Fear & Faith

faith, fear, anxiety, christmas story, virgin mary

I didn’t want to go to church last night. But I went. It’s a good thing I did. The last year has been incredibly challenging. I’m tired and worn. A few weeks back, leading up to last week, a series of events happened that have been the straw that has broken the camel’s back.

The events that started a few weeks back opened the door to a type of fear and anxiety I haven’t experienced in many years. I certainly experience stress. But fear and anxiety have not had a grip on me for a very long time.

But oh how bad the last few weeks have been. The story that has played out in front of me is not what I expected. As a result, I let fear overtake me. I have not understood what God is doing or the story He is writing.

When you want to react in fear, respond in faith. – Jason Brinker

My pastor last night talked about Mary’s story and the “plot twists” that surely must have left her confused, filled with fear, and anxiety about what God was doing in her life and family.

This Christmas season we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We have grown {maybe too} accustomed to His story, as my pastor pointed out. I think that’s certainly true for me. I know that in last night’s sermon, I looked at this story from a new direction. And one that fits my life so perfectly now.

An angel visited Mary and shared the “good news” that she would give birth to a child who would be called “the Son of God.” Yikes. Mary, a virgin, and betrothed to Joseph, was undoubtedly confused and fearful. Besides the obvious issue this raised in her relationship with Joseph, the culture she lived in wouldn’t exactly look kindly on news of a pregnant, unwed young woman.

This was not the story she would have imagined as a little girl. I can relate. She didn’t see her life taking shape in such a way. And yet, this was the story God was writing for her. He was writing her into His story of redemption and grace.

Below are the ESV and NIV versions of Luke 1:36-38 – which are the key verses for me, in this story.

NIV – “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

ESV – And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The news delivered to Mary was what I sometimes like to call “backwards bizarro world” {everything is flipped on its head, nothing makes sense, nonsense becomes logic, etc.}. That’s what the plot twists I’ve experienced have been like. If it had been me in Mary’s shoes, my response probably would have been something like, “SAY WHAT, BRO?”

That’s what my reactions have been like lately, as I walked into backwards bizarro world. But beyond that, I’ve also reacted in fear and anxiety. But instead of reacting in fear, Mary responds in faith.

She responds by saying, “May it be done to me according to your word.” So what’s the antidote to fear? It’s certainly not focusing on the issue that’s causing the fear in the first place. Choosing faith over fear is just that – it’s a choice. But it’s not just based in my own ability to pull myself up by my bootstraps to get through.

It’s based on who I am in Him and what He says about who I am. It’s based on His unchanging Word. Replacing fear with faith requires that I actively take my thoughts captive and focus on what is true and right and lovely.

I don’t understand what God is doing. But in the last few weeks, instead of reacting with faith, I have been consumed with fear and hurt.

When you don’t understand what God is doing, remember what God has spoken.         – Jason Brinker

Besides being incredibly thankful for my pastor’s teaching, I’m also thankful for grace. God is incredibly kind to me that He allows me to change the track I’m on. I share this with you today in case you too are facing circumstances that have left you feeling fearful or confused about the story God is writing.

Do you sense that God is asking you to respond in faith, though you’re tempted to react in fear? I will challenge myself to respond in faith, if you do!

 

 

Waiting & God’s Will

Waiting, God's Will, Worship While Waiting

When I was young, I read a bunch of books by Emilie Barnes. Between her books, my desire to be a mom & adopt, my long standing love of all things homemaking, and entertaining, I was convinced I would be the best wife & mom . . . ever.

In one of Emilie’s books, The Spirit of Loveliness, she writes about how her home often became the center of action for her high-school age kids and their friends. Her son played football and her daughter was a cheerleader. She mentions preparing food with her kids and then feeding 50 football players and cheerleaders.

Her home became a gathering place because of the love, hospitality, openness, and joy her, her husband, and kids exhibited. I thought then {and prayed too} that this is what my house would become someday – full of love, noise, hospitality, and a bit of a revolving door as people came & went.

Waiting, God's Will, Waiting and God's Will

Fast forward to 2017. At 41, my life doesn’t look like that. I get to hang out with some young people. And sometimes I feed them. But, I don’t have kids or a family.  There is still so much of what I’ve prayed for, for so many decades, that remains a distant dream.

Whatever the circumstances might be, waiting when you don’t truly know what’s on the other end, isn’t easy. I wish I could say it was. There’s a tendency in the delays to despair. Or to believe that perhaps it’s just not meant to be.

Maybe it’s not. Maybe the life I always saw for myself won’t ever happen. But in all of the years of praying, I have continued to ask, and the desire is still there. I guess that means I’ll have to trust His timing.

There is purpose in your season of waiting. – Megan Smalley

Since I can’t see the future {that would be a useful skill, no?} and I don’t believe in psychics {eventually they’re gonna guess right}, trust is my only option. I’m not saying I’ve been getting it right all this time.

In fact, even this very week, I’ve struggled. But sometimes the struggle leads to our greatest lessons. And sometimes it means growing to trust God even more. The truth is, I want what is best for me and I want it His way.

So while I wait, I’ll keep looking forward to that vision of what I always wanted my life and family to look like.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing, trusting, and praying for the hearts of the ones he’s drawing me toward.

Who loved me through my rebel way
Who chose to carry all my shame
Who breaths in me with endless life
The king of glory Jesus Christ

I will stay should the world by me fold
Lift up Your name as the darkness falls
I will wait and hold fast to Your word
Heart on Your heart and my eyes on Yours

Stay & Wait By Joel Houston

Home Sweet Home

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When I last wrote, I was still struggling through the home search process. Why is that so stressful, ya’ll? But I found the house, finished packing, and last Saturday, moved in! So thankful that process is over!

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The new neighborhood is so quiet. I love it. My kitchen, my favorite room in the house, is perfect. It’s huge. This house is everything the last house wasn’t. The biggest bonus of all is definitely the kitchen. I’m in love.

I’ve given my mom a couple of rooms so she can stretch out a little while she works and plans and dreams for her own place. For now, the plan is for one kid’s room. Someday, I may be adding a second kid’s room but for now, mom is using that for her Etsy business and craft stuff. The kiddo room is painted blue and has a crazy planets ceiling fan. It’s pretty boy friendly.

As I think about the kiddo that might stay there, first, I’m contemplating changing the ceiling fan. I’ve spent some time on Etsy looking for gender neutral {all ages friendly} rooms so that may be the first thing to go. But more on that later . . .

Back to the heart of the home. Did I mention I love it?

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I’m looking forward to cooking in it! It was definitely the first room to be unpacked and organized. The other rooms are coming together. But the kitchen has definitely been my focus.

The yard will take a little work. The patio is super small and there’s no shade. But thanks to Pinterest I have some ideas for fixing that, too. But I still love it. It’s awesome to have a privacy fence again after a year with a chain link fence and nosey neighbors and loud dogs.

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IMG_4627 Abby approves. She adores this yard.

After one full week in this house, I can honestly say that all of the stress was worth it. I’m so thankful to be getting settled. I am dreaming and hoping, with joy, at what lies ahead.

My foster parent orientation is on August 3rd – just a few days away. I can’t wait to meet the first child that will call this place home.

Even This?

Jim Elliot, Joshua Tree, JTNP,

I had the privilege growing up of going to a church that had some pretty great youth leaders. In junior high we were challenged with a question. Will you follow Him no matter what it takes?

I said yes. Not a doubt in my mind. I was willing to die if that’s what it took.

My heroes of the faith were Amy Carmichael – a mama to countless children in India, Gladys Aylward – who saved Chinese children during WWII at great risk and peril, Hudson Taylor, Elisabeth & Jim Elliot {Elliot famously said, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ He was killed by the people he had gone to serve.}, and many others who followed a path I thought I would.

At Forest Home, before I started seventh grade, I listened to a few people {college age and a little older} talk about their lives and the ways they had chosen to follow Him. One of these people became a mentor because she also happened to be part of my home church. She had spent time as a missionary in a place that seemed so exotic and unusual at the time.

Between her impact on me, and that of our youth leaders, I said I’d go anywhere and do anything for Him.

I don’t always think the decisions you make at twelve will stay with you. Sometimes they do. And sometimes? You probably wish they didn’t. I said, “Here I am, send me.” I said I’d follow “no matter what it takes.” The question today, in the midst of pain is, “even this?”

Even this?

Even this?

This?

His reply is twofold:

  • Do you trust me enough to pray wild, impossible prayers and to have scandalous, wild faith? Will you dream the big dreams and trust me with them?
  • And then . . . will you follow me no matter my answer? Will you follow me even if I say no? Will you follow me if the family you have wanted is not my plan?

Even this?

Yes. Even this.

Turns out He may not have expected me to spend my life on the mission field. Or die for my faith. But maybe He’s asked me to lay something down that I cling to even more. Like Abraham who finally had a son to take his name and birthright, is He asking me to lay down the one thing I want more than anything? Yes. Even that. He wanted Abraham, the Father of many nations, to be willing to lay his Isaac down. He asked Abraham, in different words but with the same weight, “Even this?”

Abraham, this great hero of the faith for so many said, “Yes. Even this.”

So here I am, declaring my public, “Even this.”

Even this.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

Messy hair. Thirsty heart.


I drove my messy hair and thirsty heart here a short time ago. There are times when the pain is too much, and the ache too deep. Today? It’s one of those days. Oh is it one of those days.

Mother’s Day brings it out in me. At least in recent years. I try hard to let it slip by, but in the south, where politeness is a way of life, the constant refrain of “Happy Mother’s Day,” to every adult female, is too much.

I lost a baby. She would be close to 10. And now, at 40, I’m childless. The one title I’ve wanted for as long as I remember, I don’t have. I made it past my 40th birthday without facing this.

But I couldn’t escape it any longer. A few weeks back, I faced a disappointing moment in my career. I longed for a change because it was the only way I could fathom becoming a single mother through foster care & adoption. My schedule now, in my current job, is too erratic. It’s not that other people don’t do it – they do. But for me? I’m not sure I could choose to do it alone. I was raised by a single mother. I don’t have any lofty ideas about what it is and isn’t. But that’s the one reason why I needed and longed for this career change.

People I know from work were happy about this {they told me so} because it meant I would stay with them. But it broke my heart. They didn’t mean to hurt me, but the hurt piled up. What does one do when the only way you can imagine getting to the dream, goes up in smoke? Especially at a time that seems so ripe with meaning for women {turning 40}. Single women in particular.

Everywhere I turn today, however, are words and songs of encouragement. Last night, Ann Voskamp posted on her Facebook page about being brave. You can see it here. I saw it today however. I needed it. Right in that moment. Not last night when she wrote it. I have cried buckets today. And when feeling frustrated with my messy heart and tears, I read a quote that showed up “randomly” in my Facebook feed, about tears. It spoke comfort to my tired heart.

I could go on. There are other examples. I still don’t know if the pain will ever go away. I still don’t know why God answers some prayers and remains silent other times. I don’t know why some people are blessed with children and other dreams of their hearts, while others long. I don’t know why He hasn’t taken this desire from me if this isn’t to be my life.

But I know He is a good, good Father. Somewhere, beyond my vision, there’s peace – though I don’t feel it now. The things I’ve read & the songs I’ve heard remind me of this. I don’t know if there’s a reason, but I know there’s peace.

From the time I was a kid, the ocean brought peace into my life. My grandparents lived at the beach most of the summer and we stayed with them when it was possible.
We would nap with the fresh ocean air blowing past us and we would walk on the beach for hours. My Grandma Avalos was a woman with messy hair and a wild, artist’s heart. Our countless hours with her, when my brother and I were kids, taught me to dream big and wide. And as wild as my heart could take.

I’m sure she didn’t set out to do that. But messy haired women with wild, thirsty hearts will do that for you if you pay attention. Today, my messy hair & thirsty heart needed to sit by the sea to be reminded how to dream big and wide and as wild as my heart can take.

Because the God that made the ocean that gives me so much peace? He’s bigger still. And as wild and deep and wide as my dreams are, His for me are deeper still.

The Color Green

trees, woods, jungle, eastern carolina, eastern north carolina
Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

– Rich Mullins

I spent much of the day yesterday dilly-dallying and working in my yard {might have also had a mint julep or two}. I loved it. My hands were caked with potting soil, as were my clothes, but it was a great feeling to work all day at making my deck pretty, after nearly a year here.

I’ve spent about ten months in this house. I won’t lie . . . I have hated pretty close to every second of it.

mint julep, cocktail, southern drinks,

The house is too small. The neighbors are way too loud. I can smell the hog farm about half of the week, all day – from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. The lighting is terrible. Terrible. The house is very dark. On and on my complaints have gone.

I started looking at houses online. I was determined to move when my lease was up. The noisy neighbors and their dogs were my last straw. And then . . . something happened. Spring? Wisdom? Discernment? Maybe a combination of all three.

I drive into my driveway every evening after work and there’s this adorable house in front of me – it looks like a cabin in the woods. It makes my heart all girly and squishy. I walk out onto the back deck with my dog and all I can see is . . . green.

woods, trees, eastern carolina, eastern north carolina

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My backyard is beautiful. It’s huge. And it’s green. And it’s beautifully shaded – there’s almost too much shade. Funny things grow back there in all that shade. Just behind my fence is a jungle of even more green with a creek running alongside.

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The jungle behind the house!

Suddenly, within the last 2-3 weeks I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to move. I love this yard. I love the overwhelming green that reminds me of life, grace, and of dreams coming true. When I was a little girl, I used to look at picture books and dream away about where I wanted to live and what I wanted that magical place {far away from Orange County, California} to look like.

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It looks like here. It looks like this. It looks like what I’m seeing out my office/guest room window as I type this very minute. This house is where I belong for now. My little cabin in the woods is home. And while it is, I’m going to soak up all the green that I can.

Speaking of green. Growing up in Southern California, one doesn’t realize just how much green you’re missing out on. I grew up on a busy, loud street right in the center of Orange County. There was more asphalt and concrete than green.

Trees? We had them. But not like this. I lose count of the number of trees in my yard when I try to count. It’s hard to grasp as a native SoCal’er just what is out there beyond that Shangri-La. I even lived in the desert of California for a couple of years. Green in that town of Joshua Tree is really a special sight to behold when you lay your eyes upon it. My neighbor’s yard had a huge pine tree and I would sit for ages on those desert windy days, just to hear the sound of the wind through the pine, hankering for the East Coast and green.

Green. Deep, rich, life-giving green. It’s the first color we see after a long winter. The first buds of leaves in the spring are almost fluorescent they’re so green. It’s nearly impossible to give up the beauty of spring as it trails into summer. So, no. I don’t want to leave just yet. I dreamed of this place. So here is where I will write. And this is where I will wait.

Office

So here I sit. At my Grandma’s desk, looking out at the green – writing. No, I’m not going anywhere right now. I’ll stay right here with the color green. This is where I will write. And this is where I will wait.

Trust || One Word 365

Trust 2016

A few years ago, I gave up resolutions. Instead of spending the year trying to keep up with a list of goals that seemed to be more about rules and regulations than actual change {and might I add, quickly abandoned} I decided I would go with a word – just one word for the year.

This one word feels as if it were ordained just for me. It has always fit. It has been laced in and out of my experiences, opportunities to grow, the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Some years, I haven’t been super happy with that word {like last year}. I struggled with the 2015 word. Oh, how I struggled. But, see that’s how God has a sense of humor. The struggle was the lesson. My word last year? Intentional.

I learned so much about being intentional. Although I don’t think I got it until December. I wanted to be more deliberate in certain areas of my life. I wasn’t deliberate. In fact, at the end of the year, I saw more of what I didn’t accomplish than what I did.

But sometimes the best lessons come from losing. I learned fairly quickly, in just a few weeks time this December, what I lost in not being as deliberate as I planned.

Which brings me to 2016. It’s a big year. It’s the year I turn 40. It’s the year I may step away from a path I’ve been on career wise. It’s the year I hope to make more concrete plans regarding being a foster parent. There’s more but I’ll spare you the details.

However comma, since I wasn’t very purposeful and intentional last year, it doesn’t seem on the surface of it all that 2016 holds what I hope it will. If you look at the circumstances, I should just phone it in, ya’ll. Give up. Walk away.

I may be a lot of things. But one thing I’m not? A quitter. So while it looks a little bleak, I am being challenged to trust the God that has my future in His hands.

Trust. My word for 2016.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Deuteronomy 1:32 But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God…

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 37:3 Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

I could go on.

I don’t know where the path is leading but the best way ahead is trust. Whatever that means.

It’s not too late to pick your word for 2016! You can check out the OneWord 365 website, here. You can join the Facebook group, here.

Will you join me? What do you have to lose?