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Archive for the tag “fear”

living open-handed

IMG_0637Yesterday: I felt strong enough to challenge the big, dark thing creeping behind me, so I wrote—I feel like fear is eating me whole. Why this struggle? Why is this so important?

Today: The panic rose so high I couldn’t breath. I felt thankful for tears that came quick this time. They were the beginning of relief, they opened my soul wide enough to form words to You.  You spoke, as you always do when I lay it all out. Start at the beginning, You tell me. What is true?

God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I draw lines from power, love, and a sound mind, to their definitions—

power |ˈpou(-ə)r| the ability to do something or act in a particular way…the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events…physical strength and force exerted by something or someone

love |ləv|—I decided the dictionary cannot define it like You, my Great Love, so I recall this definition: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18

sound |sound| in good condition; not damaged, injured, or diseased…competent, reliable, or holding acceptable views

I have a two-handed grip on the throat of my life. The bit between my teeth is clenched so hard they ache and my toes dig into the dirt until my arches explode with pain of muscles unrelieved. I hold on hard to life because I. Am. Afraid.

I never knew it before. I should’ve had a clue every time I gloried in the things that didn’t scare me and laughed when they scared others.

The fear is buried deep down. I give it all kinds of other names—desire, discipline, hard work, responsibility, reputation—but its real name, too often, is fear.

Fear is another layer surfaced, one I had buried below the last layer You just dug out of me. How many more layers I wonder. What lies at the bottom of all this?

Today I’m thankful for sight. First step is to see, acknowledge. I see the fear and I’m asking you to help me live, two hands open flat. I want to live trusting You.

Do you struggle with fear? What shape does it take? How does it hold you back?

an act of courage: to be and to listen

heather“When I am constantly running there is no time for being.  When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.  I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who bought me in to being, and you.”   Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

The paragraph that follows this says art is a response to the human question of the meaning of being and dying.  But I was arrested by Madeleine’s premise that being and listening is of serious importance, so you’ll get the second paragraph next week!

I have to twist my lips into an ironic smile because I’m busy.  I have several jobs and a host of inconvenient life moments that seem to crop up constantly.  The latest inconvenience is my knock down, drag out fight with insecurity.  I’m always trying to make people happy, avoid confrontation, look normal, and achieve coveted success.  I live by a list of rules and to do lists in order to achieve these goals and eradicate insecurity.

I’m human, therefore I make mistakes.  I was created unique therefore normal doesn’t exist.  Other people’s God-given tasks were not given to me, therefore they won’t work for me.  So why is it so important that I focus solely on God’s requirements for me?

As I pragmatically deconstructed my insecurity I was left with an interesting conclusion.  His requirements release me from my heavy, restrictive rules.  I become highly productive.  I feel fulfilled. I suddenly have time to be and listen.  And that time fuels me as an artist.  It gives me strength to create.

For anyone with a calling (which is everyone) listening gives fuel, inspiration, direction, and strength.  It is in this time that we are able to translate the language of eternal into human.

To be and to listen goes against the grain.  It is an act of surrender when I’m faced with the choice of doing and speaking.  I feel safer in control, but the grip of my control forces God out and makes me the ‘god’ instead.  When I’m in control I forget for a moment that my control is an illusion.  Having no control terrifies me. Ironically, it’s in God’s quiet voice that I’ve found the most stability, peace, and strength, more than I could ever generate on my own.

It’s even more important in the face of great personal tragedy or national tragedy like the Boston bombings, that I want, need, to deliberately take time to be and listen.  Tragedy and death always bring the biggest questions to the surface and leave me uncomfortable and unstable.

To be and to listen isn’t a trite aphorism with a showy words and a weak grip. In times of great confusion and pain, it’s a very courageous act.  Often I forget this and believe my striving is more courageous and needed.

Do you find time to be and to listen?  Does it change your perspective?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’ve learned!

white-knuckled grip

heatherI started threading God into my life with serious intentionality several years ago.  His voice in my life flipped me upside down in the best way possible.  And I’m trying to live my life, ever since, in a way that thanks him for his life-saving intervention.  But lately I’ve found that the thread binding him and me together is messing with my greatest self-preservation tool: my independence.

I use my independence to hide my weaknesses, fears, pain, ect.  I’ve got a white-knuckled grip on independence.  It’s my safety.  I think God has a sense of humor.  I think it’s a touch on the dark side, because lately, he’s allowed life to poke me in my weak spots. And by sheer, terrified faith I have been loosing my white-knuckled grip on independence one finger at a time.  I’ve got about four and a half fingers left to go but it’s progress.

My writing is something I love, something I’m very passionate about, but I have an immense amount of fear, pain, and weakness associated with writing. (I’ve got so many hang ups I literally ran from writing for five years.)  But God has called me to write fulltime.

I’m weak.  I’m scared.  I’m under qualified and I know it.  But He is strength, he is peace, he knows what I need to learn, and he knows what I need to write.

So before I start a full day of writing, here’s what I will say to myself when I feel afraid:  God has not left me alone with a task.  He is beside me and thrilled to help if and when I ask.

What do you do when you feel fear?

Outside

SamHere is a free write of mine. Which basically means writing without forethought and without crafting. It’s sort of a rant/spill type of journaling. So here are my spills.

When I go outside, I melt away and I’m alone with the page, the blank page in front of me. And it is light and color, hot red color and cool blue color, and I feel and I see and I move, and I’m unafraid. I’m unafraid outside. With my words and my mind spinning, and scenes unrolling before me. I’m at sea, on a sailboat, and the waves are blue and salty. I’m at sea. On voyage. When I’m outside writing.

Writing for you, and writing for me. I give, and I get when I go to my porch, beneath that hot sun, hot on my skin, leaving its mark. Remember me, it says. And I know that’s why I write. Remember me, I say. Remember me and remember my God, won’t you.

Outside, I’m sitting and taking in the blue of the sky and the black words flying across the screen. Periods and sentences. I love them all, all in front of me, holding me, as I hold them. And I think that maybe they keep me safe, these words that I love to spill. That I can’t seem to contain. They leak from me, leak through to me. And I am in them, in the words, and they in me. But I think that maybe I don’t know. Not really. Maybe I don’t know what it’s like to really be free. Maybe I don’t know the sweet taste of that. Maybe I’ve only had glimmers, but those glimmers, my weren’t they lovely. Like little slivers of cake, still delightful, leaving me wanting more. But God has the cake. I know he does. I know he has the whole cake behind his shelf. He doesn’t give slivers. That’s just not the kind of baker he is. He is big and generous. I know that. And I want it. Oh yes!

Outside, there is cake and picnics and ants, marching in their sweet lines. I think there is magic here, magic underneath this impossibly beautiful sky, so gorgeous it reminds me that there is more, much more than the ordinary beauty around me. There is supernatural beauty here too. I can’t see it all that well, hardly at all. But this is the kind of beauty I want to write about it. A mother nursing her child. A friend taking the hand of their mate when the playground seems big and scary. A friend dying for me. He did. And I want to write to him, for him. Oh God, I fail at this. I do. I wind this way and that, and I wonder if I’m really writing for you, the way I want to. I wonder if you are shining through, or if I am turning your gold into brass. Oh God, help me. Help me not cheapen or lessen or weaken the story of you.

I cannot write it all. Cannot write all of you. You are too much. Help me write a sliver. Help me find the sliver I can write and write it well. Won’t you help me? Won’t you come and guide these fearful hands . Show me how to write unafraid. Show me how to write you. Show me. I am outside, out here with you, and I am ready.

Write Free

SammieI’m working on a new manuscript right now. I’ve had several false starts, and I’ve felt completely stupid and unimaginative, and just altogether wrong. I even convinced myself that God didn’t want me to write this new story. Because that’s what I do when I’m afraid. I cower in the corner and let the haze of fear block me from my Healer’s voice.

But then my Healer spoke through the haze, loud enough that my heart has been ringing with truth ever since. Don’t hold back. You feel fear. Stop, turn inside, grab it around the throat and drag it to me. I will take care of it. I will slay your dragons and fight your demons. And you will write free.

I’ve been so passive about the presence of fear in my life. I made my peace with it, in a way. Accepted it as my faithful companion. And then I just began to ignore it. I thought if I looked at the fear too much, then I’d open the door wider, letting it  grow all the more.

That’s so twisted. The act of ignoring has the same affect on fear as yeast does in a loaf of bread. It’s the surest way to expand it. I’m seeing that now, and it’s making all the difference in the world.

I will fight this enemy of mine instead of playing the role of helpless victim. I am not helpless; I have divine Help that is ever-present. I am not a victim; I am a warrior made in the image of God.

As an artist, I choose to stop, turn inside, grab fear around the throat and drag it to God. He will take care of it, and I will write free. That’s a promise.

How do you write or paint or dance or (fill in the blank) free? How do you address the fears in your life?

REACH

heatherI feel it first in the hollow of my throat.  My airway grows thick.  My skin feels too tight. My body turns heavy like someone twisted the dial up on gravity. I can no longer reason through a simple thought.  With choking despair I acknowledge the appearance of panic.  Like a wounded animal I do best to run away from the hunter.  I force myself to stand up, to haul a fresh load of laundry into the machine, to find some television to drown myself in.  I just need to stop the panic and hide the fear somewhere where I can’t find it.

In the crowd that day there was a woman who for twelve years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her.

They’re old demons hunting me.  It’s fear of failure, fear that I am worthless.  The fear makes me sick and my peace, my focus, my reason, hemorrhages out in steady flow.  I watch my calling [my writing] lay untouched, wasted, shriveled into insignificance.

She slipped in from behind and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe. At that very moment her hemorrhaging stopped. Jesus said, “Who touched me?”

I’d reached for God many times before.  The only difference this time, I was honest.  Not clean, just honest.  I spoke out my fear, my anger, my worry, my sadness, my confusion, and God met me.  And I was changed.

When no one stepped forward, Peter said, “But Master, we’ve got crowds of people on our hands. Dozens have touched you.”  Jesus insisted, “Someone touched me. I felt power discharging from me.”

This time, the fear only lasted for seven hours.  But not to far in my distant past, I’d lose whole months.

When the woman realized that she couldn’t remain hidden, she knelt trembling before him. In front of all the people, she blurted out her story—why she touched him and how at that same moment she was healed.

Often, when I pursue my calling, which for me is writing, I find the old hellhounds of my past rush in.  When I write, I am most vulnerable.  But every time I forget my pride and I open myself up to God, he turns me towards my fear and we face it together.  I am no longer the same broken women from the past.  And while the past wishes to pull me back, I find the present and the future a much better alternative.  And my calling has finally begun to take on a life of its own, just as it always should have.

Jesus said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole.  Live well, live blessed!”  [All text in italics is from Luke 8:43-47 The Message]

So many times I linger around God, but never break the barrier of my pride, fear, anger, ect. and actually try to touch him.  Have you broken through to touch God?  How has your calling changed as a result?  Is there something holding you back?  Speak it out!

“rebellious refusal to please”

 

heather“[Literary/commercial fiction] is personal, impassioned, and even downright quirky, yet through its rebellious refusal to please, it paradoxically achieves universal appeal. It panders to no one. It speaks to everyone.”

Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

Donald Maas

 

No more pleasing the people because I’m afraid of [        ].  No more writing for ratings.

I will write TO God, FOR God.

I will write with excellence.

I will write with dignity.

I will use God-given talent.

I will follow God-given instincts.

I will write what I know.

I will write because there is HOPE.

“That’s the kind of fiction I dream of writing. And you?”     [Patti Hill, Novel Matters]

Hopefully this will be a bit of a New year inspiration to you.  If you aren’t specifically a writer, insert whatever your calling is.  I’d love to hear what you’d like to add to this list!  Post it on a comment below…

They Might See Too Much

SamSo I might have cried in Starbucks last week. Which was, ahem, a wee bit embarrassing for me. Thankfully, I was with a friend who has seen me through many a good cries. She listened and murmured her understanding as I chugged my chai latte and really, really hoped the baristas weren’t overhearing all of this.

See, I had just posted the first chapter to Penumbra, and I felt like I was suffocating. My thoughts went a little like this… Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no. OH NO. I need to undo this. How can I undo this? What if people click on the link? What if they read it? Then they’ll know I’m not really a writer. And they’ll hate my story, and I should just stop all of this right now.

Mostly, I was just scared of being seen. The kind of seen that happens when we create something from the deep down places that exposes us as broken, searching artists.

God has taught me so much about this “seeing” by putting some just fantastically quality people in my life. I’ve learned that I can let others into those places, and they’ll love me all the more. They’ll even open the door to their own places in turn. Well, as much as any of us can. There is an intimacy that’s reserved for God alone, and I’m thankful for that!

A few nights ago a woman approached me after reading my first chapter and talked about my characters, by name. I totally freaked out. Hearing their names on her lips breathed such life into them. What a gift to know that she cared about these two people (however fictional), and that she wanted to know more of their story.

I felt such hope for them and for me.

We don’t have to be afraid in the telling of our stories. If God is leading the way, and showing with whom and when to share, then we can boldly tell our tales. This is my prayer for me and for you too, fabulous readers.

So what about you? Does sharing your art with others ever scare you? How so? And how do you move past the fear?

CONFRONT

As soon as I read this passage from the book Boundaries by Cloud/Townsend, I knew I would be sharing it on the blog.  I highly recommend the book if you’ve never read it!  Here is a link to the biblical passage The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) that is referenced in the excerpt below.  It’s a quick read so if you are unfamiliar with it, take a second to read and then come back!

Our talents are clearly within our boundaries and are our responsibility.  Yet taking ownership of them is often frightening and always risky.

The parable of the talents says that we are accountable—not to mention much happier—when we are exercising our gifts and being productive.  It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fear of failure that the “wicked and lazy’ servant gave in to.  He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult.  He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could.  Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.”

Fear is my nemesis.  But I read this and thought I have no more excuses.  But the truth is, at this point in my life I don’t want any more excuses!  I don’t have any more time to waste.  God help me I want to use what he gave me!

When it comes to your job/your talents (I think our talents are our job) do you struggle with fear?  What do you do to push past your fear?  What are you committed to doing no matter what?

Banishing Guilt

Over the past several days I entertained the haunting whispers of guilt. Guilt from not being with my son as much I used to (when I stayed home instead of working); guilt from not cooking that much (as we’ve been buying premade food recently, running around); guilt from not following up with certain friends. These are the things that get to me. However, I refuse to back down on pursuing my passion. There are different seasons in the journey. Some are busier than others and we need to listen to our bodies and our Creator to decide when to rest more and when to push ourselves. While I certainly struggle with pursuing it at times, deep down I know it is what I need to do. My Creator told me so.

My issue is that I easily point the finger at myself, always expecting more, aware that I can do better. But as I’ve learned over the past couple of years, I will never be perfect; not even close. To expect unreasonable results—treating my mind and body like a machine—is to set myself up for constant failure, triggering a continual cycle of disappointment, fear and eventually, hopelessness. If anyone else even utters a word that I can grab a hold of to inflict more guilt, it is extra ammunition to torture myself with, unbeknownst to the person who made the comment.

Aware of the lies that knock around in my mind, it is clear to which thoughts I must banish, allowing my Creator to help me, give me peace. Once I take this crucial step, guilt begins to melt away, leaving me wondering if it was ever really there in the first place. Thank God for making me aware of this harmful sequence that I experienced constantly for years, so that I am now certain of where I’ve been and where I am today, thankful for His deliverance.

As an artist, how can we be open enough to create freely when riddled with guilt—guilt from taking some time away from our family, work, friends and other activities to pursue our path? We can’t. Guilt must be felt—as giving ourselves permission to feel emotions is vital to an artist and any human being—but then banished, as we recognize its toxic nature and disdain for creativity. We have to remember that guilt, fear, shame—all of it—hate our imaginations because creativity originated from our Creator.

Do you struggle with guilt as you pursue your passion or art? When does it hit you? Why? What do you do to combat it?

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