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!

 

 

Fairy Tales

fairy tale, knight, knight in shining armor, love, marriage

Every little girl dreams of her knight in shining armor. I certainly did (okay, I still do). I can honestly remember being in Kindergarten and weaving fairy tales about the man who would fall in love with me and make me his princess. Maybe not literally his princess – but his princess just the same.

I’ve met some men I thought might be him – that proverbial knight. I have fallen in love a few times. But in all three cases, I guess they weren’t the one. Or maybe one of the three could have been. I certainly saw in him the qualities of my particular type of fairy tale.

I think most women who desire to fall in love and get married have their list. This list of qualities they hope to find in this man they’ve dreamt of for so long is obviously different for everyone. My list is personal to me and I have no intention of dragging the entire thing out.

But recently, and I do mean recently, I’ve had to think a little bit more about that list and what is most important to me.

Let’s just establish here, before we go any further, that we’re leaving me out of the equation. I’ll come back to me later. I’m thinking about a series on the “Proverbs 31” woman. I have a whole long list of qualities I want to exhibit and some I think I do already.

But this fairy tale? This knight in shining armor? What does he look like?

  • He loves Jesus.
  • He has a hunger & thirst for God’s Word and living out God’s will.
  • He is committed to being part of our church & in ministry in some form.
  • He is hilarious. Or at least I think so. If a man makes me laugh that’s just about the sexiest thing ever.
  • He loves children and wants to be a father.
  • He is tender and kindhearted when the situation calls for it – particularly if it relates to me or our children.
  • He is smart and can engage in intelligent conversation. And hopefully, playful arguments and debates.
  • He loves football.
  • Did I mention football?
  • He is masculine & proud of  who he is as a man.
  • He works hard & is successful in whatever it is he chooses to do.
  • He, like me, sees our family as part of our ministry.
  • He is okay with my desire to have a noisy house full of life & people. I’m the girl that wants my house to be the gathering place for my kids & their friends (and our friends).
  • He is openly affectionate.
  • He pursues me always. Even after he’s won my heart.
  • He honors, cherishes, and protects my heart.
  • He values my opinion and seeks it out because he values it.
  • Did I mention that he protects my heart?
  • He is playful, easy-going, and finds ways to show me how much he loves and respects me.
  • He cares about injustice in the world and it impacts charitable giving or actions.
  • He is my best friend and truest companion.
  • He is the first person I want to talk to when something is amazing, rotten, hilarious, or when something “Lucille Ball” like happens to me (bound to happen).

This fairy tale? It has eluded me so far. But I still pray for him. I still think about getting married. I don’t dream of fancy weddings that cost thousands of dollars. I dream of a quiet wedding on the beach or in the tiny chapel in my hometown. The wedding is not the thing. What is the thing, is two people standing before God and those closest to them – committing to love and honor each other, always.

I still dream of the fairy tale. I pray for the fairy tale. It may not look like your fairy tale. And it certainly isn’t like the fairy tales we read about or see played out in movies. But it’s still my dream.

It feels very unlikely during times like I’ve had recently. And yet, the hope doesn’t quite die. Wherever this hilarious, tender man (who loves football) is, I hope I run into him soon. And I hope he chooses me. He won’t regret that decision.

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