i blame Rachel Hollis

Can we agree that lying is wrong? Yes?

What if the person we are lying to is ourself; still wrong? Yes.

I recently finished listening to the book, Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis. Man, I like her courage. She digs deep and openly shares the lies that have shaped her life. I listen while she talks about her teenage bother’s suicide, her difficult experience as a foster parent and the lack of sex drive she’s had as a wife and I think, “That’s brave. Whoah, she’s talking about that? She did not just put that down on the table for us to see! Wow, girl, I’ve got to give you props for that brave honesty.

I blame Rachel Hollis

MY DIRTY LAUNDRY

Meanwhile, I’m doing my own personal spring cleaning. Remember that little game of hide and seek that I recently told you about? I figure if the game works for fears, maybe I should apply it to lies as well because they are pretty much best buds. So I’m over here searching for lies that have shaped my life and they begin raining down on me like the crayons, Cheerios and old french fries do when I absentmindedly remove my son’s car seat from the van.

Oh gosh, I guess I’ve got them too,” I’m thinking. “Shoot, that’s actually quite a few! Well good on Rachel for sharing. I’m being encouraged and challenged and all that good stuff.”

But then a small voice inside my head, which I believe to be God, asks if I’m willing to share my own dirty laundry with you.

Nope, not really.

And then I feel His gentle nudge and I instinctively move my shoulder out of His way and repeat,

No, really, it’s not necessary!”

It’s true you know.

It’s not necessary that I share my lies with you. Continue reading “i blame Rachel Hollis”

pray out fear, freedom is waiting on the other side

Some people say it’s best to face your fears. However, in order to embrace the freedom that is waiting on the other side, we need more than posture, we need a plan.  Here is what I have found to be the number-one most effective strategy: pray out fear.

We don’t often realize how many decisions are based on our fears. While some fears are rational and designed to keep us alive, I believe most of the fear that guides our decisions are not of this life-preserving variety. These fears need to be identified and dealt with.

FIRST: FIND THE FEAR

It’s become a little game I play—an adult version of hide-and-seek—identify areas in my life where fear is hiding. Because of our traveling lifestyle, my circumstances are continually shifting. This means I always have a lot of new material to work with, making it easier for me to flush out fear from its dark corners so I can meet it head-on and pray it out.

Since we started traveling, I’ve found that each region of the country has its own natural disasters, potentially deadly animals or unique hazards. Residents worldwide are often pretty low-key about the particular brand of danger living in their own backyard. However, there always seem to be a group of people who haven’t actually been to said location but yet have strong opinions which they must share for the sake of our family’s health and welfare. We discovered this to be particularly true while planning our trip to Alaska. As often happens, the list of fear factors only seemed to grow with each new person we spoke with.

-Bug and mosquito populations

-Road conditions

-Route decisions

-Weather conditions

Internet access

-Bear encounters

-RV and truck breakdowns

-Flat tires

-Cracked windshields

-Food prices

-Mail retrieval

pray out fear

FEAR VULTURES

As our Alaska departure date drew near, I noticed how frequently this group of people rotated around this list like vultures, picking at their own favorite fears and flinging them in our direction. I will admit, the temptation to bite was strong.

Continue reading “pray out fear, freedom is waiting on the other side”

The fear that almost kept us from RVing

Is fear ever truly healthy? If so, how do you decipher if the fear gnawing in the pit of your stomach needs to be fed or starved?

That is the question I was staring at two years ago. I was wrestling with the unknown. My required response was either flee my fear or face it. Facing my fear may seem like the desired logical, brave, big-girl reaction. However, I wasn’t just scared to talk to a homeless man or visit Florida. This fear was fueled by the desire to keep my children safe from unknown predators.

Let me take you back to the beginning

A few years ago, after a period of intense heart stirring, my husband and I began tiptoeing down a new path of surrender. We felt the Lord nudging us toward lightening our load in preparation for an unconfirmed future. We sold things, we downsized and we began considering things that we’d never considered before. The further down the road we walked, the more curious we became—where was God leading us? Soon we approached a bend in the road, a place where we could not see around the corner. We believed that selling our home was probably our next step of faith. However, we had no clarity for what would come after or where we would live. Once again, we returned to prayer and asked God to lead us into the unknown.

The offer

At this time we received a unique offer to move a few hours away and help oversee an RV campground. In exchange for our time, we would be compensated with free housing and food. There were many aspects to this proposition that appealed to us. We could be free of our mortgage while we continued to seek wisdom for our next step. Our efforts to downsize would be rewarded in a smaller living space. We would be stepping out in faith toward something new.

The offer is considered

In order to gain clarity and better understand the possible situation in which we would be moving into, our family drove a few hours to visit the RV park. Throughout the duration of our stay we experienced several unique confirmations that pointed us in the direction of wanting to accept the offer and move forward.

On the last morning of our visit, our kids were outside riding their bikes. When they returned to the house, our daughter had a look of concern clouding her face. “Mom, there was a man in one of the cabins who was yelling at us out his window and he made me feel really uncomfortable,” she confided. At that moment it felt as though the air was being sucked out of the room. Suddenly my confidence shattered and wondered how I ever thought this arrangement could work.

The offer is poison

During our drive home my mind was racing faster than the car. Who tries to raise their kids in an RV park? What kind of mom would I be to bring my children into an environment teeming with strangers–not just strangers: transient strangers! How could I ever live with myself if something happened to them just because we decided that an unconventional living arrangement was a good idea? Later, after discussing these concerns with Trent, we both agreed that it was not wise to move forward unless we both felt peace. I certainly didn’t have peace so I set my mind toward accepting the hard truth that seemed to be staring me in the face: we were not going to move after all.

Days passed and I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in my heart. My lack of peace, which I had previously decided was brought on by divine discernment, caused me to feel restless and agitated. How was it possible that everything had pointed so clearly in one direction only to have it sharply U-turn unexpectedly? Wasn’t this feeling of unease from God as well? Wasn’t it? Somehow I couldn’t reconcile the two extremes.

Contemplative reflection

I found myself in contemplative reflection as I remembered previous times in my life in which the Lord had clearly directed my steps. In an attempt to gain more clarity into those situations, I pulled out old journals and sought to retrace those moments of clear conviction. I read about occasions when I had stood at the crossroads of decision and God brought a confident answer through a time of prayer and fasting.

That next day I determined to beseech wisdom from God and set aside an agenda of food in exchange for focused time in prayer and reading the Bible. That afternoon I sat down on my bed and opened my heart asking God to help me know His will. I asked for confidence in how to decipher the feelings of anxiety I felt over the safety of my children. Finally, I asked for peace in whatever decision He was leading us into. I opened my bible and began to read from the book of Psalms. When I reached the third chapter, I felt as though the blinds had been pulled back from my eyes and the light of truth was pouring into the dark room. In this chapter David has fled from his son Absalom who was seeking to harm him. He exclaims,

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, there is no deliverance for him in God.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God! For you have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people!

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

In that moment I understood that David was able to exclaim confidently “You, O Lord are a shield about me…I will not be afraid…You have relieved me in my distress…hear my prayer” despite the fact that he was being hotly pursued by thousands because he understood that the Lord was his protector. I saw that David cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered him with a confident assurance.

Untangling the lies

I now realized that the deceiver had woven lies, whispered fears and I had quickly cultivated them in my heart. I knew that God had used this particular passage of scripture to remind me that He alone is our true shield and protection. My desire to keep my children safe is no reason to refuse to walk the path that the Lord places before me. Once I uncovered the truth, my fear fell away. In its place came a peace that allowed us to peek around the corner at the next step in our path: listing our home for sale.

Finding the truth

As I reflect now on our year and a half living as managers in that campground before launching out on our RV traveling adventure, I am reminded of the crippling effect that fear can cause. The entire course of our family stood in the balance over one fear craftily woven. The ironic truth is that our family loved that year and a half. The transient strangers that I feared never materialized and instead we were blessed with unique friendships and community.

It causes me to stop and wonder, are there any fears that I am currently cultivating? What move of God might those fears be preventing? As I continue to lean into this theme of pursuing fearlessness won’t you lean with me?

overcoming my unfounded Florida fears

I spent most of my childhood growing up on a fruit orchard on the Columbia River in Washington State. Our white two-story farmhouse was perched on a small hill, nestled within the protective arms of a pine tree covered hillside. If I tilted my head just right, I could see a sliver of placid blue water through the distant trees beyond my living room window. Our summers were hot and dry and the winters were cold and white. Although my family made many trips to Southern California to visit family, that was the extent of my travels and for all I knew the rest of the world looked a lot like the west coast of the United States of America.

First taste of freedom

In 1993 I turned 15 and my parents offered me my first chance to step outside my comfort zone and see well beyond my living room window. A pamphlet from Teen Missions International based in Merritt Island, Florida beckoned offered a travel experience like no other: two weeks in Florida for boot camp and then on to diverse international locations such as Mozambique, Papa New Guinea or Brazil. I scoured the brochure attempting to select the most ideal location like a discerning shopper looking through a fashion catalog. Dog-eared and worn, I poured over my printed options with vigor, circling those that seemed most promising and adding stars to the ones that seemed extra romantic. In the end, France captured my teenage heart and I submitted my application for adventure.

What the brochure failed to mention however, was the fact that no geographically informed individual would consider traveling to Florida in the height of summer. I was, up to this time in my life, grossly uninformed and blissfully naive to matters of humidity, chiggers and mid-summer mosquitoes. I was also somewhat self-absorbed and walking that difficult road of confident ignorance. (If you are over the age of 25, I trust I’m not alone in recalling memories from this period of time with embarrassing clarity.)

Reality check

What greeted me that July as I stepped off the airplane in Orlando, was a wash of reality served fresh on a plate of heavy humidity mixed with intense heat. Arriving late in the evening, I traveled under the cloak of night by bus to the boot camp location. Because of my late arrival, I was treated to a night on the floor in my sleeping bag in an air-conditioned building. This would be the last comfortable night of sleep I would experience in Florida.

For the next two weeks, my sleeping bag rested inside a small pup tent amid the forest floor. I learned to wash my clothes by hand and forgo the expectation that they would dry in the moist air before I needed to wear them again. My only comfort was that I was not alone. My team of 32 other teens had signed up for this self-inflicted experience as well.

Because there were thousands of teens representing countless teams traveling all over the globe, our conditions were set up to mimic those of the most primitive team. Every aspect of our boot camp adventure was designed to mimic conditions on the mission field and help us overcome culture shock before we left the United Sates to our varied international destinations. This included our dress code of jeans and combat boots despite the sweltering summer weather. Team building opportunities included classing in construction, puppets, drama and survival skills and a morning obstacle course through the jungle complete with a rope swing over a muddy slough and scaling a 12 foot wall.

Occasionally, I would peer into the night sky and see the blinking lights of an airplane. I’d stand in awe that somewhere in the stratosphere people were sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned cabin drinking soda with ice cubes clinking in their plastic cups watching an in-flight movie. How I wished I could be among them! As sweat dripped between my shoulder blades in the heat of the night, I made myself a promise: never again would I be dumb enough to visit Florida.

Lasting impact

Twenty-three years later I was staring hard into that promise as our family began charting our RV travel route. Logically and logistically wintering in Florida was the best choice.

For a lunatic, I reasoned.

We wanted to visit the states we’d never been to as a family. We wanted to travel up the east coast in the spring. Florida made perfect sense.

If you want to be an idiot.

Let’s set aside the humidity and the insects and pretend those are inconsequential. How can we ignore the alligators?

People say they are “everywhere.”

What about the hurricanes?

We are traveling in an RV for Pete sake, we’d likely blow right out to sea!

That’s not even taking into account red tide, sinkholes or the Zika Virus!

I might as well call CPS and report myself if I think it’s safe to subject my children to the dangers of Florida.

Facing unfounded fear head-on

unfounded fears

In my first post of 2017, I addressed the topic of fear. Please understand that was not written from a hypothetical or metaphorical standpoint. I’ve met fear face-to-face on many occasions and in varying degrees of circumstances or intensities. This time was guilty of nursing a twenty-three year old memory well past the weaning stage. I’d let the news, social media and those around me feed that fear. It’s embarrassing to admit but over time my fear became bigger than my God and my faith was in the words of those confirming my doubts. If you are looking for a good place to get lost in insecurity, turn inward and wrap yourself in a blanket of anxious thoughts. It’s awfully lonely, but at least you will be warm.

Choosing to winter in Florida this year was a deliberate move to throw off the anxiety blanket and step boldly toward fearlessness; away from hypothetical “what ifs?” and unfounded fears and toward more calculated curiosity and logical reasoning. What I have discovered after a month in the Sunshine Sate has been surprisingly straightforward: yes there are unpleasantries in Florida. It’s humid. It’s buggy. There are alligators, crocodiles, snakes and panthers. Hurricanes are possible and sinkholes occur. But that is only the view through one lens. Realistically speaking, the Northwest, where I call home has bears, cougars, moose, and poisonous spiders. The winters are cold and summer brings the treat of wildfire. Despite all of those perceived dangers, I’ve never questioned my sanity or well being living there. Have you noticed how relaxed we can become inside our zones of comfort?

I could have so easily missed out

Here is what it comes down to: my fear of the unknown is often deeply rooted in just that–the unknown. Becoming familiar with something new is often not only the antidote to fear, but also a close-minded outlook. My fear faded as my education grew. I learned that hurricanes more or less follow a predictable schedule and just like in Idaho, the wildlife prefers to keep to itself. Once I was willing to use a different lens, I saw that manatees were swimming in the same waters as the crocodile and shark teeth could be found on the opposite shore of the lazy alligator. Beauty and wonder co-existed with my misplaced fears. I could so easily have missed out.

Those Blue Angels that flew over our heads on the beach in perfect formation…
That spontaneous Dominion game night with three other couples…
The decadent Key Lime Pie purchased in Key West…
Standing on the southernmost tip of our continent…
Seeing a sea turtle both in the wild as well in a rehabilitation hospital…

Spotting stingrays…
Discovering shark teeth in a riverbed…
Sitting inches away from wild manatee…
Trying Cuban coffee…
Attempting to see the sunset while a cruise ship moved in to block the view…
Picking strawberries in January…

 Making new friends…
Biking through the Everglades…
Eyeing crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbank…
Canoeing through mangrove forests while gliding silently past submerged alligators…
Watching dolphins swim in the Gulf of Mexico…

I could have missed it all.

Now certainly one could say that had we not been in Florida, different memories would have been made in another place. This is true and they could have been wonderful. However, in addition to all that we gained in friendships, memories and experiences, I can also add the lesson of facing my unfounded fear and realizing that the reality was much different than the expectation. Call me crazy but if I tilt my head just right, I just might see another Florida winter in our future.

destination 2017: pursuing fearlessness

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

FEAR VS LOVE

John Lennon believed “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, life and acceptance.

1 John 4:18 takes these two forces a step further stating, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear; because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

I’ve been pondering this inherent contradictory connection of fear and love for quite some time. Like the hand of a clock, I keep circling back and thinking through it again and again. As the calendar of 2017 turns its first page, I return to process through fumbling syllables and tangled thoughts bumping along like a swiftly flowing stream.

fearlessness discovered

Fear is an intriguing foe. Invisible yet powerful. Silent yet deafening.

Fear whispers in every language. It is not geographically bound. It crosses political borders and economic boundaries. Fear infects all genders and every race. Like a rampantly spreading virus, almost everything is infected. Is there anywhere in which fear cannot be found?

pursuing fearlessness

finding fearlessness

Despite its far reaching effect, I’ve discovered one segment of our world that is nearly impenetrable to fear: young children. Show me a young child who has been well loved and cared for and I will show you a heart with virtually no fear. Jumping off couches, riding bikes with no hands, licking frozen metal pipes–these are the carefree actions of someone who has not yet suffered pain. Over time these children learn to associate potential pain with actions. Fire may equal burns. Dogs may bite. Cold pipes are never, under any circumstance to be licked. Slowly caution creeps in often followed hard by fear itself.

I want to be fearless. I don’t want to shrink back from what God puts in front of me because it looks scary or hard or the outcome is unknown. How do I face fear rather than succumb to it? What is the difference between unhealthy fear and wise discernment? How do I live without fear in an unstable world? Do I chase safety or dreams?

pursuing fearlessness

the fountain of fearlessness is found in faith

I believe that my only route to freedom from fear is through the heart of my Savior. Like the child who is able to jump without fear of falling because his parent has never failed to catch him; my confidence can be equated in equal proportions to my faith.

If I can be known at the deepest, truest level by the One who spoke the world into existence. (Psalm 139)

If I can receive pardon for my imperfections, flaws and sins from this Creator. (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:6)

If I can be received and adopted into God’s family with rejoicing. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

If I am loved perfectly by a perfect God. (Psalm 18:30)

If I cannot earn His favor because it has already been given freely. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 3:17-19)

If I can hope in a perfect future beyond this world, because preparations were arranged before my birth through the sacrifice of Jesus’s death on the cross. (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:1)

Than this is the place where I can begin to walk in freedom. Where I can learn about the perfect love that is able to drive out all fear. It is in this sacred space of trust in which my fear can be handed over with trembling fingers.

“Take it,” I whisper.

pursuing fearlessness

Only here, where it is surrendered willingly, does my Heavenly Father reach out and receive the fear that I’ve been harboring. With the same power that first brought forth the light and holds back the seas, He takes my fear and hurls it into the darkness where all fears hide. In that place of perfect love, I find security.

That, more than anywhere else, is the place in which I seek to live this year.

Join me.