Tag Archives: fear

Birthright, Bodies, and Healing: Part Two

Birthright.

One word can change everything.

Last week, I promised to tell you the things that happened to my body after I got hit with the meaning of this word, birthright.

And I will. I’ll get to that.

Things happened that I could see, but more important were the things that happened deep down–the unseen thought changes were the root of the tangible changes.

What is beauty?

The day I heard “Your body is your birthright,” I was reminded of a time I heard this question in prayer.

Amy, what is beauty? 

I saw three vases, beautifully sculpted, on a mantle. One was very tall and thin. One was short and curvy. And one was shorter and rounder, like a bowl.

What is beauty?

 

“Amy. Which one is beautiful?”

“All of them, Lord, they are all beautiful.”

“Yes,” He said, “and they are more beautiful together.”

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Then I saw an arrangement of three flowers, a daisy, a rose, and a violet, and I heard again, “Which one is beautiful?”

“They all are, Lord, all of them are beautiful.”

“Yes,” He said, “and they are more beautiful together.”

I could see this in life, in the mall, in the women around me, but until the other day, I couldn’t see it for myself.

Which one is beautiful? 

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You are beautiful.

You are God’s favorite shape.

We all are.

And.

We are more beautiful together.

Constantly comparing or coveting someone else’s body or features is a sure death of self-esteem. Always looking at someone else and thinking you should be better, “like they are,” means an endless cycle of competition is whirling every time we look at each other.

Somebody has to get off this Ferris Wheel of Death. Maybe a whole lot of somebodies.

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Because it is death. It is a sure death of anything looking like self-esteem. It is a sure death of being comfortable in your own skin. It is a sure death of enjoying your life, enjoying relaxing in your birthright, celebrating the shape that you are.

And for some, it is actual death.

I’ve been reading stories this week about self-esteem.

People who have cosmetic procedures are at a higher risk of suicide, because nips and tucks on the body don’t address the root problem, the vision we have of ourselves.

Many patients, women and men, come out of surgery only to feel worse about themselves because the self-esteem issues weren’t addressed–they wake up and those issues and the feelings that go with them are still there. In fact, even those with healthy self-esteem who think they are just going in for a “little lift” often feel worse about themselves after these kinds of procedures. There is a promise on these procedures that they cannot deliver.

Nips and tucks don’t address the vision we have of ourselves.

 

When we disdain our birthright, when we don’t look at our bodies as a holy inheritance, the Temple of God, but instead see them as something to be constantly criticized and corrected, we establish a habit. No matter what this body looks like, we will criticize it, because we decide this is the right way to view a body.

And if we do this to ourselves, we will do it to others.

Love your neighbor–as you love yourself.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

I have not been critical of other people’s bodies. I held others in high esteem, one reason I had not noticed this defecit in myself.

But what I had started to notice is that certain things sent me into a rage. Grammar mistakes by strangers. Bad driving by strangers. And bad manners by strangers.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

 

I realized I was carrying an underlying level of what I considered acceptable criticism. It was not acceptable to me to consciously criticize myself or people I knew, but I found myself spewing rage toward strangers and their missteps.

The first prayer I prayed weeks ago in this journey was “God, what is this? Why am I letting grammar and table manners rob me of my peace? I don’t want anything draining my energy! Show me the root! I want freedom. I don’t want any thought that isn’t from you!”

I thought I needed to confess and be delivered of being so darn judge-y.

And I did, but He showed me that it started with me, with the way I viewed myself. Even more than I criticized  others, I was constantly criticizing myself. And I truly did not see it. I had a conscious stream of thought that was “correct,” things that I said over myself every day:  I am God’s creation. I have favor. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But I also had a less conscious stream running underneath all of that, the one that shuddered over imperfections, the one that always said “ew” to the mirror.

I want freedom.

 

Love your neighbor.

As you love yourself.

That’s some kind of poison love we are giving out to others if we are constantly walking around saying “ew” every time we look in the mirror.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash
Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

 

Seeing your body as Birthright is a game changer.

 

If my love for myself today is conditional on reaching a certain standard–a number on the scale, a dress size, a body-fat percentage–then my love for myself will always be conditional. Reaching those standards won’t be enough. It’s a bar that’s always being raised, a point that’s always moving, a goal that can never be reached.

I have to love myself unconditionally now, just as I am, “flaws” and all, if I want to be able to really love myself and others in the future, regardless of whether I go to the gym and “improve,” or I age and “decline.” This kind of love is a decision. It has to be made. It has to be chosen.

Seeing your body as birthright is a game changer.

It stops being about vanity and becomes about something cosmic, something deep. A right. An inheritance. A gift.

A Temple.

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Culture gives us one standard of beauty, but God does not see us or any part of His creation that way. And He did not make it to fit one narrow mold. He is an artist, the original creative, a lover of diversity. Even in something that seems insignificant, like a leaf.

Think about all the different kinds of leaves, and how beautiful they all are together. How absolutely boring nature would be if every leaf were a maple leaf. And how absurd if every leaf aspired to change its shape to the maple’s pointed star.

Culture gives us one standard of beauty, but God does not see us or any part of His creation that way.

 

I lived in Los Angeles for two years. I have seen many celebrities up close, and I often don’t recognize them until someone else points them out.

Why is that?

Because they usually don’t even look like “themselves,” like the images that they have helped create. They are not recognizable without their style teams, professional makeup and lighting artists, and airbrushing. They have wrinkles, saggy skin, grey roots. All of it.

It doesn’t mean that I haven’t looked at them and thought, wow, what a beautiful person, but it does mean that, many times, they don’t look like their own pictures.

As Cary Grant was famous for saying, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

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So.

What happened to me after a day of thinking like this? After releasing the eternal “ew” that I was speaking over myself and trading it in for the awesome Power of the Birthright?

First, I felt lighter. My head felt so light I felt like a bobble head. I have had a lot of migraines and neck and shoulder pain. Sometimes it was low-lying and constant, kind of like those beat-yourself-up thoughts I was having. I noticed it was gone.

Second, I felt good. Good. I felt so much better, I didn’t want to feel that old way again. Any time some critical thought would try to creep in, I was like, “NOOO!! This is my BIRTHRIGHT. I am God’s favorite shape!” And, instead of hating the reflection in the shop windows, I noticed I was seeing myself and feeling good. Like, “DANG, Y’ALL, I FEEL GOOD! I LOOK GOOD! I AM GOOD!” I did not care if someone liked the way I looked in my jeans, because I am God’s favorite shape. I did not care if someone thought my arms looked awesome in my shirt because I AM GOD’S FAVORITE SHAPE! I laughed a lot.

Third, I came home after a day of this freedom, and I thought, “I bet I lost weight. I feel lighter. I bet I am lighter.” I got on the scale. I lost 3.5 pounds that day without even trying. And over the next day, I lost another half a pound. Four pounds total, just melted off like that.

Fourth, I had insight into some health problems that I have had for years. I changed a few small things, and I am almost symptom free after one week. I am back to eating almost all foods without painful repercussions, and I see a huge difference in my sleep.

I felt lighter.

 

I am expecting more good things to come. For me and for you. All of us, more beautiful together. Better overall, together. Celebrating our birthrights, together.

Doesn’t that sound so much better than competing for impossible standards, together?

I’m jumping off the Ferris Wheel of Death. Right into my Birthright.

Here are a few tips on how I’m doing it, and you can too:

  1. See your body as your birthright. Journal about what this means. How does it change the way you see yourself when your body is your Birthright instead of something to be criticized and “whipped” into shape?
  2. Say stuff out loud. Thank God for giving you your body as your Birthright. Tell your body that it is good, just as it is. Thank your body for all the good times, all the hard work, all the stuff it’s put up with. Apologize to your body for all the mean things you’ve said and done to it. Tell yourself, “I am God’s favorite shape.” Tell your body you’re going to do your best from now on to treat it with the respect and celebration a Birthright deserves.
  3. By all means, exercise and eat well, but not as some form of self-abuse. Trade in loving yourself “someday” for “now.” Don’t put conditions on self-acceptance. Truly loving yourself means eating well to bless your body, not starving yourself to reach an impossible goal.
  4. Write life-giving words over yourself, and post where you can see them, especially on mirrors. For example, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made! I am made in God’s image! My body is my birthright! I am done abusing myself in thoughts, words or actions. I love myself today, not “someday!” I celebrate my Birthright!”
  5. If you catch yourself falling back into old habits, just apologize to your body, and get back on the wagon.

This is a good starting place. What other suggestions do you think could help others make peace with and celebrate the body as Birthright?

And by the way, this is not just for women. For men, too. We all have things we are tempted to criticize about ourselves. But we are getting free. We are on a journey to Birthright.

***

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm139:14

 

Birthright, Bodies, and Healing: Part One

Healing is complex. And some things change you forever.

This week, I heard a word in a new way. And I am changed forever.

Birthright.

The Lord spoke this word to me this week. Over and over until I paid attention. Real attention.

Before now, when I heard the word birthright, I thought of an inheritance or the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible.

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Birthright was taken so seriously in ancient days that even when Jacob tricked Isaac into giving him Esau’s birthright blessing, Isaac couldn’t take it back. It wasn’t something that could be given and then taken away.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

As I pondered this word this week, I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to get from this word, birthright? Why are you highlighting this word to me?”

And I heard this in reply, “Your body. Your body is your birthright.”

Your body is your birthright.

 

I hurt my knee in April, and I’m still recovering. I’ve gained 15 pounds and watched hard earned muscles wither as I wait for my knee to heal, even while exercising as much as I can. I’m learning to be thankful for different things, like not having to go on outings in a wheelchair, and I’m really trying to give myself time to recover. Trying not to beat myself up when I see the changes in my body. And rather than being angry and frustrated with myself and the whole situation, I’m trying to be grateful, to choose joy.

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I am not always successful.

Before I hurt my knee, I was just coming out of a six-year bout with a mystery illness that caused a tremendous amount of pain and a thousand weird little symptoms. I never had a diagnosis, just a bunch of confused doctors telling me to rest and work on my diet and maybe take an anti-depressant, the blanket diagnosis for women who can’t be helped. We must be sad.

Because being sad causes dry eyes and itchy hands.

I never took the anti-depressant, but I did work on my diet, and I prayed constantly, and my life motto became “NEVER GIVE UP.” In April this year, I could see breakthrough in every area in my body. I thought I was entering a new phase with my health.

And then, I hurt my knee. And in some ways, I have lost a lot of ground.

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The day I kept praying over the word “birthright,” I was also asking, “What is up with this body? Why was I sick, and then almost well, and then I hurt my knee? Something isn’t right–God, what is it?”

When I heard His reply, “Your body is your birthright,” I had to stop a minute.

“What, now?”

My body.

My body is my birthright.

And I had a sudden impression of the power of The Birthright.

A birthright was everything. It was every good thing a father had to give. It was everything a father worked to give his children, every blessing he could provide to sustain them all the days of their lives. It was a good gift, the best gift. It changed the future. It was meant to be used, invested, stewarded, appreciated, enjoyed, celebrated.

A birthright was everything. 

 

If my body is my birthright, it is a good gift from my Father.

My body as my birthright, just as is it, it is a blessing. It’s not less than. It’s not a mistake.

My body as my birthright, it is meant for many things. The investing and stewarding, I get that, but, enjoyed? Celebrated? Even in the state it’s in right now?

That was a tough one.

Celebrating your body is your birthright. Loving yourself, in whatever state you’re in right now, it is your birthright.

My body as my birthright, just as is it, it is a blessing. It’s not less than. It’s not a mistake.

 

I have been extremely careful over the years to never say “I hate my body, or I hate this or that thing about my body.” I hear other women say it, and the curse in that kind of language is clear.

But, what did I say?

I was quick to say that I needed to work out or eat better. I could see my arms or legs, especially since the accident, and the first word that came quietly out of my mouth was usually, “Eeeewww.”

In our culture, we equate fitness with righteousness, and we can be extremely cruel to ourselves in the name of stewardship. And in the religious church, “Loving yourself” sounds a lot like heresy to some.

We are missing the whole point.

I could look at other women and see their individual beauty. God is an artist, He loves diversity, different sizes and different shapes, and I love to see the different expressions of His creation in His daughters and His sons.

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I could be happy for everyone else.

But to myself, I was astonishingly  cruel.

Before I heard this sentence, “Your body is your birthright,” I didn’t realize how cruel.  I love clothes and hair and makeup and all the girly things.  I didn’t feel insecure or ugly.

But I didn’t feel like I measured up, either.

I always felt like there were other things I should be doing, adding more exercise, trying this or that meal plan, reading about color blocking or the most slimming jeans. Always, always, always thinking how to get this body “whipped into shape.”

Whipping our bodies into shape is not health. It is not stewardship. It is not investing.

Whipping is abuse.

But to myself, I was astonishingly  cruel.

 

A flood of images and impressions came over me. I understood in my mind that I should be kind to myself, that I should let my daughters hear me speak well of myself for their sake, that I should speak life over myself. Consciously and on the surface,  I did that.

But in my heart, I wasn’t getting it. God revealed to me the constant underlying stream of self-abuse in the background–underneath the conscious thought–word upon word upon word telling me in a million ways how I didn’t measure up, wasn’t good enough, the constant “eeewww.”

In my heart, I wasn’t getting it.

 

He showed me how I checked myself in shop windows and quickly sucked and tucked and adjusted everything and then walked away  thinking, “Well, that’s a little better. It’ll do.”

He showed me that I made up, yes, made up conversations in my head that other women were having about me in their heads.  How I noticed a woman nearby and immediately began to assume that she was judging me, that she thought I didn’t eat well, or thought I was lazy and didn’t exercise. And I would get indignant over this imaginary conversation. How dare she judge me, she doesn’t even know me.

Made up conversations, do you hear me.

This is true.

Crazy, yes.

But true.

And I know I’m not the only one who has done this.

In reality, that woman is probably not thinking about me at all. And if she is, if the conversations I have been having with friends this week are any indication, it is likely that she thinks I am judging her.

What an absurd situation, two women circling each other over cantaloupes, imagining the other one judging her. Imaginary hate from imaginary haters. Because. You know. We don’t have enough real haters.

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What in the world.

It’s got to stop.

Your body is your birthright.

Your Birthright.

When we see a newborn, we all look in quiet wonder at tiny fingers and tiny toes and say the same thing, “What miracle.”

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Can you even imagine looking at a newborn and talking to that baby the way most women talk to themselves?

“Oh, what a miracle. But, eeeewww, your fat little arms. And oh no, your butt is just ugly and huge. You need a girdle. And those legs? Ugh. We need to get you in the gym quick, whip you into shape. Yes, you are a miracle, but, um. Seriously, tiny baby. Gross.”

This is absurd. But it is what most women do to themselves constantly, all day, every day, and it is tragic.

Your body is every good thing. You are a miracle. You were that newborn once. Your Heavenly Father delighted in you then, and He delights in you the same way now.

Can you imagine talking to a baby the way most women talk to themselves?

 

God made you, fearfully, wonderfully, beautifully. He looks at you and calls you good.

Yes.

All of it. Your whole self.

You. Are. Good.

I wept.

I am good.

I felt light as the thoughts burned up in the light. I knew that they would try to come back, and I felt so good, I didn’t want to pick them back up again. I did not realize how much negativity was spewing through my mind constantly, how it was weighing me down, how it was constantly draining my energy.

The enemy is so sneaky. He goes under the radar. It takes Holy Spirit to reveal these hiding places to us.

I asked Him, “How do I walk this out? I don’t want to go back. Show me how to walk this out!”

And I heard again, “Your body is your birthright. Be kind to your body. Celebrate your birthright.”

Celebrate your birthright.

 

I think some of us sort of get this in our heads, but we have got to get it deep in our hearts.

Not just for everyone else.

For ourselves.

It was foreign to me, but I felt such relief and such love from Him, such gratitude, I was willing to do anything.

I didn’t know what else to do but start talking to my body.

“I’m so sorry, Body. I’m so sorry I’ve been so mean to you. Thank you so much for being so good. Thank you so much for letting me enjoy this life, have kids, eat food.”

I just went on and on.

“You are good arms! You are good, good arms. You are good legs, good, good legs. Thanks for letting me reach out and touch the world, thanks for carrying me to so many places. You are good! You are a good tummy, you are good hands, you are good!”

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Sometimes, I’m really glad there’s no one around when He has me do this stuff.

I stood there and talked to my body and hugged myself. And I wept.

We are more cruel to ourselves than we would ever be to anyone else, more cruel than we would ever allow others to speak of themselves in our presence.

It is not righteous to beat ourselves up with words.

It is not good stewardship to whip ourselves into shape.

You. Are. Good.

 

Health is Having Exquisite Appreciation and Love That Heals.

Health means doing things for yourself in love, NOT out of self-hatred. We need to take care of ourselves, but out of love and wonder at the miracle these bodies are, not out of disgust at all the ways we don’t measure up. Health flows from appreciating your birthright, not looking at yourself and saying “Ew.”

Your body is your Birthright.

It is also your birthright to walk in this body and enjoy it. Celebrate it. In whatever condition it’s in, it is your Birthright.

And.

Your sister’s body is her Birthright.

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Jacob and Esau were just one example, but their story is a morality tale of two brothers who despised their own birthrights, and both are shown to us as foolish, and ungrateful, and missing the point of the birthright. And they destroyed their relationship in the process.

Your sister’s body. Her Birthright. It is not a thing to be coveted or set a standard. Your father gave her this birthright. Your father gave you yours. Your birthright is not less than hers simply because it is different. Hers is not better or worse than yours because it is different. Birthrights are not things to be compared. They are a father’s best gift, individually suited to bless each child.

Your birthright is not less than simply because it is different.

 

Knowing that my sister’s body is her birthright, it’s easier to look around. When temptation to compare comes in, I say, “No. That is her birthright.” And there is a sense of honor and of being happy for her, as well as for myself.  She has her birthright, and I have mine! Birthright honoring Birthright. Way better than two ravaged women squinting at each other over produce. Beating myself up with whatever she got that I think I don’t have? And vice versa? That was not God’s plan when He gave us our bodies.

Body image may work like that, but Birthright does not.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

Your body is your birthright. Celebrating your body? Appreciating it? Not cursing it and constantly thinking how gross it is? Congratulating your sister on her beauty? This attitude is part of your birthright.

Birthright honoring Birthright.

 

When I grabbed on to this word, God started doing tangible things in my body. Next week in Part Two, I’ll share those things along with more tips on taking hold of your birthright and not letting go.

For now, ask yourself, ask Holy Spirit, “What have I been saying to myself deep down about my body, my weight, my age, my fitness level, my overall look? How do I abuse myself or beat myself up? Where am I walking in self hatred? What does God call me? What does He say about it? What do I need to say to my body, to myself about myself, instead?”

Pay attention this week to the stream of thoughts that flows underneath the conscious shoulds. When you hear self abuse of any kind, even the sneaky kind that masquerades as “health,” ask God to give you something else to say. Write down what you hear so that you can come back to it when you need to. Pat yourself and say those things out loud. Say to yourself, “NO. This is my birthright. This body part ________ is GOOD. It is my BIRTHRIGHT.”

May be best if no one else is around. You need to get excited about this. You need to get freaking emphatic.

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Your body. Your body is your Birthright. Celebrating your body as you would celebrate a miracle, a newborn, and any other thing in creation? Also part of your birthright.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

You are good.

***

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm139:14

The Secret Weapon Against Stage Fright for Any Platform

Performance pressure. It can shut us down in a hot minute.

I have always loved people, but I used to get very nervous at parties or gatherings where I didn’t know all the guests.

I asked God to help me with this. “Lord, help me not feel crazy. Help me not feel terrified. How do I talk to people and really communicate? Help me connect in a healthy way that is not show-offy or guarded. What’s the healthy, Godly place in the middle?”

And He said, “Go in to serve.”

And I saw myself at a wedding I would soon be attending, straightening napkins and dishes at a serving table. I said, “But Lord, they have hired people to do that. Won’t that be weird?”

He said, “There is never enough help at an event like that. Go in to serve, and you will be appreciated by everyone who sees you, from the mother of the bride to the caterer they hired.”

It was an “aha” moment for me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing. It is your secret weapon against stage fright or performance pressure of any kind.

I did go to that wedding, and I did serve a little bit, but not much because I got too busy having fun. We talked and danced and laughed all night.

But going in with the *attitude of a servant* relieved me of wondering what was going to be expected of me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing.

 

There is never enough help. There is never too much love or consideration being shown. Serving means we don’t have to engage in arguments. We don’t have to win. We don’t have to be top dog. We don’t have to strive to be noticed, or perfect, or worry if we hit the mark, or say the wrong thing.

If He says ‘say it,” then say it. If He says “do it”,  then do it. Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

No matter what your platform is, from the big screen or the stage, to taking care of toddlers or just living in your community, showing up to serve relieves expectation and pressure.

Servants don’t worry about what others think, they just do what they were called to the platform to do.

Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

 

I knew what God expected of me at that wedding, and that was enough. It freed me. I wasn’t going to have to be brilliant in conversation or an expert on wedding etiquette, I just had to watch for trash on the ground or someone needing help with their plate or napkins that needed straightening.

I could do that.

Since then, any time I feel nervous or inadequate, or even bored or uninspired, I say to myself, “Go in to serve.” Could be parties or events, but also when I’m asked to speak to a group or when I’m writing.

When I approach writing with the pressure of creating a masterpiece, I want to quit before I ever get started.

Other times–I feel completely out of ideas, like I have nothing to say at all.

But when I ask God to show me how to write as a servant, how to let the words reach out in love and minister to the hearts of those who need His touch, the message becomes simplified and so much more clear.

All the questions of performance boil down to one in the heart of a servant: Am I loving well for His sake?

Am I loving well for His sake?

 

It’s a brilliant tactic that Jesus teaches us as our Servant King.

Service done well, with excellence and awareness and humility and care, is so rare in this world, that when someone serves, truly lowers themselves to serve another person and do it with grace, it gets noticed. It gets favor. It gets promoted.

Servants.

Going in to serve.

So much simpler this way.

***

I pray God guides your head, heart, and hands as you serve. I pray He reminds you of the beautiful freedom of being a servant.

Serve one another humbly in love. Gal5:13b 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Cor3:13

 

The Revelation of Memory: A Process of Emotional Healing

Some things stick so sharp in memory, like blades thrown hard in a turning board.

And those memories reveal more than just the details of an event.

Memories reveal truths about the person remembering them, things we need to look at in ourselves. Rather than make accusations, or lay blame, or look to others for resolution, when a painful memory arises we have an opportunity to see something that has been hidden.

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My earliest memory always troubled me. I saw home videos of myself as a child, giggling and playing. So I know that I had those moments, but that is not what I remember early on.

My first memory is of a family altercation that left my mother in tears.  I remember feeling angry and protective of her, as little as I was, around three years old. That memory would come up at random times and stab away at me again.

I shared the story with women friends last week. We were praying for each other and agreeing with one another’s desire to go to a new level of health and strength. They asked me if I wanted to pray through the memory with them.

“Of course,” I said. “I want to be done with this.”

I have recommended a book several times on this site, and it’s becoming a staple around here. Praying Medic’s book, Emotional Healing in 3 Easy Steps, is so simple that it seems like it can’t be real.  But it works.  I’ve used it alone, with others, and now I’ve had friends walk through it with me.  It’s powerful and deceptively simple.

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My friends were familiar with the book and started praying and talking through the method with me.

It really is three easy steps.  The book is more thorough and gives anecdotes and testimonies, but, basically, you bring up the memory in your mind. You share the emotion that you feel when you focus on the memory. And then you give that emotion to Jesus.  Repeat the steps until there is no negative emotion left, until you feel peace.

When I first focused on the memory, I felt anger. Absolute rage. I remember taking a box of tissue to my mother and being furious that someone would be so mean to her to leave her crying like that.tissues-1000849_640

I saw Jesus standing there.  I gave the rage to Him.

My friend Ginny said, “Ok, now go back to that memory. You are standing by your mother. What do you feel now towards the person who hurt her?”

Disgust. A wave of disgust that felt like it could knock me over. Horrific gobs of disgust.

“Ok,” she said. Give the disgust to Jesus.”

“Ok.” I gave it to Jesus.

“Now go back. What do you feel now?”

Still disgust. Not surprising, really. There was a lot of disgust.

“Ok, that’s ok,” she said. “Sometimes you have to give it to Him more than once. Just say, ‘Jesus, I give you this disgust.'”

And I could not do it.

I’m not even kidding. I could not do it.

It surprised me. I am an emotionally aware person, and I wanted to be healed. But I could not let it go. It was a physical sensation even, a tightness in my throat.

Why would anyone want to hold on to it?

And I didn’t really, but I couldn’t let it go.

The women prayed, and we just waited. I couldn’t say the words. Did I mention that it was 3 am?

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Perfect love doesn’t watch the clock.

It was like digging out a dandelion root. The Holy Spirit was leading me down and down and down to something so deep that I didn’t even know it was there.

I have been to more counselors and pastor’s meetings and prayer groups than I can count. I have read books on healing and had multiple experiences with deliverance in many forms. I have forgiven much. And I am so much stronger than I was. None of it was wasted, and I have been healed of so much pain.

But I was confused that night because I was looking for more pain at the roots of these old things. I thought that when I let go of the disgust, I would feel more pain. But pain and hurt were not present. I’ve been healed of so much of that.

When I finally was able to choke out the words, “I give You the disgust,” it felt like some great covering was wrenched from me. I felt wide open, exposed.

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My friend said, “Ok. You are back in the room. Now what do you feel?”

I thought I would say “pain.” But it wasn’t that.

It was fear.

A sharp and bright little burning flame of fear. A child’s world rocked to the core. It scared me so much, the screaming and the crying. And as a child, I guess I went straight to disgust and anger to protect myself. And then carried it all around for years like a shield.

I think the pain actually came later, as the implications of the problems became more clear, the waste and the disappointment. But in the beginning, it was just simple fear.

Fear is at the root of so much of our junk.

“Ok,” Ginny said. “Give Jesus the fear.”

So I did. That part was easier. But I guess that fear and I go way back. Further than I even thought. It’s a battle I’ve fought for a long time. And the Lord spoke “Lady the Fearless” over me when I asked Him the name of this blog.  He meant it.

He’s speaking “Fearless” over you.

And He means it.

We are getting healed. Together.

***

When you remember something that stabs at you, what is the heart, the soul, the spirit within you trying to say about the past and what needs healing and release?  

Praying Medic’s book can help you.  Find it here.

Perfect love casts out fear.  1John4:18b

And a thank you to the women of Facebook at Lisa Palieri Perna’s Daddy’s Girl conference. You know who you are. May you be richly blessed.

A Willing Vessel: 9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

I love movies.

Not all movies.  But the well done and uplifting ones, I love those.  The wisdom of a lifetime compressed into two short hours:  Seabiscuit, Queen Elizabeth, and William Wilberforce, and now, Bernie Webber, from start to finish, in the time it takes to paint my nails.

I’m grateful.  I need all the life-school I can get.

The Finest Hours is based on the true story of the most daring small boat rescue in Coast Guard history (Spoiler Alert).  It’s a simple film, easy to watch unless you are upset by rollicking ocean scenes.  It is not complex in the sense of subplot or psycho-drama, but it is a great tribute to a group of heroes who faced their fears, not to promote themselves, but to save the lives of 33 men stranded on one half of a ship destroyed by a raging storm.

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If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that Chris Pine, also cast in recent years as the new Captain Kirk, is almost unrecognizable as the windchapped and head ducking rule-follower, Bernie Webber.

I love seeing actors lay down their vanity.  It’s a different kind of bravery.

The movie takes place on a night rocked by terrible winter storms and is based mostly around a Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts.  Not only one, but two tankers were torn in half by the storm that night.  Most thought that Bernie and his crew were being sent out on a suicide mission when they went out to help the S.S. Pendletion.

Throughout the movie, I was struck with Bernie’s absolute unwavering determination.  He and his crew were in a tiny open boat, sometimes completely submerged in water, four men on a huge and angry ocean.  I watched it twice.  And some things stood out to me about courage in the face of a challenge.

9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

 

1. Face your fears, and then do it afraid.

Bernie’s fiancée, Miriam, is afraid of boats and water.  When he finds out, he immediately wants her to get on a boat.  Bernie tells her, “We all get scared out there.” Don’t stuff feelings, admit them.  Bernie does not cover up his fear.  He does what he has to do in spite of it.

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2. Keep it simple, and shrug it off if you have to.  

Miriam says in reply, “I’m not scared of the water, just what’s underneath.”  Bernie shrugs and smiles and says, “Just more water.”

And later, when everyone around him tells him that he will die if he goes on the mission, he shrugs again, respectfully, and responds, “The Coast Guard says you got to go out.  It doesn’t say you have to come back in.”

Whatever it is, don’t overthink it.

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3. Knowing your why helps with your how.

Bernie joined the Coast Guard to be a protector.

And so had his crew.  They all volunteered.  A Coast Guard officer has the ability to command a crew, but Bernie didn’t have to take unwilling sailors.  One volunteer, Ervin Maske, says, “Well, someone has to go out there and save those guys, right?  That’s why I signed up.”

If you’ve never written a personal mission statement, it’s a helpful exercise.  When life gets distracting, difficult, and confusing, I go back to my mission statement.  It helps me know what decision fits with my ultimate purpose; it helps me remember who I am when I’m being pressured to be something else.

It helps me choose my battles.

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4. So does being prepared.  

Show up, and work hard, even if you don’t know the end game.  Bernie had been on rescue missions;  he had completed his training and knew the local waters well from his patrols.  He could not have anticipated the shipwreck that particular night, but by doing what he was good at every day, getting better, gaining skill and knowledge, he allowed God to prepare him for the biggest rescue of his life.

When the time comes, it goes a long way to know that you have the skill you need to do the job He’s asking you to do.

The years of training and boating allowed God to use these four men.  At the same time, in some ways they weren’t experienced enough.  Just showing up with the knowledge you have is half the battle.  He can use a willing vessel.

As Heidi Baker says, “If you don’t quit, you win.”

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5.  Be singleminded.

Once the leaders in the film make up their minds, they stay with their decisions.  Bernie Webber, Station Sergeant Cluff, and Chief Engineer Sybert on the shipwrecked S.S. Pendleton, all are singleminded men, even in the face of raging criticism and undermining.  And they insist on unity from their teams, that everyone around them be singleminded as well.

Though these men are surrounded by doubt, they do not allow themselves to be distracted and lose focus. In this particular situation, it was key.

If any of them had wavered, many men would have died.

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6. Courage doesn’t come from our peers.

The men at Chatham Station tell Bernie that he should pretend to follow Cluff’s commands, to motor around the harbor, and then come back in and say he couldn’t get out.  Bernie tells them thank you.

And then he goes out anyway.

As Praying Medic said to me recently, “Most friendships are temporary.  I can’t change what I believe just because a friend asks me to.”

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7. At the same time, it helps to have at least one person that believes in you.

Chatham Bar, a shallow sandbar off the coast, was also known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  It was difficult to cross, especially in a storm.  Bernie pauses when they reach the Bar and looks at the huge waves crashing toward them.  Engineman Andy Fitzgerald calls out, “We got faith in you, Skip!  Anytime you’re ready you just go, ok, Bernie?!”

Bernie wants to go, but he is unsure at times.  He knows what is at stake, and he knows his decisions put his crew at risk.  Fitzgerald’s cheering strengthens Bernies’s resolve.

Courage doesn’t come from friends, but believing in each other goes a long way to bolster courage.

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8.  Don’t give fear center stage.

On the S.S. Pendleton, Chief Engineer Sybert plans to run the ship aground and wait for help.  Another sailor, Brown, berates him and questions his decision, implying that he cares more about the ship than saving the men.  Sybert replies, “I got a life, same as you.  I’m scared, too, Brown.  Just don’t see the point in sitting around and talking about it.”

At the same time, on the Coast Guard boat, Richie Livesey is shouting at Bernie everything that is wrong, that they should go back. But Bernie already knows that they are in danger, that they have lost their compass, that the storm is getting worse.  When Fitzgerald hears Livesey, he goes from supporting Bernie to agreeing with Livesey, “Maybe Richie’s right!  Maybe we should just go back!”

Once spoken, Richie’s doubt becomes contagious.

It’s the only time Bernie shouts.  He will not listen to doubt or make a decision based on fear.  “We aren’t giving up on ’em! Not on my watch!”

Don’t give fear all the air time.  Give hope the sound instead.

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9. Faith, not luck, is on your side.

The men on the S.S. Pendletion pray when the ship is torn in two.  Later Brown yells at Sybert, “This ship is just bad luck!”  Sybert replies, “It’s got nothing to do with luck.”

Bernie Webber’s father was a pastor, and Bernie considered the ministry before he joined the Coast Guard.  Bernie always said about that night, “The Lord’s hand was on my shoulder.”  (ChristianNews.net)

In one of the few scenes that is not completely true to the story, Fitzgerald sings an old sailor song, and all the men join in, a sign of solidarity and a way to strengthen themselves.  In reality, they did sing, but not a sea shanty.  They sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages.

Bernie had a strong inner life.  He leaned on faith to do the impossible.

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One last thing that struck me as I researched this rescue was the absolute humility of these men.  Bernie always gave credit to the whole crew, even refusing a gold medal unless the crew received the same honor. One of the men’s wives didn’t know the full story of the rescue until years later. They chose bravery and self sacrifice, it was how they saw themselves.  And then they just lived it, without asking for glory.

It’s a beautiful story.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you learned from this film in the comments.

If you haven’t, it’s on Netflix right now.

Enjoy.

***

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.  Jn15:13

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.  Phil2:3

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle–victorious.  ~Vince Lombardi

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 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

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.

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.”