God’s Peace in Place of Fear – Facing 2019 with Shalom

The thing I’ve learned about choosing a word to fly as a banner over my each year, is that this word then flings loose and stirs up opportunity. 

Opportunity to dig deep. Opportunity to quit and return to comfortable. Opportunity to grow.

It should not have come as a surprise to me that the very last few days of 2018 were some of my most painful this whole year. I felt the familiar claws of terror creeping into my soul. 

I’m not liked. I’m misunderstood. People I thought loved me, don’t. People I trusted aren’t trustworthy. And God might have me say “yes” anyway. 

“Yes” to showing up in the vulnerable, painful places. “Yes” to more forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption. “Yes” to humility. “Yes” to being misunderstood for the sake of God’s glory story, not mine. 

All “yes”es that make me want to crawl into my bed, deep into my covers, headphones filling my mind with truth, blocking out that anyone else exists. This is how I like to handle fear. 

But as each of the days of 2018 passed me by, “Fearless” was always flying above me. 

It flew strong when I said “yes” to coaching two days a week with Self Publishing School, knowing my capacity (emotional, physical, time) is limited. 

It flew broad when I said “yes” to pushing through new-old pain in our marriage and getting support–again.

It flew high when I said “yes” to embracing hard things about myself, about people I love, and pursuing healthy relationships through the heartache. 

It flew proud when I said “yes” to taking our Home Assignment year this year in the U.S., leaving behind a life and home and friends we love, for the other home we love. 

The flying flag stood as a reminder of my goal. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

I wanted a year of choosing hope over fear. And that was terrifying. Fearlessness didn’t remove the fear, only gave me a foothold for my next step, right smack into the face of it.

The opportunities didn’t let up through the very last countdown of 2018. And to be honest… they followed me right into 2019. 

Even now, I feel the familiar tingle of fear as I hear the whispers of a new “yes.” 

So why in the world are these yeses worth it? Why not crawl into my bed? 

I have experienced some of the most incredible, life-altering consequences to those yeses. 

love love love the team I serve with at Self Publishing School. I have grown as a coach, learned that I love it, and learned that I’m good at it. I love the mission, the integrity, the purpose, and the people. All of them. It’s been a full year and my heart is so full because I (and they) said “yes.”

Jeremy and I have a new depth in our relationship. We’ve been through some hard stuff. HARD. Losing his mom (and in some ways his dad) days before our 1st anniversary, raising children who’ve endured trauma, health crises, moving across the world, unprofessional work relationships, extended family dynamics, living in a world with people in progress, being people in progress. This last summer we had the chance to attend Breathe for missionary families who’ve experienced trauma and it was SO good. We had daily counseling which about killed us before saving us. But saying “yes” to digging deep and opening our eyes and saying “yes” again… has led us to a rich place today. I don’t regret the pain of that yes.

I also have a new self-awareness this year. I began this year feeling like the small person in every room I entered. Saying “yes” to His small voice has reminded me that my value and worth isn’t derived from difficult relationships (or even good ones), but only from God. “Yes” to persevering through hard relationships has deepened my security in Him. Who would have known? A deeper dependency on Him reveals who you really are… His loved child.

And saying “yes” to vulnerability has brought me rich and precious friendships. It’s terrifying to be honest about one’s shortcoming and fears and struggles. But as Brené Brown speaks about regularly, vulnerability is courageous and freeing. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené says,

“My willingness to let someone I care about see me as imperfect led to a strengthening of our relationship that continues to today. That’s why I can call courage, compassion, and connection the gifts of imperfection. When we’re willing to be imperfect and real, these gifts just keep giving.”

So many other yeses, so many other gifts. The terror is worth facing when you know an incredible gift, larger than you could ask or imagine, waits on the other side. 

The gift of being fearless. 

I don’t plan to leave “fearless” on the doorstep of 2019. Just like every other word before it: New Song, Hope, Comfort, Rest, Abide, Light, it will continue to feed into and inform every day. It joins a list of powerful words and years, life lessons and growth, that will guide me. Believe me, 2019 isn’t looking like it needs less fearlessness. 

This year, I’m raising a new banner to join the others. 

And to be honest, I didn’t like the word. I resisted it. It feels plastic. Commercialized. Everyone wants it, but so few have it. Miss America wants it. Nations want it. Christmas sings it. Hippies flash it. 

Something in me said, “No thank you. It’s been overdone.” And then, as God does, the word came up at every turn. My own devotional, prayers prayed over me, the Sunday sermon, verses, random YouTube videos. 

And as I looked at the amount of hard we’ve had and have (even with so much good to be thankful for!) I realized: It is what I want. 

How often I remind myself that God gives a peace unlike the world gives. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

-John 14:27

Or that His peace is the kind that is above and beyond our circumstances or rational thinking (Phil 4:7). That He will “keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in [Him]” (Isaiah 26:3).

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

-Isaiah 55:12

Tonight we attended a prayer night for friends dealing with hardship. One of the praying warriors said that the opposite of fear is peace. 

Ironic? I think not. God knew I’d need a year of pursuing fearlessness in order to grasp the peace that replaces fear. 

Now, I don’t mean “peace” as in “the absence of conflict.” While that’s lovely and all, and what most people mean when they say it, the true meaning is much bigger. And actually, you can have peace in the midst of conflict. So there’s that. 

Susan Perlman, on the Jews for Jesus website, says 

Peace, lasting peace, transcends the situations and flaws of our own personal lives because it doesn’t come from us. It comes from God. We are not in a position to attain peace ourselves. Yet, God promises all the qualities of shalom – wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety – to those who will look to Him.

Therefore, this year I seek to abide in the peace, the shalom, that only comes from God. The peace which brings with it a sense of safety, even in places of worldy fear. A peace that will usher out my insecurities, fears, doubts, and insecurities, and replace them with…, well, peace. 

As we and I head into 2019, I truly wish you God’s peace in everything. Let’s pursue it together. 

A New Song Called Fearless

There are those years when the clocks strikes midnight, the fireworks explode, and the sense that you’ve lived well, loved well, and grown much settles on your soul, like the tide slowly easing its way toward the shore. 

That’s not how my New Year’s Eve went at all.  We were in a rental car, driving on the opposite side of the road, on the opposite side of the car, in a foreign country. Our plans involved us arriving at our destination in time to see the fireworks flower over the Bristol Channel between England and Wales.

Instead, our Sixt rental agent went home early, leaving us stranded car-less at the airport. (They said he was in the bathroom but we’ve decided otherwise). In any case, it’s 11pm at night (midnight for our Germany-bodies), the buses have shut down, I’m on crutches, and we have no car. Fortunately, Europcar was open next door and rented us a ridiculously over-priced car for the night. 

So, as it was, we were driving down dark country roads on the other side of the street when the clock struck twelve. We saw random splotches of fireworks around homes and trees. It wasn’t all bad, and in fact, nearly mimicked the spirit of the WHOLE year… unexpected, unplanned, out of our control, and adventurous. 

Lest you think I find those descriptors pleasant, I’ll make it clear that except for adventure, I do not love unexpected, unplanned, or out of control anything. 

I had hoped and anticipated a New Song. 

And while I look at the circumstances of the year and try to hear the new song, I realize it wasn’t in the circumstances at all. 

The new song was really more of a spark, an invitation to step into disappointment, fear, insecurity, sadness, loneliness, and the unknown with bravery. With courage.

With fearlessness.

The song wasn’t beautiful. It didn’t quiet my soul or stir up joy. No, it stirred up fear. It stirred up my brokenness. It stirred up anxiety.

It was the song to call out all of the ugly insecurities that lurk in the shadows of my soul.

When I heard “new song” last year, I had a really different idea of how it would sound. 

Nonetheless, the song has woven a note through every moment. Pulling out disappointment and carrying me to the cross. Calling out insecurity and carrying me to His heart. Drawing out fear and carrying me to the shadow of His wings. 

Where I’d imagined a song sung over me, to quiet me with love, I found a crescendo so terrifying that I wanted to hide under my covers, as I did as a child listening to my Mighty Mouse record at its tense climax.

And while bed time songs are still preferred, I’m beginning to see why the new song of 2017 was less about being free of tension or drama or pain, and more about stepping into each of those with courage. Taking it one measure at a time. Trusting Him with the tempo and learning a new dance. 

A dance of courage. 

2018 shows no indicators of lightening up circumstantially. I tripped into it with a torn ACL and crutches, my RADish living untreated, numbered days in our home and SO. MUCH. CHANGE. on the horizon. New roles, new endeavors, new. So much new. New identities. So much unknown. So much opportunity to run in fear and hide. To disconnect, disengage, or, my preference, try to control all of the uncontrollable and burn myself out.

But I hear a whisper of hope. A whisper that began in a new song last year. A call to live brave. Live courageously. 

To live fearlessly. 

To look fear and anxiety and overwhelm in the face and say, “Step aside–I’m with Him.” And then, with love, power, and a sound mind, choose to walk in. 

This year, I’m living fearless. 

Not because I’ll never experience fear, but because I won’t give fear power to determine my steps. My future. My family. My relationships. When I feel fear, I’ll choose forward. When I feel insecure, I’ll choose courage. When I feel disappointment, I’ll choose bravery.

All are choices. Responses. Opportunities. No longer will I hide in my turtle shell until the storm passes, but I’ll face it and wrestle it and make the storm bless me. 

Whew! That’s a tall order. I believe those words. I aim for those words. And I know I’ll need you to remind me of these words. Because when the fear hits, it’s hard. It’s hard to step into dark places and choose courage. 

For example, I distinctly heard God give me 3 steps to take to bring reconciliation to my marriage recently. It took me about 8 hours to complete the steps. Seven of those hours were spent in fear, in pride, and in a secret hope that He’d settle for the first two. 

I know this is the work He’s begun in me this year. A call to facing fear one breath at a time. And because of the times I’ve said “yes” to stepping in, only equipped with His promises of something beautiful on the other side, I’ve witnessed some deeply touching moments this year. 

  • A new picture book, According to Corban, which won a The Gittle List award in December. 
  • A chance to read my books to children at my elementary school in San Marcos in October. 
  • Being a guest author at Cologne International School for World Book Day last May where they decided I was “very famous.”
  • An accepted invitation to be one of ten guests invited to a publishing intensive with the CEO and staff of Self Publishing School last October. 
  • Starting a coaching business for children’s writers and getting students! 
  • My reunion with Israel after 16 years, sharing that immense joy with my husband for his first time.
  • An incredible trip back to Israel and Palestine, sharing our love for this land and these peoples with our children.
  • Provision for our every need… a car to borrow through July when ours broke down, finances to continue our work here, a role at BFA that Jeremy loves, insurance to pay for my medical needs, on and on.
  • Reconnection with friends and family this summer in CA. 

There are many more gifts behind each fear that threatens to keep me limited and unconfident. Instead, I choose to step behind the curtain and trust that only because of God’s gift of freedom, can I live fearless. 

Won’t you join me this year? Join me in believing more about your value, your worth, your security, your protection, your offering than you’ve ever dared believe. 

Step into those places that threaten you with fickle lies and believe that you can live fearlessly, courageously, and daringly because He equips you and has so much more for you and for me than the enemy would have us believe. 

A New Song for 2017

Abide. Rest. Comfort. Hope.

Another year gone, another word- but so much more -joins the list.

It was truly a year of practiced hope.

We’ve been raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder for about nine years… from foster care to adoption. It has been incredibly difficult and at times, I’ve felt helpless and hopeless.

My family has experienced trauma on a few fronts, all of which affected my marriage, bringing my husband and I to a year of counseling (which greatly helped). We also see individual counselors / mentors to help us navigate the emotional waters of raising a child of trauma (who re-injures in a home with other children.)

We live cross-culturally in a place we love, but in a place, all the same, that differs in language, culture, expectation, money, and norms. We weave in and out of Alemanish Germany, Alsatian France, and Northern Switzerland and a Christian conglomerate of individuals working together from every different denomination, from different countries, and from different cultures with a common purpose and many different ways of getting there. It would be enough to live within one of these cultures, but we daily navigate them all.

And to do that, we have to raise our own salary… which adds another layer of stress (I mean, opportunity to trust and hope and believe).

This is just a sampling.

Needless to say, the words abide, rest, comfort, and hope have been crucial to my last four years. Their deep meaning has carried me and comforted me and challenged me in ways I could never have expected. And as I said last year, each word continues on long beyond December 31st. They weave together into a more beautiful hug.

This year, for awhile, I thought my new word was going to be expectation. It’s close to hope… and I’m fine with a thread of hope continuing to weave through my life story. However, as I was recently on a walk and pouring out my heart to God, I heard myself asking Him for a new song.

Okay, that’s not a word. But I’m going with it.

My last few years have been heartache nestled among great beauty. I have so much to be thankful for, in spite of those things which have challenged me to the core. And, looking back at the me who arrived in Germany nearly five years ago… I’m a different person. Hopefully a better person. Certainly a person, though, that has been to the ends of herself multiple times. Who is clear that she is weak and only He is strong. Who lives in the constant reality of her inability to affect change in the circumstances around her and the incredible ability of God to be the Change-Maker. A person with deeper compassion for godly, loving parents who are struggling, suffering marriages, individuals with depression, the lonely, the lost, and the broken.

And I’m ready for a new song.

There are sweet glimpses of healing and growth and joy in my family’s future. This is where I thought expectation would be my anthem… but instead, I know the Singer and Dancer of my soul delights in this coming season with a new song.

A song of deliverance.

A song of joy.

A song of peace in storms.

A song of love.

For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)