Diagnosing Fear

Author: Kate Franken

I hung up the phone, after having received the results of my liver ultrasound. I felt strangely calm, despite the words the doctor had spoken. I dialed my mom. The minute she picked up, the calm dissipated and the tears formed. With a shaky voice, I relayed the call, “The calcifications they found on my liver likely mean I have cancer in a nearby organ.” In response, my mother remained calm. Her words reassured.

In the hours that followed, my mind raced. I sat stuck in my classroom, grade sheets strewn about, unable to regain the pace I had been working at. Amidst the wandering of thoughts, I recalled a sermon a few Sundays before. Our congregation had been ruminating on Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” and my pastor had posed the questions: “Can, in all honesty, I say for me to die is to gain? Do you believe that departing and being with Christ would be far better than your life?” I had wanted to say “Yes” and for it to be true of me. But now as I contemplated, feeling the ticking of life’s clock, I knew “No” to be the more accurate response. I didn’t want to die.

Once I escaped the classroom, a long weekend unfurled. Visits and phone calls from friends and family kept me fairly occupied, helping me process the potential diagnosis. I got lost a time or two or more on a trail of google searches. From one conversation to the next, a long list of questions to ask the doctor arose. Invariably, tears streamed. An inordinate amount. I couldn’t control the tears. In addition, to the puffy eyes, the tears left me with redness under the eyelids that burned to the touch.

Fear Kate Franken

I felt shame that I worried. I tried to muster strength, repeatedly assuring others with “God’s got this!” A while later, in a Sunday morning sermon, God addressed this shame. The guest pastor averted our eyes to Jesus, how he wept, and how he was emotionally invested in the world. Then he posed the question: “Does Jesus know that the Father is in charge of everything? Of course, Jesus knows.” He owns his emotions and doesn’t put up a facade. Our hurts our real and we shouldn’t put up a pretense either. I loved the guest pastor’s directions to, “Feel. And look to the glory that is coming”.

Finally, Monday came. I sat before my doctor, listening to him expound on a number of potential causes for the abnormal findings on my liver. He eased my tension, conveying less certainty I had cancer than the doctor on the phone.

The next six weeks slowly passed as I took the tests ordered originally by my primary care doctor, then by my gastroenterologist, and then by my oncologist. The tests were never hard. It was in the waiting, that I crumbled.

I attempted to soften the blow of a diagnosis by imagining I already had the disease being tested for. I was already considering the cut and color of the wig I would purchase when I lost all my hair. These thoughts would come and go, particularly when I was alone. But largely, after that first week of processing my ultrasound results, I felt peace. It didn’t make sense, with what seemed to loom ahead. Frequently, I was questioned as to why I wasn’t more distraught. I didn’t have to search for an answer.

Only God can give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. No human can fabricate it. But they can pray for it. For me, God used community to bring about peace. The frequent check-ins, the intentional visits, the prayer said over and for me were constant reminders that I am not alone, God is with me.

In time, breast cancer, cervical cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, ovarian cancer, lymphoma, tuberculosis, Hepatitis A, B, & C, and HIV were ruled out. However, it was discovered that my liver and the surrounding lymph nodes were enlarged. The concern for the size of the liver and lymph nodes was debated upon, but ultimately a tumor board determined that it likely isn’t cancer. I will have a cat scan in a few months to check, just in case.

Sarcoidosis remains a potential cause of my liver abnormalities. It is hard to diagnose, and even with a diagnosis, nothing can be done. There’s no cure for Sarcoidosis. I will be monitored annually with blood tests, to be privy to changes in the functioning of my liver.

I’ve learned a lot, having walked this road with its’ roller coaster hills. The fears it stirred up reminded me I’m not God. I am powerless and dependent. Power emanates from God alone.

I gained awareness of how I misplaced fear. Only God is worthy of fear. I feared cancer, just as the disciples feared the wind and the waves one stormy night. Cancer, wind, and waves are not to be feared. God controls all things. With a love that is unwavering, He chooses how to exercise His sovereignty.

Kate Franken Fear (2)I tackled a question that gnawed at my trust in God: Does God care? When things aren’t going the way we think they should, it’s easy to wonder if God even cares. But all one has to do is look at Jesus on the cross. He knows our pain. His sacrifice shows he cares infinitely. Author Bob Goff says it like it is, “Fear calls out doubts; God calls out our names. Be picky about who you listen to.” Don’t be ruled by your doubts, but be attuned to God’s voice amidst your wilderness.

 

 

God has awoken me from my slumber. While there’s is no definitive answer to my liver abnormalities, there is greater clarity on how I want to spend my life. I want Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 to be my own. Pastor John Piper restates the verse in his own words as, “Christ is most magnified when we’re more satisfied in him than in what we lose in death and what we have in life.” May we continue to grow in our hunger for Christ and remember this is not our home. May we be like Paul, not caring what happens, just wanting the gospel to be advanced.

 

 


kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.
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3 Paths to Lead You Away from Fear

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word “fear” is our car accident nearly a year ago. I’m reminded of how I felt as I crouched on the dusty sidewalk off Hwy 22. Sobbing, I clutched my four-year-old, my two-year-old, and my six-week old baby and assured myself that they were okay. My chest felt like it had been crushed (just some deep bruising from the seatbelt), and the fear was overwhelming as I thought of what could have happened to us.

That fear developed into flashbacks, difficulty driving, and anxiety attacks. The last year has been a journey confronting my fears. Here are 3 things to do when you find yourself in the middle of fear.

Live in the day God has given you.

Sarah Clews FearEach day I can easily find something to fear—things that could happen, things that have happened to people I know, things I can only imagine. But I only have today. I have wasted countless hours fearing things that haven’t even happened.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” -Matthew 6:34 (NLT)  

This scripture couldn’t be truer. I’ve spent so much time borrowing trouble when I actually have so little control over any of it.

Trust that God is in control of it all.

It’s hard to trust that God is in control when I know He might allow hard things to happen. I know the story of Job, but I also know the goodness of God is unchanging. It’s His plan for my life that I want, but His plan may include tragedy and heartbreak I don’t want. I can’t stop trials from happening, but I can depend on the character of God.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

After our accident, I frequently listened to this song “Even If” by Mercy Me.


Fear Sarah Clews
“I know you’re able

And I know you can

Save through the fire

With your mighty hand

But even if you don’t

My hope’s still you alone”

 

Look forward to eternity with God.

It might sound a little morbid, but sometimes the only comfort to me, when things are hard, is remembering that one day it will all be made right. Whatever goes awry in this world, God will one day redeem. On the new earth one day, all our tears will be wiped away and all the difficulties ended.

He will swallow up death forever!
    The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
    against his land and people.
    The Lord has spoken!

In that day the people will proclaim,
‘This is our God!
    We trusted in him, and he saved us!
This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.
    Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!’ -Isaiah 25:8-9


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews loves being the wife of Carson and mother to three little girls. She received her degree in English from Corban University and still loves the craft of writing. She also helps her husband run a martial arts school. In her free time, Sarah enjoys talking with grown-ups (!), finding new authors, doing online research, and reading her favorite childhood stories to her girls.

Positively Perplexed

Undulating road rolls under my chronically tumbling mind as I seek to soothe it by cycling into exhaustion. Call it my relief effort, or my ride to escape. However, I neither find relief nor escape. But I do find God.

Perplexed. That’s what I am. And being perplexed is like walking the side of a steep, muddy slope: one misstep and it’s a quick slide to the quicksand of fear at the bottom.

I know not what to do next. Answering that seemingly simple question is like putting pressure on a knot in my back that suddenly radiates threads of needles into previously unprotesting parts of my body. My whole network of nerves lights up with alarm, just as pressing into a tangled quandary of the mind lights up the whole network of interrelated areas of life: sin, personality, values, goals, beliefs, feelings, fears, purpose, culture, and more. The complexity of perplexity entangles me and threatens to strangle me into paralyzed fear.

 

Kimberley Mulder Fear (2)But who among us does not live in some amount of intricate confusion? Some live with health problems that radiate into finances, lifestyle, purpose, relationships and more. Others live tied up in challenging jobs riddled with sinful people and systems, fears of failure, lack of compensation, and questionable values. These are but two examples of the complexity of everyday life.

This is part of the human condition. We do not know all, and never will. No amount of understanding and figuring it out will free us of the puzzles of life. The danger is, in our attempts to escape the discomfort of perplexity, we despair and assume that our lack of clarity means God doesn’t know or care. We must find the peace in perplexity, the pace of it, for we will run our entire lives within its confines. How can I be positively perplexed and not slide into despair?

The Apostle Paul was perplexed. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” He accepted that his mortal body had its limits and would feel its sufferings in the midst of this complex world, and that God’s power and glory surpassed these limits, lifting him from the morass of natural fear into supernatural peace. He names perplexity as suffering, but he never translates these sufferings into beliefs that God was somehow against him or absent. For Paul, the only reason to despair, ever, was if God were to leave him, which is an impossibility.

Fear Kimberley Mulder

So I persevere through my puzzlement, allowing God to put pressure on my knots to release me from fear. Then I can be at peace even while I wait and wonder, knowing that He is keeping me in this difficult position of humility in order to bring about His glory and power in my life. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t be at peace if I could figure out what to do next. Assuming the Lord was directing my decision, then I would receive peace. However, I can have peace even in the perplexity. For I know the One who created me, called me, holds me, and provides for me is always for me. I cannot be separated from His love. I trust that He knows, cares, and walks with me even in the confusing intricacies of my life.

I am positively perplexed, embracing my limitations of understanding. Positive that the power of God reveals Him bit by bit to my easily overwhelmed earthen being, and that the One who forever has perfect knowledge is guiding me through this present darkness.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, runs her proofreading business, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Remembering the Birds

Numbers are not my favorite. I line them up, pencil it out, move things from one category to another. Every month, my heart rate unconsciously rises and the same budget conversation happens: Why am I so anxious? I remember before, when we had so much less. Why am I more high strung now, when so much more has been provided? How can I forget that the God who made me knows what I need?

We have never been hungry. My thirst is often satisfied with a drive-thru caffeinated creation, while I know there are people who walk miles and fill up buckets of water that may still be tainted with contaminants. Not only have I not experienced true lack, but I can point back to multiple times that I have seen God’s provision in my life. Yet fear and anxiety easily settle in as I forget.

I know I am not alone in my struggle to put away anxious thoughts. Over two thousand years ago Jesus spoke to a crowd of despondent, needy, sick, oppressed, broken, and hungry people and shook up the way things had always been.  He called them to a new and different kind of life. A life that seeks God.

Holly Hawes Hunger and Thirst

This teaching is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes and is recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7.The whole thing challenged the way that people had been living. Whether the people listening thought they knew how to follow God, or they never even considered it, everything was changed that day.

Nestled in the midst of chapter 6 is a picture I often recall when anxiety grips me as the monthly bills roll in and we decide how to use the resources at our disposal.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

Look at the birds. Slowing down to observe is the last thing I do when I worry. Red-bellied spring Robin’s have begun to flit about my yard gathering bits of seeds or worm. They sing in the morning as the sun comes up, and fly freely. They are beautiful, colorful, and at ease. As unworried as possible. They are transitory, not relying on any single source of nourishment. They don’t work, or worry, and yet God provides for them abundantly. I can learn a lot from slowing down to watch the birds.

But the next line is the kicker: Are you not of more value than they?

Here lies the problem. When we forget that we loved children, we start craft contingency plans to take care of ourselves.

Hunger and Thirst Holly Hawes

I have seen this survival mentality play out in my home as a foster parent over the last few years. The anxious striving consistently appeared in dozens of kids in varying ways. Until they could trust that they would be safe and cared for, they worked with unrelenting determination to make sure their needs were met. The expectation: no one will help me. I must take care of myself. No matter what. How exhausting!

But their experience learning to trust, just like ours, is shaped by hundreds of conversations. More than that through thousands of silent needs met without fanfare.

“ No honey, go back to bed. We will clean up the puke”

“Would it make you feel better to keep a granola bar in case you get hungry tonight?”

“You don’t need to hide that away, we can get more.”

I am challenged to remember all the ways God has cared for me in my life. Sometimes the answer appears after much asking and praying, other times before I was even aware of the need.

I think of a grandma who welcomed me to my college dorm with a loaf of banana bread. When the car broke down but someone was there to help me. The times we just happened to get an unexpected bonus at exactly the right time.

People could say it is happenstance, but I see whispers of the abundantly good Father caring for every need of his children. Sometimes it comes through something tangible, and other times through the grace to trust Him. In either circumstance, we need not have anxiety. If you know Jesus, you are a loved child. Your Father knows what you need.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

If we, as entirely imperfect parents, want our children’s minds to be set at ease that they will be loved, cared for, and provided for, how much more are we loved as God’s children?

As we begin to trust that we are loved and that God knows what we hunger for, we are able to live free, like the birds. Living in settled trust that displays itself as creativity, play, or satisfaction. No longer must we worry and prepare for the worst-case scenario. We are like the birds.


 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Trusting the Sovereignty of God

Author: Karly Grant

Sovereignty. It seems like such a big, daunting word, because it is. To those of us who claim to follow Jesus, God’s sovereignty is at the core of what we believe and walk in. The dictionary defines sovereignty as, “supreme power or authority.” I believe that God’s power and authority is evident throughout scripture and in my own life. The idea of God’s sovereignty seems so intimidating, but really it is simple and allows believers to experience deep freedom.

God's character Karly GrantWhen I think about the sovereignty of God in the Bible, I immediately think about the book of Exodus. A few years ago I was in a Bible study that went through this book in depth. Every week when we’d get to the last question of the study about how to apply what we had read, my answer was, “God is sovereign. I need to trust that.” The story of Exodus really begins in Genesis with God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation–offspring that would be as plentiful as the stars.

Abraham may not have lived to see this promise come to complete fruition, but God, in His sovereignty, ruled Abraham’s descendants. In the book of Exodus, God leads them out of exile and eventually to the promised land. God called Moses to set His people free. He hardened and softened Pharaoh’s heart, and eventually set His people free. Even while the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God was sovereign. He was in control. He provided what they needed and, with love, ruled over them.

God’s sovereignty continued into the New Testament. God sent His son to save us. He has the power to do that. It is because of His authority over the earth that Jesus came down, lived a sinless life, told us how to live, and paid the ultimate price. It is because of God’s sovereignty that He rules over us today and called us to be His children.

During those years I was weekly (if not daily) reminded of God’s sovereignty, and they were needed as I learned to trust His plan and rule in my life. That is still the case today. I am a slow learner, and, really, I think it is a lesson that will take a lifetime to learn.

When my world seems to fall apart, I need to trust God’s authority. The last few years have been extremely difficult for my family. Things have happened that I never imagined, and quite frankly, they tore my family apart. I don’t know why these things happen, and other than a miracle, I don’t see restoration happening this side of Heaven, but I know that I can trust the God who is sovereign in my life. I can rest peacefully and wake up every morning knowing that He is in control.

Karly Grant Character of GodCurrently, as I plan to take a huge step of faith by moving to another state, I am so grateful for the steadfastness of my God. The last few weeks have been stressful as I nail down specifics, such as a place to live. I’m holding closely to Proverbs 16:9 in these times, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” 

I know that God is in control. He hasn’t stopped providing for me yet, and he won’t. In His time, He will provide a home and a job for me. He is in control. He is sovereign over the world and over my life. I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and following where He leads. He was sovereign over Abraham, Moses, and Jesus’s life on earth. He has had authority and power over my life. He will have all sovereignty for eternity. For that, I am thankful.


image1 (1)Karly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm  of adoption. God has laid this heavily on her heart and she is willing to trust Him. This homebody is taking the biggest leap of faith yet this spring and moving 1,700 miles away from the life and people she has known as long as she can remember. She is  both terrified and so stinking excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

Thriving in Change and Uncertainty

I’ve been struggling to thrive lately, pulled in every direction by life’s constant changes. I’m thankful and content one minute, then discontent or afraid the next as I remember all the unknowns and ‘what ifs’ of the new year ahead.

Rachel Olson ThriveMeanwhile, I keep thinking of the apostle Paul – a man who’d been through shipwrecks, prison, and all sorts of things, yet learned to be content in every kind of situation. I want to learn the same.

What does it mean to thrive when life is good, but my soul is still restless and discontent – hungering for something more? How do I thrive when life constantly fluctuates from one extreme to the next – full of joy and redemption; loss and grief; deep friendship or loneliness, and daunting unknowns? Circumstances are ever changing. I cannot thrive while I’m focused on my surroundings.

When I start grasping for hope and stability in the world around me, I come up short, floundering through every change and disappointment. But when I take my question back to Scripture, Jesus draws my eyes away from my fears and back to himself.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Thrive Rachel OlsonOver and over again, I see the same answer: Remember Me. Seek Me first. I am faithful.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk describes a day when the fruit trees will not produce, the crops will fail, and the stables will be empty; nothing is left. In an agricultural society, this could mean starvation. Habakkuk’s basic survival is on the line. And yet his trust in the Lord is so deeply rooted that he can rejoice. Just like the apostle Paul, his eyes are firmly fixed on God, above his circumstances. His hope is not in his surroundings, but in the God who shaped the earth and put breath in his lungs.

This begs the question, where is my hope? Can I look beyond today’s uncertainty and rejoice in the God who holds the entire earth together? Whether today brings laughter, tears, or exhaustion, it makes all the difference to stop and remember whose world we’re in. What is it worth to depend on our own strength or the outlook of our circumstances? God is the one who puts breath in our lungs and sustains us moment by moment. He sees us, He cares, and He holds each situation we face.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

Driving Free

Author: Kate Franken

I couldn’t breathe. Every muscle tensed. My face turned hot and clammy. I could see myself driving off the bridge. I wanted to slam the brakes and runaway. And then, in my head, I saw all the cars hitting me from behind.

I wrestled against what I felt, despite its intensity, and steered myself off to the side of the highway, once I gradually made it over the bridge. And there I sat paralyzed with fear, trying to breathe. I eventually pushed myself back out onto the highway, knowing people were expecting me. I drove with trepidation, fearful of another panic attack.

Kate Franken Driving freeThis moment is so vivid for me, the feelings of having no control pulsed strong. It, among other panic attacks, sit locked in my memory, ready to haunt me whenever I drive bridges, busy highways, and always the freeway.

When this anxiety first surfaced a little over two years ago, I immediately tried to make sense of it. I however couldn’t make sense of it on my own. I didn’t understand people that had panic attacks. I didn’t understand how I could go from a fearless to a fearful driver almost overnight for no obvious reason.

Fortunately, over time, I made my hidden pain known, despite the overwhelming sense of shame the anxiety invoked. A friend with a biblical counseling repertoire and a brother pursuing a medical doctorate degree, have helped me piece together the root of this affliction. The year prior to the start of the panic attacks, I experienced a number of (small) incidents on the road in which control felt stripped from me. One was a near accident, in which the van in front of me hit ice and swung wildly over both lanes of the highway on a narrow overpass. I had to press forward and pray the van stayed in the other lane as I passed.

Twice, I was in a car that was rear-ended. Another accident occurred when a motorcyclist hit my rear tire as I pulled out from a store parking lot one night. I had looked both ways and had seen nothing. From my perception, the motorcyclist had come out from nowhere. It was questioned post-scene-of-the-accident, whether the motorcyclist had a headlight because none could be found in the pictures of the wrecked motorcycle. These occurrences combined have potentially given me a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Enemy ruthlessly attacked me in my weakness. I sought to get rid of the Devil’s foothold. I attempted the remedies for driving anxiety a Google search had rendered and the suggestions put forth by friends to no avail.

After a solid year of pushing myself to combat my fear, I gave up. I was tired of the panic attacks. They showed no sign of leaving. Back roads became my main means of going anywhere distant. I resigned to the belief that this affliction was my thorn. Like Paul, I had to accept that it wasn’t going to go away.

This mindset crippled me all the more. I’m certain the Enemy was wearing his evil grin as he saw me sink deeper into despair. But this is not where this story ends, for the Author of Freedom would not just let me be. He’s been faithful as I’ve endured this trial, using it for good. Great is my gratitude for all that He has shed light on as I’ve reached for freedom.

Driving free Kate FrankenI learned that fear and anxiety come about when we don’t trust that God is good. We are not living in obedience to God when fear and anxiety have a hold on us. For a professed believer, this can create feelings of shame, and thus the natural inclination is to believe a lie, to believe I can have both fear and anxiety and believe that God is good. But fear and anxiety will never loose its grip until you’re honest about your lack of trust in God. It’s when we are honest, that the Holy Spirit can then address the root issue.

My natural inclination to be self-sufficient and strong hinders me. When we are weak, He is strong. We need to lay down our fear and anxiety, and give it to the Lord. We can walk in the light when we stop pretending we’re not scared.

I  was impacted dramatically with the wisdom Apostle Paul imparts in Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

When I resigned to my anxiety being my thorn forevermore, I had quit hoping. But it’s only with a hope in God that we can prevail against the Enemy’s schemes. It is only when we hope in Him that the best stories of freedom are written.

For too long, I wanted to ignore my affliction, thus I wasn’t praying about it. We need to be relentless in our communing with Our Lord, to have greater truth spoken over our lives. Each time we get on our knees and seek Him, our world is reoriented as it should be, with Him at the center.

The freedom I now experience allows me to travel over bridges and busy highways fairly painlessly. I’m steadily regaining my ability to drive on the freeway, after a year’s absence. Knowing where I’ve been and where I am now, only God could have freed me from these chains. He is the one to seek if we long to be free.

 


kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Listening to the Father

There is a small passage in the Bible that has stood out to me for years:

But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.’”~Samuel 15:22

While we no longer live in an era of animal sacrifices to atone for our sins (thank you Jesus), this verse is still applicable. God desires obedience from us. It is a beautiful offering. We live in a world that jokingly encourages, “it is better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and we are tempted to exchange the truth for a lie. We find ourselves drawn to living for momentary pleasures, and forsake pursuing the enduring beauty of a disciplined life.

Obedience Britney BradleyWhen I knowingly sin against my Lord, I shamefully think to myself, “I can ask forgiveness for this,” which really means that I am choosing disobedience now and then beg for forgiveness later. Oh the conviction that floods over me when I put off obedience and choose to sin. This passage in 1 Samuel has opened wide my eyes. God desires that we obey His commands. Why disobey and lament later? Don’t I know that He loves me? Don’t I know that He desires relationship with me, not the disconnection that disobedience brings? Don’t I see how hurtful my sin really is?

These are the questions I find myself going over and over again in my mind and heart. Let me tell you, friends, it is EXHAUSTING. However, when I am choosing spiritual discipline (reading the Word of God and speaking with him in prayer) light begins to shine on the disobedient heart. As a mother of three I deal with disobedience daily, and when I draw near to my Savior, it becomes quickly apparent that the misbehaviors of my children offer a glimpse into my own heart. However, on days when I have gotten “behind” and “have no time” to spend dedicated to Christ, I become blinded by my sins. When I am blinded by my own sins, I become infinitely more frustrated with the sins of my children, because my heart is not properly oriented. I become quick to forget that I am just as sinful as my three children combined toward my heavenly Father who knows and loves me.

britney bradley obedience (2)The Lord teaches me much about my own sinful heart by allowing me to see the same rebellion in my children. It amazes me how hurt or insulted I feel when I am sinned against. When my kids do not obey me, and I am not close to Christ myself, I forget how offensive my sins are towards God, and I lose sight of how obedience to Him is GOOD for me. I forget it is one of the ways I show my love for Him.
Readers and friends, I want to challenge you with this. If you claim Christ as your Lord and Savior, please do not use him as a genie in a bottle, only asking favors of him or complaining to him. He is so much more than that. Please consider the importance of obedience to the perfect Father in your daily life decisions. Who better to trust and obey than the One who loves you and has given His all to claim you as his own? I am motivated by this challenge myself, and I pray that choosing obedience will bring you into deeper relationship with Him.


britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

At the Door of Obedience

My adult life has not been marked by a lot of risk. That is, up until the fall of 2015. After 14 years of working for the same employer, things had come to a head at my husband’s job at a martial arts school. One evening my husband came home and revealed a troubling situation that had unfolded at work. There was only one thing to do. Through uncertain tears, I told my husband I just wanted to be done. It was no longer the right thing to stay at this job. My husband looked at me with agreement and said, “Okay, I’ll quit tomorrow.”

obedience martial artsThat night, he stayed up in the wee hours of the morning, trying to meet the unknown with hope, he began the search online for other job opportunities. Jobs for martial arts instructors in the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) aren’t exactly ripe for the taking. North Carolina was an option, but for people who are planners, not risk takers, the thought of moving across the country terrified us.

Obedience through Faith

God was calling us both to radical obedience and to have faith in His unseen plan. We are typically the kind of people who plan out our next move, months, if not years in advance. But in this situation, we had to obey without any clear direction in mind. We hadn’t premeditated my husband quitting his job. We didn’t have the next move lined up. We couldn’t rely on our own strength. We had to obey and trust God that He would show us the next move. I found myself leaning on God’s strength like never before. This was definitely a whole new level of obedience for me.

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
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 40:29-31 (NIV)

My husband went to work that next day, informed his boss he was quitting and would leave enough time to train a replacement. Because of this unprecedented move, the way things went down at his work went differently, which was good, but it meant my husband spent the next week on the phone, exploring what might be our next move. It was terrifying. We both felt sick to our stomachs. The future we had planned on seemed to have evaporated, and now we had no idea where God would place us. Then God opened a door and my husband secured a position as head instructor at a martial arts school, not in North Carolina, but just 45 minutes away from home.

Trusting God for an Unknown Future

Each step of the way, God called us to have faith and obey. He opened one door after another but only one door at a time. In this journey, God gave us one clear direction but only for each step. It wasn’t obvious how all the steps would connect, how each would help my husband’s career goals or secure the needs for our family in the future. We just had to obey and move forward in faith.

When the panic attacks started. I tried to embrace this new level of faith in God for me as we faltered into an unforeseeable future. I remembered, Abraham had also been called to obedience without being able to see the future.

 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8

Opportunities would emerge then the door would slam shut. It was discouraging, disheartening. Until December of 2015, when an opportunity to buy a local martial arts school opened up. It was very unexpected.We thought that door had closed. It looked promising, but how would we manage the financial end of purchasing a business? Was it God-given or a fool’s foothold?! Could we risk again? He unveiled the path. Just one way. So united in love and faith we said “yes!” and walked through the door.

obedience YesI worried during this time that the bottom would just fall out from underneath us. I found hard questions circling all the time. Could my God be trusted? Could I trust Him with our future? What would become of us and our two little girls? Even after we bought the school, our fears didn’t just disappear. We wondered how we would pay the bills each month. Yet God provided the exact right staff, as well as new students for our school.

May 1, 2017 marks our one year anniversary of being owners of our own martial arts school. It’s been an exciting, frightening, and victorious year for my husband’s career. It’s also been a life changing 20 months and a spiritual journey of obedience as we’ve trusted God to provide for our needs.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

This verse doesn’t mean difficult things won’t happen or we won’t have struggles, but it is a comfort to know that God has an endgame in mind and has provided everything we need as we hope and trust in Him.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

Dreams from the Threshing Floor

At the beginning of the year, I was challenged to pray about a word to set the tone of 2016. I prayed, and to my delight and dismay, God put the word “Yes” on my heart. Terror and exhilaration encapsulated in three little letters. I am a goal-oriented woman. My dreams are well known by those who love me. Now, half way through the year, I am still unsure what this “Yes” year means specifically to me. In fact, I have simultaneously been experiencing a season of restlessness without clear direction in sight. God and I have been wrestling through many doubts, and confronting untruths I have believed about myself. In short,  He has been making me uncomfortable. At times, it has been painful; and yet, I trust Him entirely.

A wise, God-fearing gal pal in my life reminded me the story of Gideon and his fleece. The book of Judges, in the Old Testament, unfolds the telling of a man who God allowed to experience unrest and in turn, trust.

Judges 6:11 begins with Gideon beating out wheat in a winepress. Now we must become aware of the fact that a winepress is not where wheat is threshed; he was there because he was hiding. Hiding from the Midianites. He was terrified of his enemies, so much so, that he sacrificed productivity for security. In his moment of weakness, an angel of the Lord showed up, and called him out. The angel addressed Gideon not with shame but with titles such as “mighty man of valor.” From my perspective, Gideon was behaving cowardly, but God sent a messenger to sift through the lies he believed in his heart. Gideon said “I need to hide.” God said otherwise.

Reservedly, Gideon proceeds to question God’s plan. God intended Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. God had a plan. A big plan. One that would cause Gideon to cling to His goodness and trust Him entirely. However, Gideon, bless his heart, continued to come back at God with fears and doubts. Gideon says, in verse 15 of chapter 6, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Of course, Gideon’s apprehension did not phase God.

As I read further into chapter 6 of Judges, I began to see why my friend thought of this story in regards to my own wrestling with God. Gideon had already been called out by God. He had been affirmed as a man of valor. And yet, he still needed proof of God’s word. He audaciously came before God with a test of faith. As a harvester, Gideon was used to the threshing floor. It was a big, open space used to separate wheat from the chaff. In his line of work, the threshing floor was the place where the wheat would be refined. In verse 36, Gideon comes before God with a wool fleece on the threshing floor. He wanted God to affirm him again in his calling. Make the wool fleece dewy, but keep the ground dry. And the next morning, when he arose, God did just that. But this was not quite enough for Gideon. He then asked God to allow the wool fleece to be dry, and the ground to be dewy. When the next morning came, sure enough, God did just that.

God allowed Gideon to approach him boldly, again and again. He allowed unrest and uncertainty in Gideon’s life to be laid out before Him on the threshing floor. I know now, that in this time of “Yes” and unrest, this is what God is calling me to do. I am to come to Him at my own threshing floor. Here God is allowing me to bring forth fears, doubts, and the uncertainty of my dreams and future. Here He is separating the chaff of doubt and fear from the wheat of my faith.

This threshing floor of dreams and life is the place I am called to go to so I can meet God, be brutally honest with Him, and seek discernment on His will for my life. As God continues to lead me into new dreams and who he already knows me to be, I can ask Him to show up repeatedly, and He will.


Readers, How has God revealed himself and planted new dreams when you are in seasons of life that feel confusing?

0752d-sarah2bsquareSarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.