The Immobilization of Fear

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
― Plato

“Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
― Dante AlighieriInferno

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Children of Húrin

I recently read on Facebook (whether it be true or not) about a new tactic that gangs are using as initiation. It seems like there is always some new horrific action required to join a gang that keep police departments on their toes trying to alert the general public. Whether true or not, close to home or far away, I was contemplating driving right to the police station and getting a concealed weapons permit. If some gang member wanna-be is gonna drive after me trying to shoot me and everyone in my car, well, I want to be able to shoot the sucker back. But really, I’m terrible with handguns and I have no idea where I’d conceal it anyways…so what were my options? I could stay at home and hide all day, only venturing out into the world to get groceries and go to church. But reality is, tragedy could  strike anywhere. I know it’s awful to think about but really, a gas leak could cause a house explosion, you could get in a car accident on the way to get groceries, you could be the victim of a random crime at the grocery store, or fall prey to hatred of religion while attending church. Anything could happen anywhere and anytime. And let’s face it. This is downright scary…and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is filled with fear by the thought of such horrid occurrences. So the question remains: how do we live amongst all these fears and possibilities? Do we hide away in our safe little homes, away from people, away from the world?

If you know anything about the life of the Apostle Paul and all of the tragedy he endured you probably will agree with me when I say that, as Christians we are called to face the fear that surrounds us and refuse to let it immobilize us. God commands us to “go into all the World”, and no one took this more seriously than the Apostle Paul. Really, who isn’t fearful about going into the world and preaching something that often leads to persecution and suffering. I;m sure Paul’s flesh was filled with fear, yet his Spirit filled “new man” was sustained by Godly peace. Paul didn’t let fear of being stoned, killed, or persecuted stop him from being a light in the world. In 2 Corinthians he writes ” For we do not want you to be ignorant, bretheren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired of life. Yes. We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that he will still deliver us. (1:8-10)”. And isn’t this heavenly weapon so much more useful than a gun? No matter where we are, and what tragedy could befall us our faith still remains. If we don’t remember that God is there, surrounding us, protecting us, bringing His will to pass as we live every moment it is so easy to become immobilized by fear. Paul didn’t let fear stop him from being a light in the world and allowing God to use him to bring many into the fold of faith.

Likewise, we should not allow fear to immobilize us. We need to go out into our little worlds and be a light. God doesn’t call us to sit at home with our fear, he calls us to GO. I hear so often about people who are immobilized by fear. Christians who pull their children from school because there was a bomb threat, those who stop going to church because they heard that somewhere some wacko went into a church and shot a lot of people. I even know someone who refuses to drive anywhere except the town they live in because they are just too afraid of what else lies beyond. I’ll admit. These choices make me sad. I get it; no one wants to put their kid in harms way. No one wants to put themselves in harms way. But the reality is, bad things can happen to anyone, anywhere. We can’t protect our kids from everything…it’s too much…and we just aren’t capable of doing it. God is the ultimate protector, and really, our children are His. It’s kind of this huge leap of faith that we take when we come to grips with reality: we can’t protect ourselves and our children from everything. But we can take comfort in the fact that there is a greater protector: the Almighty God.

I say these words to myself as I realize this truth. While this is a very depressing and not-so-fun-to-think-about topic it is reality nonetheless. Evil is all around us, and fear seeks to immobilize. But God calls us to put our trust in Him, accept the fact that He is the ultimate protector, and GO OUT INTO THE WORLD. If no one goes, there will be no light left in the world. If we all hide away in our safe little homes there will be no one left to be an Example for Him. Until Christ returns this world will be filled with evil. Even still, God calls…no, He commands us to step out into the world and live for Him. I personally don’t believe that this applies only to foreign missions. Our neighbors need to see the light that we bring just as much as the rest of the world. The elderly couple at the grocery store needs to see His light in you as much as someone in Africa. The people you see and are able to pray for while serving at a local soup kitchen need the hope that you bring as much as the poor in Albania. Even those gang members need to see His light.

There are many excuses we can make. I’m too busy to get involved in my community…I’m a mom, so I can’t really get out and do anything…I really am just too afraid….I might get sick if I volunteer somewhere…I don’t have time…I have to be somewhere else…the excuses are endless. But I think it’s time to stop using excuses to cover up our fear. The Apostle Paul didn’t just say that someone was threatening to kill him so he was going to stop preaching. No. He stood in the face of fear and possible death and carried on with God’s command. We need to do the same.

I hope that one day you realize this, Ellie. Do not let fear immobilize you. Do not be content to sit at home with a false sense of safety ignoring God’s command to be a light unto the world. Fear is all around you, and always will be, until He returns. In the meantime, God wants you to do everything you possibly can to bring His message of hope to those who are without hope. There are many excuses, but excuses they remain. Always remember the Apostle Paul, and seek to follow his example.

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For My Mom, On Her Birthday

“That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Character is much easier kept than recovered.  ~Thomas Paine

Certainly, there have been times in my life when I have been less than happy with my mother. Most children have probably felt frustrated and annoyed by their mother as some point in their life; after-all, no one is perfect, not us, not them. But when you are a child, when you are a teenager, you don’t always understand about people, or about life. You may wonder, am I ever going to like my mom? I mean, she grounds me, she makes me stick to my curfew…she’s so…annoying. Well, I’m here to tell you that yes. Someday, you will like your mother. And you will likely grow to love her in ways that you never saw coming. 

There are many ways that this change will come about. Experience, I believe, plays a huge part in it. You grow up, experience life, and grow to understand about the world around you. You begin to appreciate relationships, and roles that people play in your life, in shaping you and making you the person you are. Then of course you have kids, and I’m sure you’ve hear a hundred times that you understand why your mother did what she did and said what she said once you hold that little baby in your arms. Sure, you can’t understand a mother’s love until you are on the other end of that love: until you’re the person giving it. You might even start to see your mother in a whole different light. Truthfully, being a mother is hard. And you can’t really understand how hard until you are one. Likewise, you can’t really appreciate your mother until you can appreciate just how difficult parenthood is. And then when your mom is there to help you through the whole thing, like my mom has been, you gain a whole new appreciation for her.

The hundred or so phone calls about if baby’s fever is from teething or the flu.

What to do when your baby is teething.

The million questions about what foods to give when.

If you are a mother, you know what I mean. The role of grandma is priceless; for all involved in this relationship. Yes, I have gained a whole new level of respect and love for my mom through having a child of my own.

This summer has brought about a lot of heartbreaking changes for my mom. Watching her walk through this season of her life has not been easy. But I have to say, I have gained such a respect and admiration for my mom as I have watched her response to every little (and big) storm that came her way. And while I realize that she is not perfect, it is really quite inspiring to watch someone walk through so much hurt and yet manage to conjure a genuine smile more often than not. My mom is such an example of a Christian who actually applies what she believes to her life; and I appreciate the example that she is for my sisters and I. Through it all she has shown a strength that can only come from within, she has met every challenge with Godly love, mercy, and peace. Constantly, she has relied on Him, praying and fellowshiping . Her attitude, while others may react with bitterness and anger has largely been forgiving, loving, and merciful. While I’m sure she doesn’t always feel calm inside, she has acted so calmly through it all, thinking not only of herself, but for my sisters as well. No, it is not easy to see your mother walk through such a storm. But I love her all the more for the way that she has walked through it and for her persistent faith the whole way through. This storm has truly revealed her Godly character, and, as Paine says, character is better kept than recovered. In my eyes, her character has only grown stronger. 

While this storm is not what anyone would wish, I am excited to see what God has in store for my mom at the end of it. He promises blessings to those who walk in His ways; I can’t wait to see the blessings that He brings your way Mom! What Nietzsche said might be slightly overused but nonetheless true, the storms of life won’t likely kill us, and through them you will be made stronger. God talks about this too: refining by fire. He also says to count it all joy, which is easier said than done. And while you may not think you have been quite joyful in all of this, I say that you have been and are continuing to be. Joy can be found in the little things (you will be ten minutes closer to me!). Hold on to your joy, and your faith that He has plans for you that are greater than you could ever imagine.

So, happy birthday mom! While we haven’t always been as close as we could have been, love never goes away. While I might not have always appreciated you as I should, I do now (if it helps!). And I love you all the more for all you have ever done, and will do for me, and the example that you have been in my life. Especially lately I have grown to respect the mother that you are: meeting such challenges head on with faith and grace. I’m lucky to have you in my life! I truly wish you a happy birthday, with all my love. 

And Ellie, the adventures never end. I hope that one day you can appreciate me as I have learned to appreciate my mom. I hope that I am the example to you as she has been for me; that I encourage your relationship with Him, that whatever the storm I walk through it with faith, love, and mercy. And while I hope to live as an example so that you see Him in me, I am thankful that you also have a grandmother who is a wonderful example of Him who holds all things in His hands. A grandmother who will encourage and support your relationship with God. A grandmother who will hold you up in prayer through all of your own life adventures. Not only do I love and appreciate you mom for all you are, but I know that someday Ellie will too.

Happy Birthday from both of us!

 

 

The Beauty of Experience

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced. – John Keats

While I find my energy and patience, which sadly depend upon each other, growing thin these days I try to remember the important things in life. Namely, my daughter. Afterall, it’s not her fault that my energy is low and my patience nearly non existent. Even though it takes a great effort to do things with my sweet little girl, usually when I do them I gain a bit of energy; the enjoyment gained through these activities is worth my last ounces of energy and my time. While I often am tempted to say that not only am I tired,  but I have far more important things that I should be spending my time on. But do I really? Is  there anything more important than spending quality time with and providing enriching experience for your child. Nope. The laundry can wait. And so, I try to embark upon little adventures with my Ellie girl at least a few times a week.

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One of the adventures we have journeyed through together was baking cookies. Ellie is to the age now that she can ask for things she wants to eat, hence the chocolate chip and M&M cookies. I know that the thought of baking with a not-quite-two-year-old might be, well, frightening.  It can also be a time for learning and experience. I explained to Ellie the process of reading the recipe and measuring. She carefully emptied cups of flower into the mixing  bowl. Then she used the wooden spoon to stir the dry ingredients together. She was fascinated as she watched me place the cookies on the cookie sheet and nicely reminded me that the oven is “hot” wheni put the sheets in to bake. What better way to learn about where things to eat come from than to experience the process yourself?

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Daddy helped us out with our next mini adventure. We gave in and finally bought mums and pumpkins for our porch. We always transfer them into our own decorative pots, this time our walking, talking Ellie was right there to help. She was absolutely fascinated with the whole process. She got her garden tools from the garage and plopped right down to help Daddy. She helped fill the pot  with dirt, and then filled another happily exclaiming “dirt daddy! Look!” Is there anything more “fall” than planting mums?! Being invloved in the things that your parents do not only helps you feel important, but your parents realize that you have something to offer: even if it is something as small as placing tiny handfuls of dirt in a flower pot. If you teach your child the process there is likely something that they can contribute, no matter how small. What a confidence builder!

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Paint. This may be the most feared substance among parents. I just so happen to love it. Stick them in some play clothes,  put an art smock over them, and tell them not to eat it. Easy. Ellie loved painting. So much so that we tried two new types of paint: watercolors and tempera. Of course I went over the “rules” about twenty times while she painted: we don’t paint our bodies, we don’t paint the counter, it’s not for eating, turn the brush around,  not in your hair… The process of watercolors was even more complicated. Water, then paint, then paper… And while it may seem unlikely that a toddler could “get” the process of watercolor painting, it is possible. What a fun experience this was. And so many things were gained through it: the experience of processes (the watercolor won’t work if you don’t use water first), learning persistence and not giving up, following rules and boundaries, experimenting with mixing color, cause and effect…the list goes on.

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It isn’t fall in New England if you don’t take a trip to the apple orchard. Besides, all the applesauce and apple pie that you get from those apples makes the whole experience better. Ellie already went apple picking this fall with her Mam (grandma) and aunties. When we told her we were going apple picking again she was so excited. We got to ride the tractor hay ride to the orchard, which Ellie thought was a train. She experienced one of those earlier this summer. Outin the orchard Ellie tried the process of twisting and pulling the apples. She tried so hard! After filling our bag we rode the hay ride back and made our way to say “hi” to the goats and pigs. Ellie loves animals. She loved them even more up close and studiously observed what the pigs were eating: “dirt?” Even this traditional fall experience held room not only for quality family time, but for learning as well. There was the whole process of twisting and pulling, the lesson of keep trying, the observation of animals and how they live. She even learned that pumpkins were too heavy for her to pick up!

Experience. Life is for living, for experiencing. Being able to see a child take part in happy adventures is a beautiful thing. I hope that these early experiences set the foundation for Ellie’s future response and approach to experience. Martha Washington once said “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstance”. Even as a small child Ellie is learning from her experiences. I hope that she learns early that her approach to the variety of experiences that life brings her way makes all the difference. I hope and pray tha she never loses that happy eagerness to try new things, to help other people, to learn new processes; for eagerness and joy through all experiences make all the difference.