Fear Lies Widest Awake in the Darkness

Fear lives widest awake in the darkness. The howling wind that knocks a stray plastic flowerpot against the house or makes  the welcome sign clatter against the siding turn into intruders with sinister intent. The single chirp of a smoke alarm with a weakening battery at 3:00 am becomes the alarm system going off as a window is being opened. My thudding heart pounds in my ears causing me to question every noise. This was me, the great Christian, last week while my husband was on yet another business trip. 

capture, fear

I am not sure when fear first tip-toed into my life, but can’t remember a time when it wasn’t at least lurking in the shadows. I can’t remember when it first visited and set up residence inside my fragile heart.  My earliest memories of fear were of not pleasing my mother and getting in trouble, or jumping as far as I could to get into bed out of fear of the monsters that lived under my bed at night. Fearful of fires and lightening storms which wasn’t helped by either a Dad who chased smoke until we could see the burning building or a third grade teacher who told horror story after horror story of people being struck by lightening.

FEAR! 

As I matured my fears did too. Fear of not being accepted, fear of not getting good enough grades, fear of failure, fear of not ever being     attractive enough to be loved, fear of being alone, fear of being in new social circles where I didn’t know anyone…fear of, fear of, fear of!!!  At seventeen after a  thwarted attack by a drunk man (thankfully stopped by a neighbor that lived on my route I walked to my job 3 blocks from home) began a whole new set of fears. Couldn’t tell anybody for fear my parents would find out and make me quit my job which would mean I would never afford college or a car, fear of rape or other attacks. Now entered the long era of nights alone becoming a battlefield of terror and horrific “what ifs”.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God has been so faithful to help me face up to many of my fear, literally head on.  He has bit by bit drawn me out of the shadows and into the light.  He moved a girl terrified of spring thunderstorms in Eastern Washington to live for 5 years in Tornado Alley. He brought a loving, godly man into my life who after over 30 years of marriage still finds me beautiful in spite of the gravity pull of time. We lived under evacuation notice for 3 weeks in Alaska as forest fires raged nearby. The girl afraid of meeting new people, being accepted and new situations married a man who was raised as a missionary kid overseas and accustomed to visiting a different church each Sunday when in the States on furloughs. This same man joined the United States Air Force weeks after we were married and we spent the next ten years moving Montana, Mississippi,  Nebraska, Alaska, Iowa and finally returned back to Washington when he got out of the military. Four and a half years ago God moved us again to the Arizona desert after sixteen years settled back in my home town. It meant again leaving family, friends and a church we loved. I have learned to come out of my shell and make friends and even enjoy some new social situations. All our moving and making friends in the military years means we have friends scattered all over which makes being able to catch up on Facebook a blessing. He has shown me that being real and vulnerable doesn’t bring more rejection as I feared, but tears down walls to build more relationships. Lately my loving Father has had me confront my fear of public speaking by having me share at women’s event in church. I must admit  I was battling fear up until the moment I started when God’s peace washed over me as I began to speak and I actually enjoyed it!! Fearful Me!!

The area that has been the most difficult to overcome is my fears of evil attackers while alone at night. Joel has traveled throughout our marriage both in the military and the years as a civilian.  I have come a long ways and am SO much better than in the past.  I know all the verses on safety, peace and sleep and can quote most of them by memory. For the most part, the last few years I have had many victorious times where I slept peacefully while he was gone. I realized last week as I relapsed and let fear once more rule, that I am still battling this and will only succeed when I keep my eyes on the Light of the World instead of looking into the darkness of what-ifs

FearFear Not

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Bible verses about fear:

http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-Spirit-of-Fear/

http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/fear-bible-verses/

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Tea and Living Water

Custom Cards

Tea…sigh, I love tea. A cup of tea is a wondrous gift from God that is an elixir for my soul that soothes and is symbolic to me of refreshment, relaxation, comfort, wisdom, reflection and  intimate relationships.

“There is no trouble so great or grave
that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.”
~Bernard-Paul Heroux

To Comfort You teacup card,  cup has peach flower and a bird on saucer pulling a fine ribbon attached to a tag that says To Comfort You, card with tea. Kimberly Shaw Graphics, yellow bird

I begin each day in my corner in our bedroom equipped with a comfy chair, small table and a lamp with my first cup of tea, my Bible , a journal and pen in hand. As I reflect and meditate on His word, pray and sip the hot amber liquid my spirit is infused with His wisdom, joy, peace and strength. The mornings where I must rush out without this time, I sorely miss it and those days often feel out of kilter.

“Tea should be taken in solitude.” 
― C.S. LewisSurprised by Joy

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 

― C.S. Lewis

Living in Arizona, we drink ice tea by the gallons throughout our days. It quenches and refreshes but never has the soothing qualities of a cup of hot tea. I thirstily chug glass after glass of ice tea as I work around the house and yard while a cup of hot tea invites me to stop, slow down, savor the moment and ponder.

“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.” 
― William Ewart Gladstone

A cup or two of hot tea each evening as we wind down has been part of my nightly routine with my husband Joel for over 30 years. This time give us time to converse without distraction -which was invaluable when we had kids in the home. We still find our tea time a valuable time to connect as a couple. This is also when we usually also have our time reading scriptures and praying together. In many ways God has used this routine of tea, His Word and prayer to keep our marriage strong throughout all the many changes and challenges of life.

Many of my most memorable times with one or a few close friends have been centered around tea. I can think of no better way for women to sit and take the time to share their lives with one another. Time  to be what the Bible calls “iron sharpening iron”

          Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”                     New Living Translation

I have been encouraged, mentored and admonished over tea. I have both shared and bore burdens with others over tea. We have cried and prayed and we have also rejoiced and laughed so hard that we cried around tea. My heart is satisfied with the intimate companionship and beauty which is an integral part of tea with a friend.

Jessie Wilcox Smith–one of my favorite children’s artists!

Another way tea has impacted my life, is I married a man who grew up on the mission field in Morocco and later Spain. Tea is an integral part of the Moroccan culture served at the end of meals and their drink of hospitality. Tea is where friendships are forged, alliances made and hands promised in marriage. They serve a very sweet (up to 1/2 cup of sugar in 4 cups of tea) mint and gunpowder tea mixture out of hand tooled silver teapot into beautiful tea glasses. Unlike the cooking of meals, tea is traditionally a man’s affair: prepared by the head of the family. It is served to guests, and it is considered impolite to refuse it.To have less than three cups of tea when a guest in their home is considered bad manners and an insult to your host.

Moroccan mint tea

My first time of having this tea with a Moroccan family was about 25 years ago near Kansas City in the late afternoon. I knew to have less than 3 cups was rude so I drank my 3 glasses and nibbled on shortbread cookies with gusto and immensely enjoyed our visit with this generous, hospitable family of Moroccan believers. Shortly after leaving their place I began feeling shaky, nauseated and dizzy as the sugar high left and my blood sugar bottomed out. Since then I have thankfully only had Moroccan tea after a meal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moroccan_tea_culture

 We have incorporated this tea in our family for fun times and especially when having guests over for a Moroccan meal. Because the tea in Morocco was  traditionally boiled two times it is poured from great height to aerate it as it is poured like in the photo above. This skill I will readily admit my husband has down much better than I do! Children are drawn to the unique beauty and ceremony of this and the sweetness keeps them clamoring for more.

I think, for me, the greatest appeal of tea is that is causes me to slow down. to take the time to “Be still and Know that I am God”  To stop and ponder His grace, His mercies, to count my many blessings and grow in gratitude.

Do Overs

Before bed last night I was reminiscing about grade school and how thankful I am that God has so much more grace than my classmates of that era. My elementary school days were in an older brick school with grass in front the students were not allowed to use and black top for play ground. We had hours of fun and frequent scabbed knees from playing games like kickball, tag, jump rope and the best of all four square. The most gregarious girl (never me) would grab the ball and start the game. There was quite the etiquette to follow while playing four square in our school. The one who had the ball was server first and could call the shots by stating the rules. Often the rules were things like no tea-parties (two people playing and leaving out others) and if do-overs were allowed or not. Being less athletically inclined I always was for at least one do-over. No do-overs, for me, meant certain failure to not be able to rise to the coveted server position.

Four square court.jpg

I was remembering this in light of a do-over offered, that I gladly embraced, at Grace Church where we worship. Last year our fellowship asked the body to commit to memorizing the book of Ephesians. Joel and I began with gusto and did well the first couple months. We went over the verses on our own and each night before bed we would review as a couple. Not sure exactly how it happened but life got busy and we lost momentum and missed a few days that rapidly turned into weeks. Discouragement in failing and being SO far behind and busyness of selling our home, buying another and moving led us to just give it up. For me and my easily distracted ADD personality it was difficult to not be memorizing scriptures that went along with the preaching or area studying in Bible study. Once again for 2013 Grace Church has Ephesians as the book to memorize (or review for those who succeeded last year) and it will go along with the passages being preached at church and reviewed each Sunday. I get a do-over!! Hope and grace to once again succeed.

God’s grace is unlimited! He does not tap his foot over the center of the cross lines and say “No do-overs”. No instead He gently woos me over and over again to serve and re-serve until I hit the mark. He cheers me on and is an ever-present coach to me with His loving and living Word. He doesn’t condemn or deride but forgives.

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Do-overs – sigh – I need them each day. Each day I take my eyes off Christ and look to self. Each day when I put my needs first rather than preferring another. Do-overs when I am impatient, speak harshly, or bite my tongue but think the unkind words. No condemnation even when I condemn others! Oh the matchless do-over grace of my Lord!!

John Piper “Why to Memorize Scripture”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-2ph6zKxJDk

New Every Morning

I find there is something so hopeful and cleansing about a New Year. It is a new beginning, a clean slate, so to speak to begin anew. New Years for many brings about the typical resolutions of getting into shape, losing weight, getting out of debt and more time with family and friends. I know I definitely need to get in better shape and lose a few pounds, I desire to be a wise steward of our finances and spending more time with loved ones is a priority.

I want to consider how can I get more spiritually fit this year? How do I strengthen my spiritual resolve and lose the flab of apathy, distraction and over-busy schedules? How do I begin to exercise my faith by fully serving my God? Will I willingly lift the weights of bearing burdens of others and lifting their needs in prayers or meeting them in my actions? How can we practically adjust our schedules so we are not getting to bed too late and oversleeping so we miss our daily workout of time alone with Him in His Word and prayer?

 

As For Me and My House Wrapped Canvas with glitter accents- 20" x 16"- Carson Home $27.99

This fall was a perfect storm of circumstances that lead to crazy schedules and workouts both physical and spiritual often falling to the wayside. It was a combination of my physical ailments  which included 6 weeks of bad chemo side effects (I am on low dose chemo for a form of chronic leukemia) followed by painful, swollen joints while Joel was culminating an IT conversion that was a project 3 years in the making. While he spent several weeks of 70 hour work weeks plus time on the computer in the evenings at home; I felt like a combo of early pregnancy and a bad flu bug. In the midst of this we both had church responsibilities that absorbed our remaining time and energies.

By Christmas the storm had passed and we emerged to celebrate and assess the damages the winds had caused. We realized how destroyed schedules had robbed us of time in the Word and prayer as individuals and as a couple. We saw the emotional, physical and spiritual damage of being worn out and spent. We saw the debris of harsh words, selfish attitudes and misplaced expectations. But we also saw the bright sunlight of hope and renewal.

New Year’s Eve as we reflected as a couple over what were the biggest challenges and the greatest blessings of 2012 and what we wanted to see in 2013, I was struck with how great is my Savior’s faithfulness and love. I think the following verses best express my hopefulness and joy as I ponder the blank slate of 2013.

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lam3.22blog

 

Why “Green Leaves in Drought”?

I have been toying with beginning a blog for over two years and decided to jump in and get wet. Since I am an all or none sort of person I don’t tend to wade in or just dip my toe into the water. I will either walk away or fully immerse. So time will show if I am fully in neck deep or distracted away from the edge of the water to pursue something else.

 Why “Green Leaf in Drought

 Jeremiah 17:8 “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

God moved us to the Arizona desert a few years ago from Washington State. I figured when we moved here my days of gardening and growing pretty things were over other than desert plants. Soon after moving here we made acquaintances of a couple avid gardeners and were given tours of their yards and I saw how wrong I was in my thinking! There are adjustments that need to be made to work with the limitations of poor soil and heat. With adapting growing seasons, bringing in good soils and compost, and proper irrigation we have successfully been able to raise many garden crops and harvest bountifully and have enough to share with others.

 I immediately began to see the spiritual implications of growth and fruitfulness that comes from being connected to the life-giving streams of water. God began the process of exposing the poor soils in my own heart, the weeds of sin and pride and the dryness when I did not daily allow Him to water my soul.

Living in a desert doesn’t mean dry and dead but can mean being more alive.  It doesn’t matter where I dwell, the climate or circumstances but where am I going to draw my water – from the life giving stream of Jesus Christ or the parched empty cistern of self?

 John 4: 7-15  7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

 So bear with the varied musings of a desert dweller and join me for glimpses of my journey through the life God has sovereignly ordained.