2020 Challenge: The “Begin With Me” Formula

My husband and I almost got into an argument last night…over water bottles. I mean this could have turned into a big spirit-wounding fight…over water bottles. We were both tired and cranky and wanting a reason to release the day’s stresses. However, rather than choose to escalate a tiny problem into a huge one, we chose to retreat to our own corners. Then we chose peace. Then we chose love. Water bottles disaster averted.

If you watch the news, you know it has been a scary week in our country. A week of escalating tensions. Since this is not a political blog or a “how-to” blog, or an opinion on the state-of-the-world blog, I will just write that, for me, it has been a week where I longed for a dose of love and peace. What this blog is meant to be is a “telling of my faith journey” blog, including massive mistakes and large lessons. It is my shared story and I try to let inspiration guide me through the process each week. . Today inspiration is singing classic words from a few old songs. One that keeps ringing and resonating has the following line:

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Me? Now that is challenging. I am learning in my own circle of influence that there is a small window of opportunity I have to choose to initiate peace. In his well-known book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey calls it the “Margin of Freedom” This is that place where I get to choose my reaction to stimuli that angers, upsets, or triggers me. It is “stop and breathe” time.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:9

I have a strong fabulous thought-provoking family. We also are a family of differing opinions on several subjects. At times when we are together and a hot topic emerges, it is tempting to jump in and try to convince others that my opinion is the “right” one. It is here where the choice comes in. Is arguing your “right” always prudent? Is it peacemaking? Is the outcome of a well- argued judgement worth strife with those most important to you?

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about intelligent respectful conversations in an attempt to understand each other. I am not talking about sharing important truth with grace that will effect the relationship if not addressed. I am not talking about tolerance or approval or allowing of abuse or mistreatment. My challenge for 2020 is to recognize the difference between wanting to prove “right” vs. sharing a respectful search for understanding.”Right” is a shallow substitute for peace. I am so thankful that when we get together as a family, we choose peace and love over contention. Let peace begin with me.

I don’t know how to tell anyone else what being a peacemaker or walking in love looks like. I only know what walking in it feels like and looks like for me. I also know when I am walking in something else. My personal challenge for 2020 is to catch the gait I am moving in quickly and turn back towards love and peace. I want the choice to begin with me.

Beloved, let us love one another. For God is of love and everyone who loveth knoweth God. He who loveth not knoweth not God for God is love. So Beloved, let us love one another. 1 John 4:7-8

Dear Readers, Can I just take a minute to thank you for the supportive comments and responses last week? They encouraged me in a way you may have no idea. They gave me new grit to write on the book and they helped to face the computer again today. Thank you! Prayers for each of you to have a week full of peace and love and joy. Amen

Goal 2020: Unmasking the Hidden to Heal

My 83 year old mother recently told me something she had never told me before. She said that she had been thinking about the past and realized that she had not thought to protect me or take my hurts seriously because I was always so strong- so confident. “You never showed that you needed anyone. You have been that way since you were young. But just the other day I could see that inside of that tough woman is a little girl who hurts just like everyone else.” I cried. When I was alone, I cried some more. It was healing to hear.

People have been telling me about this disguise in one way or another my whole life. “You are ten feet tall and bullet-proof”, “We had no idea you would need anything when you broke your arm- You are just so strong”, “I wish I could handle things like you do”, “I wish I was that brave”, ” If I had gone through what you just did, I would be crushed”, “You are so strong”, “You are so confident”.

But…I am not. Not always. I crumble- sometimes at the dumbest things like a hurtful comment or perceived rejection. However, I am great at covering the crumble with a firmly placed mask I don’t like to show deep hurt or any weakness- even to those closest to me, although I do slide the mask away with a few trusted persons as long as it remains close at hand so I can pull it back on again at a moment’s notice.

The mask is not the same as when I am depending on the strength that comes from God. It is different from my grit or using self- affirmation. I do rely on these resources, especially the Lord. However, when I pull on the mask, it doesn’t empower me. It does not heal me. It hides.

The mask appears instantly during those times of failing, those times of being damaged or when feeling fear of being accepted. I don it at the possibility of a deep core wound cutting deeper with exposure. It hides and in the hiding I lose the possibility of what I most need to gain: Protection, comfort, encouragement, support, understanding, and love.

“What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Exodus 18:15

I don’t always wear the mask. I am bold enough to tell people my thoughts and feelings or my truth (as I see it) and will try to do it with as much grace as possible. I am confident about giving people true compliments and am honestly a fairly positive person. However, I have learned when it comes to expressing what I need or revealing an especially painful hurt, exposing it makes me feel too weak, too vulnerable. It is just so much easier to put on the mask and walk away feeling neglected, rejected and hurt. Unfairly, the person on the other end, has no idea I feel this way at all.

This false exterior was significant in the demise of my marriage on the mountain. I was not willing to take the risk to express what I needed or how I truly felt. Eventually, I imploded from the pent-up hiding and drove away from my marriage and my life- not truly giving my husband the chance to fix it…until it was too late. Of course, there were other factors, as is with the end of every marriage. It is most often not one thing, but the mask did not help. It hides.

The Lord is my strength and my shield. Psalm 28:7

Recently during some vulnerable times, with help from the Lord, I have begun to experiment with sliding the mask down in situations where it felt safe. I have even removed it altogether a few times. It has been scary and satisfying. In these moments I have found an almost shocking degree of encouragement and help. It not only surprises me at how willing people are to support and be there for me, it surprises them that (1) I am feeling needy and vulnerable because I am so strong and confident and/or (2) that I am even asking in the first place. And… the fact that they did not just magically intuitively see the pain and need behind the mask surprises me.

Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom. Proverbs 13:10 NASB

Therefore, one of my 2020 goals (aside from losing 22 pounds and drinking more water) is to look for wise and safe opportunities to slide the mask off more than I keep it on, to ask people for support (I truly need yours on this blog as it keeps me brave and writing) and help when I need it, and to share hurts in a way that does not negate my need for comfort and protection. It’s a tough goal and a long time coming, but I am putting it out there so feel free to hold me accountable.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25

I am so grateful for all those of you who read this blog. I truly appreciate your strengthening support. I wish each and every one of you a wonderful new year. Here’s to an incredible 2020!

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33 amp

Angels Come in Assorted Packages

I was sitting in a dark house- alone- no desire to switch on the lights even on my tiny tree. I was shell-shocked with worry and fear. It was a few days before Christmas 2009. My granddaughter was in the Intensive Care Unit at Primary Children’s Hospital. She had just come into the world one month before her due date and was smaller than the size of my son’s hand. She was on oxygen and struggling with other serious health complications as well. Also, shortly after she arrived, it was confirmed that this little bundle from Heaven had Down’s Syndrome.

Because my arm was in a cast, I was not allowed to go into her room and hold her. Though her dedicated parents were there morning, noon, and night and this tiny little girl did not need me to be in there with her- standing outside her room looking in at her tiny struggling body through thick glass and not being able to get closer was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.

It was in this frustrated, helpless and terrified state I found myself on this winter’s night. The doorbell rang. I did not answer the door, but sat quietly in the darkness, hoping whoever it was would go away quickly. Suddenly, I heard a harmonious trickle come from my porch through the door, a soothing sweet-sounding, “Silent Night.” I opened the door. There stood a lovely group of carolers- one family- some pre-teen some grown, two of them former fourth grade students of mine. They had gone out of their way- left the warmth of their home on this chilly December night to get in their car and drive over to my home to sing at my front door. They were making the most beautiful “joyful noise unto the Lord” I had ever heard. As they sang carol after carol, I felt the hurt of my heart crumble in a envelope of “safe”. I felt a “comfort” and a “peace” that transcended fear and seared my soul. I was reminded from “where my hope comes from”. Tears soaked my hardened face softening the lines there with the sounds of their kindness.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I Corinthians 1:3,4

It is hard to describe what that night meant to me. I get teary every time I think of it. What is even more amazing to me is the loving commitment this family has made to bring this gift. Not just that year when their melodious voices delivered such solace, but every year since…for ten years, this special singing family has shown up on my porch at Christmas and made me cry with their heavenly harmony. They have come in freezing weather. They have come sick. One year dead-tired from an all day drive from Arizona without rest, they appeared at my door. They had not even gone home to unpack. Just came. Some years the entire family comes and sometimes (because one or more are out of town) there are just a few, but they have always come. As their family has grown added son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws (one couple-two wonderful former fourth grade students- best friends then- married now) they all come- piling in several cars to be there and minister in song. Over the years talented young singers have been born into this compassionate choir. As I gaze upon the future generations of this kind family singing their little hearts out on my front porch, I am touched, blessed. I am forever grateful to the Lord for sending this family to me on a cold and lonely December night and their commitment to use music as an instrument of encouragement ever since. Thank you, Lord

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:19

By the way, today is my granddaughter’s tenth birthday. She is a healthy happy strong little powerhouse princess. She learned to be strong from her powerhouse parents who nurture her and daily teach her how beautiful and amazing she is. And she is. …”fearfully and wonderfully made”. She is a blessing of joy and happiness to our family. We are so grateful for this angel in our lives. Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Thank you, Lord.

You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Dear Readers, Never underestimate the gentle nudge by that “still small voice” to reach out. It could bring the comfort at the perfect time to someone who needs it desperately. So thankful for each one of you. Prayers for a wonderful Christmas and a blessed 2020. In His Amazing Love, Kristy

The Reason

During my adolescence and early adulthood, (for a variety of reasons) I was not a huge fan of Christmas. Then at the age of 25, a stranger told me about the love of Jesus and the new life I could have by trusting and believing in Him. All of a sudden, the story became real, the music made sense, and Christmas touched me in a powerful way it never had before. The hope, the joy, the peace, the promise.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.Luke 2:11-14

At Christmas time, I display two mini-candle holders given to me as a gift. I have put them out for over 30 years. They lived with me in a log cabin where we could not decorate with Christmas lights or twinkling tree. We did not have electricity. These little candles provided some sparkle to our holiday. They also traveled with me to various cities where I resided after my mountain life, including San Diego, and several cities in Salt Lake and Utah counties. Each year wherever they sit during the Christmas season they speak silently of a grown-used-to cliche. Jesus is the reason for the season, Nevertheless, a true reminder. The reason… for this season… for Christmas… is Jesus.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas filled with His joy and Peace! Much Love, Kristy

3 Tips to Help Navigate Conflict This Holiday Season

“What are you yelling at me about?” I opened my car door and yelled back at the man in the green vest standing in the street next to me. I had been heading to the gym and following the stream of cars going around a white construction truck parked on the side of the road. A man was setting out cones behind the truck. The cars ahead of me went through the green light, but as I started to proceed through the light a man came around the side of the truck and began angrily yelling at me. Apparently I was supposed to go through the light on the left side of the road, although there were no signs to indicate this, no flaggers to point to this, and it looked like if I drove where he was indicating, I would be headed into oncoming traffic. “Why are you in that lane? You are supposed to be over here?” He gestured to the other lane. He was furious and I am not exaggerating. My own anger rose. “I was following every other car!” I yelled back. I also pointedly looked behind me at the line of cars who were following me. He forcefully indicated for me to continue through the light. His face a mask of utter disgust. I was shocked at the degree of his anger and shocked at the degree of my own. I was spit-fire mad.

I sped through the light and carried my outrage through my workout, barely able to concentrate on what the instructor was saying or doing. I wanted to go back and let this guy have it. As soon as I was finished, I raveled down the same street on my way home. By this time the lane was covered with road construction trucks and I could not see the man anywhere. I took pictures of the trucks parked on the street and when I got to a shopping center, I pulled over and called two of the companies whose trucks were at the job site to lodge a complaint about this out-of-control worker and the disrespect he had shown me and (I am assuming) other drivers. The company representatives I spoke with assured me that this would not be tolerated and that they would take steps to communicate with the employee that this should not happen to other drivers in the future.

I hung up and thought I would be satisfied, but I could not let it go. I met my dear friend for lunch and was distracted throughout our conversation, thinking about the angry exchange with the vested man. After lunch my friend and I went to see “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It is a touching movie about the iconic Mr. Rogers, about forgiveness, kindness, taking the high road, and grace. All great lessons I had been unwilling to apply with the man in the green vest. We left the movie inspired and motivated to be better people.

Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

Kristy, be quick to listen.

Kristy, be slow to speak

Kristy, be slow to get angry.

Wow! Though I did feel at the time the worker needed to be reminded of the importance of treating the public with respect and giving clear directions about where to drive in an active construction zone, I do not know if calling to complain was the right thing to do.. What I do know is that I did not show this man grace enough to consider the dangers and frustrations he must feel on the roads every day. I did not think of how he may have been having a very bad morning or fighting battles of which I had no idea. I know I was not quick-to-listen before I got angry. Instead, I yelled right back at him.

Tis the season of joy, kindness, beauty, family, and remembering the birth of a blessed Savior. It is also the season of possible loneliness, stress, pressure, high-tension and busyness. Lord, I pray for patience and strength and grace during this season. Please help me to first listen, then speak in truth and grace, if necessary. Please slow my quick-temper, so I may handle perceived offense or injustices the way You would have me to handle them. I pray peace for every reader during this holiday season. Thank you, Lord. Amen

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

A Gallery of Gratitude

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Florida. We stayed at the Grand Cypress Hyatt Regency Resort in Orlando, went to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, shopped at Disney Springs, rented a car and drove to St. Augustine (the nations oldest city) for the day, spent a few days reading and lounging by the pool and relaxing. I decided before we left that I would embark on a quest to notice and document through pictures “treasures to be thankful for” and share them in this blog when I returned. Here are just a few examples of the many:

The first morning, we woke to this view out our window. I had just been studying in Genesis about God’s covenant promise represented by the rainbow. It was lovely.

When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:16

We stayed at the same hotel at this time last year and could not wait to go down to the Lakehouse Restaurant located at the resort to partake of this delicious squash lasagna. Yum!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

As we were driving our rented Grand Cherokee down Highway 4 towards St Augustine, I noticed a billboard that said to turn to Z88.3. I did and it turned out to be great Jesus music. I gleefully sang the entire two hour drive. My blessing- yes- my husband’s maybe not so much.

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. Psalm 98:4

I was excited to see the nation’s oldest school house. I a sure glad some things have gotten easier for teachers and students.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

We had a few cold days while we were in Florida and even laughed that the temperature at the exact same time on one day was colder than back home in Utah. We took it as an opportunity to go bowling (neither of us had been in years and had a blast) and go to a fun Christmas movie (Last Christmas) at a Dine-In Movie theater with a waiter, real food, and heated seats. Yes!

I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.”-Philippians 4:11

The entire trip we were blessed with great transportation providers, especially from fun and friendly Uber drivers.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

Surrounding the lake at the resort, signs warned us to be aware of snakes, alligators, etc. Thank you, Lord, that in our many walks we did not encounter any of these creatures, only squirrels and a friendly black and white cat.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

We had a wonderful time on our vacation and as we paid attention, we noticed so many special gratitude gifts throughout the week. We received surprise coupons for free breakfasts at the hotel, Sky Priority on our luggage from a nice Delta attendant, moments of connection with waitresses, drivers, hotel staff, housekeepers, and other bus riders, etc, that made our days special and just the thrill of enjoying sights, smells, and sounds of “somewhere else”.

I am especially thankful for my husband, my partner, my friend. He makes me laugh and he watches over me. He has patience when I do silly things and he goes along with my antics. He may not want to dance in the street with me or sing “Let it Go” at the top of his lungs with Anna and Elsa, but he is right by my side while I do it and does not make me feel like I am a nut. Thank you, Lord for this incredible man in my life.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Meaning From Morning Memories

Every morning before the sun has even had a chance to cheer me on, I stumble into my peaceful little “prayer room” and write in my journal. For over twenty five years one of my strategies for sustaining my sanity has been to express my feelings in a carefully chosen notebook. Over the years, this exercise has metamorphosed into more of a letter to the Lord. In these daily communications, I write the brutal of what I am feeling, the honest, the vulnerable, the absolute real, but I do not leave the letter without including the grateful.

Every few years, I dig out my old notebooks and look through what I have written in the past. I am often amazed at the raw emotions that pour out on paper during certain times in my life. I am even more in awe over the time-after-time gratitude that follows these expressions of hurt, anger, frustration, confusion, etc. Once in a while, the gratitude for the situation will show up while I am writing the letter. At other times, it is weeks or months later. Trials I thought were hopeless to fix, problems that seemed insurmountable, hurts that were never going to ease and yet… here among these pages were statement after statement of “Thank You, Lords” proclaiming answered prayer according to God’s infinite wisdom. It is powerful to remember the “how” I got through some of these “floods”. It is comfort and reassurance. Thank you, Lord

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

Therefore, in honor of “Notice November” here are a few word-for-word “Thank You” snippets from my journal entries for the last few weeks.

  • Thank you, Lord for words to write when I approached my computer without any.
  • Thank you, Lord, that I know I will get over this pity party once I share it with You.
  • Thank you that your kindness leads to repentance. I am sorry.
  • Thank you, Lord, for listening
  • Thank you for friendly people who wait on me at the grocery store.
  • Thank you Lord, for writing and work yesterday, for getting lots of “little things” off my plate and for gym time.
  • Thank you for honest, real, touching talks with friends.
  • Thank you for putting up with my whining some days.
  • Thank you Lord for shopping time and connections with people around me.
  • Thank you For hugs
  • Thank you for the sweet tween trick or treating at my door who said, “I know you. You used to read to us.”
  • Thank you, Lord, for helping me develop “quick forgiveness” from the offense of yesterday
  • Thank you, Lord, for flu shots and “nice days”.
  • Thank you, Lord, for good family and friends and hope and direction.
  • Thank you, Lord, for encouragement.
  • Thank you, Lord, for the small comforts, joys, and pleasures daily. Please help me to notice even when I am sad.
  • Thank you, Lord, for your mercy and grace- for your forgiveness as I fail and put others above You over and over again.
  • Thank you Lord as yesterday was a battle- fierce and exhausting- You blessed me with strength, grit, and comfort- that kind I know comes straight from You.
  • Thank you for still loving me and for allowing me the utter openness to tell You how I feel.
  • Thank you Lord for those good days and for the days that teach.
  • Thank you for the hard and scary part of anticipating the doctor visit on Tuesday that leads me to put my trust in You (all okay)
  • Thank you, Lord, for reminding me during drama days, “Not my circus, Not my monkeys.”
  • Thank you for the hidden treasures of yesterday like the song in the waiting room.
  • Thank you, Lord, especially for knowing You, for the many times You have delivered me- even from my own traps, for changing and growing me, for being my Savior and so much more.

Dear Reader, Thank you for letting me share a small portion of my journal letters with you. I find such healing in writing and I am grateful to share my thoughts and feelings with those of you on the other end of this blog. You are in my prayers and I have thanked the Lord for you many times. Have a fabulous week. In His love and mine

Blessing upon Blessing

I love November. I love being with family- listening to them laugh with each other and catching up. I love that it is the month of the birth of my incredible son. I love watching grandkids running through whoever’s house we are visiting-playing some made-up only-for-cousins game. Of course, I love the turkey, the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and jellied cranberry from the can (my specialty). I love the crisp weather and the creative colors, but high on my list of reasons I love November is the reminder to NOTICE people, places, and things to be grateful for. Every time I stop and take a moment to actually NOTICE, my mood lightens. If I express it, my world gets brighter still. So thank you, dear reader for allowing me to express the grateful (in no particular order) I have noticed this week.

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. John 1:16

  • An unexpected call for your help
  • Perfect song playing in a public place at the perfect time
  • Fun fellowship with family
  • Surprise spectacular sunrise or sunset
  • Spontaneous lunch invitation
  • Kind representative at Delta Airlines- Thanks, Kim!
  • Cinnamon french toast
  • Out-of-the-ordinary promptings
  • Running into a former student. Yay!
  • Passing on a compliment to your son
  • Gym time with inspiring fellow exercisers
  • New friends, present friends, long-time friends
  • A funny meme sent by your grandson right before you go to bed
  • Impromptu tee time
  • Smell of “Eucalyptus Spearmint” bath gel after you wash your hands
  • Laughing out loud with your husband while watching “our show”
  • Guidance exactly when you need it
  • A baby’s smile aimed at you
  • A well-timed encouraging “like, comment, share, email, text, or call”
  • Anytime you hear the word, “Grandma”
  • Anticipation of a much-needed trip
  • Morning time in prayer room
  • New insights from scripture
  • Hot tub in chilly weather
  • The incredible intense colors of fall
  • His unconditional love, forgiveness, and never-changing presence
  • Another day

For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]. John 1:16 Amplified Bible

Grace upon grace, spiritual blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor, gift upon gift. Though God’s gifts are not always exactly what I am waiting for, asking for, or feel I need, they are there out of His fullness if I choose to NOTICE them. I am always happy to hear about what’s on your list during Notice November and I am praying that your next week is filled with blessing upon blessing. In Jesus name, Amen

Switch From Scared to Soaring

Bam! Bam! Bam! The powerful blasts at the front door woke me. I was alone and it was 3:00 a.m. in the morning. What was that? I leapt from my bed, my heart beating as if fighting to escape my chest. Bam! Bam! Bam! The aggressive power of the sound assaulting the darkness. I crept to the window of the bedroom at the front of my house and split the blinds slightly to see who was hammering on the door. It stopped. I watched as two large men with black jackets were slowly walked down the path away from the house. Adrenaline screaming- legs shaking, fright or flight setting in. Suddenly, slowly, one of the men turned his head back towards the house and caught me peering through the opening between the blinds! He spoke to the other man and both men turned back towards the door. Bam! Bam! Bam! The pounding was back. I am terrified!

Needless to say, the (too-long- to-tell- here) story ends up with me embarrassing myself not only with the two men at the door, but also on the 911 call with a very patient dispatcher. It turned out that the men were police officers and they were doing a door-to-door search for a middle- school age girl who had forgotten to tell her parents that she was sleeping over at her friend’s house. When I learned who the men were and what their purpose was (and later that the girl was found unharmed) my physical and mental fear abated. This fear, though powerful, was fleeting.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

It is a spooky time of year (just ask any elementary teacher) and for many people having a little jolt of scary is fun. It could be one reason we like dressing up as goblins and ghosts and vicious dinosaurs. Some people like scary movies, books, and haunted houses. They like that feeling of adrenaline when someone jumps out and frightens them or when a roller coaster takes that terrifying dip downward at tremendous speeds. This kind of fear is also temporary and has little hold on them. I often think (having learned from my three very courageous children) it produces a sense of accomplishment by overcoming “doing it scared”. I am not one of those people. I do not like most scary movies or books, hate roller coasters, or will avoid being frightened whenever I can. I feel like I get enough adrenaline just doing life and trying to navigated traffic on the freeway. Still, for most people most of the time, this kind of fear is harmless.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

However, there are fears that enter our everyday lives and shackle us. Fears that when left to run rampant in our heads can cage us within those flight or fight symptoms causing a prolonged feeling of imprisonment. It can keep us from living a full life. It definitely blocks joy and peace and can cause prolonged damage to our physical health. These fears include the fear of: risk, failure, confrontation, the future, your children’s safety, losing security, hearing bad news, trying something new, being vulnerable, being hurt, betrayed, rejected and many more. What happens when fears like these stalk us with ghostly chains seeking to hold us captive?

It must be a significant concern because I recently heard that there are 365 scriptures in the Bible addressing fear. That is a scripture for every day of the year. I have not counted them so I cannot attest to this, but the idea that fear is spoken of many times (including by Jesus) tells me it is an emotion with haunting consequences if left unchecked.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

In my own life I have found that I have little power to stop fear from showing up-unannounced and ready to pounce. However, since I am not a fan of the stomach tightening, dry mouth, heart racing, sleep-losing grips of fear, I try to fend off the frightening bombardments by singing or listening to fright-fighting songs and/or reading or speaking scriptures to ward away that teeth-baring fear and eventually eradicate the binding effect it has on my mind and body during an ambush.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Singing (used like garlic to repel a vampire) puts fear on the retreat- no longer able to make me hostage. For example, singing the lyrics from the song “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music which say, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” frees me every time I sing them. The strong but gentle heart beat settles, the breathing resumes its peaceful pace, the calm returns. I also love the music video, “The Breakup Song” by Francesa Brattecelli “Fear, you don’t own me.” Belting out (or listening) to “In His Arms” by Plumb is also powerful weaponry for me.

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness. Psalm 59:16-17

I do not mean in any way to minimize the real fears that people are going through or that there is an easy fix for them or that you shouldn’t be allowed to feel your fear. Life is scary. Fear is powerful. However, I believe God does not intend for us to walk through life bound by it, captive to it, owned by it. I believe that trusting the God that is Perfect Love will cast out fear. When I remind myself of God’s perfect love using song and scripture (repeatedly as necessary) and trust in Him to redirect and repel fear- to replace with it with faith, it will switch my course from scared to soaring- to freedom from fear.

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

Dear Lord, Thank you for each reader of this blog. Lord, please guide us into Your peace when fear threatens to overtake us. In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Healing Capacity of Story

Over the weekend, I attended an Author-Con Event. Elizabeth Smart was the first speaker. She told of the horrific events- the unimaginable trauma- that happened to her when she was fourteen. This was a story she could not hide from-not even after she was rescued. She could not erase it, ignore it, or pretend it did not happen, but she could decide what to do with it. She could write it, share it, speak before Congress about it to support important legislation that would help others who had been through similar experiences. She could start the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help provide education to children about internet abuse, violence, and sexual crimes. She could be a correspondent on television shows that fight the victimization of children. She could speak all over the world sharing hope and encouragement and comfort. She could write two books and create a documentary using her life story as a source of inspiration. She could go on a mission to share her faith. She could get married and have 3 beautiful children. She could start a new venture to help women and girls learn to physically defend themselves against an attacker and it seems to me she has only just begun.

Elizabeth Smart did not regale the audience with tales of these amazing feats during her presentation. I only know most of it because I did some research into her adult life when I got home. What she has done and is doing is incredible. She really had no choice to hide from what had happened to her. The story was too well-known. It goes where she goes. Her choices lie in how she writes the rest of the story of her life. She gets to define that story. And so do I. And so do you.

Several authors shared their life and writing journeys. The challenges were different and some of their obstacles I did not relate to, but in every story I heard a voice of grit, of encouragement, of healing and growth. I was uplifted by learning that none of them had experienced full fairy tale lives- none had escaped trials and/or trauma. These people were willing to share the raw of their story to help buoy up others who were in the midst of their own. They got me thinking about my own aspiration to use my redemption story to hearten others.

This fortification came at a time when writing the second half of my story has proven to be a menacing giant. I figured out one reason is because I would love it if my entire story went something like this: I had a challenging childhood, got married at a ridiculously young age, had three amazing children, got divorced several times, met Jesus as my Savior, lived in a log cabin for almost nine years, went back to school, became a teacher. The End.

But it is not where it ends. I want to declare that I never made another huge mistake. I never made a poor decision. I never made choices that would hurt my incredible kids. I want to keep the shame secrets secret. I want to hide the ugly parts. I want to say that I never disappointed the Lord after all that He had done for me. However, during this journey, I have found moments of pure-layer healing I didn’t know I even needed. I have found that sharing what the forgiveness and love of my Savior has done in my life with the hope of comforting or encouraging others has the capacity to help heal, even some of those parts that are still hurting me. I have received confirmations that encourage me to know that the Lord is helping others through the telling of how the Lord has gotten me through my own experiences.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

So now it is time for me to depend on the Lord to help me slay my new Goliath. I have recently realized that I need the time to process and write what I have never written before (or told many people) slowly (not week by week) and that the second half of my story needs to be written as part of an entire book- not a blog –though I will continue to write the blog as well. I have a goal to finish a first run copy within the next 6-8 months. I would be so grateful for your prayers as I continue this blog and work on the book at the same time.

What is your story? I don’t think everyone needs to shout their story from the rooftops. However, sharing how you have come through the difficult times of your life as a comfort and encouragement to others could partner you in a share of their healing. God comforts us to be a comfort to others.

who is comforting us in all our tribulation, for our being able to comfort those in any tribulation through the comfort with which we are comforted ourselves by God; 2 Corinthians 1:4

What is my story? I was never the same person after I accepted Christ into my life as my Savior. My every day became infused with hope and healing. Many of the hurts of my past were healed very early after meeting Him. Still, there are some issues that keep me among the walking wounded getting healed one chapter at a time. But I am, I have, and I will. Thank you, Lord.

Dear Readers, At the Author-Con conference, I learned that everyone needs what they called, “alpha readers or an inner circle” of supporters that keep them going. Thank you to those who have been that for me. You probably have no idea how your well-timed support has changed the course from “give up” to “go”. You have forgiven my mistakes (not just grammatical ones) as I learn (a big one was the password protected blog which caused confusion and seemed disingenuous to some- no more of those) and perhaps the time I sent out gift cards without explanation. While I thought it was a fun and silly way to say thank you for joining my Sonflowers and Soul email list, (check your spam if you did not receive the email gift card) some felt like I was paying readers to read the blog. I am sorry if I gave any of you that impression. It was never my intent. Thank you for letting me practice writing while still being there. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 I will praise you to all my brothers; I will stand up before the congregation and testify of the wonderful things you have done. Psalm 22:22

Dear Lord, Thank You for each and every reader of this blog. I pray that You would guide and direct me in my next steps and give me the courage to write this book. Thank you for the healing you have given me since I have known You and the healing You have allowed me through the writing of this blog and please help me to continue on this vulnerable journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen