Preaching to Myself: FEAR

I was driving in the car with my kids the other day.  I didn't even know that Alivea was deep in thought until she asked me a question that I have literally thought about every day for almost a week.

It's a question that I hope I think about every day for the rest of my life.

She looked at me with her deep brown eyes and asked "Mommy, how do you face your fear?"

And my heart stopped.  I mean not literally but I did gasp a little.  I stammered for a few seconds.  I'm not sure she really noticed.  It was like my mind was blank.  I didn't know what to say.

I knew what I wanted to say.

Oh you just go for it, baby girl.  You don't need to be afraid.  There's nothing to fear.  
But I knew that wasn't true.  The world is full of things we should be afraid of.  Every episode of the nightly news tells us that there are scary and bad things out there in the world.

Natural disasters, wars, evil people.  There are so many things to be afraid of.

I knew this wasn't the kind of fear she was talking about, though.  Something else was bothering my little girl and I was drawing a blank.

I managed to force out an answer and it went something like this

You pray and ask God for strength and then you have to do the thing you are afraid of.  It's okay to be afraid but you have to do it anyway.  

The particular thing she was afraid of was really simple and really not scary at all, in reality. But to her little 8 year old mind, it was terrifying.  It had given her nightmares for a few days.

She looked at me and she said, "I think I need to watch it again with you and Daddy".  My friend had shown her the Thriller music video by Michael Jackson, the whole thing, and she was a little freaked out by it.  I agreed that watching this video again with her Daddy and I would be helpful.  Her Daddy and I could point out the costumes and the makeup and that would make things easier for her.

After I had solved her problem, I was left with my own.

Why had it been so difficult for me to come up with an answer?  And then it hit me.  It's been a really long time since I'd faced one of my fears.  A really long time.

Remember when you were a kid and it felt like every week you were facing a new fear.  You were afraid of sleeping in your own bed, but you conquered that.  You were afraid of riding the school bus, but you quickly got used to that.  You were afraid of the mean third grade teacher, until you realized she wasn’t so bad.  You were afraid the boy wouldn’t like you, and then he did.  You were afraid the girls at your new school wouldn’t like you, and then they did too.  You were afraid you’d never get asked to the dance, but you were.  So many fears.  And we faced them all.  And we survived.

I think facing fears when we were younger was so much easier.  We didn’t have a choice.  We had to go to school.  We couldn’t choose our teacher.  We couldn’t choose a lot of things.  We just had to do things.

At some point as adults, I think we stop facing our fears.  At some point, I stopped facing my fears.  Life got comfortable and I just settled in.  And then I had a conversation with my eight year old that woke me up.

You see, I have these dreams and these desires in my heart.  I have these things that I know God has placed inside of me, these talents.  And I am so afraid to use them.  I am so afraid to take risks and take the steps I need to be obedient.  I am so afraid.  I'm afraid of ridicule and judgement.  I'm afraid of criticism and failure.  I'm afraid of success.  I'm afraid of messing up. I'm afraid of following a dream and having it all fall apart.

About a year ago, I started to do some research on one of these dreams.  I spent a morning at the library reading books about this dream and researching how to make this dream come true and I came home and I told my husband there was no way.  It was too hard.  I was too afraid.  I found a work around.  I found a shortcut.  Something that I felt would produce the same product.

But it didn't.  Because I didn't really face my fear.

For a while, I was really proud of myself.  I had done something.  I hadn’t just sat still.  But then the nagging feeling came back again.  Because I still hadn’t faced my fear.

On the one hand I did something that not a lot of people have done.  That's all well and good. But in my heart I know I still took the shortcut.  I did the easy thing. I did the thing that didn't really open me up to criticism.  I took the path that didn't leave me open to judgement.  I took the easy way.

I don't want easy.  This thing, this dream, -it's one that brings me to tears.  I actually told my friend the other night that if I don't do this thing I know that I'm going to get to the end of my life and I'm going to regret it.  I just know it.

So tonight I'm preaching this to myself.  I'm looking at the little girl inside of me and I'm saying

You pray and ask God for strength and then you have to do the thing you are afraid of.  It's okay to be afraid but you have to do it anyway.  

That’s the huge life lesson, the legacy, I want to leave my daughter.  I want her to know that she can attempt anything.  That the dream and the deep cries of her heart are there for a reason and that she can try.  It’s not selfish or conceited to believe in yourself and even if she’s scared, I want her to try anyway.  I want her to do it anyway. 

Bravery is not the absence of fear.  The dictionary may not agree with me but I think bravery is when you’re afraid and you do it anyway.  Officially, brave is defined as being “ready to face danger or pain; showing courage”.  That means you have to know that the pain or the danger exists.  Bravery is not denial of the facts.  But bravery looks at the facts and says I’m doing it anyway.  That’s what I want to teach my daughter.  I want her to know the courage to look at your dream and to look at the pain or the perceived danger that lurks there and to just jump.  

Permission to be Creative

Come close.  Real close.  I have a secret.

(I'm a creative.  I'm a creator.)

What?  That's not a surprise.  Sorry.

Seriously, that label.  Creative.  Creator.  Artist.  Writer.  I've struggled with it for years.  

I can't tell you how many times I had the thought that I have something to say and then the very next thought tells me that it's not worth it.  The thoughts tell me that someone else has already said it. That their blog post got way more views.  That they already have a podcast about that.  

Do you hear those thoughts too?  Do you give in to them?  

I do.  Too often.

And then I had this thought the other day.

That maybe, just maybe, those thoughts that I think- those ideas that I have and those dreams that I dream- that maybe they're not mine.  Maybe they never were.  Maybe I was given them for a time. Maybe I'm just a steward of them.  Maybe I'm not supposed to worry about page views or book sales or social media followers.  Maybe I'm not supposed to be concerned with those things.  Maybe I'm just supposed to write, to create, to be creative.

Do you ever feel like that?  I hope so.  Because I'm talking to you.

Lend me your ear for a second.

You, the one who's worried of what other people will think if you write what's been on your heart.

You, the one who's written hundreds of pages in a journal and just needs the courage to show it to one person.

You, the one who's been doodling in a notebook and you really wish you had the guts to enter your drawings in that art contest.  

You, the one who wants to start a blog but you have no clue where to start.

You, the one who wants to start that business with that idea you came up with in the shower the other day.  

Listen to me. Take the leap.  Take the chance.  It's words on a page.  It's ink a canvas.  It's keystrokes. That's all it is.  

But maybe, just maybe, it's something more.

Maybe it's your story that will touch someone else and give them the courage to share their story, which will then touch someone else. You have to think of it like that.

You have been given this one life.  You have been entrusted with these few breaths and these few synapses firing in your brain.  Use them well.  Steward them well.

I'm giving you permission to call yourself creative.  I'm giving you permission to call yourself an artist.  You have my permission to call yourself a writer.

Maybe you don't do it for a job.

Maybe you don't have many social media followers.

Maybe only one person reads your post or sees your art.

Maybe you don't ever make the New York Times Bestseller list.

Maybe your work never ends up in a famous art gallery.

Maybe you never sell a painting.

But maybe you do.

And maybe, just maybe, there's someone on the other side of your computer screen who needs to hear what you have to say.  Maybe someone in your town needs to read your article in the newspaper. Maybe someone will be blessed by your art.

But they can't be if you don't ever take the leap and take the chance.  You have to do that first.

That leap, that chance.  It's necessary.  And it's worth it.

You are worth it.  He is worth it.  The One who gave you those thoughts, those dreams and those ideas.  He is worth it. And He thinks you are worth it.

That's why He gave them to you.

So go, be creative.  Make something.  Write something.

Let your brave begin.  Today.