve taken a thousand times before, wondering if this may be the day when my vehicle meets one whose driver is texting rather than watching the road. Listening to my sweet babies prattling from the backseat, praying constantly for their safety and protection.

Pangs of fear struck me from time to time before I had children, but never as deeply as they do now. As a mother, every heartbreaking news story takes my mind to this land of terrible possibilities. I picture the most dreadful situations and while I thank God that none of them are true for me, I can’t help but remember that I am not impervious to the horrible events that can happen.

The thing is, I know that my current state of relative happiness and comfort is not necessarily likely to continue undisturbed. Being a Christian does not mean I won’t experience loss, heartache, or pain. In fact, one might argue that suffering is even more likely because of my faith. Everyone suffers, and believers are not exempt from that aspect of life.

But the Bible promises that God will meet us in our suffering and give unspeakable comfort and peace. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” -Romans 8:18

While I won’t venture so far as to hope for suffering in order to grow closer to God, I can hope and pray that when trials arise, I will find solace in Christ and not waver in my faith.

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

it is well…it is well with my soul.”

Those words, penned by Horatio G. Spafford following the deaths of his four daughters, grant me comfort and a sense of greater purpose. It’s strange, but somehow, something about my utter helplessness to predict or control the future actually gives…peace.

Living is dangerous. It’s risky. It’s filled with uncertainties. However, it’s also filled with immeasurable joy and beauty.

If I hide out in my cocoon, my bubble, afraid to seek adventure and really LIVE…then what’s the point?

I may not fully conquer the fear anytime soon. I know I’ll continue to worry about my husband, my kids, all of my loved ones. But I’ll seek to walk with God, trusting Him to lead me, even when I can’t see the path or the destination clearly.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” –Isaiah 46:4

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7

It is well with my soul.

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Easter (a little late)

I found this Easter to be filled with disappointments.  I hate to say this because of course Easter is not about me.  It’s about the resurrection of Jesus, and I do rejoice in that.  But I found myself today, Easter Sunday, feeling really down about the whole thing.

To begin with, our plans to visit my husband’s family fell through when the kids and I were not feeling well on Good Friday, and we weren’t sure if it was the kind of thing that would get worse or better throughout the weekend.  The kids were super crabby all morning as we finished packing and prepping to leave. It was one of those days when both kids are fussing at the same times, and it’s like they’re competing to be heard, so they cry extra loudly.  The older one was whining and crying about the silliest, littlest things, so we knew something was up.

I decided I could handle the trip by early afternoon and the hubs figured we should at least give the trip a real shot before giving up.  After changing both kids’ diapers about seventeen times in the hour before leaving, a bath became necessary for the older child (don’t ask).  Thank the Lord we hadn’t left our house yet–dealing with that in a dingy gas-station bathroom would have been awful.

We finally got going three hours after we’d hoped to leave our house.  The longest car ride we had taken the newborn on was an hour long each way, and on that return trip, he’d cried a LOT.  So we weren’t too optimistic about a four-hour drive (which we knew could easily become six or more with two children).  Sure enough, less than half an hour in, the little one burst out wailing.  Since our first child was a remarkably good traveler, usually sleeping soundly until hungry, this second kid’s fussiness in the car is uncharted territory.  After the stress of the morning, dealing with crying kids at home and packing our tiny car to bursting at the seams, we already felt as though we’d been traveling all day.

We turned around right away.  Nope, not gonna attempt that long of a trip yet.  Imagining dealing with sickness and crying and crabbiness in a tiny Vibe and then being a guest in someone else’s house on top of that was too much. (Illness is always a bit easier in your own home and your own bed.)

Anyway, some more disappointments: I feel like a lame-o mom with holidays so far.  Case in point: Liam’s first birthday, we decided on a simple cookout with a few neighbor friends instead of a big themed party with all our relatives (no way all sides of the family could fit in our house for a party anyway, and no one lives locally).  We ended up having to cancel even that casual gathering when Liam turned up sick that day.  Score -1 in the mommy game.  Other holidays–well, we have managed to get Liam’s picture with Santa both Christmases, so that’s a win.  However, we didn’t even have a Christmas tree this year because he kept pulling the lights off.  I never decorate for Valentine’s Day or Easter or St. Patrick’s or 4th of July.  About all I do is maybe bake some cookies.

This Easter, I have not done a whole lot with creating traditions for our kids to cherish.  We missed out on all the fun we could have had with Nate’s sisters and their families (they always do tons of cute crafts and treats and activities).  We then found out about all the local Easter egg hunts about an hour too late.  I didn’t buy presents or make up cutesy Easter baskets for the boys, nor did I dress them in matching pastel outfits.  I didn’t hide plastic eggs with candy all over the house and yard for Liam to find first thing this morning.

The worst part was missing out on Easter worship services.  The past few years, we’ve been absent for this Sunday anyway, since we’re usually visiting with relatives we rarely see.  We don’t feel like missing out on the limited time we have to spend with loved ones just for the sake of visiting some random church.  This year, for once, we were home, but now we have a six-week-old who is extremely fussy at times, usually including church times.  So we couldn’t make services on Good Friday or Easter morning.  I don’t see the point of going through all the hassle of getting all of us dressed and out the door only to spend the whole service hiding out in the foyer because the baby is crying.  (Kudos to you parents who deal with the hassle anyway! I salute you.)

I was very grieved to not be present with the body of believers for worship today.  I longed to sing along with the congregation my old familiar hymns, like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.

However, I learned a lesson today.  The resurrection is not about me.  Easter is not about the perfect Pinterest-y holiday filled with dozens of cutely-posed photo ops.  I felt jealous as I scrolled my facebook news feed, seeing the parade of adorable children in coordinated ensembles, hunting for eggs, visiting the Easter bunny, and whatnot.  But you know what?  All the trappings of this holiday, as sweet and fun as they may be, do not make Easter what it is meant to be.  If I can rejoice today in the fact that I am a sinner, filled with sinful thoughts, guilty of sinful actions, yet Christ died to bring me back to God, then that’s ALL that matters.  I’m alive in Christ.  He has risen, and one day I will rise with him.

Writer’s block?

I’m in a sort of writing limbo these days. I feel this urge to write all the time, every day, like a craving for chocolate.  The difference is that writing requires too much effort on my part, whereas eating chocolate is just easy and divine.

I’m not sure why this has become such a struggle for me. I blame it partly on the fact that the magazine I usually try to submit devotions to every couple of months still has not released their theme questions, which makes it really hard to write pointedly about any of their scheduled topics.  Every time I check their website, I hope those questions will be there to spark some inspiration. But alas, only the theme titles are given, which are sometimes rather vague.  And so, when I have these good intentions of starting a draft, I let myself go back to Facebook and recipe browsing and don’t get any writing done at all.

Then there’s the obvious problem: time.  As a mom of a toddler, I don’t have an abundance of free time like I used to.  I can’t binge-watch Gilmore Girls for six hours anymore.  I can’t lounge in a recliner reading chick lit for long.  I can’t spend half the day shopping for nothing in particular.  The days I’m not working are dictated mainly by my son’s schedule and needs.  Yes, my husband is there too, but even with the two of us, there’s still no shortage of things to be done at any given moment.  The two hours or so when he naps each afternoon are a godsend, but they fly by too quickly.  Do I spend that time working out?  Do I make some healthy freezer meals ahead of time (something on my mind with a new baby on the way in just a few weeks)?  Do I take a nap? Do I run errands, clean house, do laundry, call my mom?

All of these are valid reasons not to do something, but not really excuses. Yes, I am pretty busy every day, but there is still time left over when I could be writing.  Even twenty minutes a day would be beneficial, and I would feel like I’m getting somewhere.  I tend to choose exercise, or cooking, or reading, or just watching zombie movies and Doctor Who with the hubs, rather than writing.

The other major reason for my laziness is that I can’t seem to narrow down what I want to write about.  My blog isn’t for income, it doesn’t have to follow any set format or quotas, it’s just for me.  Yet, I always wonder what would grab the most interest for readers.  Even though I only have a handful of followers, and a few Facebook friends who sometimes read what I share, I definitely care what they think.  I care what you think, if you’re kind enough to be reading this right now.

I want to write something that matters.  Maybe not to a lot of people.  I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with reaching a small audience, but I still want my words to matter to people in it.  I want to take the time necessary to home the right words for what I try to convey.

The thing that paralyzes me the most is this insecurity about what I have to say.  Daily, thoughts flit through my head, ideas for new blog posts, but then I second-guess myself.  Who really needs another article about gaining patience with toddlers?  Or another complaint about the state of public education today?  Or another commentary on the weather, or another devotion on perseverance through trials, or another recipe for zucchini-carrot-flaxseed muffins?  Who cares about my memories of my two brothers as we grew up?  Who needs to read about my son’s milestones, or how nervous I am getting about baby #2’s impending arrival?

Yep, I don’t quite have a handle on where I want to fit in the blogging world.  It shouldn’t matter to me this much; I should stick to writing what I know and if I feel led to share it, to do so.  But the little voice in my head keeps holding me back.

Who knows? Perhaps I will get up the nerve to publish this piece, despite its rambling nature.  I think I’m not alone in this struggle.  Regardless of how insignificant our work as creative people may be, we still yearn for meaning and purpose in what we create.

Wishing each of you a safe space in which to express whatever your creative little hearts desire…

Seeking the applause

I’m a pretty shy person.  When I tell students that, they always look a little shocked and say, “But you’re a teacher!”  I know, as a teacher I have to stand up in front of groups of people every single day and speak and lead.  This is why I was so hesitant to go into teaching in the first place.  Fortunately, I eventually discovered that once you know your students, teaching is not the same as public speaking.  It’s building relationships with students through the material, so once I get beyond those initial days of new classes each fall, the fear and shyness usually subside.

Being an introvert, I don’t particularly enjoy the spotlight.  I don’t want people looking at me for any prolonged amount of time.  I don’t like talking on a loudspeaker, for instance, or dancing in a silly video of all the teachers that the whole school will see.  I read some verses once at my church one Sunday, and the entire week prior to that day, I felt so anxious about it, worrying over what I would wear and whether my voice would sound weird. (I know, right?  As if anyone there would care.)

However, I’m starting to realize that there are certain situations in which I actually want to be recognized.  When it comes to an area where I feel skilled or qualified, I crave some attention.  While I don’t necessarily handle praise very well at times, I still desire that recognition.  I grew up doing all kinds of music–piano, flute, and singing–and I sometimes miss the praise I would receive after a successful performance.

There aren’t so many opportunities for me to sing for an audience anymore.  I sang many national anthems at the high school where I teach, kicking off their basketball games each winter.  Hearing my voice ring out powerfully through the gym gave me a sort of thrill.  I also used to sing solos at my old church, and even though my body trembled with fear each time, it was always one of those “glad-I-did-it-now-that-it’s over” situations.  I liked it when fellow congregants came up to me and told me they loved my song or that it moved them to worship.  I loved it when my then-boyfriend (now husband) said my voice gave him goosebumps and made him want to cry.  I loved feeling like I was truly good at something.

Being a grown-up with a more realistically attainable job than that of professional musician, I find myself missing the days when I could have my own tiny piece of the spotlight.  Yes, nerves were always a factor, but that anxiety was tempered by the confidence in my ability to sing, along with the pure joy it brought me.

Nowadays I feel a bit left out when I’m not asked to sing for events or groups.  I feel like I’ve lost that part of who I am, and the people who don’t know that I sing and play the piano have an incomplete picture of me.  It’s like they don’t really know me.  Even though my performing days are gone for now (other than singing silly songs for my son), I still think of myself as a singer.  Just the other day, the song “Someone to Watch Over Me” popped into my head, and nostalgia hit as I recalled how many times I used that piece for local theater auditions.

Music isn’t the only arena where I feel like I’ve lost a piece of myself over the years.  Maybe it’s partly because our society is set up to praise youth and their accomplishments.  Just take a look at the constant awards ceremonies that parents today are asked to attend for their kids.  You get a trophy for practically everything when you’re young.  (Kindergarten graduation?  Okay, I know the kids must look super-cute in their caps and gowns, but still.  Really?)

I always felt accomplished in running, in music, in writing, and let those things provide me with a false sense of who I was.  I was special because I was good at those things.  Yeah, I did work hard at times, but much of the time, I just enjoyed cultivating my natural abilities.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the pride and satisfaction of a job well done.  Yet, how dangerous it can be when we let our abilities and accomplishments cloud our perceptions of who we truly are.  Yeah, this is where I’m going to get “spiritual”.  I think that gradually,  I’m learning again to rest in who I am in Christ.  It’s an ongoing process, one that can be painfully eye-opening.  I remember a similar adjustment as a freshman in college, and again as I entered the workforce.  We all search desperately for a place to belong, a place to feel talented and valuable and significant.  Perhaps the saddest part of this is that so many are trapped in that never-ending cycle of strive, strive, strive to be the best, which apart from God, doesn’t lead to satisfaction at all.  It leads to disillusionment.  I do believe that only in Christ can we find our true identity.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.  Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39, NLT

“But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”–Isaiah 43:1, NIV

What an awesome reassurance!  Even if I built up an incredible list of accomplishments throughout my life, the euphoria wouldn’t last.  It wouldn’t be enough.  It wouldn’t bring lasting peace and joy.  What I need is to know whose I am.  I don’t deserve anyone’s applause, but I’ll take what Jesus is offering–perfect, unconditional love that will never fade or disappear.

First night in Haiti

After over a year of serious planning (plus a number of years before that during which the dream took root in my heart), I was actually there.

In Haiti.

The real Haiti, the one that conjures images of dirt and orphanages and voodoo and poverty and primitive living.  Images that are, sadly, all too accurate.

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It was absolutely surreal.  I couldn’t believe I was really there, seeing the thatched-roof huts and middle-aged women peddling bananas and paintings and trinkets on the roadside.  Orphans swarming around my legs like puppies clamoring for attention.

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And yet, despite the crazy knowledge that I was fulfilling a lifelong dream, in a way, it all felt rather…mundane.

I had such romanticized notions of how Haiti would be, how inspirational and heartbreaking and life-altering the experience would be for me.  I had raised support from my church family in order to go, labeling it a “mission trip” and feeling rather noble.

But then I arrived in Port-au-Prince.  My friend and I maneuvered our way through the hectic airport, met up with the orphanage staff that had picked us up, traversed bumpy dirt roads for an hour and a half in a hot, dusty Jeep, and at last arrived.  This orphanage would be our home for two and a half weeks.  Just a blip in our lives, really, but at this moment, it felt like it would be a lo-o-o-ong stay. Suddenly I no longer felt equipped to handle the physical demands or the emotional aspects of volunteering with orphans.

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The kids were soooooooo freaking adorable.  When we first stepped into the nursery, dozens of babies and toddlers met us, faces streaked with snot and dirt, reaching up grubby hands to  be held.  Heart-wrenching.  Precious.  Also kind of terrifying, truth be told.

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Who was I to do anything for these children?  Yes, I could spend a few weeks with them, playing and singing and snuggling, but then I would return to my comfortable life and they would be left here awaiting adoption.  This particular orphanage is run in a very efficient and loving manner, and every effort is made to care for the children as well as get them adopted by loving families as soon as possible.  But given the nature of international adoption and the mountains of paperwork and money required to accomplish this, it takes time.   So my purpose there was to love the kids for a short period of time as a way of bridging the gap between their arrival at the orphanage and their eventual placement with an adoptive family.

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I’m ashamed to admit this next part.

That first night in Haiti, I regretted ever coming there.  I wanted my own bed, my own hot shower, my own home, and everything familiar and comfortable.  I didn’t want to be in Haiti, sharing bunk beds and showering only every other day for ninety seconds, living with a bunch of other volunteers who were undoubtedly better with children than I was.

I was a fraud.

I had traveled all this way, planned for all these months, and now all I wanted was for it to be over.  I wasn’t cut out for this type of service.  I felt like more of a baby than the kids I was assigned to love.

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See her bewildered expression?  That’s pretty much how I felt that first night.

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I’ll return to this story in upcoming posts, but for today, I want to leave you with this thought:  When have you struggled with unmet expectations, particularly when you’ve disappointed yourself?  How do you deal with that kick in the gut, the realization that you may not be all you thought you were?  Do you back away in fear, never to face those situations again?

Or do you persevere, allowing Christ to be the strength you lack?

Prayer for my child

I pray my son will know, both now as a baby and into his future years, how crazy powerful our love is for him.  I pray he may sense even now that we would do absolutely anything for him, that we waited and prayed for him to join our family, that we know we’ll fail him at times but want only good for him.

I pray for my husband and I to grow in patience as we raise him.  I pray God fills us with compassion and understanding of the struggles he will face.  I pray we will listen to him as he grows up, giving him respect as an individual and as a child created in God’s image.  I pray he will always know, without a doubt, that his parents support him and love him no matter what.  I pray for God to grant us strength to love and support him even when we may not understand or agree with his choices.

I pray for my son to learn early on how deep God’s love is for him, that he will learn and believe in the power of Christ’s life and death, that he will trust In Jesus for all things.

I pray for him to trust in Christ for his salvation and forgiveness and sanctification.  I pray he will grow to be a man of faith, great faith, and that he will walk by faith and not by sight.  I pray he will learn to trust Jesus even in dark days.

I pray for God to grant us peace in our hearts as we know of the countless threats to our child.  We cannot protect him from all of life’s challenges and disappointments, but let us teach him perseverance through them.  I beg God to give us peace as we entrust our precious boy unto Him every day.  I ask God to watch over him, and to let us never forget or doubt that God loves him even more than we do.

I pray for God’s perfect will to be done in our son’s life.  I pray the Lord might use him in powerful ways, in ways I cannot begin to imagine.   Make him a person of faith, of passion, of grace and mercy.  Let him walk with Christ for all of his life.

I pray that the Lord will use the trials in his life to increase his faith.  Let him grow stronger through adversity.  Let him appreciate the blessings he receives and not take anything for granted.

I pray my son will be a light, shining the glory of Christ everywhere he goes and in everything he does.

All because of darts

Dart league brought us together.

In a bar.

Neither of these are things I ever imagined about my future husband back when I was wondering if I’d ever get married.  For awhile, I thought for sure that I’d meet my mate at church or some related activity, so naturally I threw myself into every church-based event I could–small group Bible study, leading a FCA huddle at summer camp, painting and hanging insulation in the new building, volunteering at the kids’ club, and on and on.

Met a guy at a church picnic one afternoon, thought he was pretty awesome, we went out for about a month afterward, and then nothing more. It didn’t go anywhere.

Met someone at Bible study, sort of went out a couple of times…it didn’t go anywhere either.

Met someone else at that Bible study, developed a really terrific friendship, both of us were interested in more, but both of us were also too scared to take the next step.  He moved away and that was that.

Eventually one summer I was hanging out a lot with some work friends and honing my dart skills.  A friend of a friend called on me one day to act as a substitute dart player on his summer league.  Glad to fill in, I showed up that night and met Nate.  I played one of my best rounds ever, scoring a 128 and impressing him.

Less than two years after that night, I married him.  He wasn’t where I expected to find my husband.  It didn’t happen according to my timetable.  But you never know where God can lead, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.  He’s so much more creative than I think.  I’m so thankful He knows what He’s doing!