Applying Grace to Fear

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)

I snap the brown hair tie around my pony tail the third time. I tie the neon pink tipped black laces and start the GPS on my phone

Saturday morning runs are a gift Kagan gives me. No stroller, no kids on bikes, no time limits. Just the pavement and my feet.

The back door creaks and the chilly air feels like a splash of water. Deep breath, through the nose. The air smells crisp. Late summer in Montana. Perfection.

Slow jog. My calves are tight and the right side of my neck and upper traps, stiff. I roll my shoulder and stretch my neck from side to side.


I have been feeling like life is on the precipice of a final exam.

I have no idea how to prepare, but I am responsible to ace it. And Life is hiding behind a bush, with a black handlebar mustache, rubbing its hands together in gleeful anticipation. Eager to deliver a cosmic spanking at my certain failure.

Another breath. Two more steps, feet and calves warming up now.

As I move, I realize that this ominous story has me paralyzed, thoughts stuck. Freezing as I sense danger.

Arms pumping, with my next exhale I imagine oil lubricating my knotted neck. It’s as if these thoughts get snag in my chronically stiff neck.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance, Peter said to the church.

Another translation says, grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.

These thoughts and feelings are not peaceful. They aren’t gracious, either. They are strife and condemnation. I realize, subconsciously, that’s what I’ve been feeling in abundance and pretty full measure recently.

I try wiggling my jaw as I continue to warm up with a slow jog. My eyes tear with the effort in the brisk morning air. I blink several times. Warmth pools in my right eye and catches on my lower lashes.

When I quit BSF last year to do a Bible study with then 99-year-old Gramma Jean, I chose Ephesians.

I ordered the Kay Arthur Precepts study, I bought two sets of pens in green, light blue, pink and purple. I carefully explained to Gramma what you have to do.

I couldn’t tell if she actually forgot — or if she was just being passive-aggressive about participating in the study — but she never did her “homework.” Two or three weeks in a row, I explained the idea to her. All she has is time on her hands, after all. She never got that 3-ring binder out herself to “study.”

So, we read Ephesians 1 and 2 aloud once a week for 6 months.

Every week, Gramma Jean would stop in chapter 1 verse 6 or verse 7. If we got to chapter 2 we would pause over verse 7.

To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Eph. 1:6). “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Eph. 1:7). “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6-7).

She would say, “now, people rush over those words. Words like grace. I don’t remember what grace is, Becky. Nobody has ever explained it.”

Although certain that, in her 99 years she has heard many a sermon on “grace,” I would try to explain. And, not the years of dissecting, not the decades of reading the Bible like a lawyer — searching for how to define words, testing and arguing over reformed or Armenian theology — no, not these things, but one of the kids’ Veggie Tales CD came to my aid. In one song Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and Junior Asparagus sing the word “grace” repeatedly. Larry the Cucumber gets through the entire song thinking they’re singing about his Kindergarten teacher “Grace Smith.” Bob corrects him and Larry says, in his cucumber lisp: “oh, that grace. Unmerited favor of God.”

Every week, Larry’s voice in my head, I would explain to Gramma Jean: “Grace is unmerited favor. Getting what you don’t deserve.” She would nod, we’d read the verse again, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” She would ask: “what’s grace again? Oh, yes. Unmerited favor.” And, we would read again: “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

Basically every time we pulled out that binder, her eyes would snag on the word “grace.”

Only because God’s built up a little bit of patience in me, would I manage to explain without rolling my eyes.

I jog slightly faster now. The wind lightly touches my face. I blink, and the tear trickles down my cheek. I can taste its saltyness.

She’s right, I realize. Even though I can rattle off the words, the concept of grace is trapped in my head. Maybe it’s been trying to work its way down into my heart and my bones but it’s stuck in my fibrous, ropy, knotted, neck.

I think I’ve lived all my life understanding grace and mercy to be the same thing. Grace is actually a little different, I think. It has an additional component.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve. It has to do with the fancy theological term “propitiation.” God’s anger appeased.

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Overflowing, abundant, fullest measure of what you don’t deserve.

My arms and legs are alternating. I’ve quickened my steps as the blood moves through my body. I can feel it circulating. My neck and shoulder have loosened.

It seems too much. Foolish to think that grace is boundless, unending, lavish blessing.

Nobody is out this morning. The tree-lined street echos no human sounds. The silence gives way to the leaves that rustle in another breeze.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. His blood was offered as the sacrifice for sins, the atonement, the propitiation. His body was offered as the bread of life. No ready theological terms come readily to mind when I think of Jesus’ body.

Just a full tummy for a few hours.

I approach the stoplight. It changes to yellow and as I reach the corner it blinks red. Thank goodness. I am glad for the forced mini-break.

As I stop, the Spirit brings the verse fragment to me again, “In accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” I understand that Greek is this crazy language where it’s easy to come up with exactly the right words to use: you take a bit of this word, a bit of that one, smash them together, make sure they’re in the right “tense” and go. You’ve said exactly what you meant.

Well, English isn’t like that, but I love that the Spirit led Paul to tell us that God has riches of grace that are lavished on us not by mistake or naivete, but with all wisdom and understanding.

Lavished. It’s a generous word. God’s rich grace is heaped up on us.

I reach my arm over my head, grab my wrist and lean to the right. Exhale audibly.

A car’s coming. It’s far enough down the road that I could cross, despite the red light. I want to wait. Now I reach the other arm overhead.

Why this feeling that a misstep will be cackled at with glee?

I can’t do it perfectly. The story of my life has been, “tries hard, some talent, but not exceptional.” Really, I tell myself. Top 80% of most things. What if I am destined to be mediocre in all things?

Blood drumming a steady rhythm just under my jaw, the long sleeve shirt is no long necessary. I tie it around my waste.

Mediocre mom. Mediocre lawyer. Mediocre wife. Mediocre Christian..Mediocre human?

The light turns green.

Imperceptibly the road climbs. The little rest did me good. I welcome the small challenge. My breath is steady. Filling my lungs, infusing that blood with energy for my muscles.

What if, compared to the best humans, I am merely adequate? When I try my absolute, messy best, it’s “meh?” Am I courageous enough to show up and just be pretty ok?

Verse 1:7, 2:7 aren’t the only places the Spirit expounds on God’s richness. While Gramma paused at “grace,” the Spirit caused my eyes to pause at “riches.” There in 1:18: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Verse 19 finishes off the thought, “and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

It’s compared to others that my abilities — my powers, if you will — are solidly in the middle of the pack. Serviceable.

But God’s power? It’s incomparably great. In.Comp.Arably. Literally: No. Comparison.

And that incomparably great power? It’s for us who believe. Me who believes.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. Even though I can’t think of any fancy theological words for that, I can think of what bread does.

Metabolized, it gives energy. Power to move.

I smile. The gathered sweat at my temples trickles down my cheek. At the middle mark of my run, and I can feel the energy in my muscles.

Jesus breaks open the way for God’s great power in me. Flowing through me. Grace is more than just not getting what I deserve. It’s being heaped with blessing. It’s overflowing as I move.

Peter’s benediction — grace and peace being ours in abundance, overflowing, to the fullest measure — is followed in his second letter by the remarkable statement: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

I think I can swallow my pride to show up just hit the middle mark.

Something may be waiting behind a bush to pounce on my mediocre performance on the “life final,” but it’s not Life. It’s not God.

No, God’s grace is that of a mother, smiling with open arms to the chubby twelve month old who is getting ready to let go of the sofa and take those first few tentative steps.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. To the fullest measure, friend.

If you find yourself stuck in your thoughts, friend, remind yourself: Jesus came to give us grace and peace in abundance. It’s ours for the taking now. If you need a reminder, I created a free download just for you, click here to get it.

Transforming Thoughts on the River

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (Psalm 42:7)

They flow, curving through Northwest Montana.

The North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork.  Swan. Whitefish. I most appreciate these rivers in late July. August, if the smoke hasn’t settled in like a thick, wool blanket.

The hot sun bakes my shoulders. Sweat trickles down my back. My eyes blink, squinting in the sudden brightness as I step out from the dappled darkness of the trees to the rocky “beach.” Thorns and bushes scratch my legs and my feet twist, walking over flat, large stones. This place was riverbed not two months ago.

An old favorite chorus at church growing up proclaimed, “I’ve got a river of life, flowing out of me. It makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors sets the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring up a well!”

How freely does that river flow through me now? Have I somehow dammed it, leaving only a trickle?

I tuck the thought away. 

Deep, slow breath.  It smells cooler here, immediately next to the river. I smile, it always does.  My baseball hat feels like a winter stocking cap. Now sweat drips between my brows, furrowed as I squint. It is sweltering.

Still, I hesitate at the edge of the water. The rushing, constant roar of the water muffles the little voices behind me.

A step.  The initial shock of icy cold is unpleasant, 90 degree heat and all. I always have to pluck up my nerve.

Another thought surfaces:  The kids were babies.  Yesterday, wasn’t it?  We were bleary-eyed.  Arms locked in a clutching position.  Our voices gentle, babbling noises and delighted smiles.  Shhh and da-da-da-da.  Repeating words with delight – “leaf” “rock” “river!”

It carries us. 

I have been trying to grasp and hold.  Slow it.  Stop it.   Sometimes I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day.  Waking every morning to the same everything…mind-numbing, monotony.  But then it rushes by, dizzying.  When did my oldest spring up, nearly as tall as me? There are no toddlers or babies in the house anymore.

I cannot control how it flows.  We are out here in the middle, being carried forward.  We can’t go back upstream.  We can only position ourselves to navigate what’s ahead.

I realize that my feet and shins are now comfortable.  I am exactly the right temperature.  Red, brown and grey rocks are clearly visible beneath the clear water.  It’s low today.  Shallow. 

A yellow leaf floats past.

The red raft drops next to me.  Half ashore, half bobbing in the current.  Sides streaked with grey mud.  The kids shriek as they splash into the water, too.  The littlest slips on a rock, barely keeping his balance.

Jesus’ words to the woman at the well now rise to the surface of my mind, “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.   Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

We climb aboard.  One paddle per person.  He shoves the raft out from shore, holding it momentarily from drifting downstream as he swings his legs over the side.  We’re off!  Slowly following the leaf downstream.

Ahead, the water spits and churns.  “Everybody paddle!”  Our paddling is uneven, adults on one side, kids on  the other.  The raft responds, turning to the left.  For several moments we head toward the spitting, churning section sideways.  From the back, Kagan dips his oar a few times and we right.   Nose forward we now squarely face the “rapids”.

The boat jerks violently several times.  The youngest begins to cry.  He huddles in the bottom of the raft, chewing on his life vest. 

Minutes pass.  We now face only a long stretch.  We are moving swiftly, but there are no more bumps to face.  I attempt comfort.  The illusion of safety has been lost.  He is impervious to my assurances.

I think of the disciples, long ago on the sea of Galilee.  Grizzled fishermen terrified by a powerful storm. Jesus, sleeping in the boat. 

Half an hour later, our youngest child’s continued crying is now under my skin.  It feels like a splinter, uncomfortable and annoying.  It’s self-indulgent.  Sharp words rise to my tongue.  As they begin for form, I feel a nudge in my spirit. 

“You can be very like him, Becky.” 

The sharp words evaporate before I release them.

In life, I am swept in the current.  I am tossed and jostled and dropped in the rapids.   I have fastened my life preserver.  I clutch my oar. But, just like this little one, like those disciples, at times I find myself huddling in the bottom of the boat.  Eyes screwed shut against the sun and scenery, ignoring the Parent who rides with me.

At those times, terrified questions leak from me:  “what’s next?”  “Remember that trouble!?!” 

Our raft floats to the edge of the river, now caught in an eddy, gently turning.  The crying continues.  So do my thoughts.  We paddle, just one side, and the raft turns another circle.

I find my thought swirling, too.  “I’ll always be like this” “Who do I think I am?” “It’s already too late…”  Vivid embarrassment, guilt and shame from past failures color the thoughts and the circles are no longer lazy, but frenetic.  All that remains now is those feelings.

A new thought pierces the barrage.  The oar of Scripture gently slows the swirling:

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  (Philippians 1:6).  My ineptitude will not defeat God’s good work.

“The Counselor, the Holy spirit, whom  the Father [has] sent will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  (John 14:26).  I will not forget.  I will hear.  I will see.  I will proclaim.

The Spirit carries us along. Jesus knows what rapids lay ahead.  Those rapids I did not anticipate yesterday?  They were no surprise to Him. He positions me to navigate.  He gives me the oar and guides my strokes. 

We paddle on one side, then the other.  Our arms burn slightly with the effort.  It’s work.  Forward  motion now. 

The boat noses back into the current, and begins again downstream.

It’s slow now, barely moving.  The littlest one’s tears have slowed, but he is still huddled there in the bottom of the raft, clenching his life vest for security.  His big brother jumps off the side of the boat with a shriek of delight.  Cool water splashes us. I laugh at his joy. 

I remember Paul’s words, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

The youngest looks up.  His sister offers him cherry, her own teeth stained with the juice.  Conflicted for a moment, his desire for one of his favorite fruits wins out and he lets go of his vest to take it.  Soon, he is reaching for more with both hands.

He might have fun yet. I think I will, too.


Sign up here for the free download, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Vocabulary and Communication

There are two seasons in Montana: winter and road construction. It’s not winter anymore, which means it’s currently road construction season.

This year, one of the main thoroughfares right in our little residential neighborhood has been under construction for several weeks.

It’s fine, except that my habit of taking this road is so strong that I am always headed that direction before I remember it’s closed. Last week, one of the kids was in the car with me as we set off:

“Hey, mom, the road by the waterpark is closed, remember?”

“Oh, right,” I slow to turn around.

“But, we when went to the waterpark Tuesday, Sarah’s mom went this way. You can turn by the turkey trail and drive by the houses.”

“Huh?” My family calls a little walking/bike path in town “the turkey trail.” The “turkey trail” begins at a road, but then meanders through a bit of a wooded area, next to a gully where there is no driveable road. Also, our entire neighborhood is residential, meaning: all there is is houses.

“Which way did you go?”

“Drive by.the.houses. Don’t turn around! We can go if we drive by. The. Houses. The HOUSES, mom!”

“Look, around you! There are houses everywhere!”


I ignored the child and we took the detour road I knew would surely get us around the road construction. My child was unhappy that I did not act upon their suggested directions, but I couldn’t. I literally did not know which street they were talking about.

Too often, communication is like this. We know what we mean, but we don’t have the right vocabulary to actually convey that meaning to the person across from us. Worse yet, even when we know what we mean and do our best to convey it with the vocabulary we have, the words get twisted in the air and lodge themselves sideways in the recipient’s heart.

Sometimes, while we think we know what we mean, we actually don’t.

I was reading the account of Adam and Eve the other day for Bible study. Genesis 3 says, “The man and his wife were naked and they felt no shame.” This is literal, I believe. But I’ve begun to realize that it is deeper than literal.

Adam and Eve were fully known by God.

They were also fully known by each other. I am not just talking physically. I am talking, their deepest desires, dreams and beings were plainly visible to each other and their core self was fully accepted by one another.

What must it have been like, to never experience the frustration of miscommunication? To never use a series of words and immediately know that the person has not actually received what you meant? To be able to truly understand and be understood without work, without something going awry?

After they ate the fruit, they felt fear, shame and hurt. They literally ran and hid from God. They also hid from each other, covering themselves. Then they lied and blamed one another.

We all do that now, don’t we? Our human condition makes it inevitable that we experience a variety of pains. Both physical and deeper, emotional and spiritual pains. We spend a good portion of our lives creating ways to cover up our deepest desires to protect ourselves from these hurts, navigating who we can trust with what parts of ourselves (if we are courageous enough to keep trying), telling ourselves and others falsehoods and blaming others for things we ourselves have contributed to.

God’s heart was filled with pain in the Garden. One of the crowning achievements of His loving, brilliant, good and beautiful creative work had chosen to sever their intimate relationship with Him. We turned to walk down a dark path filled with confusion, violence and hurt. He could see it all, the terrible things, the innocence injured, the way even something simple like driving to the store will highlight our inability to really communicate with each other. He saw it all, and what was His response?

Knowing the fiery judgments of God recorded later in the Bible, I expect His immediate response to be: “do you have any idea what you have done!?! Do you know what this means?!?” I respond this way, when I am hurt and the consequences for someone’s foolish decision is permanent and awful. I expect the curses and consequences to be Jesus’ immediate reaction.

But Jesus — who knows all things — walked through the Garden in the pleasant cool of the day, knowing what it all meant, and called out, “Adam, where are you?”

He still calls out. He walks through this unpleasant and sad world and calls to each one of us, “where are you?”

The lyrics of a Steffany Gretzinger song capture this poignantly:

Come out of hiding, you’re safe here with me;

There’s no need to cover what I already see;

No need frightened by intimacy;

Just throw off your fear and come running to me.

We don’t have the perfect vocabulary to respond to Jesus. We don’t know ourselves well enough to come fully out of hiding. God must teach us — through His word, the Bible and in community with other Christians — but as we take our tentative steps, He moves closer. Jesus does not misunderstand us, even when we do not have the perfect words to tell Him where we think we should go around the detour.

Let’s come out of hiding, friend. We are safe here with Him.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24).

Picture God

God is light, in Him there is no darkness.  Perfect love drives out fear.

Someone said that there are 365 Bible verses that admonish, “do not fear” or “do not be afraid.”  Considering “fear” is my word of the year, I thought I’d look them all up, one for each day.  Maybe we could even look at them together all year…I began and found that:

1) I didn’t see 365 Bible verses saying “don’t fear” or some equivalent; and
2) even if I had tried hard to scout them all out, the verses I did find weren’t all that encouraging, so I just quit the project.

I’ve had people telling me all my life things ranging from, “don’t be afraid” to “that’s what you’re really thinking!?”  to “quit being ridiculous.” None of those statements has ever helped still my quaking innards or calm my chipmunk thoughts.

In fact, at this point, I’m pretty allergic to people telling me things like that.  There is, actually, A LOT to be afraid of!  A casual perusal of the newspaper will reveal this much.  Plus, when my quaking and chipmunking don’t dissipate with such pearls of wisdom, and since I’m too honest to assure such would-be helpers, “wow, I feel better after that pep-talk,” people tend to get impatient with me.  I wear people out, is what I’m saying.

Also, better, but unfortunately not particularly helpful is people quoting verses or simple Christian truths.  That, my friends, rings cliche.  For example:  “God is in control,” or “God works all things for the good,” or “I’ve read the end of the Bible, and the good guys win”… Yes, right.  And, my head knows these things, but my body and feelings just don’t respond to the fairy-tale ending approach.  My allergy makes my mind argue (usually,  inside my head).  My inner argument goes like this:  yes, those things are true, but not actually that easy because…well, for one thing, have you actually read the whole middle of the Bible?  The blood, sweat and tears God has shed and asks His children to shed…?

Turns out arguing with people in this situation wears people out, too.

So, am I doomed?  Are all the unfortunate souls out there like me doomed to a life of anti-anxiety medication and wearing friends out until the only person who will talk to us is our therapist and even she doesn’t look forward to that hour?

Of course not.  Something I’m finding that shifts my body’s apprehension is taking in God’s character.  As in, gazing at His character, thinking about it, and then trying to act as if His character is true.  (I’m pretty sure, in the olden days — or, older denominations today — this is called “meditating on God”).

Not that His character is not true, but that I do not always act as if it were true.

And, the most apparent facet of God’s character that scripture is steeped in and that melts my fear, is fixing my gaze on  His love. CS Lewis captured the sentiment perfectly:  God, it turns out, is much like Aslan.  Not a safe, tame lion.  But, an utterly good one.

Winter Stress

Winter + Montana = pediatrician visits 3 weeks in a row.  Work deadlines + sick children = high stress.  And that, my friends, adds up to a coat most of us don’t wear real pretty.

Personally, I’ve caught myself having crazy arguments with the committee that sometimes camps out in my head – the one that points out every mistake I’ve ever made and is sure that whatever I put my hand to will fail.  This super helpful committee is sure to point out all the things that the future holds which terrify me.  This is the corner stress can back me into: the one where I’m wearing decades of crusty old guilt and carrying responsibility for a future that may never occur. 

Maybe your ugly stress coat finds you lashing out at people or fixating on having a spotless bathroom or seeking affection from some inaccessible hero.

I don’t know.  What I’m hearing from God recently, though, is that whichever particular unseemly corner we default to:  we don’t have to remain there.  Nor need we pack around that old heavy coat.  These out of control circumstances, these knee-jerk patterns, our weaknesses, what they reveal about us.  Let’s not remain hiding there, ok?  None of this is a surprise to the Creator of the universe.  God sees us there – saw us there long ago – and He did the heavy lifting.  Jesus came to live among us and humbled himself to the cross.  That power that raised Jesus from the dead?  It saves us.  It does more than that, the same power gives us everything we need for life.

Let’s preach the truth to ourselves and encourage one another.  When high stress threatens and we feel ourselves reverting back to patterns we would rather not: let’s remind each other that God’s grace and peace are ours in abundance through the heart-knowledge of God and Jesus. 

So, as this new week draws ever closer, let’s welcome all that it entails together with God’s grace and peace.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the heart-knowledge of God and Jesus.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,” Peter tells the Church in his second letter.

If you are dreading the week’s inception (even with this pep-talk and verses) may I encourage you to share your fears with someone?  If it’s easier, tells us about it by commenting below, but if you have a real-live-person you can reach out to and hear their voice or hold their hand, may I suggest using every bit of God’s power you need to reach out directly?

Grace and peace be yours in abundance this week, dear friends.

2019 Year of Fear

Hi friends.  Let me introduce myself.

I’m Becky, and I’m an Enneagram 6, with a strong 5 wing. 

Mostly a phobic 6, even. For those of you who haven’t done much reading on the Enneagram, I’ll explain: this means I can be a total in-my-head, neurotic, worst-case scenario thinking, wet-blanket, basket-case.  To make matters even worse, this “typing” firmly places me in the same camp as what most “Enneagram teachers” say the vast majority of people living in the 1st-world West are.  (Meaning: I’m depressingly ordinary). 

To illustrate, let me tell you a story. 

When I was in kindergarten, the firemen put on an assembly.  In one skit, a woman dressed in a flowing, gauzy, black gown – the embodiment of smoke – touched and put to sleep all the other characters so they did not know their house was on fire and could not escape.  As the red and orange fabric “flames” approached the slumbering characters, I burst into loud, terrified tears.   At this point, the entire assembly came to a screeching halt, and the woman in the black gown took off her gauzy black hat, audibly and visibly trying reassure me that it was just all pretend. 

She got me to stop crying and coerced me in front of God and everybody there at the assembly to agree that “this” was all pretend.  And “everything” was going to be ok.  But, even at 5, I could see the very real and present possibility of a house fire.  For months, even years afterward, I periodically lay awake in the night, wondering if my parents had checked the smoke alarms, (they most certainly had not, as flippantly cavalier as they were about such things), fretting that my little sisters might be too small to reach the bedroom window if there were a fire.  Closing the bedroom door (it’s harder for smoke to invade a room).  Chanting the “sinner’s prayer” because preparations likely had not been adequately managed.

And, that’s what it was like growing up as a phobic 6.

Oddly enough, I’ve never had an anxiety attack (head scratcher, I know). 

I thought I’d put my nervous anxiety behind me around the time my third child was born.  I was in a new, less tightly-wound place and really enjoying it.  But the same sense of dread came back with a vengeance this fall.  Dread hanging over me like a thick, yellow smog. 

I pled with God to just fix me, already. 

I’m tired of this.  I’m getting rather old for this.  Blah, blah, blah.  Same sentiments, different decade.  But then, I sensed the Spirit saying, “what if this anxiety is a trial of the James 1:2 variety?”  Consider it, pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work in you, that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So, rather than be embarrassed, angry and ashamed of my nerves, I’m considering it joy.  Well, asking God to help me consider it joy, anyway. 

I came across these words in a book I’m reading by Jan Johnson recently that ring true:

If I don’t like what my actions tell me about what I want, what do I want to want? // If we want to want God, our next step is to come to terms with our underlying fears.  We start where we are.  We invite God to work with us on these fears so we can begin drinking God’s living water.  God’s own Spirit, as Dallas Willard explains, ‘will keep [us] from ever again being thirsty – being driven and ruled by unsatisfied desires…Indeed, it will even become ‘rivers of living water’ flowing from the center of the believer’s life to a thirsty world (Jn 7:38).”

Jan Johnson, Abundant Simplicity

God, help me.  Help us.  Amen.