Sunday, June 23, 2013

Change Is a Comin'....

Since my last post on fear, as I predicted, I've continued to struggle with worry and doubt and fear on some level.  I've continued to struggle to choose to see the good rather than worry about what could go wrong.  I suspect that it will always be something that I struggle with in some way.  But I'm getting better, and God is proving faithful each and every time I cry out to Him.  And I'm going to need that assurance of faithfulness in the coming days...

Since I made it official this week, I guess I can share my news!  I am taking the biggest leap of faith I've ever made in my life.  I am quitting my current job in the middle of July and am going into private practice with my music therapy colleague, Nicole.  We are both getting certified in Kindermusik and hope to offer both Kindermusik classes and music therapy services to families on the coast.  I am very excited and completely overwhelmed at this opportunity at this point in my life!  It couldn't have come at a better time.  I will be done with graduate classes in February and then plan on moving to the beach (or at least in close proximity).  And all this means a big change is coming for my life...

Change is normally something I'm scared of.  I am a person who likes routine and likes to know what to expect and what is going on.  I'm not a huge fan of surprises.  And when I am aware that change is coming, I plan like crazy.  However, with this endeavor, I'm not afraid.  And I'm pretty sure it's because I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is the path I was meant to follow.  Some of my long standing dreams are coming true.

I turn 40 this year.  And I'm actually excited about that.  And I'm excited that all this change is happening in conjunction with that event.  God has placed people in my life and allowed situations in my life to guide me right where He wants me to be.  I don't have it all figured out by any means!  But I know and trust the One who does.  I used to view 40 as this "old" age or that if I hadn't reached all my dreams by then, life would be over.  But I'm finding just the opposite to be true.  I'm finding that I have confidence and motivation now that I didn't even have five years ago.  If you would have told me 10 years ago that this is how things would turn out, I would have laughed at you.  And then I probably would have wondered why it couldn't happen sooner.  But I can say that, had any single event or person been different, my life wouldn't be heading down this path.  God has planned each and every moment...beyond my expectation and imagination.

So at almost 40, here I am basically starting over, so to speak.  I've never been one to follow the "normal" road of life.  No marriage, 3.5 kids and the white picket fence all by 30.  The thought of getting married or having a child after 40?  Never in a million years would I have said I would be ok with that.  But now?  I am totally open to that and actually excited about the possibility.  (And let me make a disclaimer...No I don't have any immediate plans to do either before anyone reads anything into that or gets all excited...but God knows what His plans are concerning those things, and I trust Him that He will give me those desires of my heart.)  I've always been a late bloomer, and I've always marched to the beat of my own drum.  And I've always been my own individual.  Not to say there haven't been bumps along the way or that I haven't gotten discouraged.  However, I can look back at all of that and know that for my life to be turning out like it is now is very fitting and very "me."  And I wouldn't change a thing!  I still don't have all the answers, but I have a peace that I will get each answer I need at the appropriate time.  

Due to a few situations that were allowed into my life, I made the decision back in May to begin looking into other work options.  Long story short, in the matter of a week's time, I looked into Kindermusik, found an educator on the coast that needed another educator to help teach and registered to begin training.  Then the next week, I met with her and ended up having lunch with some other friends...which then turned into a discussion about private practice.  And since that time, each and every week (sometimes daily), opportunity after opportunity, lead after lead, open door after open door has been placed in my path.  I cannot even explain it or comprehend it.  I could not have planned any of this if I tried.  However, as I was told by a very wise man, "sometimes it's not about our plans."  And that is so true.  And now a month and a half after my initial decision, I am about to jump head first into private practice with Nicole and am making plans to move in the next 8 to 10 months.  So different from what my initial plan was when I moved to Hattiesburg...but exactly what I need and want to do.  Again, not my plan but His.

I have long had the dream of starting my own private practice.  And I have always wanted to work with children.  And I am now seeing those dreams becoming reality.  God just took me down a different road than I thought I would take to get to this point.  But I wouldn't change a thing.  If one single thing had been different, there are some very wonderful experiences I would have missed and some very special people I may have never met.  So I'm thankful that it's taken this long.  Never thought I'd say that!  But I'm learning that trusting God also means trusting His timing and His attention to each and every detail in my life.

There are other dreams I have for my personal life...dreams I've waited long for.  But dreams that I can see God working out.  Details that He's putting into place.  Changes He's making in me, to grow me and make me into the woman I need to be for what He has planned.  Things I could not have ever planned or imagined.  Things that have blown my mind because it is so far beyond and better than anything I could have asked for.  But, again, "sometimes it's not about our plans."  Now, I have no idea how things will turn out, but I'm hopeful.  And I know that regardless of the outcome, God will still remain faithful and will still provide all I need.  

I have no idea what the next year will bring.  I'm sure it will be full of very high highs and possibly some very low lows.  I know that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me and possibly some lean times.  But I know that I can't wait to see what God has in store!  I know that He has placed some amazing people in my life who have been so encouraging and supportive and have threatened to hurt me if I don't pursue this.  A close circle of a few who I know will have my back no matter what happens.  And with that and God by my side, how can I not jump wildly into this adventure?!

So as 40 approaches, I am embracing the changes that are coming.  I am embracing this path that God has so lovingly laid out for me step by step.  I know the changes that He has done in me, and I'm so thankful for His patience as I navigate through those.  That same wise man who told me it wasn't about our plans also told me not to look back and to embrace the future.  And that is just what I intend to do.  Embracing the changes....

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a future and a hope."  - What better promise can you rest on?

Monday, June 10, 2013


Fear.  A four letter word I hate more than other four letter words out there.  A four letter word that brings more harm and pain and unrest than any other four letter word.  Four little letters that can bring grown men and women to their knees.  At least this grown woman...

My entire life I have been one of those people who "hope for the best but prepare for the worst."  I have lived afraid to enjoy the good times because I'm afraid that the other shoe is going to drop and a bad time is lurking right around the corner.  This friend will betray me just like the last one did.  This guy is just like all the others who lied.  This situation will end up just like the last one.  I even go so far as to be afraid of being happy, thinking (illogically, I admit) that the very act of being happy and not worried about anything will immediately cause something to go wrong.  Twisted, I know.  Crazy?  I get it.  Illogical?  Of course.  Sinful?  Hmmm.... Hadn't really thought of that.

I get my predisposition to worry and fear honestly.  I come from a line of worriers.  My mom worried.  Her mom worried.  So it honestly is a "learned" behavior (for all you psychology enthusiasts out there) combined with a life that hasn't always dealt the best of hands.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm blessed.  Beyond measure.  My life has been a ride down easy street compared to others that I know.  And I am forever grateful for that.  However, I still worry.  Now, my dad?  Not so much a worrier.  Why I didn't take more after him in that area?  Who knows.  So, I worry.  And allow fear to dominate my life.

Until now.  The past several months have brought about some of the most trying times, some of the most delightful times, some of the most unsettled times and some of the most growing times.  Due to a couple of different circumstances in my life, I've been on the roller coaster of emotion.  And I don't just mean the kiddie ride.  Some days I feel like I've ridden the Rocking Roller Coaster at Disney World!  Now, I have actually ridden it.  Twice.  And I liked it.  I overcame my fear, conquered that ugly monster and had a blast.  However, other days have been straight up like the Tower of Terror ride (also at Disney).  I have ridden it.  Once.  Will NEVER do it again.  Not a fear I care to conquer.  And there have been days that have emulated both of those in the past few months.  I've been faced with opportunities, situations, life events that have hurled me from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds...things that have scared me to death but that turned out to be exhilarating and amazing.  Then there have been days when I feel like I'm plummeting to my sure death and have experienced pain and doubt and worry.  Days that have made me physically ill.  

However, in the midst of all of that, God has been working on me.  In a very real and powerful way.  He has used friends, family, my new church family and situations to break me, to mold me, to change me.  It has not been a fun or easy process.  But I'm getting there.  My normal reaction to a difficult situation is to go into full on "freak out mode." (Yes, that is a clinical least to me.)  The cycle goes something like this:  situation occurs that causes me pain or doubt, I immediately think the worst and freak out (definition:  over react, cry, get mad at God, assume the worst, question everything, think illogically).  Then I pray (notice this is one step out of the order it should be in).  Then I calm down and begin to think logically.  God reveals whatever it is I need to see.  I am able to realize either a solution or find a peace about the situation.  Life goes on.  Until something else happens...

I've been stuck in this cycle for years.  Until recently.  Now, any change is going to take time and work.  It's going to hurt.  It's going to be hard.  It's going to take determination and will to ignore the illogical thoughts and replace them with logical ones.  It is going to take faith to trust God has my best interest at heart even when everything around me says differently.  And I don't like it.  But I've reached the point in my life where I refuse to be bound by worry and fear.  I refuse to miss out on happy moments because I'm waiting for the bad to happen.  I refuse to let FEAR have the last word.  And it is a struggle of gigantic proportions.  But I'm getting there.  In the past few months I've learned to switch the steps of that cycle around.  Now, when a trying time or a trial comes my way, my first reaction is to pray.  To seek God's face and fall before Him and lay it all out there.  I ask Him to show me HIS truth in the situation and to give me peace no matter the outcome.  We had a speaker at church the other week who talked about allowing God to shine His light into the dark places of your heart...the places where all the hurt from the past dwells...and to ask Him to heal those parts of you.  It really hit home.  But the kicker is this...  In order for God to do that, I have to be willing to LET GO.  Which is my other issue....

I am a control freak.  Yep, I admit it.  Type A personality all the way.  And there are times it comes in handy.  I can multi-task like nobody's business.  I am organized.  I can plan a calendar so specifically a 2 year old could understand it.  I can put on a play from start to finish including sets and props and costumes and scripts and make sure it runs like clockwork.  So when life doesn't go according to plan, I freak out.  However, I am not in control.  God is.  And in order for Him to heal and work and bring about His miracles, I have to let go of those things I'm hanging onto.  The main reason I don't?  My feeble earthly perception is that if I hold onto it, I can manipulate it into what I think it should be.  That if I let go, God may not do what I want Him to do.  The outcome may not be what I desire.  But guess what?  Every time I try to do it in my own power, in my own NEVER goes well.  I always mess it up.  Royally.  I push things to hurry up before their time.  I seek an answer when I'm not ready to accept the answer just yet.  I am willing to accept less than the best for a momentary pleasure.  I even often hurt others and myself in the process.  God knows what He is doing.  I do not.  It's that simple.  Yes, I can make mundane decisions that don't affect much.  But I'm training myself that, even in the simplest of decisions, I need His guidance and direction.  When I learn that, then I can face whatever comes my way.  If my prayer gets answered the way I want... great.  If it doesn't...great because God has something better or sees something out there I can't yet see.  

So when you add worrying to control freak, you often get a jumbled mess.  It's a never ending cycle of unneeded hurt, illogical thinking and striving for things I have no business striving for.  I waste energy.  I waste resources.  I waste time.  Now, I'm not saying we should sail through life, happy go lucky, not a care in the world.  Life is HARD. Sometimes, it almost kills us.  But over the past few weeks I have discovered something...something that I've heard my whole life.  But something that I've never truly believed or understood until now.

Worry, doubt, fear are all rebellion against God and are sin.  Now yes, there is healthy fear.  The kind that keeps you from getting in a car with a serial killer or keeps you from jumping off the Grand Canyon thinking you'll land safely.  I'm not talking about that kind of fear.  I'm talking about paralyzing fear.  Fear that keeps you up at night, that keeps you from stepping out on faith, that keeps you from living this abundant life God gave us to live.  

Last Wednesday night at church we read a passage from Deuteronomy 1:31-33.  Earlier in the week I had a specific worry and concern.  Brief sidebar:  for those who may not know, I'm embarking on perhaps the scariest yet most fulfilling adventure of my life.  I'm stepping out completely in faith, trusting God and Him alone for His provision and favor and blessing, and starting a private practice and moving at some point to the coast.  This has been a very overwhelming time...overwhelmed at God's goodness and grace.  I have no doubt in my mind the path He is leading me down, and each week (sometimes each day) brings about more confirmation that this is what I'm meant to do and where I need to be headed.  However, there have been concerns along the way.  Worries.  Doubts.  FEAR. And with all He has shown me, I should have none of that.  I will say that I haven't worried like I usually do.  I have a complete peace that passes understanding about the grand scheme of it all.  It's the little day to day things that tend to freak me out.  Some that I have no control over.  Some that I have to completely release into His hands.  My prayer this entire time has been for His will to be done...regardless of if it fits along with mine or not.  Because in His will is the only place I will be truly joyful, happy and secure.

So back to Deuteronomy 1:31-33.  This passage says, "There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.  IN SPITE OF THIS, YOU DID NOT TRUST THE LORD YOUR GOD, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.  See that all caps section?  Yeah, it jumped out at me like a rattlesnake out of tall grass!  You see, I have seen God's hand all along my life.  And in this specific situation, I've seen Him do things that there is no other explanation for other than it was God.  I remember I was down on the coast a month ago, and driving back from dinner, we saw a double rainbow stretching out over the water.  And in that moment, I felt God remind me of His promises, of His faithfulness and of His provision.  I made the commitment in that moment not to worry again about any of this.  That lasted about for a couple of weeks before I started to doubt and fear again.  Until this past weekend when I saw the exact same thing in almost the exact same spot.  Now, you can say what you want about signs and wonders and all that.  However, I know that God can use whatever He wants to speak to our hearts.  And He used that rainbow.  And He uses His word daily right now.  

I realized as I drove home from church that night that I had been rebelling against my faithful Father.  I had allowed the sin of fear and worry to shape my life.  And it had to stop.  "In spite of this" spite of all the things He has done and continues to do in my life...I did not fully trust Him.  If you read the story leading up to these verses, the Israelites had wandered in the dessert for 40 years.  God had provided for their every need.  They didn't necessarily see where the final destination would be, but God did.  And "in spite of" all of His provision and faithfulness, they did not trust him.  I turn 40 this December.  God has led me for 40 years.  Through valleys.  On mountain peaks.  Through good times and bad.  He's carried me through losing my mom.  He's led me to places I never thought I'd go.  And "in spite of" all of that, I still doubt Him.  How that must break His heart...

I look at it as a child and parent relationship.  Now, I don't have a child of my own.  This is another area in which I am trusting Him.  I see an almost 40 year old with no possibility of having one of my own.  God sees me like he saw Sarah and Hannah and Elizabeth.  He sees His way.  He sees possible.  I long for the day I get the privilege of being called mom.  And yet, as much as I would love my own child, God loves me even more.  He wants HIS best for me, and HIS best blows my best out of the water.  Think of how a child trusts their parent.  Picture a dad swinging his little girl around and then throwing her up in the air and catching her...knowing the joy it brings her and knowing he would never let her fall.  If we being earthly and sinful and flawed love our children that much and take care of our children that much, how much more does God do the same for us?  God has brought me to a place where He is swinging me around and bringing me joy.  But there are days I doubt...will He catch me?  Imagine how you would feel as a parent if your child stopped and asked you that.  What if they doubted that you would catch them?    You know the depth of your love for that child and know you would never let them fall.  In the same way, God's love for me goes beyond comprehension, and He would never let me fall.  Yet, I doubt.  Why?  When He continues to prove Himself faithful time after time after time.  Does He always give me what I want?  No!  And thank goodness!  When I look back on some of the things I prayed for 10 years ago...I'm very thankful He didn't give them to me.  But I also see things He has given me.  Some I've asked for, and others have been sheer surprises that He chose to delight me with.  God wants the best for us.  But that doesn't mean that the best comes easy.  Sometimes it is in the struggles and disappointments of life that He teaches us the most valuable lessons and shapes us into the people He desires us to be.

II Timothy 1:7 says "For God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind."  GOD HAS NOT GIVEN US THE SPIRIT OF FEAR.  Let that soak in.  If God hasn't given us the spirit of fear, why do we fear?  Why do we allow something that is NOT of Him, something He did not ordain to infiltrate our life and paralyze us?  Why am I so afraid to let go of what I cannot control and trust Him to do what is best?  Why am I so quick to jump to conclusions and allow illogical thoughts to rule my mind?  Why do I over react before I know all sides to the story?  Why do I freak out?  The answer is plain and simple.  Sin.  We have to put to death the flesh each and every day.  And it is hard.  Just like it is hard for me to say no to french fries and chocolate and fattening food every single day, I know I have to.  They are not good for me.  I have to learn to say no to fear.  No to worry.  No to doubt.  No to illogical thoughts that cause me to over react.  I have to counter those thoughts with only one thought.  Jesus.  That one name holds all the power we need to get through the day and to make it through every situation.  Does it mean every day will be easy?  No.  Does it mean we won't have struggles or problems?  Nope.  Does it mean life will always go my way?  Don't count on it.  Does it mean I'll never fear or doubt again?  I can assure you that won't be the case.  

But if I will bring my mind and my thoughts under HIS control, let go of my need to control and trust that He sees my end from beginning, that He sees and has ordained the path before me...I can learn to live a joyful life.  I can enjoy each moment as it comes.  I can learn to be happy and not worry about what lurks around the corner.  I can learn to "believe the best without assuming the worst."  Even if a tough time comes.  All because I know He holds me safely in His arms and nothing can take me away from Him.  

So I'm working on it.  I'm not where I need to be.  In fact, I just had a moment this afternoon where I freaked out, over reacted and worried about something I saw on Facebook that caused me to question something.  On Facebook, for heaven's sake!  Really? But that is what sin does.  It raises its ugly head and manipulates things to put us in a tailspin.  But I'm growing.  You know how I know?  Because, yes, I had a brief freak out moment when I saw it.  But I immediately began to pray for God to shine His light of truth and bring peace to my heart.  Has it been a constant struggle since this afternoon to fight the illogical thoughts running amok in my brain?  Yep.  But I'm fighting them.  And I'm choosing to believe God and to trust matter the outcome.  Because let's face it...I ALWAYS mess things up when I follow the "freak out cycle."  But when I let go and trust in the face of uncertainty, God is there.  And where God is love is.  And where love is, fear cannot dwell.  I John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment...."  Torment.  I would say that perfectly sums up how I feel when I allow fear to dominate my mind.  So if I allow God's truth and love to dominate my mind, fear has to flee.

Fear still has the power to bring me to my knees.  But these days, it brings me to my knees in prayer and repentance rather than in pain and torment.  It motivates me to seek His truth even more.  I'm learning to trust God because of all He has done rather than to doubt Him in spite of all He has done.  And I'm finally realizing after my "40 years" of fear, that He has not given that spirit of fear to me.  He has given me peace and joy and love.  

My prayer is that if you struggle with allowing fear to dominate your life that you will seek God's face and allow Him to free you from the pain and doubt and worry.  He has such good things in store for us!  I cannot wait to see what all He has planned in these coming months and year...I know it will blow my mind and, if He were to reveal it all to me now, my mind wouldn't be able to comprehend it.  Does it mean He will give me everything I want?  No.  But He will provide everything I need to glorify Him and to live the life He created me to live.  I will trust Him...even when I can't see where the next step is heading...I will take that step in faith, knowing He will provide in His time and His way...then I'll take the next step...and the next...and the next...until He leads me safely home.  I refuse to allow fear to keep me from serving Him.  I long to hear those words, "Well, done, good and faithful servant."  So I'm saying goodbye to striving and fretting and my need to control every aspect of life.  And I'm saying goodbye to fear.