Want to Overcome Your Fears? Then You’re Gonna Have to Fight

The other day I was traveling with a friend in the car when she started talking about the reality of her panic attacks. It didn’t take long for another friend to chime and share about hers. They spoke of how it felt so real. Each woman explained how it came on out of no where and was uncontrollable. They spoke of the shame they felt when they were finally able to calm down and gain perspective back again.

I know those feelings. I have had those same experiences and know the weight of the shame that can consume you after the anxiety fog lifts. It’s horrible. Though my times with these panic attacks have been few,  these two ladies have had them for years.

It reminded me how our fears can feel huge to overcome all-consuming. They are very real. And it can be very hard to know what to do.

So what do you do?

We are now on week 4 of our series on overcoming fear with just two weeks left. My goal is to help you tangibly see how pursuing God with everything you have can help you to not only overcome your fears but ultimately live the life that Jesus promises in John 10:10.  We have talked about overcoming fear with peace, with surrender, and with pursuing Him through His word. This week we are going to move a little out of our comfort zones and talk about fighting.

When I was in the 11th grade I was asked to walk home with a girl who hadn’t been particularly nice to me in the past. That day she was scared for her life because apparently she gave some “looks” to the “mean” girls in gym class. When I say mean, what I am getting at is, these are not the girls that you want to pick a fight with unless you are prepared to actually use your fists. She had made them pretty mad that day and they caught her at a time where she was pretty vulnerable. All her friends were off doing other things, and she still needed to walk home. I was the innocent victim she asked to keep her company.

I have to chalk that up to one of the scariest times in my life. I think the hair stood up on my neck nearly the entire walk home, because as we walked the group of “mean” girls walked only feet behind us, taunting her and reminding me to mind my own business. We went a few more blocks and the intensity of their mocking increased. She started to tell them to leave her alone, but her words only spurred them on more.  Before I knew it they were on top of her attacking her and she was trying to fight her way out. A neighbor came out of a nearby house and scared the girls off. I know she felt scared, hurt and ashamed. It was the first time I had ever seen a fight like that and I glad to say it was my last. I will never forget that day.

Our enemy is much the same as those “mean” girls. The Bible says that “the devil schemes”(6:11b). The definition of schemes is a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. That means the enemy is devising this incredibly divisive plan using every tactic he knows how to in order to essentially tear you away from God. Fear is just one of his many tools to do that. How do I know that…read Ephesians 6:12-17:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

One of the enemy’s tactics is fear. Fear against anything you will come up against. If it were not, why would Paul urge you to become like a warrior and put on the full armor of God? He knew that equipping you with the tools you need would help you guard against your enemy so that you can stand firm against his schemes. Essentially, you are going to have to learn how to fight. And fight well.

When I got serious about the calling God had on my life, I realized I was going to have to go to battle with all my fears. Which included things like: the fear of telling others about this crazy vision I had, and the fear that they may think I am ridiculous and disapprove. The fear that I could be wrong, or that I would look like a fool. And the worse fear of all, the fear of failure. Oh the enemy knew me and my patterns well.  He knew that I longed for peoples’ approval and people not agreeing with me would slowly defeat me so the first few times I shared the vision that is exactly what happened.

They said stuff like:
“Great vision, Dawn…good luck” or
“That may happen but not by a woman, not in this town” or
“That could never happen here”

I felt defeated, confused, and ashamed. It wasn’t until I got into the Word of God and realized all I was feeling was not from God, but rather from the Devil himself. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So with my armor on, and with all the faith I could muster up I put one foot in front of the other and started to pursue the vision God placed on my heart. That vision was to unify our community by loving the poor into life transformation. I had to conquer my fears one at a time. First I shared with one person. Then that one person, had me share it with a few more. Then I was to share it with a few more. Almost every time I shared I had to either fight back or wipe away the tears…that was how scared I was. Next, I acquired a few board members. Then we took steps to seek to become incorporated through the state of Alabama for “The Link of Cullman County, Inc.” Before I knew it I was fundraising and then getting to attend a Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago. I was going to be trained on becoming a Christian Community Developer.

The more I watched my Father in Heaven do miraculous things, the bolder I got. The bolder I got, the more I wanted to kick fear in the tail and keep on going. My mantra became “I’d rather stand before man and be deemed a fool for believing God, than stand before God and be deemed a fool before Him.” Yes I was scared, but I did it anyway. Yes, at times it felt like crazy radical faith, but I did it anyway. It didn’t always happen quickly and I learned patience along the way. But the more I believed in Him the more I got to see Him do miraculous things. (One day I may do a post on the miracles He has performed and is still performing.)

So here is what I have to say to you today. If you truly want to overcome your fears you are going to have to learn how to fight like you mean it. The only way to fight like you mean it is to put your armor on and then do whatever it is that gives you fear. I do encourage you to start small. For instance, if you are deathly afraid to speak in front of people…you can start by seeking God for all the strength and courage you need, then you can put on your armor and you begin by speaking in front of some folks at work for the first time. No matter how it turns out…you praise Him. Then maybe the next time you are asked to speak, you say yes…even though it scares you to death. Then you praise Him for the opportunity to gain more freedom. And you do the same steps…. pray, put on the armor of God, and do that thing.

Can you see me giving you a virtual fist pump? I am! I promise you defeating your fears becomes invigorating. Why? It’s taking steps forward towards freedom. You are starting to live what Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came to give life, a life that is full.”

Most of us don’t realize the chains we bear, until we are broken free of them. Choose today to start walking in the freedom that Jesus came to give you. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Gal 5:1)

This week I have a challenge for you, I want you to pray the armor of God on every day (Ephesians 6:13-17) and then I want you to come back here and tell me how it went. Did you feel more powerful? Did you defeat any of your fears? Let’s champion each other on in this battle against our enemy to scheme against us. He does not have the last word in this, the Bible tells us that we are over-comers and so as such we will live.

My Plans < His Plans… Confessions of a Control Freak

I have a confession to make, I can be a bit of a control freak.

(I just heard some of you chuckle, you know who you are.)

I have a tendency to like things a certain way. I am a planner and it’s important to me that I know what’s going to happen next and exactly how it’s going to happen. I think I know what is best so, I have a tendency to want to make sure it goes a certain way…my way, to be exact.

If I am in control, I am also able to know what is coming next and how to handle it. Right? It makes sense.

But here is the truth. I am not in control, and either are you. Believing we are is a lie from the enemy.

In my first blog post, I mentioned John 10:10 and how our enemy, the devil wants to kill, steal and destroy everything in our life. He wants us to believe we are in control of our lives because when he achieves that he can steal away all the plans God has for us. He can destroy us from ever experiencing what it says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 But what do God’s plans have to do with fear? Oh my friend, EVERYTHING.

From where I sit, God’s plans have been SO incredibly different than my own and it’s in that place of fear I have learned to surrender my plans for His to do the very thing He has called me to do. To accomplish that calling every day without being overcome by fear, anxiety and worry, I have to be totally surrendered to Him.

Last week I talked about overcoming fear with peace and how Philippians 4:6-7 became my mantra through some really challenging experiences. If you have not read that post, you may want to go check it out here. The enemy would love nothing more than to keep you paralyzed in your fear than have you walking in perfect peace.

But fear is just the emotional reaction to the real root of the issue. If we dig deeper we’ll see the true root of all of this is not fear…it’s a lack of trust or to put it bluntly, a need for control.

Our fear is based in our need for control because when we are in a place where we cannot physically see or know our outcome it produces fear.

For years, people spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over my life. It was said with such frequency to my husband and I it almost became our running joke. When and who would say it to us next.

Well, the joke was on us.

Because we had it all wrong when it came to this verse. We had totally twisted this verse to sound more like this:

“For I know the plans I have for me”, says Dawn/Chris, “plans to prosper me (the way I want to prosper, especially as it pertains to finances and work) not to harm me (no physical harm will ever come to me because this would mean God really doesn’t love, care, or have concern for me), plans to bring you hope (everything I ever hoped for will be mine, no matter the cost…my relationship with God or others) and a future (the one I have already designed in my mind that seems perfect to me.)

How’s that for a dish of truth? Anyone find themselves in the same spot?

We don’t mean to do this; some of us really do want to allow God to give us His good plans. But somewhere along the lines of life we began to believe our plans were better. But at some point we started to believe He stopped listening or He didn’t really care. Or maybe it was, whatever we wanted our plans to be didn’t work out the way we thought they should have, even though we prayed and asked Him to be in the midst of them. So we took the reigns and got back in the drivers seat.

I have been there with you in those. Believing for a certain job, in the desire for children and having a miscarriage, after miscarriage and infertility in the midst of it. In praying for someone’s behavior to change and they never did, or a circumstance to be different than it was and it felt as if I my prayers were reaching the ceiling and falling back to the ground. It was hard, really hard.

Honestly, I would still probably be thinking the same things if God hadn’t stopped me in my tracks and taught me the truth. And here it is…

We are not in control.

We like to think we are, but we are not and the tighter we clinch our fists around it the harder we make it for ourselves and for God to do what He needs to do in our lives. So how did I learn this truth, you ask? Well, I am glad you did. I learned it the hard way of course, as if any other way would have truly gotten my attention.

If you recall from last week, I was learning about overcoming my fear through a carotid body tumor. In doing so, He taught me to trade my anxiety for peace. When I had my surgery, He had a new lesson for me.

My surgery was scheduled for June 1, 2011. We showed up very early in the morning at the Vanderbilt Clinic in Nashville, TN. While I was being prepped for surgery, the doctor reassured us this would be cut and dry.

“The surgery should be no longer than 3 hours. We are going to go in and take out the tumor, use a vein from your thigh to graph the artery back together into your neck. There is nothing to worry about, we’ll be in and out in no time,” he assured us.

My mom had come in from Virginia for the surgery, so she, my husband, and my in-laws sat in the waiting room. Three hours past. Then four. And five. At about the sixth hour mark the doctors came out and told us the team was almost done and shared how things were a little different when they got into my neck then what they had thought.

“The tumor was alive and sticky,” my doctor told my family, “we couldn’t see that from the CT scan. We had to give her 4.5 units of blood and it took us a bit longer to peel the tumor from her arteries. She now has one artery instead of two and we’ll need to check in with her to make sure it stays clear. She’s also going to have quite a bit of nerve damage as we had to severe a few, but they should grow back over time.”

My stay in the hospital was originally scheduled for three days, one in the ICU and then two on the step down floor. I spent three days in the ICU and then ten more on the step down floor. Those first few days of recovery were hard. It didn’t take long for us and the doctor’s to realize the damage done from the removal could be life threatening. I could not consume food or liquid, unless the liquid had a thickening agent in it and even then it was in small doses. My voice was badly damaged, my leg on the mend. I was on a regular diet of pain meds and nutrients from an IV. Things seemed to go from bad to worse, as the doctor’s concerns grew over my inability to consume food. The talk of a feeding tube became a daily conversation and it was the very last thing I wanted, but I could not get myself to be able to eat.

Here is what I wrote on June 11, 2011 in a blog post about the experience:

“God has been teaching me a lot over the last 6 months about what it means to fully trust Him.

Before going through this surgery, I sensed Him saying to me, “Are you going to trust me in any circumstance?”

Because of that I had a feeling I’d be thrown some loops in this process. Just wasn’t sure what.

This past Wednesday, after a secondary surgery, I was having a rough morning. Swallowing was more difficult than before and my voice was in worse shape. I had a swallow study scheduled and I knew my outcome. A feeding tube was going to be in my near future. Unfortunately, I was right. The speech pathologist put me on a strict liquid diet and was recommending a feeding tube. My mom and I were devastated. We cried all the way back to my room and then sat and cried while we prayed in my room listening to some Christian worship music.

Mom had left me for a few minutes and I just felt God saying to me, “Do you still trust me Dawn?”

I did. I still do. I surrendered my plans over to him yet again and I felt a peace come over me. The same peace I spoke of before the surgery. I knew in my heart whether or not I got the feeding tube, God loved me just as much. In fact, I had came to the conclusion getting the feeding tube may be the most loving act He could do on my behalf right now.

After a few hours visiting with a friend, I tried to eat my lunch. Before I knew it I had finished my strained chicken vegetable soup and drank down a whole bottle of ensure. It was a breakthrough I know many had been praying for. It was my first full meal in a week.

The doctor came up to see me that evening to insert my tube and to his surprise, and ours, he left the bag and tubing on my tray table. There would be no tube inserted that day. He left the bag for my motivation, as long as I ate my dinner there would be no tube and I could go home the next day.”

And I did.

It wasn’t until I surrendered my plans and trusted in Him that I received peace. He is in control and His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a better hope for the future, the one He has planned for me.

Here’s one other interesting fact about Jeremiah 29:11. God is speaking to the Isrealites through the prophet Jeremiah in the middle of the Isrealites going into captivity…again. God is saying to them…”If you will trust me, do what I say, stay true to my word, I am going to bless you, even while you are in bondage for the next 70 years.” If you don’t remember this, go back and read Jeremiah 29, it’s really eye-opening. I believe God is saying the same to us today. If you trust me (aka give me control), no matter what your in the midst of right now, I am going to bless you.”

So now when I find myself wanting to control things, I stop myself and walk through these steps:

  1. Repent – I repent of believing the lie that I am in control. I am not and to be honest, I don’t want to be. Not anymore. I know His plans are good and I can trust Him. So I want to get out of the way. The only way to do that is to repent and get aligned with Him.
  2. Renew my mind – I need His Word to do this. I will use a scripture verse to remind me of His will, whether it’s Jeremiah 29:11 or Proverbs 3:5-6 which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  3. Release – Sometimes we need a physical example of our loss of surrender and so what I often will do is think about the thing that I can’t seem to let go of and mentally put that thing in my hand and the clinch my fist around it. Once I have it there, I’ll start praying to God asking Him to take it from me and helping me to release my control over it. When I get to a point in my mind where I can start to let go, I literally start letting go, releasing my fingers from my clinched fist until I find my hand or hands completely open and then I worship Him.
  4. Obey – You have to put action to this, it can never be just a change in your heart. To truly overcome fear, you have to practice the act of obedience because this is us not just saying we are going to do what He says, it’s showing it too. Sometimes this can be really scary and I have to repeat this process, but eventually I get to the place where I know Jeremiah 29:11 is truth and by obeying Him and taking Him at His word, I gain one up on the enemy. And instead of him stealing my future, I get one up on him and in doing so experience more of the abundant life that Jesus told us about in John 10:10.

How have you struggled with control before? And what have you learned from your experience that could help others?

Photocredit: @wisdomfeed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings & Middles..Life in the Midst

I like fresh starts.

There is something fun, exciting, and new about a beginning. Whether the first day of school, a new book you open for the first time, or a fresh piece of paper with nothing on it…even a new relationship and all the excitement and inquiry that it brings.

But for some reason starting this blog doesn’t quite feel like a beginning to me.

No, it actually feels like a middle. Maybe because I have an old blog, you can read it here. Maybe it’s because my life feels like I am in the midst of a lot of different experiences and not at the beginning of really anything at all.

I’m not about to start school or a new business. I am not writing a new book or even have it published. I am not buying a new home or renting my first apartment. I am not starting a new job or changing careers. Nope. I truly am more in the middle of things than I am anywhere near a beginning.

Right now, I’m in the midst of a 5.5 year old dream that has become The Link of Cullman County. I’ve been watching God do amazing and incredible things while unfolding this vision. This is my passion, what I get up for in the morning, and what I get to do everyday. There is no doubt you are going to hear a lot about this dream I am living on this site. In fact, I’ll be revealing some secrets of how we have been successful, what we can improve on and how you can learn from our mistakes. Whether you are wanting to start a ministry or just have big dreams, I intend to encourage you, give you tangible tools, and hopefully help you do whatever it is God has purposed you to do.

I want to be your biggest cheerleader!

I am also in the midst of a 12 year marriage to an incredible guy, Chris, who is from the town we now live in, Cullman, AL. We do our best to parent our 6, almost 7-year-old son, Sawyer and raise him to love Jesus and dream big dreams. Our adventures can teach us lots of lessons and I love to share what we learn, so every now and then you’ll hear about them as well.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed 2 years ago with Acute Pericarditis since then it has turned into Chronic Pericarditis and I now have Hashimoto’s Hyperthyroidism and another auto-immune disease that they are still trying to pinpoint. I have been to doctor after doctor and know what it feels like to live with daily pain. BUT, (I capitalize for effect) God is taking me through the other side of that and I have learned how to have peace, to understand His plan, and to trust that He is in control. It won’t be long before you hear about this because I believe what I have learned has taken me to a new level of freedom, and who does not want to feel FREE?!

So here we sit in the tension of new beginnings, which I love, and the midst of my life, wanting to put my thoughts to you on “paper” (aka blog)  of what I am learning. I hope to be an encouragement to you. Maybe at some point I can teach you something you didn’t know. Or possibly challenge you on a certain issue we can work through together, because sometimes life is tough and confusing and I believe in wrestling with the hard stuff. Sometimes we may agree to disagree. I want us to do that here.

So here it begins…and almost ends. My first blog post on this new site.

This is where we will meet maybe once a week…sometimes I may need more grace.
But, it’ll just be you and me.
I’ll have coffee and you drink what you drink.
We’ll chat.
I promise to be really with you.
I’ll share what I learn about my life, my God, my story and I hope you’ll take time to comment or email me to share with me yours.

And when we meet again, we’ll be in the midst of life together, rather than right here at the beginning.