Do It Afraid

A little over a month ago, a dear friend of mine and former co-worker texted me to tell me about a vacant position posted on my (our) employer’s website. The position was the exact same position I had previously occupied before I lost my job this past Spring.

I went online and read the job posting. The position was located in a smaller division that seems to not struggle with turnover and strife like some other divisions do. Also it was in an ideal location with a reasonable commute. I met or exceeded all of the job’s minimum qualifications. I printed the job posting and shoved the paper into my carry-all bag and tried to go on about my work and my day.

From that point, a battle began in my mind. It was as if once I read the job posting and could find no fault with the opportunity, no reason (or excuse) to forgo applying for the job, a tidal wave of fear and anxiety washed over me and would not let me go.

I was literally sitting at my desk with a knot of dread in my abdomen and I was attempting to calm myself down by saying to myself, “You do not have to apply for this job if you don’t want to.” But each time I said that to myself, I heard another voice say, “Do it afraid.”

If you’ve ever heard Joyce Meyer speak or give her testimony, you might recognize that little expression Do It Afraid. What she means behind those three little words is: don’t let fear stop you. Whatever it is you know you must do or should do, no matter how strong the feelings of fear are, know that God is with you and thru Him you are empowered to do what you need to do (Philippians 4:13).

When I say that I heard another voice, it was not audible. It was not merely the memory or recollection of hearing a Joyce Meyer teaching. I believe the voice of my mind was trying to soothe my flesh by saying, “You do not have to apply for this job if you don’t want to” and immediately after, the voice of my spirit would speak up and say, “Do it afraid.”

In God’s Word we are taught that there are three distinct parts which comprise the whole of a person {I Thessalonians 5:23}. Your flesh, which can be appetite driven, your soul, which is comprised of your mind, will and emotions, and thirdly your spirit. When you become born-again, your spirit is re-born and made alive and the Holy Spirit comes to reside within you. Your soul and your flesh are still the same and, despite being born again, can get you or keep you in a lot of trouble and bondage if allowed to rule. This is why after an altar call preacher’s often talk about the importance of reading your Bible and attending church: you need discipleship and new disciplines (routines & habits) to form which will feed and strengthen your newly-born spirit so that your spirit will be the leader, not your soul or flesh.

So back to panic-stricken-Susie in her cubicle: my flesh was freaking out, my soul was trying to calm my flesh down and my spirit was encouraging me to take steps forward because of God’s promises to me and ignore my flesh and soul. This battle lasted for three days. I was going through the motions of my daily routine, but overwhelmingly the tug-of-war between my soul and spirit kept on.

At some point the Holy Spirit ministered to me: no more hiding. The Holy Spirit reminded me of a month or so before when I had to run two errands which placed me back in the building I used to work in and a second building that I used to frequent in my old position. I found myself in the bathroom with an upset stomach dreading returning to those two buildings for fear of who I might see. What if I run into someone I used to work with? How will they treat me? Will they ask me questions about how and why I lost my job? What if they ignore me? I did get thru those two errands and I did run into people that I used to work with or interact with and they were kind and I was kind and they didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t loiter but kept moving to get done what I needed to get done.

Well, I did apply for the job. I marched myself over to Human Resources and took a typing test and submitted my application. I honestly had to pray myself thru each baby step.

And I got called for an interview.

And I had many people praying for me that day.

And I knew that God was with me that day.

And I answered their ten questions and made eye contact and smiled.

And just as we were all about to stand up and shake hands, I asked the interview panel to allow me another minute or two to address my transfer / demotion which took place in May. And I told my story of a bad decision and the grace that followed and my gratitude for second chances. And my voice only cracked once and I saw compassion in the eyes of one panelist. And I was thanked for my forthrightness and assured that I would be told either way of the outcome.

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since that interview. If they made a decision, I haven’t heard either way. Sure, it’s been a bit of a bummer because I would love to experience blessing and promotion and redemption in the job arena. But I’ve experienced an even greater victory. My spirit won. I did not succumb to fear or panic.

Through this experience, I also got to share my ‘story’ several times. This is significant because last month I could not recount what happened without breaking down and weeping. After I submitted the job application, because I knew I needed prayer support, I proceeded to share my story with my Calvary small-group and several friends at Victory Orlando. Each time I shared it got a little easier and I cried a little less. I believe the analogy The Lord gave me is one of a cut or wound on say your finger. You can put Neosporin and a Band-Aid on that cut but at some point you need to remove the Band-Aid and allow water and air in to promote healing. The ointment and Band-Aid are good initially, but eventually if the wound is denied fresh air and hand washing, the skin will stay unhealed. No scab will form.

By telling my story, I’ve let some water and air in.

Thank you, Jesus.

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. (‭Psalms‬ ‭34‬:‭4-5‬ NLT)

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Nightsounds

They say it takes doing something repeatedly at least twenty-one times to form a habit.

I have a new habit.  I listen to Nightsounds while falling asleep every night.

And sometimes I put it on before taking a nap (like today).

And sometimes I put it on when I recline in my chair and I’m going to just rest my eyes for a bit.

My Mother used to put the radio program Nightsounds on when I was a little girl.  I can remember us being in my bedroom in our house in Miami Florida.  I was laying in bed and she was sitting on the side of my bed.  The theme music was playing (Beau Soir by Claude Debussy) and she was describing heaven to me, painting a picture with her words.  The music sounds like a choir of angels…and with a crescendo the angels trumpet the appearance of Jesus.

Well, nearly twenty five or so years have passed since that childhood memory and I can’t say as though I had thought about Nightsounds much at all since then.  Until…a friend posted about the Nightsounds app on Instagram…how you could listen anytime you wanted on either your phone or tablet.  I was so excited, but I don’t think I realized just how much this program would minister to me.

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With each program, Bill Pearce blends soft music with insightful narrative all related to a pre-determined theme.  You can tell Bill puts a lot of thought and prayer into his programs and has a real passion for his listeners and Christ.  It’s been about two months since I discovered the app (thank you, Marilyn) and I turn it on almost every day.

Falling asleep, or resting, with soft music playing is not a new trend for me.  For years, I’ve put Cathy Duplantis’ The Healing Word on repeat all night long.

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Recently, I was at a girl’s small group and the topic of bedtime routines came up and each one of us grabbed our phones and showed the other what we fall asleep too.  For one girl, it was Psalm 91 in the Amplified Bible being read aloud, for another it was an app where she could customize and layer together nature sounds, for another it was Kenneth Copeland reading Scripture.  But, we each fall asleep to something, and we each know the value of having edifying media wash over us before and during our sleep.

Well, it’s almost time for bed.  What a blessing it is to have a safe home, a comfortable bed, a climate-controlled atmosphere, technology that allows me Nightsounds or other media at my fingertips, my precious furry pets, and the righteousness of Jesus imputed to me allowing me to rest knowing I’m forgiven and saved.

Eight Twenty Eight

I’ve been reading the Pray for Ian blog for years now.  The story of the marriage between Ian and Larissa Murphy shot to notoriety after John Piper’s ministry published a small video spotlighting the persevering couple.  Ten months into their college courtship, Ian was in a devastating car crash, resulting in a TBI, a traumatic brain injury.  Larissa stuck by Ian, despite a nearly year-long coma, an extremely slow recovery and Ian only slightly resembling his pre-accident self.

The title Eight Twenty Eight is a nod to the heavily quoted Bible verse, their wedding anniversary and the birthday of Ian’s father who died of a brain tumor less than 3 years after his son’s accident.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I read on the blog that a book deal had been signed.  I finished the book last week with mild disappointment and I came away feeling a little differently about their story.

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When I began reading their blog, probably in 2011, I was so moved by Larissa’s unwavering devotion to Ian despite so few tangible benefits.  I related because I once loved a man who, for a time, was restricted in how he could show his love for me.  I related to Larissa’s belief that she was called to be Ian’s wife, despite the obstacles.  There was a time in my life when I believed I was called by God to be a wife to a man who could not protect or provide for me in the traditional sense.  I now think differently about that.  I now think I was wrong.

When someone reads a book, or takes in any form of media, we filter the content thru our own personal lens and form an opinion or feeling about the media because of the way we perceive it.

These are my perceptions.

During much of the book, it was apparent to me that Larissa exalted Ian as a god in her life.  No, it’s not that Larissa confused Ian with the one-true Almighty God, but she exalted Ian as a god by revolving her life around him and making decisions based solely on her devotion to him.

page 86… “I passed on a job offer from an ad agency in Pittsburgh…because if [Ian] went home and my work held me in the city, it would be too far.  I wasn’t ready to be away from Ian.  My community had shrunk to whomever lived at the Murphys at the time and my boyfriend lying in a hospital bed.  Friendships were hard to work on because I wasn’t home that much.  And when I was, I was thinking about how I wanted to be with Ian.  So I did my best, but I know that I neglected and pushed away.  I couldn’t help it.  I thought the man in the wheelchair in Pittsburgh was the one who needed me the most, and I just didn’t have it in me to put forth the work and initiation that friendships require.”

This quote makes me reflect on a time in my life when decision by decision I allowed one relationship to trump all others.  The part in her statement that concerns me the most is: My community had shrunk…  I made that mistake too.  I came up against adversity because of my relationship with Jeff.  Lots thought that I was making a big mistake or things were going too fast.  Both were true.  When the adversity persists, you start to be more selective with who you spend time around, until the nay-sayers are crowded out.  Sometimes you push away the people you need the most.  People who can help bring balance to your life.  But you know what I think?  I think falling in love doesn’t have much to do with balance.  You’ve lost your balance and now you’re f-a-l-l-i-n-g…into love.  And whoa baby, it’s hard to see the red flags when you’ve got those rose-tinted glasses on.

This might be the perfect spot to interject a YouTube video which I believe contains a lot of wisdom.  This is Jefferson Bethke {and his hands… HA! Try not to get distracted by all his hand movements} and his wife, Alyssa.

page 89… “When someone told me I needed to keep moving on with my life, that I couldn’t just wait around for Ian, or the time when someone told me I was wasting my life where I was, sitting at my boyfriend’s side, when I had so much more potential than that, all they did was make me dig my feet into the cold tile floors of that hospital even further.  Whatever this potential was or whatever I was missing in my life while waiting around with Ian – it all fell on deaf ears.  I couldn’t leave him, didn’t want to leave him, because he was my best friend.”

I did this too.  Dug my heels in.  I clung to promises I read in God’s Word despite a lack of peace in my heart.

page 117… “I stayed up too late on most days, just because I wanted to say good night to him.  He would shower and stretch at night, which meant that sometimes I couldn’t go in his room.  All I could see of Ian was the closed, locked barrier of his bedroom door.  For years, this stirred something ugly inside of me.  Something about the closed door made me feel so angry and useless.  When that door was shut and locked, it meant something was happening in the room that I couldn’t be a part of because I wasn’t Ian’s wife.”

Now this part of her story really concerned me.  I picked up on the word angry and in my experience, (with the exception of ‘righteous anger’), other forms of anger are commonly rooted in fear.  What was she afraid of?  Afraid that her role in Ian’s life was erasable or replaceable?  By now in the book, she had already recounted the fear that he would remember everyone but her, since he had a lifetime of memories with his family but only ten months worth of memories with her.  I know for me, while my courtship with Jeff was largely unapproved of, once we married, it was as if our union, our covenant, gave legitimacy to our relationship that people respected.  I went from being the girl dating a guy “way beneath her” to a loyal, persevering wife who’s faith in God and in her husband was admirable.  Maybe Larissa’s desire for marriage was rooted in insecurity?

page 119… “People still worried about me… ‘You need something to keep you going,’ Steve said to me one day as he leaned against the kitchen countertop.  His comment stung.  It sounded degrading to me, because the words he chose – ‘You don’t have anything’ – made me feel as though I had nothing to be living for outside of an improved Ian.”

This is interesting because Steve is Ian’s father.  I think this quote reveals deep concerns people had for Larissa.  Instead of life going on for her and Ian being one dimension of life, Ian was her life and life had slowed to match the pace of Ian’s healing.  Larissa went on to say that at the time of Steve’s death, his biggest concern was what was going to happen to them.  She writes that he didn’t want things hanging in limbo any longer.  They should either marry or break up.  I didn’t include any quotes about this, because I’m not attempting a comprehensive book review here, but Larissa was a baby, baby Christian when she met Ian and Ian was the first person to really disciple her.  Perhaps she was unsure of how to grow in The Lord without Ian there to guide her?

page 206… “My dad was standing with me at the top of the hill.  He held my hand as we stepped down the hill towards our families and friends and toward Ian.  Dad squeezed my hand and fought back tears as we caught sight of him, standing there with the help of his best friend.  Wrapping his arms around me into a kiss, my dad left me at the altar with a man he knew couldn’t take care of me the way my dad wanted him to but hoped this was what his daughter really, truly, wanted.”

I’m reading between the lines…perhaps taking too much liberty: This man fears his daughter is settling and might have regrets later on.

Does any bride fully realize what she’s committing to?

“We said our promises by candlelight… You held my hands, I was dressed in white, we were young… How can we see that far?  I knew I wanted you like no one else… I’d told my Mama that I’d found myself in your eyes… How can we see that far?  But like your daddy said, the same sun that melts the wax can harden clay and the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay and the mighty wind that knocks us down, if we lean into it, will drive our fears away.  We might die.  We might live.  We could hurt each other badly, do things, things so hard to forgive.  And if time is not our friend, your mind might forget me before the end.  And oh, I cannot, I cannot look that far.” 

~ How Can We See That Far? ~ Amy Grant 1991 ~

page 220… “At the lake is healing, because we are all together and we are loved, despite the messiness of the past twelve months.  Inside that little cocoon, we rest – and Ian rests – because in this cocoon, no one is telling him that he has no value, and no one is telling me that I shouldn’t have married someone with no value.”

 I want to be clear that I am not at all implying that Ian Murphy has no value.  I believe all life is precious, at all stages and conditions of life.  My heart hurts that they must seek respite from statements as cruel as that.

When I read this book, I saw some parallels to my life and to past decisions I made regarding dating and ultimately marrying Jeff.  I fell in love and was swept off my feet as if in a whirlwind.  Our relationship encountered adversity and criticism which made me cling even tighter to him.  I exalted my relationship with him above other people and even can remember praying, “Lord, please let me have him.  Please let him be the one.”  (I was tight fisted, as Alyssa Bethke described.)  I thought I was doing right to choose a man and a relationship with a more difficult path believing that it was God’s way of developing holiness and perseverance in me.  Now I look back and see that many of my choices were rooted in fear and insecurity.

And that is the biggest difference between the video of their story and this book: Larissa’s fear.  At times, her insecure desperation to cling to Ian made me wince.

And even though my marriage ended in divorce, and even though Ian and Larissa are enduring, by God’s infinite grace and mercy, He is redeeming our experiences and healing us.

I no longer believe the man and marriage I chose was my calling or God’s perfect will for my life but I cannot fully express my gratitude that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 ESV