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.

Too Whatever

When I turned forty, I had a strong and wonderful moment of empowerment.

Finally.  Old enough to command respect.  Old enough not to care what people think.  Old enough to bust out and do whatever I want.

I’ll admit.  It was a fleeting moment.

A sudden fear of being obsolete and out of touch came upon me as  I studied my hair in the mirror, and the half-inch of showing roots looked whiter than ever.   Hard-won identity fled, its ancient, gray tail between its legs.

I have serious wrinkles now.  That the kids gave me.  I used to point at my forehead when they were acting crazy and tell them, “See this?  See these wrinkles?  YOU ARE GIVING THEM TO ME!”

I gave the last sixteen years to raising kids.  I’m still doing it.  And I love it.  But all this time, I’ve been telling myself, “When they are older, then.  Then I can do my thing.”

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I once heard Oprah say, “You can have it all.  You just can’t have it all at the same time.”

The woman who doesn’t have children.  Telling me not to worry about putting off my career.

Mercy.

I shared this aging angst with my friend, the lovely Chana Keefer.  She is the best selling author of several books on Amazon. You can find her here.

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She understood.  She laughed.  She told me that she had the same  fear about her modeling career–when she was sixteen.

Sixteen.

At the time, fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields had hit it big, and Chana was one year older.  She was, therefore, over the hill, past her prime, antiquated, passé.  She hadn’t done enough in her field.  She was doomed to fail.

At sixteen.

Chana, of course, went on to do all kinds of amazing things, modeling, acting,  writing, living.

And this conversation was an eye-opener for me.

Chana heard the same lies, at a young age, at sixteen years old, that were trying to take me out at forty.

Too old. 

The same lies.

It showed me the truth.  That the same lies come against all of us, no matter who we are or what we are dealing with.

Too old, too young, too fat, too thin, too inexperienced, too seasoned, too…whatever.

We all hear the same doubts and battle the same insecurities.

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It’s up to us what sticks.

I don’t really collect anything, but if I did, it would be those stories of people who defy expectations and beat the odds.  Fairy tales.  Bible stories.  Sports movies.  I love ’em.  Can’t get enough.

Mike Rowe is fast becoming a Paul Harvey for our time.  He is a great storyteller, and I’m including a story from him today.  Listen now or save for later.  You’ll be glad you did.  “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow,” about America’s first female self-made millionaire, Sarah Breedlove.   Link here.  (Doesn’t start till minute 6:00, so fast forward past the commercials if you need to.)

You can also read about Sarah Breedlove here at Wikipedia.

If Sarah can do it, I can do it.  And you can do it.  Beat the odds.  Have it all, whatever that looks like for you.

Don’t believe the lies that say, “you can’t,” whatever they are.

And.

Never give up.  Never, never, never, never, never give up.

***

Cheering you on, Fearless Wanderers! 

One Easy Tip for Emotional Healing. A Guest Post from Alice Briggs.

 Lady is taking a break from posting this week!

Moving across the country is taking up all of my time.  Today’s guest post is from my friend, Alice Briggs, owner, CEO, and general factotum at Alice Arlene, Ltd. Co.  She has an artwork business, alicearlene.com, and an inner healing business, emotionalandspiritualhealing.com.  She is a delight.  Check out her websites, and enjoy!

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***

Hey there, fellow lovers of Lady the Fearless!

I’ve been loving all of Lady’s tips on how to combat fear.

I wanted to let you know about a couple of resources that I’ve created that are practical and easy to implement.

I’ve been terrified of failure, defined in my mind as “anything less than perfect,” for as long as I can remember.  I was the kid that wanted to know why she got a 99% instead of 100% on the test.  I was the kid that shattered when she messed up during a piano recital and walked away from playing for years.  I was the student who studied so hard that the lack of sleep actually hurt her grades.  It’s not a good feeling to wake up looking at a test paper!  I don’t recommend it!  I was the new professional who over-analyzed every decision she made and was devastated when others thought there was a better option.

I had no room for grace.

I had no room for peace.

I had no room for process.

I had no room for freedom.

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My identity was wrapped up in what I did and how perfectly I did it.

It took me many years, and lots of help from God, to shift into a more helpful framework of identity.  I am Alice.  Nothing I can do, or not do, can change that.

I was created by God in His image.  I was created by God to do good work.

 But I was also created by God to enjoy the process!

So how did I begin such a foundational shift?

A lot of small things.  Over a period of time.

And I’m still learning.  But I have grace, peace, freedom, and pleasure in the process!

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I was a scavenger, still am!  I would pick up ideas, tips, and tricks, and try them.  And I held on for dear life to the ones that worked.  The ones that didn’t, I cast aside.

When I began my inner healing practice, I wanted to pass on these tools and tips to my clients.  I found that the ones who used them made faster progress than the ones who didn’t.

I decided that these things were far more significant than I thought.  I wrote blog posts on them and was encouraged to write a book.  I agreed, but I wanted it to be practical.  I get irritated when I read something that is completely theoretical.  It sounds good, but I want to know what it looks like.  How do I apply it in my life?

So, that’s the book I set out to write.   A Guide to Freedom:  11 Steps to Greater Joy, Hope, and Peace, 

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One of the chapters is on personalizing scripture.  If there is something plaguing me, such as fear, I use a concordance and look it up.  I make note of the verses that jump out at me, the ones that hit my heart, and spirit, and mind.

For example, I’m afraid and I find Joshua 1:9:  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.

There are a couple of ways that I can personalize this scripture, so there’s not a “correct” way, just the way that speaks most strongly to you at the time.

1) I could get out my trusty 3×5 cards and replace the “yous” with my name.  I could write:  Has God not commanded Alice?  Alice will be  strong and courageous.  Alice will not be afraid; Alice will not be discouraged, for the Lord my God will be with Alice wherever I go.

2) Or I could use “I” and “me” instead of the “you” pronouns and write:  Has God not commanded me?  I will be strong and courageous.  I will not be afraid; I will not be discouraged for the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go.

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Sometimes I find that using my name has a bigger punch, but again, there’s no right or wrong way.  The chapter includes templates to help you see exactly how to use this approach for yourself.

Other chapters include:

Grace for the Journey
Saturate Your Atmosphere
Read the Word
Listen to the Spirit
Take Negative Thoughts Captive
Bind up the Lies
Forgive Quickly and Often
A Community of Believers
Exercise Your Spiritual Giftings
Practice Thankfulness

I’d love to connect with you and share more tips and tricks for emotional healing through my website at emotionalandspiritualhealing.com.  Stop by, and sign up for my newsletter, and stay in touch!  –Alice

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.”

Goodbye, Fear. Hello, Love.