Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Life Gives You the Creeps

Have you ever gotten home late at night, and while walking from your car to your front door, you get a little spooked?  You know what I mean?  As you're standing on the porch, you hear the leaves rustle behind you.  You feel the cold chill creeping up your spine as you struggle to get your key in the door.  For maybe just a millisecond, you are filled with dread… until the door opens and you walk safely into your home.  And promptly lock the door behind you.  Anybody?  No?  Just me?

It’s that time of year again.  You can’t walk into a store without seeing cob webs and scary masks everywhere.  Haunted houses pop up all over town.  Every movie advertised is terrifying, even the sweetest Disney shows get a creepy twist for Halloween.  And over the years, this season has taught me something about myself.  I’m a total scaredy cat.  I am.  I can’t handle creepy crawlies or things that go bump in the night.  I’m not one for thrills and chills.  I don’t like goose bumps or heart pumping spooks.  None of that is fun for me.  I’m a chicken.

Our Not-Spooky Costumes - But alas, Micah will be trick-or-treating as Chucky!

On the rare occasion that I ever watch a scary movie, I do it facing in the complete opposite direction and make Jay tell me what’s happening.  I don’t need more in life to be afraid of, because even without horror films, there is plenty in life to make you scared.  

Earlier in the week, I put a question out on social media – what are you afraid of?  And people flooded the comment section with all sorts of different things – sharks, snakes, heights, stage fright, darkness, mice, water, clowns, flying, giant cockroaches (just to be clear – flying and giant cockroaches are two separate things.  Flying giant cockroaches would be a whole other kind of terrifying!)

If I asked you to make a list right now, how many things would you be afraid of?  5?  10?  20?  

Well, I made a list.


89 things that scare me.  That scare might range from the heebie jeebies to downright paralyzing terror.

I believe some fear is ok.  The fear that leads to common sense.  Like I got a speeding ticket two years ago this week.  My first and hopefully last, because the fear of getting another makes me not speed.  Or at least not speed in front of a police officer!  The fear of something happening to our homes might cause us to get insurance.  A fear of water might encourage us to wear life jackets.  I’m constantly afraid of oversleeping, so I set a pretty ridiculous amount of alarms. Some of the fears on my list are that kind of fear, the kind that leads to common sense.

But then there are things on my list, things that I’m afraid of, that can be debilitating.  Maybe some of these things are on your list –

being alone

something bad happening to the people I love

being judged

not being liked

not having what I need

not being a good enough mother

not being a good enough wife

not being a good enough officer

disappointing everyone

What if my kids don’t come to love Jesus?   What if I get sick and have to leave my family too soon?  What if I never do anything that matters?

These are the fears that keep us up at night.  These fears are not silly or spooky.  They are not a movie we can turn off.  They are not a make-believe boogy man hiding under the bed.  They are real.  These dangers are real.  So how can we help but be afraid?

Mark 4:35-41 says, “35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Why are you afraid?  I have to tell you that this story is pretty scary to me since numbers 19 through 24 on my list have to do with being out on the water and numbers 80 and 81 have to do with storms.  I can’t imagine putting all those things together!  And this storm had to be sudden and fierce if even those disciples who were experienced fishermen were terrified.  High waves breaking in, the boat filling with water.  Sudden and scary.  

A spouse who decides they’d rather be with someone else… a call from a doctor that changes your whole world… the loss of a pregnancy…a heart attack… a car accident… a child who does something to break your heart…  unexpected layoffs at your job.  Real storms.  Sudden and scary.  

It seems a little cold to us that Jesus would be sleeping like a baby in the hour of his disciples’ greatest need, but Jesus had no cause to fear.  He knew who He was.  His disciples may have forgotten in the midst of the storm.  I know that in the storms of my life, I need a reminder that even the wind and waves obey Him.  That doesn’t mean that He is going to calm every crazy, unexpected, danger that creeps up in my life, but it does mean that He is not surprised by what seems sudden to me.  He is never thrown or caught off-guard.  He knows.  He is ready and prepared.  He sees what I can’t see, and He loves me.  Jesus isn’t saying to His disciples, “Why are you afraid of this measly storm?” He knows the storm is scary and dangerous.  He isn’t making light of what they’re going through.  He is simply saying, “Why are you afraid when you know I’m in the boat with you?”

Fear sucks away our energy.  It is a monster that paralyzes us.  Fear tells us that there is no joy or hope in our situation.  Fear tells us that we have no purpose, and that our terrible circumstances define who we are.  Fear tells us that we are alone.

Fear is a liar. 

We are told in God’s word in 2 Timothy 1:17, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

Fear is not from God, it is a tool of the enemy.  Satan knows how to use our fears against us in order to weaken our faith.  When you remind yourself that Jesus is in the boat, he draws your attention to the waves.  He finds you in a vulnerable moment, maybe late at night, when you’re exhausted and exposed, and he whispers in your ear, planting those seeds of fear that grow into full-blown terror.  It’s the foothold he needs to crumble our belief. 

Why do I fear not being good enough?  Because in the wee hours, when I am weak and weary, the enemy tries to convince me that my shortcomings are many, and I might as well give up now.  Why do I fear not doing anything that matters – because when something doesn’t go as planned or someone isn’t responding the way I’d hoped, Satan suggests to me that it’s not the message they’re rejecting, it’s the messenger. 

He digs deep.  He takes fears I thought I’d put to bed years ago and brings them front and center, putting them right in my face again.

This is why we are told in 1 Peter to be alert because our adversary the devil roams around like a prowling lion, waiting for someone to devour.

I read recently that the command of God, “Do not be afraid,” is in the Bible 365 times.  One for every day of the year.  A daily reminder that God’s grace and love are sufficient.  A reminder that our security is not found in any of the temporary trappings in this life, but in the eternal, matchless name of Jesus who stands beside us always.

Romans 8 tells us this:
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate me from His love.  No thing.  Not one of the 89 things on my list.  That is why I shouldn’t fear.  I’m safe in His love. 

I don’t know what’s keeping you up at night these days, but whatever it is, I’ll bet you’re tired.  Tired of struggling with this fear and worry.  Really needing to just trust in the loving arms of Jesus to hold you while you rest. Give the song below a listen and remember that in whatever you're facing, you're not alone.

"I'm Not Alone" 

Now, just for kicks... here’s my list.  Promise to never use it against me!
1.      Heights
2.      Spiders
3.      Snakes
4.      Lizards
5.      Opossums
6.      Skunks
7.      Some dogs
8.      Cats
9.      Large birds
10.  Bees
11.  Wasps
12.  Mice
13.  Rats
14.  Small animals
15.  Bugs
16.  Feeling dirty
17.  Closed-in spaces
18.  Suffocating
19.  Drowning
20.  Deep water
21.  Dark water
22.  Fish
23.  Sharks
24.  Anything that touches me in water
25.  Plane crashes
26.  Unfamiliar food
27.  Car crashes
28.  Falling and knocking my teeth out
29.  Eyeballs
30.  Being embarrassed
31.  Public bathrooms
32.  Worms
33.  Germs
34.  Getting food poisoning
35.  When it’s really, really dark
36.  Not being liked
37.  Movies about demons
38.  Disappointing everyone
39.  Something bad happening to Jay
40.  Something bad happening to Micah
41.  Something bad happening to Asher
42.  Not being a good mom
43.  Not being a good wife
44.  Not being a good officer
45.  Ebola
46.  Being alone
47.  Not having what I need
48.  Oversleeping
49.  Having another baby
50.  NOT having another baby
51.  Cancer
52.  Being judged by others
53.  Not having friends around
54.  Not getting my work done
55.  Memory loss/dementia
56.  Feeling stupid
57.  Strangers
58.  Walking from my car to the door late at night
59.  Getting lost
60.  Traffic
61.  Chaos
62.  My house being a mess
63.  Not accomplishing anything that matters
64.  Being out of control
65.  Leaving my family too soon
66.  Loved ones not knowing Jesus
67.  Hurting someone
68.  Micah walking home from the bus stop
69.  Alligators
70.  Losing my hair
71.  My jaw locking up permanently
72.  The dentist
73.  Criticism
74.  Making the wrong choices
75.  Choking
76.  Cigarette smoke
77.  Bad memories/dreams
78.  Zelda from Pet Cemetery
79.  Bats
80.  Tornados
81.  Thunderstorms
82.  Forgetting something important
83.  People shorter than me
84.  Getting a mental illness
85.  Bedbugs
86.  Ticks
87.  Slime
88.  Frogs
89.  rollercoasters

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Confessions of a Mommy

When Micah was first born and brought home, I was overjoyed.  Overjoyed and just about as overwhelmed as a person could be.  I was exhausted, scared, and in over my head… but all anyone ever asked about what the overjoyed part. 
“Is it everything you thought it would be?”  Everything and more.  Much more. 
“Have you ever been happier?”  No, I haven’t.  I’ve also never been able to fall asleep standing up before.
“Is he just perfect?”  Yes, yes he is.  When he’s not screaming his head off, pooping through his diaper, spitting up all over me and refusing to eat…. Perfect.
I felt like because I’d waited so long, prayed for this child, longed for him, I wasn’t allowed to ever say, “This is really hard.” 
That zipped-lippedness resulted in me, sitting on the nursery floor in the middle of the night, crying my eyes out all alone and feeling like just about the worst mommy in history.
                I have always appreciated hearing moms really tell it like it is.  There’s something very vulnerable and beautiful about the honesty of motherhood.  So, in that spirit, here are a few of my confessions about what I’m experiencing in this new phase of life as a mommy to two.

1)      My house is a mess, and I’m a mess right along with it.   Asher was born at the beginning of December, right smack dab in the middle of the busiest season of life for us.  Jay was extraordinarily busy, not only organizing a huge fundraising season, but also trying to keep up with all of the stuff that I normally take care of at the office and church.  I was on bed rest as I struggled to heal from my c-section so I could do little more than take care of the baby and keep us all fed.  We were lucky if we could keep the dishes done and our underwear clean!  Several weeks of this, and we got ourselves in a hole that was difficult to get out of!  Add to that the fact that we had 3 Christmas trees and various other holiday decorations to take down and put away, plus all the Christmess that comes with gifts and wrapping paper, packing and unpacking to visit family, and all that jazz, and this house is a mess!  And though I care (probably way too much), I just don’t have the time or energy to do much about it.  I’m lucky if I manage to leave the house with make-up on and no milk stains on my shirt.

I am slowly digging my way out (with help from my husband, who has been awesome through it all) but it is slow coming.  I dream of a day when I will be able to clean my bathtub, not have the recycling overflowing, shave both legs on the same day.  Ah, the little things.  In the meantime, please don’t come visit me without some advanced notice.  A lot of notice.

2)      When it comes to the baby, I’m terrible at multi-tasking.  I had little man at the office with me today for ten hours.  I got roughly 45 minutes worth of work done.  It takes me a week to do what I used to be able to do in a day.  And obviously, I get very little done at home (see above).  I’ve yet to figure out how to do the little things like shower and get ready for the day when I have this needy little creature demanding my attention.  And I’ve seriously eaten the last 65 meals with one hand, while holding Asher with the other (usually as he nurses), and I’ve brushed an embarrassing amount of crumbs off my precious newborn’s head.  My focus is most definitely monopolized, and thus… number 3

3)      I feel guilty pretty much all the time.  I simply can’t give what I’m used to giving.  There’s only so much of me to go around right now.  Micah, my sweet and crazy 8 year old, seems to know the exact right words to punch me in the gut.  Now, I know enough to know that he manipulates the situation most the time in order to get his way, but it still leaves me feeling riddled with guilt that he can’t always be my center of attention.  I also feel guilty that I’m not as available to people as I used to be.  It’s like I’m strapped to a 9 pound ball and chain (albeit a cute little wiggly one). 
And don’t think the cute, innocent baby can’t make you feel guilty too.  If I feel like he’s had too long of a day at the office, or that my attention has been too split that day, or his diaper was too wet, or he had to just cry for a few minutes so that I could take a shower… guilt, guilt, guilt.

4)      Leaving the house terrifies me.  The first few weeks of Asher’s life, he and I were home alone most days.  We got into a good routine.  Sleeping, changing, nursing.  We were good.  Then, when he was just three weeks old, we decided to go to Kentucky for our family Christmas party.  We weren’t ready.  Not at all.  We drove 600 miles, stayed two days, and turned around and came back.  I was like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog’s Day.  I came out, saw my shadow, and headed back in for six more weeks of winter.  Even going to church or to the office for the first time caused me some pretty great anxiety.  I wasn’t like this when Micah was a baby.  I would pack him and go, no problem.  Sometimes we’d head out to the mall just to stroll around (and so I could show him off!), but it’s been different for Asher.  For one big reason.

5)      Breastfeeding is hard.  Since we’ve had Micah since birth, we’ve experienced most of the baby stuff already, with the exception of breastfeeding.  This art, which I assumed would be the most natural thing ever, has not gone the way I anticipated.  I thought I’d push out my beautiful baby, he’d be put on my chest, find his way to my breast, and we’d be beautifully connected and live happily ever after.

Yeah, so that’s not how it went.  First of all, after an emergency c-section, and an over-crowded, understaffed hospital that was working through a snow storm, I didn’t even get to hold my sweet boy until he was almost two hours old.  I spent the first day of his life very sick, and in fact, threw up five times during my first meeting with the lactation consultant – she was great about it and kept right on going like nothing happened.  Due to our initial set-back, a weak suck, and latching issues, Asher lost about 13% of his birth weight in the first couple of days.  After trying several things, the doc convinced us to start supplementing with formula when Ash was three weeks old, which has done nothing great for my milk supply and made Asher a little lazy and easily frustrated.

All this to say, it’s been hard, but we have kept going.  I decide to give up about three times every day, but inevitably, there will be one magical moment that makes me want to keep going another day.  I’m praying for about 4 ½ more months of daily magical moments.

6)      Sometimes I feel really old.  I was doing all this newborn stuff with Micah when I was 25/26.  I’m nearly 35 now.  And you know what?  I’m tired!  I feel that almost-decade every day.  My back hurts.  My feet hurt.  And I need a nap!

7)      And I kind of miss the normal me.  My recovery from the C-section was hard.  I had to be on bed rest and home health, and take it way easier than I wanted to.  My energy level took a while to return, and may still not be all the way back… but that’s probably because I’m so old.  And while I’ve always been a crybaby, my hormones are still a little wacky.  And I’d really like to get rid of this post-partum hypertension. 
As for the six inch vertical scar on my stomach?  I’ll keep that.  It reminds me of one of the best days of my life… though it’s ruined bikini season for me forever ;)

8)      I miss being pregnant.  Is that weird?  I love that I finally have my sweet baby here, but in some ways, I miss having him all to myself.  I miss feeling him kick and move inside me.  And, I know it’s crazy, but I miss that big pregnant belly (better than the doughy mess I’ve been left with!).  Dressing it and resting my hand on it… well, that’s the most fun I’ve ever had being fat!

 I think this will be my one experience with pregnancy, and the fact that it’s already over makes me a little sad.

9)      I miss my husband.  Don’t get me wrong, Jay and I are a good team, and we love being parents, but we’d finally gotten to a stage with Micah where we could go on dates alone or watch a movie together while he’s off doing his own thing.  Micah is pretty independent and self-sufficient so if Jay and I wanted to occasionally lounge in bed on a Saturday morning, we could do it.  And now we are starting back at square one, falling in bed next to each other at night, totally exhausted and smelling like spit-up.  I love being a mommy so much, but sometimes, I just want to be his girlfriend. 
I will say though that there is little that is more attractive than my big guy playing legos with Micah or swaying back and forth trying to put Asher to sleep.  If I have to be gross and tired, there’s no one I’d rather do it with.

10)   I wish the time away.  I find myself saying, “well, when is Asher is old enough to fill-in-the-blank, I’ll be able to fill-in-the-other-blank.”  I am always looking for the next milestone, but just today, it hit me that Asher’s wrinkly newborn skin is filling out, and already, his cry is different.  My newborn is a baby.  So I’m trying to just stop, breathe, and enjoy the moment, because I’m learning, watching my 8 year old who, just yesterday, was my little baby boy, it all goes by too fast.

Ah, confession really is good for the soul.

And these guys are totally worth it all.