What Fear Is Protecting You From

Your fear is protecting you. Keeping you safe. Insulating you. A cheap yet costly insurance plan.

Your fear is a watchdog, an alarm, a siren in the dead of night. Your fear hands you a brochure with the claim that as long as you stayed scared, nothing bad will ever happen to you.

The Fear Brochure reads:

  • When you are afraid, you will never take stupid risks or make impulsive decisions.
  • You will always proceed with caution, slowly, quietly.
  • You will never disrupt.
  • No one will ever stop a meeting to stare at you as you come in late.
  • No one will write angry blog posts about your intrepid actions to save or rescue or protect.
  • You will never be satirized on Saturday Night Live.
  • You will never have a nasty tell-all biography written about you.
  • You will never get your heart broken.
  • Your funeral will be small but manageable.
  • Your life will be relatively predictable.
  • You will never be publicly shamed.
  • You will never be ridiculed.
  • Your face will never be displayed on billboards as the Imbecile of the Year.
  • You will never fail. Or if by some fatal flaw in the system you do fail, no one will have to know.

But here’s the fine print:

On the other side of fear is your dream.

Fear claims to protect you from pain, and even that is a boldly false assertion. Fear may be able to guard us against risks and heartbreak, but fear won’t protect you from regret. In fact, regret is a fear side effect. Fear sets you up for regret, for missing “the moment”. Fear hesitates, gets clammy, chokes up your words. Fear paralyzes. Fear and regret are cousins.

Fear feels safely familiar, until the regret sets in. And regret is almost always worse than pain. Pain heals, but regret means you’ve missed something. Missed an opportunity, missed becoming who you are supposed to be.

Most of us are hiding from shame and vulnerability. It feels safe behind the veil of fear. But let me assure you, your greatest moments are the ones in front of the curtain. Life is meant to be lived in the open, sometimes moving blindly and unarmed toward the adventures and the people who compel us. It’s going to a terrifying risk and a guaranteed mess some days, but it’s probably not going to be a mess you regret.

So let’s weigh our options. Fear or courage? Regret or destiny? Fear or triumph? Regret or growing confidence in our strength? Well, when I say it like that, it makes it a little easier.

Fear is the wall between where you are now and who you are designed to be. So let’s toss the Fear Brochure in the trash and take John Acuff’s advice: “Punch fear in the face”. 

Here’s a brave question: What kind of fear is keeping you from moving toward your dreams?

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These stories pump water

I love brand new ideas, really good ones I wish I thought of. Don’t you?

Well, here’s one for you. Have you heard of CausePub yet? If you haven’t, you’re about to.

I just wrote a story for CausePub, an organization creating books for a cause through group-publishing. [Click here to read the story and vote]. [Their current book project is called Couch Rebels, a collection of stories about folks who rebelled against horizontal life and got up to do something, to change something, even if the thing they changed was themselves. The concept is genius. Here’s how it works.

  • CausePub identifies a charity or cause they want their book to support
  • CausePub solicits stories from adventurers and story-tellers
  • After stories are submitted, they approve the stories and post them to their site
  • Story-writers solicit votes from friends and strangers
  • CausePub selects great stories they love with the most votes
  • The Couch Rebel book will be published as a Kindle eBook on August 14. So soon!
  • When anyone purchases the book, the proceeds are divided between the cause, the writers and basic overhead costs.
  • For Couch Rebel, 50% of the proceeds will benefit Blood: Water Mission. The breakdown is in the graphic below.

[Follow CausePub on Twitter here and find them on Facebook here.]

Here’s where I need your help: I wrote a story for CausePub, and I need your vote.

The story is below. It’s a story about a time when God met me and my seatmate on a plane to Atlanta. I didn’t see it coming. I love this story because it makes me like God even more. Please read and take a second to click VOTE. Thank you so much.

What God Thinks About You

“So, where are you headed?” I asked the young brunette next to me to end the awkward silence. She smiled the stranger smile, as if wondering how long this conversation might take. “Somewhere tropical. With friends.” She needed a little prodding, and I wondered if I should just lay off. Instead, I offered my own less glamorous destination: Atlanta.

I attempted to stir the conversation with more questions about her destination, responding with appropriate amounts of awe and jealousy. I hoped we would catch a common thread in our lives and the chatter would take off, giving me an opportunity to eventually talk with her about Jesus.

But no such luck. The conversation flailed, and we politely took up our books. I leaned into the window, pretending to read, but inside I argued with myself, knowing God might have bigger plans for this three-hour plane ride.

Eventually, my discomfort with silence grew larger than my desire to be well-mannered company. “What are you reading?” I finally inquired. She stammered a bit. “It’s a little unconventional. I’m not sure I want to say.” She tucked the pink book cover down toward her lap. I attempted to reassure her I didn’t have plans to judge, but I wasn’t going to push it. But what was she reading?

“I’m reading about artificial insemination,” she offered hesitantly, waiting for the verdict to read on my face as she turned the cover toward me. “I’m not married yet, but I’m 35. And I want to have a baby.”

Oh.

Click the button below to keep reading and vote.

Vote

Anger Management for Moms: the 365 Day Challenge

I can relate.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about anger. My anger. The kind that fills me up with sadness and regret. The kind I dive into in the moment and feel I’m drowning in the next.

Since I wrote about it, read about anger from other moms and started paying attention to my volume and emotion, I’ve been doing better.

It’s amazing what a little awareness can do.

About a year and a half ago, a mom blogger at Orange Rhino got caught yelling at her kids. (I can’t remember when but I feel like I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.) She decided enough was enough, and committed not to tell at her kids for a year. If she yelled, the 365 days started over.

That’s quite a challenge. And a brave woman.

She outlines the varying levels of volume in our voice as we move from a whisper to a raging scream. Her cut-off is level 4, the “oopsie snap”, the moment when “your blood pressure is building” and maybe you’re overreacting a little. That’s nice. She gives herself some grace.

Crazy, wild-eyed yelling is out. No matter how tired she is. No matter how bad the kids are.

It’s parental self-control at its finest. I love this commitment, and I am going to make it as well.

365 sounds like a long time, but when do I want to start yelling at my kids again? I don’t. Ever. So setting the deadline far away improves my chances of forming new habits. I will either sail through the year with perfect performance, which means the light has come on, or I will be required to start over by bad behavior. Either way, I win because I am forced to learn alternate ways to deal with anger.

So here is my commitment. 365 of no yelling, no nasty snaps or raging screams. I think I know what these are, but I may have to define them more as I go. Orange Rhino’s rule of thumb: If you think you yelled, you did.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children…

Why yelling or not yelling really matters? Two big reasons:

1. Because proving parents can control themselves as a higher priority over controlling their kids is something we must demonstrate to our children. I must not try to control them or they will learn that people can be controlled. It’s only a matter of figuring out how to do it. I want my children to demonstrate self-control, not others-control.

2. Protecting my children from my sinful responses is essential if I want to guard their hearts. I want to keep the relationship open between us and “not provoke them to anger”, as Paul challenges fathers, and I believe all parents, to avoid doing. I provoke anger when I am angry and out of control. I am powerful enough to mold a tender heart into an angry, defensive heart with my words and expectations. I have to use my power to build and not destroy.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children without opinions who only want to please me to avoid my rage. Or the opposite, raging hearts who only have their parents to model the handling of their emotions, children without self-control who feel rejected and unsure of their boundaries.

Dear God, help me avoid that fate. It’s painful even to imagine what my children could grow to be if I don’t truly learn this.

I will continue to discuss these emotions and handling them better as I discover new ways, or as I run into challenges. I know now I will need to outline specific ways of dealing with anger so I can be prepared, not surprised.

Until then, here are a few excellent posts on doing motherhood well from some of my favorite bloggers:
Sarah Bessey
Ann Voskamp
Lisa Jo Baker

May you respond with love and self-control, and may you live without regret every day of your life.

Do you have skills or suggestions on how to manage mommy madness? Please share them below. I would love to learn. Thank you.

When in doubt

I’ve mentioned before I was quite neurotic as a child, nervous and over-analyzing. Afraid to be wrong.

That’s still me, but the stakes are higher. I’m not just deciding which clothes will make me popular. Now I’m choosing financial investments and career moves. Big stuff.

My mind swirls with great ideas and good intentions, things that could change the world – maybe – and I never seem to get around to them.

I am afraid to decide.

Me when forced to make a decision. Waaahhhh.

When I was in high school, I was delaying deciding about one thing or another. In his office one afternoon, my Dad said, “When in doubt, make a decision. If you make a wrong decision, make another decision.”

Classic Dad-style pithy wisdom – well said. But now, I have to do it.

As a 30-something adult, my indecisiveness is crippling. I am afraid of what will happen if I make a choice. I don’t want to face even the simplest consequences.

Therefore, making a decision about the smallest thing is hard. Recently, I had to decide between writing and planning out goals for the next few months. “What if I can’t get everything done?” Paralzyed. I read blogs instead, until I realized I distracted myself from my choice. At least I caught it.

But it gets worse: at Cold Stone the other day, I couldn’t decide which ice cream to eat. “What if I don’t like it?” I finally decided. I didn’t like my choice. This is why choosing sucks, I whined to myself.

But this is partly why choosing is so scary: the consequences. (Cue the Frankenstein soundtrack.)

“What if I don’t like it?

What if I’m committed and I just want to bail?

What if I don’t like the dinner I order or the man I date or the career I choose?

What if I hate it?

What if I’m trapped?

AAAACCCKKKK!

It’s my own personal horror film.

It’s funny because we’re afraid to be trapped in a choice we make, and yet indecisiveness is a trap all its own. It’s double-mindedness, an unsteady soul overflowing with fear. And who can change the world or live a life free of regret stuck in back-and-forth mode? No one.

I don’t want my life defined by fear, but an indecisive life is a fearful, sad life indeed.

So what to do? Well, in most every day situations, simple boldness and the power of choice will do. For big-huge life decisions, check out the link below for a great guide. So here I’m going to tell myself a few ways to make decisions, and if you’re in my category, then follow along. Maybe we can help each other.

1. Recognize when you’re feeling decisiveness-challenged. There is an old familiar feeling of waffling, back and forth swaying in your mind. Weighing options with lots of “what if” questions. The “what ifs” will kill you, man. But you have to recognize the signs before you can do something about it.

2. When in doubt, make a decision. Pick something. And then own it. Be an adult and take full responsibility for your choice. It’s what the big kids do. Because deciding not to decide is still a decision. It just leaves you regretful with nothing to show for your time.

3. Don’t get distracted from the choice you make. I decide to start writing or working on a project, and as soon as I do, suddenly there are emails to reply to, blogs to read, information to glean. And I’ve forgotten about my decision. Don’t get stuck in between your decision and doing it. That’s as bad as not deciding. Follow through is key.

4. If you don’t like your choice, you have another choice to make: bail or stick it out. There are lots of things you can bail on. Making a decision is safer than we think. And only you can know which choice is better, although getting counsel from others is always a good idea. But don’t be a pansy. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay. Marriage is a perfect example.

And for major life decisions, Michael Nichols offers a few solid suggestions on discovering what you really want and making choices you’ll be happy with. Check out his blog here, complete with a free downloadable, decision-making template. Cool, huh?

Okay, I feel sufficiently motivated by my pep talk to myself. Since I thought through this, I have been making quicker, more confident decisions without all the foot dragging from before. I hope you are empowered too.

Share your suggestions for making decisions below. I’d love to hear what you do.

Unblock your writer

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“I write in terror. I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence, sometimes every syllable.” –Cynthia Ozick

“Don’t simply tell me that faith saves you, tell me how it almost failed you, too. Don’t tell me about love, speak of your passion. Don’t tell me you’re hurt, let me see your heart breaking. I don’t want to see your talent on the page, I want to see your blood.

“Dare to be naked before your readers. Because that is writing, and everything else is worthless crap.”

-Wisdom tapped from From Billy Coffey’s post Writing Naked

Perhaps, if you are blocked, you are not writing about what moves you, what terrifies you most. You are not afraid enough yet.

Write a few words about the scariest stuff, and then see how big your block is.

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Sick of being sick and a new kind of health

During my recent efforts to partner with God and see the sick healed, I’ve noticed a tragic pattern in my own life. Much like those I pray for, I’ve allowed sickness and poor health to inhabit my life.

In this, I made a painful discovery. Even if I pray for someone and they are healed, they have to stay well. And this right here is the biggest problem.

I can pray for stomach pain to leave, and it probably will, but then, the person has to care for their body in such a way that stomach pain is not a regular occurrence.

I’ve prayed for migraines that have been instantly cured. Awesome! But with poor diet, the person could potentially get another one the next day.

I’m not saying God isn’t powerful enough to cure a person of an illness completely. Obviously we know of people who are healed of cancer and tumors, never to return again; or broken bones completely restored like new. Incredible stories.

But it’s the upkeep of the body that God doesn’t want us to neglect. He loves our body and he’s designed it heal itself. But our diet and lifestyles in the United States are not conducive to health.

Even though it’s considered a little “out there” in our medicine-saturated culture to pray for sick people, we need it as badly as any developing nation. We are what Dr. Lindsey Duncan calls “the walking wounded”, people living lives with extremely debilitating illnesses, and yet we change nothing. We just accept it.

We see our family members go through it, and we assume it’s normal. We put sickness on the calendar for age 50, or 60, like it’s inevitable, and we just wait for it. We never think it could be preventable.

I’ll admit. I’ve been having a great time seeing God heal people. It’s crazy stuff. I say a few words, and the person will often report a burning or heat or tingling in the body part we prayed for. Sometimes there’s no sensation. But often, there is healing. Pain = gone.

I pray for co-workers, friends, patients, even strangers. Not often do I pray for strangers, but I’m opening up to it. Anyway, I pray, ask, believe and God heals. And it is so fun to see people’s expressions on their face when they are shocked that their pain has left their body. What a moment! And the goal is to help them see God healed them. He loves the way he made their bodies, he loves health and he loves them.

Instant healing is a powerful testimony of God’s love and strength. 

But despite this, I would love it if we were healthy. What if I didn’t have to pray for people because they were already well? What if I just prayed for bug bites or sunburns or the occasional broken body part? That would be awesome. Instead, it’s all this wear and tear caused primarily by poor self-care.

And we act as if there are no options.

I’ve realized that being a healthy person requires healthy choices. It (often, not always) requires maturity. At least, that’s my story. I’ve not been mature enough to take care of myself well, and so I’ve been sick a lot.

But I realized I could choose health, and so I did. I read, I watch videos, I experiment with new foods, and I make the sacrifices of taking out “bad” foods and adding in “good” ones.

I’m not perfect. I still eat too much sugar and too many carbs. But I’m changing slowly, adding in the good, as a friend of mine counseled me to do. And it’s paying off.

In a couple days, I will feature more on this topic by Dr. Lindsey Duncan, the naturopath I referenced earlier. I found his TEDx talk quite enlightening and inspiring. I will give you some of the notes from the talk so you don’t have to watch, if you don’t want, but it’s worth your time if you’re in the pursuit of health.

You will also be seeing more from me on the topic of nutrition. Probably some recipes for food, or scrubs, or little health tips I’ve learned provide this cure or that. I’m in the discovery stage right now. Here are a few “crazy hippy” things I’ve been doing:

  • Experimenting with essential oils for a plethora of uses
  • Drinking twice the water I was drinking before (probably about 70-80 ounces a day)
  • Using grapeseed and coconut oil for everything from sunscreen to skin care to cooking
  • Pasteurizing raw goat’s milk from a local farm
  • Trying to include more fermented foods (kombucha, kefir) in my diet
  • Giving John probiotics in his milk
  • Using Stevia in a few different recipes 
  • Taking Colloidal Silver as a natural antibiotic,
  • Making my own bone broth soup, and
  • Figuring out how to add more whole, natural foods in place of processed carbs. 

I plan to share my recipes with you as I learn ones that work for us. But I don’t have too many yet. I’m still learning.

It’s hard. I’m not a planner or a hard worker by nature, to be honest. This all takes such intentionality. It certainly does not just happen. But the reward is noticeable, and it seems to be worth it. Maybe it’s not. And if it’s not, I will tell you. But I suspect it is, and I’m going to do the experiment.

So here’s to health and the experimenting toward wellness.

I’d love to hear about your miracle cures or holistic treatments you love. Share them below.

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand Cream Pie

This afternoon, my kitchen was a mess from lunch with friends, and I just left it that way. Now it’s dinner time, and I should be fixing something with protein in it, but instead I decided I wanted to make a banana cream pie.

I’m a terribly impractical cook.

But in my defense, today is the return of Arrested Development on Netflix, and all the pictures of AD parties are making me jealous. (Excellent defense, I know.) So when I felt the hankering for banana cream pie, I realized it was perfectly themed. (If you’re an Arrested Development fan, you know why. If not, you should watch the show to find out.)

Now I’ve never made a banana cream pie, but I know where to look – on the obscure health food website, of course. I have more coconut products around than the average Midwestern folk so I found a recipe and decided to make the most of the tropical flavoring and healthful qualities.

NOTE TO THE CULINARILY CAUTIOUS: Be assured that any recipe I post ranges from not-hard to so-easy-I-can-do-it-while-I’m eating-it.

So here’s my pretty-easy, almost-healthy version of an old favorite, affectionately nicknamed “There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand Cream Pie”, complete with snarky commentary in italics.

Graham Cracker Crust (from scratch). Or just buy one at the store. I would’ve done that, but I didn’t think of it when I was there earlier today, and again, I love immediate gratification so I was not about to go back.

  1. In a small saucepan or the microwave, melt 6 tablespoons of butter. (I used the microwave because I am about immediate gratification.)
  2. Place 8 graham crackers in a gallon-size plastic bag. Roll with a rolling pin until finely crushed. (Or until you are bored and it’s good enough.)
  3. Add 1/4 cup of sugar to the graham crackers and mix it all up. (I used organic sugar because I am from Oregon. And I am snobby.) 
  4. Pour crumb and sugar mix into a medium bowl.
  5. Add the melted butter and stir up good.
  6. Smoosh into a pie pan so that it looks like a pie crust. I don’t really know how to describe it better than that.
  7. I put mine in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. I have no idea if you’re supposed to do that, but I think I remember that being a part of previous pie recipe I’ve seen before.

Here’s what mine looked like. It was pretty so I took a picture:

pie crust

Banana Cream Pie, courtesy of Elana’s Pantry

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ¾ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup mashed (very ripe) bananas
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla stevia – I used organic sugar because I am snobby (see above) and because I still haven’t fallen in love with Stevia. I have it around, but I don’t use it much.)
  • 1 graham cracker crust (from above)
  • banana for garnish
  1. In a blender, combine coconut milk and coconut oil. (My blender got an attitude so I put the mix in a bowl and blended with my handheld mixer, which worked. I think.) 
  2. Blend in bananas and stevia (or sugar)
  3. Pour mixture into cooled pie crust
  4. Chill for 3 hours until firm (or get impatient and put it in the freezer and hope for the best)
  5. Garnish with bananas
  6. Serve

And here’s what it should look like, if you shoot stock photos for a living. 

Banana-Cream-Pie-1061

And here is mine, speed-cooling in the freezer, next to the teething rings and tator tots. I’m one classy lady. You might notice they don’t look alike, but I’m not on Pinterest so I pretty much have no stress or peer pressure in my life. So you can judge me, but I won’t be able to read it.

Unless you leave a comment. Meh.

pie2

Of Surrender

In order to surrender, you must want something very much. And then you must trust Someone else enough to let it go.

I’ve never found another way to surrender, to be free and light again. But I don’t often let myself want something very much.

It takes a risk to desire, to long. And it takes a risk to surrender, to trust.

But only the things which truly fill our hearts with longing, which incapacitate us with euphoric anticipation at their mere mention, only these are the things worth surrendering. 

Surrender is too great a risk and too vast a freedom to waste on a small, piddly want. It’s saved only for the deepest, highest yearnings.

We may hang on to the miserly wishes of a shrunken heart, the cranky lists of ways the world could be a bit more comfortable. But the grand, beautiful desires of a passionate soul must be flung headlong into the giant hands of a good God.

Only those great desires are worth this daring and defiant act of surrender. We may hang on to all the tiny, fading ones. We don’t really want them anyway.

 

I am crazy… …

I am crazy…

Because I believe one person makes a difference.

It makes a difference if they do their thing or not, whether they give who they are to the world.

How do I know? My husband is one person. I only have one of him.

My son is only one person. He makes a difference to me.

I will never forget the person who came up to me at the farmer’s market. I was six months pregnant in my long, grassy skirt. She told me I looked beautiful.

I will never forget that my dad always told me to be a writer. And it took me nearly 30 years to believe him. He was only one person.

I will never forget the total stranger on the plane in 2005 who told me God wants me to stop trying to control everything in my life, to relax a little. He was only one person.

I will never forget my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, who taught me the world is full of rare, delicate wonders and things to be amazed at.

See, only one person. In our lives for only a plane ride, a year or a lifetime. And yet making a difference, changing the course of a life. Incredible, isn’t it?

But if we believe we matter, we live differently. We live on purpose. We look out for others. Look for opportunities to lift their trajectory.

Believe you matter. Even though you’re only one person. Because that’s all it takes.