The Grove – Fear

This is officially the hardest post I’ve ever written.

I somehow failed to realize that in challenging all of you to come here, open up and share your fear, your deepest insecurity, that it would involve ME peeling back the layers of myself to find my fear. And now I have to expose it to all of you.

Whose grand idea was this anyway?

We knew that we wanted to address fear here at The Grove.  We’ve been planning to for months.  And then this Sacred Scared series happened over at Glennon Melton’s place, providing a stunning source of inspiration.  If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here:

Day OneDay TwoDay ThreeDay Four, Day Five.

Be warned, you won’t be able to stop reading.  Because there is something irresistibly powerful about people cracking open and letting you see their sacred scared.  When you see it, something happens…

You feel gushing relief.  “It’s not just me!”

You taste a hint of freedom.  “If they’re not hiding it, maybe I don’t have to either.”

You touch hope.  “They are doing life brave AND scared.  I’ve got the scared part down.  Maybe I can be brave too.”

That’s what I think can happen here for us, in this our haven of understanding.  That’s why I asked you all to show up here today with your fear.  So we could do this together.

But now here it’s my turn to share. I wrestled back and forth, pounded it all out, thought I was nearly finished, and then…well, then I scrapped it all.  That wasn’t the fear I needed to share with you all.  It would have been easier, because that fear had me looking a bit more “together.” And, well, I try pretty hard to give off that image.

But no … here’s the fear I don’t want to share, and maybe that makes it the one I need to share.  So here I go.

I’m afraid that pursuing this dream, that building this place called Velvet Ashes, is making me a bad wife and mom.

Blah.  There I said it.

How do I balance a God-breathed dream with the God-given actual people in my home needing me, a lot of me?

Do you turn your back on an incredible opportunity, a felt need and say, “Sorry, I can’t because my family needs me”?

Sometimes I think you do.  You absolutely do.

And sometimes, you look at that opportunity, you feel that need beating within you, and you dare to stretch and embrace it.

That’s what I’ve done with Velvet Ashes.

And I’m so very glad I have.  I love this place.  I love what is happening here, the bond that is growing in this sister tribe.  The way the Spirit is speaking to us through each other. It’s astoundingly beautiful.

But also, behind the scenes, it gets messy.

I stay up too late. Which means the next day I’m too tired and cranky, and it seeps out ugly all over my husband and kids.

No joke, after I typed the line above, I fell asleep sitting on the couch, computer in my lap.  Apparently I had my finger on the letter “d” because I made 64 lines of this:   ddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

I wish I was kidding.

Sometimes (ok, a lot of times) I feel that in trying to do it all, I’m not doing anything well, or as well as I should be.  And when that comes to mothering and wife-ing, it stings deeply.

I know it’s about balance and boundaries, about delegating and getting help.  And I’m trying.  Really I am.  But also, I’m a very tired mama, just trying to make it through the day.

When I dig in and peel back another layer, I have to admit that this fear of failing in these areas I hold most dear, this fear was there long before Velvet Ashes.  I think I’ve always looked for something to blame.  I used to tell myself it was because life overseas is so hard.  But then a two-year stint back in the States showed me, that really, life and marriage and mothering (although good and glorious) is crazy hard and exhausting no matter where you live.

I always envisioned myself as an amazing wife and mother serving overseas, and then I became a wife and mother serving overseas.  And now I have a daily mental list running in my head of all the ways I’m falling short.

I’d like to tie up this post with a pretty hope-filled bow.  But I suppose the point of having a fear is that you’re not done dealing with it.  So I’ll leave this one a bit jagged-edged, with just my step of exposure:

I’m tired, and I’m afraid.  I’m juggling my life, my family, and my dream so precious to my heart, and I don’t want to screw them up.

No make-up2No make-up

***

Honestly, there’s a part of me that wants to keep my fear all bundled up and hidden beneath my “I’ve-got-it-all-together-fascade”, but I’m doing this here, in hopes that it will mean something to someone.  Now it’s your turn to do the same.  Let’s do this together.  I know the Spirit’s been at work this week.  And I cannot wait to see what happens here.

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71 Comments

  1. karen March 6, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this, Danielle! Can I just say I’m so thankful you didn’t tie this up with a pretty little bow? Let’s let the weight sit there for awhile. It’s uncomfortable, hard and sometimes ugly, but I think sometimes we (me!) are too quick to satisfy it with a spiritual lesson. God will show up, I know He will, but I won’t learn, grow, wait on Him if I’ve already got His answer ready. 😉

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 6, 2014

      Exactly!  I sooo wanted to add a spiritual lesson at the end!  I much prefer being vulnerable about something I experienced in the past, where I can share the wisdom He’s given in hindsight.  It’s quite another thing to open up about the fears of today.  But it’s lonely to fight the fears of today alone, waiting to expose them until after you’ve made progress.  Here’s to waiting, to sitting in our fears together!

    2. morielle March 6, 2014

      Oh wow, oh wow, Karen and Danielle, these are some really precious insights. “But I won’t learn, grow, wait on Him, if I already have His answer ready.” … “But it’s lonely to fight the fears of today alone, waiting to expose them until after you’ve made progress.” Yes, I tend to look for premature answers. Yes, I wait until I have progress to share my struggles. Doing both of these things keeps me from richness in my relationship with my Lord, and my relationship with others. Ah, this is such a good challenge for me right now! SO grateful you ladies expressed these ideas so well.

  2. Jennifer March 6, 2014

    Fear is real. The power and impact of fear is real. The truth, however, is that fear is not the end of the story. One step at a time, one day at a time, often one minute at a time, I am ever so slowly learning to walk in both recognizing and acknowledging the reality and impact of fear in my life and in the reality that it is not the end of the story.

    Opening Eyes

    Opening Eyes to see what lies alone, deep within my soul.

    The fears I think are safely hidden, never to see the light.

    God, my father, in his mercy, will not leave them there.

    Time to stop the hiding, isolated and alone.

    Time to stop escaping from the truth.

    Time to tear the wall down cutting me off from the world.

    Time to let the light in, show the truth.

     

    No Fear in Love

    Fear

    Uncertain

    Unknown

    Unsafe.

     

    Fear

    Hiding

    Running

    Escaping.

     

    Fear

    A wall

    A cave

    An island.

     

    Fear

    Cut off

    Isolated

    Alone.

     

    Love

    Certain

    Known

    Safe.

     

    Love

    Freeing

    Holding

    Protecting.

     

    Love

    A door

    A bridge

    A home.

     

    Love

    Joined

    Community

    Together.

     

    “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 6, 2014

      Jennifer, I LOVE the contrast between fear and love. Beautiful and true.  Is there a fear you want to take out of hiding and into the light of this loving place?

      1. Jennifer March 6, 2014

        I think I am in the middle of a “now and not yet” moment in my journey. The poems I wrote this morning and shared here are not in any way theoretical to me. They reflect the reality of my story the last few weeks, since I expressed a fear and asked two friends, including one from here on VA. The power of both expressing a fear and bringing it out into the light of God’s love is real. It brought some powerful and significant changes I have not yet been able to tell even them of in words. It is also something which I walk in every day, one step at a time, as it both deepens and expands. I am not yet at the point I think of being able to put that fully into words, both because I am so much in the middle of it, and also because I have not yet found a way to fully articulate it while still showing the respect, which is important to me, to those people who have been significant parts of that journey, and are themselves still in challenging places right now. That is perhaps why I did not express the specifics of the fears I continue to allow God to shine his light upon here right now. I know that the time will come when I will. This is a safe place.

          1. Jennifer March 7, 2014

            Thank you! I equally deeply appreciated your challenge to me to share. This is a safe place.

    2. morielle March 7, 2014

      Jennifer, I am going to keep the images of your poem in mind this week as I face the challenge of exposing bits of myself I’m afraid to expose. “Fear / A wall / A cave / An island …. Love / A door / A bridge / A home.”  Those two stanzas were really powerful for me. They helped me know that I not only need to expose my ugly more, but I *want* to.

  3. Kimberly Todd March 6, 2014

    I said I would be here today. I got an email with a nudge. Then, I did chores that didn’t need doing, I took my time homeschooling my boys (because that’s a pretty important thing to do today, yes?) and we watched Jimmy Fallon and The Roots sing “Let it Go” with Idina Menzel just for fun (also seriously important, yes?). I went to the bathroom and made a cup of tea. But I don’t need to think, I know what to say, and so I hereby certify that this is my most abiding fear, my sacred scared: I’m scared that my voice is so dissonant that I am or will shortly become intolerable. I’m worried that what I believe about important things will disqualify me, that it will cost me and mine too much when I take a stand. That I will be boxed up and written off as faithless when it is exactly my faith that compels me. Then I fear that my thoughts and logic are flawed that my questions are crooked and so I’m wrong about everything anyway. I fear that the thriving we’ve had for years is an illusion and it’s only a matter of time before we fall apart. That when I want more than anything to share, I’m so clumsy I really just belittle or increase a burden rather than relieve one. That others are worse off for knowing me and being near me or reading what I write. I’m anxious that I am actually all of the horrible things that a dear one has said that I am, rigid rather than “boundaried” and changed but not in the good way that I thought I was. I fear that she replays the honest but unkind things that I said to her. I fear that there will never be authentic peace.

    1. Amy Young March 7, 2014

      Kim, I love you. It’s late at night where I am and I just got back from a very bizarre meeting so my insides are rattled up with “what just happened?!” I’m incapable of saying anything coherent right now. Will circle back later when sleep has restored me. For now. Love.

    2. morielle March 7, 2014

      Kim, I want to confess that I felt frightened at first to respond to your comment because I don’t want to belittle or increase your fears by saying something like “Oh, I have just that too!”. (Fear number one we have that is similar.) I found myself reading your post over and over, pausing over each sentence, and discovering so many feelings I hadn’t had the courage to consider even existed in my heart. Truth is, I feel many fears that are like yours in many ways, yet they manifest differently in my life – so I want to be clear that I understand your questions and fears are unique, and I will never quite understand them. Yet, I have benefited so much from reading these, both in the way they’ve made me be more honest with myself about my fears and in the knowledge that someone else has struggles that resemble mine.

      There were two words that really hit me deep in your writing. The first was “intolerable” – specifically this idea that as I continue to figure out what I believe, I fear that I am becoming more and more intolerable and rigid. I’ve really been struggling recently with what it means to hold a conviction and how to be honest without being unkind. I keep seeing myself bounce between one extreme of wimping out instead of taking a stand and the other extreme of saying things without considering well enough the ears they fall upon and hurting people I care for deeply.

      The fear you helped me discover with your thoughts about faith driving you to thoughts or actions that others may see as “faithless” was my terror of losing my faith. My mind naturally examines every side of every issue, and usually sees deep merits in multiple sides. I’ve been disturbed by James 1:8 “for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord”. Double-minded seems like a perfect word to describe my intellectual world. Does this mean I cannot expect anything from Him? I think the Lord is beginning to comfort me in the area of this fear with the knowledge that my faith is not purely intellectual. Even when I’m driven by a conversation or a book to the point where I have to concede that the intellectual arguments against faith are stronger than those for it, I still trust the Lord. I trust Him because of the things He’s done in my life. I trust Him because of who He is in scripture: someone who is not usually easy to follow, but who is always worth following. I’m trying to think of my faith more as a personal relationship than an intellectual conviction. My intellectual convictions can be crushed in seconds, but my relationships grow and deepen. But then I’m stuck with the fear: I don’t trust enough.

      1. Danielle Wheeler March 7, 2014

        I’m convinced that if anyone ever thinks they trust enough, they will inevitably find themselves stretched into a situation that exceeds their ability to trust.  And that only through that process is trust actually born.

        I’m here beside you, not trusting enough.

    3. Danielle Wheeler March 7, 2014

      Kim, the more I read your words, the more you share of yourself, your convictions, your way of life, the more I am drawn to you, the more I desire to hear from you.  Your words are a gift.  I hope that fear never keeps you from sharing them.  Because then we’d all be robbed.

      1. emily thomas March 7, 2014

        I completely agree with Danielle, Kim.  Your words are a gift.  🙂

    4. Shelly March 7, 2014

      “[I fear] that others are worse off for knowing me and being near me or reading what I write.”  Kim, this fear, of all the fears you named, hurts to read. “Oh no” escaped from my lips as I read it because I have been positively challenged by what you have shared here, and what I have been able to see of your life. (I know I don’t live in the same city, but we have an annual shared time & space.)  I think I responded like that because I recognize a similar (though not the same) fear in me. My response is mixed with anger toward the Enemy of our souls, who takes hold of our fears and unsettles us to the point that we consider giving up that which may be our gift to the Body. Kim, thank you for sharing so boldly and honestly.

  4. Elizabeth March 7, 2014

    I’m not a poet, so I can’t share art or poetry here. But I am a storyteller — and I even have my own blog. I’m just not ready to talk about my deepest fears publicly, on my own blog yet. They’re too embarrassing!  I know if I had to do that, I wouldn’t actually share this (especially since I’m not techie-minded and would probably mess it up), and I really need to talk honestly about this somewhere. I figured this would be about as safe a place as any! So, here goes.

     

    My fears are many, including health stuff as we talked about earlier this week, but this is probably the biggest, deepest fear, one I have not wanted to mention to ANYONE, ever:  I am afraid of not being Outstanding, or good at something in other people’s eyes. I am afraid of not being admired. At the current time, the main thing I “do” (that people can see) is write, and I am afraid my writing won’t be good, that no one will notice it, or, more importantly, that everyone will notice my husband’s abilities in EVERYTHING, including writing. (True story! He’s good at everything, and often, his posts do generate more likes and comments than mine, and it’s hard because I consider myself an artist of sorts, and I pour my entire SOUL into my writing, and then I sort of feel it falls flat, while he just puts something together that’s funny or touching, and it’s goes hog wild. This is no joke. We have had an amazing marriage, and this is one of those few sources of stress, but it’s a biggie.) I’ve poured my whole heart into all of my posts, and I’ve written a lot more than he has, because it’s this side thing for him, so I’m particularly, and pathetically, sensitive to not being “important.” I’m afraid that I will be nothing in comparison. I am afraid I will sink into oblivion. Because I want to be important!

     

    This has caused a lot of problems in my life lately, not just my marriage, but my own mind and heart.  And the more I pay attention to the things God brings my way (in the form of other Christian’s blog posts and sermons and worship songs), I am learning this is a big problem for me, a deep problem that goes way, way back. Because in high school, it was that I wanted to be the best student (and I was very near the top of my class, but also, very competitive). I was afraid of failing. This continued in college, though not as intensely I think. Then, as a young ministry wife after college, I wanted to be the perfect Christian. I was afraid of not being perfect. (I did end up in counseling for that one, which I’m thankful for, but I didn’t realize my desires could possibly ooze into other, “non-spiritual” parts of my life.) I even dealt with an eating disorder in high school, all related to this idea of being outstanding in other people’s eyes. All these ideas lately, about what our identity is, and only wanting to please God not men, and knowing life isn’t really about us anyway, it’s about God, and talking about pride and insecurity, and fear, and why in the world am I writing anyway, I know they’re all connected. I just haven’t connected the dots yet (but recently decided, I am going to get outside help again, because these issues aren’t going to go away on their own).

     

    It’s almost as if I’ve dealt with the symptoms as they’ve arisen, the depression, the pride, the perfectionism, the eating disorder, and I deal with it, and it goes away. But this writing thing must touch  something deep, deep inside me, because oh my goodness the explosions that happen. I want to get to the core, deal with the deep need or hole or whatever it is, because I have apparently not dealt fully with it yet. I know there is this fear, and I want to be able to “do it afraid” — I’m not opposed to that — but I also just plain don’t want to have as much fear anymore. Especially if my fears are rooted in my sinful self-centeredness. And I don’t want to spiral downward anymore. Because even when it looks nice on the outside, and there are pretty words on the blog, it might not look nice in the privacy of my own home, or of my own marriage, or of my own mind. So, yeah, I showed up here today to say that I am afraid, and I am tired of it. I want help. I don’t want to live with this big, formerly unspeakable, fear anymore. I want to live Free of the fear.

    1. Jennifer March 7, 2014

      Elizabeth,

      Thank you for simply sharing your heart.  I am learning that the first step towards what you most desire, is to recognize and accept the reality of the fear, not just at the surface, but deep down, as you have done here. It is a challenging journey that sometimes it is so easy to stop and find at least a measure of at least superficial peace for a time, and yet at the same time God very much wants us to give him it all, all the things we think he doesn’t want, that we can’t possibly express to him, so that he can do what he alone can do. It is, as you know, and expressed so clearly, not easy, and yet to choose to walk it will give us something which nothing else can. We choose to walk it one step at a time. We do not need to know where it will end. We do not need to be strong enough to do it. We simply need to take one step at a time with the strength and the courage which God alone can give and know that we are not alone.

    2. morielle March 7, 2014

      Elizabeth, it was so good for me to read your words and hear your frustration. I’ve felt such frustrations this past month too. I had an eating disorder in college, my first wake up call to how afraid I am of others’ opinions. But though, as you say, that symptom has been dealt with, the same fear keeps popping up, almost daily. It keeps me from expressing myself honestly. I sometimes hear myself saying things and wonder, how can that be my voice? And, yeah, all the longings to be a super-Christian are there — though God keeps mercifully humbling me and showing me back to the Cross and my desperate need for cleansing. Praying for you, and for the outside help you find, and that the Lord will guide you to the depths of yor fear and show you how to taste freedom from it. Praying that the Lord will free me too.

      1. Elizabeth March 7, 2014

        Thank you, Morielle, it is always good to hear others understand your struggles. It was crazy how freeing it was for me to just write that comment. Never in a million years did I think I could say that out loud! But I knew from earlier in the week I needed to show up here today. Glad I did.

        1. Danielle Wheeler March 7, 2014

          Hooray for the freedom that comes in bringing our fears into the light!!  So glad you shared with us, Elizabeth.  And bravo for being brave enough to step out and find outside help.  It’s amazing how the desire for people to think of us highly can become a prison that cripples us within.  I’m still in the (life-long?) process of breaking off those shackles myself.

    3. emily thomas March 7, 2014

      Thank you for your words, Elizabeth.  Writing certainly does touch a nerve.  It’s a very personal thing.  I, too, want to be remarkably important and pour my whole heart into writing and the response is not nearly as astounding as I had hoped!  I take comfort and encouragement from the few but sincere encouragements I have received from people who have been changed in some way by my words.  That’s helped me.

      1. Elizabeth March 7, 2014

        Yes, definitely hits a nerve! A nerve I don’t even know is there until it’s hit, but my, the pain when it’s touched. I will admit I am sometimes better about this than others. In good moments, I think of my writing as art for God. But other times, well, you know what it’s like! The competition and the insecurity are there. Although the thing I love about this forum is that it’s NOT competitive, at least it doesn’t seem that way for me, so it has really blessed me.

  5. Danielle March 7, 2014

    I have a blog, but am not yet ready to write these thoughts down for the world to see. But this seems like a place where some will understand.  I’m afraid that the freedom my husband has found from pornography will once again grip him and bring down our marriage. I live in a constant state of wariness, waiting for the foot to drop again, where we were once, me in a crying heap on the floor, thinking that his death would be easier than the betrayal and utter heart brokenness that I was feeling.  It’s those days when he has to travel, or be alone at night, or when he’s working alone in his office, or when we see scantily clad tourists around town or magazine covers–that doubt begins to creep in, and my mind goes to that enormous hurt he inflicted upon me.  I lose sight of the freedom he now walks in, and start to dwell on all the bad possibilities.  I fear that I will always walk around with this distrust, the nagging fear that it’s too good to last.  That will once again I will be left devastated.

    1. Elizabeth March 7, 2014

      I am glad to know I am not the only one not ready to talk about my fear on my own blog, and am thankful for a place to do it here 🙂

    2. Danielle Wheeler March 7, 2014

      I read this a few hours ago, and my heart’s been aching since.  Oh, that we could wave a wand and banish pornography forever…  First can I stand and applaud your husband for finding freedom?  And then can I send you a shoulder to cry on for all the hurt that’s been felt?  The tears from this pain echo across the world.  You are not alone.

      I think that fear’s most awful scheme is to push its way in and cloud over the goodness that is there.  I hate that fear can rob us of the goodness and freedom that exists now.   But I know that we have a God who redeems, who makes all things new, who can break fear’s tightest grip.  Praying that power for you, for healing and the miracle of trust renewed.

    3. Amy Young March 7, 2014

      Sister Wisdom. That’s my new name for all of you who have blogs and respect that all is not meant for public consumption. I don’t know if you’re reading the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown for the book club (and no worries if you aren’t!). But what we read this week about shame resilience has to do with finding one or two safe people to share with. There will be a few of us God calls to share a piece of our story more openly. But that is what it is. A call. And others are called to preserve through public silence, allowing only a few in to the recesses. Both paths are worthy and honorable and hard.

      Danielle, Sister Wisdom, Sister Sorrow – thanks for sharing enough. May the God who loves you, loves your husband, and loves your marriage fill these cracks with love and trust. Amen and Amen.

    4. Amy S March 7, 2014

      Oh, Danielle.  My heart hurts with you. Thanks for being willing to share. The problem for many of us is that we have no place to talk about our husbands’ struggles because everyone we know is his friend or colleague or boss. This can be an awful kind of isolation.

      If anyone wants to have a further, more private conversation about pornography, I’m open to being part of a discussion.

    5. emily thomas March 7, 2014

      Thank you for your honesty, Danielle.  There are things I can’t bring myself to write about on my blog too!  I am sincerely sorry for the heartbreak and the weariness you live with.  I’m praying for rest and comfort.

    6. Natalie March 8, 2014

      Thank you, Danielle for sharing your fear.  It’s mine, too.  I used to think this was other people’s struggle and felt sorry for them, and felt so blessed that my husband was “faithful” to me even with his eyes.  Such an amazing man!  Then, my husband and best friend who I never thought would ever lie to me did, and it was about pornography.  He says he’s been free of it for 5 or more years now, but it does seem the doubt won’t ever go away.  How, if he couldn’t resist something before can he now resist it?  Especially in an age where every day includes looking at a screen bursting with images for some part of the day, and where the most popular sites on the internet are the ones throwing trash into all of our faces.  I have good days where I feel that I understand things well through God’s eyes, and that God says “Sweet Daughter, I will take care of you no matter what.  Your husband loves you and doesn’t want to sin against you and me, but there are some days/moments that he will be tempted and Satan might win in that moment.  But it’s not the end, and in the end I win and there will be no more tears that day.”  Those times when I have to leave him alone with an internet connection are the hardest times for sure, like you said.  I love him and I simply like being with him, too.  But now that I understand that even the person I’ve loved and exposed myself to in the most intimate ways possible can do this…I’m afraid.

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  7. Kasey March 7, 2014

    Reading these responses has made my heart leap with a desperate cry of recognition. Fear is such a hard topic to discuss because of the sheer vulnerability but I feel like I should.

    My greatest fear is losing who I am. I just watched my grandmother lose herself to Alzheimer’s. She moved into our house with us when I was a sophomore in college and so I watched as the women I was supposed to love and respect faded into an hurtful shadow of her former self. The Father has healed many of the welts that were left on my heart in the years she lived with us. This is my first year overseas. This past October she passed away. Being a continent away and dealing with the impact of her passing was a challenge. The biggest aspect is the fear. The fear that one day my awareness will fade away and I will hurt those I love deeply. Or that my mom will get the disease and I will miss her last lucid years while I am serving in China. I am striving to give this fear over to the Father, but it comes in waves of terror and emotion. I just felt like this was a safe place to share and for that I am deeply grateful.

    1. Amy Young March 7, 2014

      Kasey, this resonates with me. Watching my dad die recently and how helpful it was to have children, I said to myself and several others, “Crap, I have really misplayed my hand in life. I have no children to care for me when I’m old.” And it’s too late to have children. Now, I’ve been planning for this, so there are 11 children in this world who know that I AM THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. But what if, over the years, their lives go on and I become forgotten. And I will be that lonely old lady in a nursing home? The one no one remembers when she was younger? And could “contribute” — I think that is part of what we did for my dad. We preserved the memory of who he was as he died. What if there is no one there to preserve mine?

  8. karen March 7, 2014

    I wrote this for my blog and then I just couldn’t hit publish. So isntead, I’ll share it here:

    I would run out of fingers and toes before I finished sharing all the things I’m afraid of.

    Aspartame poisoning. The noise my car makes on the highway (it’s a low humming noise, like our little Citroen is running scales before choir practice). My children’s lack of interest in athletics. Jack’s colourblindness (what if he wants be a pilot?). Ella’s penchant for destruction.

    And the questions, the unknowns: Is Matt fulfilled in his work? Where did these wrinkles come from? Will plane ticket prices go down? Will I get kicked out of the country? How will we pack up this house?

    This could take awhile.

    Those issues are all peripheral, just more symptoms of my neurotic nature. If I were to really press the issue, to dig down deep, look in the mirror at these new frizzy grey hairs and ask myself what it is that really frightens me, that which finds me on the floor by our bed at 2am breathing deeply through the panic, it is this:

    I’m afraid my children will inherit my anxiety. I’m afraid depression is in their genes. I’m afraid they will one day be afraid of God; not the good holy fear, but the awful dread of spiritual abandonment. I’m afraid they will crack like I once (or twice) did. I’m afraid they’ll feel it all, and with every, “Mom, I’m scared,” my fears record the evidence.

    This is how I was, I think. I said that exactly, I’ll say. Do you think this is it, I’ll wonder. How will I tell them, I ask.

    Of course, this could all be moot. Making a big deal about nothing. They’re great, we’re all great. I’m sure they’ll be just fine.

    But what if they’re not.

    I can only do for them what my mother did for me, when at 9… 12… 20 I came to her, “Mom, I’m so scared.”

    “I know,” she’d say, “I know.

    1. emily thomas March 7, 2014

      Wow, Karen.  I totally identify with this.  On one hand, we are “just fine,” but on the other hand, are we?  It’s a ping-pong game of optimism vs. anxiety.  Thank you for sharing this here.

    2. Danielle Wheeler March 7, 2014

      Karen, there is such raw beauty in your vulnerability here.  Thank you for entrusting us with the gift of this.  We hold it tenderly.  And we honor the way you are living through your fears.  Your children are blessed, truly blessed to be raised by you.  God knew just what he was doing when he made you to be their mom.

    3. Elizabeth March 9, 2014

      Karen, what you said about your mom, that’s just beautiful. Anxiety runs in my family too, although I didn’t know it as a child, my mom kept her anxiety hidden. But both grandparents were anxious too, and some of my aunts, and my sisters. I am as well. And I see it developing in my own children, even this early on. I know it comes from me, and I wish I could spare them the journey I’ve had (although in some ways, I was fishing in the dark for answers as a young adult, not knowing at the time it was a family struggle, thinking I was all alone). But this part: “I can only do for them what my mother did for me, when at 9 . . . 12. . . 20 I came to her, ‘Mom, I’m so scared.’ ‘I know,’ she’d say, ‘I know.'” Wow. What a beautiful testament to parental love, to understanding your children’s pain, and just sitting there in it, with them. God bless your mom for doing so, and God bless you as you do the same for your own children.

  9. Sarah Moulding March 7, 2014

    Fear leaves me trapped in a corner unable to find a way out, desperate to get away. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of making a fool of myself, of saying the wrong thing, of getting told off. Fears that have been growing since I was a child. Yet these are only the easy to see, easy to admit to fears, the only fears I was going to share about as they were kind of neat and tidy, yet like others I have been challenged to look deeper at those more rather ugly fears that control me in ways I would rather not think about. Only that’s going to take a little more time to process so for now I leave it there to hopefully return later when my thoughts makes a little more sense.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 7, 2014

      Wow, the power of this image!  We’ll be here, Sarah, when your thoughts are ready to share…

  10. Amy S March 7, 2014

    Thank you, everyone, for sharing so deeply and honestly. I am touched beyond words. My fear, since childhood, that I wasn’t able to name until much later, is that no one will notice me, and if they do, it will be because I am bothering them in some way – a negative impact. I have this feeling like my worth is measured by my ability to make life good for other people. It makes me scared to need people or to be weak or to have any faults. And like others have said, it makes me afraid that my words may harm others in unintended ways or be misunderstood, so I hesitate to use my words even though I believe God has given me the gift of encouragement. Early on in my marriage I would always ask my husband if I sensed the slightest odd mood, “Are you mad at me?” I was afraid of his anger, or worse yet, that I might be an annoyance, a bother.  In the following years, our marriage and ministry crashed and almost burned up – definitely one of my greatest fears. I have walked the long, dark valley of giving up on ever having a truly good marriage. I have come out on the other side.

    When I was in that dark valley I read the book Hinds Feet on High Places.  In the book, the main character is named “Much Afraid.” The Shepherd calls her to take a journey into the mountains. He promises to give her companions along the way. As I read, I imagined what lovely companions He might give her, to help her in her fear. I can’t explain  the pain I felt like icy fingers gripping my heart when I read that her two companions would be Sorrow and Suffering. I dropped the book, curled up into a little ball and cried out “Noooooooooooooo!”  Yet there I was, Much Afraid, yet being asked to take the hands of Sorrow and Suffering and climb to the High Places.

    I’m glad to have other companions as well, in this sacred place. Peace. Be still. Know. that He is. God. And through all of this, He has become my dear Abba.

    1. Elizabeth March 7, 2014

      Amy, it’s amazing how much we can relate to other people’s struggles when we start sharing them.  Maybe we as women are all so much more similar than we think?? Or at least more than I used to think??  Because I, too, have called myself “Much Afraid.” And although I, too, feel a call from God to encourage others, I am sometimes (often??) paralyzed by the fear that I will mess it up and not be encouraging. My prayer for you today is that you will use your gift without fear, and that even if you do still feel afraid, that you will use the gift anyway, because this world can be a dark place, and we need more encouragers like you! Hugs 🙂

    2. morielle March 10, 2014

      This image of Much Afraid climbing in the high places with Sorrow and Suffering as companions is so familiar. I’ve put that book on my “to read” list.

  11. Amy S March 7, 2014

    Danielle, I thank you for your vulnerability and courage. You have set the stage for this beautiful exchange that is taking place. What a gift! Your fear hits close to home for me. As I step out a bit more to explore my passions and giftings, I’m learning to say no to some things that I thought were necessary to make me a good wife and mother, or good person. One thing that has been hard to let go of as an expectation on myself is that I will have lots of people over to my house to eat. I have finally admitted to myself that I do not enjoy cooking for people or all the prep work that goes into having people over. I don’t like the way I treat my kids as my anxiety rises over the state of the house or the “enoughness” of the food. The expectation to be hospitable has changed shape for me. I know that my strength is not in offering physical food but in offering a safe place for people to share their hearts. I have felt much freedom as I let go of the burden of “entertaining.”  Also, as of January, I sent all my kids to school, and put homeschooling on the shelf for now, admitting that I am not the best person, right now, to get them to where they need to be academically. It has been challenging to think through what makes me a good wife and mother vs what I think my family wants from me. I’m choosing to capitalize on my strengths and be okay with my lack. But it is very much an ongoing struggle.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 8, 2014

      Thank you, Amy.  After reading these steps of freedom that you’ve taken, I want to shout, “You go, girl!!” I think one of the bravest and hardest things (for me!) to do is to embrace and accept my weaknesses.  And it’s so crazy how we kill ourselves to live up to this image of “good enough” that exists only in our heads.  So glad you shared.

  12. Ashley Felder March 7, 2014

    As I thought about this throughout the week, I kept coming back to a life-long struggle. Ugh. When will I ever get past it? My fear is a two-for-one: pleasing others and never feeling good enough. In any area. Isn’t it nice how those two coincide so well? Yeah. Great.

    I remember so many stories from my childhood when I failed and couldn’t handle it. I was known as “the crier” from kindergarten through middle school. (I’m sure I cried in high school, too.) My parents probably warned every teacher that I would get extremely frustrated when I couldn’t complete a task, and would just burst into tears. Every teacher got used to me. Some would tell me to suck it up…go to the bathroom, get cleaned up, and try again. I needed to hear that. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Cross, was the most caring and loving soul I had met. She would just hug me when I cried. I needed that, too.

    These days, I don’t cry as much when I’m frustrated, but instead I blow things up in my head of how I’m so not as good at this as this person. Take my husband for example. Oh my, how God must be loving pairing us together. A man that is good at literally (almost) everything. I mean, seriously. He’s the MacGyver, teaches himself how to fix electronics by watching a YouTube video, is on his way to mastering his 2nd foreign language (and can currently memorize Chinese characters after seeing them only a few times–*barf*), has taught himself piano and guitar, and on and on and on. I look at him, like, really, God? I have to see this every day and try not to compare myself? Yeah. Not easy. And I fail. Often.

    I compare myself to other Mommas. A LOT. Wow, there are a lot of talented people out there! And I’m not one of them. And Pinterest is evil sometimes, portraying people like they have it all together.

    I’ve been average in every area of life. A good student, but not the top. A very mediocre athlete that warmed the bench more than played. A so-so teacher. A mom that has cute kids (ok, biased), but that yells at them sometimes. Or doesn’t have crafts for them to do every day. Or is too lazy to homeschool them some days.

    And some of you know me as the “foodie” (I use that term in the lightest fashion possible) for VA. Yeah, guess who taste-tests all my food, who has the incredible palette, who tells me what I need to add? Yep, my dear hubby. Good thing he’s here, otherwise I’d still be a hot mess in the kitchen!

    So many ways that I don’t measure up. They hit me in the face every day.

    1. Elizabeth March 7, 2014

      Oh goodness, yes, I know what it feels like to be married to a man who does everything well. And of course, those are the reasons I love him, because he is so wonderful, but I feel like I have so few gifts, and they pale in comparison. And it’s truly hard for people with many, many gifts to understand those feelings! My husband thinks I’m great, so he doesn’t understand why I would feel inferior to him. I actually asked the wife of a very talented man about this recently, because it was really getting me down (and it took a lot of courage for me ask). It was very relieving to hear that she had those feelings of inferiority and non-mattering too. I thought I was the only one. I would never have expected her to say that, because they are such a wonderful couple, it’s obvious they truly love each other, and she is warm and inviting. You would never guess she might have struggles. So today, amidst all those feelings of not measuring up, I just want to send some love to you. May you feel the love of your husband, your sisters, and your God.

      1. Danielle Wheeler March 8, 2014

        I’m echoing that love, Ashley.  And thank God for the Mrs. Crosses in this world.  🙂  Can I pluck one line out to repeat back to you:

        “There are a lot of talented people out there!  And I’m not one of them.”

        I think fears (certainly my own) stem from lies we believe.  Can I call out that line above as the lie that may be rooted in all this?  You are talented and gifted and amazing.  And that, dear friend, is truth.   It’s so easy for the rest of us to see in you.  Want so much for you to know and believe that.    Love you!!

  13. emily thomas March 7, 2014

    Ugh… I feel it too, girl!  I have seriously stepped back and am in a re-evaluation process to see where things outside of family fit in.  Thank you for your honesty.  Thank you also for the truth that life is just plain hard some days no matter where you live.  I thought moving back home would solve everything.  Ha!  You give me courage.  🙂

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 8, 2014

      More power to you in the re-evaluating, friend.  Would love to hear what you come to.  So glad you’re here!

  14. Kristi March 8, 2014

    As I thought this week about what would be my biggest fear the word “useless” kept coming to mind.  I’m afraid of being useless – to contribute nothing, to be of no help, to encourage no one, to leave no lasting mark anywhere.

     

    Useless

    Useless. A

    Single word creeps into my consciousness

    Emerging from dark cervices where doubts

    Linger and fester. Growing

    Ever larger until they mature and

    Spawn the wretched “What if’s?” that

    Snicker and whisper, “What if you are not enough?”

     

    I am working on a rebuttal.  When it is mature and gives birth to truth I’ll share it with you.

    1. Jennifer March 8, 2014

      Kristi

      Thank you! I look forward to the rebuttal when it has matured enough for sharing.  Your poem make me think that it seems like time to shine the light into the crevices and simply see it for what it really is and take away its power. Fear only grows really well in the dark. Or at least the fear which has a negative impact tends to thrive in hiding in the dark, with us afraid to even let it come into the light.  The reverse to what is happening here this week.

    2. morielle March 10, 2014

      I’m also really looking forward to the rebuttal, Kristi. This poem could be about me.

  15. Sarah Moulding March 8, 2014

    So what are my fears? I’m finding it really hard to define them. Am I trying to find a hidden fear that isn’t really there or is it something buried so deep and well hidden that I just can’t see it for what it really is. What am I afraid of? I know that I have grown so much in these last six years of living overseas. I have changed. The fears that once were are not the same or are they, are they now just dressed differently or is it just that I am in such a different situation that I can hide from them much better and avoid the situations where those fears would affect me the most so that it gives the false impression that they no longer affect me.

    I’m afraid that something will happen to my husband, that’s a fear that keeps coming and going. I recognise how good he is for me, he understands me and listens to me, we spend a lot of time talking together. If I lost him who else would ever understand me in the same way. It’s a fear of not being able to express myself clearly, not having the right words to say. I really struggle to express how I feel and what I really think, I hate the thought of people not understanding me. I can’t be spontaneous to people’s comments, always thinking of a more appropriate response or what I really thought about something way later, too much later to further comment in most cases. Negative comments made to me about me in my childhood are etched in my brain and they still haunt me at times, they were people who never understood me, granted at the time I never really understood myself either. But it’s those childhood experiences that have added to the creation of this fear of… I’m not sure what to call it other than not being understood properly, though it goes deeper than just that alone. So I guess they do relate to what I originally wrote, but they are subtle in the way they impact me and my choices. I don’t want anybody to think bad of me or misunderstand what I say. I want to do things right, perfectionism creeps in there too, though seven years of parenthood have taught me a little of letting go of that as well as living in a country where nothing ever happens as plan A or rarely even plan B,C,D or E. Learning to be more open to let things happen as they happen, learning to be able to let go of control.

    Somehow being in a different culture speaking a different language has helped to tackle this fear of being misunderstood. By conversing in a second language I am able to allow myself more grace, and generally the listener is more patient as I try to express myself. There is more space to allow me to think about the right words or to express it in different ways. When talking to people in my first language the fear raises its head as I feel I am expected to be able to communicate clearly because it’s my first language, when actually it’s something I find extremely hard to do, so I sometimes find myself in a strange situation where my preference is to spend time with locals and avoid expat situations because of my fear and intimidation of communicating and being understood. Perhaps not so much of a problem now where we really benefit so much from our local friends, but our calling isn’t to be here forever, how do I overcome that fear when it comes time to return to my native country, with the added complications of being understood for who I am and why I think and do things differently as a result of living so many years in a different county and culture.

    1. morielle March 10, 2014

      Sarah, I too worry about losing the comfortable “well, it’s not my first language, so of course I’m not going to be able to say it very well” explanation I’ve got taped to my very foreign-looking face. I’ve recently been praying a prayer based on Moses and his fear of not speaking well. “God, you promised Moses to be with his mouth. Be with my mouth.” It’s actually comforted me a lot to know that I have no control over how people take my words, but God does. I agonize over times when I hurt someone with my words, but I also recognize that when God shows me a mistake, it means He is teaching me to make me grow, because He loves me. It feels right now like I bounce between extremes of fear and comfort.

  16. Davita March 8, 2014

    I’ve hesitated to write this though I’ve thought about it all week. I’m not one to share much in any media. I though, “This is a great exercise, I’ll actually try to journal it [which is something I also do rarely].” As I wrote I found myself in tears and I recalled seeing most of what I wrote in some form or another in the comments above. Still I hesitate, my hands literally shaking, but here is what I wrote:

    What I Fear

    I fear God. Not the holy awe, rather a trembling, cowering expectation. He’ll give up on me; He’s forgotten me; He doesn’t really intend to give me good in the land of the living; His caring is only a passing thought. And who can blame Him. After all, I’m weak, broken, useless. I’ve been put in a corner (or maybe I’ve put myself in a corner) and forgotten. Teaching me must be tedious, if not pointless. I run from His correction and His blessings. I can’t cling to Him because I fear He’ll eventually push me away, weary of me. I can never be enough for Him. I can’t love Him, so how can He love me? If He can’t love me then no one can.

    I can see the spiraling down of fear that debilitates within that jumbled paragraph but being able to quote Scripture, the words of God Himself, that counter each fear, each false identity I label myself with hasn’t broken these chains (or perhaps I just won’t let go of the chains).

    How can I, a Christian for more than 20 years, still struggle so much with the foundational truth — God loves me and it’s unconditional.

    1. Amy S March 9, 2014

      Dear Davita, Thank you for sharing. That was extremely brave. I think this fear is one of the deepest, at the root of many of the other fears expressed here. This is where even knowing Scripture is not enough, at least for me. We need deep healing in the places where we have been told lies and believed them. I had a very meaningful and transformative experience through healing prayer in which I was able to be with Jesus in a painful defining moment of a my childhood. Somehow it changed me. I think those of us who had challenging relationships with our fathers or mothers will especially need some help. I am so thankful for an older women who listened to me, loved me and knew how to lead me to Jesus again and again. For those of us who struggle to know or love God the Father, I have come to understand these words of Jesus  in a new way: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The way to know our Father God is see Him through Jesus.

      Davita, I’m sending you a virtual hug and praying that you will know in the very core of your being that you are loved and it has nothing to do with your usefulness or your goodness. I need to hear that about 100 times a day!

    2. morielle March 10, 2014

      This fear is something both my mom and I struggle with a lot in different ways, though I think we’d both be too scared to admit it. Thanks for putting our fear into words. Since reading your comment, we’ve been more open about it. And yeah, I think Amy is right when she says it’s the root of other fears.

  17. Ruth March 9, 2014

    I am afraid that I am not enough.  What if people back home realize I’m nothing special and spend most of my day doing extremely ordinary things?  What if the people here think I am too foreign, too wealthy, too ignorant (I don’t even know how to properly care for my own children!), nothing more than an irrelevant oddity?  What if my children end the day feeling passed over, unseen, devalued?  What if my husband wonders why he only seems to get the leftover pieces of me?  What if all the laundry and cooking and cleaning spit-up really is as meaningless as it feels?  What if all my striving and busyness is nothing more than pedaling furiously on a bike with a broken chain?  What if I run out of strength and outspend my measure of grace?  And ultimately, I guess I fear – What if, at the end of my life, I don’t hear a “Well done,” but rather a “Really?  Couldn’t you have tried a little harder?”

    1. Amy S March 9, 2014

      I’m nodding in agreement with you, Ruth. These are heart-wrenching questions. Praying that you will hear the still, small voice of affirmation that you are loved and loving.

      hugs, Amy

    2. morielle March 10, 2014

      Ruth, I agree with Amy, these questions hit hard.  Praying right now that our understanding and experience of God’s character will be strengthened.

  18. Jennifer March 10, 2014

    Fear… if you know who I am, how I think, what I know, what I can do, you will not accept me. Ways of looking at things, analyzing, thinking, knowing too much, can all too often honestly be threatening to people. Basic personality profile as strongly INTJ can compound the challenge. Yet, at the same time, I do know that I am who I am and that God does have a place for me, that all my crazily diverse background is preparing me for, if I can simply have the courage to walk one step at a time, and let go of the fear of simply being me and doing what I can do.

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  20. Sarah March 17, 2014

    Somehow I stumbled on this website, velvet ashes as a result of a night of googling- I’ve been silently reading for about a week and I decided to join in- although my story doesn’t exactly look like the rest of yours, ladies.  But I do have FEAR- and it does relate to your stories.  Without going into crazy detail – mostly because my 10 month old is about to wake which means my social online time is about to end and I want to just finish this post before she does- long story short .. My husband and I have begun to feel the promptings to move overseas and serve in Central America – nicaragua.  Our story is different  in that he is actually from nicaragua. He has a heart to do some amazing things there…..and I have been before so I know what it would be like- but life is different now since we have been in that I’m a mom- we are parents. Brings me to my point of fear – fear of uprooting – fear of telling my family who already has a hard time with us living in FL( they are in WI) that we now will move further and they will see even less of their grand baby /niece/ Cousin – fear of the unknown and fear of no real pay checks- fear…. Can be crippling but thank God for His peace – even when I don’t   understand – and to those who followed Gods promptings to begin this website and support here at Velvet Ashes- I love what I see and read – genuine women with hearts to follow God, with a sense of call upon their lives yet with a reality to share their hearts with other women ❤️And with that my little person is now awake – time is up-

    1. Emily Thomas March 17, 2014

      Well Sarah,  so glad you found us over here (and it sounds like it’s just in time too if you’re heading toward Nicaragua!). I recall those very fears when we left for China. I’m thankful you have some idea what it will be like for you.

      Welcome to Velvet Ashes and thank you for bravely commenting about your fears in a new space!  We look forward to seeing your journey unfold.  🙂

    2. Elizabeth March 18, 2014

      Oh Sarah, how I wish I could hug you right now, and share stories of how God is faithful on this journey! I had so many fears about moving overseas, they were paralyzing. Each step of the way, God was with me, and it is not nearly as awful as I imagined it would be when my husband first told me his plan. In fact, I love life on the field! Saying goodbye to family was definitely one of the hardest things, but I believe even in that, God is with us. May He be WITH you and IN you and be the one leading you onward. May He give you a calling of your own, and may you find fulfillment in it. And welcome! I love this space called Velvet Ashes. May it minister to you as deeply as it has ministered to me.

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  22. Cecily March 29, 2014

    Maybe I’m too late to join in this conversation, but life has been busy…  But I am very afraid, so I must be brave and say it like it is.

    What will happen when the end comes?  Will I stand before the King and hear Him say, “Well done!”?  I want this more than I want anything else in all the world, but how can I know?  I seek with all of my heart to follow the Lord, and I listen daily for His voice.  But how do I know that I am not completely missing it?  Where is the fruit?  I seek to be faithful in the little things of the everyday, but I don’t get it right all the time.  But its not about works…  But then why will He say to some, “Well DONE”?  Done means that you did.  So there is something to do with doing, not just being.

    So, there.  I am afraid that I will miss the mark, although I seek with all of my heart to hit it and to hear those words, “WELL DONE my good and faithful servant!”

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