FEAR

 

It was two o’clock in the morning when I heard it.  The dry, barky cough coming from my four-year-old’s room.  It didn’t sound like it was deep in his chest, but it was hard enough to cause him to start dry-heaving.  My husband and I both got up, jetted across the hallway, and went into my son’s room in order to console and change bed sheets.  It was going to be a long night.  We had given him so much water to help his distress, that my son had coughed up water all over his big boy bed.  Now, his lips were not turning blue; he wasn’t gasping for air.  He was just coughing hard, really hard.  But, when you wake up from a deep sleep, fight or flight kicks in, so my heart was rushing and adrenaline was pumping.  My baby needed his mama bear; a mama bear who was ready to do anything to make her baby feel better.  By this moment in the wee hours of the morning, we had already tried humidifier, steam showers, drinks of water (which were now all over his sheets), medicine, you name it.  In the midst of my little man’s cries, I lay hands on him and began to pray for his healing.   I was scared, my pulse was racing, so I cried out to the Lord.  I quoted scripture.  I reminded Jesus of how He had healed many and raised the dead, so surely, my baby boy’s violent coughing was nothing for the King of kings, right?  I was half out of it, but still with it enough to know that my boy was still hacking up a lung.  Fear took root a little more, and fear, if unchecked, will quickly reap into a harvest of bitterness.  

Once the bed sheets were changed and my son’s cough had subsided enough (like I prayed for), I went back to bed… angry.  I found myself in the middle of the night mad at God.  Mad that He didn’t do what I wanted Him to do.  “You healed in the Bible! Why not take my kid’s cough COMPLETELY?!”  My baby boy was scared; I was scared.  My husband knew it was just a cough and that it would be okay.  Here’s the thing: to me, it wasn’t just a cough.  It must have been something worse.  In my mom-mind, I thought that coughing was pneumonia.  Like, hard core pneumonia.  It couldn’t merely be a cough; his lungs had to have been slowly filling with liquid, though it sounded like a dry cough, and he couldn’t breath, yet his crying showed he could get plenty of air.  I allowed distress to plant fear in my heart and mind instead of trusting that God does, in fact, hear my cries (Psalm 3:4)*.  

Fear has a way of seeming totally rational in the moment, and sometimes it is.  When you are looking face to face with a real mama bear that can rip your face off, it is okay to be scared (yet another reason I don’t go camping).  That is a legitimate fear.   The outcome is pretty much known.  I’m talking about fear of the unknown.  Fear to step out, fear to move, fear of failure, fear of dreaming and it not happening, fear of praying big because what if God doesn’t answer it and I look foolish… and my kid still has a cough?  As Christians, we can operate in a place of fear, as if this is it.  This world is all we can look forward to.  We are scared of our fractured reputation, loss of income, or even our own life for the sake of the Gospel.  But, if we truly believed and lived like this world was not our home, that there is more and that God does know His plans for us, we move out of the realm of fear and into true freedom in Christ.  (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 33:11, John 8:34-36)*.  Fear is not of the Lord; freedom is.  Satan stops us by crippling us with fear, and as I reminded the Lord in my frantic prayers at two in the morning, Jesus healed the crippled and lame.  When Satan tries to stop and destroy, my Jesus will heal those crippled souls on the way to the pool (See John 5). Pretty boss, if you ask me.

I don’t want to operate from a place of fear.  I want to fully trust what the Lord is doing and the plans that He has for my life.  It’s exciting, but nerve racking at the same time.  When I first became a Christian at the age of 15, I would constantly pray that my life would be an adventure.  I didn’t want to be boring and mundane.  I shouldn’t be surprised or scared when God answered it.  An adventurous story is an exciting story.  Living and operating in a place where God can use your life inspires others to do the same.  Stories about friends skydiving are only exciting if they jump out of the plane.  Otherwise, it was just a really expensive flight to go on while having some instructor strapped to your back, which not only sounds lame; it’s a little odd.  Again, Jesus heals the lame.  When we trust Him, He helps us to walk in freedom, not fear.  The spirit of fear is not of God (2 Timothy 1:7)*, so if it’s not of God, it can’t be holy.  Fear will lie to your face that something won’t work, though God says to trust Him.  Fear will say stay on the bench (pew) and do nothing for the Lord because it will cost you too much or it’s “the pastor’s job”.  Fear will say no when God says yes.  Fear will make you lame.  

My son’s cough was merely that.  I took him to the doctor the next morning, and the doctor heard one cough and said, “Oh, yeah.  That’s croup.”  Croup?!  Not his asthma flaring up.  Not pneumonia.  Not some horrible disease.  Croup can be lethal if it gets bad enough and in small children, so please don’t think I am taking this illness lightly.  However, for my 4-year-old, the viral infection just had to run its course.  He was given an oral steroid, and I was told to keep doing what I was doing.  If it was something as simple as croup, why didn’t God heal him? Then, just as I reminded the Lord of what He did and said in the Bible, Jesus reminded me of His own words, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3b)  Ok, Lord.  I hear ya.  The scare in the middle of the night was God reminding me not to let fear dictate my prayers or my faith, but to trust and know that God is in control.  Bad stuff is going to happen.  Kids will get sick.  Sinful actions will happen to me and because of me.  The same is true for you.  Part of living the adventure and the plans God has for you is to say yes to freedom and no to fear.  Jump from the plane instead of taking the flight back down.  Get in the game, not warm the bench, or pew.  Don’t allow yourself to be lame.  Get up and go.

 

*Scriptures referenced:

Psalm 3:4 “To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Psalm 33:11 “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

John 8:34-36 “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

FORGETFULNESS

 

My job is only an astonishing three minutes from my house.  It doesn’t take long for me to get ready and out the door, either, yet for one reason, and one reason alone, I barely make it to work on time.  This reason?  Forgetfulness.  Yes, forgetfulness.  I will be ready to go and walking out the door when I ask myself, “Self, did you turn off the coffee pot?”  I then go inside to see the coffee pot turned off like it always is after I drink the last cup.  Even if I didn’t turn it off, the pot will turn itself off after four hours.  I then go back out the door, getting all the way to car when I hear, “Self, did you actually lock the back door, or is that a memory from another day?”  I walk back and check the door, which IS locked.  I turn around and get into my car, back it out of the garage and start driving down the street, when I again I hear, “Self, did you close the garage door?  You know, because that ONE time it closed all the way and then came back up.  It could be open right now!”  I turn the car around, drive through my neighborhood, and past my house only to see that my garage door is in fact closed.  Then, and only then, do I drive the three minutes to my job.  Forgetfulness can be rough.

I forget things a lot.  Not on purpose, but it seems that there are so many things going on in life, that eventually one or two items tend to slip through the cracks.  I have become overly reliant on the calendar on my phone and Siri to remind me of what I need to get done and/or do.  I will buy birthday or holiday cards weeks in advance, yet forget to mail them until past the actual day.  I will set down the remote in my living room and not know where I put it. (In my defense on this one, I have two kids and a husband who like to move the remote, so it is not entirely my fault when I can’t find the tiny thing.)  Why, I even got the idea for this blog post and instead of writing it down right away, I told myself I would remember.  An hour later, I was turning in my head trying to recall what I wanted to write about because I couldn’t remember.  Imagine the giggle I gave myself when I remembered that I wanted to write about forgetfulness.  Ironic.  

I’d like to say that it’s my tired mom-brain that keeps me from remembering stuff, since I have so many schedules and to-do’s running through my head, but I think it’s because I have become so dependent on technology to keep me accountable for everything in my life.  I allow myself to be reminded of things that I deem important.  I give my phone permission to have a pop-up, so I don’t forget to empty the dishwasher when I get home.  I make it a priority to remember because I want to choose to remember.

Forgetting can be tricky.  There are things in life I want to forget, even though try as I might, I just can’t.  I want to forget every mean thing that was ever said to me.  I want to forget all the bad choices that I made when I was younger and in the valleys of life.  I want to forget horrible and hurtful things I’ve said to others when my words were faster than my brain could filter.  I really want other people to forget the horrible things I’ve done.  I don’t have control over that forgetfulness.  I don’t have an anti-Siri helping me to forget some of the scars of my past.  Unfortunately, there is not an app for that.

Forgetfulness, however, can be beautiful.  When I forgive someone over a hurt, and God allows me to forget why I was even mad, that’s awesome.  I don’t harbor bitterness, and the relationship isn’t harmed.  When I don’t remember every mean thing ever said to me or about me, but I only hear the good, that allows my heart to remember who God created me to be.  My favorite forgetfulness is how God forgets my sin.  In Hebrews 8 we are reminded of God’s promise to Jeremiah.  The Lord says, “No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  You see, God in all His holiness cannot be in the presence of sin.  By Jesus dying for our sins, God allows Himself to forget our sin through the forgiveness of Christ, so that we can know God.  The Lord separates us from our sin.  “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)”  How refreshing! When God says that our sin is as far as the east is from the west, we have to remember that as long as we are heading west, we can never go east.  If I go north, eventually it will turn into south, but not so with going west.  The only moment I can be going east is if I choose to turn around.  God has separated me from my past sin, only when I turn around to pick it back up does it create a stumbling block in my life.  As it is said, you can’t trip over things that are behind you.

Forgetfulness may cause me to run a little late or look crazy to my neighbors as I continuously go back and forth from my car to the back door, but forgetfulness can be freeing.  The fact of the matter is I need to forget the chains and sin that held me down, and remember that my God is big.  His reach is big, and He can move big things in my life.  The enemy wants me to remember my shortcomings, my failures, my critics and forget my God.  Christ wants the opposite for us.  Don’t try to control every little detail of your life.  The coffee pot of life will turn itself off at the right time, when God wants it to to be done.  Don’t worry about the choices that “could have been”. God closed and locked those doors for a reason.  Don’t allow the sin of the past to come back up like a garage door with a sensor that is off.  That sin has been buried into the depths of the sea by Christ.  Don’t look back; remember the Lord loves you and is with you.  Forget what has been forgiven, and go west.

JEANS & LEGGINGS

 

I have a confession.  I love leggings.  There.  I said it.  Now, it’s out there for the world to judge me on.  And I’m not talking about simply wearing leggings under a skirt.  No, I’m talking wearing leggings as pants under a large enough shirt or dress to cover my derriere and still consider myself “dressed up”.  I never have a “fat day” in leggings.  They always fit.  They always go well with whatever shirt/dress I’m wearing.  They always work.  From around October 30 to January 2, I will rock leggings like it’s my job. They have become the official go-to outfit for many of my fellow moms, and we unashamedly wear them with cute boots and scarves with multiple layers to go around in the winter and lightweight tunics and fun designs in the summer.  Again, you can judge me all you want, but I will be comfortable with my leggings that always fit and never create unnecessary pudge points on my body.  

My other clothing love: jeans.  Jeans are classic.  Most people have at least one pair in their closest.  They can be fancy or casual, and people won’t judge you for wearing them to the grocery store or church.  They come in a wide variety of colors and cuts.  Jeans go with everything, but, and that is a big but, they are not as forgiving as leggings.  Come January 3, jeans will call out my inability to practice self-control during the holiday season.  How “just one more” said throughout late fall and early winter shows up in the form of a muffin top sitting nicely upon my belt loops.  I can’t be mad at my jeans.  I did this to myself.  Jeans are just real enough to show me the truth of my bad decisions.  Jeans not only call out your faults, they celebrate your victories.  When you’ve worked really hard to lose those holiday pounds, jeans are there to show you your accomplishment.  They fit a little looser.  They are what you wear when you want to show off to your people how much smaller your waist is.  Jeans celebrate with you. However, leggings, well, they still fit the same way they did before your new accomplishment.  They don’t care if you changed or not.  Fat or thin, healthy or not, leggings will be that yes-man in your wardrobe.  

Within our own relationships, many of us have legging friendships.  Leggings friends lose sight of how you have changed, good or bad, because they never hold you accountable for anything.  You can make as many bad or good choices as you desire, and your leggings friends will say, “Sure.  That’s a good choice.”  Go to the gym… sure.  Eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting… sure.  Get back in that abusive relationship… sure.  Whatever makes you happy.  You won’t ever be called out, but they also don’t celebrate with your success.  They are just there.  No depth.  

Now, jean friends, they will call you out.  They know you.  They keep track of your life because they want to see you be successful.  They notice the good changes and help you not to make bad choices, even if it hurts.  Go to the gym… I can tell you’ve been working hard, and it shows.  Eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting… You know that’s going to sabotage all the hard work you’ve been doing at the gym.  Get back in that abusive relationship… God says to guard your heart, and that relationship does not honor God.  Jean friends want you to have long-term happiness not instant gratification of having “just one more”.  It’s hard to hear no, but it’s hard to tell your friend no, too.  

The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Iron gets sharp by firmly scraping against another piece of iron.  Both pieces are changed, yet it costs the one iron something to make the other sharp.  If we only surround ourselves with people who constantly tell us yes and never hold us accountable for our decisions, not only are we hurting ourselves, but we have to question the validity of the friendship.   Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  Loving isn’t always saying yes.  Loving is genuinely caring for the well-being of another person.  “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:6-7)”  The truth sometimes, unlike Christmas cookies and Thanksgiving turkey, it is hard to swallow.  

I’m not about to give up my leggings because let’s face it, within life we all need comfort manifested in some way. However, I should never be comfortable with bad choices that can affect my walk with the Lord, and I shouldn’t surround myself with only legging friends who are okay with me making poor decisions or don’t care if I make good ones.  I need my jeans who will sharpen me and hold me accountable, so I can be jeans for others, too, through celebrations and adversity, thick and thin.  Because that, my friend, is how we can persevere in the faith and life, regardless of our attire.

 


Photo courtesy of cheung gi chin 張芝菁