When A Big Fear Made Me Brave

990129_96584657Yesterday, I headed to my women’s Bible study at church. It was raining so I quickly shuffled all my kids out of the van. I checked them into childcare and grabbed a chai tea and scone for my second breakfast.

Our study focused on Romans 16 and how the apostle Paul poured his life and ministry into people and relationships. We were challenged to intimately know the women in our lives and be known, to help protect them from potential danger, and to work hard at loving one another well. I left challenged and encouraged to apply what I learned.

I picked up my kids and we ran to the van since it was now thundering and lightening and pouring down rain. By the time I got their little bodies into car seats and packed the stroller in the trunk, I was soaking wet. And so was my seat. I said a prayer as I pulled out and about a minute into driving, my steering wheel suddenly locked up. I couldn’t turn it to the left or the right.

Oh goodness. You gotta be kidding me. Oh no, I thought.

Prayer for Help

“John! Start praying for the van right now!” My four year old is pretty accustomed to begin praying immediately when Mommy needs help.

I had to pull over immediately and to my left was a turn lane so I stopped there. Thankfully the lane barely had any traffic and we weren’t on a busy road. I called my friend Jen who I was just at Bible study with. I didn’t have to say much until she said she was on her way to help.

I turned off the engine and restarted it and the problem remained. I figured my husband Jeremiah was busy working with patients so I called my dad and told him the problem to see if I could fix the issue. I also wondered if I was the problem but I was pretty confident it was serious. We agreed that calling AAA would be best. I decided to go ahead and try Jeremiah at work and I was able to reach him immediately.

Meanwhile my 9 month old, Hannah, is screaming in her carseat with a runny nose I couldn’t tend to. And my 2 and 4 year old were wondering what was going on as the thunder rolled and the rain poured and we were going nowhere.

I was on the verge of crying when I explained the situation to Jeremiah. I wasn’t sure what to do with the kids and the car seats and everything. Thankfully his boss let him off work to come help and it would take him 45 minutes to get to us. After I talked to him, AAA was easy to reach and on their way within the hour to tow the van.

Facing Fear

Jen arrived with her kids and had the brilliant idea of getting us lunch so the kids wouldn’t be starving and could be entertained. She left to get the food and Hannah settled down as I held her. She began cooing and bouncing on my legs, happy as a clam.

And for some reason my typically fiesty, strong-willed 2 1/2 year old, Rebekah, is sitting peacefully in her carseat and chatting up a storm like nothing was out of the ordinary. I had to take it all in because being stranded on the road in a big city with a 4 year old, 2 year old, and 9 month old (not to mention a pregnant belly) all by myself was one of my biggest fears. What would I do? Who would be able to help? How would I keep everyone from having meltdowns? 

My jeans were wet. We were hungry. The van was absorbing the cold air from outside. But I was so grateful. The rain and thunder had died down. God was providing for us. I soaked in the moment (no pun intended) where I knew it was going to be okay. That moment where God was saying:

It’s alright, Samantha. I’ve got this. I’m taking care of you. You don’t need to worry. I am right here with you in your fears. You can face them head on because I’ve got you.

One of my biggest fears was happening and it wasn’t so bad after all. Thankfully I hadn’t got on the interstate yet. No one was hurt. And my van hadn’t blown up. Yet.

Abundant Provision

Within 20 minutes, Jen arrived with a smile and a bag full of burritos, tacos, quesadillas, chips, salsa and cheese. Talk about giving us above and beyond what we needed. She also waited in her SUV behind us until Jeremiah arrived. 20 minutes later, he came ready to help with the kids and take out the carseats and put them in his truck. Then about 15 minutes later, the AAA guy had come at last.

Jeremiah and I got the kids in his truck and we drove home. It felt so good to feel heat again. The kids were calm.

I couldn’t believe how God was providing through my husband. I was reminded how God has created our husbands to be the protector and provider in practical circumstances like these. He joyfully carried the burden for me.

God used Jen to be the kind of woman we’d talked about in our Bible study. She knew me well and that I freak out in stressful situations, thrive on having a plan and being in control, and struggle with anxiety. It didn’t matter that she had her own 2 kids and a newborn either. She was there to encourage me and provide food for our bellies in our time of need. She brought a sense of calming to my spirit.

Living by Faith

The reality is that fear and anxiety have left me crippled and frozen at times. I worry so much about the “what if’s” and allow them to overtake my thoughts as if I know how something is going to work out. While this fear wasn’t categorized as one of the greater fears like death or cancer, it has been on my mind regularly when driving.

I also know that fear has held me back from living the abundant life in Christ. It has kept me from trusting in God’s provision. Mainly, from trusting in him alone. God knew that and used that experience to test me and grow my faith.

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

As followers of Christ, I think our lives would be radically changed if we lived by faith in God’s love for us. If we lived knowing He is our provider and in control. If we lived knowing that even if we have to go through the storm, He is still with us and it will be okay. He is God. We know the end of the story. What do we really have to fear anyway?

If we allowed that truth to settle in our hearts, would we make different decisions? Would we be more bold? Would we experience God’s love with a new kind of depth and meaning?

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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. – Rom. 8:38-39

Well we eventually found out the problem to the van. A belt broke and was fixed within a few hours. Other minor repairs will be completed on Monday. After all the running around, we tucked our kids in bed, crashed on our beds, laughed about the day, and I felt a little more brave than I did the day before.

Sweet Stillness and Future Grace

This morning I woke up to thunder, sleet, and snow. And every time winter rolls around in Dallas and if we’re lucky to have snow on the ground, I’m always reminded to be still. More specifically, to be still about the future and God’s plans for my life.

And on a morning where I planned to go to my exercise class at the gym, I’m now sipping on a cappuccino, watching my son make snowballs and footprints in the snow (he’s always the first child to rise), and thinking about what my morning will look like cozied up inside.

I love how snow also reminds me that I’m not in control.

Part of today’s devotional in Jesus Calling further confirms these truths:

The closer you live to me, the safer you are. Circumstances around you are undulating, and there are treacherous-looking waves in the distance. Fix your eyes on me, the one who never changes. By the time those waves reach you, they will have shrunk to proportions of My design. I am always beside you, helping you face today’s waves. The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future!  Stay close to me. – Jesus Calling, January 15

I don’t know about you, but I think way too much about the future. Where will God lead me and my husband? What plans does he have for my children? Will he take care of all my needs? How will I handle the really difficult days yet to come?

I also think of my daily responsibilities. What about all the laundry piled up on my couch? All the dishes yet to be washed? Meals needing to be made? Love needing to be given? Appointments to set? Emails to answer? Articles to write? Relationships to invest? Gospel needing to be shared?

The daily list goes on.

For today, I just want to be fully where I am and not worry so much about what’s ahead. To stay close to Jesus and hear His sweet, still voice. To love on my children well and be the person God is calling me to be today.

And to know that even in my failures and shortcomings that are possible any day of the week, He is still with me. His grace is always here to draw upon. His grace helps me hand over my future, grandiose plans and surrender them to His will.

Every time I look out our french doors and see the blanket of snow covering our backyard, I’ll be reminded of those awesome truths.

In what ways have you experienced God’s stillness and grace in your life? Do you trust that He is with you?

pleasant interruptions

Since Tuesday morning, the roads have been lined with a sheet of ice and a light blanket of snow covers the grass. This morning our power went out and we had to get dressed over candlelight. An hour ago, it went out again for 10 minutes before I could dry my hair.

And I’ve been completely fine with it. But any other week, I probably would be frustrated because I like everything to be planned and not so spontaneous. But I’ve really been able to embrace my present reality, taking a few steps back to rest in the simplicity.

There is nowhere to go but to be with my precious children and visit our neighbors. Our refrigerator is growing bare, but our needs are met. If we really needed something, Jeremiah is at work and could go to Kroger on his way home.

This time of stillness has also brought a little surprise my way. Someone I know who works for WaterBrook/Multnomah Publishers asked if I’d like to have lunch with one of their authors, Joanna Weaver, this week and that it would be on them! Joanna wrote the book Having a Mary Spirit in a Martha World (along with many other books).I’m so humbled and honored by this opportunity and on Thursday I’ll get to meet her.

It’s been really fun watching God pour out such pleasant interruptions to my week. I think he knows I need to hold life a little more loosely and begin to better welcome whatever comes my way.

Well, the gray clouds still hover over the city and it’s as if everyone is still sleeping. I’m going to end this post just in case the power goes out again!

Why all human life is precious

3878374083_406d9a0872Recently, I was stopped at a green stoplight. Two policemen were blocking me from going through the light because of a homeless man off to the side of the road.

The police got out of their cars to approach the man. I had a feeling they might jerk him around or in anger, ask him what in the world he was doing.

But none of that happened. They spoke a few words. He listened. He spoke a few words. They were patient to hear him. Then they gently turned him around and put plastic cuffs around his wrists, and signaled me to go ahead.

Sitting comfortably in my car with a place to go home to, I thought about how much God loves that homeless guy. No matter where he had been or what he had done, God made him in his image and wants a relationship with him.

All human life is precious to God because he created us in his image to bring glory to him, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not- All human life that’s yet to be born, all life that is breathing right now on earth, all human life with disorders, disabilities, mental problems, diseases, brokenness, life that might appear useless… All of it matters to God and it should matter to us.

My heart is beginning to change when it comes to the homeless people I see on the streets of Dallas every day. While I’m not always able to meet their needs physically, especially as a young woman by myself, I think one of the issues in my heart is whether I have love and compassion for them. Do I realize they were created in the image of God? And that God is deeply concerned for them as he is for every person’s life?

I’m really thankful I was stopped at a green light that day.


I want to be ready

6a00d83518d15e53ef00e54f9278908833-800wiOn our way home from our community group last night, we were driving down 75 and passed a guy in a suit broken down on the side of the road. He had set up bright orange reflectors several feet away from his SUV so other cars could see him in the distance. He was talking on the phone, most likely to get help.

I looked over at Jeremiah. “Man that guy was prepared. Why don’t I have those cool reflectors in the back of my car, ready to pull out when I need them?”

A few months ago I had already experienced running out of gas on 75 during rush hour. And it wasn’t fun.

I then started to think about being prepared in my own life and more specifically in my faith. Sometimes I live each day forgetting that I am on mission and that I’m a part of a much larger story that God is writing. I forget that one day, I will meet my King and Savior face to face. Sometimes I forget to be about His business, and not my own. And way too often I forget that the only way I can prepare is to trust in Him to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Because I know that one day he’s returning or either I will meet him before then, I don’t want to waste my life on things that aren’t a part of his plan. I don’t want to be caught twiddling my thumbs or arguing over petty things. Because when it’s all said and done, none of that will matter anymore. The only thing that will matter is knowing Jesus and making his glory known. And one day, I’ll be held accountable for how I choose to spend my time here on earth.

I want to be ready.

I’m sure eventually the business man on the interstate was able to get on the road again. And I’m sure the motive behind his readiness was not for the sake of being prepared, but so his life would be preserved.

Savoring Solitude

1150829_algarrobo_beach_2Before we left on Friday for a Labor Day weekend getaway, the one thing I needed more than anything else was rest and solitude time away from the busyness and baseline stress that comes with living in a big city… and that comes from life in general.

As we drove into the wide open spaces, I felt my burdens lifted away. Jeremiah blasted the radio and rolled the windows down. John loved the breeze against his face. We sang, laughed, and talked. It was just the beginning of our journey to getting refreshed and encouraged again.

All throughout the gospels Jesus withdrew in solitude away from the crowds and the disciples to be renewed in his relationship with God:

“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them” (Lk. 4:42).

“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him” (Mk. 4:36).

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Lk. 5:16)

Knowing that Jesus did this often, speaks volumes to me. How can I expect to live life apart from being alone with God- just me and him? How can I expect to love others well if I don’t separate myself from people from time to time? How can I expect to be renewed by staying in the same place day in and day out without ever getting away? A few things I’ve noticed when I choose not to withdraw to my “lonely place” is:

1.) I worry, worry, worry

2.) I’m not sensitive to God’s leading in my life

3.) I carry stress and don’t easily serve others

4.) I don’t share the gospel and what God is doing in my life

5.) I am mean and sin more

It’s crazy to think that choosing not to withdraw has led to those things in my life, but it makes total sense. Solitude time is examining life, confessing sin, being refueled in God’s word, and most of all resting in Christ for his strength. Life is just too hard not to make room for his presence in my life.

While I’m far from being perfect, a few practical things have helped me when it comes to making solitude time:

1.) I write it on my to-do list. Since most of the time, I get done what’s on that list, my quiet time is non-negotiable as well.

2.) I pretend like there are no dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, voicemails to return, and that not one person needs me.

3.) I leave my phone off, shut down my Mac (no emails, facebook, etc.)

4.) I go somewhere quiet with my journal, Bible, and pen and most of the time, I do this when John is asleep.

5.) I try to be still and pray in the car on the days I commute to work.

Well, I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas listening to the sound of waterfalls trickling into the pool. The morning breeze is so refreshing and the birds love it too. The past few days I’ve been renewed in God’s word and renewed physically and emotionally. I’m sad we’re at the end of our journey at my parents because the time away has been so sweet.

But I can say I’m ready to travel back to Dallas and face the realities of life again with a better perspective than when I left.

Orange Air & Anxious Thoughts

APW_orangeA lot of mornings in Dallas, there are what you call “orange air pollution” watches. I saw one on the marquees driving down the interstate this morning. I was also notified via radio. I can’t quite figure out what action they want me to take when they tell me about this orange air. Do they want me to turn around and carpool with someone last minute? Am I supposed to hide inside all day, in hopes that my respiratory system won’t be exposed? Do I need to text all my friends and tell them to stay inside? If anything, all these watches do is make me worry instead of take caution.

I got an email from a friend yesterday. She shared some of her struggles with having a “controlling, anxious personality.” I struck a chord with that. I battle anxious thoughts every day: Will I get sleep tonight? Will my brother in law be okay when he deploys to Afghanistan in a few months? Am I communicating well in my marriage? Is America going to recover from the current condition we’re in and are we really protecting ourselves well from terrorism?  And then it’s the more simple things like What will I eat next? Am I staying healthy? Will I survive my 15k tomorrow? Will I make it to that appointment on time?

God knew that we would be people of worry and he knew it would be one of my main struggles. He knew that I would have to refer back to this verse 10,000 times to remind myself: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-8).

So what’s the solution to worry and anxious thoughts? PRAY. Petition. Be thankful. Present all your concerns to God- yes that means your laundry list. But make sure you LISTEN. Complain to him. Talk to him. Believe in him. Depend on him. Have faith that he will answer. Rely on truth that he deeply cares about what you think. Stand firm in his power to give you strength to endure this life. SURRENDER.

Then what? His peace will consume you and guard your life. You won’t be able to explain it because it transcends human comprehension. Your anxious thoughts will be turned into thoughts of trusting in someone Greater.

So, what do you need to give Him today? Do you trust that he will carry whatever burdens you have?

Well I guess the next time I see “Air Pollution: Orange” I’ll be reminded that God is in control, even when we do stupid things to our environment.

Running for Sunrise

Part of the White Rock Trail

Part of the White Rock Trail

On Sunday morning, John was up and ready at 4:30 AM so I decided to do my long run of 7 miles for the day. I started at 5:00AM. Since it was still dark out, Jeremiah followed close behind me in our SUV. Running that early just isn’t fun to me. Everything is closed. No one is around. And I longed for sunlight.

No matter how far I run, I always run on Swiss Avenue, a well-known street in Dallas lined with historic mansions. I pictured everyone snug in their beds. Past Swiss Avenue, I jogged on the sidewalks of Lakewood, a charming area where my final destination would be. On the left in the distance, I saw a few workers at Whole Foods getting their day started. I smelled doughnuts from a local shop, reminding me of my intense hunger pains. Past the neighborhoods, I reached White Rock Lake where I had around 3 miles left.

At last, the sun  pierced through the clouds- bursts of bright pink and orange. Fishermen were out for their morning catch. Cyclers, walkers, and runners breezed by- sweaty and short of breath just like me. The light I had longed to see had finally arrived and it was beautiful. It gave me a new burst of energy to finish what I’d started.

There are days where I sense darkness, that I’m in a valley and I just long to be with Jesus and to be at home in heaven. This is not at all to say I don’t love life. I absolutely do. God has given me fullness of joy in His presence. I love my husband, my son, family, and friends. I’m overwhelmed all the time by God’s grace and goodness in my life. And it’s depressing to think about dying one day. But I still have days where my heart longs for my eternal home in heaven- where I’ll be healed from the brokenness of sin within me and restored to God’s perfect image.

At the end of 7 miles and wanting to eat a dozen doughnuts, I was encouraged that in Christ, there is no darkness at all. He is the light and gives light to everything. He alone is what our hearts are chasing after.

Who You are is Not What You Do

best_thingsUpon making the great move to Dallas a few years ago, experiencing the culture here is like nowhere else I’ve lived. What you wear, how you look, what you do, and what you drive is valued above who you are. In our downtown apartment community alone, I can count at least 30 Lexus’s, mercedes, bmw’s, hummers, and jaguars (all owned by twenty and thirty somethings). So yes, the kind of car you have is important.

It seems like in other places, you just don’t see this. At least that’s what our friends say when they come to visit. But why is it that we love to place our identity in what we do or in things?

Perhaps it’s a security for us. It’s easier to find identity and meaning in those things rather than in Someone we can’t see. But what if we stripped all those things away, what would we have? What if people saw us for who we really are? Not what we do or what we drive?

I think we’d all be in for a real shock- to realize that we’re all pretty much the same even if the outside appears pretty: we’re all Messy people on the inside in need of a holy and perfect God.

Though far from perfect, that’s what I’m striving for when it comes to my real identity.

He’s got the Whole World in His Hands

blueThis past weekend wasn’t typical that’s for sure. Saturday morning at approximately 2 AM, we heard gun shots that woke us up out of bed. Yeah, not the exact thing you want to hear at 2 AM. Half way asleep, I just kept thinking: Is that really what I think I’m hearing? Jeremiah is much better than I am in stressful situations. He had heard the shots before I did. He then called 911 and explained the situation. The dispatcher said she’d already received calls about it and they were taking care of it. Oh well that’s good, I thought. Meanwhile my heart is still beating a million times a minute. So is Jeremiah’s. We went across our apartment to check on John and he was fast asleep. I couldn’t believe what was happening. 

Believe it or not, we live in a very nice area. Our apartment complex is very nice. Three-story luxurious town homes and midrises are right beside us. The problem with Dallas is that right around the block from a nice area can be a really bad part. It’s a very transitional city. Unlike any I’ve lived in. I’ve been reflecting on the past two days about God’s sovereignty in my life. It’s crazy to think how there’s never a moment in time when He is not in control. I’ve heard it said once that you’re indestructible until God calls you home. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the mission field in the Middle East in the hot spot of war and danger or serving God right here in America… God is still in control. He knows when my time is up. My days have been numbered. He is protecting my family and nothing happens in my life in which he isn’t sovereign over.

I’m not really sure what gun shots mean in the start of 2009. Hopefully nothing but a wake-up call to pursue things that matter most in life more. We don’t even know what really happened yet that morning. But I do know that I trust in an all-powerful God who cares deeply for my needs, for what concerns me, for the fears and frustrations that fill my mind. He is watching over my son too just as Jeremiah and I attempt to do our best in protecting him. I definitely don’t understand all of God’s mysterious ways but I can definitely trust that His ways are higher and his thoughts are not my thoughts. His heart breaks because of the evil in our world. I can lay my head down at night, a little more comforted, knowing that He’s got the whole world in His hands.

I just now found out that my husband blogged about this too on his Old Testament online journal for DTS

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:17

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