A Perfect Moment: {STOP}

This week.

So many things clamoring. So much demanding attention.

I don’t know about you, but my personal life is a roller coaster.

Surgery in January. A close death in our family. Homeschooling three kids. Graduating a senior.

Just doing dishes has been a challenge. I’ve been sleeping under a pile of waiting-to-be-folded laundry at the end of my bed for a week. It’s kind of like another blanket.

The last couple of months were a blur as life and errands and kids and tasks and grief and joy rushed by.

And then, one night this week, it rained.

Like, really rained.

The sky poured. Pounded on the roof and on my windows, the most comforting sound.

I put on new flannel pajamas. I picked up a mystery that I had waiting by my bed and climbed under the covers. And the laundry.

The dark and the rain and the novel and the blankets wrapped me up in a beautiful pause. I needed this.

I heard little feet and looked up.

My youngest stood next to the bed in her pajamas, holding a teddy bear and a worn copy of The Secret Garden.

She looked at me with big green eyes as the thunder rolled.

“You want to join me?” I asked her.

She smiled a little sheepish smile. And jumped on the bed.

We pulled up the down comforter and read in the lamplight.

A few minutes later, my husband came in. He lay down next to us and put on his glasses and started reading the news and checking the weather.

It was a perfect family moment. I smiled and read on.  My mystery turned a corner. I shivered.

And then my head jerked up.

I looked over at my husband, sleepy and checking on all the things.

I looked at my daughter, head on my shoulder, teddy held tight, book in hand.

I looked out the window, the dark night, the rain drizzling down the glass.

And I looked around my room.

I felt solid and slow and electrified and aware all at once, like time folded in on itself and expanded simultaneously, the two ends of time swelling out and meeting like a ribbon or an ocean wave, right on top of me in my bed.

That’s the best I can do to explain it.

Arrested in a moment. Time stopping, but speeding up, and you have to grab it to make it count.

Once, when my oldest daughter was a toddler, I sat in the floor with her in our living room, playing with a puzzle. I was like most young parents, I think, in that I wanted to play with her, but I had a list running through my mind of all the other things that needed to be done. Clean the bathroom. Make some phone calls. Go to the store. Start supper. And laundry. Always laundry.

I loved watching the careful way she picked up the pieces, how she tried to put them in place with fingers that didn’t quite know how to do what she wanted.

I loved the way her hair curled over her round pink cheeks and the serious expression on her baby face. Intelligence incubating in sweetness. Pure vulnerability trusting me to teach her independence, the paradox of parenting. Precious, perishable time.

But the to-do list. It nagged at me. My own need for busyness. I felt restless, but I hadn’t yet let myself run away.

Lily looked at me, frowning, and held out a piece of the puzzle.

I reached out to take it, and over her shoulder, I saw the stop sign on the corner outside my window.

And that thing, that Minkowski spacetime thing, it happened again.

Time stood still, and yet I could feel it racing on, straining against the clock. Everything froze and blurred except the sign, and it grew larger and clearer and threatened to outshine the sun.

Huge and clear in white letters on a bright red field in front of my eyes.

STOP.

And I felt a buzzing like a light shock from an old refrigerator, and yet, also, a first-waking morning drowsiness. An awareness, and yet a stillness.

And I looked at her. And back at the sign.

And I stopped. And I told myself–it can wait. All the nagging to-dos. They could wait.

And I looked at at my daughter as through a frozen glass, she so clear, and misted white light all around her.

It’s a snapshot in my mind.

Like the other night.

The rain and the books and the dark windows and warm blankets and my husband and my daughter.

A perfect moment.

{STOP}

Stop and seize the time.

If you haven’t done it in a while, do it now.

Stop. Really stop. Lay down your phone. Put down the coffee and the stuff in your hands. Take a breath. Feel your feet, they are cold, or they are warm, in socks or shoes or bare on the floor. Be aware of your shoulders, your forehead, your scalp, all the parts of you that get forgotten in all the hustle of all the days.

Who is in front of you? Look. See. They are there for a reason, a divine appointment.

God, what would you have me do? What do they need? He is beautiful. She is beautiful.

Be grateful.

Thank you, God. For my feet. For my hands. For this moment. For the sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, that let me know that I am alive, stirred, charged, tingling, electric.

{STOP}

***

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto! Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh, yes! God takes pleasure in your pleasures. Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift–it’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it, for there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed. Ecc 9:7-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer for Loss

We had a death in our family this week. Today I’m praying for those who have suffered loss. <3

Father,

I lift up my friends who are hurting. I lift up anyone who has lost a loved one or feels any form of loss.

Thank You that You are a comforter and You are always there, no matter how we feel, no matter the circumstances.

God, I ask for Your touch on Your children, Your presence near enough to be felt. I ask for healing for all family members, friends, and loved ones who feel left behind, for those who feel shocked by suddenness or drained by a long battle, for those who feel betrayed and abandoned and robbed by death–Lord, bring comfort. Bring peace. Bring a light into the fog of grief.

Father, for those who are watching loved ones in the last stages of life, I ask for chances to say things that have been left unsaid until now. I ask for healing in relationships. I ask for salvation. We command pain to go, in Jesus’ name. Peace, peace, peace come in to spirits, souls, and bodies.

I ask that You walk each one through their own unique experience with grief. Whatever needs to happen, however they need to do it, Lord, help Your children through the shadow.

I ask for healing tears for Your time, and then for tears to end and life to go on in a way that honors our loved ones. Help us know and discern the rightness of the times and to press in to each time as it comes.

I pray for supernatural grace and stability when the whole world seems to be shaking.

I pray that old vices stay out of our way. We will not turn to any idol during this season. We will only turn our faces to You. Help us to keep our eyes on You. And if we stumble, God, thank You that You never leave us or forsake us. You are there to help us back on our feet again, always, and no matter what we have done.

I pray for healing. For forgiveness. For release. For peace in every way. For help in the practical things of life that go on oblivious of our sadness. For Your love to envelop and cover all. For tender mercies through tragic times.

We love You, Lord.

Thank You that You take us just as we are. Just as I am.

We lay it all at Your feet. All the regret and grief and loss. The new season that feels like so many things are missing. Lord, show us how to walk this out. Your grace is sufficient. Let us know the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

***

I keep hearing the old hymn this week, Just As I Am.

Thankful He takes us, always, whatever condition we are in, just as we are.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Crybully Epidemic: Hijacked Stories of the #MeToo Movement.

The crybully connection.

I didn’t see it when I first saw #metoo.

I read a few stories. I posted my own #metoo.

It didn’t feel like crybullying–a mess of pitiful tantrums intended to control others with emotional blackmail–no.

It didn’t feel like that.

It felt like a way to participate in a sisterhood. A way to encourage hurting women who felt devalued and attacked. A way to increase awareness of a social problem in our country.

When I was in high school and college, I dealt with some degree of assault several different times.

It was humiliating, and it was terrifying.

I posted my own #metoo.

 

I started waitressing when I was sixteen years old. The first guy that grabbed me was well over fifty. I had absolutely no grid for what was happening in front of the table that I was supposed to be serving, a table of two couples in their thirties. They all stared while he went through his routine. No one said anything. No one stood up for me.

I couldn’t look at my table after he left. I rushed through their table service. Two adult men and two adult women, and not one of them said anything to him or to me, as young as I was. It would have meant a lot if one of those women had said to me, “Me too.” Or if any one of those people would have said just about anything to make me feel like it wasn’t my fault, and I wasn’t being judged. That there were ways I could stand up for myself. That I was worth more than being grabbed by a certain type of man.

When I wrote my #metoo story, I didn’t even mention the waitressing grab. Several other things happened to me over the years, things that were much more serious. I wrote about those. They left me with horror, and with awareness. They left me a little bit cynical and resigned to things that happen to women when they encounter a certain type of man.

A certain type of man.

A couple of months later, the #metoo movement exploded into something unforeseen.

Not long after I posted my story, the Harvey Weinstein stories began to come out. Woman after woman in Hollywood had a story about Harvey.  These stories are awful. Harvey is a “certain type of man.”

A certain type of man.

 

But I watched more and more accusations being made in the media, and the tone suddenly changed. And I started to feel like my #metoo, and many others, had been hijacked and exploited.

A story I shared to encourage others felt like it changed into something else, like it had been snatched up and melded into a tiny part of a huge crybully epidemic.

I started to feel like my #metoo had been hijacked and exploited.

 

I heard accusations against more and more men, made with more and more degrees of uncertainty, and less and less hard evidence. These accusations include a recent one against comedian Ansiz Ansari. If you haven’t heard this #metoo, it’s basically a woman’s account of a really bad date and some unfortunate choices made by both people.

The essence of the woman’s accusation is that Ansari was insensitive. He didn’t order the kind of wine she liked at dinner. He failed to read her mind. But. She wasn’t being forced. She went to his house of her own will. She stayed there. She never said “No.”

When I was attacked, I said, “No.” In fact, I yelled it while I kicked the guy in the nuts.

It is important that people feel heard.

It’s tremendously important that victims of actual crimes see justice and get the help that they need. It’s tremendously important that women are healed.

It is important that people feel heard.

 

At the same time, the #metoo movement seemed to stir up something else.

There is something about the #metoo movement that conflates real abuse with waist grabbing. (One of the actual officially listed accusations against Senator Al Franken. He squeezed someone’s waist during a photo-op.)

This ambiguity is epitomized by the confusion around the emergence of the Aziz Ansari #metoo story. Anyone who says that Ansari doesn’t deserve to be accused of sexual assault is in turn at risk of being accused–by a certain group of so-called feminists–of perpetuating rape culture.

As though a bad date is the equivalent of an actual rape.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse. It devalues the real #metoo stories.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse.

 

And now, many women are coming forward in the media with more and more unverified accusations against men in the public eye. And these accusations have almost all been treated as complete truth, with one man after another getting fired or stepping down from their jobs, as the innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

There have been very few cases where hard evidence proves that every one of these men is, indeed, a certain type of man.

And even more accusations, particularly by actresses in Hollywood, against abusers that they refuse to name. Actresses, who not long ago, were seen schmoozing with the same perpetrator they gathered to malign, Harvey Weinstein. Actresses who are on record calling known child-molester Roman Polanski a “god.”

Bravery names names. It doesn’t lecture, and virtue-signal, and victim-compete without following through. 

The innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

 

The posture of Hollywood contrasts starkly with victims in the recent case of Larry Nassar where women came forward in a courtroom, rather than grandstanding for the media. They saw justice through to the legal fulfillment. They didn’t vaguely allude to abuse and then back down.

Women should have justice.

And.

Men should also have justice.

Lives should not be destroyed, just because they can, by false or unproven accusations.

In many cases, women in Hollywood have been unwilling victims of Harvey and others on the infamous casting couch.

Women should have justice. And. Men should also have justice.

 

The casting couch is sick. It is a disaster. It is a social ill that has been well-documented since the beginnings of Hollywood. And all of us have looked the other way. It’s a good thing to see it being addressed.

But we have to differentiate between rape and ugly consensual agreements between adults.

It is also true that many of these women participated in the casting-couch culture, not unwillingly, but willingly.

It is unfortunate that the casting couch exists. But, it is also something that an actor or actress can walk away from. The casting couch might stand between a person and a high-profile acting job, but it does not stand between a person and every acting job. And it does not stand between a person and a good life.

In many cases, participating in casting-couch culture has been a consensual agreement by all involved.

It is absurd for Hollywood women to lecture us and threaten men that “time’s up” when these same women willingly and knowingly participated in a system that trades sex for jobs. One of the women in the Harvey Weinstein case, when asked why she never came forward, told police, “Harvey said, ‘You’re ready to become a real actress now.’ It’s what you do. You keep silent.”

How many other women were victimized by Harvey after this rape because this woman waited years to speak up, because “silent” is what you do?

These are sad stories.

 

I have seen video of famous women talking about letting famous men into their hotel rooms, but, if they had known that a man was only going to end up a C-list celebrity, they never would have let him in. I have read articles by actresses talking about the distress that they experienced as they did things in front of the camera that they didn’t want to do but did anyway because they didn’t want to lose a role.

These are sad stories.

These women are hurting. They need to know their true value. They need unconditional love and deep healing.

But cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

Many of these women, unlike actual sexual assault victims, were willing participants in a sick and perverted system.

If you did something you wish you hadn’t done, that is regret.

And as the saying goes, regret is not rape.

Cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

 

If you have violent stress symptoms in your body as you anticipate a sexual act that you are about to participate in by your choice without force, but you ignore those symptoms and go on and do that act as part of a job, there is a word for that. It is prostitution.

And if you do it in front of a camera, it is pornography.

Just because these women are famous, and have wealth, and some form of respect, that does not change the nature of what they are participating in, and honestly, what we are all participating in when we pay Hollywood to continue to entertain us at such a high price.

Regret is not rape.

 

I couldn’t help but think as I watched coverage of the last few awards shows, where were these powerful women when child star after child star came forward over the years with stories of pedophile abuse in Hollywood?

The recent documentary, An Open Secret, is well-researched and full of concrete evidence, including recorded confessions, against Hollywood pedophiles in high places. But the film was finally released for free on the internet after seeking and failing to find patrons and distributors for over two years.

Any one of a myriad of Hollywood women could have backed that film. What a statement of actual bravery that would have been.

Bravery does not crybully.

Bravery protects.

The feminist movement constantly accuses culture of infantilizing women.

Allowing women to participate in a known corrupt culture without asking them to also take responsibility for their conscious actions?

There is no worse form of infantilization.

Bravery protects.

 

There is an element of responsibility that mature adults take for themselves and their behavior, independent of others.

When we as women don’t take responsibility for ourselves and our choices, we keep ourselves from fully growing into our potential. And isn’t that really what feminism is all about? Isn’t that what God asks of us, to the best of our ability? Women, and men, actualized and activated in their greatest possible forms?

When we don’t take responsibility for our own power, we risk creating a culture of fear around us. And we risk destroying what every woman who has gone before us worked for us to enjoy.

I don’t want women to be shut out by men professionally or socially because men are afraid of what could happen if some woman chooses to accuse them of any thing at any time.

I won’t be in a hurry to jump on a # bandwagon anytime in the future. I no longer trust the culture with my stories. I’ll tell them in my own way, my own time.

Below are some great quotes from an excellent article entitled “Meet the Women Worried About #metoo.” You can find it at spiked-online.com.

***

The novelist Kingsley Amis used to say: ‘Women are trouble – keep them out of all institutions.’ He was a misogynist, but such notions will revive if women portray themselves as so fragile that they can’t deal with the small change of everyday life with robust common sense. ~Mary Kenny

 

Girl Power is real. Instead of carrying on about how frightened and degraded we are, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the truth: In 2017, we can destroy almost any man by a single accusation.

With power comes responsibilities. As Wesley Yang said, in the best article yet on the #MeToo frenzy: ‘Feminists should remember something they know well from their own experiences with men:  Nobody is so dangerous, to themselves and others, as a person or collectivity that wields power without acknowledging it.’  ~Christina Hoff Summers

 

The #MeToo campaign is very worrying and will achieve the opposite of what it pretends to want. The hashtag claims to be about empowering women to speak out when actually it is turning women into perpetual victims.

Women who put up with sexual harassment and keep quiet about it for years, protecting the perpetrators, are hailed as heroines and strong, powerful feminists. Yet, bizarrely, women who speak out and deal with sexual harassment forcefully at the time, and then happily move on with their lives as I and millions of other women have done over the years, are derided as ‘victim-blamers’ or even ‘rape apologists’. It’s almost as if a woman is only ‘the right kind of woman’ if she is willing to play the victim. ~Julia Hartley-Brewer

 

My greatest concern is that the #MeToo phenomenon creates a toxic narrative that casts every male as a potential predator and every female as a perpetual victim. This can be enormously damaging for women, particularly young girls who, despite having every advantage and legal protection in the West, grow up believing they face enormous, perhaps insurmountable, barriers. . . .Meanwhile, modern feminism all but ignores the plight of the most oppressed women around the world who are subjugated from the cradle to the grave. ~Rita Panahi

Intimidation. It’s So Intimidating. Or is it?

Intimidation.

We all struggle with intimidation at times, but for some reason, I’m hearing this word more than usual.

“She intimidates me. I am so intimidated around her. He is so intimidating.”

Bullies exist, this is true. And they use all kinds of tactics. Screaming, shouting, lying, gaslighting, threats of all kinds, physical violence, and more.

I’ve been around bullies all my life. When I was young, they did scare me. And I usually did whatever they pressured me to do.

But as I got older, rather than just feeling fearful and going along with the pressure, I gained some awareness of the pattern.

My response to bullying didn’t change right away, but as soon as I realized the way that bullies operate, and I realized the way I reacted, I felt annoyed. And angry with the bullies.  And disappointed with myself.

Every time I let them get away with it, I got weaker. But in another sense, I got stronger too. Like pressure building inside a canister, each incident pushed itself on the one before, and I grew up a little.

I had to make a choice.

Was I going to continue to be passive?

I saw passive-aggression emerging in me, and I didn’t like it. Passivity creates underlying resentment. Passivity also creates a false dichotomy of equating any strong person with every bully. Underlying resentment seethes and waits for opportunities to get back at bullies in sneaky ways, and passive-aggression is born.

Was I going to continue to be passive?

 

In my experience, passive-aggressive people are drawn to true strength for two reasons. One, they lack true strength and want to draw on someone else’s, and, two, they are looking for a safe place to take out their resentment on actual bullies. I did this at times, and I’ve watched other people do it.

The pattern is a vicious cycle. By entering into relationship with true strength and abusing it, the passive-aggressive person never deals with their underlying fear, they only settle for the appearance of courage.

And in the process, they destroy their relationships with healthy people who could help them most and love them best.

As I faced my passive-aggressive tendencies, I prayed for ways to grow in true strength.

I love the verse that says, “Where you are weak, He is strong in you.”

Whenever I felt bullied or dominated by someone who had sniffed out my weakness, I whispered that verse to myself.

Where you are weak, He is strong in you.

 

And over time, I saw myself responding in new ways.

A sentence would pop out of my mouth that I had no idea I was about to say. I heard myself saying “No” a lot more. I gave myself permission to do things like rest, to stay home from parties and holiday celebrations, to protect time at home with my family, to be very particular about the people who were allowed in my closest circles in my most vulnerable times.

People will take everything you have if you let them.

And they often don’t even know they are doing it. True strength sets boundaries so that secret resentment doesn’t grow and lash out at some random time. True strength respects boundaries for the same reason.

We have to help each other take care of ourselves.

True strength sets boundaries. And true strength respects boundaries.

 

Passive-aggression does the opposite. It does not respect boundaries or personal limits, it makes demands on them. And in this way, many people who were bullied become bullies, pressuring and manipulating strong people, just to see if they can, to make themselves feel strong.

Crybullies are born this way, people who use their pain and weakness to pressure others to cave to their every whim, emotion, and feeling.

It doesn’t matter if someone is screaming at you or crying at you to get their way, or if you use these tactics to get your way with someone else–bullying is bullying.

And intimidation is intimidation.

Or is it?

You can’t control what bullies do. But you can control your own behavior and your response to their demands and pressure.

Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word intimidate:

Intimidate:  To make timid or fearful. To frighten. To compel or deter as if by threats.

I take a little issue with this definition.

Intimidation is not an automatic guarantee that someone is creating a feeling of fear. No.

Intimidation is an attempt to create a feeling of fear.

Early on in my journey I heard a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I didn’t exactly understand it when I first heard it, and I am still growing in this, but I’m getting there.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Knowing who we are in Christ is paramount. When you understand who God is, the King of the Universe, Maker of All Things, the Ultimate Good, and you know what He calls you?

Fully absorbing the identity God has for you changes everything.

He calls you beautiful. He calls you fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls you kings and priests. He calls you His. And when you are weak, He is strong in you.

Identity is first.

Fully absorbing the identity God has for you changes everything.

 

Actions are born out of identity.

Passive-aggressive behavior and bullying behavior are born out of an identity that says, “All life is a power struggle, and I’m afraid I’m going to fail, so I am going to take power for myself any way I can get it.”

But true strength is born out of an identity that says, “God is strong. I am His. Where I am weak, He is strong in me.” True strength doesn’t pretend to not have weaknesses, but it lets the goodness of God trump the temptation to enter into power struggles with bullies. It refuses to allow their words and actions to speak more loudly into our lives than the power of God.

I see myself changing. I see myself speaking up where I once was silent. I see myself standing up for those who are weaker than I am now. I see changes in myself that I could never have brought about on my own. I’m so thankful for the gentle invitation of God to constantly seek a better way.

His ways are higher, and they work.

Don’t let someone intimidate you.

If you hear yourself saying, “That person intimidates me,” take it back. Quick.

If a person is truly a bully, ask God how to handle it. Don’t give in to things that are wrong out of fear.

If a person is simply strong, and, in comparison, you feel weak, don’t falsely accuse them of being a bully and then distance yourself with passive-aggressive behavior. Draw near to them, and share your struggle. Ask them how they grew in strength. Most people aren’t just born strong. Like muscles, emotional strength is gained with effort over time.

Every time you resist intimidation, you get stronger. Every time you resist withdrawing and criticizing someone strong because you feel weak, you get stronger. Every time you choose action over passive-aggression, you get stronger.

We have a choice on how we respond to the stuff that people throw at us. Resisting intimidation, real or imagined, makes us stronger every time.

***

Father, I ask you to heal us from the places inside us that say “yes” to intimidation. Heal us from the places in our hearts that have been wounded by bullies and are stuck in an old pattern. Help us to value true strength in relationships. To not abuse it, and to grow in strength in ourselves. Remind us of Your strength in us wherever we feel weak. Grow us in the ability to stand up for what is right, to resist intimidation in every form. Make us stronger. In Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Confiding, Confidants, and Confidence.

Confidence.

A thing to nurture.

I think it’s interesting that the words “confide” and “confidant,” share a root with the word “confidence.”

Ever notice how the person you allow to be your confidant, the one in whom you confide, how that person affects your level of confidence?

Some people know how to listen to our dreams and validate them and catch the vision. They know how to encourage, or infuse us with courage.

Confide. Confidant. Confidence.

 

Other people may be negative and condescending and dismissive, and we leave feeling like our dreams are dirty dish rags, worth nothing. And our confidence takes a nasty hit. These people are not our confidants.

I had a counselor one time who always said, “Protect the seed.”

What he meant by that was, “Be careful who you allow to be your confidant.”

Protect the seed.

 

Be careful who you tell your hopes and dreams to, especially in the “seed,” or beginning stages when dreams are more fragile. Be careful with whom you share your closely and tenderly held dreams, and who you allow to speak into your life.

I’ve heard T.D. Jakes say that most people have very few earthly confidants—friends who love you, who believe in you, who are for what you’re for, against what you’re against, and, quite simply for you in every way.

Don’t take your confidants for granted.

 

Even when you’re wrong, confidants see your best intentions. Even when you miss the mark, they cheer you on to get up and try again. Because. They believe you can succeed, and they enjoy your process in the meantime.

If you have two to three, or even one to two, confidants in your life, you are truly blessed. Don’t take them for granted. Nurture those friendships. And don’t confide in people who aren’t true confidants.

Of course, Jesus is the ultimate confidant. When I share secrets with Him, I write them down. Then I listen. And I get to add His vision to mine. He’s the best. And the same is true with Him. Investing in my relationship with Him every day makes it easier to go to Him on the days I’m in need of a confidant.

You may have friends or family members who are still good for you and loyal to you and love you but are simply not confidants in the area of your dreams.

Jesus is the ultimate confidant.

 

Maybe they worry that you are being too risky or that you will be hurt in some way. These people are also great blessings, and their response comes from a place of wanting to protect *you.* We need those people too, but they just aren’t always the people who know how to protect the seed.

So don’t hand them the seed. Do seek wise counsel, but don’t confide in people who don’t know how to hear you in those moments.

***

Confiding in people who are not your confidants will rob you of your confidence.

Nurturing relationships with and confiding in your confidants will increase your confidence.

Jesus is the best confidant.

You will know them by the fruit that their words and friendship bear in your heart.

Your dreams are worth protecting!!! Protect the seed!

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives. Prov 13:3a

One Simple Way to Stay in Joy

This post originated on Facebook as an encouragement for the holidays. I’m putting it here so it’s easier to find. We have challenging people in our lives year-round. Staying in joy!

You are an atmosphere changer. You change the quality of the air around you wherever you go.

But when you battle a heavy atmosphere, you may not always feel the change you are creating.

Sometimes the heaviness can feel more intense as you stand against it. It is not floating downstream, but swimming upstream that makes you feel the force of the current.

One time, I asked the Lord, “How do I keep my joy in the face of insults, anger, and competition? How do I show grace when I feel like arguing or defending myself? Or when I just feel like crying and giving up?”

I heard Him say, “Smile at me. Just look up, and smile at me. You love because of me, you’re doing this for me–smile at me!”

I want to be joyful and happy, but I seriously do not always feel like smiling at people. And they don’t always make it easy.

But just hearing Him say it made me smile, and I thought, “Ok, I’ll try it.”

There are studies about what happens when we smile, endorphins released, etc, but I had never thought about smiling at the Lord as a way to hold on to joy.

I had a dinner meeting with a group of people soon after that prayer. By the time we sat down to eat, I was already annoyed and battling insults and offense. I excused myself to ‘check on something,’ and as I stepped away, I gritted my teeth in a huge forced grin, and I looked up, and I started talking. “Here I am! I’m SMILING! See me SMILING?!? I’m smiling at You! I love You! I’m here for You! You make me smile! No one else has to make me smile because YOU MAKE ME SMILE!!!”

It was mad smiling, a little forced, but it made me laugh. It was truly a sacrifice of praise in that moment, but it was funny. It was something you would do with a best friend.

Just look up, and smile at me!

 

It reminded me that I wasn’t there alone. He was smiling back.

He gets how hard people can be. And He loves them too. And He and I, we are tag-teaming it. And He’s smiling and winking back at me, “You got this!!!”

I started sneaking off to get a dose of joy from my Father about every fifteen minutes. Just off to the side, wherever, and I would just look up and smile.

Truth? Those people didn’t act the best that day.

But, it’s actually a great memory for me. God shows Himself real when we let Him. I had a blast that day with my Daddy in Heaven, my best friend.

As we have parties and dinners and meetings and gatherings with people who may be hard to love, I pray we remember to SMILE at God! It plugs us in to the huge source of all joy.

And that joy, the  joy of the Lord, it makes us strong.

***

Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh 8:10b

 

Happy New Year, 2018!

2018! SO glad to see you! Where you been all my life?

Whew.

Don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to see a new year.

Last year was kind of a grind. Lots of good moments. Beautiful breakthroughs. Precious memories. But. Dang. Tough too. Looking forward to this year.

A fresh start.

I’m not making resolutions this year. I’m not against them. It’s simply too much work right now after a year that showed me just how much my resolutions do not mean.

This was the year I was going to become a body builder.

Instead, I was broken over and over.

Right now, I’m just taking a few deep breaths.

So much stretches out before us in a new year. Plans, appointments, schedules, events. We fill in the little boxes on our calendars, and we make our agenda.

At the same time, there is so much to come. So much on the way to our lives that can’t be scribbled into a little white box.

Happy New Year, 2018!

 

We make our plans, and God makes His.

I pray for all your new years and your fresh starts and for all your calendars. I bless all the days to come. I stand with you for your hopes and dreams. I pray that all the things that need to go are overwhelmed in a fresh wave of God’s love for you. I pray for new visions, new relationships, healing, blessing, provision, protection. I pray for a new sense of order in every area of your life. I pray for all the old things that have expired to fall away, and for them to be replaced with His best for you in every way.

2018.

Here we go.

***

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! 2 Cor 5:17

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Don’t Try to be Something You’re Not. What Does that Even Mean?

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

I heard adults say this phrase over and over throughout my childhood.

But it’s hard not to try to be something you’re not when you’re not even  sure what it is that you are.

Identity is a subject that is talked about all the time. In cultural circles, it is one of the hottest topics of our day.

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

 

A week ago, I was getting ready for church.

I used to try to have all the little details of my life perfect, especially when my family was going somewhere in public. My clothes laid out, the kids’ clothes laid out, my hair perfect, their hair perfect. Everyone’s nails clipped and filed, mine perfectly manicured. Coordinating hair bows, loose strings cut, sweaters lint-rolled till they shined. You get it.

Our culture tells us “Don’t be something you’re not, but, oh by the way, be perfect!” All at the same time. And we buy into it.

Because, what will happen if we don’t?

I make choices daily about how I use my time. Having all the little details perfect back then meant that I spent a lot of time on those details, shining shoes, ironing, micromanaging the kids on little things.

And we buy into it.

 

I still care about those things. I’m not saying that I have become a slob. In fact, I’ve learned how to work smarter and not harder in a lot of areas. “Lord, help me work smarter, not harder!” One of my favorite prayers. Everyday wisdom. Jesus. Oh, how we need it.

I still care about those things, but I don’t care about them nearly as much as I used to because I no longer take my identity from them. 

“Identity” was a word that used to infuriate me when I first came back to the church. The women in the weekly Bible study I attended said “identity” to each other, their eyes meeting, knowing looks, head nodding. Identity.  Girl. Mmmhmm. Like it was a world in a word. And it is. But their extreme confidence in something I did not understand frustrated me to the point of rage.

Lord, help me work smarter, not harder.

 

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

I wanted to know what they knew. I started to pray into this word. “Identity. Identity in Christ. What does that even mean, God? I want to know.”

I started to see what Jesus died for. What He wanted for us, for me. Redeemed. All the junk that I thought was a lost cause in me, all the areas of damage, all the areas of failure. He died so that I could have a different identity. I was not what I did. I was what He did. I was what He died for.

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

 

It’s a walking out. What we know as identity will continue to grow as we grow closer to Him.

You become like the people you spend the most time with. I want to be more like Jesus. I’m spending more time with Him than I am on all the little details. And I’m spending more time trying to follow Him where I think He’s leading me. I do think He cares about the way we take care of ourselves, but those things can become idols. We can go overboard on anything if we don’t understand that identity comes from Him, His life, His death, His vision for us.

You become like the people you spend the most time with.

 

Our lives are not our own.

Instead of making lists that are set in stone and making everyone miserable as I try to check them off, I’m asking more questions. “How did You make me? What is on Your list for me today? What am I in You?” I’m able to walk out in more confidence when my to-do list comes from One so much bigger than I am, One who loves so well.

So. Back to getting ready for church.

I had gone to an event the night before and gotten home late. I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready for the morning before I went to bed. I know how I am when I don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority. The details have to come later. I chose rest.

And, again in the morning, I chose rest. I slept as long as I could, and I got up with about 45 minutes to get ready.

What is on Your list for me today?

 

I knew  I wasn’t going to be super dressy, no time for that. So I picked up a pair of jeans. Fine. Jeans are fine.

Then, I started going through my drawers. I felt a little stressed and rushed. I picked up a sweater that is pretty, but I don’t love it on me. I started going through the drawer again, looking for something that I felt better about wearing.

And I heard that old phrase, “Don’t try to be something that you’re not.”

And I felt offended.

“What, Lord? I’m not doing that. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy dressing up and putting different pieces together. I’m not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘trying to be something I’m not!’ What are you talking about?”

I am learning that when I am offended by the Holy Spirit, I like to throw a little fit. And then when I get it out, He’s still there, waiting. And then I say, “Ok. Fine. I don’t understand because I don’t think that I am that/do that/think that. But whatever. Please. Show me what you mean.” That’s just how it goes. Every time.

And He does.

I felt that He was saying, “Just stop a minute. Be honest with yourself about what you are right now.”

Please. Show me what you mean.

 

And I got it.

What I am right now. What I was, right then.

I was someone who chose sleep over details that day. I was someone who chose blogging over ironing that week. I was someone who chose time with my kids over shining shoes and cutting threads. I was someone who chose to put a party together for my friends instead of dying my hair.

I do all those self care things–again, I don’t want to sound like those things don’t matter. They do matter. I’m not all holier than thou. Trust me. I like my hair done.  I like when my boots are tall and my makeup is on point. It’s just that, the reality of what I was in that moment was not someone who had made those things a priority. I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to make up for a week of putting other things first by tearing through a drawer trying to find the perfect sweater. I wasn’t going to be able to get ready for church and be on time by trying to be something I wasn’t.

I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes.

 

I felt relief. Permission to move forward. Perfect is just not going to happen today. Maybe never. I put on the less-than-perfect sweater. I didn’t even try to fix my hair. I brushed it and put on a hat. I grabbed the first jewelry I saw. I did simple makeup. I have no idea what the kids wore, but they got themselves ready for church on time with no prodding. To me, that’s success. Two teens and a tween in the van, on their own, on time, with no pushing from mom. Thank You, Lord.

It’s a journey, this identity thing. But one thing I know. I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am. Rushed? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? I don’t have to wallow in it, but I don’t need to be in denial about it either, in the name of perfectionism, or optimism.

Or even in the name of faith.

I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am.

 

Real faith doesn’t have to lie about circumstances. Real faith is honest about the mess and brings it to God and says, “Ok, God. It’s Your mess. Now what?”

And here’s the funny thing. I got so many compliments that morning on my jewelry, on my hat. I had to take a picture. Not because I think I look like a rock star, but because I know how I felt, and He showed me that He can still put us together in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our less-than-perfect. He can help us work smarter not harder. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

He will work it out.

And someone will just love your hat.

If they only knew.

Less than perfect. And I’m showing you my messy kitchen too. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Lol! <3

***

What are you, right now? What do you need to be honest about, and just let God have it? Frustrated? Disappointed? Rushed? Lord, we give it to you. Show us how to walk this out without trying to force something that is never going to happen. Show us how to stop trying to be something we are not and just rest in You.

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

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20

Don’t Go Nuts! Three Ways to Crack the Christmas Crazies.

Christmas Crazies, anyone?

If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.

At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.

No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.

Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.

Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies

 

1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God. Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?

He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.

Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.

 What would Jesus do?

 

Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you are the source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.

The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a

This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9

I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6

2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds.  Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.

To change a life, change the thoughts.

 

To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.

Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10

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. Jer29:11

Be prepared.

 

3) Fuel your body by choosing health. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Comfort-eating and drinking or other self-medicating behaviors feel good in the moment, but we pay later. Poverty always focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.

Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

 

So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and  take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.

Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.

This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.

***

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2

Lands Sakes. You Are Not Alone.

Lands sakes.

I don’t even know what that means. I just felt like saying it.

I’m a southerner. We talk like that. Especially when we don’t know what else to say.

I have found myself not knowing what to say a lot this year.

If you follow this blog, you know I had a bike wreck in the spring and hurt my leg. Bad. Sprained every ligament and tendon. Tore my ACL. Broke my leg.

Lands sakes.

When I finally got out of the wheelchair and off crutches, I started to see my way back to a normal life.

It was good.

But suddenly, just as I started walking again without a brace, I had gallbladder problems. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say this:  It was not good.

But I prayed, and I got insight on what to do. I drank half a lemon squeezed in warm water every day. Almost all symptoms gone the first time I tried it.

It was good.

Then. as soon as that passed, I got a wart.

In the middle of my face.

Not kidding.

Not good.

But, again, I prayed, and I got insight. Oregano oil, morning and night. It disappeared within a couple of weeks.

Good.

Ha.

Winning. I can fight these battles. I have God and natural medicine on my side. What can stop me? Whom shall I fear?

And then.

Yes.

Then.

In October, I took my kids to California on vacation, a trip we had  put off for months while I recovered from my knee injury.

We drove for three days. We had big plans to see good friends, the beach, Hollywood, Disneyland.

What can stop me? Whom shall I fear?

On our second day there, my son climbed up on an eight-foot  platform at a church we were visiting. You know. Like you do.

He yelled, “Look, Mom!”

I looked up, and I saw him. And I thought to myself, “Oh. What a terrible idea.”

But I was too far away to yell back. I hurried to get closer so I could tell him to get the heck off that thing.

I watched him edge further and further out on the platform. I watched the back of his shoe catch, ironically, on the safety rail.

And I watched him fall.

Bam. Hands first. On concrete.

Lands sakes.

It’s a thing that takes your breath away to see, your child suspended in air and  plummeting toward the earth.

He looked stunned as he lay there, so still, and my first prayer was that the kid would just raise up his head. Jesus. Let me see him raise his head.

And he did.

I still was too far away from him. But. Raising his head. That is good.

Then I saw him raise his right arm.

Oh, he’s fine. He’s ok.

But.

Wait.

You know how your arm is supposed to bend at certain specific places? Like joints?

He raised his arm, and even from where I was, I could see it bend in the wrong place. Not at the wrist, but about two inches behind it. Ew. Not good at all.

At the hospital later I asked him, “Son. What were you doing on that platform? When you said, ‘Look, Mom,’ what were you going to do?”

In a cloud of shock and morphine, he turned his head toward me, eyes glazed over as he pondered the question.

“When I said ‘Look, Mom’?”

“Look, Mom!”

“Yes. When you said, ‘Look, Mom.’ What were you going to do?”

“Oh, that. . . I was going to do a Batman trick.”

Oh, wonderful.

Well. Thank you, Batman.

We were in the emergency room all night, and doctors’ offices all over Southern California for the next three days. They thought he needed pins in his wrists. One was a clean break, but the other was shattered. He went into surgery to get them set, to get pins to hold his bones together.

My friend Chana and I sat in the waiting room and declared for an hour, “He will not need pins. No pins. No pins.”

He came out of surgery. No pins.

Even in the midst of it all, God’s hand.

It was good.

Then.

On the way home, traveling through Arizona, I got a phone call.

It was my sister. She kept my cat while I was in California. “I’m so, so sorry,” she said, “I hate to tell you this after everything that has happened. But. Hazel is hurt. She broke her leg. The vet is about to call you. So sorry.”

What and how.

A cat with a broken leg. I never even heard of a cat with a broken leg, and my dad is a veterinarian.

Lands sakes.

The vet called. “Hello, ma’am. Here are your cat’s treatment options. We can do surgery on your cat (thousands of dollars). We can do a splint on her leg. Or we can amputate.”

Oh my God.

I stood there. On my own just broken leg, watching my son try to handle his luggage with casts on both arms, imagining the two of us going home to a three-legged cat.

Thank you, Batman.

“Ma’am? Are you there?”

Not sure.

“Um. Uh. Yes. I’m here. What do you recommend?” I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to have this conversation. My poor kitty. My poor son. My leg. Lands sakes.

“Oh, well. It’s up to you, but I think the splint should be fine.”

Just a word to you vets. If you think the splint is fine, then let’s just go with that. Please. We simple folk never need to hear the word “amputate” never again. Just, no. Not ever.

 

 

We made it home.

Then.

Yes.

Then.

About three weeks after we got home, cat, casts, and all, we went to a fall celebration at a friend’s house. A lovely gathering of many families. Kids everywhere, a chili cook-off.

And a bouncy house.

Which my oldest daughter decided to race through at top speed. Backwards.

She took a flying leap, and her ankle bent all wonky, and she somehow landed on the top of her foot instead of the bottom.

It swelled up like a pregnant pig in about five minutes. And, yes. She is still on crutches.

Ummmm.

Lands sakes.

When it all started, I declared that this season would not break me. I do not bow to circumstance.

But circumstances didn’t quit. They just kept piling on.

And somewhere in there, I got ticked.

And I got distracted. Like a tightrope walker or a man of faith, I forgot to keep my eyes up. I looked down. No net. Big waves.

I forgot to keep my eyes up.

 

And I got resentful. I got depressed. And I sunk.

If I have any regrets from this year, even more than a difficult injury that I’m still dealing with, it is how little I laughed through it. How much I cried and felt sorry for myself.

I know we technically have a right to feel a certain way. But I just don’t want to. I want to be deeper than that.

And really. It is kind of funny. Leg, arms, cat, foot. Ridiculous. At some point you have to laugh.

Besides laughter, I have one huge takeaway from all of it.

I kept praying even though I didn’t feel like it. And when I prayed, I heard this, over and over:  You are not alone.

Whatever you go through, you don’t go through it alone.

Sometimes I am perplexed at the way God answers prayer. It’s clear that He’s present and providing for us. But I know what I want. I want my miracle. And I want it now.

And He could do it that way.

But I keep seeing Shadrach. Meshchach. And Abednego. Or as my kids call them, “Radio Shack, My Shack, and A Beanie Go.”

And the fourth man in the fire.

You are not alone.

I kept seeing this story play out in my mind.

You may know it. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, had built a giant golden idol and given the people these instructions:  When the statue is unveiled and you hear the music play, you must fall down and worship it, or be thrown into the fiery furnace.

So, the music played and the people fell down. Worshipipng, I guess. Or just passing time on the ground until the king was satisfied. Either way, there were a few men who did not comply. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were worshippers of the living God. They did not worship idols.

The king’s men reported them. And the king was furious. He was so angry, he told his fire-builders to make the furnace seven times hotter than before. The fire was so hot that the king’s henchmen died as they threw the men into the fire.

They did not worship idols.

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not die. They did not burn.

The king looked at the furnace and saw the men walking around inside. And he saw another man, a fourth man, and he said, “he looks like a son of the Gods.”

The king called for the men to come out of the fire. They were not burned. Not a hair on their heads or a thread on their robes was harmed.

And they didnt even smell like smoke.

The king was amazed. He declared his faith in their God and commanded his kingdom to follow God. He promoted Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego to higher positions in his kingdom.

They didnt even smell like smoke.

 

It was a miracle, but it didn’t have to go down like that. God could have saved these guys another way.

He could have whispered a new direction, and Nebuchadnezzar could have spared the men the time in the fire.

But then, it would be a big nothing-story. It had to be just like this. It had to be dramatic. It had to be crazy. It had to be so obvious that it was God, or that day would have been like any other day. The king would have forgotten a still small voice, but who could forget four men walking around inside a fiery furnace?

You will walk through fire in this life. You will. It’s a promise. In this life, you will have trials.

You will walk through the fire, but you will not be burned, and you are not alone.

 

You will walk through the fire, but you will not be burned, and you are not alone.

 

And you never know who is watching, those people who will be encouraged and influenced and then influence others because of your faith, like Nebuchadnezzar watched the men in the fire, astounded, and then called for his people to worship the Living God. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s friend Daniel, who needed the memory of this day when he went into the lions’ den.

You never know who is watching you walk through fire and seeing that fourth man standing with you, who sees that you go through the same stuff they go through, but that you don’t go through it alone. Your fiery trials create a platform for The One who shines like a son of the gods, who shines brighter than the fire itself.

You never know who is watching you walk through fire and seeing that fourth man standing with you.

 

I know that I am not the only one who has had a crazy year. It’s been a year of trials for a lot of people.

Lands sakes. For others’ sakes. We can walk through this fire. We are  not alone.

***

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! Dan 3:26b-27

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh 1:9

Goodbye, Fear. Hello, Love.