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. 

Comfort – 5 Minute Friday

5-minute-friday-1 Comfort.

The word floods my mind with a collage of images.

Images and voices.

Voices that swoon and croon and call and plead and promise… and guilt.

My heart quiets and a soft smile settles with images of great reading rooms with large cozy chairs, overlooking the ocean. The sea breeze caresses my face, wisps of hair dance in the ocean’s song, and I am lost in a book, only drawn back to reality by the call of a seagull or the crash of a wave. A contented sigh.

Comfort.

I can doze in the warmth of the sun’s gentle rays and awake to cool in the ever-reaching waves. Laughter and joy and peace wrap around and I’m soon back in the arms of the chair, book in hands, world faded into another.

This is my “happy place.”

But then the guilt… all of the “comfort” foods that promise happiness in the moment, heartache (and bellyache) in the next. Guilt over the millions around the world living (if we can call it that) with little to no food, water… dying of things I take for granted. Guilt over the complaints I give a cold-sore when people say less about their own starvation, decaying body parts, children dying of preventable and treatable diseases. Guilt that my life as a believer in Christ should not be filled with comfort, but of perseverance, tribulation, endless hard work and long-suffering, sacrifice… exhaustion for the Cause. His Cause. Guilt that too much pleasure shouldn’t be for me and how can I even dream such things?

Then a gentle voice speaks:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:28-29

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

Psalm 94:19

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

 

And truth, though my thoughts are so small in comparison, overwhelm my guilt and fears.

And the comfort comes.

Not through sea breezes or oversized reading chairs or worlds created by authors…

but by that voice.

The voice of Truth that overwhelms all shadows of guilt and fear.

That speaks peace and comfort into everything I can’t understand.

Quiet heart.

Soft smiles.

Contented sigh.

Finding Quiet

Quiet is so hard to find.

I can be in a perfectly silent room… and need mental ear plugs for my thoughts.

Or for all the chitter chatter of Twitter, Facebook, email…

And when the earplugs are in and the computer closed, the phone rings.

Or there’s a knock on the door.

Or a thought slips through… with a list of to-dos.

Even if I drive to the most remote places on the planet… away from cell service and wifi…even there my thoughts will find me, filling the desired silence with bursts of memory, curiosities, questions, and answers.

Or I open a book… and enter the noise of someone else’s world.

Which can be a great respite… but is not quiet.

Where, then, can this quiet be found?

The kind that can escape the endless running of a human brain?

“God, are you there?”

And for a moment, silence.

Then thoughts invade again… “Nope, no one is here. Am I fool? But isn’t He here? Aren’t You?”

On and on that chatter goes.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Matthew 6:7

At last, when I’ve commanded silence from my own reckless bantering… it is then that I hear the still, small whisper.

“I Am.”

And it is before that voice, that quiet is found. Not just the kind of quiet in silence, but the kind that seeps into the deepest parts of the human soul and spirit, wrought with peace and a sense of “all is well,” even when it is not.

Sometimes, when He wills it, the voice is loud and booming… and the quiet of the soul that follows His thunder is like the calm after a storm… when one shudders to remember their size in relation to the entire universe.

How small thou art.

And it hits me.

It’s not the voice alone that brings peace… because for some, it wreaks havoc. The Voice of Truth has been known to flip illusions on their heads. Dismantle deception. Confront our boxed in ideas of life. This can be terrifying.

But for the one who wholly trusts that voice… to him does the true quiet come.

The quiet that can be known in the midst of a rock-out concert. A crowded Christmas market. A home (like mine) with four kids.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

The kind of quiet that steadies a home, a marriage, a heart… even in the midst of the storm… before its end when the world is rewarded with calm.

This is the quiet I long for. Which comes with or without a voice… but because of my trust in the One speaking.

Just as I can look into the face of my husband and know he loves me… even if he’s not saying it.

Or onto the tops of little heads snuggled into my side, squeezing me with all they’ve got… without their words to clarify it.

Trust.

Trust in the Creator of my soul, in the Potter of this clay, in the Artist in this masterpiece… Trust in Him is the silencer of all that wages war against peace and quiet in my life.

No matter where I am or how loud it is.

It’s quiet.

Inside.