13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

Friday the 13th.

Mine was great.  How was yours?

I’ve never been especially superstitious, but I do remember a time when numbers, bridges, black cats, and ladders made me think twice.  Now they make me smile.

So, in honor of Friday the 13th and all the good gifts God gives on any given day, here are

13 of My Favorite Ways to Fight Anxiety

  1. Positive messages.  Start pumping them in.  Right now.  Whatever.  Whoever.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows.  Tons of great preachers have free videos on YouTube.
  1. Pump OUT the positive messages.  Fill up on joy to spread joy.  Make yourself a veritable font of joy.  LAUGH.  Joy is strength.  Learn from people who make you laugh, listen to speakers who make you laugh, create a culture of humor around you.  Plan to make someone else laugh.  You reap what you sow.  So, instead of ruminating on negative statistics, politics, news, gossip, and complaints, sow some joy, and reap some strength.couple-1846208_640
  1.  If fear does not budge, you may need a deep healing work in your life.  Most Christians believe that God does deliverance, in other words, cleanses us of any spiritual influence that is causing fear and replaces it with peace.  Get counseling from someone who understands emotional healing and deliverance.
  1. Hope.  For something.  Believe that things can get better.  Believe that you can be free and victorious.  Believe that your dreams can come true, in some form.  Believe that you were made with a plan and a purpose and that God has not brought you this far to drop you.
  1. Do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t back down.  Just keep swimming.  Forward movement is always better than wallowing in emotion.  Remember, no matter how little you are able to do, doing something means you are running circles around the guy sitting on the couch.  running-573762_640
  1. Raise up your voice. Talk back to anxiety.  Recite scripture.  Just say “no.”  Just say “Jesus.”  Say something, anything, to cheer yourself on and give yourself much needed strength.  The most powerful people I know speak over themselves constantly.  It’s a habit that has to be learned and practiced—put up post it notes with verses and sayings, and then SPEAK THEM!  Don’t let random thoughts rule your life.
  1. Move in the opposite spirit. This means that when circumstances look bleak, you look for the rays of sunshine.  Stop blaming everything on the devil and looking for demons in every drawer.  It is not about being Pollyanna, it is about looking for the Easter egg, the silver lining, the hidden treasure of goodness, and focusing on that instead of anything else.  If you can’t see it, ask God to show you.  Ask Him to tell you what moving in the opposite spirit looks like right now.
  1. Watch the crowd you hang with. If everyone around you is constantly spewing negativity, fear, and doubt, it is going to be harder to find courage.  You don’t have to drop everyone, but make your inner circle a circle of courage.  active-1822704_640
  1. Watch the influences you allow. So many of our emotions flow from things we did yesterday or last week, or things that happened to us years ago.  We can’t control everything, but we can control some things.  What are you reading, listening to, watching, thinking about?  Watch your responses to movies, conversations, news reports, etc.  How is your heart rate?  Are your palms and pits cringing with sweat?  Are your shoulders tense?  Do you feel restless and wish you could get away?  Are you reading/watching/listening out of obligation or peer pressure?  What is your body telling you?  Listen, and limit influences that rob you of strength.
  1. Love and draw near to God and draw identity from Him. The more time spent in His presence, the more like Him we will be.  There is no anxiety, fear, stress, or frustration in God.  los-cabos-68861_640
  1. And, as God reveals His identity to you, saturate in that. Pay attention to His love languages with you, like armor, doves, hearts, thunder, etc.  What do “God winks” look like to you?  And then watch for these things.  Billboards, radio, people, little signs.  Wear them, find clothing that reminds you of what He’s shown you.  Jewelry, stickers, artwork, furniture.  Let Him weave His message into every part of your life.  Write down every instance and reminder in a journal, and pull that baby out and read it often, not just on the bad days.  And spend time with people who understand identity.  Celebrate these encounters and reminders with them.  It’s amazing and encouraging to see how much He is communicating with us when we plug in.
  1. Forgive.  Yourself and others.  Confess something if you need to.  Let old and new things go.  Quickly.  Don’t ruminate and take offense.  God is for you.  Forgive and move your focus to the plans God has for you.
  1. Know your why! You’ve heard me say it before:  Your why will help you with your how.  Why do you want to beat fear?  Who is watching your example?  Kids, family, friends?  What are your dreams?  What do you long to do?  As the old question asks, “What would you do with your life if you had no fear?”  Knowing why you’re fighting the good fight will help you push through the hard days.

What habits do you cultivate to keep anxiety at bay and your mind on things above?  When anxiety creeps in, how do you kick it out?

***

Anxiety is doublemindedness.  –Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not be troubled, and do not be afraid.  Jn 14:17

Wait a Minute, Christmas. One More Thing Before You Go.

Christmas flew by like mad this year.

A red and green blur.  I know it happened.  I was there.  And with trails of glitter and packages of hot chocolate scattered everywhere, I even have proof.  I just thought it would last a little longer.

Not sure what made the difference.

It could have been the hedgehog.

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New additions to the family always make the nights and days run together.  This hedgehog, an early Christmas gift, is no exception.  After a month of heat lamps and meal worms and animal psychology, we have learned why hedgehogs are considered “Advanced Pets.”

But, she is worth it.

Creation is magnificent, far away and up close.  I love her quills and the way she rolls herself into a safe little ball.  This creature lives to please no man.  Or woman.  She is not a best friend, but more of a mirror.  And a test.  But more on that another day.

Caring for the new hedgehog added one more thing to a long list this season.  And add to that, the scared and hungry kitty cat that followed us home after a late night bike ride.

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She chose us.  What could we do.

So now we have three pets when only weeks ago, we had one.  A trifecta of fur and comfort and delight.  And all of it running around the base of our Christmas tree.

It’s been busy, to say the least.  And some things I don’t mind letting go.

I didn’t wrap the gifts in the kids’ stockings this year.

I didn’t cook a big Christmas dinner.  We got takeout.  Please.  Don’t judge me.

My breakfast casserole was a runny bust.

My monkey bread was burned.

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I just can’t do it all.  And you know what?  My family is still blessed, and we made wonderful memories.  I think one of them even said it was their happiest Christmas yet.  And I’m sure it was the cat’s best Christmas ever.  She spent the whole day with her head in a food bag.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her no.  It was Christmas, after all.

But there is one thing I don’t want to leave behind.

On Christmas Eve, when my kids were much younger, we used to have a birthday party for Jesus.  Kids love a birthday party.  They get it.  It’s a great way to explain the exchange that Jesus provides.

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Wait a minute.  You mean it’s His birthday party, but I get presents?  

Yes.  That’s the way He is.  Pretty cool, huh?

And then they get to blow out candles and eat cake.

At some point, they usually ask, “but, what can I give Him?”  And we talk about all the things we can give.  What it looks like to give a whole life.  He gave His for ours, now we give Him back everything we can.  And it looks like love.

The love of God is not that complicated if we will let it be simple.

The birthday cake is the culmination of our party.  And with my kids getting older and all of us more health conscious, I’m not even sure we will do it this year.  But the cake itself is not the end game, the candles are.

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I don’t know on what wonderful website I found this idea years ago, or I would link it here.  I was searching the internet,  “How to make Christmas more meaningful for kids.”

After wading through pages of Bethlehem dot-to-dots and Baby Jesus coloring sheets, I found this beautiful idea, as simple as a birthday cake.

Light.

Here’s how it goes.

Make Christmas More Meaningful:  

A Light Celebration at Home.

 

On Christmas Eve, after dark and after supper, I call the kids to the table.  And in the middle of the table, I line up tons of candles.  I have a menorah I use, and a candle nativity that my grandmother gave me.  And a birthday cake covered in candles.  Although this year, I think I’ll use my mini Christmas village instead of the cake.  Five tiny houses, each with a little light inside.  It doesn’t really matter what you use, just pull together every candle you can find.

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I turn off all the lights and grab the matches or lighter, whatever I have.

It’s pitch dark in the room, and I talk to the kids about darkness.  How some people only know darkness.  How darkness is heavy, and it feeds our fears, and it makes us feel alone.  It keeps us from seeing all the blessings: it hides the good things that are all around us.  And it either makes us defensive, or it makes us sleepy and unaware.

But.  When light comes in, it changes everything.  It changes the way we feel.  It changes what we are able to see.  It changes the way we are able to move in our space.

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And I light the first candle.

I tell them the story of Christ,  the Light of the World.   And at every key point, I light another candle.

I explain to them that it’s not really his birthday in December, that he was born in September sometime during the Feast of Tabernacles.  When Christ said “I come to dwell among you,” the word he used for dwell was literally “tabernacle.” I want to reinforce to them the idea  of the festivals and the reveal of the centuries in this one man.

And, interestingly, with his birthday during Tabernacles, that would put His conception during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.  And I share with them that we are either in Hanukkah every year during Christmas or very close, and that the Light of the World came into the world during the Festival of Lights.

God put Jesus inside of Mary during or near the Festival of Lights.  Mary pondered these things in her heart.

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And I light a candle.

I keep telling them the story, how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, how they stayed in a stable, how the wise men followed the star, and the shepherds heeded their bright angel.  And for every twist and turn, I light a candle.

As I talk to them, the room becomes brighter and brighter and brighter.

And when the last candle is lit, we look at them all for a few minutes.  The dark room is cozy now, and the nativity spins as the heat from the candles moves the figures through their paces.  We listen to a couple of songs.  I think this year we will use this one by Lauren Daigle and this song by Kari Jobe.

This last thing, our inheritance, our commission.  That as He is the Light of the World, He also calls us to carry light.  That we, too, are this bright Light of love.

They love to hear the story, they listen still, and they are big now.  And I am overcome by the light, flickering on their faces.

And here we are in January.  And Christmas flew by this year.  And I still haven’t done it.

Today’s the day.  It’s never too late, or too early, to revisit this story.  Never too late to ponder these things in your heart and to soak in love that lights up the dark.

***

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Gen1:3

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jn8:12

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Mt5:14-16

But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.  Lk2:19

Leah the Weak: An Unexpected Story of Christmas.

December is a story time of year.

Mostly about a baby, a star, and those who came to see the prophecies of history fulfilled.

But recently, I read a story, not about three wise men, but about three people in a love triangle.  Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.

You may know the story, but here’s a recap:  Jacob, the son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, sets out on a long camel ride to find a wife.  He also happens to be outrunning the murderous rage of his brother, Esau, after stealing Esau’s inheritance.

“Jacob” is a word for “deceiver” in Hebrew.  So far, Jacob is living up to his name.

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When he arrives at his kinsman’s home, Jacob agrees to work for the man.  He sees the man’s younger daughter, Rachel, and immediately falls in love and wants to marry her.  He has also seen Rachel’s older sister, Leah, and, for whatever reason, he is not interested.

The girls’ father, Laban, agrees to allow Jacob to marry Rachel if he will work for him for seven years.  So Jacob does, and seven years pass.  The wedding day arrives.

But–and this is where it gets tricky–on the wedding night and unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban somehow substitutes Leah in Rachel’s place as the bride.

Jacob discovers the switch in the morning when the sun comes up.

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After pondering this one for some years, I have decided  it does not pay to ask many questions here.  There are only sordid and potentially embarrassing answers for everyone involved.   I’m planning to ask God to explain how this is all completely edifying when I get to Heaven.  Leaving it at that for now.

But, the point is, Laban deceived Jacob.

Jacob goes to Laban, understandably angry, and says “What is this you have done to me?  Why have you deceived me?”

Laban says to Jacob, like it all makes perfect sense, “Oh.  It’s not our custom to marry the younger daughter first, so I gave you Leah.  Wait a week, and you can marry Rachel, too, if you will work for me another seven years.”

So, without feeling like he has much choice, Jacob agrees.

For years I heard this story taught as a morality tale of sowing deception and reaping deception.

Jacob deceived Esau and stole his birthright–scandalous!  How dare he!  And so, he got what he deserved when Laban deceived him with Leah for a bride, instead of the woman he loved.

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Leah, the weak-eyed, unmarriageable, older daughter.  Leah, given as some kind of cosmic punishment to Jacob the Deceiver.

I’ve always felt a kind of camaraderie with Leah.  Whatever “weak-eyed” means in scripture, some scholars have suggested that she was cross eyed with poor vision.

I was a cross eyed kid.

I have worn glasses since I was four, and I had two surgeries as a child to correct my eyes.  But over the years, if I forgot a contact, or if I’m very tired, one eye might drift a little at times.  I don’t know if anyone else notices, but I do.

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I remember being at a family reunion and seeing an older cousin with the same crossed eyes.  She was tall and slender, very fashionably dressed in a tailored  yellow top and a green pencil skirt.  Her hair was thick and dark and wavy, and she wore spectacular red cateye glasses with little jewels on the frames.

But her standout feature was, unfortunately, those extreme crossed eyes.

It’s so hard to know where to look when someone has an eye off, how to know which eye is looking at you. And your own eyes dart back and forth, trying to find the active eye, like a Poe novel come to life.

I can say that, because I am sometimes that girl with the wandering eye.  And, for the record, I can tell you, just pick one.  They are both working fine, most likely.

Just pick one.

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Anyway.

I’ve always kind of felt for Leah, this weak-eyed woman.  Handed around like property, an unloved wife, accused as a man-stealer for the rest of time.

In the story, God brings sons from Leah and Rachel.  He uses this strange setup to fulfill the prophecies over Abraham, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  From these women come twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel.

And these sons, the majority of them come, not from Rachel, but from Leah.  At that time, children were considered proof that a wife was a good one, that she was pleasing to God Himself.

The sons were a vindication.

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Reading this story today, I went back with the same old perspective. Jacob the deceiver meets his match in his sneaky old uncle, Laban,  and gets stuck with this unbeautiful, unlovable bride.

For a minute I wondered if Laban had had faith that God would provide a husband for Leah, could she have married someone who loved her?  And Rachel and Jacob, could they have had their fairy tale?

And then, I was arrested by this thought.

No.

God did it.

As wacky and sad as it seems for one minute, God did it just like that.

It hit me.  If Jacob got two wives for his “punishment,” that’s a strange punishment indeed, especially for that time. Leah was no punishment.

Leah was Jacob’s double blessing.

Leah was abundance.

Jacob comes out of this deal with two wives instead of one.  In the context of the time, God Is blessing Jacob in spite of his failure, not punishing him for it.  Aside from the inherent blessing of companionship, wives were a sign of wealth.  And a source of sons.  The more wives, the more sons.  And more sons and more wives meant increased standing in the community.

Jacob did not get what he “deserved,” some kind of Bride-from-Hell-Smackdown from On High.  No.

Jacob got mercy.  He got grace.  He got a heavy portion, pressed down and running over.  He got abundance for his sin, rather than devastation.

That’s more like the God I know.

And Leah had more retribution than just bringing forth many sons.  Leah was not born to bring punishment.  She was not born for another man or lineage.  She was born for this one.  She was born to fulfill a prophecy and give birth to nations.  And to a saviour.

You may remember this part of the story, too.  Leah’s fourth son was called “I will praise the Lord,” or “Judah.”

And Judah.

Judah, through many generations, brings forth Jesus Christ.

And Rachel has her sons, too.  Both women were exactly where they needed to be.  The great Joseph comes from Rachel, a man who saved Israel in Egypt, a man who foreshadows the coming of his even  greater cousin, Jesus.

Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

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Leah the Weak, through God’s grace, becomes Leah the Lioness.

The mother of a lion.

The mother of The Lion.

God loves to use the weak to bring forth strength.

There are many women like this in the lineage of Christ. Tamar, the seductress.  Bathsheba, the exhibitionist.   Rahab, the prostitute.

Women despised by their culture.  But redeemed and honored by time and by scripture.

Sometimes we do not always see our vindication, our reparations.  We don’t always get to see the full fruit of our labors.

But these things are coming.  Our sacrifice is not wasted.  Our efforts are not in vain.  Our pain and tears and weakness do not go unseen.  And they do not go unredeemed.

Leah, Rachel, Jacob, Laban.  Small figures in an epic tale.  A huge plan that spans millennia to bring love to all mankind in the form of one tiny child.

One little lion.  In a manger.  Leah’s son, and Rahab’s, and Bathsheba’s, and Tamar’s.

And Mary’s.

And God’s.

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The unspeakable beauty of a God who takes a thing that the world calls weak and ugly to bring forth the greatest miracle.

The beauty of a God who might even sometimes ask us to endure some embarrassment or inconvenience–after all, what is a lazy eye in the scheme of things?

He might sometimes ask us to lay down our pride and our ease for something greater.  For the ones that come after.

Leah was willing.

Jesus Christ was willing.

And I am thankful.

Thankful for eyes to see this Christmas.

Thankful for His coming and His sacrifice and His strength in our weakness, in my weakness.  So thankful.

***

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2Cor12:9

Call It Good. One Way to Beat Holiday Pressure.

I wrapped Christmas presents today.

I have all this cute, adorable, beautiful, sparkly paper.  And one really ugly roll. I don’t know why I bought it.

Well, actually, I do.  I found it on sale for seventy cents a roll.  Seventy cents.   And it’s one of those never-ending value rolls. Like, a million square feet.

I keep wrapping a gift with it here and there, hoping no one will notice.  I try to stick them on the bottom of the pile.

In fact, this roll of paper is so ugly and huge, it may last me my entire life as a caution, a reminder not to shop like that ever again, throwing my seventy cents around without any thought to the consequences.

It literally seems to get bigger every time I cut it.  It could outlast me.

But, dear God.  I hope not.

Anyway.

My daughter and I wrapped presents today, with mostly the cute paper.

We were wrapping them to send to loved ones nearly a continent away.  They are trinkets really, but I pray these friends feel all the love that we can’t be there to give.

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As we wrapped, and I checked one more thing off my Christmas list, I felt so organized.  I was on time, early even.

And then, I hesitated.

I looked at those gifts packed in that box with so much joy and love and anticipation.  Those gifts, wrapped in cheerful patterns, with their messy edges and wrinkly tape, names written, and hearts drawn on the paper with markers.

First, I smiled.

Then, I hesitated.

And then, I criticized.

There were no fluffy bows.  No glittery package toppers.  No pretty tags.

They were nowhere close to perfect.

For one second, as I thought of our beautiful friends, I didn’t think these presents were good enough.  I considered taking them all out and rewrapping them, the way I used to wrap presents.  Before I had kids.  Before I started homeschooling.  Before I realized that energy is a perishable commodity, and I simply can not do it all.

I didn’t know it was a luxury back then.

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But I have learned my lesson in a million ways.

Some things just have to be declared good enough.

My sister says the secret to success is, sometimes, lower standards.  She laughs when she says it, but she is a wise woman.

And that’s my reality today.

I have other boxes, other appointments, other errands.

I either send these presents now, as they are, or it will not get done.  And our friends would miss a blessing.  And I would find this package in July, under a pile of sweaters, and realize I never sent it.  And then stick it back in the closet with good intentions to try for Christmas next year.

And it would never get done.

Again.

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I looked at those gifts.  I even lifted one out and studied it in my hand, and I immediately heard this, “Do they need to be perfect? Or do they need to be good?”

And I set that gift right back in the box.

And I am not looking back.

Except.  Maybe to do something with that hideous paper.

My oldest daughter suggested that we burn it.  It’s that ugly.

Or, maybe we’ll just call it a lesson learned.

And good enough.

***

Perfection is the enemy of the good, and enough is as good as a feast. 

I pray your holidays are good enough.  Not in the sense of settling, but in the sense of a deep contentment and enjoyment of the messy, real life and true love all around you.

Take a deep breath.  Let some of it go.  It’s not all going to get done anyway.  

Let someone help you, even the kids.  Especially the kids.  Their work will be messy.  But a present wrapped, a cookie decorated, an ornament hung by a child is adorable, and the people who love them will love that they tried.    And the kids will feel like they matter.  And they will be one year closer to learning how to do what needs to be done.  

And they will remember that you valued them enough to let them do the big stuff.

Not one of us is perfect.  Holding ourselves and others to that kind of standard is the worst fun killer ever.  And it may be the worst love killer, too.

Just send the packages.  

And receive them.  And all of it.  With grace.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1Pet4:8

Crazy in Love with God. Interview with Chana Keefer, Bestselling Author. {WATCH}

You are called to something.

We all are.

I love connecting people with each other, especially the ones I know who are courageously pursuing that call.

In this interview of six short questions, meet Chana Keefer, best-selling author of several books and a great friend of Lady the Fearless.  Chana encourages, inspires, and shares tips for any of you who are pursuing that thing–whatever it is–that you feel called to do.

Check out her new book, Annabelle:  A Ghostly Texas Tale, and her other books here.  Great additions to any Christmas list!

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You’ll also find a heartfelt video response to these questions at the end–watch when you can!  You will be lifted up and leave with practical applications from this interview.

LADY:  Hi, Chana, my friend!  Thanks so much for being here today!  First question, simple and sweet!  What inspired you to be a writer?           

CHANA:  Growing up, some of my favorite moments were getting lost in a good book.

Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and others had that gift of making me forget my troubles at the same time I was learning huge life lessons such as empathy, courage, kindness, and even God’s character.

I always wanted to write a book–it was an item on the ol’ bucket list–but it wasn’t until I went through intense personal battles, that at their core were spiritual battles, I unwittingly put a foot on the road of writing.

Desperation led me to prayer for an hour every morning which led to vivid dreams that led to a story I HAD to get down on paper. As I grew closer to God, the NEED to write burned me up so much I would get up way-early in the morning to pray and let the words pour out. Connection and flow.

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Chana’s first book, an answer to prayer. Click image to read reviews and novel summary.

 

 LADY:  Amen!  Tell us a little bit about your latest book, Annabelle: A Ghostly Texas Tale.                                                                                                       

CHANA:  Annabelle has been very patient. I actually started writing the story in the spring of 2007 but learning about publishing and juggling life in general kept this wonderful story on the back burner. My family, especially my hubby, always said it was their favorite of my stories and every time I cracked the manuscript open to edit, I would always end up crying, kinda dazzled by the beauty of it.

On the surface, Annabelle sounds like a simple ghost story but the themes are much deeper. Who hasn’t felt a bit like an old house, past its prime, glory days gone by, gutted and abused by life? I know I have. The young family in the story are decimated by harsh circumstances when they limp into the tale. It’s a beautiful, timeless story of restoration and redemption.

Who hasn’t felt a bit like an old house, past its prime, glory days gone by, gutted and abused by life? 

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Alternative cover art for Annabelle, by the talented Disney artist, Scott Seeto.

 

LADY:  What’s it like to be a writer AND a mom AND a homeschooler AND run an online jewelry business AND work in the prayer ministry at church? How do you juggle it all and stay filled so that you have something to give?        

CHANA:  (Laughs) GREAT question for which there is no easy answer.

The hardest thing to juggle as a writer, wife, mom, etc. is my own self-defeating inner dialogue–something, with God’s help, I continually work to improve.

Do I EVER feel that I’m doing all those roles well?  VERY rarely.

There are little victories that arrive hand-in-hand with more challenges. I try to stop and celebrate the victories, at least a moment, before turning to the next flub or challenge. Kind of like popping your head up to breathe while swimming, taking a moment to notice a victory, no matter how minor, gives me the breath to keep on going.

What’s funny is, on a day when I might feel like, “Wow, I am totally killing it! Yes!” whether in writing, homeschooling, keeping house, whatever, I tend to hit a wall later that evening.

Basically, my expectations and reality don’t really mix therefore I constantly feel I’m not doing enough. (Anyone relate? Perfectionists, self-floggers, over-achievers?) It’s a constant struggle but thank God for His grace and His perspective to help me kick Chana off the throne to remember it’s all about HIM anyway.

In a practical way, I have to remember to give myself permission to enjoy something once in a while. It’s amazing how laughter, a chat with a friend or even reading a good book will re-boot my energy.

The hardest thing to juggle as a writer, wife, mom, etc. is my own self-defeating inner dialogue–something, with God’s help, I continually work to improve.

 LADY:  What other advice do you have for aspiring writers and creatives?          

CHANA:  I was never a very disciplined person until I had to be.

When the prayer and writing became as vital as breathing, discipline followed–at least in committing to them every day.

Therefore, find your WHY and go after it. The best place to discover meaning and purpose is in God’s presence since He made you and knows what will fill you up. I feel all true art is spiritual in nature, therefore we must connect in a spiritual manner with the Creator of all.

Again, connection & flow. Out of that will flow the passion that will keep you going day by day, where real life works hard to knock you off-track.

 Find your WHY and go after it.

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Chana writes what is known as “speculative fiction.” Her books don’t fit neatly into a genre or category because of her unusual story lines, which she would say are God given.

LADY:  What is your hope or prayer for anyone who reads Annabelle, or any of your books?                                                                                              

CHANA:  With all my books, whether inspirational romance, epic spiritual warfare, memoir, etc, my deepest prayer is for the reader to be ushered into God’s presence–to “taste and see the Lord is GOOD.”

Just like a song embeds words and messages in our hearts, so I pray these stories plant vital seeds of being crazy-in-love with God. That’s the start. Open heart, mind, and spirit to our loving, healing, inspiring, empowering Father, then He takes it from there.

I pray these stories plant vital seeds of being crazy-in-love with God.  

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?                                                                                                                                     

CHANA:  I love Joyce Meyers’ advice to “Do it afraid!”

God does not bring me into a comfort zone.

Every single time I speak or share stuff online or unveil a new book, there’s trepidation. I’d like to say I never waver, that my eyes are so fixed on God there is zero fear and I don’t mind if people say negative things, but that just ain’t so. It has to be a choice of “Who will I serve: Fear or God?” The one I obey is the one I serve.

Courage, for me, is looking fear in the eye, taking God’s hand and plowing through it. I may gulp big and quaver a bit, but it’s not my power anyway that’s going to accomplish something of eternal value.

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Lady the Fearless reads Chana Keefer!!! Don’t know which one to read first! All proceeds from “Servant of the King” go to Kemper Krabb’s international ministries.

 

Courage, for me, is looking fear in the eye, taking God’s hand and plowing through it.

***

Thanks again, Chana!  

Who will I serve: Fear or God?” The one I obey is the one I serve. –Chana Keefer

WATCH Chana answer questions in person at the link below.  Wisdom, transparency, and prayers from the heart.

3 Ways to Recover Quickly from Hurtful Comments

Oh, the holidays.

So much fun.  So cozy.  So sparkly and delicious.

And sometimes, so very painful.

Whether it’s family, friends, or total strangers, we get thrown together with lots of people this time of year.

And, often, we get thrown together as we are planning or attending gatherings that are stressful for some reason–either just happy people trying to put on a beautiful event, or really crabby people feeling the pressure of time and debt and dysfunction, or some combination of the two.

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Clearly, many times, this is not a good thing.

And we can get caught in the middle, in the way of someone who is short on patience and time.

And words can hurt.

Below are three ways you can overcome hurtful words quickly.  Life is too short to hold on to someone else’s bad decision.

1.)  Know this:  It’s not about you.

Really.

Nine times out of ten, a person’s statements reflect their own mood or situation.

One time, I was in a big box store a few weeks before Christmas when I nearly had a head-on cart collision with a white haired gentleman.  Even though it was an accident–both of us were pushing carts around a blind corner–I smiled and apologized.  I thought he would do the same, and we would move on.

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I said, “Oh, I’m sorry!”

He scowled at me and shouted, “SORRY? OH!  YEAH, I KNOW YOU ARE!!!”

For some reason, typing this today makes me laugh out loud.  But that day, I was devastated.

I was in my twenties and had my little ones with me. When he shouted at me in front of them and called me “sorry,” I almost cried.

But it was not about me being “sorry,” it was about him having a bad day.

Maybe his wife sent him to the store, and he hated it or was afraid of letting her down.  Maybe he was just a mean man.  I have no idea.  But it was his problem, not mine.

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That day, I just kept telling myself, it’s not about you, it’s not about you.  Which brings me to number two.

2.)  Say out loud that you don’t receive the hurtful comments.  Speak up and replace them with truth.

Say, “This is not about me.  I do not receive those words.  That person’s problem does not get to tell me who I am.”

I love the verses that talk about what we hear, that faith comes by hearing.

And not only does faith come by hearing, but we develop faith in the things we hear most.

If we listen to lies, we will begin to believe them.  If we listen to truth, the same is true.  We can’t control what other people say to us, but we can control what we say to ourselves, and so, control what we hear, and so, what we believe.

Joyce Meyer suggests starting your day by saying “God loves me” one hundred times.

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Get ahead of any lies that might come your way by filling up on a beautiful truth first thing in the morning.

When that man called me “sorry,” at one time, I would have said to myself, “Why did he say that to me?  What did I do that made him be so mean?  I must really be a sorry excuse for a human being if he felt like yelling at me!”

But I had learned that I had a choice.

So instead of beating myself up because of something someone else did, I said, “I do not receive that.  And I forgive that guy.  And I bless him.”

Which brings me to number three.

3.)  Forgive quickly, and bless the person.

I cannot tell you how many times people have said things to me that cut me to my heart.  Things that kept me up at night.  Things that made me feel sick, that gave me a pain in my stomach, things that I remembered that made me cringe and sweat.

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But, over time, I learned that they hurt me partly because I agreed with them and because I kept asking “why?”

“Why would they do that to me?”

There is so much in that little question.  The “why” looks for a way to make the hurtful comment make sense.  But abuse never makes sense.  Trying to force sense out of abuse will wear you down.  It is an unanswerable, never-ending spiral of a question.

And asking, “why would they do that to me?” makes the whole scenario about, well, me.

And most of the time, again, what other people say is not about me.  Or you.

I also love the verse that says “from the fullness of the heart, the mouth will speak.”  Some translations say, “from the overflow of the heart.”  The verse doesn’t say “from the way everyone else acts, the mouth will speak.”  It is clear that what comes out of a person comes because it is what was already there.

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In the same way that if someone spills a drink on you, it is not your fault, neither are the words that “spill” out of a person’s mouth to be blamed on you.

In a very few cases, you might need to listen to the heart of a matter, even if the presentation was less than kind.  Especially if you hear the same thing over and over again from different people.  But, most of the time, a person’s words only reflect one thing:  the state of their own heart.

***

Occasionally,  if we are very tender, or the person is very close, or the comment strikes an insecurity we already have, we have to be more persistent.

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I have had times when I had to repeat these steps over and over and over.

But I realized that I would repeat something to myself over and over, even if I didn’t try. It could either be their words, or God’s.  I learned to choose truth.

I choose to speak over myself words of life, even if I don’t feel it.  I repeat them until I do.  Sometimes, it has taken one time.  Other times, twenty.  And some hurtful words did not leave my soul for years, but I could feel them loosening their grasp as I stood on truth.

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It gets easier the more we practice.  Speak life.  It’s better.  It works.

And, bonus:  The more you speak life over yourself, the more life you hear.  The more you hear, the more you fill your own heart with love.

And by filling your own heart with love, you become more likely to speak love to others.  It’s a win/win.  You will bless everyone around you as you bless yourself.

***

I am a child of God.

God loves me.  God loves me.  God loves me.

I forgive.  

I bless.  I bless.  I bless.

What words do you need to trade in for truth today?

The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

Thanksgiving, How Sweet the Sound.

My grandmother’s love language was food.

Food, food, all kinds of food.

Biscuits and gravy.  Bacon and eggs.

Pancakes, stacked high with butter and syrup, sausage on the side, mixed and crispy-hot in the pan just before daylight.

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Home fried chicken.  Ham and beans.  Cornbread in an iron skillet.  Mashed potatoes, perfectly white, whipped to an inch of their little lives.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, homemade ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Banana splits.

My grandma made iced tea so sweet it crunched, and then she sent me out to the garden to pick little sprigs of fresh mint. She laid the green leaves gently on top, and the smell of that sweet mint tea was as fresh as the sun.  We are Southern after all.  There’s really no other way to drink it.

In the winter she made hot chocolate, and cappuccino from a tin.

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She made grilled cheese.  Macaroni and cheese.  Sandwiches with three slices of American cheese.  Cheeseball.  Pimento cheese.  Fruit and cheese.

Oh, and pepper jelly on a Triscuit.  With cream cheese.

Fresh.  Everything so fresh.  And almost all from scratch.  Pie crusts rolled out early in the morning.  Fruit picked from her own trees and sugared by her own hands.

Berry pie.  Cherry pie with whipped cream.  And apple pie with melted cheddar cheese.  The first time she handed me that delicacy, I thought someone had gotten confused.

But it was good.  Like all of it.  So good.

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And Thanksgiving?

Move the chairs out and bring in some tables.  Turn yourself sideways to make your way through the bounty, stack up your plate, and don’t be shy, honey, come back for more.

On Thanksgiving, my grandmother cooked for days around her teaching job.   Deviled eggs could be done early. The pies too, they could be done ahead.  Salads, chopped the day before and tossed in the morning.

She still made jello molds, maybe the only thing she made I didn’t love, but they were pretty and somewhat gravity defying, and what kid isn’t entertained by carrots jiggling in gelatin?

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My grandmother was a schoolteacher and a children’s librarian.   Besides cooking, she dressed in costumes on the holidays.

On Christmas, she was Mrs. Claus, Santa hat, red sweater, matching skirt, and a huge black belt with a shiny gold buckle.

And on Thanksgiving, she alternated years, one year a Cherokee maiden with construction paper feathers in her hair.

And, other years, a pilgrim in black and white, complete with a little collar and funny hat, flaps around her ears.

And she did it all while caring for my grandfather, wheelchair-bound from polio.  My grandmother sold everything she had after he came home from the hospital, and she went to school to become a teacher.

She was loyal to him until he died in his fifties, and she never remarried.  She still wears her wedding band, even though I’m not sure she remembers why.

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She doesn’t know us anymore, and she gets upset if she forgets where she is.

But her love language is still food.  She got afraid at my house the other day, and I said, “Grandma, do you want a cookie?”  She nodded.

I gave her two cookies.  “One for each hand,” I said, like I do for my kids.

She smiled and took a big crumbly bite.

It wasn’t until I had my own kids and tried cooking for a family, day in and day out, that I realized what a gift she gave us.

After I had stayed home for ten years, I realized that I had prepared over 10,000 meals, many of them spit out and proclaimed “disgusting” by children who had just been eating dog food.

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I know they did.  Dirt, too.  I saw it with my own eyes.

Even so, I baked and meal-planned and hunted recipes to delight them.

One time as a young mom, I tried to make beans.

I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to make the whole bag at once.  When the water boiled, I happily watched the beans soften and swell.

Until I realized they were swelling right out of the pot.

I called my grandmother.

“What do I do?”  I asked her.

She laughed so hard.  Couldn’t even talk.

“Grandma, stop laughing,” I said, “they are seriously coming out the top!  What do I do?”

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“Just get another pot, honey,” she gasped.  “Start spooning them in to something else on another burner, add more water.”

“Ok, Grandma,” I said.  Her laughing made me laugh.  I spooned some in another pot.

The beans kept swelling over the top.

I called her back.  “Grandma, I think I should just throw it away.  There’s too much, it’s still overflowing.  I give up.”

She thought this was hysterical.

“No, honey,” she said.  “Don’t you have four burners?   Just keep adding pots, keep spooning it out.  You can fix this.”

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It was a vote of confidence from a woman who knew her food.  I did fix it, on the phone with her, laughing and spooning and babysitting beans.

She kept asking, “What does it look like now?”  and laughing.

I wish I’d had a cell phone back then.  I would have texted her a picture of the four bean volcanos erupting on my stovetop.

I think she got the idea.

It’s a little memory.

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But I’m so thankful for it.

The food is a small thing too in a way, but in another, it’s the soundtrack of my childhood as much as any music.

A soundtrack of flavor and love poured out and laid before me by a servant of God and family who lived to bring us comfort.

My grandmother worked hard in her gardens and at school to provide the food for a big family she fed all the time.

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And then, unless you’ve planned meals like she did, and gotten up at all hours of the day and night to make sure it came out right, and tended to every little bite like it mattered, it’s hard to explain the time and the effort, the cuts and the burns and the sweat and the tired arms over a hot steamy stove.

I remember conversations at these meals.

Conversations that often ended up with someone raising their voice and walking away mad, and the awkward silence that followed.

And I remember my grandmother leaving the angry adults and swooping us all up in her arms.  She had holiday books that she read in the most soothing, sweet voice, a voice and a cadence made to order for children’s stories.

I’m sure the conversations mattered to her, but her babies mattered more.

She had worked hard to make a beautiful meal and space for gathering.  She was not about to let them ruin it for her or for us.

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She was a woman who never stopped smiling.

I’m amazed by her restraint, and inspired by the way she always chose love.

I want to give that same gift to my kids and my family.

I’m planning what I’m cooking this year.

My kids have never seen a jello mold.  This may be the year that changes.  That jiggly delight just might find itself a place on my table.  Some old things are worth resurrecting.

And I’m planning what I’ll say.

“Hey kids, want to read a story?”

And.  My sister has this hilarious game.  Telephone pictionary.  Great for a crowd.  Directions here.  Might play that, too.

There’s a time and a place for everything, it’s true.

But Thanksgiving is about making a joyful noise, not an angry or fearful one.  And about making memories that will still be sweet for a long, long time.

***

I’m praying for love, words of love, sweeter than honey, and more savory than turkey, and sweeter than music, to grace your lips, your ears and all your gatherings.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Prov16:24

Election Year Blues. Courage, My Friends!

I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo.

That’s “National Novel Writing Month” for the uninitiated.

It’s a wacky thing where a bunch of overachievers get together and attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.  It’s an average of about 1667 words a day, give or take.

Today is “bear day.”  If you get stuck, write a bear scene into your story.

So.  I need to get back to my bear scene, but I wanted to quickly say something about the election, because it just seems like I’m floating down the River Denial if I don’t.  You know the one.

All I have to say is this:  Fear has no place in the election booth.

Whatever you’ve heard about either candidate, their cronies, their taxes, their past, etc.  Whatever you’ve dreamed, whatever leaders have said around you.  Please, don’t take fear into the voting booth with you.  Our country was not built on fear, but on the great vision of a few brave men.  Moving forward for any people will always look like that.

Take courage.  Take hope.  Take heart.

And vote from there.

Oh, and, whoever you’re voting for, you might think about asking for a paper ballot.  Not out of fear, but out of wisdom.

God bless America.

***

Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Josh 1:6

More than Pearls. Going Up, Together.

My mother is an amazing woman.

Most people commenting about her say what a lady she is.  And it is the first thing you notice.

She is intelligent but gently spoken, and she carries herself well.  She likes doilies and little pink flowers.  She is a woman who wears pearls while she gardens.

But she also adores king snakes, and she has a thing for those huge black and yellow garden spiders.  These creatures are the good ones, you know, the protectors of the outdoors, a woman’s best friend.

After God, husband, and poodle, of course.

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My mom, last year, with one of her dear friends.

I have seen her chop down a tree, barehanded, with an axe.

I have seen her move a couch.  By herself.  Not dragging it, but lifting it off the ground and setting it gently down, Wonder Woman in blue jeans.

I have seen her saddle a stallion, and I once saw her kill an armadillo with a shovel.  Not an easy task.  Like hammering a nail with the sole of a shoe.  But saddling up horses and protecting kids from rabies and leprosy is an everyday thing in the South.

It’s what you do.

It’s what you do, even if you are a single mom, and you have so many hours set aside for crying on a Saturday afternoon.  You chop the trees, you whack the beasts, you put on your pearls, and you take care of the kids.

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Single moms are my heroes, especially my mom.

My mother pinched every thin dime we had and somehow made a home on a teacher’s salary.  She cooked meals from scratch every day, and, one Easter,  she stayed up all night sewing so we could be those girls at church in the beautiful dresses.

We knew we didn’t have what other kids had, but sometimes when I visited their houses, I realized I didn’t want anything different.  My mom made a good life for us.  And I did see her cry, a lot.  But I learned something about pain from her tears.

She hurt, yes.

But my mother never wallowed.

She never took her identity from pain.  She did not let betrayal define her life or ours.  She had times when she cried.  And then she got  up.  And took us to the park or to the river.  And cooked out hamburgers and hot dogs and ate potato chips out of giant generic bright yellow bags.  And laughed and sang songs.  And enjoyed life, in spite of all the heartbreak.

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My mom knew how to focus on what she had, not on what she didn’t.

It is easy to look at someone lovely and only see the pearls.  It is easy to look at someone courageous and only see the strength.

It is easy, and sometimes more comfortable, to assume if someone has success, then they must have never known defeat, they must have never known pain like ours, they must have never had to whisper to themselves in the dark.

But mostly, isn’t the opposite true?  Most of the people I know who walk in a shocking level of victory have overcome some shockingly terrible thing.

The difference is not that they were never knocked down, but that they decided to get up.

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They made certain choices in the face of pain.  They gave grief its time but did not let it overtake them.  They put emotion in its place and did not let it wash over them.  They took their burdens to God and left them at His feet.

The challenge for us comes when we look to their example and decide if we will follow it for ourselves.  And it’s an example that Jesus teaches, however much we sometimes twist that message in the church.

When faced with the lame man at the pool, Jesus did not pander to him because of his pain.  In fact, we never see Him do this.  He said to the man, “Get up.”

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My audience here is truly amazing.  I have an extremely high level of support.  Even so, I have had some criticism of my worldview, and considering the generally encouraging tone I try to set here, I find it surprising.  But one of the great joys of writing on the internet is opening yourself to all interpretations of your message, and all the uncensored, unveiled response.

I would say this.  Life is messy, and we are walking uncharted territory.  If we can’t be honest about these situations, and laugh and grow together, then we are kind of missing the point.

There is always backlash to a message of strength.  There is always resentment when someone shares a story of bravery, some secret jealousy or suspicion.  There is always that one person worried that courage is just a cover for recklessness, that one person who wants to bring up a few rare exceptions to argue and prove a point and use it to justify their own passivity.  That’s fine.  This blog might not be for them.

But for the ones who want to get up, welcome.

We are going up, together.

***

You are in my prayers.  I am rooting for you.  To focus on what you have and not on what you don’t.  To have victory and to enjoy this bloody beautiful life in spite of it all.  

With His help, you can get up.  You can do it.  We can do it.  Going up.  Together.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat, and walk.”  Jn 5:8

 

One Nation Under…Creepy Clowns?

Last week, I asked my teenage daughter what she would do if she saw a creepy clown.

We were walking near our house.  The neighbor’s dumpster rested on the sidewalk in front of us, open and tipped on its side.

I said, “Like right now.  If you saw one.  What would you do if you saw a creepy clown crawl out of that dumpster?”

“Kick it!”  she said.  And we laughed.

I defy you to have this conversation and not laugh.  There is something both upsetting and hilarious about this trend.

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“Ok.”  I said, “But what if it were the neighbor, just in regular clothes, and he crawled out of the dumpster?”

“Oh. I would walk around him.”

I’m concerned about the safety of our citizens wearing clown masks.  Their lives are at great risk if my sweet and gentle daughter is ready to assault a clown  just for crawling out of a dumpster.

***

A friend of mine actually saw a creepy clown last year.

I’ll tell you what happened.

She and another woman were walking alone in a park after dark.  Not long after they arrived, they noticed a man in a creepy clown mask stalking them in the shadows, mimicking their every move.  The women were terrified and left the park.

Ok.

Scary, right?

Now.

Let me tell you the same story another way.

The two women went to the park.  It was after dark, but there were lights in the park.  Also, it was Halloween night, so lots of people were around.  They noticed a group of three teenage boys standing together at the edge of the playground.  One of them had on a clown mask.  That kid saw the women walking and said something to his friends.  He started following the women from across the playground.  If they walked, he walked; if they stopped, he stopped.

The other woman had a small pistol in a fanny pack on her hip.  She had her hand on it, ready to unzip and fire.  My friend was worried for the clowns’s safety and called out to him.

Her voice is funny when she recalls how she said it, kind of charmed and tolerant, the way you would ask a toddler if they were having fun playing in the toilet.

“Awwwww, hi!” she said, “Are you being a creepy clown?”

The boy stopped and tilted his head to one side and walked away, back to his friends.

The situation was diffused and the two women went on with their walk.  They did not call the media or the police or post about it on Facebook.

The story did not go on to have any creepy clown baby stories on the internet that day.

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The first version of that story is intentionally creepy.  The second version is still cringeworthy, but it is not sensational.

The media does this to us constantly, tweaking a story to pull out the most provocative elements, whether in regard to politics or race issues or creepy clowns.

And, sometimes, we do it to each other.

***

As of today, in reality, the actual reported creepy clown incidents are very few.

And there is absolutely no truth to reports of clowns hurting or luring children into some dark and scary woods.

Most child predators try to bribe kids with things they like, like candy.  Or puppies.  And it is common knowledge that many children are afraid of clowns.

No disrespect to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, but seriously.  As if any kid would go to these guys???

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At the time of this writing, out of over 40 states this fall, only two reports of creepy clown assaults on an individual in the U.S. are actually confirmed, and those involved a tenth grade student and an adult.

And get this:  the vast majority of arrests associated with creepy clown sightings have not been of people dressed like creepy clowns, but of those people who are lying about seeing creepy clowns.

***

What is going on here?

The last few years have seemed to hold more terror than we are used to.

Whether it’s true or not (and it appears in many cases to be false.  Look at this article on the declining rate of gun violence, and this one for the lower rate of other assaults in the U.S.), we are on high alert as a society.

International and national tension.  Election year stress. Our country finds itself in a time of cultural change in many areas, and most people fear change as much as anything else.

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We are heightened.

It makes sense that culture would come up with a scapegoat, something to diffuse the anxiety.  And clowns have always served this purpose.  Broken the tension. Lightened the mood.

People can talk about #ifisawaclown in a way that they can’t talk about #ifiseearefugee or #ifhilarywins or #iftrumpispresident, and on and on.

The conversations we are afraid to have with each other are infinite.

Enter the creepy clowns.  A universal thumbs down.  Something we all can agree on.

But here’s the problem.

The more that people perpetuate the rumors and the myth of the creepy clowns,  the more the myth will grow.  And the potential of something bad happening, to clowns and non-clowns alike, increases as the hysteria rises.  Mobs are notorious for terrible decisions, and clowns are not known for wisdom.

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Remember that scene in Prince Caspian, where Edmund thinks of his fear in the steaming ocean, and the fear comes to life?  A giant- kraken like monster wrapping itself around the ship as the sailors look into the fanged mouth of death.

All thanks to Edmund’s fear fantasy, manifested.

***

It’s a strange thing that these kinds of fears can be self-fulfilling prophecies.  

I pray that the hysteria dies down before someone else gets hurt.  I pray we can find peaceful and brave ways to face the real issues.  That we can call up in our collective selves a certain amount of tenacity and grit and strength that would make our grandparents proud.  That we can find ourselves unified as one nation with a common goal for good.  And just drop the clown thing already.  

Amen.

NOTE:  I was contacted by a reader after publishing this post.  She wanted to let me know that there were three confirmed clown attacks in Detroit.  In the name of integrity, I am including that addendum here.  That brought the number of confirmed attacks to five rather than two.  The basic message remains the same, however, that creepy clowns are not the threat that is implied by the amount of media attention they have received of late.

And just to check, I looked up the number of assaults yearly in Detroit.  The last year on record at citydata.com shows 9,191 assaults.  That’s an average of 25 assaults in Detroit every day.  Which confirms the point of this post–assaults by clowns are extremely rare.

The masks stand out and make clown attacks seem more prevalent than they are.  They are something we can identify, which is simultaneously creepy and reassuring.  We can identify the clown.  It’s the psychopaths that we interact with on a daily basis that we can not identify.  Much easier to just focus on clowns, however erroneously.

Goodbye, Fear. Hello, Love.