Dealing With the Challenges That Come With Change

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (9)

Not long ago, I started a new job. Well, in truth, it’s not new, really. I just transferred to a new location. Same job, different building. Same job, different colleagues. Same job, different challenges. So, the same but different.

Anyone else out there dealing with different right now?

Change can bring tremendous blessing, but it can also bring tremendous anxiety. I can testify to this, and I suspect others can give the same declaration with similar confidence. Change is a part of life, but it does, more often than not, come with a roller coaster of emotions.

Different can be scary. And when different begins to present challenges, you start to second guess your decision to embrace change in the first place. Even though it may have clearly been the right decision to embrace this difference, these doubts can be painful.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (10)

And so much comfort in life comes from the predictability of routine, the familiar people that surround us, and our everyday environment, so when one of those things (or all of them) changes, we can suddenly feel disabled. It’s as if we’re toddlers struggling to learn how to walk again. Tripping over our own feet. Stumbling over unfamiliar territory. Wondering if there is something, anything, nearby we can hold on to that would help guide our way.

Moving away from home? Changing jobs? Making a life-changing decision like staying home with the kids? Or homeschooling? Searching for a new church home?

What is your change — your different — that is seemingly pressing in on you?

During this challenging time in my life right now, this time of transition, my biggest struggle is with finding a new rhythm. I’m trying to relax and enjoy my new surroundings, but everything feels so awkward, so foreign. It’s distressing and wearisome.

Recently, I read a devotion in Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lysa Terkeurst, that took a closer look at Exodus 27:20, and it gave me hope. In this chapter of Exodus, God is instructing the Israelites on how to build the altar of burnt offering. The passage reads: “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.”

Terkeurst makes the following observation: “Isn’t it interesting that the olive branch is often seen as a symbol of peace? And yet in order to get what’s most valuable from the fruit of this tree, there is a lot of pounding, crushing and pressing that is required. Those words don’t usually go hand in hand with peace.”

There is a great truth in her words: A greater good is often found on the other side of pressing times in our lives. As Terkeurst points out later in her devotion, Jesus is an excellent example of this truth: “In order for Him to truly be ‘the light of the world,’ the prophecy of his beating, death and resurrection had to be fulfilled. His greatest hardship became our greatest hope.”

When we feel that God has asked us to make a change, and we are obedient to that prompting, it can be hard, trying. We may feel as if we are being pounded and crushed. However, after time passes, we are sure to reap a harvest of joy from our submission — whether it’s in this life or the next.

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Meditating on this truth found throughout the Bible helps me when situations threaten to overcome me.

The knowledge that these present trials can be used for future good helps me get out of bed every morning. Just taking time to remember that everything turns out all right in the end brings me great comfort.

He is in control. He is on His throne. He works all things for the good of those that love Him.

During your quiet time today, thank God for what He is doing in your life. Take time to let His peace, that surpasses all understanding, wash over you.

I have come to a place where I can thank God for my new job — and all its new challenges. After being reminded by God’s Word that the hottest fires bring forth desirable things in my life, I can approach Him now with thanksgiving in my heart. Because now I realize that difficult is only temporary, and God has so much He can do through it.

Will you join me in praising Him for your new change? Trust me. It helps.

 

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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Why We Shouldn’t Let Rejection Define Us

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (12)I was a classroom teacher in middle and high school for eleven years. A few years ago, I arrived early to my school’s faculty meeting. That was very unusual because while I enjoy being up in the morning, I’m usually not an on-time-in-the-morning kind of person. I was the very first one there, so I had my pick of a seat.

I sat down, and as people came in, I asked if they wanted to sit with me. The first group that I asked said, “I’m sure someone will sit with you.” Another pair of teachers came in, and I offered them seats as well. They replied that they were sitting with each other. Mind you, they could’ve sat with each other and with me. The seats all around me were literally wide open. I have not felt so rejected since probably middle school.

I texted my husband with tears in my eyes, careful not to let anyone see them. I told him the story, and he could not believe that I was dealing with adult mean girls. I have never been one to sit and have a public pity party, and so I went and sat down with another group of teachers in the front.

Is rejection a new thing? Is it just something women experience? The obvious answer is no. In Chapter 53, the prophet Isaiah said that Jesus was acquainted with our sorrows and that He was despised and rejected. He suffered the ultimate rejection when His own people that He came to save nailed Him to a cross. Then, beyond that, all his disciples, the ones He knew intimately and walked with and loved for three years, pretended they didn’t even know Him. Every single one ran away in His most desperate hour.

My story is of course a lot less dramatic than the story of our Savior being rejected. Besides the rejection story I shared here, I could tell you others from middle school or from adulthood, but they never would compare to what Jesus went through. But what I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t make us feel silly when our problems aren’t as big as His or as big as others’.

He simply cradles us and helps us overcome them. As I told my husband the other day, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my resilience, the ability to bounce back from rejection, but I don’t think it has to be that way. Let’s discuss some ways that you and I can overcome the pain of rejection and help others who are hurting as well.

Three Ways to Bounce Back from Rejection

1. We have to remember that in most cases of rejection, it’s not us the person is rejecting.

In my new job as a technology trainer, it is highly likely that the people that I’m training didn’t want to be trained to begin with. They are teachers who are overloaded, stressed, and trying to placate whoever is making the current demands. They may take that frustration out on me, but it’s not me they’re rejecting, and I have no right to take it personally. As a matter of fact, if I do, I’m only hurting myself.

John Bevere would call that opportunity to be offended “taking the bait,” in his book, The Bait of Satan. I have to make the same choice not to engage in offense when I’m rejected as a Christian. It’s really the message of Jesus that is being rejected, not me. I have to love people, as Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44, even when they “despitefully use me.” Those are the people to keep on praying for the most, not hold a grudge against the most.

2. We have to realize that in most cases people don’t want to be the way they are.

They are rejecting us because they are rejecting themselves as well. If I lash out and I’m hateful to you, it’s usually because there’s something I don’t like in me. I will probably write more about this later, but when I was in college, I went through a major depression. I talked to my future husband Dusty in some ways that would have made any lesser man run in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t him I was angry at; it was myself, but because I kept repeating a sin cycle that caused my depression to persist, and felt powerless to escape, I “had” to vent somewhere, and he was the recipient of that venting. I know I’m not the only one who has exploded on others because of her own self-loathing.

Ladies, if you’re in that boat, there is hope. But while we’re getting that hope for ourselves, let’s extend it to others as well. They may be hurting and need someone who won’t run away, even when they behave badly and reject you.

3. It is inevitable that we will all continue to feel rejection, but we do have to be resilient.

If we are rejected and we hide from the possibility of being turned away, it will tempt us to build up walls that will prevent us from ever really loving people. We can’t love people if we won’t let them in, and we also can’t reject new people as a punishment for those who have rejected us in our pasts.

I love this Scripture: “Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” These were the words of the disciple John, and he knew what it felt to love Jesus, God in the flesh, but he also knew what it was to be rejected and persecuted in the most intense ways for his faith. If John could be boiled in oil, alive, and then be exiled to a lonely island and still love the Lord, I think we can find it in ourselves to get out of rejection’s pit and love again.

The story of the faculty meeting will always stay with me. So will those times I was picked last in gym class (who lets kids pick teams anyway?) or the many times I’ve discipled people who later rejected the truth and turned the other way. But just because I remember those stories doesn’t mean I have to be haunted by them.

I can embrace the cross of Calvary, and in all my receiving of forgiveness, receive deliverance from the pain of rejection as well. Oh, and I can do my utmost never to make another woman feel the pain of rejection at my hands, because I know all too well how it feels.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (13)

Sweet Friend, are you feeling rejected? Have you been healed of rejection? The women on this site would love to hear from you and be encouraged or join you in prayer. Please leave a comment below or join us for a live Blab chat on rejection Monday, April 25, @ 9 or watch the replay.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Keeping Your Pursuits Godly When Running the Race of Faith

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (11)

Ennui” is the impatience and general disappointment that comes with not doing whatever it is you really want to do, and I’m certain it has been a constant companion of mine since childhood. I came out of the womb with a lot of ambition, and that desire to be doing something great never really went away. I settled it around the second grade that I wanted to be a writer. I loved words, and I wanted to write books that people loved.

Unfortunately, my other aspirations were ridiculous. I wanted to be a spy à la Harriet and slink around my apartment complex in a yellow rain jacket jotting notes like “They’re onto me.” Not too long after that, I felt so strongly about my chances at becoming a singing sensation that I traveled door to door and asked people for money in exchange for songs. Furthermore, I was bummed when I realized that all of the calculated focus spent on my Jedi training was useless because Jedi weren’t even real.

No matter where I was in my life, I was always pushing myself forward, enchanted by this idea that one day, far into the future, I would meander into what I was meant to do. And because there was no way that God could mean for me to live an ordinary life, whatever it was would be grand.

I grew older and my ambitions veered into more socially acceptable directions. I spent some time wanting to study medicine in order to become a “blood up to my elbows” kind of trauma surgeon. After that, I was determined to become a theater actress, but that fizzled out when I went to college. I still maintained hopes about writing although it seemed so ludicrous that I relegated that dream to a fanciful hobby, and I decided to study teaching instead.

But even after graduation, I kept my sights on something higher — the next big job, the next big adventure, etc.

Looking Into the Future: What Is the Prize You Are Chasing After?

That same kind of attitude can settle in us concerning matters of God. We place the future on some sort of pedestal, and we hail it as a prize to be won. Now, I agree with the fact that God leads us. I completely agree with the fact that He ordains things for us to do in life and in ministry.

I know it was in God’s plans for me to marry Jamie Howard. I know it was in His plans for me to graduate with a degree in education. I know it was in His plans for me and my husband to buy our first home this year, and since then, we’ve worked hard to mark it as a place of surrender and worship. But just because those things were His plans for me doesn’t mean that they were mine to obsess over or chase after before the appointed time.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have toiled over what God had for us in the future — children, missionary work, ministry endeavors, adoption, joint business ventures, etc. We looked into our future, and we dreamed and planned about what we thought God would send our way.

But what God has revealed to us is that our focus on the future was taking away from our pursuit of Him in the present. We didn’t come to this realization through the course of a single sermon or a well-timed conversation with a friend. It was a slow dawning as we settled into a new home, a new church, and a new season of rest and renewal.

As a result of being in this new phase of our lives, our minds began to clear, and it was in that clear head space that we could hear the Lord saying, “I’m it. I’m the prize at the end of the race, and if the way you’re running that race is taking the focus off of me, run differently.”

And the more we leaned into Him and allowed Him to undo the knots in our thinking, the more clearly we could hear Him.

Philippians 3:7-11 (NKJV) says:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

That is the end goal, friends. Not marrying a godly person or raising godly children. Not pursuing godly ministry or starting godly businesses. The end goal is to know Him.

When we look into the future, our aim should be that we would always be in a place of surrender, and that our lives would always be a testament of His great love. And in pursuing that, God will lead us towards the desires of our hearts because our desires will be conformed to His desires.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (14)Running the Race With the Right Pursuit

The race that my husband and I were running became about the places we would see and the things that we would do along the way instead of being about the prize. And that prize was Jesus, the only one by whom we would ever be able to achieve any of those things anyway. In fact, on some days, the race that we were running didn’t even lead to Him at all. It just led to us being happy and fulfilled.

So here are some thoughts and questions that I encourage you to meditate on. They’re the same kinds of questions I’ve had to ask myself over the past few months.

  1. Think about your life and future. Think about the things that you are pursuing. Marriage? A family? A certain position in ministry? A particular job? Financial security? Saved family and friends?
  2. Ask yourself these questions: Have I placed any of those things before my pursuit of Jesus? Do I strive to know Him better every day? Do I surrender my will to His or do I hope His will will bend to mine? Has God already spoken and yet I’m still waiting for something better? Would I be content if His plans for my life look vastly different than I think they should?
  3. If your answers in any way reflect that the only desires of your heart are to see your own wants fulfilled, then I urge you to repent and then make it right. Turn away from that way of thinking, and chase after God in order to know Him better.

I’m a work in progress, and while some days are better than others, I can honestly say that God is working out of me the desire to do as I please in favor of what He purposes for me. Thankfully, God doesn’t always allow me to get exactly what I want when I want it because if I could, I wouldn’t be the person that He needs me to be in order to see it done right.

Paul said in Philippians 3 that things we “lose” are nothing compared to what we gain when we surrender to Him. And if His plans for your life look different than what you have planned for it, I encourage you reconsider your plans. A high cost was paid for your life, so, by all accounts, your life isn’t your own anymore.

And if God’s intention for mankind was to leave our lives empty and devoid of passion and meaning, then I don’t think He would’ve pumped us so full of drive and ambition. But He wants to funnel that drive and ambition into His work, and in order for us to do that work well, to effectively partner with Him, we have to keep our eyes fixed on Him and nothing else. Hebrews 12 says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. He writes our stories.

And He alone can finish them. So let Him pen the story of your life, and trust Him to write it well.

 

 

 

 

 

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard describes herself as "sort of a mess in pursuit of a great story." Adriana spent a year teaching high school English, and currently, she is teaching theater after school at a local elementary school. She also serves with her husband as a youth pastor at her church. One day, Adriana hopes to be a published author. For the time being, she wants to travel the world, adopt children, learn how to really love people, maintain a garden, go back to India, and work alongside her husband in ministry. Other passions of Adriana's include love war films, cooking, bulky typewriters, crowded airports, winter’s first snow, Elizabeth I, and books of all shapes and sizes. Last but certainly not least, Adriana has a passionate love for Jesus. You can connect with Adriana on her blog where she dabbles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

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2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

Recently, I read an article written by a mother coping with the grief of her teenage son’s death. The article was a poignant account of how she was having difficulty going in her son’s room now that he was gone and the last moments of his life as a heroin-addicted drug user.

The article included a picture of her handsome son in his hockey uniform. Nothing about his demeanor or face suggested he was anything but a happy, healthy adolescent — yet, the last moments of his life were spent vomiting while his mother screamed helplessly as EMT’s worked to stabilize him. The mother’s words literally bled from the page as she shared her honest struggle navigating life without her boy.

The mother’s words stayed with me in a haunting way after I put her article down. After reading her account, I couldn’t help but think of my own children, and I felt a sense of fear myself. I began to think about how fragile life is. I began to irrationally worry for them. They were heading out for an outing at the swimming pool with my husband, and I could feel a frenzy of anxious thoughts stir. I was worried for their safety in the water that day. For their safety in the van while they were en route to the pool. For their safety every day.

Just as my emotions threatened to reach a fever-pitch, I realized I needed to cleanse these anxious thoughts from my mind. I got alone with God, and I whispered these words: “I am afraid. Help me. I am afraid.”

I told Him what I was tied up in knots about. I prayed for my children and asked Him to help me re-focus my thoughts. I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me. Later in the day, I opened up a devotional and read these words by author and in(courage) contributor Lisa-Jo Baker: “The older I get the more I battle fear. And I know it’s because the older I get the more scary things I see in the world.”

I exhaled a little more and let the truth of her statement wash over me.

We live in a world where things go terribly wrong. People get hurt. Parents lose children. Relationships get broken. Being a mother, I feel a tremendous sense of love for my children. And with that love comes fear — because I know I can’t protect them from everything.

Scriptural Advice for Combatting Fear

In 2 Timothy 1:7, we see a young minister of the Gospel struggling with timidity not in his role as a parent, but in his role as a minister. Paul exhorts him with these words: “We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV).

Though these words were given by Paul to strengthen and encourage Timothy in his ministry, as commentator Charles Ellicott states, these words can be taken in a more general sense, as applicable to all Christians.

The verse assures us that we as Christians have been given the exact opposite of fear: “power … love and … a sound mind.” That is — we don’t have to accept fear when it comes because it is not from God, and we have the means with which to resist it and send it packing.

You may be reading this, thinking, “But you don’t understand how strong this fear is. I am literally paralyzed by it. I want it to go, but I am totally overwhelmed by it.”

I understand because I have been in similar positions, as in the scenario I described with the frightening article, and I continue to have bouts of fear. Quite frustratingly, I have dealt with more fear as I’ve pressed into God these past few years — not because God has sent it to me, but because as I’ve become a more potent weapon for his kingdom, the attack against me has become very strong and very real.

There are days when the fear has been so thick that it is palpable, and I feel immobilized.

But Paul assures Timothy and Christians that we don’t have to remain in that place of feeling overcome. The “power” mentioned in the verse that we have at our disposal is the power that rests in us because of the Holy Spirit. This power we are given helps us discern and identify when wrong thoughts or ideas come against us — whether this be through Satan trying to plant these thoughts directly or through Satan working through the actions or words of people.

The “love and sound mind” part of the verse suggests that this counsel we have is such that we can reprove others in love when they offer ideas that counter God’s Word and walk in peace and stability of thinking, not only for our own sake, but the sake of others.

On a practical level, then, here are two ways we can tap into the Holy Spirit’s power and take a stand against fear:

1) Pray.

We make ourselves easy prey when we don’t make time daily to pray and spend time in God’s presence. God assures us that His peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Sometimes, right in the moment when I pray I feel instantly at peace and my fear dissipates (as in this instance). Other times, when the fear is so strong, I will get a verse later through a friend or family member, a line in a sermon, or by some other means.

That verse will be one that I can cling to that acts as a stabilizing force for my mind. As believers, we should expect that God will come to our aid, and we can call out for this rescue during prayer (Psalm 31:2). In my most recent situation fretting over my children, before I prayed about it, I had this thought: “Praying isn’t going to do anything.” And that was a lie straight from the enemy!

I pressed through and prayed anyway and felt better. And it was just a little later in the day that I came across Baker’s devotional which further encouraged me and helped me get over the anxious thoughts I was having.

2). Take every thought captive.

The power of the Holy Spirit Paul speaks of helps us to take every thought captive that is not of God. We can know when a thought or idea is going to derail us; instead of accepting that idea, we can keep our mind clear and at rest by resisting wrong thoughts.

As 2 Corinthians 10:5 states: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I love how author and Proverbs 31 contributor Renee Swope describes this process of filtering thoughts in a recent devotional. Her son Andrew was apparently struggling with anxious thoughts about school. To help him, she explained 2 Corinthians 10:5 and advised him to “catch” each anxious thought he was having like a baseball and toss it back into “outfield.”

She concludes her devotion by emphasizing that there is nothing “more powerful than our hearts hearing our lips proclaim our trust in God’s truth” — truth that not only children but adults can find assurance in.

What do you believe about fear?

Both prayer and right thinking help us to meditate on God instead of the scary person or circumstance — but it also boils down to belief. We have to believe that God doesn’t want us to fear and trust that He will help us.

Unfortunately, some of us embrace fear and hold onto those worrisome thoughts that come our way because we don’t believe that there is the power available to us to overcome it. We accept it thinking there is no other choice, but Scripture indicates that God has a better way for us.

In addition, many of us beat ourselves up for having the fear at all. Rather than do any of those things, we must realize that God does not intend for us to cower down to fear or feel down that we are feeling so timid. Instead, He wants us to look to Him and know in the depths of our being that He is bigger than anything we face.

As Swope advocates in a different piece, “Fear goes away when we actively trust God more than what we fear.”

Join us for a live Blab chat Monday, April 11 @9 or watch the replay.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar ‘Friend’

Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar 'Friend'

I’ve been frozen for almost eleven months now. Frozen in fear. It’s debilitating and it’s crippling and it’s exhausting. But, as sick as I am of it, I’m stuck. Or at least it seems that way.

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born two months ahead of schedule. I had severe preeclampsia, and an emergency C-section was performed to save both of our lives. I visited my little girl in the NICU every day for the longest month of my life.

She was so tiny, and to me, so fragile. She had to learn how to eat and breathe on her own, and I wasn’t familiar with how to care for a full-term baby, let alone one weighing 3 1/2 pounds. Her nurses assured me that she was one of the strongest preemies they had ever seen and that I had nothing to worry about, but I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time I didn’t see her strength.

I saw her feeding tube. I saw her IV and her blood pressure cuff. I saw her heart and oxygen monitors and I heard the jarring alarms when her heart rate dropped too low. All of it terrified me.

I knew she was a miracle. I knew that we were watching God form her before our eyes. I knew deep down that we were all going to be OK, but the spirit of fear that had seized me wasn’t loosening its grip anytime soon. When the day I had been praying for finally came and our little baby got discharged, I remember asking her doctor, “Are you sure she’s ready? Should she stay longer?”

The doors of the NICU were at long last opened wide for us to leave, but I’d become so comfortable there, enclosed in that small wing of the hospital, that I was scared to do the thing we were meant to do, the thing I had longed for — go home as a family.

Home we went, and our daughter was and is perfectly fine. She has excelled in every way, and now is virtually indistinguishable from a baby born at full-term. It’s me who’s not fine. I remember all too well the alarms, the monitors, the tubes and the lonely, sleepless nights without her.

I obsess about her health, my heart sinks when I hear her crying, and I fear getting the slightest thing “wrong” because if I screw up some awful thing might happen. Basically, I’m a mess, and when anyone asks me why, I point back to the NICU.

My paranoia understandably annoys those closest to me. Quite often, I find that I can’t enjoy time with or without my daughter because I’m too worried about her. This, naturally, creates tension for everyone around me. My family has been incredibly patient during my many meltdowns over the last year, but the thing about living in fear is that it not only paralyzes you, but everyone around you. My fear controls me, but my family experiences the bondage as well.

I’ll admit it — the traumatic events surrounding my daughter’s birth have become my go-to. The NICU has become my justification for agonizing over every detail of her life. It’s not right or healthy, and at some point I’m going to have to let it go, but I have no idea how to do that.

One of my favorite songs by Jason Gray says, “There’s no thief like fear.” And it’s true. Fear has stolen my joy, my peace, my sanity, my sleep, my health and my identity. Not only is fear a thief, but it’s deceiving. When you’re afraid for as long as I’ve been afraid, you swallow the lie that there is no other way to be. You cling to your fear. You justify it. You defend it.

I was in tears one afternoon at my parents’ house, trying to get up the nerve to leave my daughter with them for a while so that my husband and I could have some much needed alone time. I was listing all the reasons why I was scared to leave her, why I had no choice but to be afraid even though it was destroying my life.

My father, in growing frustration, was shooting down my pitiful excuses one by one. Finally, I said, “None of you … not one of you knows what it’s like to visit your baby in the hospital every single day for the first month of her life.”

My dad calmly said, “Well, you’re right. But it’s time to leave the hospital.”

It’s time to leave the hospital. My daughter had been given a clean bill of health and had been discharged for several months. And I had never left the hospital. Rather than allowing myself to experience the freedom we had waited for, I turned my nose up at the miracle in favor of the terror that something, anything might go wrong. That the other shoe would eventually drop.

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus, which is found in the Gospel of John. You may be familiar with it, but the long and short of it is that Lazarus, a man Jesus loved, fell sick and died. In fact, Jesus knew he was going to die, and allowed it anyway, so that God would be glorified (John 11:4). Jesus knew the outcome; He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, gaining all the glory from his suffering and that of his family.

And even though He knew the ending would be a happy one, Jesus still wept when He reached the gravesite, knowing and feeling the pain that His children experienced as part of God’s perfect plan. The Bible says that in a loud voice, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the grave, and out he came.

Here’s where I draw the comparison to my story. What if, when Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, the man had refused?

No, Lord. I’m too afraid! You don’t know what it’s been like. You don’t know how sick I was. I could get sick again. I could get hurt. I could die all over again. I just can’t do it. I’m just going to stay here. It’s too scary out there.

It’s more than a little ridiculous. But haven’t I done just that? The Lord had miraculously delivered me, in the nick of time, from a potentially fatal illness. He had gloriously rescued my daughter from my failing womb. And when she was strong enough and His timing was right, He had called her out of that hospital and home with us.

Only I had stayed behind. Physically, I’ve been home with her and my husband nearly 11 months now. In my mind, gripped by fear, I’ve been in that little rocking chair in the NICU, staring into that isolette at a baby much too small.

The reality is that God’s plan all along was perfect. My daughter was born early by our calendar, but not God’s. He saw, ahead of time, the sickness and the suffering, and He knew the purpose of it all. He allowed the pain and planned the miracle, knowing He would take the glory. And I, in so many ways, have refused the miracle in favor of the pain.

My dad’s words to me ring in my ears almost every day. It’s time to leave the hospital. Just like it was time for Lazarus to leave the tomb. Who am I to say no, to continue to live imprisoned when freedom Himself calls to me?

It’s time for me to do what I should have done a long time ago, and that is to obey the voice of Jesus rather than the voice of fear. The voice calling me to “Come out!” instead of the voice telling me it’s safer in the dark. So much has been waiting for me on the outside.

My little preemie, almost at her first year birthday, is about to take her first steps, and so am I.

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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