Tag Archives: Fear

Stop Second-Guessing Your Spanish Shoebox

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Stop Second-Guessing Your Spanish Shoebox

I spent hours with a shoebox and crayons creating a spectacular bullfighting diorama to represent Spain, complete with an arena full of spectators for my 3rd grade “nations parade.” In the center of the box, I had a representation of a bull, played by our Little People cow, and of a fighter represented by a doll that was likely a hand-me-down with bright pink hair, sunglasses, and zebra-striped tights. Scaled to size, the pink-haired, trailblazing matadora would have been just shy of 10 feet tall.

This box was going to be secured to my 18” stubby Alf skateboard, which I would pull proudly through the halls with some random string/shoelace attached near the wheels.

Pictures from Google to help you see what went into the Spanish shoebox diorama 🙂

But sometime between finishing up the night before and displaying it for all my classmates the next morning, I started doubting.

Maybe I saw another student’s box and felt insecure about my own work, or perhaps someone said something I can’t remember all these decades later, but I do remember the confidence draining.

So when the teacher gave out the opportunity for students who weren’t finished to continue working on their projects during recess, I jumped at the chance like someone had just offered me one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.

I did some quick research with an Encyclopedia Britannica and found that Spain is known for some impressive architecture, so with construction paper, a tissue box and 20 minutes, I fashioned some kind of building, relieving the cow and the doll of their duties, and covering up all the spectators with Scotch tape and sheets of green and yellow.

To this day I can remember the disappointment on my teacher’s face when I asked to change it up. She knew the box I started with represented a lot of effort and watching me doubt it and haphazardly change things out of fear certainly left her disheartened for me. I received a good grade, but deep down we both knew the first plan was better.

Sadly, that’s not the last time I have wimped out because of doubts and fear and uncertainty. When I am convinced I have a purpose or a calling or an assignment to do, I can start out full force. I am excited and feel passionate about it. Then something happens. I start to question if I have what it takes or whether it’s really something that’s needed. I wonder if it’s something other people will support. I start seeing myself falling flat on my face.

Priscilla Shirer, in Discerning the Voice of God, says “You will know God’s voice because it will bring encouragement along with conviction.” God speaks with conviction, while the enemy speaks with condemnation, she says. “When (God) speaks to you, His words will carry the continued hope of intimacy, friendship, and reconciled relationship.”

Those thoughts I have, mentioned toward the end of the paragraph before last, certainly don’t fall under the category of intimacy, friendship, or relationship. They are harsh and damaging and meant to tear me down.

So, when I am hearing the Holy Spirit guide my heart toward a new purpose or passion or calling and destructive thoughts come my way, I have three jobs to do:

1.       Pray – I need to ask the Holy Spirit to renew the excitement I had when He first led me to this new thing and ask Him to make it so very clear if it is not a thing from Him.

2.       Remember – the power/talent/resources I need to do the thing He is asking me to do are from Him and He will make sure I am equipped with them. He doesn’t leave us empty handed.

3.       Get on with it – I must ask God for the first step of my assignment and do it with enthusiasm and delight, then listen for the next step.

So, join me. Put away the construction paper and let’s walk that parade with confidence. If He has asked us to do it, we are as equipped and prepared as we need to be.

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)

Despite their fear

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I love vacations. Small or big, there is something so fun about packing your things with the people you love and getting in the car (or plane, or bus, or train, whatevs.). Thirteen rest stops and food breaks later, we are resting and relaxing (or going and doing, depending on the trip).

One of our favorite vacations has been to Orlando, Florida. The first time we visited that city, we Disney’ed it up! Going from park to park with some great friends and our tiny children. Theme park trips are definitely the “going and doing” kind of trips. So fun.

Each day was a new adventure! A day at Magic Kingdom with Mickey and Donald and It’s a Small World! A day at Hollywood Studios with the giant Honey I Shrunk the Kids play-land! A day driving down to Clearwater Beach playing volleyball! A day at Epcot Center – ok, I don’t really remember what we did there, and I remember it wasn’t our favorite (I am pretty sure it was at this point Shawn had reached his limit with “the mouse” as he un-affectionately referred to Mickey and his open hand, taking more money every chance he got), but I can say with certainty it was equally exhausting! A day at Animal Kingdom with a safari ride and grownups taking turns riding Expedition Everest until the park closed!

It was so fun! And so tiring! (I feel like I need a nap just remembering it)

Then add on the 13 hour drive home.

When you see the “Welcome to West Virginia,” there is just something about it that brings comfort. Almost home.

While going away is so fun and wonderful, going back home is a feeling that settles deep down in your soul.

In the book of Ezra, the Jewish people had been away from their home for so many years – a lifetime for some of them. The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken control of their land and sent them packing to Babylon under his control. Fast-forward  a bunch of years, and a new king, Cyrus the Great of Persia, takes over Babylon and does things differently. He allows them to go back to Jerusalem. He wants them to return to their land and to rebuild their temple to their God.

Great news, right? Going home, such a relief.  God let the people know if He wanted them to go there to be part of this rebuilding, and those people set off.

You can almost sense that peaceful feeling settling in their hearts as they saw the “Welcome to Jerusalem” sign. Finally home.

As that feeling settled in their hearts, and they settled in their homes, it was time to rebuild.

The first step was to build a simple altar to sacrifice offerings to God. That sounds pretty easy.

Sometimes the first step is the hardest to make.

They were a little afraid. There were people around them who weren’t on board with the plan to rebuild the temple, and would eventually make it known to them and stand in their way for many years. But for now, they had an altar to build.

Ezra 3:3 says this: Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”

Despite their fear.

The fear was there and it was legitimate. But they kept going, despite their fear. And they didn’t do a partial job. They built that altar. They built it on a foundation – not something that they could take apart when it wasn’t in use so people might not notice. They sacrificed those offerings right on it to the Lord, just as they knew to do. And not just once, but both morning and evening sacrifices.

Despite their fear.

What a great example!

Do you have something God is asking you to do? Only you and He know what that might be, but don’t neglect it. Do you have conflicting feelings – excited for God to use you, but mixed in with a pinch of terrifying?

Do it anyway.

God doesn’t usually have us stay un-stretched and un-challenged and un-growing for long. He is constantly shaping us to be more like Him, and believe me, you will want this to happen. Despite your fear, do the thing.

Sometimes God asks us to do a big thing – begin a ministry, care for an orphan, move . And sometimes the thing is a seemingly small thing – make the phonecall, babysit the children, introduce yourself. Each one of these bigs and smalls is so important. God doesn’t pass out jobs for our amusement. They serve a purpose. And what an honor to be part of His plan!

Don’t let fear stop you from the big things, and don’t let the feelings of insignificance stop you from doing the small things.

Take a few minutes today and pray about the thing that might be bringing you fear. He will bring you courage.  And if you haven’t heard Him assigning you any job to do lately, pray about that, letting Him know you are willing.

And if you want to share what God has put on your heart, I would love to pray for you as you find your courage!

What I learned about my hometown – Ecuador, part 6

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On vacation, I can wake up cheerfully just after dawn to go for a jog on the beach.

My family and I can happily walk miles and miles from one end of Chicago to the other just to see stuff.

We are fine sweating ourselves to death in line at amusement parks, with nary a complaint.

But these are not things we would do in Barboursville.

It’s rare for me to take a jog, and if so, certainly not early and not with excitement.

Sometimes when shopping, I will literally drive from the Dollar Tree to Target, in the same shopping plaza.

And most of the time we don’t even think about eating dinner on the patio unless it’s a perfect 72 degrees.

It’s crazy how some things make so much sense somewhere else, but not where we are from. We look at it differently.

I noticed this as well when we were in Ecuador for 2 weeks. Not just the food, where we frequently ate chicken, beans and rice, or the walking, which we did a lot of. But important things, that seemed so important there, and had never even crossed my mind in my hometown.

I think a lot of us noticed this during one of the prayer services, where from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. we prayed for the church of Ibarra, in a million different ways. Praying for electricity, the neighbors, financial needs of the church, and certainly people – people who go there, people who lead there, people who drive by. After we finished, someone said what we all were surely thinking, “I was wondering, ‘Why don’t we do this for our own churches?’”

Prayer services was a big one, and one of my favorites, but there were so many others. Visiting people at the hospital, at a disabled home, playing soccer using a Gatorade bottle with some bored kids while they waited on their moms to get off work at the bus station. Praying for and with strangers.

Bible studies were held in homes of people who go or are interested in going to their church. Then those being taught are trained to teach other. Discipleship at its best.

We stopped people in the park, and held signs at the bus station, just to ask if we could pray for them in some way.

Would I do that at home?

Do people need prayer less in Barboursville? Nope.

We weren’t afraid of looking silly there, standing in an intersection wearing wigs and crazy hats, holding signs saying, “Jesus Te Ama,” letting people know Jesus loved them.

Would I do that across 3rd Avenue? (I’m not 100 percent sure that would be legal here, but still, you get the point…)

A lady asked if the short-term missionaries could visit her tiny business and have a Coke with her while we prayed for her and her store. We did and we cried.

Would we do that here if someone called the church and asked for 20 people to come pray for their store?

I’m asking these questions to have us, you and I, answer them. Would I do these things here? Would I see it as equally important in Barboursville and Huntington as I did in Ibarra and Ambato?

If you already know and can answer yes, I am very proud of you. I mean that. I think a lot of us forget the importance of things like stopping to help one person even if it makes us late somewhere. Or having a conversation with a stranger, who needs us to talk to them. Or praying for our friends, for random people, for our pastors. For those of you who have already had this light-bulb moment and can say yes, you do this, I want to be more like you.

For the rest of us, let’s pray this prayer and ask God to open our eyes to see the things around us in a new way.

Father, thank you for always leading us to become more and more like You. We want more of that. Show us how You would do it. Help us see the people around us the same way Y

ou see them. Give us courage to speak, pray, love and do the kinds of things You would do. Give us passion for this. We love You. In Jesus’ powerful name, Amen.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-39

Noah and his new friends from the bus terminal 🙂

Shawn and Brian at the adult day care 🙂

Noah getting ready for the church street promotion 🙂

Church promotion

Lunch break 🙂

Home Bible study 🙂

What I learned about being wimpy – Ecuador, Part 5

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I would make a terrible salesperson. I hate the feeling that I am inconveniencing someone or that they are doing something they don’t want to do simply because I asked.

Some people are naturals at this. I had a friend say of another friend that “He could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo!” (I apologize if this is in any way a racial slur). It’s a gift that some have, and I did not get.

I have tried even hosting Pampered Chef and Longaberger parties in my past, and you can imagine how well I did when my invitations went something like, “Please come! You really don’t need to buy anything.

Seriously, don’t feel like you have to buy something. Just come. I really don’t need you to make a purchase, just come for fun!”

Even if I love the thing that is being sold, promoted or offered, I automatically think of 10 million reasons you might not and I feel terrible inconveniencing you by asking and putting pressure on you.

And don’t get me started on school fundraisers. If Noah makes any sales at all, it is because we bought something ourselves. I can’t bring myself to peddle it.

So you can imagine how great I would be as a 2-week missionary.

I know people need Jesus, but I would just imagine that they were tired of getting flyers, they were skeptical of our nail painting, and wondering why in the world we wanted to give them oatmeal. I assumed they were cynical, which made me feel wimpy when it was time to interact.

Well, God can provide the guts for us as we need it. It seems that when I see other people not being wimpy, it makes me have a little more courage too.

Our job ultimately was to pray and to represent Jesus in everything we did, whether it was nail-painting, passing out oatmeal, or passing out 1 gazillion flyers.  Noah and I were even encouraged to be a little less wimpy when passing out the flyers – “Be bold!” a missionary said to us as he assertively exemplified giving this piece of paper to a stranger. He rocked passing out flyers.

And another lady we were with was so good at this! She would go to car doors at intersections and excitedly hand them this invitation to an event ultimately designed to connect that person with Christ! You could feel her excitement.

I saw a lady accept Christ during a simple flyer distribution. I saw, and cried, as a woman and her daughter were so thrilled to hear about this new church that they hugged us as we finished talking to them. I saw an answer to prayer as a guy riding past the church on his bike, stopped  because he wanted to know more about it, asking a lady who, at the very moment, was praying for that very thing to happen.

People want to know. People need to know.

You need to believe in what you’re selling.

When we finished up the two week trip, we had some reflection time to consider the things we had seen and done, what we had learned. And we were given some questions to think about. One of them was, “What have you learned about yourself.”

In my journal I wrote this –

“I’ve learned I’m wimpy at home sometimes…Knowing I’m offering them the best gift ever – that is nothing to be wimpy about, or to feel like I’m inconveniencing them. They need this. I’ve learned I can be brave when I need to.”

In a place far away from my home, I was able to catch the excitement other people had about sharing Jesus with people, and I don’t want to lose it now that I am back in Barboursville.

And I know people here need Jesus just as much as the people there. We all need Him. Do your part where you are to talk about Him. There are people who want to hear it, I promise.

Our group offering oatmeal and prayer

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”
Romans 1:16a

Noah offering oatmeal to a stranger

Shawn preparing oatmeal to be handed out

Me with a friend I made during the free nail-painting 🙂

What I learned about fear – Ecuador, Part 1

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This is part 1 of a 6-part blog on our 2 weeks in Ecuador this summer… I would love for you to take this journey with me through this blog 🙂

I am pretty much afraid of everything. Water, heights, the dark, deer, owls – you name it, I have some level of fear of it.

So making a move from my safe, comfy home in Barboursville, WV, for two weeks in Ecuador, brought with it an entirely new list of things to fear – forgetting our passports and missing the trip, flying, spearing, malaria, being detained in Ecuador, kidnappings, the bus driving off the side of the mountain,  natural disasters, etc.

Our flight was from Charleston, W.Va., to Atlanta, which took less than an hour. Not scary. I was proud of myself. Then after a 9-hour layover, the fears came flooding in.

Noah, waiting to board the plane in

Charleston

Occupying ourselves during the layover 🙂

At the last second there were “mechanical problems” that were fixed in 5 minutes. (Does that mean it was a tiny problem, or did they do a not-so-thorough job at fixing whatever problem it was?) Then we had problems with our boarding passes, and literally had them thrown to us to get us on the plane as quickly as possible. Being the last ones on, everyone else was happily seated and buckled in, while we were scurrying around the plane searching for carry-on space.

Then came a good hour of flying, with the sun setting and glowing all pretty, and all of a sudden, turbulence and the blackest, meanest clouds I’ve ever seen up close, and several hours of flying left to be done.

I was rather confident I wasn’t going to make it out alive, and began praying pretty hard and preparing to meet Jesus in person. Somehow during that time, God brought me peace.

 
Our group after arriving in Quito, Ecuador…

we were so tired

All these other things I had been afraid of before didn’t make me panic after that. We landed in Quito and took a 2-hour bus ride to the city of Ibarra, and stayed there for a week. I had peace and enjoyed each minute.

Then we took a 5-hour bus ride to the city of Ambato. A couple days into that city, we were awakened early to the sounds of loud, angry Spanish-speaking voices in the lobby of our hotel. That was followed by the sounds of banging and glass breaking. Then silence.

Fear came rushing back. I honestly don’t know if I have ever felt that scared in my life. Not knowing what the voices were angry about, and not knowing that the glass was just the porcelain basins of the lobby water jugs rather than the glass walls and windows, compounded with not knowing how to call the police – I was a mess. Crying and praying hard.

Some of our group helping to clean the

hotel lobby after the scuffle

Turns out, it was a scuffle in the lobby between a hotel guest’s drunk friend and the owner of the hotel, not a group of mafia-style men out to get all American Christians staying in the hotel (as my 5 a.m. mind led me to believe).

I know I have blogged many times about fear. And I like to think that one day I will have it all mastered and will not need to keep learning lessons about this, but until then, hopefully someone else can be learning along with me.

Fear keeps sneaking in. But God gently reminded me, again, that when I am afraid, I am not trusting Him.

Whether it’s about our safety, or my fear of not making a difference while on the trip, if I truly believe God is who He says He is, I won’t be afraid. I have no reason to.

God is big, powerful, limitless, loving, and because of this, I can’t fear.

Do I trust Him? Do I believe that whatever happens, God will use it for His glory? Yes. Ultimately when I think it through, that is what I want – His glory.

While a perfect flight, health and a great trip sound wonderful, God’s glory and His plan are what matter most.

Even if difficult things in life happen (malaria, lost luggage), I don’t need to fear, because I am never alone.

God reminded me that His sovereign will is what will happen on the trip, and that is what I wanted and needed to hear. Thanking Him for His peace

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.”

8/10/2014

Middle school, blood moons, and naked?!

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Before I had to pick Noah up from middle school for the first time, I tried so hard to make it simple for him. I was concerned he wouldn’t see me and wouldn’t know what to do. I didn’t want him to worry or to have trouble finding me, so I showed him the parking lot I would be parked in ahead of time, and made sure to get there way early so he wouldn’t be left wandering around thinking I had forgotten him.

I also prayed for him constantly during the day, that God would calm any fears he had about it.

You can probably guess that it turned out just fine.

*On a side note, I realize I worry about everything WAY too much. I remember when Noah was in kindergarten and I packed his lunch, including a prepackaged 6-pack of peanut butter crackers. I went on to work, and thought more about it as the morning went on, worrying that he wouldn’t know how to open the package on his own, and would probably be famished by the end of the day. I left work to go home (20 minutes each way) to get another package of crackers and open them and put them in a baggie, and took them to school so he could get to them. I’m nuts, and looking back, I am so thankful for supervisors that put up with me… 

Stay with me for a second…

This week there was lots of talk of the Blood Moon, which reminded me to write this blog. I used to get so nervous and anxious when there was any talk about Jesus’ return, the last days, end of the world, etc. Even as an adult.

While I feel very confident of my relationship with God, there is something about the unknown.

Kind of like how having a baby is a beautiful thing, but labor is suckish and terrifying. Regardless of how indescribably exciting having a baby might be, thinking about the pain and 99.7 ways it could go wrong, and ways it could embarrass you later (like when your water broke all over the nurse’s cute shoe and there was nothing you could do about it, but it still haunts you… grody), is enough to make you want to keep the bun in the proverbial oven…

That’s how I’ve always felt about the end of the world. Not knowing how or when it will happen seems so scary.

If you say you aren’t scared… just take a little peek at the book of Revelation, with CNN on in the background, right before you drift off to sleep…If you’re still not scared, I am impressed. I mean we’re talking huge earthquakes, famine, black sun, bloody moon (ikr?), sea turning into blood, a 7-headed-10-horned enormous red dragon… the list goes on… I know little about how this all will go down, because I avoid the book of Revelation like the plague (speaking of, I think there might be some of those in there too)

Here’s a brief list of things I fear regarding the subject… terrifying things like the idea of the being tortured for knowing Christ, starvation, not making it to heaven, Or Jesus coming back for us while I’m  in the shower… Do I go naked? Do we all go naked?

So one day as I was mentally panicking about all of these things, God calmed my heart. He reminded me of how much I care about and love Noah. He reminded me that I did everything I possibly could to make picking Noah up as easy as possible for him. I parked where I said I would, I was there on time, I was looking for him and was prepared to hop out of the car to flag him down if he didn’t see me. If I did all of this for Noah, why would I think I have anything to fear when my Jesus comes back for me, or when I go to meet Him?

Regardless of how it happens, God, who loves us more than we could ever love anyone, will not leave us alone. Whatever we will go through, we won’t be facing it by ourselves. The Creator of everything will be right beside us. If that doesn’t bring me comfort, what can?

Bring it on, Revelation and CNN… bring it on… I’m gonna sleep like a baby.

Here are a couple of Revelation verses that I happen to love, and want to end on…

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…I am making everything new!” – Revelation 21:4-5a

 4/16/2014

Penny and the talking donkey

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  – Joshua 1:9

I’m a wimp. It’s true. Water, heights, going blind, the dark, going too fast. If there is something to be afraid of, I fear it. If there is a possibility that anything could go wrong, I will have already imagined it. This is especially true when things are out of my control.

My family went to Tennessee this summer, and we were able to take my niece Vivian with us. Rather than just winging it when we got there, we had a plan mapped out of some of the things we wanted to make sure we did during the trip. Dollywood, ziplining and horseback riding were on the list.

I had been horseback riding before, but I believe it was on our honeymoon, so that was 16 years ago. I was excited for Noah and Vivian to experience this since neither of them had done this.

However, as we drove to Big Rock Riding Stables, I started feeling anxious. What if I fall off the horse? What if the horse decides it doesn’t want to follow everyone else anymore? What if it isn’t defiant, but just dumb and doesn’t know he is supposed to stay with the group? My mind filled with questions like that.

Not to mention worrying these same things about Noah and Vivian.

We all were given our horses. They were each named after states, and my horse was Pennsylvania, but she went by Penny, which I found comforting, since that was my mother’s name.

The guy giving me my horse assured me Penny is an old horse, who will go slow and easy.

New fears. What if Penny decides she has had enough. She is overworked and tired of it. There is very little separating Penny and me from careening down the side of the hill if Penny decides life is no longer worth living.

As I’m fearing all of these things and more, God began to calm my heart. He reminded me of Balaam.

In Numbers 22 you can read about him. Balaam is an oracle, who told the future, and gave out blessings and curses, sometimes for money.

That is the situation in chapter 22. He was hired to curse a group of people, and the price was right. Fast-forward a few verses. So he gets on his donkey and they take off down the road, with the desire of money in his heart. On his way, his donkey saw an angel of God holding a sword in the middle of the road. The donkey veers of the road toward a field. Smart donkey. Balaam beats her. A little further down, the donkey sees the angel again, and this time it is on a narrow path, with vineyards on each side. She scoots close to the wall, squishing Balaam’s leg, to get away from the angel, and Balaam beats her again. Then the third time she sees the angel, the donkey just drops to the ground, refusing to go. He beats her a third time. Then verse 28 says this, “Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?'”

To get Balaam’s attention, God caused the donkey to speak. Wow.

It was here that God reminded me that He made Penny. He had complete control over Penny. If He wanted Penny to speak, He could make her speak, so He certainly could make her stay on the path if that’s what He wanted.

I’d like to say I relaxed completely the rest of the ride and enjoyed it, but I’d be lying. I was definitely calmer, but I was certainly glad to see the stables at the end.

God did teach me something during that ride, something of which He has often reminded me.

I don’t have to be afraid. He has everything under control. That is so comforting when I remind myself of this, or when God reminds me of it. Nothing is too big, hard, small, unimportant, for Him to handle.

Whether it’s a horse, health, job, relationship, finances – He’s got it. I hope that’s comforting for you too.

Whatever your situation, God is bigger. I’m glad He keeps reminding me.

BTDubs – This is Penny, followed by Shawn, Noah and Viv with their horses 

 

9/26/2013