Breaking Free from Fear

The last post I made was entitled “Fear the Evil and Corroding Thread” which describes the imagery of fear perfectly. It’s a thread at the end of a woven sweater. If you tug on it and keep pulling, before you know it you’ll be short an arm. Eventually if you don’t cut it off, you’ll be left standing with a handful of unraveled wool and an exposed torso. The remnants of a once beautiful item but a memory, just because we refused to let go.

I continue to wage war and fight this battle to let go. I refuse to blindly accept my thoughts and emotions as truth. When my feelings are clearly in conflict with God’s word I must actively choose to live in active faith instead of dwelling in fear.

Without realizing it for much of my life I’ve had the expectation that “it” all works out, but my “it” has been an external focus. The “it” that will get worked out is my spirit, the inner man. I’ve been promised that He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion. I’m assured my tests and trials have purpose to produce steadfastness, maturing faith and for the comfort and encouragement of others. My expectation that “it” all works out hinges on a perspective originating from self, not the Lord. This view is so limited that I can wear blinders creating a tunnel vision effect and not even realize what I’m doing. “It” has to work out and “it” will, but it’s going to be worked out inside my spirit through the power of Jesus. My circumstance may not work out how I would like, wish or pray. That’s reality and where fear most often taunts and tethers.

When God says, “Fear not” He isn’t saying don’t be afraid because your life is going to be roses and butterflies. He wants me to trust Him even when it hurts. So many times God tells me not to fear but He’s not telling me there won’t be horrible, painful, heartbreaking trials and tragedies…no, He’s strongly suggesting I hold onto Him for dear life while everything inside screams in terror. He provides peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of these situations, but I must chose to embrace it. He will keep me in perfect peace when my mind stays on Him because I trust Him. On my own I am not able or meant to withstand the tumultuous current of crashing waves on the shore of life. There are so many verses addressing fear because it is such a natural and common human response.

Well hold on, there are some legitimate things happening that I’m afraid of. Yeah, I understand, believe me. Some of my greatest fears have been realized, but I’m still breathing. I’m facing some seemingly insurmountable obstacles which have aroused fear. There is almost relief being on the other side, no longer in anticipation and apprehension because in my desperation I have no illusions I could go forward on my own. I must live one day at a time in reality and His grace is here with me.

 

thread of fear

 

I heard the coolest illustration this week describing faith and trust. Faith is going to a circus, seeing a funambulist about to perform and believing he will walk across the tight-rope safely arriving on the other side. Trust is an entirely different thing requiring action. Trust is climbing in a wheelbarrow and allowing the funambulist to push you safely across. I have to take action to fight for victory over fear, because simply saying I have faith isn’t enough. Victory requires effort by consistently submitting to the Lord trusting His Spirit in me to overcome obstacles arousing fear. Faith without works is dead.

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

God continually told the Israelites in the Old Testament not to fear, be frightened, live in dread or be terrified of the enemy because He would fight for them. Yet they continued to doubt Him and complain. Reading through the stories its almost unbelievable how soon they forget God’s provision for EVERY single need. But you know what, I do the very same thing. When I begin to doubt, demanding answers to questions beginning with “Why” finding no satisfactory explanation to reconcile the hurt inside of me, similarly I too forget His provision. God usually doesn’t fight for me the way I want Him to. I want Him to fix, adjust, bring justice or alter a circumstance based on my perspective and when that doesn’t happen I can slip into doubt. Does He see me? Does He care? Well of course He does, but I have to open my eyes to see how He is fighting for me. I have to surrender and take a look at my heart. This process isn’t easy, its a hashing out of emotions and tears. My friends, life can be really hard sometimes, excruciatingly painful and overwhelmingly unbearable, but God is constantly fighting for us. Some days we may just need to cry, but not with hopelessness. It’s ok to grieve what has been lost, but let us never doubt God will redeem every moment for His good. The hope is in moving forward. We must go forward to receive what God has waiting. He has gone before, because unlike you and I, He isn’t limited to today. He is the God who is, who was and who is to come.

 “And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”

Exodus 14:13-15

In the New Testament as Paul reminds us of the Spirit of power, love and self-control Jesus has gifted us, not one of fear. The word used for fear in this verse is “deilia” which is always used in a negative sense. It applies to a personality trait of cowardice and timidity often translated to fright or fearfulness. In my previous post I spoke of the spiritual oppression and the sense of dread that comes with fear. If my response is to do nothing and hide in comforts and habits, I’m acting out of the personality trait referenced here. We are reminded that Jesus wants us to live freely. He did not rescue us for us to live in slavery to fear. In Romans Paul offers the encouraging truth testifying we did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave to fear but God has adopted us as His own.

Fear is in direct conflict with the peace Jesus desires for us. However another word for fear “phobos” and “eulabeia” can be used speaking of deep respect and accountability to God, a reverential caution or apprehension. I think there are some things we should be cautious about. There have been moments in my life where my gut feeling, my spirit, my conscience…basically everything inside of me screamed that something was wrong. I’ve learned those are the times I must hit my knees and ask for wisdom. Lack of power is my dilemma, but only when I’m trying to do it on my own. God has gifted us with His Spirit, if we’ve accepted Jesus as the leader of our life. All power is available to us in submission to Him.

Here is what its coming down to for me. Is the object of my faith Jesus or what I believe He will DO for me? Is my hope set on Him or how I’ve interpreted His promises? Is my respect for God and desire to live accountable to Him greater than my need for success, affection, approval, relationships, prosperity, financial security, ad infinitum? Do I trust Him even when it hurts and the tears won’t stop flowing? Can I live my life today, one day at a time expectantly awaiting His provision? Perfect love casts out fear and God desires to perfect us with His love. It’s the only love that will do.

I cherish this passage and will end with this. Jesus gets it ya’ll. He lived in the flesh and experienced all these feelings just like us. He hurt and sacrificed all to offer us freedom in the midst of pain.

“While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.”

Hebrews 5:7-9 NLT

Fear, the Evil & Corroding Thread

fear

When the past comes crashing, rudely interrupting the beauty of the present it is unnerving. This happened to me recently. I was driving nonchalantly going about my “to-do’s” when the past wrecked into my today. Nothing physically happened, but a reminder of things before, not so pleasant triggered an anxiety response. I really struggle with fear and anxiety. It grips my insides and won’t let go. It clouds my perception where I’m unable to discern reality from illusion. My emotions can take over and turn me inside out faster than I realize what’s happened. I hate it. I feel out of control, short of breath and frantic. Frozen yet reeling. Grasping for anything to hold onto & regain my sense of control. But this is where I habitually take a wrong turn. I try to control. I frantically take action hoping that changing some external stimuli will settle my soul. Frequently it’s a person. If I can get another human to act the way I’d like, I falsely believe my security will be found there.

“So woeful about the past and so worried about the future, we miss the wonder of God in the present.” – Beth Moore

Anxiety can sneak in. Uncertainty created within a circumstance. Some of my personal anxiety was born out of extremely stressful and traumatic life events. Yet those events shouldn’t be allowed to alter my perspective on life indefinitely. I have a decision to make. In whom or what will I place my trust & allow to shape my perception of reality? I’m not saying that I just have to “get over” things that may have happened. I’d never so callously suggest anyone else do so either. I’m in the midst of a battle to walk through the remnants of past destruction and cling to God as He restores what has for so long lay in ruins. Many recent life events are revealing an underlying brokenness I’ve accepted as normal MY ENTIRE LIFE. I even wrote “Faith in the Midst of Fear” several years ago. I cannot remember ever being absent of the dull ache of anxiety and need to control my surroundings to feel safe. The daily dread and insecurity shadowing each day has wrecked havoc in my life for years. That is one of the main problems of fear, anxiety, dread, worry….whatever term you prefer. Pick your poison, but they all have the same cage to offer. They steal from the freedom and beauty of the present. “Today” becomes pressed upon and shrouded by “yesterday” with a suffocating dread of “tomorrow”. Fear is ever-so taunting of the “could-be” or “once-was” refusing attendance to the “actually-is”.

Andy Mineo : Anxiety is fear mixed with control…. (click for song)

One way my anxiety is created is when my devotion to something is out of proportion. I naturally associate false gods and idols with tokens made of gold, however that is much too simplistic. I easily make relationships something I worship. If I value these relationships more than the Lord, anxiety can arise. Nothing was made to hold my security other than Christ. Even good things, like my husband and children, that are gifts from God create opportunities for anxiety when out of balance. God celebrates marriage, family, friendships, community, our aptitude’s and gifts but these things are all meant to point TO Him. They aren’t for my “glory” or comfort. Recently my son was hospitalized for breathing related issues. We’ve had some difficulties in the past but have always been able to manage at home with breathing treatments. This time it was different. As my mothering instincts to protect and nurture my child weren’t enough to “fix” him, I hit the wall of self-sufficiency. Do I trust God with it all? Do I trust Him with my children’s health? It’s a question I’ve continued asking myself since we’ve been released from the hospital. Security is reality only when centered on Jesus. It is not circumstantial, because very disagreeable things happen. Life happens. I must continually make a decision to live in this truth: my comfort comes from security in God alone. My feelings or positive outcome of situations are not a sufficient substitute but a temporary distraction from the source of anxiety that still remains.

Recently I heard a person share something so simple but it was huge for me. “Feelings are not always truth. They are just feelings.” I relate. This was a sudden realization of how much faith I place in feelings, my own and others. I’ve continued mulling over the powerful effect emotions can have on life. Feelings can easily become the active driver for decisions. This can be very dangerous when operating from a false basis, not living in truth. If I allow my emotions to shape my reality, I’m in for quite the ride. Cue the playback reel of my life! I mean really, think about it. Do people make major life decisions like divorce because someone isn’t helping with laundry, one spouse works too much or financial disagreements? Would it be more accurate to say divorce stems from the emotions evoked by each of these circumstances? Some of the same emotions can be created with each situation. Perceived betrayal. Abandonment. Fear. Insecurity. Anger. Loneliness. In no way am I dismissing the true absolute damage and destruction caused within abusive & unhealthy relationships, but is it not the feelings that bring us to a breaking point? A wall we can no longer push forward.

Our journey may be different. Some paths may be similar. However one thing I’m learning – feelings cannot be the tool for navigation. There must be a higher truth that I rest in. A consistent basis to gauge life instead of the broken lens of my perception ever clouded and smudged by my emotion of the moment. I’ve accepted the truth that I’m dealing with spiritual warfare. I’ve noticed the subtle emotional manipulation within my life and surroundings. I’ve suddenly become attune to this pervasive cloud and realized I’ve accepted its presence far too long.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

I’m meditating on the above passage as a direct approach to remove the enemy’s influence over my reality. I’m refusing to accept these all too familiar feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m beginning to see how they are a stronghold in my life. A stronghold can be a safe place offering protection from outside forces. However when I use strongholds of self-sufficiency, I’ve walled myself in from the true source of help. Fear has been my safe place. My false argument against discomfort. Fear has been a place of complacency. A place to hide & escape reality. An excuse to push others away and a desperate attempt to control people who get too close. The stronghold of fear has served as a way to refuse accountability avoiding the responsibility and charge to make changes within myself. I’m ready to take some action. I want there to be a revolutionary change , cause I ain’t done.

Change is a process. It’s not an overnight thing. Once the battle for change begins it becomes a daily grind to press on and not settle back into habits of the familiar. It’s much too easy to react in fear because that’s what I’ve always done. A different approach is to actively take my thoughts captive and ask God to show me a different way. To plead for His truth to become louder than my anxiety which may be deafening. Although my thoughts and emotions may continually default to fear-based, anxious and self-protecting norms, with God’s guidance I battle to change the status quo. I’ve begun this process over the past few months and continue to pray for awareness in the many ways I attempt to fight with the limited arsenal waging war by the flesh. One way God brings clarity is through writing and being vulnerable sharing my struggles with others. I believe this fear, anxiety and the resulting depression is something weighing down so many of us. Let us take up our weapons which have divine power and begin to demolish strongholds offering false security. Let us together wage war using the truths of scripture as our swords. I plan to continue sharing my struggle with fear and would be honored if you’d reach out to me and share yours.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV

 

*The reference of fear as “an evil and corroding thread” is a reference from pg 67 of Alcoholics Anonymous**

Waiting to Exhale

My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!”         Psalm 108:1

Chaney and I are on our way back from Houston, a trip we have become familiar with. We’ve made the drive 4 times in the past 5 weeks. Depending on which route we take, it is a nice leisurely round-trip drive ranging between 950-1050 miles. We have tried them all to keep things interesting and see different parts of Texas. The drive is no big thing; when you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy, have ankles and feet that swell into painful puffy appendages and have to use the little girl’s room every few hours, the drive is a cake walk. Ha. One fact proves true whatever route we take…the further away we get from Midland the prettier and greener our surroundings become. We do love our hometown, but it sure is nice to get away and see trees, hills and life outside of West Texas even if it is for a doctor appointment.

Last time I wrote an update I was seeing my local doctor for ultrasounds each week. In fact, my last update was after a trip to Houston to check on Tyler. Since then we’ve had a few scares with high MCAs. One instance resulted in us making the trip to Houston fully convinced we would need a transfusion. The doctors even had us on the surgery schedule for the following day. I was a mess the 3 days leading up to my Monday appointment in Houston. Setting out on an 8 hour drive after getting less than favorable results was extremely unnerving. Leaving our kids not knowing exactly when we would be home or being able to answer their questions about Tyler added to the emotions. It was also the first time I’ve left Michael with someone other than his daddy and I was a teary-eyed, snot-nose, anxiety ridden mess. By God’s grace, Tyler was ok and not severely anemic however my stress levels had skyrocketed. Because of the added stress, time and miles between Midland and Houston, Chaney suggested that we begin having our appointments in Houston each week. Transferring our care provides us the expertise of The Fetal Center and Dr. Moise on a weekly basis. Also, if Tyler has become severely anemic requiring a blood transfusion, we will already be in Houston able to have the procedure done the next day. We won’t have to make preparations to go out of town, get the kids packed to go to Charlotte’s, pack ourselves and make the long drive strained with concerns of Tyler’s health. This provides ease of mind for us both and I’m so thankful to my man for discerning how to help ease the burden of stress that was suffocating me.

 

img_0191
Chaney patiently walking the Magnolia grounds with me. My man. My love.

As a result, the last 3 weeks we’ve driven down to Houston on Sunday for our Monday morning appointment. Each week we rely on MCA’s, scans specifically checking for anemia measuring the rate of blood flow through the middle cerebral artery, to let us know how anemic Tyler is. He is anemic, but not severely affected warranting the risk for an intrauterine fetal blood transfusion. The scores are given based on MoMs (multiples of median) with 1 MoM being normal and 1.5 MoM equating severe anemia. Fluid around the organs, termed ascites, is another identifying factor of fetal anemia, but we don’t want it to get to that point. Last week Tyler gave us another scare with a wide range of MCAs measuring 1.3-1.7 MoM. All of the wave patterns were legit. Normally they narrow down scans and give us a score of the best quality scan but it was more difficult last week. After the tech did her scans, Dr. Snowise came in and performed several of his own. He began to check Tyler’s positioning and the umbilical cord placement, all important details when a transfusion is needed. The high numbers were perplexing because there were no other visible effects on his organs. The scans are formulated based on a precise angle of the middle cerebral artery and not an exact science. The only precise measurement of anemia is through taking a sample of blood from the umbilical cord. This method has several risks and isn’t used unless a blood transfusion is required. Several factors can cause the MCAs to be inaccurate and give false highs. This day Tyler happened to be positioned head down, was practicing breathing and was fairly active, all factors making the scan more difficult. I was so thankful we were already at The Fetal Center and fully trust their judgment, because this 2 hour appointment was stressful enough while sitting in a room of world renowned experts. Dr. Moise was called in to help figure out what was going on. He looked at Tyler and said he was fine. We were given the green light for another week and made the trip home.

It’s time for me to get real with ya’ll. When I was looking at the screen watching the high readings I panicked a bit. I was hit with a wave of emotions. I hate that my baby has to fight to be healthy. I’m thankful that we are doing so well with such an aggressive antibody and I realize it could be a lot worse. I realize many lose their babies and this has been in the forefront of my mind since learning of my isoimmunization. I fight my emotions constantly not wanting to be over-dramatic because things are going great with all things considered, yet challenging myself to be honest with the internal struggle. Our baby boy is sick and I struggle with the reality of my body causing his anemia. My view of the womb as a place of growth and safety for my children before they have the strength to enter this world has been challenged this pregnancy. Chaney and I have spoken several times how we took for granted the ease in which our other children were brought into this world. It’s like I’ve taken credit for the life of my children. Now I’m realizing how naïve I have been. The props and praise for all life belong to God alone. He has ordained the life of each of my children for a plan and purpose and I’m blessed to be included in this plan as their mother. My children are ultimately His and through this experience I’m beginning to accept this reality, one that I’ve fought since becoming a mother. The one thing I couldn’t ever honestly pray, “God I release my children to you. I know they are yours not mine. I know you love them more than I ever could.” That prayer scares me. It still scares me, but I see the validity in it. I see the desperate need to release this illusion of control that continues to confront me as a glaring defect of character. I waste so much time and energy fighting the wrong battles. One thing I’ve begun to practice is fighting in prayer for my children. I cannot always protect them from this world and the sickness, hurts and sin that exist, but I can pray for them to know our Father whose name alone offers hope. I pray that their lives have a lasting impact on the kingdom. I pray for God to comfort them in their hurts and that they will have a love for Scripture from an early age. I pray that they will passionately pursue God’s will and plan instead of living in sheltered “safety”. I recognize these things offer them more than a mother who tries to shield them. As their mother I’ve been entrusted to equip them and point them towards my Jesus. This morning during my quiet time I ran across a verse that knocked the wind out of me. Talk about perspective.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”  Job 38:4

I fully know and accept this is our last pregnancy. We decided this before we had any inclination of the anti-kell antibodies we would combat during this pregnancy. I promised myself not to complain but cherish every moment of the aches and pains and to enjoy each movement of the precious life within me. I haven’t complained and I do enjoy Tyler’s kicks and turns, but it hasn’t been with the “normal” care-free bliss that I yearned for this final pregnancy. I count his movements to make sure he is healthy and not getting sick between scans. I don’t complain about aches and pains because I’m so happy my baby is still alive. I wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares of losing my boy. Up until my appointment yesterday, I haven’t bought anything for him because I didn’t want to get too attached in case something happened. I hate to even admit that or put those thoughts into words but it’s my truth. I must confess that I fell into a trap of hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I tend to take that stance to protect myself from being hurt, but it’s a façade. Loss hurts no matter what. I didn’t even realize all the walls I have constructed until my appointment Monday.

Tyler is doing great and at 32 weeks 3 days he is already weighing 5lb 13 oz. We will deliver anywhere between the next 3-6 weeks. If he requires a transfusion after 35 weeks the risk of an IUT is greater than delivering early, so labor would be induced. We will not go past 38 weeks, so 6 weeks is the maximum time-frame. When Chaney and I spoke about this time table the relief was palpable and I think I exhaled for the first time in months. An enormous weight was lifted and I could breathe. For the first time I allowed myself to fully believe that Tyler is going to be ok…so I bought him a diaper bag, because he will need one. We gave ourselves a chance to relax, enjoy one another and permission to celebrate our pregnancy by breaking up the return drive home into two days. We stopped in Waco and went on a date. We had dinner, went to Common Grounds for coffee and caught a movie. This morning on our way out of town we stopped by Magnolia Market and grabbed pastries at the bakery, walked around the grounds and of course shopped. Chaney was a trooper and didn’t complain at all. We needed some time to just enjoy one another and I feel rejuvenated. I guess holding your breath for several months isn’t the best approach to life. My soul is so thankful for the fresh air.

fullsizerender4
The diaper bag I ordered for Tyler (:

Something Dr. Moise said got my attention. We keep making it one more week, even though Kell is the most aggressive antibody and I have a critical titer. My Kell antibodies attack Tyler’s existing red blood cells, causing anemia, and suppresses the bone marrow from producing new red blood cells accelerating the rate at which a baby becomes anemic. Yet we are ok. Still. Praise the Lord. I don’t get it and I’m so grateful. Several have commented at how strong we are in walking through this season and I know we are clinging tightly to the Lord, but something else is going on. Ya’ll are lifting us and covering us in prayer. Thank you. Please know that we are aware and humbled by your love for us. I don’t feel strong but God enables me to walk through each day with grace. I’m frustrated that I don’t trust Him. After everything He has walked me through I’ve continued to try and shield myself by expecting the worst. I still have so much room to grow. I’m grateful that God isn’t finished with me yet and covet your continued prayers over this season we are in. Please continue to pray for Tyler’s health, specifically to make it to the 38 week mark which decreases many health obstacles he could face if born early. Chapter 46 of Isaiah has been meaningful throughout my pregnancy. Just in case I didn’t get the hint, Kaylea Gaines also text me verses from the chapter several months ago. I believe this is true for us all, even when we have doubts, God is faithful and his truth doesn’t waiver.

“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,

All you who remain in Israel,

I have cared for you since you were born.

Yes, I carried you before you were born.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime-

until your hair is white with age.

I made you, and I will care for you.

I will carry you along and save you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

Faith in the midst of Fear

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

I’m thankful for seasons of life that are tied together. Maybe it’s by a specific emotion, a scent or even a song. This morning while bawling my eyes out (one of those ugly cries where I really shouldn’t have been driving) I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness in the midst of a year consisting of a strange mix of loss and new beginnings. I’m wrecked with fear because of current happenings that I have no control over and overwhelmed with grief from past events that I also have no control over.

Today marks one year. One year since Greg passed away. Around here he was mostly called Grandad or Dad. He was a hard working man, tough and determined (bull-headed really). Yet at the same time gentle, caring and soft. He was a friend, not just my father-in-law. We played cards into all hours of the night and the next morning. We went hunting and watched the races together. Well he watched the races, I usually fell asleep. He was our neighbor & we had this amazing agreement when we’d do take out for dinner, it was called, “You fly, I’ll buy.” I did the flying part.

He was the patriarch of our family unit. Dad was a provider and didn’t want any of his kids or grandkids to go without. He took pride in being available if we needed anything. He may have been loud, stubborn and blow his top off every now and then, however this was juxtaposed by his quiet and still spirit in the midst of crisis. So many times he would pause, not react and turn the conversation to spiritual realities reminding me of WHO really was in control even if the situation seemed chaotic. Although sometimes this was highly agitating because I really just wanted to complain, it would jump start my heart to focus on faith in the midst of fear.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Grandad was a pro at playing “patty-cake”. He used his knees for some crazy “giddy-up” horse rides. I have videos of piggy back rides around the house and also educational rhymes….”Eye-winker, tom-tinker, nose-dropper, mouth-eater, chin-chopper…” followed by mandatory tickles. All this after getting home from a long day at work in Pyote, Texas. He made the 180 mile round-trip drive for over 25 years running the aggregate mine for the family concrete company started by his father. Grandad also had his cup of sweet tea mysteriously go empty on many occasions and it is no wonder why all the granddaughters have a particular affinity for sweet tea. This year has been really tough without him and to say his presence is missed is quite an understatement.

It’s difficult to describe someone using only memories, not that they have faded, but because I’d much rather him still be here with us so we could create new ones. I wish he was here to see and enjoy his grandsons, like he was able to with his granddaughters. He would be so proud to watch his kids working together and communicating & get a real kick out of them arguing and trying to figure things out. He would swell with pride at the continued transformation of his son…. to see the godly man, father, husband & leader Chaney is.

After Greg’s short battle with cancer, there was a sense of relief that he was no longer in pain and gratitude he is with his Jesus, eternally healed. But…..also the sadness, emptiness, the fear of what life would look like without him and the heartache that doesn’t go away. As with any death where the assurance of Christ’s salvation exists there is a thread of faith that holds the heartache. Faith strings the many pieces together offering peace in the depths of despair. Faith offers hope when fear is paralyzing. The morning after he passed away, our family unit and Charlotte’s  family were all at his house. None of us had gotten much sleep the night before. We had breakfast and were listening to worship music, Tyler and Bailey Dodds albums mostly with “The Way I Feel” on repeat. We all looked a HOT mess as you can imagine. Suddenly Chaney decided we all needed to go to church so we did. All 9 of us, including 3 children, were dressed and ready within 30 minutes and we made the 20 minute drive into town.

There have been many poignant times of worship in my life, many occurring outside of a church service. However this particular Sunday stands out & was a very encouraging time of corporate worship with my family, surrounded by our family of believers. There were many pivotal and life changing circumstances that were enveloping our existence last September aside from Greg’s cancer. I couldn’t tell you what the message was, or who preached, but there was this moment when all the emotions, fear and uncertainties were overcome with assurance of God’s sovereign faithfulness.

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…

When our praise team began singing “No Longer Slaves” over our church, Chaney grabbed my hand and we stood up. Ya’ll if you know us at all, I tend to be the more outgoing one. I love to sing and get lost in worship. Chaney tends to be more reserved. Not this day. Nope. My man led me & encouraged me to worship my King. He showed me how to not be paralyzed by fear. In the midst of all the situations staring us in the face taunting us to give into FEAR, Chaney stood up and proclaimed he chose FAITH. With tears streaming down my face I proclaimed I chose faith too. I began to recall the vastness of God’s character and remember the milestones of faith in my past where He took painful and seemingly impossible situations and healed my soul. My Abba Father whispered there was no need to fear. My child, I’ve got this. Too bad those moments of assurance don’t wipe away the existence of fear, forever.

This short word (fear) somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve.

Lately I’ve been unraveling. Like a sweater that has one loose thread you can’t tug on it, you have to cut it off, if you want anything left of your clothing. I’m run through with fear & have been pulling the thread. The above quote has been running through my mind. It comes from 12 step literature (pg. 67 in Alcoholics Anonymous) and paints such a vivid mental picture. Fear is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Not just fear, but how I react to it. When I’m shot through with fear, I act based on emotion. This is NEVER a good thing. To live a life characterized by emotional decisions you’ll end up with a track record like mine. My past is a tumultuous one and I’m so grateful for a life where I now aim to live guided by a foundation of faith. I’m not saying emotion is bad, after all it’s part of the beauty of being human. But emotions vary and don’t supply a consistent and standard guide to live life. Although fear still comes up, it no longer controls and defines me. However, there are still situations that trigger my fears and an internal battle ensues.

Uncertainty tends to be one of these triggers and instead of admitting I’m afraid, I have this unhealthy need to be in control. When I can’t control circumstances that are affecting my life, I decide it’s much easier to try and control YOURS. Lovely isn’t it? Let’s be friends, ok? Ok. Then I can fix your life while ignoring my own problems. I’ll even act like I have it all together. Yes, I’m one of those people. Well, fear can quickly turn me into that person. So, here I am admitting I’m afraid and giving you a heads up that I may try to fix you instead of me….don’t fall for it, if I can’t let go and trust God how am I to help you?

Currently I’ve had the realization that I can’t even pretend to hold it all together. I don’t have the energy anymore. Reality has set in and although Tyler is doing ok right now the scans are continuing to rise getting closer to that magic number we want to stay below. The logistics of relocating to Houston for his birth have me paralyzed with fear. Our application wasn’t approved for the Ronald McDonald House so we are looking into other housing options. I’ll be down there for a minimum of 3 weeks before his birth without my family. This past week while Chaney and I were in Houston with Michael, I missed our girls so much. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to be away from home for a month. How long will we be there after his birth? The weekly appointments are wearing me out, each week wondering if his MCA scans  will show signs of anemia requiring a trip to Houston for a blood transfusion. AND cue the SNOWBALL of emotion…..basically any thought I have after this point is emotionally based and out of the context of logic. Pregnancy hormones are really helping me out at this point. FOR REAL.

Yet, this morning has been healing. So wrought with emotion and the release of fresh tears from the pain of Greg’s absence, I’m again assured of the peace in God’s presence. I’m so thankful for his mercies that are new every morning. He doesn’t ask me to handle it on my own. He doesn’t expect me to hold it together. Faith working in the midst of fear is a battle. Faith is the Son shining his light to melt my snowball of emotion before it wrecks havoc causing explosive damage. Faith doesn’t mean fears aren’t pressing in, it means there is an ability to see things through a different perspective. My fears are real emotions and I have to face them, but I choose to view them through the lens of faith that scripture offers. Faith allows me to see God’s hand in each situation. I have family familiar with Houston neighborhoods & they are helping to identify the more favorable areas to stay in. There is an amazing Doctor able to help Tyler if he needs transfusions. Chaney & Charlotte will both be able to spend some time in Houston so I won’t be alone the entire time. I also have several friends and family I can spend time with. The girls will be taken care of here with a wonderful support system of family, friends & teachers. They will even get to come visit so we can celebrate Katelynn’s bday together. Aside from what I’m able to see with my physical eyes I know there is so much more in the unseen.

My assurance is in my Father’s steadfast love chasing after me in my fear and meeting me where I am in my grief. My hope is in His faithfulness and my rest is in His arms. The Lord has our baby boy, our family and our future. He wants me to stay in today, in this moment. He is my portion. He is enough. Let it be so Lord, please comfort my soul.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:21-24