What I am Fearing the Most (and my lifeline)

He approaches the steep blue slide with excitement and gusto. The same slide that we went down together a few weeks ago only to have him cling to me and cry out in fear as we dropped to the bottom. I have never seen Ben go down a slide by himself, let alone this massive one. “Are you going to go down it?”

“Yes!” His answer is definitive and with confidence he takes his place at the top.

I grab my phone and snap a picture.

This is courage.

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Now it’s my turn. I am sitting at the top of my own slide. The slide I dread: Change. Inching forward, preparing for the drop, my heart races, my palms sweat, and I wonder: Is this a good idea?

Two weeks ago I finished working at Scum of the Earth Church because we are preparing to move to Minnesota. The move I prayed for, cried for, ached for is coming. I think of being with our sisters and brothers, our parents and grandparents, our friends once again and my soul is thrilled. But I think of all that we will leave behind and I am scared.

What if this is a bad decision?

Instead of seeking employment right away, I have decided to pursue writing and speaking as a ministry. A new website is in the works (www.LeahDEverson.com – oh my word, really?!) and I continue working on my first book proposal. I have invested time, energy, and money into developing this gift I’m told I have. But fear tingles in my fingers and sinks into my gut as I sit down to write. I worry about rejection. Failure. Ridicule.

What if I’m not good enough?

Driving to church on Sunday, Jack burst into tears. “I don’t want to move to Minnesota. I don’t want to be away from Finn.” My heart breaks for him as I think of all of the friends who themselves have moved away and now he is the one saying the big goodbye.

Are we crazy to make this change?

Are we going to be ok?

Am I going to be ok?

Before the anxiety hit, before the reality of the move set in, I prayed over the year asking God, “What do you have for me this year? Change is coming. And it’s bigger than I can even realize. What do you want this time to look like for me?”

One word: Courage.

Webster’s defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

Yes. Fear. The fear that creeps into my soul, squeezes my heart cold as I will myself to courage. Be courageous! But how?

Desperate, I pull out my Bible and find the only verse I can think of that uses the word.

“Be strong and courageous.” The phrase is repeated three times in Joshua 1 as God’s people prepare to enter the promised the land. They too face change, uncertainty, risk, and most definitely fear. In order to reinforce his call, God tells them over and over again, “Be strong and courageous.” Why? “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

As He states over and over and over again in the Bible, God promises his people here, “I will be with you.”

God will be with you

God will be with you in the pain. He will be with you in the uncertainty. He will be with you in the loss of the job, the late night colic, the death of a loved one, and the move of a lifetime. In those fears and anxieties you think you can never face down, He repeats these words “Be strong and courageous… for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I cling to them like a lifeline.

The past two weeks I have been struggling to write these words – or anything at all – because fear has gripped me. Fear of failure. Fear of missed calling. Fear of rejection, shame. I have reached out to others for prayer all the while feeling that my fears are right. I am not cut out for this. My dreams are fantasies. My sense of calling is a lie. But in the midst of my doubt, I have sensed a steadiness growing in my soul. “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. For I am with you.”

I cannot write alone. I cannot move “home” alone. I cannot parent alone, be a faithful spouse alone, or even clean the house alone. Every step of the way I am dependent on the One who gave Himself for me. Thank God He has promised to be with me.

And so, trusting God’s faithful love – and firm grip around my soul – I lean forward… to drop down the slide.

(More coming soon.)

be strong and courageous

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How this Perfectionist is Picking Herself Up (Hint: It’s not on her own)

I am a perfectionist.

A perfectionist who doesn’t want to do anything wrong, fears others showing me my failures, and who is constantly aware of what I could do better. I am tempted to define myself by my behavior, my finished to do list, or my perfect children who eat, sleep, and produce according to my plan for them.

But I am not perfect, so my head rails against me to try harder while my heart is breaking under the pressure of the “Perfect Mama” facade I have so carefully crafted. And my children do not have the same plans that I do, so they continue to spit out their carrots, pop out of bed to talk about our furniture (“Is that your couch?” “Yes.” “Ok!”), and fight me on any order I try to create in our lives. The clash of my plans with theirs produces anger and frustration that only leaves us all in tears instead of changing anything.

Because shame never changes anything.

So when Jesus asked me to preach this week on my perfectionism, to admit my failures, and to point others to Him, I truthfully did not feel up to it. Days later when people are telling me it was my best sermon yet, I still do not feel up to it. I continue to identify myself not with Him, but with my own behaviors, works, accomplishments.

I need a reminder of who Christ says I am. Maybe you do to.

“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27)

In Christ we are “dead to sin, but alive to God.” (Romas 6:11)

There is no condemnation for those who are In Christ. (Rom 8:1)

In Christ we have been made holy. (Phil 1:1)

In Christ, we are sanctified (1 Cor 1:2),

In Christ we are made alive (1 Cor 15:22),

In Christ we are brought to fullness, completeness. (Col 2:10)

In Christ, we have freedom (Gal 2:4).

In Christ, we can stand firm. (2 Cor 1:21)

In Christ we are brought near to God by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

In Christ, we are all children of God (Gal 3:26).

In Christ, we are forgiven (4:32)

In Christ, our hearts and minds are guarded by the peace of God (Phil 4:7)

In Christ we have peace (1 Peter 5:14),

In Christ we have faith, and love (1 Tim 1:14).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the

The Old is Gone.

The New Creation has come.

I am blown away by the truth that God has not abandoned me to my failures – real or perceived. That God is healing my hurts, pouring Himself into me, so that I can be made clean. That forgiveness is a daily possibility and that I can always begin again. And that I am always, in all things, clothed in Christ. He has never left me and will never leave me.

I know this is not my best writing, but this is not about me, today. This is about Jesus. And you. You who maybe need as much truth as I do. Let’s walk In Christ together, shall we?

The Day My Son Got Hurt

It was the sixth morning of kindergarten and we were waiting for the bell in the school yard with the other kids and parents. Jack had gathered a pile of rocks and formed a smiley-face with a few sticks and a strip of plastic. He stepped back and smiled at his work before running to his new friends, “You guys! Come see what I made!”

The boy and girl obliged and stood over the pebble-person while Jack beamed, content to share his creation.

I’m not sure who started it, or how, or why, but within moments they started burying it. Much to Jack’s horror, his friends were drawing stones in and covering the face Jack had taken the time to create – and had the courage enough to share with them. He started to protest, but they argued that this was good fun, so I watched as he nervously joined them. But he didn’t like it.

And then it happened. The young girl pushed herself to standing, lifted one foot, and stomped on the buried pebble-person, obliterating it completely. The two kids quickly turned and ran with Jack chasing them, tears streaming down his face, “Why did you do that? I thought you were my friends!!”

Ashamed (perhaps), the kids ran to their parents who had observed the whole scene while I rushed to Jack’s side to quiet his shrieks of horror and to wipe away his tears. I comforted him and half expected the parents to send their kids over to apologize, but they didn’t come.

The bell rang. The kids grabbed their bags, got in line, and, while my heart ached for his crushed spirit, I watched my son slog into the school.

In that moment, I wondered, “What are we doing? How can we send him off into a harsh world and allow him to be hurt by hard people? Is public school the wrong decision?”

Days later, I read these words from Steve Wiens, “The Actual Pastor,” to his son Isaac:

My job is not to protect you from hard things, it’s to launch you out into this great big world, so that you can play your part in great Big Story. This means that sometimes, you’ll make mistakes. You might not make the team. You might try to make friends with people who reject you. When those things happen, I hope I’m the first person you want to talk to. I’ll cry with you. Isaac, this is so hard for me. I’d much rather do anything and everything to make sure you don’t fail or get hurt. But you need to fail, and even get hurt sometimes, because that’s how you’ll learn how to be a person who brings great things to this world. Only those of us who have suffered a little know how to really help.

I want to protect my children. But I believe I am mistaken if I think I am protecting my children by not allowing them to feel pain, by not exposing them to others, and by not guiding them through the hard circumstances of fights, injuries, misbehavior, and sadness.

As a Christian, I believe my task is to be a light in the world of pain and sorrow that is. It is to be a comfort to those who are suffering, to listen to those who are abused, to point the way to the true hope in the midst of confusion and sorrow.

As a Christian mother, I believe my task is to comfort my children as they experience the reality of a fallen world so that they may experience greater life than they could find in the safety of our own home. As they experience pain, they can also experience healing. As they experience hurt, they can also experience forgiveness. As they experience sorrow, they can also experience a greater joy. As they experience hate, they can also experience greater Love.

Paul wrote, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. If we ourselves have not experienced the comfort of God, how can we comfort others? If my children have not run to God in their pain as children, how can they run to him in the greater pains and struggles of adulthood?

That afternoon when I picked Jack up from school, we talked about what happened in the morning. I asked him what he felt when they buried his art and smashed it.

“Mad,” he said.

I nodded. Yes. I was mad, too.

Watching the guilty children walk by I asked what the rest of the day was like; did he play with them? “Yes, they’re my friends. They got married at lunchtime and kissed!” His face wrinkled up into giggles and silliness surrounded him.

His anger had passed quickly. Forgiveness and love took its place. I saw the softness of his heart and examined the hardness in my own as I considered the anger still there. As the days and weeks have gone by, I can see that these two children who had hurt him so much truly are his friends. Perhaps the conflict brought them together. Perhaps Jack loved them despite it. I don’t know. But I do know it has taken me time to forgive them, though Jack did so quickly. And in that, he has been a light to me as I have been hardened by hurts of the world.

We are showing God’s love to each other, my children and me. This comfort, this learning is not one way as we enter the world, but as God guides us we teach one another about compassion and light.

I know there will be greater hurts and heartbreak down the road, but as Steve said above, my job is not to protect my kids. I will rejoice with them as they rejoice and mourn with them as they mourn. I will seek God’s help as I try to be the light and comfort of God in their lives, releasing them to the grand stories God is writing in them. And trusting, always trusting, that HE is active, HE is love, HE is comfort, HE is good, and that HE is always with them.

Let Them Tell You (Or Rather, Start Listening)

Every Friday, Kate Motaung and writers across the web join Five Minute Friday for five minutes of writing on the word of her choice. There are no major edits, no second guesses, just five minutes to write. I join to grow as a writer. Here is this week’s Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt: Tell.

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Has anyone ever told you something and it made you uncomfortable? Perhaps they started crying. Or maybe you started crying. The information was so atrocious. So horrible. So… difficult to swallow and you just wanted them to stop. Maybe they saw your discomfort and they did.

Let them tell you.

We have to start telling one another the truth about our lives. It’s when we don’t tell hat the internal destruction begins to occur. When we don’t tell the truth, we strive to cover up ourselves and begin to tell lies. We pretend our home is picture perfect and spend all of our energy striving to make it that way, when in reality we are dying inside from the truth.

I do it, too.

But when we tell the truth, the lie no longer has power over us. When we tell the truth and allow others to tell the ghastly, uncomfortable truth, then hope and healing can begin to take place, whatever that may look like.

Let them tell the truth.

Let them tell you they are depressed.

Let them tell you they feel like a bad mother.

Let them tell you their husband doesn’t love them.

Let them tell you their children have disabilities.

Let them tell you they hate themselves.

Let them tell you they harm themselves.

Let them tell you they or their spouse views porn.

Let them tell you they are ashamed.

Don’t dismiss it. Don’t try to make the bad feelings go away. Let them tell you.

And then tell them the truth.

They are loved.

They are cherished.

They are children of the God Most High.

They can seek healing. Healing is possible with God.

Others will help them.

Addiction does not have to win.

Depression does not have to win.

Hate does not have to win.

Let them tell you.

Note: I love Five Minute Friday, because it gets my writing juices going. But sometimes it is just not enough. I would have said so much more than just these words in Five Minutes. Please engage me!
What do you think? Why is it so hard to let people speak their hurts and struggles? Why do we feel we need to either comfort them with truisms or change the subject or immediately jump to ourselves?

A Bright Light in the Darkness

 

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I wrote these words this past spring and they did not make it up on this blog then. I would like to share them with you now. 

For three and a half years, I slaved away at Denver Seminary working towards my Master of Divinity degree. The last nine moths of those years I was pregnant with Jack. During my pregnancy with him, I traveled to an Indian Reservation in South Dakota for a cross-cultural immersion course, I studied Hebrew, brief counseling, preaching and prayer, and I mentored a group of freshmen seminary students. While I thoroughly enjoyed my pregnancy, my brain was completely focused on school. I did not nest. I had no time and no energy to do that. My nesting energy went completely towards finishing seminary well.

The day after I finished my final assignment we went in to the hospital for an external version to attempt to flip our breach baby boy. Hours later, we were told I needed to have an “emergency” c-section because my amniotic fluid was low. 45 minutes later, Jack was born.

To say I was in shock is an understatement. Sleep deprived, energy depleted, I was looking forward to at least 6 more days pf pregnancy. To be told the baby is coming now without going into labor, without a sign of a problem, without any normal notice threw me.

To go from an exciting world of academia to a crash course in motherhood was debilitating for me.

I believe I had post-partum depression from the moment Jack was born. It was not caught by a doctor or a nurse, my mother, or myself. My husband knew something was wrong, but did not know what to do. I felt like a different person. A stranger in my own life. For the next several months I struggled to get through each day. I doubted my ability to mother this baby who was in my care. I wept over the darkness I felt during those sleepless nights breastfeeding and the loneliness I experienced having left my seminary community. I physically and emotionally ached as I gave every drop of energy to my colicky, hungry child.

When I remember the hopeless thoughts I had at the time, I am heartbroken that I could not enjoy my son’s first year.

And then I stumbled upon the pictures you saw above.

Because I finished school in December, I did not walk until May when Jack was 5 months old. My parents flew out to be with us and my mom took care of Jack in the lobby during the ceremony. After the ceremony, Jack was the first person I saw and somehow, in the sea of caps and robes, he found me. His mommy! His face expressed such happiness, such joy that I was there – and such hilarity for the costume I was wearing! I felt that though I had just received honors for some of the hardest work of my life, that all slipped into the background and I was given the most joy that day from just being his mama.

I could not imagine graduating without him waiting for me on the other side of the stage. There was no greater gift that day than his love for me.

During a time of darkness, this was a moment of light. A time of hope and love. I cling to those moments. Because darkness cannot survive in light.

On Tuesday, my Jack graduated from preschool. The mini-ceremony was perfect. We grinned foolishly as he and his class sang the months of the year song. We cheered for him silently while he recited that “G is for Gorilla.” And we laughed joyfully while he danced his way down from the stage. I know he was proud of himself. I know it was one of his great life events. I’m grateful to be on the other side of the stage for him.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:5 NLT

Side Note: Tomorrow Jack starts kindergarten! I sort of can’t believe it. 🙂

“Sick Day”

I’m banging my head against the wall today.

I signed up my kids for VBS this week because I want them to learn about Jesus through fun songs, crafts and games. And, honestly? I also signed them up so I could have some time to myself and so that they would come home ready to nap. No whining. No questions. Just the sweet silence of sleep.

It happened yesterday! Yesterday was perfect. Even my five year old napped for two hours – and so did I!

But today… today Ben must have had a snooze on the ride home, because even though I dropped him off at VBS this morning glossy eyed with fatigue, he’s still awake now.

I fought for the nap. Really I did. For an hour I sent him back to bed. I lay down with him. I gave him a snack. I rubbed his back. And he just kept boomeranging back to me.

Commence head banging.

2014-07-29_15.33.54I realized I had a choice to make. Continue on with the fight I was clearly losing. Or give in.

I gave in.

But my attitude was fatalistic.

This is going to suck. He is going to be whining at me All.Day.Long. I am going to be whining. God help me. God help me. God help me.

So, I did what any rational mama would do. I hid in the basement.

But then I actually did pray…

God, I don’t know how to get through days like this. I hate days like this. How do I do this? Really, how?

In a few short minutes, I didn’t just give in, I accepted it. And I had an answer. Treat today like a sick day. Because in reality, if the sleep-deprived child is not sick, he will be.

So, Wild Kratts is on. Continuously. And for Jack, Up! is on in the other room.

2014-07-29 15.49.08And I am here, choosing to be constructive.* Choosing to continue on with my day. Choosing to seek God when my attitude is worse than my kids’. I still wish they were napping, but today it seems that I need to just go with it, make the best of it, and do what’s needed to honor my kids and honor my God.

Here’s hoping for an early bedtime.

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

*Please know this isn’t easy. I don’t say this flippantly or with the expectation that I will succeed. I just continue on, trusting God’s grace to help me on what is sure to be a frustrating, head banging day.

UPDATE: He actually IS sick. #facepalm

My Renewed Perspective

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This is my view. Right now. As we speak – or rather as I tap my thumbs on this mini keyboard. There’s nothing special to see here. I see it every day. A dining table covered in life’s crumbs and activities. My husband’s stack of books. A mess I have been procrastinating sorting through. But all of this is in the background.

What I need to notice is me.

My knees.

Tucked under an afghan.

Resting.

Listening to my body.

Stopped.

At last.

Life seems to fly by too fast. Between school programs, holidays, work demands, rushed lunch dates, and keeping house the world takes over and I find that I am not the one living it anymore. No, instead it is taking the life out of me.

Before Christmas the thought came to mind more than once, “I need to stop or my body is going to make me.” I heard it and said, I’ll stop later.

I’ll stop after teaching this class.

I’ll stop after making this Christmas present.

I’ll stop after the kitchen is cleaned.

I’ll stop. I just can’t stop now.

Well, I’ve stopped. That prophetic voice was right, my body has made me.

Oh, I’ve tried to keep on. I’ve been on anti-biotics, cough suppressants, NyQuil, DayQuil and the like. I preached through bronchitis. I have carried laundry up and down stairs exhausted and congested. I have gone to meetings with medicine head. I have cooked meals, read stories, played games and have done all I can to keep on in the life that I expect myself to be able to live…

But I can’t. My body won’t let me. And my spirit is tired.

I have come to the end of myself and at this point I have finally, finally brought my condition before God. In tears, I pled for Him to step in.

And He said to me, I have not made you for this. This striving. This running after unrealistic, untrue expectations. You have been chasing after lies. Pursuing perfection that evades you, because it is not the perfect you were created to be. Come, you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Let me guide you in life so that you will live. For the work I have for you will be done with me and with me it is easy. I am with you always. I will restore your soul.

He has spoken these words over me before when I found myself carrying around the burden of perfectionism. Trying to complete the task of appearing perfect in front of everyone else’s eyes – or as I imagine they want me to be – only to lose track of who I am. And then, as now, I wound up overworked, overtired, and under-joyed.

There are so many reasons I have lived this way, but they all come back to believing that my value comes from what I produce. What I do. I fear not being good enough. Not being a good enough wife. Not being a good enough mom. Not being a good enough employee or coworker. Not being a good enough “housekeeper.” Not being a good enough friend. Not being a good enough follower of God.

God told me to stop. It was His voice that warned me I’d be on this couch today. And it is His voice that reassures me He is with me in this. It is only in stopping that I can see what I have been striving after. And it is only in stopping that I can hear His gentle voice inviting me to come with Him.

And I can go with Him because He loves me. He whispers over me Child, you are mine!

This is my renewed perspective. I am valued not for what I do, but because He said so. Not only did He say it, but He proved it when He died for me.

I remember, now.

So, I sit on this couch. Stopped. Unproductive. Healing.

Loved.