Tag Archives: Fear

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.

photo prayer pose

Beyond comfortable

So I’m on currently on a “put myself in uncomfortable situations” kick.  Not sure what brought this on, but twice now in a week I’ve willingly done something that makes me feel…awkward.  Anxious.  Out of place.

First was the staff dance that teachers and other adults in my school perform every year at the Homecoming assembly.  Yeah, I’m not big on dancing-at least not in that situation.  I’m all for shakin’ it on the dance floor at a wedding, but the teacher dance has always been an activity I avoid like the plague.  Making a fool of myself in front of the whole student body is not my thing.  I figure, I probably embarrass myself unintentionally during class at least once a day anyway, so why add to the humiliation by doing so on purpose?

It was so sweet being on maternity leave last year at Homecoming time, so I didn’t have to deal with it at all.  Almost every other year of my career, I was in charge of Student Council, which meant I was basically in charge of ALL of Homecoming.  I figured that, plus fall cross-country coaching, should excuse me from pressure to participate in anything else.

Anyway…back to the point.  I’m attempting to do the teacher dance this year.  I still, admittedly, have zero desire to do it, but here are a few reasons that override what I want.

Sometimes, as teachers, it’s good to let students see our goofy side.  It opens up conversation and builds connections.  Plus, I’m no longer a coach or club sponsor, so I do feel I ought to be involved in something in the Homecoming festivities.  And the biggest reason for making a fool of myself  in a dance routine?  It’s important to step outside of our “comfort zone” once in awhile.  Students are required to do stuff they hate, stuff that doesn’t interest them, stuff that terrifies them, on a regular basis.  Some are uncomfortable with reading, or group work, or tests, or speeches, or artwork, but they have to try all of these at one point or another.  Everybody has to go along with something they dislike from time to time, whether for work or relationships or general life-sustenance.

Doing this dance is my feeble attempt to show students that they shouldn’t be content just doing what comes easily or naturally to them.  There’s value and purpose in venturing beyond those things.  You never know where that first step into uncharted territory may lead.  You might discover a hidden talent or passion.  You might create a new friendship.  You might gain opportunities you never even knew existed.

For me, this is just one brief dance routine with coworkers, which I don’t expect to enjoy, but it’s yet another tiny step towards a braver me.  Heck, I was petrified of public speaking when I began teaching, but I did it anyway.  I found that once I got to know the kids, it wasn’t public speaking at all.  It was simply sharing subjects I love with others.  It still scares me an awful lot, but that’s nothing compared to the fear I had thirteen years ago.  There have been some rather amazing experiences and moments with my students.  Having the courage to face my fears is what brought me into those magical moments.

So, even if I look like Elaine from Seinfeld when we perform in a few weeks, it’ll be okay.  I’ll know why I’m doing it, and I’ll attempt to hold on to a shred of dignity (but I confess, I plan to be well-disguised the second we step onto that gym floor!).

Here’s to trying what isn’t easy!  After all, how many worthwhile things in life ever are?

When we fear good news…

I made a big announcement on Facebook last week.  We’ve all seen them done in a variety of ways, some silly, some cute, some serious.  It’s the pregnancy announcement.

Hubby and I are expecting our second little one in February!  I took a photo of a little onesie we bought that said “lil cheese curd” ( my husband is a Wisconsinite) and posted it the other day.

While we are certainly very excited–we love our boy to bits and we always knew we’d want him to have a sibling–it’s also a bit of an anxiety-producer.

For those of us who have lost a child to miscarriage, this happy news can be tinged with doubt. Anxiety.  The fear of the unthinkable happening again.  Will this pregnancy end with a healthy child, or with heart-wrenching loss and emptiness?

Opening yourself up to the risks of carrying a child again can be frightening.  We were really fortunate in that after our second miscarriage, we saw an endocrinologist who ran just about every kind of test possible to narrow down the problem, and it was an easy fix.  No major interventions or surgeries needed; I just had low hormone levels and took supplements.  Knowing so many couples who have gone through much worse to try and have children, sometimes ending with empty arms after years of struggles, I felt so lucky that in our case, we were likely to have no more early-pregnancy losses.

Even so, the first trimester with our son was terrifying.  We told no one of the pregnancy, wanting to spare them the pain of a possible loss (and ourselves the pain of having to tell everyone sad news again).  We went to my specialist once a week for blood tests to check the hormone levels and for ultrasounds.  Let me tell you, those weekly visits were an enormous comfort, but at the same time, the scariest part of our lives at that time.  Every week, the night before the appointment, I would begin to worry.  I had gone through ultrasounds before when the doctor was silent, and I knew that terrible silence meant there was no heartbeat.  We were hopeful that everything would be fine with this baby due to the supplements, but no longer able to take a happy-go-lucky attitude about it.  Every week I was preparing myself  for another silent ultrasound, another surgery, another case of dashed hopes.

I suppose I could say that each week, the stress was alleviated slightly.  As we passed the seven-and-a-half week mark, when I had lost both of our other babies, our hopes grew.  The fears grew as well, but the closer we got to trimester two, the calmer our hearts became.  The endocrinologist empathized well with us, having experienced such losses himself with his wife.  He always told me, “You won’t truly relax until there’s a baby keeping you up at night.”  How right he was.  Our worries lessened after the first thirteen weeks, but we were still plagued by uncertainty.  We didn’t tell any family or friends until safely into the second trimester, and I think even then we still lacked some of the sheer joy and excitement we had exuded when we’d announced our first pregnancy.  We had learned caution.  Sadly, the miscarriages had robbed us of some of the happiness we should have enjoyed throughout the whole process.

Praise God, our son was born full-term, perfectly healthy, fifteen months ago today, and is the ultimate joy of our lives.  I won’t say that we love or appreciate him any more because of the losses we suffered before him–I think that’s unfair to parents who had so-called “easy” pregnancies and births.  Those parents don’t love their children any less than we do.  But we are mindful of the road we took to bringing him home, and when we think of that, we are so grateful.

Just over a year later, we learned there was to be a sibling.  Now, you’d think that after my pregnancy with Liam was so successful, we would have been totally relaxed this time around.  After all, we had pinpointed the issue and everything was fine with him, so why wouldn’t this baby be fine?  I don’t know; I just know that I panicked a little and called my doctors immediately and pushed them to get me supplemented right away.  I couldn’t fully enjoy the great news until I felt we were out of danger.  My husband was more rational and calm, thankfully, and helped me to trust God and what we knew to be true.

Still, we waited a few more weeks before telling anyone the news.  We have been much more confident this time, telling some family at seven weeks and others over the next several weeks.  We know there are always some risks, and things don’t always go the way we plan, but we’ve been able to enjoy sharing our good news with our loved ones as we visited them this summer.

The next big step was to tell the Facebook world.  While it’s not as important as our families, of course, the scary part is how public it is.  Many people will know once you post it on social media, and many more will find out from those people.  There is no stopping the news/ gossip once you’ve shared it online.  Nate was fine with it, but I hesitated for days before making my announcement.  In my mind, there was always that tiny voice of doubt taunting, “This might not work out the way you want it to.”  Whether that’s the evil one or just common sense, I don’t want to listen to it anymore.  I finally decided it was time to take a step of faith and share our good news.

Now, everyone in our lives knows there is a baby on the way.  The only people I haven’t told are my students, but we just started school and I’m sure they’ll figure it out pretty quickly, anyway.  I still experience little moments of weakness, worrying that something may go wrong.  Most of the time, though, I’m able to trust that God knows what He’s doing and He is always doing good.

I don’t know if everyone experiences this kind of fear when good news strikes them.  I feel like it must be fairly common, though.  We don’t want too much good in our lives for fear of it being taken away, just as it happened to Job.  I hope that you and I will keep learning to hold on to Jesus, knowing that yes, all our earthly joys are ultimately temporary, but that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace each piece of good news with sheer joy and thankfulness.

 

 

Packing light

Allison Vesterfelt’s book Packing Light put into words many of my struggles over having too much. It’s a great read for many reasons. It prompts a great deal of introspection. How does one learn to live with less?  How do you know when you’ve accumulated too much? This applies not only to possessions, but also to relationships and experiences.

Stuff

I know I have accumulated too much stuff.  Much of it has a permanent residence in our basement, packed away in boxes.  Dishes and appliances and gadgets we don’t have room for in the main part of the house (if we haven’t used it in three and a half years, do we really need it?)  I hate the idea of being weighed down by all these things.  Will I use them someday, will I not?  Who cares?  They’re stressing me out and so not worth it.

I really hate the idea of my child being weighed down and obsessed with possessions as he grows up.  I recently read a mom’s blog posting about taking away all of her children’s toys, and I wanted to shout, way to go, sister!  I hope I would have the guts to do that for the right reasons.  She says her daughters soon adapted and earned back one or two toys, and they actually prefer having less stuff to worry about.  They use their imaginations more as they play.  They don’t have to spend forever cleaning up the clutter because there isn’t much.  I feel like I could be the same way if I’d give up a lot of the junk in my home and life–freer, more creative, more contented.

On the road

Packing Light chronicles the author’s fifty-state road trip.  That alone was enough to hook me into reading it. Road trips are amazing!  While the book doesn’t sum up every single state and its highlights, it gives the reader a taste of the trip, letting the imagination fill in the blanks.  Reading it made me consider where I want to go–I’d absolutely love to see parts of the country I’ve never yet explored. Boston and Philadelphia, for fascinating history.  Colorado, for whitewater rafting and hiking and mountain biking and all that beauty.  Sequoia National Park because holy cow, those trees are unbelievable!  Ahh, I can hardly wait for my next chance at a good road trip!

Risk

This book stirs up in me a desire to live boldly, to not settle for less than what God has in store for me.  Vesterfelt quit her teaching job and left all of that security behind to travel for six months.  Maybe for me, living out a bold faith doesn’t have to mean quitting my day job and driving cross-country.  Then again, maybe it will someday!  Who knows? For now, it means taking risks where I am–forming and strengthening relationships no matter how temporary they may be, trying new lessons in my classroom knowing some will fail, starting a blog and letting friends and strangers into this inner world that might be surprising.

It’s about listening to that quiet voice inside saying, You don’t need all this. Letting go of anything that hinders my walk with Christ, anything that replaces Him in my life.

One final thing I love about this book: the author encourages readers to share the book.  The final page even has space to write your name before passing it on to someone else. It’s totally in keeping with the nature of the book–sharing things and experiences rather than being controlled or held back by them.

Part 2: Will I be missed?

I assume it’s natural for just about all of us to ponder our place in the world from time to time…our place in our families, our circles of friends, our workplaces, our schools, our places of worship. When I posted about my desire to be missed if and when I leave my church, this was not to say that I have no friends in my church or that you should pity me.  It was about pinpointing the kind of person I want to be now, in my church.  Being missed would indicate that my presence had value, that was really here. It would indicate that I was here for a reason.

This often crosses over into other areas of my life, particularly at work.  Surely we all (a la George Bailey) have had that thought cross our minds, that questioning of what things would be like without us.  It’s the way we evaluate ourselves, the way we gauge our success or failure in any given venture.

I wondered about it long before I finally quit coaching cross-country.  Who would take over the job after me?  How much better would the team perform with someone else coaching them?  What would the kids, parents, staff, other coaches say about me once I was gone?  I wondered about Student Council and what would happen if I weren’t involved.  How would Homecoming go without my expertise?  What would the kids think of the new advisor? I wondered how my substitute teacher during maternity leave would be.  I was torn between hoping for an incredible sub so my students wouldn’t suffer and hoping for someone terrible so my students would be glad to see me return.  (Fortunately, I ended up getting the best of both worlds–students said they loved their sub, but they really missed me.)

Here’s the odd thing: the more I thought of how I might be perceived and remembered, the more motivated I became to do better.  Not due to some innate drive to be successful, but due to fear.  Fear of potential negative impressions made.  Fear of potential ridicule by others. Fear that when I eventually would resign from coaching, the overall feeling of everyone affected would be…relief. Oh my gosh, what could be worse than sensing that once you had left your position, people were going to cheer?  They’re not cheering for a job well done; they’re cheering because the terrible, lazy, talentless, uncaring, stupid, selfish person who was ruining the whole organization was finally gone.  Yes, I realize this is a pretty bleak way to view oneself.  Extreme.  Sometimes self-talk can be that way.

Let’s be honest.  In all likelihood, most of the jobs/groups/organizations I am a part of will continue just fine without me, and have already done so.  My school still has a cross-country team, but I am not the coach.  Homecoming and all the other Student Council events still take place, although I’m not in charge anymore.  I don’t need to think any more or less of myself than I am.  Somebody will take over my roles; the world will keep on turning.  Some things will be better without my presence, and some won’t.  Maybe my absence won’t have much of an impact at all.  Maybe, though, there will be a few who will say when I’m gone, I really miss her.  Maybe someone will have been changed for the better, because of me.  I guess I can only hope that like George Bailey on Christmas Eve, I’ll one day get to see something good that has come from my life.  Maybe a lot of  somethings.  It may not be in this life, but maybe God will one day show me, show all of us, how He chose to use us to accomplish His plans on earth.

So I have to accept that I have limitations.  I probably can’t actually be best friends with everyone in my church, much as I would love to (it is an incredible group of people!).  I’ll spend what time I can with whomever I can, getting to know them, playing with their kids, praying when they’re hurting, listening when they just need to vent.  I’ll accept it when  I can’t make it to community group because my baby is crying or I’m too tired from the work week or we need to visit family members out of state.  I’ll do my part to be there for my church, but try to remember that not all of it is up to me.  That’s where the concept of “the body” of Christ is so key.

If I can channel the fear of not being missed into positive actions, I will.  I can’t help sometimes thinking about the future and what people will say about me.  I’ll use this to help me become more connected in my church.  I’ll use it when making lesson plans and helping students.  I’ll use it constantly in years to come as I raise my son.  This fear can be healthy, if I let it teach me how to live more fully in the moment.