When my fear is confronted by grace…

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Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. James Stephens


Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— Psalm 49:5

The righteous will see and fear;

    they will laugh at you, saying,“Here now is the man

    who did not make God his stronghold

but trusted in his great wealth

    and grew strong by destroying others!” – Psalm 52 6-7

 

I just can’t get this whole idea of fear out of my head lately. With the revived debate regarding refugees that has infiltrated life once again the topic is ever more on my mind.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

My latest literary obsession, C.S. Lewis once said “You cannot know, only believe – or not.”

What truth!

And yet, there is fear again…surrounding the borders of my heart and mind, laying it siege and slowly, slowly choking the life out of me. Sucking the hope from my limbs, and the love from my heart.

I’ve been horrified following this debate amongst people I know…amongst Christians and family members that I know specifically. Their words, generally typed in absurd amounts of capital letters (when did shouting become a thing in the written English language?) just sound so desperately fearful. Jihad this and jihad that and Muslim this and Muslim that…and in the blink of an eye people are lost amongst the labels that others have chosen for them

Yet, I am no different. When I wake up every morning I have to will myself out of bed and out the door and in to work on what I so often refer to as “the trenches”. And every day I am met with the thought that I don’t make enough money, and I won’t be able to pay my bills, and what if I crash on my way to work, or I forget a student in the bathroom, or this or that or the other thing.

And when it comes to refugees, I am afraid too. When I first think of  refugees, I think – holy crap, they want to kill us. There is no way we let them live, never mind come here! what if they murder me in my sleep? What if they murder my children? Take me job? Inflate the economy? The list goes on and on.

Yes, my mind is also filled with fear, just like you, who so viciously argue against allowing refugees from here, there, or everywhere in to our great country.

But that is where the similarity ends.

Yes, my mind is filled with fear. I see the danger. I see the potential for harm.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care because that is what God has called me…no, not just me. That is what God has called any person who has been saved by grace to do.

There is no way to sugar-coat this foundational truth.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. Ecclesiastes 5:7. This is who I fear. I fear that if I allow my human instincts to overwhelm my heart, I will not be living in the fear of the Lord but will be living in the fear of man. And that same fear for Him who created me and you  (and Muslims by the way) calls me to love others. To love very.single.human.being. Even if I don’t want to. Even if it’s card. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means I could die in the process.

So yes, I fear. But I know my life is so much more than sitting in my comfortable little home…so I swallow that fear and carry on.

But so much more than that, I try to understand. So much of the hatred and fear that I see my fellow Christians and family members is simply a lack of understanding. A limited worldview, and a failure to educate themselves.

Marie Curie said ““Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Which is really so perfect for the point that I am trying now to make.

Don’t just belief the things that your father, or sister, or pastor, or favorite conservative radio host, or politician tell you to believe. Really take the time to educate yourself about the facts of other people groups.

Again, here I think that it is fear that holds people back. Fear of the unknown. Fear of challenges themselves and having to change their beliefs and views. Because after all, the familiar is comfortable. I am so thankful for my very public-college education that required me to take two courses on culture and religion. I studied the history and culture of Africa for one semester (which is a rant for another day), and one semester studying Asia and The Middle East.

This was the best thing that I have ever done in my life when it comes to learning about others.

It confronted so many of the stereotypes that I unknowingly held for these people groups ( I refuse to label them). It combated so many of the groundless fears that my mind used to create prejudice and hate. And it opened my eyes and enabled me to see that these people too are just caught in the struggles and trials of everyday life, born into a system that tries to define them. Lost in the rush of this world, yet longing for so much more than their inherited religion can offer them.

So now, when I fear, I remember all I have learned. And then I put myself in the shoes of those refugees. I fight back against the fear-led desire to dehumanize them…and slowly their blurred faces come clearly into view. I imagine them taking up residence is some temporary housing next to my quiet little house, on a scenic little cul-de-sac in small town New England. There they are, heads wrapped in their traditional dress, skin much darker than mine, words so different than mine…living there next to me with their children who bear the physical scars of their life experiences and the mental burden of all that they have seen. Cooking their food, same as I do…cleaning their emergency tent, same as I clean my home, sleeping as I do, waking as I do, breathing as I do…holding their precious little babes same as I do. And they are afraid.

I imagine myself at first being afraid and wary…probably locking all of my doors and windows and making my children sleep in my bedroom with me…after all you just never know. The next day I’d make my husband conceal all of the hand-guns that we own and we would bring them cinnamon rolls or some other traditional American “welcome to the neighborhood” greeting – cuz that’s what my mother taught me to do when you have new neighbors. Of course, we probably wouldn’t understand each other, but in my experience with English Language Learners, sometimes a smile and a kind gesture is all you need. And besides, love has no words.

And slowly life continues, little by little every day, learning to trust, continuing in love. And while this little dream of mine will never likely be realized, and could likely also include my house blowing up in the middle of the night, well, somehow it doesn’t make a difference.

Because I’d rather confront my fears and live in love than remain in my safe little comfort zone.

Not just because I want to be a super-cool person, not because it is easy to do so. But because when I received grace through the death of Jesus on the cross, that’s what He called me to do.

And now, when I think of the complacency of so many Christians that I know and am surrounded by and their scathing remarks regarding the current plight of so many individuals throughout the world it literally makes my blood boil. My heart stops for a moment because the rage inside of me is just too much to handle.

But then another feeling emerges, and I honestly feel so bad for these friends and family members who possess such a limited worldview and who cannot even realize that their lives and attitudes are ruled by fear of man instead of fear of God. Whose attitudes towards their fellow man are wholly void of love and understanding. And my heart breaks for them, that they are so engrossed by fear and so immature in their spiritual walk that they fail to realize the perspective of another.

And I beg God to challenge my faith. So that I never arrive at that place of complacency. Whatever I do, whether I live or die…all the while knowing that in death me, my husband, and my sweet little babes will have achieved the final victory. And though death may separate us for a moment, eternity awaits us. And the words “well done, my good and faithful servant” are worth more than any comfort here on this earth.

And so Kreade and Ellie, I pray that God challenges your faith. I pray that you do not remain complacent in your faith, but challenge yourselves and always seek to gain an understanding of the world and the people around you. I pray that above all, you do not fear man, but fear God instead, and allow this fear to cause you to love all those around you…just as God loves you – without regard for self, wholly and passionately, not matter the cost.

 

 

“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.

“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

 

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –Thomas Edison

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” –Thomas Jefferson

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go! This is the song that I sang this week as I headed back to school to substitute teach for the preschool summer classrooms. I call the weeks that I substitute in the summer my ‘mental health weeks’…they keep me sane and help me stay mentally balanced while being home for the summer with my adorable Ellie. A lot of people don’t understand why I substitute in the summer, after all, who would choose to work when they have the chance not to? In fact, some people wonder why I work at all, especially now that I have Ellie. And though they may not say it, I know they think it. After all, society all but expects women to stay at home all day cooking and cleaning the second they get pregnant. Ha! I worked full time and all school year and summer long my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have the luxury of napping, or sleeping in; and I loved it! I took 8 weeks off when Ellie was born and went back to work for the remainder of the school year. Take that society! I love being a working mom; it keeps me sane.

But what about your children? It’s not fair to them that you work. Or is it? For me, I need to work. I go crazy if I’m not doing something, I loose patience, I feel like I have no purpose, so I get depressed…and you’re fooling yourself if you think that this doesn’t effect my parenting. Of course it does! I find that I spend far more quality time with Ellie when I am on my work schedule. Furthermore, in an article by The Washington Post research concerning working mothers is reported. The study that the article refers to found that the effects on child development of full-time working mothers was neutral; there was no difference in a child’s development when comparing a child of a working mother and a child of a stay at home mother. Additionally, the Post reports that working mothers “displayed greater “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers”. Again, take that society. You were wrong once again.

Not that society is the only social influence that makes working moms feel bad. For a long time religion has also advocated stay at home motherhood. I find this rather amusing. Religious groups from wide and far love Proverbs 31…a wife should be virtuous, she will be praised by her children, she will gird herself with strength. Yes, I agree. But it seems that we so often focus on only these things and skip over the in between. Proverbs 31 also speaks of a woman who “willingly works with her hands” (this can apply to baking bread or working on an assembly line), she “considers a field and buys it…plants a vineyard” (she could have an at home vegetable garden or be a smart business woman), she “perceives that her merchandise is good” (maybe she sews clothes for her family or maybe she is an entrepreneur), and “her hands hold the spindle” (perhaps she makes things for her family or maybe she works as a seamstress), while she also “supplies sashes for the merchants” (aka: she has a job). Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not attacking stay at home moms. But they need to understand that all too often you make the rest of us feel like really horrible people because of the fact that we work; and based on what? A Biblical passage that you take bits and pieces of, the bits and pieces that you want to. The key word here is or. The actions of the virtuous wife that Proverbs 31 talks about could be considered in both lights. It is important to remember that either choice is not wrong, we are all different and pursue this adventure of life differently, but we do need to understand and support each other regardless of what path a person chooses.

For me, I have to work. I love it. As Thomas Edison says, I would have missed so many opportunities if I did not work and teach. I wouldn’t have been able to give that little boy a winter jacket, or pray for that little girl who witnessed her mother being shot, or hug that child who was having a bad day, or refer that child for speech services, or pray for an entire class of children that someday God would touch their hearts and they would come to know Him as their savior. Not that this was easy; teaching is hard work. Leaving my daughter while I work is not easy either; but it’s worth it. Not only is she able to spend time with family members, but she is learning independence. I want to raise a child who some day has the confidence to go out into the world and make her own way; independence starts young. Besides, she gets to have so many adventures of her own while I am at work. And not only this, but I believe so much in what I do; I believe that it is a work worth doing as Thomas Jefferson says. With an emphasis on foreign missions, churches sometimes forget about the poor and weary and suffering within our own communities. My job allows me to serve within my community and work to love and teach and support families and children who need it most. It is fulfilling. It keeps my humble. It gives me opportunity that I would never have if I stayed at home. And it teaches Ellie that there are other people in the world that mumma needs to help besides her; it teaches her selflessness and giving. I know she is only seventeen months, and she may not fully understand for a few more years, but the lesson will be there when she is ready.

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(Ellie hanging out with her Aunties and Mam while Mumma is at work)

Was this week a long one? Certainly! I worked hours that I do not prefer while also taking two upper level college courses. It was hard. Ellie was less than happy, but she survived. And someday she will understand. Despite long hours of teaching only to head straight to class or home to write essays and complete other homework, I had tons of fun! I had conversations about what kind of car we would all drive when we grew  up. One girl wanted a “very very very pink pink pink cars with stickers I can take on and off”. While a little boy wanted a “blue truck with spikey nails and stickers.” I got to hug a child when he fell down, and engage in wondrous observation of an inchworm. Then I helped to coordinate the construction of two fabulous sand castles that five or six three and four year olds worked together to create, complete with landscaping consisting of bushes and grass and apple and banana trees, a moat and several drawbridges and firebridges.

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It’s a pretty awesome sandcastle. And it was a pretty awesome, yet crazy and difficult week. Some people may question or lack understanding for why I work and attend college. They may believe that it is not fair to my child. But I would not have chosen another path or another adventure. I love what I do; work and school alike. And it is my prayer that someday Ellie will look back on my adventure and understand. She will see my hard work and the way that I value it. She will see my love for learning and my commitment to furthering my knowledge. Hopefully she will learn from my adventures and be given the desire to follow her own path, valuing hard work and education as much as I did.

The Best Day?

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all have those days. You know, the ones that just don’t go right no matter what you do and you get so bogged down in wrong and focused on bad and everything is awful and you feel so full of despair… Like the day when you put your child in her car seat, take off down the road to the grocery store and are pulling into the parking lot and your sister calls you frantically explaining that you prized tablet is on the trunk of your car unwillingly along for  the ride… So you take a deep breath, swallow those naughty words, and slowly stop your car to rescue your tablet when you suddenly remember…your husband’s new cell phone was with the tablet…but not anymore. And we had just both of us FINALLY gotten working phones. The best day?! Yeah. Right.

Or there is the day when you are trying to get something done because you are going crazy from boredom because the cleaning job you were supposed to do didn’t work out and you want to do homework (yes I know it’s weird I LIKE to do homework), or make your child a nightgown because she has none and it would be fun. So you say to yourself, what they heck. I’m just gonna do it. But you sew the right side to the wrong side and have to take it all apart, meanwhile your one year old is saying “mum” in two hundred different tones of voice and then decided to try to crawl up your leg and you tell her she’s not a monkey to which she replied “hoo hoo hoo hahaha hoo” and you say you don’t need to sound like a monkey either as you are trying to now sew both right sides together so that your entire morning spent on this sewing project isn’t for nothing. The best day? Hardly. I mean, I didn’t accomplish anything. Who feels good about that? And I was annoyed the whole time which is…even more annoying. Image

It’s days like these that I need to remember the wise words of Emerson. While emotion is not housed in the heart perhaps decision is. And if I decide to write it on my heart that despite all the…not so good things that occur every day I will chose to realize the day as being the BEST day, I think that just maybe it WILL be the best day. This is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy, which in the world of psychology and education is described as ideas that become reality simply because someone believes them. They can be a very powerful thing. And thought I’m not sure that you can technically impose a self-fulfilling prophecy on yourself, I would say it’s worth a try! My guess is that if you choose to take Emerson’s advice and write it upon your heart to realize each day as the BEST day your eyes will be opened to so much more than the…not so good things.

Like, when you find  your daughter sitting on the couch having a conversation with her stuffed monkey her aunt gave her. Image

Or when you are trying to read your textbook and your daughter climbs into your lap, grabs the tablet and starts posing for pictures with you. So you both start making funny faces, to which your husband walks in the door from work and is surprised with hilarious looking mother and daughter.

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Or when you find your one year old daughter hiding in the pantry with her favorite crochet blanket over her head, peeking around the corner laughing at you, and quickly hiding again every time you call her name.

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Yes, I believe that Emerson is correct. Go ahead and try. Write upon your heart that every day is the BEST day…then wait and see the moments that your eyes are opened to.