Love Dispels Fear


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“Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I know the Bible tells me this, but there are times when I’m still afraid.

Maybe fear comes from a job loss, a diagnosis of illness or an approaching storm. We can feel afraid when the power goes out, a car swerves into our lane or our child isn’t home on time.

And while some fear is a God given way of keeping us safe, living in a state of fear is not what God intended.

He wants for us to be so intimately acquainted with him that we trust he’s got our back no matter what.

Knowing God loves us causes us to feel safe. In his love, we become who he created us to be. He loves us no matter what we’ve done or neglected to do. His acceptance of us, as his wonderfully made sons and daughters, drives away fear.

Remembering what he says in his word and holding fast to those promises of faithful love will banish fear in those situations which threaten us.

I must keep choosing to stand on his word because it is true. All else is a lie.

And in that place, in his presence, fear evaporates. Peace comes. I can rest.

Dream Big


IMG_3840Big dreams start with small steps.

I believe big things are coming in this new year. God has already done miracles in my marriage, family and business, and I believe he’s calling us to trust him for even more than we can hope for or imagine. (Eph. 3:20)

We have to think bigger.

Recently, in reading the passage in the Bible about Joshua and Caleb being sent with ten other men to scope out the promised land (Numbers 13), I was struck by a few things:

  1. God made a big promise – his plans were far greater than his people imagined.
  2. The land God was giving them was flowing with good things – abundance is God’s plan and promise for us.
  3. There were giants, obstacles and adversaries within the land God promised – it wouldn’t be easy, and they would have to fight for it.
  4. Only 2 of the 12 came back believing God’s promise, the other 10 chose fear instead and spread fear among their people
  5. The people had to step forward to move into the land. Just one step started the movement.

What does that have to do with me?

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Hebrews 13:8) God’s promises may look different, but he is the same God able to speak what is relevant to us and make them come to fruition.

So, today, what is God whispering to your heart that he wants to do for you? Something bigger than what you think is possible?

Restoring a relationship? Starting a new business? Writing a book? Adopting a child? Overcoming an addiction?

Let’s ask God what his big dreams are for us. Let’s believe what he says – he’s the God of abundance and greatness. Let’s be willing to fight for what God promises – he will equip us and lead us to fight. Let’s speak  truth and hold onto God rather than giving way to fear. We may feel fear, but we don’t have to live in it and let it control us. Let’s be careful not to spread fear. We CAN dream big and see God deliver.

What are your big dreams? What is your first step towards it?

This is a message I received this past week from a reader. When I started writing books, it was a big dream that has taken years, tears and fighting to attain the promise, but God is faithful!
“Hi Laura,
I wanted to reach out and tell you that I just finished your book Dangerous Ground. I LOVED it so much. I read it in 3 days and never wanted to put it down. I especially loved all of the faith, and trust in God aspects you so wonderfully incorporated. It really helped me see many ways of looking for Christ in every situation. Such an amazing read. The trafficking awareness there is so important and I admire all that you did with this. I look forward to more of your books!” A.H.

The Uncertainty of Life


20171018_074229Hundreds of posts this week have regaled thanksgiving blessings mixed with multiple cyber sales, and many venture solidly into a coming Christmas season. It’s enough to make my overloaded inbox cry.

I don’t want to be that article.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m beyond grateful for God’s amazing blessings. As a matter of fact, I don’t go through a day without thanking him numerous times, many including heart-filled tears. And I’m a girl who appreciates a good sale.

And while I’m never ready to embrace Christmas decorating or festivities until after Thanksgiving, unlike one dear California friend I’m thinking of (you know who you are JG), I love Jesus and his birthday and all the joy, peace and goodwill towards men it brings.

But let’s be real.

Friends have lost loved ones and are stumbling through the holidays. Couples are separated or worse, divorced, and wondering how they will bear another party alone. Illness or a diagnosis just wiped the joy off the face of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and someone is missing a child who seemed to die too early, was never conceived or who is walking along the edge of death with their life.

Life holds great uncertainty.

And pain, disappointment, fear, anger along with many, many questions. No black Friday or Monday cyber sale can make a real, solid dent in that. Maybe for a moment, until the regret and shame and credit card bill comes.

While fires rage, destroying homes and earthquakes, war and poverty wrack third-world countries, when rebuilding progresses at a crawl after a hurricane, tornado or a  flood, how do we hold on?

How do we go on?

What holds us during those moments, days, months or years? Where is our hope that life will right itself again so we can draw another shaky breath and see a new day without fear?

I am the Lord. I will sustain you. I will hold you with my right hand and comfort you in your darkest night. Cling to me. Come to me all who are heavily burdened with pain, sorrow, expectations and fears. Let me take those on me and make your burden lighter. Wait on me, and you will be able to breathe and keep walking when you are so weary you want to curl up in bed and never wake up. Don’t try to figure it all out. It’s too big for you to comprehend. The sin of the world knocks at your door all day and night, and you can’t grasp the full significance of a spiritual enemy that wants you to blame me and end the life I created in you. You can’t assimilate all I’ve created and brought life to: creatures, people, dreams, visions, greatness beyond your imagination. So don’t try. Just be still and know that I’m God so I’m bigger than your biggest disappointment, fear, tragedy, crisis or pain. I see you. I’m here to comfort you and lead you through it. I’m here. I’m here. Lean on me. Let me into your heart and life. I’m here to love and comfort and sustain you. I gave my life so you could live yours, and no matter what destruction the world throws at you, I have a way to make it turn out for something good. Better than you hoped, though probably not what you expected. I love you. Let me love you.

I believe that is a word from God for someone. Maybe a few or dozen someones.

Those are God’s words typed from him to you through cyber-space just as he spoke them to me. Those are words from his word, the Bible, so I know they are true. And you don’t have to believe me, you can go there and find them for yourself.

I didn’t wake up this morning expecting to write this. I didn’t have a plan or map out what I should write. I know our world is hurting, and I know what hurting is. But more importantly, God knows.

I don’t know what your circumstances look like. Trusting in and leaning on God doesn’t necessarily change the circumstance, though sometimes it might. What it changes is how we live in the tragedy or loss or fear. The presence of God and the name and power of Jesus changes things. Usually, our heart or our view.

He’ll heal past hurts and show us where the fears come from. He’ll comfort us and open our eyes to his love and care. He can “turn the heart of a king” like a stream or river, bending it the way he wants it to go. Maybe that’s our heart.

I’m thankful. Oh yes, so very, very thankful for the love of my God, my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I couldn’t live or breathe without him.

And I’m thankful for you. Each one who reads my blogs posts. May God bless you in every way. Today.

 

 

Everything is a Journey


Coastland Center Mall Book Signing

I had my first book selling event this week.

It came about unexpectedly and plunged me into the next step on my writing journey. A step I’ve longed for, thought about and feared for years. Now, in hindsight, it seems foolish to have dreaded (with excited anticipation) my first book event.

I’m not one of those people who hate talking in front of others. Book selling and signing goes with the territory. I want more people to know about me as an author. So what was I (a little) freaked out about?

The logistics.

I’m not even sure why. I’m asking for divine help in answering that question. But I realize it happens almost every time I find myself in a new, unfamiliar setting or situation. I’m far better now, but it still unsettles me.

Can anyone relate?

Spending hours preparing  by packing up, checking directions (a few times), re-reading instructions, listing needed items and imagining the trip or event several different ways. When I’m supposed to be getting much needed before-the-event sleep. Naturally.

Here’s the deal…

Even though I woke up with a migraine starting that morning, I quieted my heart in prayer and set about getting ready and to my destination. As I drove, I remembered that I had worked at a tuxedo shop a couple of decades ago so I attended numerous and regular wedding events. I also worked book tables for other authors.

I had experience after all. Go figure.

A nice man held the door for me as I lugged my box of books and such into the mall. Then it all came back to me once I started setting up. Arranging my books, cards and flyers was fun. I didn’t know what to expect, so I expected to wait and see what would transpire during the day.

Being at a mall, most of the sparse crowd came for specific purposes. Few stopped to browse. But both of my vendor neighbors were lovely ladies selling beautiful jewelry and handmade tote bags respectively.

We enjoyed some interesting and engaging conversation.

Later on, a couple of friends showed up to support me. I love connecting my friends who don’t know each other, but love me. Overall, I sold a few books, met some very nice people and ended up having a great experience.

All part of the journey.

It was a good day. Even the part when I drove out of the mall the wrong way and ended up circling a number of very long blocks to end up back where I started fifteen minutes later. Making mistakes is a part of learning.

I learned that everything is a journey.

We can keep moving ahead in spite of our fears or questions, or we can hold back and never start. Every new experience is just that–new. Which means we won’t know what to expect or what it will hold for us until we are participating in it.

But if we never take that first step into the unknown, we’ll never know. I’m so grateful for the experience. Every part of it (except that headache) ended up blessing me. And now I’ll be more confident the next time. I also want to keep pressing into what’s next.

Like a radio interview coming up this week.

I’m pretty excited in a nervous am-I-ready-for-this kind of way. I don’t feel ready, but I believe God opens doors at the right time. And sometimes he gives us a little nudge to walk through.

What step do you need to take today?

 

 

The Effects of Addiction Trauma


IMG_3527I’m not a trained or licensed counselor.

That’s my disclaimer. But I have read dozens of books, spent hundreds of hours in counseling and led groups dealing with addictions. Most importantly, I’ve experienced addiction in some way for the majority of my life. Either being addicted or living with one.

Here’s the simple truth.

Whether we live in addiction or live with an addict (usually it’s both), the trauma of that lifestyle imprints our being with carved patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior. It warps our perspective so that our reality is skewed.

We cannot tell what is true.

Lest we think that by addiction I mean alcohol or drugs only, let’s be clear about the addiction to which I refer. We can become chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yes. And while those substances garner most attention, we can also be addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, food, control, cleanliness, fears, social media, television, reading, new ideas, extreme sports…basically anything that has mastery over us.

Whatever triggers the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of adrenaline or dopamine can become an addiction. In themselves, those hormones and chemicals are beneficial and help us in life, but when we’re hurting, either physically or emotionally, we can seek the release to ease our pain.

Too much of a good thing, as they say.

The downside is trauma induced by the repetition of addictive behavior. Without the hours of training or a state generated license, here’s part 1 of what this layperson has learned about the effects of addiction trauma.

*We don’t know what loving someone really means – Life becomes a struggle to keep others happy while trying to make them love us. This is not what love is all about. We shouldn’t have to make anyone love us. Covering for their indiscretions or making excuses for them (or them for us), taking the responsibility for their actions, carrying the weight of the relationship is not loving, it is enabling. Not meeting their all their needs, demands (or desires), does not make us unloving or cold. Love never demands, it gives. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us first. Healthy people can give and receive love without conditions.

*Lack of trust – Relying on people feels like a dangerous proposition usually because our experience with unhealthy people says they think about what pleases them at the moment, not what is wisest for them or others. Their choices that show lack of consideration for others are hurtful and sometimes cruel. Whether we are the addict or we live with one, constant betrayal leads to suspicion. It becomes difficult to trust, not only those we live with, but anyone.

*Desire for vs. fear of intimacy – Being intimate requires vulnerability. We long to be known and close to others, but we fear them knowing us. Since it’s impossible to be intimate with someone we don’t trust or be vulnerable when we fear disclosure, we can run in and out of relationships. In a healthy relationship, we accept and are accepted without conditions, but addicts hide to alleviate feelings of shame. We leave people guessing about who we really are. Or, we wonder why we can’t seem to get close to the other person. We may try to detach ourselves emotionally from others to feel safe, but that isn’t healthy. Or we may need to detach from someone who is cruel or abusive. Unfortunately, they may then accuse us of being cold or distant. Either way, intimacy eludes or strangles us.

*Seeking fulfillment in other areas – When one area of addiction isn’t enough anymore to keep us numb, our children may become our emotional stability or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, the feeling of fulfillment is temporary and we end up setting or continuing patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

When addiction of any type becomes consistent, it grooves patterns in our soul and in our brain. But addiction is only a symptom of a deeper issue. Once we take time to heal the hurts of our life, and make a conscious effort to create new patterns, we find we no longer need the thing we were addicted to. However, depending on each individual situation, some addictions can take days, months or years to overcome.

There is no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle and it’s damage.

But there is hope. The Bible said that it’s for our freedom that Jesus Christ came. God loves us and longs for our lives to be abundant and prospering (I’m not talking just about money here). He hurts when we hurt and wants to heal our pain. When we let him REVEAL what’s underneath the issues, and we choose to DEAL with the problems, he can HEAL us so we won’t need something else.

It’s a journey. Join me?

 

What Are You Afraid Of?


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The scene above may be humorous, but fear is nothing to joke about.

God wired us with a healthy sense of fear to protect us from danger. But when fear dictates our lives, we can become trapped in patterns that destroy us.

Here are a few things I’ve been learning about fear lately:

  • Fear steals our identity
  • Fear makes us question our God given attributes and desires
  • Fear leads us to question another person’s motives
  • Fear causes us to judge others
  • Fear makes us assign conclusions about people or situations that aren’t accurate
  • Fear causes us to assume we know what someone’s intentions towards us are
  • Fear says lying will protect us – it keeps us from speaking the truth
  • Fear leads us to read God’s word inaccurately
  • Fear causes conflict within us
  • Fear keeps us from seeing another person’s pain
  • Fear of losing something makes us compete with others
  • Fear makes us cling to only one way of thinking
  • Fear causes us to lash out if someone has another opinion or perspective than us
  • Fear paralyzes us
  • Fear leads us to close ourselves off from others
  • Fear keeps us ineffective in our lives
  • Fear prevents us from being fully engaged in life

Maybe that’s why God tells us not to be afraid; that he didn’t give us a spirit of fear.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18

God is love and he loves us. We don’t NEED to be afraid when we believe he loves us and will take care of us. He knows all and has everything under control. So if we surrender to him, we can rest there and live in freedom.

I’ve been asking God to tell me what I’m afraid of. If we ask, he’ll tell us. And he’ll tell us what to do about it. I’m learning a lot about myself and the places I’ve been trapped.

He’ll also reassure us that he’s right there. Like a kid jumping into a pool into his daddy’s waiting arms. That’s us with God.

That’s a good place to be.

“I Want What I Want”


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“Stubbornness is an unintelligent barrier, refusing enlightenment and blocking it’s flow.”

Those words grabbed me this week.

They are the words of Oswald Chambers in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest. What gripped my attention was “unintelligent barrier.” Have I ever allowed stubbornness to block the flow of enlightenment or understanding in my life? And if it’s an “unintelligent barrier” then it’s something that I allow with giving it reasoned thought.

Yikes!

So I asked God what causes stubbornness?

Here’s my take from scripture:

  • Leaning on my own understanding. God says not to. (Proverbs 3:5-6) God sees big. We see small. When we think our vision and understanding is the whole picture, we cling to our way as being the only way to think about something. That’s stubbornness. And in a word: pride.
  • Fear. A previous employer once told me he believed I was unteachable in my attitude toward some work I did for him. (Read: stubborn.) His well-intended comment hurt and surprised me. I believed I listened and followed the instructions given me. I respected his discernment, but I asked my manager if he could confirm that observation. His perception brought tears. He told me he didn’t see me as stubborn or unteachable, but rather afraid because I didn’t know how to do some things. When he said that, understanding dawned. Fear can make us resistant and therefore stubborn.
  • Allowing my basest desires to rule me. “Indulge me,” our flesh says. Eating, drinking, spending, sex–all normal, God created activities can get out of control. Then they take over, and we stubbornly cling to them or our right to them. Remember the spoiled rich girl, Veruca Salt, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? She wanted what she wanted, the whole world even, and wanted it right then. There’s a little Veruca in all of us, right?

God wants good for us.

He put desires in our hearts and promises to satisfy those desires when we delight in him. But it’s only when we think his way that he broadens our understanding and curtails our desires to be for the best things. (Psalm 37:4)

We all know as a parent, the best thing isn’t to give a child sugar at bed time no matter how much he may want it. (Bouncing off the walls, people!) God’s our parent and wants our best. He sees a bigger picture for us.

He promises:

  • That he will give us the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16) so we can think as he thinks. If we ask, he’ll give us wisdom without thinking badly of us. (James 1:5)
  • We don’t need to be afraid. His perfect love for us drives out fear. (I John 4:18)
  • Every good thing is a gift from him. (James 1:17) He knows what we need and delights in caring for us. (Matt. 6:8)

So we can say goodbye to that “unintelligent barrier” of stubbornness and “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12:2) Then we can let go of what we want and let God give us what he wants for us which is far better!

Hurricanes (Hardly Ever) Happen


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Hurricanes (Hardly Ever) Happen

The region where I live is all aflutter.

Hurricane Irma has been assaulting innocent islands in the south and is headed our way. For the past five days, Southwest Florida has purchased more gas, water, batteries and boards (no, not surf or paddle) than probably have been sold in the past five years.

People are literally running for their lives.

I don’t blame them. I’ll confess it’s a frightening situation, this first hurricane of my life. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of the ones that ripped us apart in the past, but to be here first hand, stocking up on canned foods and looking at empty shelves in grocery stores is a bit daunting.

Then there are the news reports.

Trees bent over in winds whipping San Juan. Cars crawling along like…well not like ants because ants move faster—more like snails taking naps. Buildings decimated with roofs scattered. The pictures say a thousand words and more.

But the tone of it all is fear.

And I hate fear. While healthy fear can be a good thing causing us to be diligent in preparation, fear can also cripple us into immobility. Or avoidance which keeps us from facing the storm until the very last devastating moment when disaster is upon us.

Fear grips us in ugly claws until our hearts pound in panic.

In the midst of this stormy circumstance, I think fighting fear may be a bigger issue than the pending potential destruction. The actual fight for our lives happens in our minds. And fear is like a monster demanding to be fed.

If we fuel it, it will grow.

I don’t know what will happen in the next few days. I’m sure numerous people will lose some if not all of their belongings. I grieve with Houston’s residents. Some may lose their lives or someone they love. I could be one of them.

But fear will not help me weather the storm well.

Preparation, peace and confidence in my God who created wind, rain and oceans will set me up to endure this storm. No matter what happens, He will be there with us to guide, protect and comfort us. He can turn any tragedy into something positive or helpful.

Already we’ve seen people reaching out in kindness.

Kindness is a characteristic of God. A man giving up a generator for a woman in need is laying down his life and looking to another person’s interests instead of his own. Another man volunteering his time to make sure people get water is giving of himself. We may think of those stories as sweet or nice, and they are, but really they are examples of God’s love.

I don’t know if those men know God personally.

But I do know that God is blessed when we exhibit his character. Serving, helping, giving all equal loving. God is love. And when we point to him as the source, he is pleased because he longs to see his love displayed to every single person.

Perhaps this post seems a bit random.

But as you read about kindness, did you forget I started with fear? Yeah, that’s what I though. When God’s love gets involved, fear gets pushed away. The Bible puts it this way,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…     I John 4:18

If I know God loves me, then no matter what my situation, I don’t have to be afraid. He will bring the best for me even in the worst of circumstances. I know that’s easier to say than to experience all the time, but that has been my goal during this hurricane.

If it’s time to go, I will be with Jesus. If I get hurt, he will heal me at some point. If I am safe, I can help someone else. And in any case, I can trust him to hold me in the storm if I keep my eyes on him.

Why Getting Help is So Important


DSC_0024I wish everyone would stop hiding and seek help for their issues.

There. I’ve said it.

I’m not as hardhearted as that may sound. It’s voiced from a place of compassionate frustration because I know the freedom available. I’m living it. The women in the small groups I lead experience it. My heart breaks in pain to watch people continue to struggle because of denial, minimizing and fear.

I get it.

It’s painful and scary and hard work. I’ve been there. It feels like you’re going to fall apart and lose yourself. There’s a gap between the broken place you are at and the healed place you’re going to so it takes a leap of faith to let go of one to grab the other, and that leap feels as if you will plummet to your emotional death.

BUT if we can take one little step at a time, like Indiana Jones walking over the precipice with invisible steps (you know the scene I’m talking about?), God will put a step right out in front of us to keep going. A lamp to our feet and light to our path deal.

A blogger friend, Sarah, who I met a few years ago has struggled big time with some debilitating issues in her life. But I’m so happy to offer a post of hers (with permission of course) here today from her new blog. One that is dedicated to helping others learn to care for themselves.

Because she has taken leaps of faith to persevere and allow God to heal, grow and deliver her, she is now able to share what she’s learned. I’m so proud of her.

She addresses this situation very well in the following post:

REAL TALK

Alright, I’m just going to dive right in with the blunt honesty part.  Here we go.

You can’t help yourself unless you accept that you need help.

It’s that simple.

If you aren’t able to acknowledge that something needs addressing then you can forget about making any progress in that area.  Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away, and usually, it only perpetuates the situation.  There’s nothing weak about admitting you need help.  And there’s nothing out there saying that if you do need help with something that you need to broadcast it to the whole world. But that being said, it’s so integral to talk someone about what you’re going through, be it a counselor, friend or family member.

People need people.

There is absolutely no reason to be going through anything alone. I have discovered that the more I talk about my story, and my struggles with depression and anxiety and a host of other things, that I connect with people more. Chances are, whoever you’re sharing with can relate to you in one way or another. I live for the “me too!’s”. The more you share and choose to be vulnerable with others, the more courage it gives others to share and be vulnerable too. And suddenly the work you’re doing on yourself transcends you and sets off a wave of healing that engulfs those around you. How’s that for motivation? Sharing your story openly could be what it takes to give someone else that final push to seek help for whatever is going on in their life that they never felt they could talk about before.

I can’t stress it enough how much my friends and community have helped me with my mental health and processing trauma. If I didn’t have them I don’t know if I’d be here right now, to be honest. I’ll probably write an entire post on my community later, they are phenomenal.

There is no shame in acknowledging something is off or not working for you in your life and saying it out loud.  Start with admitting it to yourself.  When you’re ready, talk to a close person you trust like a friend or counselor, and if you think you need a psychiatrist then ask your family doctor to refer you to one.  It can’t hurt, and in Canada it’s free.

If you are waiting for permission to put your mental health first and foremost above everything else, then wait no longer, here it is:

PERMISSION!

It’s your responsibility to take care of your mental health.
There’s nothing selfish about it and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
And you’re worth it.  You deserve to be healthy.

Remember that.

You are not alone!

Catch more of Sarah’s blog here : Sarah’s Guide to Self Care

And if you haven’t seen or don’t remember Indy. Here you go:

Are You Stuck?


117Sometimes in our journey, we feel stuck.

Maybe we are facing a unscalable wall of circumstantial impossibility. Or we feel like we are dragging a wagon full of stuff through the sand at the beach, inching along as sweat drips down our face. The ocean looks so far away. Will we ever get there?

Slow going at best. Immovable at its worst.

Circumstances can mire us into that sense of wandering lost and confused through wilderness. Sometimes obstacles in front of us seem insurmountable. Remember Jericho? But I heard a message recently that breathed life into that desert place and gave me hope for moving my life forward into promise in spite of obstacles.

Well worth the watch. Hope you find it as helpful as I did.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. What’s your Jericho?