Panic Attacks: One Way to Say “No.”

The other night I woke up with my heart racing.

No bad dreams.  No scary sounds.

Well.

Sometimes the ice maker sounds like footsteps.

But, not really.

I just woke up for no reason, feeling like I had three shots of espresso:  shaky, buzzing, and short of breath.  A classic panic attack.

Until that night, I hadn’t had a panic attack in years.

I used to have panic attacks about every other day.  Back then, I didn’t know what they were.  I thought I had heart problems.

I would get shaky and tense.  I was afraid, but I didn’t understand why.  I was washing dishes, working, walking, just doing daily life, nothing scary about it.

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A wise woman I knew asked me what my thoughts were like immediately before the panic attacks.

I had not been aware that I was thinking anything before the attacks,  but I started paying more attention.  I realized, as the panic attacks triggered, that I wasn’t always thinking only about washing dishes, or working, or walking, but that I also had a running storyline playing in my mind as I was doing these other things.

I had developed a bad habit of playing out all my motherly fears in my mind.  For example, if I was afraid of a child getting hit by a car, I would play it out in my mind like a movie to the bloody, bitter end.

And it had become such a bad habit, that I ruminated on negative  and terrifying things constantly without being aware that I was doing it.

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Yeah.  Awful.

So.  The next time I spoke with my friend, I told her that I was more aware of my thoughts.  And I realized that I was playing out all these horrible scenarios in my mind.

She said, “Yes, that’s what I wondered.  Those are fear fantasies.”

She said that most people don’t think of fantasies as being negative, but that we can still fantasize about fear.  She said we do it for two reasons.  1)  Because we want to see if we could handle a certain scenario.  We want to test ourselves, our inner strength, our coping ability.    And, 2) because we want to practice in our minds how we would handle something if it happened, like a tornado or fire drill in school.

But fear fantasies don’t really work that way.

Tornado drills and fire drills are helpful because they deal with situations that are likely to actually happen, and they finish by giving the participants a practical skill they could use if they did.

Fear fantasies are different because they dwell on extreme terror more than they focus on a resolution.  And they leave the mind in a fearful, hopeless state.

A state that can result in a panic attack.

Ten years ago, my last major panic attack took place in my laundry room.  At the time, a major court case regarding a violent criminal was playing out in the state where we lived.  I watched all the news coverage about that case, every day, for months.

As I stood in the laundry room, some of the details of the case came to me.  I thought of my two babies, in different rooms in the house, and it occurred to me that, if something bad happened in that moment, I could not protect them.

I felt so vulnerable.  And I started to panic.

So much so,  that before I knew it, I was bent over double, clutching the countertop and gasping for air.

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I felt like I could choke.  My heart was pounding.  I broke out in a sweat.  Sick all over.

I knew that I could say scripture out loud and that was supposed to help.  I thought, “the 23rd Psalm, the 23rd Psalm…”

But, even though I had known that scripture since I was a child, I couldn’t think of the words.

The blankness of my mind scared me even more.  And the panic increased.

My heart cried out, “JESUS.”

If I couldn’t think of scripture, I could just say, “Jesus.”

I said, “Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.”

Over.  And over.  And over.

And the panic left.

I could breathe.  I could think.

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I had always known there was power in that name.  There are songs about it.  But I had not seen it in my life until that day.

One way to say “No!” to panic attacks is to just say “Jesus.”

Of course, over time, I learned other ways.

Obviously, I had overloaded myself with scary news stories.  And I had a bad habit of indulging in fear fantasies.

I stopped watching so much news.  Honestly, you don’t need to watch the news every day to know what is happening in the world.  Events have a way of making themselves known.

I stopped allowing my thoughts to run away with me.  And one way I did that, when I realized my thinking was turning into a fear fantasy, I would say “Jesus.”  I would also immediately replace those thoughts, saying scriptures out loud, or saying things like “God’s got this, God’s got this!”  Out loud.

I learned to get my thoughts under control.

I learned to raise my voice in a positive, powerful way.

I did that again the other night.  I just said, “Jesus.”  And I asked Him to take the fear.  And He did.  I really don’t want it anymore.

***

This is an example of one way to deal with panic attacks.  It has worked for me repeatedly.  If you have panic attacks, you may need to seek counseling or a doctor’s help to deal with all the possible roots.  This page is in no way intended to provide diagnosis or prescriptions or take the place of professional care.

Once Upon a Time. The Most True Thing of All.

I don’t remember being afraid when I was very young.  Fear didn’t come until later.

I was not afraid of being alone.  I reveled in it.  Alone, I could be anything.  Act out any story.

Alone, I was Goldilocks in the forest, Hansel and Gretel beating the witch, Nancy Drew solving all the mysteries.

I was not afraid of climbing the tallest trees.  I held books in one hand and a pencil in my teeth and scrambled up to the highest branches, an elementary school lady pirate.

I nestled in and read for hours and wondered what it would be like to sleep there.  I would close my eyes and wedge my body into safety and drop anchor.

I rested there and soaked up all a tree could give.

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I was not afraid of riding my bike as far as I could go.  I pretended to be a Swiss Family Robinson boxcar child, and imagined where I would find my next meal, and how I could convince my teachers I had a home if I didn’t.

I told myself I would run away, even though I didn’t really want to leave.  I just wanted to know what it would feel like to fall down a rabbit hole or ride off into the sunset, to wake up in new worlds, to wake up and find new places in my heart.

I was not afraid of any animals.  I was Snow White, for heaven’s sake.  They would stop at my word.  I knew it.  I had bottle fed baby skunks. I had curled up like Mowgli with a giant Rottweiler as my sleeping mat.  I had ridden the biggest stallions in the barn.

They knew me.  And I knew them.

A photo by Thomas Lefebvre. unsplash.com/photos/aRXPJnXQ9lU

I was not afraid of the dark, or zombies, or ghosts.  If they approached me, I would say a prayer, and they would disappear in a vapor.  I was Persephone, even the dead would bow their knee to me.  I was born to be a queen.  I knew it.

And then.

Life happened.

It was not even the bad news of terrible things.  Kidnappers could kiss my cowgirl boots.  I would kick their teeth in.  My uncle showed me how.  I was ten.

No, not the news.  Not the big bad things in the world.  I was Red Riding Hood.  I knew all about wolves.

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But seeing real pain close to home, that did it.

Feeling the crush of poverty.  Watching my mother suffer.  Wondering if that was what life would really be for me instead of getting to live as Mrs.-Queen-Nancy-Velvet-Persephone-Hook.  I thought that I knew what was coming my way, I was part gypsy, I could feel it.

But then, I saw the hand of heartbreak, and it made me doubt.  It made me afraid of getting hurt, afraid of failing, afraid of falling, afraid of being poor, afraid of brilliance, afraid of love.

And the fear changed me.  It stole all the stories of what I thought I could be, what I thought I could have.

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I shrunk.

I got smaller inside.  My shoulders collapsed downward onto themselves.  My lungs held less air somehow, and my breaths were always shallow.  My heart had no room for its big pounding beats, it skipped fast to try to make up for all the lost things.  My hands got clammy, and I could no longer grip the high branches.  My hair got limp.

Fear did its best to squish the life out of me.  To squish the dreams and the stories and the promise out of me.

I panicked and panted over questions posed by adults, “what’s the right answer, what’s the right answer?”  And even if I knew that I knew it, I doubted and kept silent.

I walked for years in confusion. What was I doing?  Why had it all changed?

“There is more, there is more,”  I thought, and yet I was always falling short.

A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDo

It’s a self-defeating vicious cycle.  Fear of success means failing, fear of failing means no more trying.  No more effort means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator every day.

And that denominator leaves no room for fairy tales.

Identity.  Fear steals identity.  Fear steals the assumption, the confidence, that I am loved and made for majesty and adventure.

Fear snuffs out all the light in us.  It makes us certain that anything good we ever get will only be given to us out of pity.  That there is no way to get delight for ourselves, that there is not enough strength and power at our disposal to gain any ground.  Fear covers over passion, fear suffocates the security it takes to sample anything new, to look different, ever.

And in a world where we all look different, that can be excruciatingly painful.  Looking different is inescapable.

Knowing we are loved as we are by the King of All Things, it  changes everything.  It changed everything for me.   It turned back the pages of my story, of our story, to the fresh and sweet beginning.

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He is the God of Second Chances.  To infinity.  And beyond.

Knowing that we are more than enough for the Maker’s heart.  That He is not disgusted.  He is not disappointed.

He is not calculating any numbers when He looks at you, your I.Q., the cost of your house, your earning potential.  None of it.  He doesn’t look at you like that.

In the beginning.

A word spoken, flesh raised from the ground.  The one true and original magic.

All creation singing.  The rocks swelling and bellowing  like whales.

And you.  The crown of creation.

He chose you.  To be His crown.

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The seed of courage, the greatest story of all time, planted in you from the first day of the world, because you were formed in love, made in His image.

Whatever came close and tried to suffocate you and steal your story, whatever it was, whatever it is.  It is no match for love.  It is no match for knowing who you were made to be.

A fairy tale, sometimes, is the most true thing of all.

***

Once upon a time.

There was a kingdom.  

There was a prince.  

He saved you.  

For himself.  For adventure.

For life.

He stood over you, and he said,

“Live.”

The Day I Set the Lamb on Fire, or, How to Not Blow Up Your Propane Grill.

My little sisters are twins.

One year on their birthday, I had them over for dinner.

It was quite the affair.  I planned for weeks.  I made place cards and a centerpiece.  I scoured the internet and cookbooks for recipes and decided on a menu.

Pear and walnut salad.  Herbed mashed potatoes.  Challah bread.  Honey glazed green beans.  Fennel and leeks.  Baked brie.  Figs.  And for dessert,  raspberry brownie bites topped with white chocolate mousse, and served in tiny, homemade, chocolate cups.

And the main dish.  Lamb.  Beautiful tenderloins.  About thirty-five dollars’ worth.

I do not normally spend that much money on meat.  So, I am not used to cooking that kind of meat.  But it was my sisters’ birthday, and I wanted to go all out.

I found a recipe for grilled lamb, and my husband had just gotten a new propane grill.  I thought the smoky flavor would taste great with the lamb, so I decided to try it.

When the day came, I got up early.

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I said a short prayer.  I prayed that I would not be stressed or lash out at my kids.  That I would be peaceful and calm, no matter what happened.

I’m not sure I would pray that prayer ever again.  In hindsight, I think I should have just prayed that nothing stressful would happen.  But that was not what I asked for that day.  I’m learning.

Anyway.

First, I started ironing the linen table cloth and napkins.

However.  My ironing space was cramped.  I had squeezed the board between the table and a wall, and the iron cord caught on a chair.  The hot iron jerked out of my hand and hit the wood floor, hard, and bounced two or three times.

I didn’t want to look, but I had to grab the iron up quick.  It did not even leave a scratch on the floor.

And.  It had missed landing on my bare foot by about an inch.  I grabbed the iron.  I repeated my prayer.  Not getting stressed.

I kept going.

Next, I set the table.  I laid out the pad and the linens and my white wedding china.  I got out the crystal glasses.

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My son wanted to help and picked up two of them.  As I stood at the table arranging glasses and silverware, he walked across the kitchen to bring them to me.  And he dropped one.  I jumped.

Crystal shatters.  Like ice.

Tiny pieces of glass.

Everywhere.

I took one look, stepped out of the kitchen, breathed deep, and went back in.

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I cleaned it up.  I told the kids to put on their shoes, just in case.  I prayed again.  I kept going.

The raspberry sauce.  The white chocolate mousse.  The salad, chopped and tossed.

Finally, the meat, potatoes, green beans, and brownies had to be done at the end.  The last hour of cooking a meal is busy.

I put the lamb on the grill and came back inside to peel potatoes.  Two of my kids stationed themselves in chairs near the glass door to watch the grill.

A few minutes later, my youngest stood up and opened the door and stuck her head out.  I was peeling potatoes at the sink.

Paige looked at me and said, “Mommy, you might want to come look at this, there’s a fire.”

I said, “I know, I just started it, I’m cooking the lamb.”

She said, “No, Mommy, it’s a big fire.”

My son said, “Um.  Yeah.  It’s a really big fire, Mom.  You might want to come look.”

I was like good grief.  These kids always exaggerate.

Set my potatoes down and walked to the door.

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Smoke poured out of the grill to the ceiling, and flames were shooting out, maybe three feet on each side.

And I decided right there.  I was not going to let that day beat me.

I closed the door, walked back to the sink, and went back to peeling potatoes.

I needed to think.  I needed to stay calm.

Think think think.  What puts out a fire.

Kitchen fire.

Baking soda.

Yes.

Open cabinets.  Three boxes of baking soda.

Awesome.

I got this.

I took the baking soda to the porch.  I squared off at that grill.  My husband was not home.  I was the adult in charge.  I had to open the grill to put out the fire.

I knew that I could call 911, but I did not have time for this.  Dinner was in one hour.

I looked at the flames and thought, “I don’t think it’s going to do a wall-of-fire if I open it.  I really don’t think it’s going to explode.  It could, but I just think it’s not.”  I had an oven mitt.  I took the top handle of the grill and threw it open and jumped back.

The flames shot straight up, almost to the top of the vaulted ceiling over the porch, six and eight and twelve feet in the air.

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I threw baking soda on the base of the flames, all over the thirty-five dollars worth of lamb sitting on the grill rack.

The flames had gone down, but not completely, when I ran out of soda.

I turned off the grill heat, went back inside, closed the door, and went back to peeling potatoes.  Kids were screaming by now.

“Mom!  What are you doing??  Potatoes??  No!!  FIRE FIRE!!”

I’m like.

I know.  I have to think.

Think think.

No time for panic.  No time for fear.  Got to keep the kids safe.  I prayed over this day.  No fear.

Think.

What’s the next closest thing to baking soda?

Salt.

I am a homeschool mom.  I make play dough for a living.  I had buckets of salt.

I grabbed two brand new containers of salt and walked back out on the porch.  The flames were healthy and growing.

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I shook out all the salt.  The flames went out on one now completely black piece of lamb, and a few small flames still burned on the other piece.  I picked both pieces  up with the grill tongs and set them on a cookie sheet.  I turned the last burning piece over and over until the flames went totally out.  Stop, drop,  and roll.

I carried that cookie sheet full of charred lamb back into the house.  Company coming in 45 minutes.   What to do.  Think think.

No time to get more meat.  No going back.

I peeled back enough of the char that it looked like meat again and put it under the faucet, rinsing off as much of the soda and salt as I could.  And then I put them back on the cookie sheet and stuck them in the oven at 325 degrees.  If it was awful, I would have a funny story and order pizza.  Moving on.

Finished desserts, potatoes, salad.  Finished centerpiece and table settings and dishes.

Took out the lamb and cut it in slices to arrange on plate.  Held breath.  Tasted.

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Seriously??

It was amazing.

Ok. Don’t call it grilled lamb.  Call it blackened lamb.

Moving on.

Both of my sisters enjoy quality.  And one of them, Jane, has what I would call “very exacting taste.”  She worked in fine dining for a while in college.  She knows all the gourmet words for everything, and she has eaten some good lamb.  Like, really good.

When they came in, they commented on the delicious smell.  “You grilled for us?!?” They were so excited.

I’m like.  Oh.  You have no idea.

We sat down to eat, and I had to look away when they tried the lamb.  Felt like laughing.  Maybe time for pizza.

Then I heard Jane say, “Oh my word.  This is the best lamb I have ever tasted in my life.  It has this salty crust on it.  So good.”

Ah.

Sweet victory.

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***

Takeaways?  

One.  Lamb is a fatty cut of meat.  Lol.  Learned that the hard way.  Never walk away from lamb on the grill.  Two.  I am not a firefighter.  Most days.  But, some days I am.  And.  Three.  Saying no to fear makes all the difference.  The difference between being able to do something and not.  

I could have cowered down and called 911.  But, if I had, that fire would have grown and grown in the fifteen minutes it took for the fire department to arrive.  I’m not saying we should always “fight our own fires,” but in this case, I kept the grill from exploding and my house from burning down.  I would have been the same person either way.  But I would have lost the chance to learn something important about myself if I had let others come in and fight my battle for me because of fear.  

I’m really glad I have this day in my memory.  God used it to show me that He is with me and that He has put strength in me.  It’s something I draw on when I ask myself, “Can I handle this?”  Hashtag #lambonfire.  Oh.  Yes.  I can.  I pray He reminds you of these moments for yourself.  Hashtag #reminders. Yes.  You can.

And.  Four.  Next time, just pray for a good day.  No reason to complicate these things.  

I’m learning.

What memories do you draw strength from?  Even inspiration from other people you know or movies or books?  Story drives us in powerful ways.  Would love to hear your stories in the comments!!

Three More Things You Can Do to Fight Fear

Last week I shared three things you could do right away to fight fear.

This week I’m giving you three things that might take a little more time to accomplish, but they will go after the root of fear.

Three More Things You Can Do to Fight Fear

1)  Keep a Word Journal.

When my kids were little, I found myself angry all the time.  I knew it wasn’t the kids’ fault, but I also didn’t understand the anger.  I loved my kids.  I really wanted to be a good mom.  But I kept running into anger over little things.

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So, I found a good counselor to talk to about it, and he gave me one of the most helpful strategies I have ever used for fighting any destructive emotion or trait within myself.

He said, “Get a journal, and choose three scriptures that deal with anger, write them down, and read them out loud every day.

So I did that, and I did improve in the area of anger, but something else happened.

As I read the scriptures out loud every day, I could feel anxiety leaving my body.  I could feel my shoulders relax, my breathing change.  I noticed my mind stop racing.

I didn’t even know I was anxious.  I was so used to anxiety, it just felt normal to me, until I read the scripture, and it left.

It showed me that anger wasn’t the main problem, but that there was anxiety underneath the anger.

Anxiety is a low-lying, constant fear.

When I became aware of anxiety, I chose three verses that dealt with fear, and I added those to my daily reading.  I refused to even get out of bed until I read those verses and peace came in.  I would read them ten times if I had to, until I felt the anxiety leave and peace take its place.

You can do this in whatever way works for you.  In my journal, I wrote “anger” or “anxiety” or whatever the issue was on the left side of the page.  Then out to the right side of the word, I wrote three verses.  Then I left a blank page so I could add more verses or notes as time passed.

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My “Word Journal” looked something like this:

Anger:                 “In your anger do not sin.”  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  Ephesians 4:26-27

Simple, but so powerful.

I have had people ask me if this is focusing on negative things.  I think that it is more about being honest about the negative things that we are dealing with.  It is about facing them.  It is taking thoughts captive.  Most of the time, if you look up verses about an issue, there will be something positive there.  And you can absolutely do the same thing by reading scriptures about “joy” or “love.”

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Each one of us is a little different.  Read the verses that bring peace.  Pick three verses that deal with fear, and read them out loud every day for at least a week.  Give the verses you choose enough time to bring change.

The word journal naturally leads into number two.

2)  Know God.

Keep getting to know Him.  He’s real.  He loves you.  He is with you all the time.  You are never alone.  Fear is not from God.

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I know these things because I have studied scripture.  I’ve written it down, and read it out loud, and it has changed what I thought about who I am.

But it changed me because I learned about who He is.

No matter where you are on a faith journey, beginner or long time believer, this is something that never stops or gets stale or gets old.  It is too easy to forget who He is when we are confronted with the world every day.

If we keep running after who He is, we keep growing in who He made us to be.

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There is no deeper identity than the identity of God.  Sometimes it feels like finding out our own identity is more important or pressing, but that is a lie.

Our identity flows out of knowing who He is.

God did not send fear.  God sends love.  Therefore, our true identity is not that of a fearful coward, but that of a treasured son.  See how it works?  Who He is, tells me who I am.  And He is strong and good.

You can do the word journal on this too.  Look up scriptures on who God is.  Write them down.  Say them out loud.  Every day.

Joyce Meyer has another strategy of remembering this one.  Another super simple, super powerful strategy.

Say, “God loves me, and He is working in my life,” fifty times a day.

Perfect love beats fear.

3)  And the last strategy for today.  Order my friend’s book on Amazon for 99c.  Emotional Healing in Three Easy Steps, by Praying Medic.

Because of triggers, you may need to find a trusted friend to be with you as you read it.  This book will help you walk through the phases and roots of fear.  It will help you identify all kinds of emotional issues and get free.  Click link below to purchase for 99 cents.

https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Healing-3-Easy-Steps-ebook/dp/B015AMHQM2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472832371&sr=8-1&keywords=emotional+healing+in+3+easy+steps

God wants to heal you of fear and anything else that is holding you back.

These things may seem simple on the surface.  Most deeply effective spiritual practices do.  But they are powerful agents for change.  The challenge comes in actually doing them as a daily practice over time.  Praying for all of us as we practice.

***

Emotions are a product of our thought life.  Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.  John14:27

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Josh1:9

I sought the Lord, and He answered me.  He delivered me from all my fears.  Ps34:4

3 Things You Can Do Today to Fight Fear

Today, I’m giving you 3 strategies you can use immediately to fight fear in all areas of your life.

I’m a practical girl.

I can philosophize and get all prosy, but at the end of the day, give me practical anytime.

I believe that fear is at the root of nearly every battle we fight, if not every single one.  I battled fear all my life until I realized what I was up against.  I was trying to deal with secondary emotions, not always realizing that fear masquerades as other feelings.  And that disguise makes it harder for us to get at the source.

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For example, rejection could have a root fear of being left out, or not being good enough, not lovable.  Insecurity could have a  root fear of not measuring up, or fear of being worthless.  Rage could have a root fear of being weak or of losing position or control.

When it hit me that fear is at the root of so many struggles, I started to pay attention to the people around me and what they did to fight fear and stay in peace and joy.

I watched myself go through things and change, and I paid attention to what I did that worked and what didn’t.  Three of my favorite strategies are in the list below.

***

3 Things You Can Do Today to Fight Fear

  1. Start pumping in the positive messages.  Right now.  Whatever works.  Whoever.  And keep ’em coming.  Move against the fear, not with it.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, scripture, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows, etcetc.    This is a good time to keep the material at a PG-13 or less.  Lots of drama yields stress, which is just an everyday word for fear. Try different things until you feel encouraged. If you are aware of any level of fear in your life, begin to saturate your mind with positive messages.
  1. Repeat the positive messages you hear out loud.  The words we speak and focus on affect our brain development and our response to stress.  A current theory in the field of neuroscience holds that our brain function, and even DNA, can be changed by focusing on one simple positive word like “peace” or “love.”  Of course, the more positive words you hold on to for longer periods of time, the greater the positive effect on your brain, and therefore, your response to stress.  Just pick a quote from one of your positive messages above, or even a single word right now, like “peace.”  And start saying it over and over.  It does take time for a significant long-term change to occur in terms of neuroplasticity (the changeability of the brain), but most people I talk to feel relief almost immediately as they focus on positive messages with their speech. 
  1. Take 3 Deep Breaths.  & add some lavender.    Many people are familiar with the idea of deep breathing, but how often do you actually do it?  Right now, close your eyes, take a deep “belly breath” on a count of eight.  Hold it for a count of eight, and exhale, a controlled, slow breath for a count of eight.  Can’t do eight counts?  Start with a count of four and work up.  You can do this anywhere, anytime.  And your lungs will thank you!  Also, stop by the health food store or call your friends who know about oils.  Get some lavender sachets, lavender tea, lavender oil, whatever, and start enjoying the fragrance.  Research at the University of Maryland, among others, has confirmed that lavender has soothing effects.  (If you use essential oils, research safe practices and always dilute.)

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***

More lists to come, things that are more lifestyle changes or might require you to order a book or watch a video or develop habits.  But I wanted to start with things that you can do right now.  I still do all of these things if I find myself in a struggle.  I diffused lavender oil in my room the other night.  Best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.

What practical things do you do to fight fear?

***

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deut31:6

Prayer for those fighting fear:

Father, thank you that You never leave us.  Thank you for Your hand on us.  Today, I’m binding fear and praying that my friends will feel Love, stronger than any other thing.  Jesus, be more real than any circumstance, any anxiety or stress or insecurity or pride.  Or any other type of fear that comes to distract.  Fear cannot have our peace.  I pray for supernatural strength.  For encouragement.  For joy and laughter in the face of circumstances.  For ministering spirits to go out and bring comfort and reignite the feelings of passion and purpose that cause us to fight fear like we mean it, to rise up and move against the lies instead of letting them steamroll us and steal our destinies.  I pray for victory and breakthrough in every way today, in Jesus’ name.

Shoplifting, Lego Robots, and the Brené Brown TED Talk on Courage and Vulnerability. {WATCH}

One time, I shoplifted.

Actually twice.

Once, when I was twelve, I took a lollipop from the candy store.

I ate it, but it tasted like death.

The second time, I was 18.

I know.  My character should have been more developed by then.  It was not a proud moment.

I was with a friend when I saw a package of six tiny Christmas bows.  They were the size of a penny.  So shiny and cute.

Tons of kids shoplifted in high school, but I never went along with the crowd, until that day.

I don’t know why those little bows stole my heart.  When my friend saw how much I wanted them, she said, “just take them.  They will fit right up your sleeve.”

So I did.

I stole.  Christmas bows.  At Christmas.  To put on Christmas presents.  To celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

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I could never open them.  I did not know what to do with them.  I never knowingly took anything again that wasn’t mine.

I was reformed.

That package of Christmas bows sat in my Christmas box until after I had kids.  I finally gave them to Goodwill.

Confession is good for the soul.

And not just the person confessing.  Allowing each other the freedom to fail is a gift.  And accepting each other, failure and all.  And loving, in spite of it.

Fears of failure and of rejection break relationship.  Fear of being left out or misunderstood because of imperfections we can’t control, our body shape, our age, our family tree.  Fear of being unlovable because of screw ups and missed opportunities and bad decisions.

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These fears cause us to try to cover up and act like something we’re not.

And healthy relationships can’t be built on lies.

I don’t know why humanity still struggles with this.

Like we think anyone is perfect.  Like it’s a surprise that people make mistakes and don’t know everything.

It shocks me when my kids cry over something new they learned at school, and they can’t do it perfectly the first time.  Like, kids, seriously, it’s school.  The whole point is finding out how much you don’t know and learning how to do some of it, right?

But when their little egos confront their own ignorance, that bubble of thinking, “I’m the best Lego builder in the world!” gets busted. They discover that, not only can you build awesome Lego structures, but you can also mechanize them.

Lego robots.  A whole new level.  Dang.

And they have to do the hard work of focus and self discipline until they achieve some level of mastery.

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And then, when they conquer that thing, they are elated.

It’s a cycle.  That is repeated often.  And it makes me look at myself.

How often do I encounter my own weakness and suddenly hate my life?

Like it’s a surprise.  Like it’s never happened before.

Right.

There is a thing that well meaning people do sometimes when you confess a failure.  They will say, “Oh, you didn’t really steal.  Or, let’s reframe that.  You didn’t really fail/sin/screw up.  You are a great person.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  God loves you just the way you are.”

I love the heart of encouragement, but it seems to me that there is a hidden fear of failure in that kind of response.  Pushing back the idea of failure with both hands so that no one has to be embarrassed, or not know what to say, or see each other with eyes wide open.  Like when you walk in on someone in the toilet.  That one awful moment of being frozen with the door open and seeing that thing you can’t unsee.

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But, um, you know, people go to the bathroom.  Is it really that shocking?  And people screw up.  All the time.  Really good people.  Pretending we don’t and being afraid of admitting it makes for some seriously pointless conversation.

I love when I say, “Wow.  I did this thing.”

And the person next to me says, “Amen.  Thank You, Jesus.”  Or, “Oh.  Yeah.  Me too.”

Like they are happy for me when I see something I need to see.  Like they aren’t afraid of it.  Like they might even like me more, because I was willing to go there.

I appreciate that level of real.

It’s why I love Brené Brown.

I’m a huge fan.

Her viral TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” was one catalyst in my walk away from fear and shame.

It’s my favorite ever TED Talk.  The guy who plays eleventy million  pop songs on the ukulele is a close second.  And the lady who power poses like Wonder Woman in the bathroom.  If you don’t know yet, I love when people maximize time in the bathroom.  It’s just so efficient.  People go there.  Might as well admit it and use the time wisely.

This talk is funny, deep, honest, and life changing.  Seriously.  If you only ever watch one TED Talk, this is the one.  Click here for link.  Over 26 million views and counting today, for a reason.

Courage, shame, and vulnerability.  I’m praying for all of us to get that breakthrough.   

Courage, the original definition of courage..it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart.”   And the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. . . the courage to be imperfect.   

–Brené Brown

***

If you find yourself wanting more of Brene’s insight, her follow up talk, “Listening to Shame,” where she discusses dorm room break-ins, vulnerability hangovers, and the fear of shame, can be found by clicking here.  

Empathy is the antidote to shame. . .The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me, too.  

Brené Brown

Confess your faults to each other, and pray for each other, that you might be healed.  Jas5:16.

For Lupé, the Beautiful Dancer.

Last week I locked my keys in my car in Echo Park.

Echo Park is lovely now, but it was known for gang activity in the not too distant past.

Rush hour was easing, and the sun was setting.

My friend, Gloria, and I stood on the sidewalk and waited on the locksmith.

Gloria is a great person to be locked out of a car with in the middle of a city.  She just stood there laughing.

No stress.  No anxiety.  No worry.  No fear.

We were trying to visit the Aimee Semple McPherson Parsonage and Angelus Temple.  Everything was closed, so we couldn’t go in.  But we walked around and took a few pictures.  Fifteen minutes passed.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.

I looked at Gloria standing by my mini van in high heels on dirty concrete.  It was hot.  We were thirsty and tired.  And the crowd around us was changing as the sun went down.

I started singing.  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  It seemed appropriate standing outside that temple.  It seemed a declaration of a choice.  Also.  I once saw Jen Hatmaker sing it in a moment of exasperation, and it really made me laugh.

Gloria started singing with me, and we stood there on the sidewalk with people walking by all around, just singing.

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We made it through a couple of verses and then couldn’t remember the third.  Gloria said, “Oh, I’m so thirsty.  I wish we had some water.”

As she said it, a woman in a pink sports bra walked right up to us and said, “Do you work here?  I really need some water.”

It was so odd, like she almost repeated what Gloria had said.  And she came out of nowhere.

She appeared.

Her arms and chest were covered in scars and faded tattoos.  She was a beautiful woman, but older than she seemed at first.  The short top was a few sizes too small.  She was bursting out of it on every side.

“I tried to get a drink of water at the pharmacy.  They said they don’t serve hookers in there.”  She was indignant.  “I’m not a hooker.  I’m a dancer.”

We asked her name.  “Lupe,” she said.  We told her ours.

She talked on in frustration of how she had been treated all day.  As she walked through town because her car broke down.  She was going to sleep in it that night.  She had been to the temple before, and the people were nice, she said.  She thought they might give her water.  She was visiting from Vegas, looking for a better job.

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Gloria asked Lupe if she felt safe in her line of work.

“Oh.  Well.  No one’s ever tried to kill me, but they try to rape me in the parking lot when I leave.  I learned to change clothes before I go.  Now I just wear an old sweat suit, and it’s fine.”

“Wow,” we said.  And we just kept chatting.  Kids.  Shoes.  Lupe liked Gloria’s dress.

We were just three women talking.  She said she was thirsty and hot.  We were, too.  She said her feet hurt.  Ours did, too.

As we stood near the church, two other women and their children walked up and tried the door, and found it locked, like we had.

They had tourist maps in their hands.  The gold crosses around their necks shone nearly white.  They walked by us.

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Gloria and I are always friendly, we can’t even help it.  We spoke to the women.

They sped up walking.  They would hardly look at us.  I saw them staring hard at Lupe, and they almost covered their faces with their maps.  They mumbled something in reply to our greeting and walked quickly away.

Lupe just glanced at them and then back at us.  She seemed unfazed, but their behavior was so unnecessary.  It was weird.

We talked a little more with Lupe, but she wanted to walk in a public bathroom outside the temple.  We felt like we needed to wait with the car.  We told her we would give her money.  We wanted to pray with her.  She said she could use prayer.  We said to just meet us at the car when she came out.

She walked in the bathroom, and  we walked back to the car.  A few minutes passed, and we wondered if we should check on her.  We walked back to where we could see the bathroom door, and we saw two men walk in.

Gloria and I always find pennies.  They remind me of something Heidi Baker always says, “Stop for the one.”

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As we left Echo Park, Gloria bent down and picked up the filthiest penny I have ever seen from under a bus bench.  It looked like it had been wrapped in bubble gum and rolled in dog hair and dirt.  But, under it all was glowing copper, no doubt.  Still a penny.  Still forged with a purpose.  Still valuable.

I don’t know if Lupe had planned a meeting with those men or not, but she never came back to us.  We met some policemen later, near the time we finally got the car unlocked, but they didn’t seem worried about her.

I pray she is safe.  I pray she knows she is loved.  I pray she sometimes thinks of two women who enjoyed spending time with her outside of a church.  I pray she goes back there and tries again.  And the doors are open.  And she finds what she’s looking for.

What she’s really looking for.

I pray I get another chance.  To love well, to reach out, to go one step further in serving and in boldness.

And I pray for the women who passed us by.  As lovely and clean as those women were, they were the opposite of pretty, dressed in judgement.  Walking in fear.

We can always do better.  I pray they can try again, too.  That they get another chance to minister to a stranger.  That they find what they are looking for.

Really looking for.

***

God is love.

What Will You Do With Your One, Wild Life? {LISTEN}

In the last two years,

I moved from the midwest to Los Angeles County.

I put two children in the L.A. County Public School system.

I rode the Superman ride at Six Flags

and the Tower of Terror at Disneyland.

I defied gravity.

I cut my hair.

I watched my son suffer and beat death

while I prayed for miracles over his grey skin.

I have met celebrities and homeless men.

I have seen demons.

And I have heard them, too.

I fought disease in myself,

and the mind games that come with pain:

depression

desperation

defeat.

I have auditioned,

been in a commercial,

and sung on stage in front of hundreds of people.

I have driven to LAX

on the 405 in rush hour traffic,

and that, my friend, is no joke.

I jumped off the high jump at the local trampoline extravaganza.

It was only one story, but it was a lot for me.

I have done a thousand new things

and met a thousand new people.

I have worn my heart on my sleeve.

I have been passed over

and celebrated,

and both can be hard to handle.

I started a novel.

I turned 40.

I turned a corner.

I turned away from fear

and into myself.

And I wonder

what else is out there for me

for us

when we turn away from fear.

What can you do

to turn more and more

into

yourself?

For me,

I’m going to

see what else

I can cram in

to this

one

wild

life.

Inspiration song from Gungor.  What will you do with your one wild life?!?  

The Necklace.

I fail a little bit every day.  Sometimes a lot.  Sometimes in front of the most important people.

A couple of summers ago, my kids wanted to try archery.  Our gym offered it, but it was a low priority.  So low, that no one there knew how to take money for the class.

A girl named Angel worked the front desk.  She couldn’t sign us up, but she helped.  She searched the computer. She looked up phone numbers.  She smiled.

Every time I called the manager, Deb, she would tell me to come on a certain night, and she would help me herself.  So I would go in.  But no Deb.

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This happened three or four times.  I started to think that my kids weren’t going to be able to take that class.  It stirred my inner Mama Bear.

Not good.

The next time I talked to Deb, she said she would leave instructions at the desk.  Now anyone could sign the kids up for archery.

Ok.  Great.  Good solution.

I used to wear a certain necklace all the time.  A supercool, relevant, Christian necklace,  It was stamped metal.  It said “Pray.”  It had an image of two folded hands.

Artsy.

I had it on that night, which was, by then, the fifth or sixth time I had taken my kids into the gym to sign up for archery.

Angel stood behind the counter. “Hi, Angel.  Your manager said we could sign up for archery tonight?!”

One problem.

Angel looked confused.  She shook her head.  There were no instructions, and still, no one there knew how to take money for archery.

After weeks of going back and forth and coming to the office with this same old thing, I hit that ugly limit.  Yes, I did.

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Oh, Mama Bear.

I said plenty.  How unprofessional they were.  How I would never use that gym for anything again.  How I could not believe such and such and blah blah blah.  I will say, I was not actually yelling, but I was angry.  I was harsh.

I was loud.

I stomped out to the van, kids trailing behind me like ducks.  We all got in and buckled our seat belts.  And in my mind, I saw Angel’s face.

Dangit.

I turned off the van.  “Everybody, out.”

I failed in front of them.

I had to apologize in front of them.

And to them.  “I’m so sorry, guys.  I just acted so bad.  I know it stressed you out.  And that lady is the only nice person in there.  I have to go tell her I’m sorry.”

Those fails come with the worst feelings.  Sadness.  Embarrassment.  Shame.

I walked back to Angel and said, “Um, excuse me.  I’m so sorry.  I am out of patience with this thing, but it’s really not your fault.  I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.  Thanks for being so great every time I come in.”

She smiled.  Like always.  And she said, “Oh, I understand!  It’s ok.  I would feel the same way.”

I left, and my kids said, “It’s ok, Mom!  You said you were sorry. Everyone gets mad sometimes!”

Dear God.  I love kids.

A few months later, I got online to research local ministries.   I saw a  group home for teens aging out of the foster care system.

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I clicked on the link, and on the first page, was a picture of Angel.

Her story was under the picture.  She had grown up in bad places.  She had never known a loving family.  But she said her life changed at that home.  She loved Jesus.  She was thankful for the women there.   They had become like a family to her.

I cried.

The archery thing eventually got resolved, and the kids loved taking the class.

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But, I took that artsy “pray” necklace, and I hid it from myself.  I may have even given it away.  I still don’t know where it is.  I said, “Lord, You know I can’t wear this and run around acting like a jerk.”

A few people have given me Christian jewelry since then, and I wear it sometimes.  But I take it more seriously now.

And, I’m not religious about it anymore, like it’s my duty to wear a cross.

I don’t know what people are dealing with when I meet them.

I do know that I love this saying.  “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

***

Dear God.  Help us to be kind.  Kinder than necessary.  

And when we fail.  Help us say we’re sorry.  

No fear of missing out.  No fear of being wrong.

Just love.  And kindness.  Even more than is necessary.

For the Underdog: Interview with Chikk. {FREE DOWNLOAD}

A life well lived is encouragement and example to the rest of us.  A vision at Lady the Fearless is the feature of different courageous women and true brothers from time to time.  In that vein, I’m happy to give you the FIRST of many interviews and biographies today, with the incredible singer/songwriter, Chikk.
Already a K-Pop songwriting star in South Korea,  Chikk is rising in the LA music scene.  She is a passionate professional.  And a lover of God.  And my dear friend.
I interviewed her with five short questions this week, and I think you’ll relate to her story and be inspired.  She is a powerhouse of energy, and is vulnerable and honest about the challenges of creativity, emotion, work, life, and faith.

And follow this link for a free download of the song as a gift from Chikk.
Be energized, encouraged, and enjoy!!!
***

LADY:  Chikk!  I love this EP! So amazing. Thanks so much for being here today!  Can you start by sharing the inspiration for  the song, War, and the rest of the album?

CHIKK:  There were so many inspirations behind War.  One huge inspiration was actually Rick Joyner’s book, The Final Quest.  It changed my perspective on what type of War we were, and still are, really fighting.  My song, War, is about the fight against darkness, the fight for Truth, and the fight within self.

LADY:  Of course, there is no way you could have known in advance what would happen in Dallas and around the country in terms of shootings and racially charged protests immediately before the scheduled release of War. How do you feel about the song War being born into the current atmosphere?

CHIKK:  That’s a great question!  I could have never predicted that within 3 days of each other, our country would go into such mayhem & the release of War would fall within that same week!  I believe Dallas was only a reaction to other actions.  Baton Rouge’s Alton Sterling and Minnesota’s Philando Castile were the immediate actions that led to the Dallas reaction.  At first I was scared out of my mind! I didn’t know if I should even put it out anymore… But after doing research on the events and the history that preceded these events, I knew it was God.  And I also knew it was bigger than me.

LADY:  What is your prayer or hope for anyone who listens to this album?

CHIKK:  I hope and pray that whoever listens to this song, and the EP when it comes out, hears VICTORY! That they hear a voice that has overcome the darkest of moments, a voice that now stands in the redeeming Light.  I want anyone who hears this to KNOW that they are worth it!  That they are good enough, and if anyone ever tries to tell them different, instead of backing down or giving up, they will rise! They will start a War unlike anyone has ever seen before. That they will fight with their knowledge, with their pain, with their rejection, and with one of the most precious weapons we could ever use, forgiveness. This project, this song, it is “For the Underdog,” which is the title of the EP, set to release this fall.

Can you share a few of your favorite lyrics and where you were when you wrote them, or any other outstanding memories of songwriting for this album?

Some of my favorite lyrics! I love this question.

And all the talk about you’re not good enough. Forget about all of your broken hearts, because I bet…It was good for the both of us

It’s a lyric that reminds me that none of the hurt was in vain. It was all working in my favor, even when I couldn’t see it.

I wrote these songs in my car actually.  I either started them or finished them in the car while working a job to make money & live. During that process, I was ready to give up on my dreams altogether. It just seemed too hard to keep going, but I did. And I’m so glad that I did! This project was birthed from a place of pure confusion, shame, doubt and low self esteem. So I would have to say my favorite moment, was when I no longer felt ashamed. Doubt had left and I loved every single part of myself. I wondered what had happened, to change all of this.  And it was because I had told a part of my story.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was healing while I was writing.  And now I look back in amazement at it all!

LADY:  What does fearlessness look like for you?  And what do you do to grow in courage and to fight fear in your career, life, and faith?

CHIKK:  Fearlessness for me, is accepting that you will have fears. Strange right? I find that I am more courageous when I have made peace with my fears. Anytime I deny myself of the reality of being human & having real fears, I shut down. Or I run. Looking whatever it is I am afraid of, in the face, is the first step to me being fearless. It takes the fear from my mind, body and soul, and puts it in front of me. Now I have no attachment to it. Now I can strategize how to overcome it. I can not overcome fear, until I let go of it. I can not let go of it, until I admit I am actually holding it.

Goodbye, Fear. Hello, Love.