Cancer, Quarantine, Uncategorized

Fear, Faith and a Facebook Post

be afraid meme

What I have learned from Covid ……. the superhuman power of FEAR.
I always viewed fear as a both positive and negative motivator.  My eyes have been opened. If I wanted to destroy a person, their family, their livelihood, their future, their nation I would use fear.

Linda Toupin.

I woke up this morning to this post by one of my favorite and most influential mentors. Openly, I was surprised that she had previously viewed fear as positive (and relieved to hear her heart has changed on this stance).

I have learned a lot about fear over my life and what I can confidently say is, fear keeps us from our best self. It cripples us. Paralyzes us. It stops our brains from working and puts us in reaction vs response mode. It causes health issues and, in some cases, can even kill us. As a Christian, I believe fear is the tool Satan uses to keep us from living and experiencing all the blessings God has planned for us.

We are told Satan can’t change God’s will for us, but we can. So, what’s the best way to get to us? Fear. (and fear that is usually based on lies)

  • Don’t quit the job you hate because what if you never find another one?
  • Don’t donate that much money to that cause because what if you are short on cash next month?
  • Don’t say “yes” to trying that new business because what if you fail?
  • Don’t speak up against the wrong you see because what if everyone turns on you?
  • Don’t break up with him/her even though they treat you poorly because what if you never find anyone else?

I wonder how many of us (myself included) have missed out on huge blessings simply because we were afraid?

The word “fear” comes from a number of root words but the one I find most interesting  is from the Old Norse word far which means, “harm, distress, deception.DECEPTION.

Fear is used to deceive us. (From a biblical standpoint Satan is referred to as “the deceiver of the whole world” Rev 12:9) Fear stops us from thinking logically and rationally about a situation. And it has dire consequences.

Some might argue there is “healthy fear.” We are afraid to stick our hand into a fire, (keeps us from getting burned). We are afraid of heights, (keeps us from falling). We are afraid of creepy crawling things, (keeps us from getting bit or stung). I would venture to say that’s not the same fear we are talking about. Are those examples of fear or simply examples of common sense? I don’t want to get burned, fall, or stung, so my brain logically tells me …hey don’t do that.

That’s entirely different than my body being in a constant state of fear with unnecessary adrenaline running around throwing off my nervous system, switching my brain into my non-rational flight or flight mode, and disrupting my immune, endocrine, and nervous system (and that’s just to start).

No wonder why Satan uses fear to cripple us. It weakens us mentally, physically, emotionally and most importantly spiritually. The famous saying, “faith and fear can not exist together” now makes more sense. We can’t hear God when we are deaf with fear.

What’s worse, is most of us use fear daily to control those around us. I admit I currently use the fear of losing her cell phone to “control” my daughter. (Things like, “If you don’t do XYZ you are losing your phone for a week!” may or may not be heard in my home on a regular basis). Maybe a boss uses fear to control his/her employees. Or a teacher uses fear to get his/her students to pay attention. And certainly fear is used in intimate relationships at an alarming rate in our country (https://ncadv.org/statistics)

Today’s world surrounds us with fear. Fear that is being used to manipulate and control us. (long before Covid, the election, or 2020). The daily news, in my humble opinion, is the greatest source of fear-feeding. I recently posted that waking up and looking at the news is like waking up and asking, “What’s all the horrible stuff going on in the world today?

Now, I’m not saying we should live in ignorance. I am saying we need to balance that fear with faith. Faith in humanity, in each other, in ourselves and in God. For every scary fear-filled news story there is one of hope, love and faith. (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/)

I wonder what would our lives be like if we didn’t live in fear? If we truly stepped into faith every day? Would we walk haphazardly down the street into oncoming traffic? Swim in the ocean when the red flags are up? Start collectively telling off our bosses? Probably not. Faith doesn’t mean we are stupid. In fact, it’s the opposite. We are told “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7). Some versions translate sound mine as “good judgement” or “self control.” All things I want.

God tells me he has plans for me …plans to plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future, (Jer 29:11 and the verse I claimed for my daughter during her cancer treatment). And guess what? That’s His promise to YOU too!

So we get to choose. Will we stand in the TRUTH of God’s promise to us or the FEAR of Satan’s lie to us?

I’ve lived through fear. Fear my ex-husband was going to kill me. It wasn’t “perceived fear” or “fake fear” it was real logical fear of a man who graphically described to my daughter how he planned to kill me. I slept with my windows locked, security system on and adrenaline running through my body 24/7. I also experienced “real fear” when the doctors told me my daughter probably was going to die and had one of the lowest cure rates in the childhood cancer world. And even recently another “real fear” I am not ready to go public with just yet. So yes, I get fear can be “real.”

But, here’s the thing. Fear is also a choice. Faith is a choice. And like resiliency, it’s a muscle we can exercise and build. It was much easier for me to move from fear to faith with my daughter’s cancer (like a 2-minute turn around!) because I was already building that muscle super strong during my divorce. Now, was it a one-time decision? I regretfully admit, no. There were more times than I can count where I was dealing with her cancer and my ex-husband endangering her life that my “lizard brain” took over, I went into full reaction mode, and would physically shake with fear. Now, looking back, I realize how much power I gave away in that reactive response. And how much of a foothold I gave the devil.

I’ve seen the power I have when I choose faith instead. The energy around me physically changes. My mind becomes clear. My heart peace filled. My feet grounded. I feel strong, capable and competent. That is the power of faith. That is the power of a God-filled spirit moving through me…or you.

As we move into what will probably one of the most difficult seasons our country has faced in many years (between Covid, the election, the reopening or non-opening of schools and a looming financial crash) we each have a choice on how we will wake up every morning and face our day. We will choose faith or fear? (Remembering that fear is usually based on lies, deception, and manipulation.)

It is up to each of us to choose wisely.

Quarantine, Uncategorized

The Spiritual Cave

madison-lavern-4gcqRf3-f2I-unsplash

Today we are tackling the third piece of how we want to emerge from our “Quarantine Cave.” First, we explored our emotional & mental choices. Then we considered our physical health & wellness.  (We took a detour with the barking dog). Now today we will dive into our spiritual health, because during this season we can choose to become spiritually stronger or spiritually weaker.

I saw this a lot while immersed in the childhood cancer world. The devastation of a child’s cancer diagnoses can really rock even the strongest faith. When faced with such a crisis there is a tendency to ask questions like, “Why me?” “Why did God let this happen?” or “Where is God in all of this?” I believe these are natural questions and crisis can shake our faith.

For me, one thing that served me well while I was going through my crisis with my daughter was I never asked the question “Why me?” I’ve always felt it was a narcissistic question because the answer is, “Well, why not me?” When we ask, “Why me?” we are really asking, “Why not you?  Why did this happen to my family and not yours?”  Yet, what makes us think we are so special that we get to go through life unscathed?

We all have loss, sadness, grief and trauma, it’s all part of life.

I never thought that God “gave cancer” to my daughter. Instead I thought, this is part of life. Kids get cancer and it just so happens my kid is one of them. Instead, it was my faith and my connection with God that helped me through that season.

So you may or may not have the same faith as me. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that all of us have a spirit, a soul. Whatever it is that you’re connected to, this is the season that will either draw you in closer or push you farther away.

Maybe you’ve said in the past, “You know what? The real reason I don’t get up and pray every day is I just don’t have the time!” or “The reason I don’t sit and meditate every day is I just don’t have the time!” Well for lots of us, we now have plenty of time, and we no longer can cling to that excuse.  What if during this quarantine season we developed a habit of getting up and actually doing what we’d say we’d do if we had the time? What if we actually used our time to meditate or pray? How would that change our life?

Maybe you have the Bible sitting in the house somewhere and you’re thinking, “I’ve never actually read it.” Maybe you know passages, know a few scriptures or remember the stories you learned in a church service but never actually picked up the book itself to read it firsthand. Maybe you’ve never participated in a Bible study.  Could it be that after weeks of being at home it actually comes to, “You know, I’m kind of bored; I need something to do. Like there’s only so much Netflix I can watch; let me do a Bible study?” Plus, there’s tons of online Bible studies that you can join that are interactive and give us a chance to connect with other people (fight boredom and loneliness all at once!)

Even better, we now have access to all sorts of great apps to grow our spiritual health. I mentioned in a previous post two great meditation apps Head Space and the Oprah App. There’s also a few great Bible apps (I like Bible Hub) or Bible study plans (I like Jesus Calling and Holy Bible)  If you don’t read the Bible then find an app that supports your book of choice.

This is also a time for us to read.  Years ago I heard a quote from Charlie Jones that has stuck with me since then. He said,  “You will be the same person five years from now except for the people you meet and the books you read.” It reminded me that books can have a powerful impact on who we become.

Studies show that the average American reads 12 books a year. However, that number is impacted largely by avid readers. The most common answer was actually just 4 books a year. So, could this be a season that we go back to reading and impact who we become? Could simply reading a few extra books this season impact who we become in the long term?

Another way we can connect and grow our spiritual health is with journaling.  This can really make a difference during a season when we are already feeling angry, frustrated, and out of control. (Hey why do you think I started blogging again?)  It’s therapeutic! Sometimes I write for myself and sometimes I write to God.  In true transparency I usually write to God more when I’m angry.  Now, I know there are some people who are afraid to go to God when they are angry.  There’s lots of opinions about bringing your anger to God. Mine is that He knows me, He knows my weaknesses, He knows my strengths and He knows my frustration. He made me after all. I have full confidence He can handle me at my worst.

I feel fortunate that I had a strong faith in place before I had to exercise my resiliency muscle.  My faith didn’t waiver. If anything, it was during that season, when I felt so out of control and unsafe that my faith is what grounded me. There was a point where I just had release control. Start to live the saying, “Let go and let God.”  I had to come face to face with the fact there was very little in my control.

If you have read my book, “Making Cancer Fun: a parent’s guide” you might remember one of the last chapters where I share an excerpt from my journal during that time.  The book is about how I used fun as a coping tool during childhood cancer but this particular chapter is about having to come like face-to-face, on my bathroom floor, on my hands and knees in tears crying out,  “God, what if my kid doesn’t make it?” It was on a day when I had a reason to believe she had relapsed.  At that point there was not going to be a survival rate, a relapse would have meant focusing on extending her life not curing her cancer. In that moment I had to come to terms with how I would cope if she died. How would I get through something beyond devastating and couldn’t control. I can’t control cancer.  But the truth is, I can’t control what’s going to happen to her when she’d older either. I can’t control if she’s an adult and gets in a car accident or has a stroke long after cancer, right?

What’s difficult about this season in quarantine is we can’t control a virus or it’s impact. We can’t control whether our jobs are laying us off, whether businesses are going to be closing, whether a business is considered an essential business or not. Most of us are not the ones making state and public policies. We have no control on shutdowns, re-openings and CDC guidelines.

Some of us even feel very out of control in our home too. Trying to take care of kids, work from home while kids are home, keep a schedule when there is no schedule, have to homeschool/crisis school when we never even wanted to be a teacher, I mean even getting groceries and paper towels can make up feel powerless. Our “normal life” is gone, the comfort of our routines are gone, and with it goes our feelings of safety and security.

We also know that during seasons or crisis or disaster abuse goes up. Domestic violence and child abuse go up, because when people feel out of control, they look for “What can I control? Where can I feel a sense of control?”

Years ago during my life crisis I had to come to terms with, “Well there’s not a whole lot that I can control. I can trick myself and I can pretend I have control, but at the end of the day, I really don’t”; and none of us have control of this season. A season we don’t even see an end to.

Even today, my daughter said, “Mom, I just wish I knew when the end date was. I just wish I knew if I was  going back to school or not?  When is this going to be over?

I replied, “Em, I think that’s how all of us feel. We all want to know when, right?” It would be so much easier if we knew on this date, life will go back to “normal”, right?

But just like childhood cancer, I don’t think there will be a “normal” to go back to. We will all be changed because of this experience. And we will choose, each of us individually, will choose if we’re changed for the better or for the worst.

It’s when we become spiritually grounded, we understand and accept there’s so little we have control over.

Yet we are all connected. We are all made from energy and our energy is interconnected. We were created, from God, we come from one. We’re not individual people. We are a community. We are a whole world of interconnected people. This can be a beautiful season for us to grow in our faith, to be present to be with God, to ask difficult questions, and to have some difficult conversations.  

I wasn’t always ‘sure” of my faith. Remember how we mentioned books can change us? One book that changed me was Lee Strobel’s, “The Case for Christ”. I went through a season where I was raised in one religion, and as a young adult, really didn’t know what I actually believed.  It was a five-year period of questioning, studying different religions and faiths and when I stumbled across that book it changed me,

What I love most about the book is that Lee was an atheist when he started out. If you’re really questioning what you believe or what you don’t believe, this is must read. Especially if you are like I was and would think, “I don’t care what your book or Bible says. I want to know what history says. Secular facts that are available to me.” This book hit the mark.

Another book that I love is “Battlefield of the Mind”, by Joyce Meyer. Especially during this season it’s extra appropriate. We started the first day on this series talking about the battle is here in our mind, right? Not letting fear take over. I’ve actually read it multiple times in different seasons throughout my life.

The third book that has most impacted my spiritual life is, “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.  Another life-changing book for me.

Those are my top three and if you have a favorite one, comment, and share!

Again, you may not share my faith, and there maybe other books which are a better fit for you right now. That’s okay. The goal is to grow spiritually, regardless of where your get your connection with God.  Use this season to build those roots in your faith which allow you to stand strong during difficult times.

So later this week we will continue on in our quarantine cave…and this time we will be looking at the cave itself!  So comment, like, subscribe, share or whatever…just hope to see you back again ….thanks for being part of my world!

Photo by madison lavern on Unsplash