Tag Archives: fear

The Beautiful Breakdown

Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is to let ourselves break…

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If I’ve learned anything over the past few years it is this: the beauty and the ugly come together. One tangled knot and try as you might – you can’t deny the presence of either. So often we wait to live the lives we want until we have it together. Until our embarrassing weaknesses are controlled and easily kept away from the view of our life’s company.

Last year I found myself sitting on a mountainside deep in the upcountry of Burundi, Africa. The dirt was bright red and the smiles of those around me a bold white against their beautiful dark skin. We sat waiting until we could hear them coming in the distance. The villagers and I. Waiting for the faint pounding we felt coming up the mountain.

It grew louder and ever closer until the men broke through the bushes into the open space before us. Twenty or so men carrying barrel sized drums on their heads. The mountain pulsated with the rhythm of their drums as we watched. The beat was inescapable. As if I was wrapped up in it’s echo that surged through the hills below. It was all I could feel and think about. The deep thudding almost seemed as if it was coming from inside me. In that moment there was no getting away from the beat. Everything I felt and thought was permeated by the dominant pounding.

And I find myself craving the simplicity of that moment again and again. No matter what thoughts tried to creep up it was impossible to think them through the drums. Their pounding was the boss. I long for that overwhelming beat because so often I feel the music at war within myself.

A gracious tune of inspiration and wonder. The kind of music that accompanies majestic and playful things. And then the suspenseful melody rivaling it as fear’s soundtrack. And there is no beauty in this place.

Today I cried in the car on the way to write this. I was listening to Bethel’s new song “No Longer A Slave” and I could. not. contain. it.

The pain. The weariness. The shadows that make their ways into the sunniest of my days. Fear. It unhinges the deep peace I have been promised.

Lies have tricked us into believing that we cannot be great until we are whole.

But our offerings which are healing to others are often given from the midst of our own pain.

In the midst of our lack, we can offer a blessing. From our own brokeness we can offer strength to another. While we fight our own battles we can love with passion. The dreams and the fears – they are a messy lot. 

And you know what? I did a poll with my Baller Status crew and the thing they said held them back the most was fear. How do you move past it?

How do you walk through fear?

It is as simple as it is hard.

You just keep walking. On the days that make you freeze in your tracks. During the conversations that make the tears flow. Through the nights that grip you with their loneliness. You keep moving. Clawing your way along if you have to. Being dragged by the friends brave enough not to leave you behind. Even if it is only by an inch, you keep moving.

In the moments when the lies taunt you with the most dreaded of your thoughts. When the ugliest parts of you seem to tattoo themselves to you for all to see – keep walking.

Walk toward the mountain – toward the One whose beat can drown out all of your thoughts. That will overpower the negative emotions plaguing you. Tune your ear. Listen. Let yourself be wrapped up in it.

In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there is no darkness at all.

How do you stop the war of melodies in your mind?

Introduce a new beat. A stronger beat.

Even if you are lost beyond all measure. Not even sure which way is up anymore. Lean in. His song will carry you up the mountain – up to the high ground – when your own feet can’t carry you.

Just move. On the hard days when you betray and battle yourself to believe the best. Have hope. Listen for the beat.

For all of us up on the mountain or deep in the scratchy and dry valley – my prayer is that His pulse becomes our pulse. Just like on the African mountain. He will carry us. And with Him, we can walk through the fear. We just have to keep leaning in.

I’ve had a hard week. An embarrassing and raw realization of my own desperate need for a Savior. So here I am saying to you, “Hey guys, I’m a little broken.” And you know what? I see you in your ugliest places and I value you right there.

You and me? We may have seasons that leave us bruised and battered. But we will make it through and live lives of neon hope to the world around us. How do I know? Because we’ve got a God who makes broken bones dance.

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too much and still not enough

This is for those days and nights when we just aren’t sure we are getting it quite right. When we aren’t sure we are quite right.

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I am afraid I am too much to handle. I am afraid I am overbearing and my laugh may be annoying. I am afraid I will talk too much or make a joke at the wrong time. I am afraid my issues will be too heavy or my friends will get tired of my problems. What if people grow weary of dealing with my insecurities? I am afraid that my ambitions will be too big and my personality overwhelming. Sometimes I get off the phone and cringe at how strong I came across. What if people  smile and are nice, but are secretly relieved when I walk away? I wish that I could be cute & sweet. But I’m not very good at that. I always end up being intense. I am afraid that people will get tired of me.

I am afraid that I am not enough. I am afraid that I will disappoint people or be a dud. What if people expect something amazing and I don’t deliver? What if I am the wallflower at the party and get written off as boring? What if I have nothing to add to a conversation & offer no value to an idea? Sometimes I leave a meeting thinking through the things I wish I had said but was too scared to. I am afraid that I will be underwhelming. The girl everyone likes but no one needs. I am afraid that there is nothing significant or memorable about me.

And so, I binge back & forth between “too much” and “not enough”. When I feel overwhelming, I gear down. Soon I am afraid I have backed off too much. Time to jump back in the game. I evaluate my environment to see where I am on the pendulum. I am constantly battling this tension…back & forth I go. Overcompensating for my percieved “too muchness” or “not enoughness”.

Can’t come across too strong or too weak…because I am afraid of who I am.

The truth is I will never get it just right. Because I am not supposed to. I have flaws. Sometimes I am too much for some people and sometimes I am not enough for others. But so what? Fear robs me of truly sharing my life with others. My friends & family do want to walk with me even through my “too much” days. And they never look at me and see “not enough”. Your friends & family don’t either.

Most importantly, God says we are just right. We are fearfully & wonderfully made. Designed with a specific purpose and a divine composition to accomplish that purpose. He isn’t annoyed with our dreams, hopes, insecurities and weaknesses.

It is time to stop being afraid of who we are & who we are not. I’m going to try to embrace who I am and stop worrying about being intimidating. It is time to silence the voices & lies that accuse us of being “too much” and “not enough”. Time to be bold in the way we accept ourselves. Are you in?

 We won’t be perfect, but we will be honest. God can handle us. He can handle all of us.

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Hope Is The New Black

 Consider this your Monday morning pep talk. 

the new black

Hope: to expect with confidence (Merriam Webster)

We have each felt it. All of humanity since the creation of dreams. Hope. It elevates and stabs simultaneously. The desire for something to come. The expectation of an unfulfilled promise or destiny. Or perhaps simply a wish. Despite the size or seeming significance, our lives somehow hang in the balance of this anticipation of the things we are waiting for.

The belief that we are made for SOMETHING BIGGER. Something bigger than this pain, this fleeting joy, this small thinking and this box which can no longer hold all the parts of us. Something meaningful that makes a difference and does a small part to change the world. We hope that there is more to our lives than where we are right now.

We hope our dreams were really worth risking on. That we won’t be left with bitterness in one hand and a stack of bounced checks in the other. That love would really last and our imaginations would craft beautiful, safe places for us. That despite the opposition, all of our shots would be a bullseye. 

Hope goes with everything. It’s the new black. —> click to tweet

If we are going to really expect good things with confidence then we have to grab onto hope with both hands. An all in kind of commitment.

Just like our ambitions, we have to invest in hope.

Investing in hope will cost you. It will cost you the recurring dread, the excuses you replay, and your list of failures. Hope will require you give up your fear of failing and all the ways you justify your wounds. Investing in hope will cost you all of your mediocre living.

There are the obvious upsides to hope.

Some days hope is like a peppy Ellie Goulding song that makes you want to roll down your windows and drive until you land in a new city. A place that has been waiting for you to arrive since it was built. A place that you somehow intuitively know your way around in already. Hope makes us want to jump ’cause we believe where we land is gonna be better.

There are also painful sides to hope.

In fact, hope hurts. 

A friend of mine recently lost her daughter. She isn’t trying to conquer the world right now, she is just trying wake up in the morning and somehow stumble through the day without breaking too badly before nightfall. With heartache this heavy, her hope is to be able to breathe. To expect with confidence that someday, the weight will be lighter and easier to manage.

Hope is just like the color black. It goes with everything. The joyful weddings and the crushing funerals. Hope is always the best accessory regardless the scenario.

Situations, projections and fears don’t matter. If you feel like the wicked witch or the fairest of them all – you can put on hope. It looks good on you. Hope brings out the best parts of who you were meant to be and calls you out of all your excuses.

One of my favorite Bible verses says, “Those who hope in the Lord will not be disappointed.” (Psalm 25:3)

Whether this Monday finds you fist-bumping at all the possibilities or drenched in self-doubt…it doesn’t really matter. Those things ebb and flow. Hope doesn’t. Hope is the rock, the stability, the center.

Go ahead. Invest in it. Hope is the new black.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, something bigger, Uncategorized, Whimsy

I’m sorry, did you say cancer? And thoughts on “getting over it”

I asked the nurse practitioner what it could be. She replied, “Well, it could be nothing. Or it could be cancer.” And this is what I learned…

get over it real

 

 

I’ve had a myth in my head for far too long. A myth that said when things get hard – unbearable even – you have to just keep moving and eventually it will pass. Head down, hand to the plow…keep moving. Get past this and it will be okay on the other side.

Advice was a lot easier to give when I was in my early 20s.

“You’ve just got to get over it.”  That was usually my advice. Maybe because I thought time was supposed to heal everything just like the Hallmark cards prophesied. Skimming past a situation with your fingers crossed that it won’t be too tragic is a solution. Get over it. Skip it and pray it never catches up to you.

As I’ve gotten older I have realized the faultiness of my advice. It seems life’s arm has gotten stronger and the curveballs it throws are harder and leave bigger marks. There are some things we can’t just get over.

Last week I started having unusual symptoms. I went to the doctor who was equally concerned. Tests were scheduled for this week. I was told that it could be cancer. Maybe other things were said, but that was pretty much all I heard.

For the next five days I had to try and live life as usual until test results came back in. I realize that for many people dealing with illnesses waiting five days isn’t too bad, but for me it was almost unbearable. Waiting to find out if you have a tumor or not hangs over each minute no matter how hard you try not to think about it.

By the time Saturday morning rolled around I discovered that I had two choices. I could go on, pushing through my days acting like everything was okay. Ignore the problem and it will go away. Ignore the thought patterns and eventually they will blur into everyday thoughts. I could wait until the situation changed and then my fear would subside.

I could learn how to cope like this. I could “get over it”. 

Or I could walk through it. Acknowledge the moments my heart started to panic and resist the urge to drown myself with aimless distractions. Stop hiding from the distress that surfaced with every quiet moment. Ask the hard questions. Throw punches at Jesus for bringing me to a place that didn’t feel safe.

I wrestled with myself, my imagination and the beliefs I desperately wanted to cling to. In the end I had a deep internal peace. Whatever the lab results told me, I was going to be okay. Tumor or no tumor, I decided I wouldn’t let fear dictate how I lived.

On Tuesday I got the tests back. It was not cancer.

There could have been another outcome. I could have just “gotten over it”. Shoved all the flaring emotions under the bed. Taking a deep breath when the news came in that I was fine. Then resume business as usual, keeping the debris of my heart hidden beneath the bed. Hoping it doesn’t slide out when the next hurdle in life comes.

And that is what happens when we try to get over it. It is out of sight but never quite gone. Slowly making its way back into the middle of our lives when we aren’t looking. Jumping at us whenever the next situation triggers it.

This is the myth so many of us believe when it comes to moving past our pain and weakness.

We stuff every moment with business or mind-numbing media. Some choose to fill their glasses with elixirs to make them forget and others laugh on cue – God forbid anyone see them cry. We work like puppets praying that someday – hopefully soon – we will wake up and it will be gone. All the pain, fear and insecurity.

Maybe one day we will wake up to realize we are no longer being hunted by the shadows of our past. But it has been my experience that things are rarely “gotten over”. They are ignored and avoided, but never conquered.

Sometimes the best way to get over something, is to just go through it. —> click to tweet

I wonder what would happen if we chose to just walk straight through our fires. If we quit trying to tame our pain into bitesize pieces that we have to digest for the rest of our lives. Sometimes our mountains we face just can’t be ignored anymore. We’ve got to cross those cliffs and walk through the forests. Cause there is no getting over something like this.

There is no getting over your breakup, your loss, your abuse, your addiction, your diagnosis or your shame.

There is just getting through it.

Acknowledging instead of ignoring. Looking at the photos, feeling the pain. Laying on the cold tile ’cause there is no easy recovery from a blow like this. Crying the tears and writing out the words your heart utters silently inside. Letting ourselves grieve the things we have lost or the fear of what may be. Going there bravely when everything in us screams to run away.

We don’t sit down or give up. We don’t walk around it. We simply walk through it – asking God to carry us when we are past the point of our own strength.

Look around you, friend. I’m not sure where your feet are standing at the moment. I don’t know what you are needing to walk through right now.

But you are destined for good places. Beautiful things are ahead for you – the kind that take your breath away for all the right reasons. Take heart friends. You can get through this.

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May 5, 2014 · 12:09 am

Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner

Sometimes late at night, this is what I know.

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This blog is not serving it’s purpose if I am ever anything but honest.  Many of your lives are different from mine – politically, romantically, geographically and in our religious views. I really enjoy that about this space and try to mindful of that every time I sit down to type.

This isn’t a “Christian” blog but there are moments when I have to be honest about my faith. Because it is my story. My rock.

I’ve shared pretty openly on here my struggle with fear. Perhaps it sounds silly and even embarassing to admit sometimes. Hey, guess what? I don’t have it all together. I am neither impressive nor perfect.

But, I’m not alone. Seems to me that fear is something all too familiar across humanity. The dread and inexplicable heaviness of a million possibilities. Our imaginations at their worst.

These past few days I have had to really fight this one out. I found out some information that sent me into an internal tailspin. A health risk I just became aware of. I googled all about it. (By the way, NEVER EVER Google anything unless you want to get totally freaked out. Maybe state capitols are okay, but nothing else.).

And Google gave me all kinds of information and stories. Mind you these are rare cases, but each one brought new weight. I added up statistics. There is a .5% chance that we would have this health issue.

Logic would point out that we have a 99.5% chance of NOT having it, but fear rubs the .5% in my face. All I could imagine was that .5%. What it would feel like or how it would happen?

My life is surrounded by a million things to be fearful of. Adoption issues, finances, health, is Russia going to annex Texas next? So many things…

Honestly, I don’t usually let these things bother me. However there are days when I have my guard down and begin to let my mind wonder in all the wrong ways.

Tonight it got to be more than I could take. I went into my bathroom and prayed. I told God that I was not leaving until I felt His presence. I was not getting out until I’d heard Jesus speak to me about this. No, I’m not talking about anything weird or crazy. It’s more an unexplainable peace and calm. Words that run through my mind, but they are not my own thoughts. A sense of Him with me.

I stood there. Nothing. I stood longer. Even longer. Still nothing but me and cold bathroom tiles.

Then, without any warning I began to cry. Not a single tear down the face. A deep, bellowing kind of cry that  told of the things I’d been carrying for so long. This wasn’t about the .5%, it was about something much deeper. I leaned on the wall and sobbed. I couldn’t hold it in if I tried. The poison had to come out. All of it. So I cried some more.

Then came the voice I so desperately needed to hear. More like a whisper rolling through my mind. ” It’s okay baby girl. Lean on me and let’s cry it out“. I lost it. Rolling through my mind was every scene I dreaded, every conversation that haunted me and possibility of “what if” that froze my joy. And out of my soul came the deepest sobs.

How long I stood there with my hot tears I don’t know. I didn’t care. Over and over in my mind I heard “It’s okay, baby. I’ve got this. Don’t worry baby girl…”.

Time seemed to stand still as my tears dried up. I felt my spirit stretching again – fear had shoved it in the corner for far too long. I recalled all the promises I believe that God has given me along my journey and chose to trust that the One who made the promise is the One who keeps the promise.

I don’t know all of your stories or what has bullied you into a corner. Maybe its fear like me. Maybe an abusive history, depression, loneliness, deep insecurity or a relationship on the brink. I don’t know what corner you are in or how long its been your home.

Thing is, everyone I know has a corner but no one belongs there.

Sometimes on nights like tonight we need to stop dragging around the shadow of our bully. We’ve got to look it in the eyes, see it for all it is and then slowly -through our tears- smile. Cause we remember that corners are too small for us. No matter how big or ugly this bully is, it’s no match for our Maker. He didn’t make us for corners.

Whether the pain is reality or something that taunts us from a million “what if’s”, we weren’t made to be controlled by it.

Go ahead. Let the tears come and get the poison out.

There is something in us that needs to shout that we are alive and we aren’t giving up. We won’t be put in our corners any longer. —> click to tweet

Interestingly enough, Passover begins tonight. It is the holiday which celebrates when God brought His people out of  3,000 years of captivity. Thankfully, He has never stopped setting His people free. 

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Filed under Faith, My Intangible Cage, something bigger, Uncategorized

Be Fully Seen

I’ve never really had an addiction to anything until Instagram came along. That is where I found Alisha Sommers whose pictures and captions draw me in every time. She is the coolest lady , just check out her bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. Plus, I have a total crush on her hair. So, when I was thinking through guest posts for An Uncomfortable January, I knew she would provide a very vulnerable insight about getting outside of our comfort zones. And that is what this series is about – being real with ourselves and taking risks. Alisha is taking us into the risk of being seen. So, go on and read it if you are feeling risky. 

befullyseen

2013 was a transformative year for me. I learned so much about what I want in life, what my true values are, and how I want to move about in this world. I chose the word “illuminate.” I wanted to do things that lift up my soul and show others that there was another way to live if they really wanted to. But I knew the only way to do that was to fully embrace who I was becoming. So I dug deep to rediscover my heart’s desires and learn how to honor the gifts and talents given to me. As I began to write more, share more, and connect with more people, I got more attention. And I got more uncomfortable. Here I was living out this word “illuminate” and feeling uncomfortable with shining. Which meant that I was not living as fully as I wanted.

I am that woman who tilts her head down when someone makes eye contact with her as she walks down the street. When I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know well, I will not hold their gaze for more than 3 seconds. I suppose it is out of the fear that the old saying is true: That my eyes are the window to my sould and that when you look at me – look into me – you will see everything. I can no longer hide. Yet this is how we truly connect with one another. It is why new lovers lean in across the table. It is why, when I need my children to listen to me, I get down on their level – I want to look into their eyes. But it is scary, right? It is scary because it means that I might face rejection. Just stepping outside of the door every day and choosing to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is so uncomfortable. But I choose to do it every day. So many of us do.

This year I knew that I wanted to really embody the rediscovered me that was ready to move forward in her life. This year is all about the integration of what I believe to be true about myself and the world and finally acting upon it. Late last year, when Elizabeth asked me to contribute to this series, I knew that my challenge was to look people in the eye. Because looking people in the eye is not just about being polite or letting them know that I am paying attention to them. It is also about me being okay with being fully seen. It is about me owning my beliefs and values and standing tall in them. It is about allowing myself to be fully seen and walking with that uncomfortable feeling, while trusting that I would still be loved and accepted.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner with a friend who told me about her conscious effort to look people in the eye as she interacted with them throughout her day. She mentioned an afternoon when she saw a panhandler on the side of the street and while she did not have any money to give him, what she did give him was eye contact and a smile. She could have looked away and pretended not to see him like most of us do – like I do. Instead she chose to see him. She said there was just something about that brief moment they shared, separated by concrete and steel and glass, that moved her. I am sure it touched him too.

When we really choose to see people, we remember they are human. We see their essence. We feel a little more compassion. We feel a little more love. When I choose to let you see me, I give you the opportunity to love me too. And Love – that’s something we could all use a little more of.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

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Processed with VSCOcamAlisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course, and a guide in the upcoming writing collective, Our Word. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

When Your Dreams Give You Wedgies

In case you can’t tell from the title of this post, we are smack dab in the middle of An Uncomfortable January. Getting real about dreaming, risking and getting out of our comfort zones in 2014. Earlier this week I talked about the risk of staying, and today my friend Sara is telling us about the risk of leaving. Cause she’s risky like that in 2014.

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When Liz asked me to guest post for An Uncomfortable January I thought, “Well this should be easy. My whole life feels uncomfortable these days.” Not in a woe-is-me kind of way, but more of a nothing is too certain or secure kind of way.”

I’m 24 years old. I got married 18 months ago. Around the same time I moved to Waco, Texas to attend a church planting school and will head out to Salt Lake City, Utah, with a handful of friends sometime next year to plant said church.

I just quit my stable job as a nanny, to pursue writing full time with a new publication here in Waco that I really believe in. So taking a pay cut with no indication of if or when it will increase is a tad uncomfortable, also.

I guess you should know before we move forward that I have some contradictory characteristics about me. Sometimes I’m excited about all that lies ahead, and other times I’m terrified. I’m a big dreamer, but I’m often fearful of what the future holds. I’m a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie, but I’m afraid of heights. There always seems to be an introvert and an extrovert fighting inside of me.

The dichotomous heart of mine is a discomfort factory – like having a never-ending emotional wedgie. It takes exposing my discomfort and being willing to dig deep to relieve it, no matter who’s watching, if I want to deal with it. (TMI with the wedgie illustration? It seemed fitting to use an analogy that may also cause some discomfort to you. We’re in this together, right?)

I realized over the holidays what I’m truly fearful of when I think about my future though: I have a deep fear of missing out or being left out when it comes to my family.

Maybe it’s a hint of middle child syndrome (I’m the second born of three girls). Maybe it’s the fact that both my sisters are getting married this year (I know, my poor dad), and I can see their lives settling in Texas as I see on the horizon that mine will take me far, far away.

I’m fearful, as Noland and I dream of being parents one day, of raising a family far away from my own parents. I’m fearful of my sisters’ kids growing up together and never really knowing mine. I’m fearful of everyone getting used to it and no longer feeling like something is missing if we aren’t there. I’m fearful of disappointing them by missing things. I’m fearful of being disappointed in God for asking me to go so far away.

Then I wrestle with my selfishness. Am I acting like a child, kicking and screaming at the idea of being obedient to what God has called us to do? Is it ok for me to feel this way and grieve leaving my family behind? How do I find the place of peace, trust, and joy in God’s presence, no matter my uncomfortable and uncertain circumstances?

I’m learning that the “in His presence” part is the answer. I laugh at the irony that I spent all of last year memorizing and praying Psalm 16, and I still can’t seem to fully grasp its truth…

Truth that the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant paces, and that I have a delightful inheritance. Truth that because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Truth that He makes known to me the path of life, and in His presence there is fullness of joy.

I’m learning that maybe the antidote for being uncomfortable in my circumstances is to speak truth boldly and confidently right back into them, even when it causes me discomfort. And truthfully, the more I embrace the uncomfortable reality of being obedient to follow Jesus, the more I don’t really ever want to be comfortable.

These are the places I’m digging deep to trust God that He knows what He’s doing, and as a result He’s digging a deep well in me. A well that He intends to fill, because His word and His promises never come back void.

So this month, I’m starting my days by waking up and picking my emotional wedgies. I’m confessing that no person, not even my family or husband can fill the places in my heart that God can, which means nothing is worth holding onto at the expense of not following Him.

I’m staring discomfort in the face and saying, “Thank you , God, for this season of my life. Thank you that you are my portion and you hold my lot, so I don’t have to. No fear of what may or may not happen will overtake me, because I am yours, and you’re the God of the impossible, so I’m going to expect to do the impossible with you. Following your lead is worth everything I leave behind, because it is only in your presence that I find fullness of joy. So I’ll stay in your presence, wherever it goes, knowing this is the only place I will ever feel fully alive.”

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sisters-1for real Sarah is a journalist and a blogger – although she prefers the overarching term   “storyteller.” She is also a church planter, wife, sister, daughter and really great eater of all things chocolate. She loves live music, to the point that she almost did at a music festival once and had to be rescued by a truck full of hippies. If she could trade all her talents for just one that she doesn’t have, she’d become a broadway star. She is also her grandmother’s namesake, which is one of her favorite things about herself. Check out her blog Wo/ander and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014