Fear: lean into it!

IMG_9762Darkness
Death.
Isolation.

These are things we fear.
They grip, paralyze and debilitate.

Fear can create shame and embarrassment. We tell ourselves “get it together” and yet the fear consumes. We feel frustrated and withdraw.  We are frustrated when that doesn’t make the fear go away.

I believe everyone has something they fear. It might be creepy, crawly critters or a fear that comes from a deep trauma of the past.  When it consumes, it is truly larger than life. It’s terrifying and when we are in its’ grip, there is little else we can think of or do.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

As I read that verse, I have struggled trying to understand how simple the command, “do not fear” appears. It’s not something I can turn off when it hits. Fear makes me feel small and helpless.  As I’ve been recently learning more about walking with God, I’m realizing that His promises are best understood in the context of our relationship with Him.

Lean in

“Walk with God”. What does that really mean? Is it yelling for help in the midst of a crisis or is it a leisurely walk in times of calm? It’s both. God is calling you to immerse yourself in His presence.  Some of the ways to walk with God are:

  • Trust in God’s character – turn your self-sufficiency into God dependence
  • Engage in active ministry
  • Study the Word: daily reading, intentional study
  • Seek the Holy Spirit’s direction: Stillness, praying for specific direction
  • Pray specifically
  • Share with Christian community
  • Proclaim and praise God’s work in you life

He wants you to lean into Him.  It is then that He can give you the strength you need.

Logical versus illogical fear

It’s important to step back and analyze whether you are facing a logical or illogical fear. Logical fear is being afraid of something that is real and can hurt or destroy. Illogical fear is a distortion and makes you afraid of something that actually cannot hurt you.  There is no basis for that fear. It may have surfaced due to something that happened in the past. In the case of logical fear, you may need to get help and protect yourself.  With illogical fear, you will need to check why you are afraid and see what you really are afraid of. You may need help processing that.

Turn your fear into faith

Fear will come. It will consume.  The only way you can overcome illogical fear is to face it. If you step into the darkness while leaning on God, you can trust Him to take you through it, He will give you strength, resources and the people you need to overcome the fear.  Suddenly, the cloud of darkness will lift and you will feel yourself stepping forward. You will  realize that this thing you are afraid of has no power over you. It will only happen as you lean in, rest in Jesus and truly believe that He will carry you. It’s then you are free! Fear will lose its hold on you.

You will be stronger. Fear is no longer your enemy. Trust in the very one who turns darkness to light.

Exercise faith.
Lean in.
Step into your fear. He is greater!

Note: You may need to see your doctor or therapist to help overcome and manage issues related to anxiety and fear.

Yes, you can fly!

IMG_9692In his excitement, Jayden fumbled with the strings of his cape. This small piece of fabric made him Superman! He climbed up on a stool and jumped. In that moment, both he and his mother knew the truth.  Jayden could fly. With renewed boldness, he pushed the stool to the table, climbed up and then he jumped. It was now proven. Jayden could fly. He continued to increase the height until he climbed a little too high and fell. At that point, Jayden faced a difficult decision.  He had decide whether he should continue to fly or whether it was time to hang up the cape.

I’ve had that same euphoria Jayden experienced when I felt that I, too, could fly. It wasn’t in a literal sense, but it was a time when everything came together and I felt life was great! Everything was within reach. Things were working out and I could expand and try newer and bigger things. But, eventually, I, like Jayden, discovered that not every jump results in success. I fell. I hurt. I faced a choice about how I would handle that.

I had the choice to stay low, and let my wounds get the best of me or I could turn my focus to God and allow Him lift me up. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31.  I learned a few tips about how to rise above and make it through hard times.

4 ways to soar above difficulties:

1.  Obtain an unbiased perspective

An unbiased perspective about your situation will help bring clarity to what you are facing. It’s easy to lose hope when circumstances feel overwhelming and you are hurting. Things can become distorted and confusing. It’s possible you feel completely alone. You may need someone to help you look at the facts. It’s possible there are solutions that you cannot see. Your situation is much more or less difficult than you are aware. A third-party who is not emotionally involved may guide you to helpful insight, resources and support.

2. Get out of “the swamp”

When we allow ourselves to get into the swamp, we lose both life and vitality. Things may feel dark and dismal. We get stuck emotionally and often spiritually. It’s a place where the enemy encloses you in darkness, causing you to lose hope and feel despair. It’s a confusing and hurtful place. In that place, we don’t think we will ever fly again. You may need help to get out of this. Talk to someone, spend time in prayer, you may even need to see your doctor if things get too low. When you are in “the swamp”, the people in your life feel it. They hurt with you and they feel the darkness. They want to help you.  Let them. Help yourself by getting help. It’s not a place you want to stay for very long.

3. Soar on His wings 

As you seek God for His help and then allow Him to carry you, you will be able to rise above the difficulties you are facing. The circumstances may not change, but you will find strength and hope. God knows your pain. He cares deeply. He is wanting to give you all you need to endure the pain. As you seek Him, He will give you comfort through scripture, bring you people to care for you and change the way you see the situation. Instead of utter darkness, you will be able to see some light.

4. Immerse yourself in community and prayer 

Prayer is a powerful way of giving things to God. It can take place in solitude, through writing or through a community. Seek the Holy Spirit about how you should pray. Let Him know how you feel and ask Him to help you soar. If you are low, tell Him and ask His help. He wants to walk with you through this and can do that as you pray and listen to Him. Read the Bible and seek words of comfort and direction. Your pain can be completely overwhelming and paralyzing. There are times where our “groaning is too deep for words”. God knows that. There are people who want to pray for you and love you through this time. They can only do that as you share with them how they can. You are not alone. Someone in your life cares. God cares most.

The swamp beckons.
It need not consume you.
Rise up and soar.
You can because He is with you.

Does being thankful for tough stuff really help?

IMG_0207Thankfulness seems so simple.  You do something nice for someone and then they say thank you. You do likewise. It’s how things are supposed to be. However, we all know that is often not the case. If I’m going to do something for someone, I know that I might not be thanked.  That is a how it often is.  Just recently, I helped someone out.  It was a small thing. I kind of did it more for the program he was in more than him specifically, but he expressed his deep gratitude and it caught me a bit off guard as I didn’t really expect it.   Thankfulness is often unexpected.

Expressing gratitude makes sense in everyday life.  But, is it necessary to express thanks for adversity in our life? I believe in God and I know that He can intervene and change things. I know that for reasons known to Him alone, He often does not. I also know that sometimes the impact of humanity and others’ wrongdoings affect me. Someone’s bad choices may result in my pain.  Is it right in those circumstances to actually be thankful?

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.… “ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1. Thankfulness is not giving up.  It can seem weak to express gratitude for pain. Isn’t that something that a person who is giving up would do? Releasing the difficulty we cannot change into the hands of someone who can is an exercise of great wisdom. It’s actually much harder to express thankfulness and give our pain to God, than it is to try to carry it ourselves. The effort to pass it over means acknowledging that there is a bigger picture and it requires letting go.  This is a sign of great strength, not weakness.

2. Thankfulness releases me of negativity.  It’s so easy to allow difficulties in our life to make us negative. If someone has hurt us, we can ponder about the situation until we become incredibly bitter.  Why would we be thankful for difficulties and hurts? In and of ourselves, we wouldn’t; we don’t know how!  However, when we seek God, and we ask Him to help us be thankful for our circumstances – and when we begin to pray for those who have hurt us, the negativity dissipates.  Often, in its’ place, there is sympathy. We begin to see them differently and are sad for the choices they have made.  It frees us when we are thankful.

3. Thankfulness gives strength.  As we release our pain to God, and express thankfulness, He is able to give us strength. He is free to work and this often opens the door to the future. Our hope in Christ enables us to see things that we wouldn’t able to as when we are angry and bitter. God wants to be our everything. He can only do that when we fully rest in Him.

4. Thankfulness changes my perspective, not my situation. The act of being thankful is often not the happy ending to a fairytale. It’s the beginning of accepting that things are not the way they are supposed to be but that God can do something deep within us and even the people around us as we have a spirit of gratitude. The world looks brighter when we have hope. We approach things differently.

This is a daily learning for me. It’s not something we arrive at. I’ve personally experienced drastic changes in my worldview when I stopped and became thankful for adversity in my life. Bob Shank recently said “there is not a leader that I personally respect that has not been deeply betrayed at some point in their life.” His words stunned me. Really? Deep betrayal had enabled many to become leaders of great integrity and influence. They clearly were thankful for the adversity they had experienced.  They used it as a foundation for their futures. Their world changed, they became better leaders because they allowed something very difficult to make them stronger and better people.

That is what being thankful can do. It’s the bigger picture. It’s what I cannot see. It’s allowing God to do a deep work within me and ultimately, help me to become what I’m intended.

Have you ever wanted to tell God, “enough!”?

IMG_0849“Just stop! I get it!” were thoughts in my head at midnight as we drove home from the hospital.  Sometimes life is hard, and then it seems to get unnecessarily more difficult.  It is during times like that I find myself imagining that God kind of forgot about me – or at least He miscalculated the threshold of my capacity to handle tough stuff.

The weekend started off with wonderful plans to spend time with family and friends. Our daughter was returning from a school trip, some of my family were visiting and a big easter meal was planned.

He knows. 

Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Our son, Brett, got very ill. He was so sick we called an ambulance. During the course of the weekend, he received several very different diagnosis, and the result was an infection that will take time to heal.  I, of course, did not know that in the midst of watching him suffer. I kept reminding God that he had been through enough. God reminded me that He knew that.

He rebuilds. 

In the days that followed, God filled me with a powerful sense of His presence. I saw God at work through people who have been caring and showing His love to our family. God showed His love to me through the richness of His presence. He reminded me this morning, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with loving kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt.” Jeremiah 31:3.

You see, He knows.
He knows all of it.
Every stress,
every hurt,
every loss and every disappointment.

He is enough.

On that Saturday night, when I said to God, “enough is enough!“, He knew exactly what I meant. However, He also knew that He was still enough for me and that all I needed to do was fully rest in Him.  He is not done with me. He wants to be everything to me.

I sometimes think hardship means hanging in there until things turn around and then I will on the straight-away.  That isn’t quite how God does it. When the valley is deep, He is there, and when it is deeper, He is STILL there!  He is my everything.  He does know what I can handle and He will stay with me all the way through.

So, for today, I simply thank Him for His healing hand and for showing me that He is my everything and that we have one of the most amazing communities around us.  That is the gift for today.  Tomorrow, He will show me more.  I simply need to listen.

IMG_0081Meanwhile, Brett’s dog, Jessi, is driving me crazy. She’s confused, hurt and attached to me while she wonders what happened to her beloved Brett.

6 ways to manage your stress

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Don’t be afraid, because I am with you. Don’t be intimidated; I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will support you with my hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Life is incredibly overwhelming at times. Several years ago, we listed our house and were planning to move. We were quite surprised at how quickly our house sold. We made plans to make a major move. We found a new place and everything began to come together. The buyers of our home had prequalified for financing.  Then, the day before the money exchanged hands, there was a problem with their financing and the deal fell through. We had movers booked, a new place in another city and now our house was not sold.

We didn’t know what to do. So many things were already in play. Should we trust God and move forward or try to reverse the entire process? We decided to carry on. The next weeks were incredibly stressful. The house finally did sell but for lower than it should have. We did not have finances to carry two homes and decided we needed to cut our losses. I remember the stress and anxiety I felt. The symptoms were showing themselves in a physical way. I felt so stressed at times and I wondered why I felt that way when I had deep trust in God and we had been so sure of His direction. I knew He would care for me and yet, I couldn’t see how things would all work out. Over the next few weeks and months, things managed to work themselves out. It was not easy, but God was faithful through it. We were very aware of His provision and faithfulness.  I realized that as I trusted God even when I could not see the way through, my physical symptoms began to subside.  From that point on, I began to pay close attention to my stress level.  I used these indicators as warning signs and then took necessary steps to manage them.

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?

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Ways to cope when the anxiety and stress become consuming

  1. Identify the areas that are causing you stress. Stress can feel so overwhelming that you may not even know where it is coming from. Take a few minutes and write out the key areas in your life that feel the most intense and stressful for you. It often is more than one thing.
  2. Think about ways that you can manage your situation. Can you schedule things differently? Are you able to delegate some responsibilities? Sometimes, when we are under great stress, we focus on something very minor and become poor planners. This can only serve to magnify the stress we are facing.
  3. If you are showing signs of physical symptoms of stress, see your doctor.
  4. If you are feeling overwhelmed emotionally, see a psychologist. Therapists help people navigate through difficult issues and offer tools to manage stress and anxiety levels.
  5. Don’t walk alone. Immerse yourself in prayer and scripture:
    1. Spend daily time in the Bible.
    2. Sign up for and read devotionals that are inspiring for you.
    3. Release your anxieties. Write out the things that concern you and then pray through each one and give it to God.
    4. Keep a journal and write out your prayers and the answers.
    5. Watch God increase the answers to your prayers by asking the Holy Spirit what to specifically pray for. Write those things down and then ask others to join you in praying for them. It’s amazing what He will do!
  6. Keep your heart filled with thankfulness. This is immensely challenging and difficult, but you will notice a complete change in your stress level as you thank God for the pain and difficulty you are going through. He intimately knows how difficult this is and He will use this in your life to strengthen you and help you make the most of this stressful and difficult time in your life

Stress symptoms by Mayo Clinic.  Anxiety symptoms by Web MD

There is hope. Always.

IMG_3088Heavy fog is often accompanied by an eerie presence. It’s natural to feel alone and afraid. One cannot see the dangers that lurk and you pay closer attention to everything around you.

Sometimes our lives are encased in fog. We may not know where we are going and how we will get there. Bob Shank once said, “The fog is one of the means God uses to see if we are serious about trusting Him”. God already knows our past, present and future. He wants to guide us every step, to show us what to pray for and how to walk when visibility is limited. I like to see fog as a reminder that Jesus is “my everything”! That He blankets and covers me completely with His presence and wants to make known to me the beautiful mystery of His will in my life.  He says He will fulfill it when the time is right.

He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:9-10

My family has recently gone through a very difficult circumstance. We were unsure of what to do and how to handle it. We found ourselves encased in fog and decided to seek the Lord. He made His presence very real to us and carried us through that time. Eventually, the fog lifted and we were incredibly thankful for how close and real God had been to us during that time.

If we embrace the fog as a place of learning and being loved, it has purpose and meaning. It becomes a special place. And we can hold on to the promise, that being in Christ, we now have the Light of Life to guide us through dark times. It’s our choice to trust Him and walk closely with Him, the Light, or to be anxious and resist the darkness on our own. The fog is no longer frightening when you walk with the one who desires to be “your everything”.

Previously posted.

Market a lifestyle

IMG_1825Let’s pretend that you have a store. It’s filled with one thing. The thing you love most. I know that feels impossible, but that is ok. I’m sure if you think for a little while you could think of that one thing.

Now, the harder part. Only one person will come into that store to buy that one thing. Close your eyes and imagine who that is. Begin to describe that person. It will come to you as you begin to think of that one thing you want that one person to buy. You never wanted to admit it, but there is a particular book for little girls that you just love. It’s featured in your store.

Your client is Jenn, she is the mother of a little girl, Sophia.  Jenn is the one who will buy the book and read it to her little girl.  She’s a working mom who is 29. She values time with her daughter, and wants to create memories with the books she buys for her little girl.

You may think you sell books for children, but really, you are marketing a lifestyle!  If you keep thinking about Jenn and Sophia, you will begin to think about Jenn’s world.  Who are her friends? What experience can you create in your store or even in your social media pictures that would make her share it with her friends.  Do they have little boys that would love to experience valuable time with their mother’s friends and their little children?

I would like to share with you just few tips on how you can get that one person’s attention to purchase that one thing you market.

1. Think about that person in everything you create and offer. What would be of interest to them on Facebook, in Instagram, on Twitter?  If they were on Snapchat, would your coupon be interesting enough that they would want to share it on their story?

2. Create urgency. You only have two books left and one more day at the discounted rate. If they share it with 3 people, they qualify for a give-away. Let your audience know that today is the best day for them to make their purchase.

3. Mimic their lifestyle in your imagery. If they love to have coffee, post pictures of your books in a coffee shop.  Tell interesting stories that relate to the lifestyle that is of interest. She’s ambitious, hardworking, she loves to spend time with her loved ones. Appeal to her interests.  She will like your pictures, share your photos and tell her friends.

4. Where does she live? You may live far away from the people you want to market to or maybe your product is only available online. You can still market the lifestyle of your product in other cities, provinces, states and countries.  Use hashtags wisely. You can feel close if you get the lifestyle right.

5. Follow others. You will never learn everything that you need to know. Things change too fast.  Read, research, and pay attention to what others are doing.  Feature those you like in your feeds. It shows that you are bold, courageous and confident.  They will follow you back.  Perhaps you could peer market with them. Go to together on a give-away.

6. Make great use of give-aways. Everyone loves to tell others about free stuff! That is the best way for you to get your audience to promote you.  It won’t cost you very much and it will get people talking.

7. Repeat what works.  Review everything you have ever done that worked REALLY well. Now, repeat it and think about how you could replicate it in other ways. Never give up what works. Think of more ways for it to work.

This marketing concept is about connecting people with what they love. Market and promote a lifestyle and then make sure you are super clear and where and how people can get the product you offer.  They really do want to know and they want to tell others. Make it simple for them.

The soul awakens

IMG_0581I prayed for and loved someone who went through very difficult time. God healed her from despair and deep inner pain. She truly was a captive set free. This story reflects the journey from anguish to joy.  You may be experiencing something similar. There is hope. 

Rejection.
Pain.
Brokenness.

Her soul screamed for freedom.
The darkness enclosed.
It was suffocating.
Anger and fear penetrated the very core of her being.
She was a prisoner, held captives by chains. She hated it.
The inner person screamed, lashed out, and was desperate for help.
The pain was so intense. How could one let others in?

The deepest craving of her soul cried out.
The desire to love and be loved mocked her.
Preparation for the inevitable became a necessity.
Always. Rejection. Pain would strike.
In desperation, she aligned with those she thought understood.
Always, they would turn on her because, quite simply,
hurt people hurt.

Freedom seemed unattainable. Devastation, the norm.

There came a day, the devastation and pain tore into the deepest part of her.
Hope was no more.
Grief and anguish was uncontainable.
Utter and complete brokenness.

In the darkest hour, God provided an angel of mercy.
Someone who loved. Enough.
She was like a skilled surgeon, who began the journey of healing.
While the angel did what God called her to do, others interceded and mostly, they loved.

The captive became free,
the broken heart healed, the darkness released.
A crown of beauty, oil of joy and a garment of praise
emanated from her.

The soul awakened.
Light shone. Eyes opened to truth. Desires changed.
Distortions shattered.
Pain was no longer a solace. She stepped into and embraced her strength.

Love was restored.
Rejection was anticipated no more.
It was a love that believed.
Forgiveness, reconciliation liberated her soul.

Healing, she’s becoming who she was created to be.
She is chosen, loved, cherished.
It’s a calling. She is an angel who now can love.

Read more: Isaiah 61:1-4

 

Your pain can shape you

Sometimes life lets us down.
Plans alter.
Hopes and dreams shatter.

It leaves us devastated, angry and disappointed.

We are alone, going through memories, and thinking about how things could have been handled differently. We experience loss, deep hurt and a brokenness we could never have imagined.

Regardless of what life might have been, this is our new reality. How do we deal with it? We might choose to stay devastated and take on a completely negative outlook. This will only serve to cripple us. There is an alternative and that is to embrace the tremendous opportunity that this difficulty has presented. The future is before us. It begs for us to step toward it.

It is a challenge to step forward and seize what is before you; but that small step is the very thing that catapults you into a new tomorrow that will fulfill your dreams beyond anything you could have ever imagined.

The future welcomes you. God is willing to take the difficulties you’ve encountered and help you build on them. “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.” Zechariah 13:9   He will use them to shape you to have an even greater impact. He will journey with you and give you all you need to take those steps. You will need to call on Him and hear His voice. Give yourself the freedom to overcome the past.  You will need to feel the hurt so you can heal.  Pain doesn’t do well when we ignore it. It tends to go places and show up at a later date. It hinders you from the freedom to become all that God has called you to be.

Resolve the past.
Embrace the future.

Something a little different

IMG_7932_ksBe creative.  Do something different from what you normally do!  You will find it energizing and appreciate the freshness of a new perspective.

This past weekend, I helped Eve and Enoch with their photo shoot to launch their spring line. It was a fun experience with beautiful results.

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We naturally like to wait for things to come to us. If someone approaches us to get involved, we usually consider it and then if interested, and if the price is right, we engage.  Recently, I decided to take a whole different approach. Who do I want to talk to? Who inspires me? What do I enjoy doing?   Exploring those things requires stepping out with courage.

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There is huge reward in paying forward! People have helped me as I’ve grown and developed. What a gift to give “back” to young and talented entrepreneurs!  It’s a way of mentoring that helps me do what I love to do and grow in the process. If someone is doing something that interests you, just straight up ask how you can help.

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I urge you to look outside of the world you live in.  See who is doing something that is great.Look at ways you might be able to help them and take some pressure off.  Then, as they allow you to help, ENJOY every moment! It will fuel their excitement too!  It will bring you back to the early days when you got started and you may just discover a whole new take on what you love to do!

Be adventurous and enjoy the journey!

Photo credit:  Karen Schenk, Eve & Enoch 2015 Spring Line, Greenland Garden Centre, Branches, Numa Model Agency