I am sitting beneath a super soft and snuggly Peppa Pig blanket, beside a warm and cozy little 4-year-old with disheveled hair and footie pajamas. Doc McStuffins is on in the background talking about her most recent diagnosis of “broken tailiosis”. Two boys, 6 and 9, are sitting across from me, cashing in on “kindle points” they have earned from their week. The coffee beside me is hot and we have nowhere to be until 10:00 on a crisp fall Saturday morning.
It is in these moments that I take a step back and I reflect on the daily blessings in my life. After a hard season, I feel my eyes opening anew to new perspectives, new beginnings that comes from the releasing of fear. But, it hasn’t been easy, getting to this place.
About two years ago, this same time of year, the same crisp mornings, the same colors decorating my landscape, a patient of mine lost her battle here on earth and was completely healed in heaven. That experience affected me more than I realized then, now reflecting on that different kind of grief journey, the kind that not only brings the normal sadness and questions, but also a unique kind of care giver guilt.
It also came at the same time as a new medical diagnosis of one I hold very dear. The diagnosis, unexpected, and not easily remedied, proved to further this state of grief I had entered into as I grasped at every life line available to soften its blow. Then there was the turning of 36, entering mid-life, seeing more gray hairs and wrinkles around my eyes and realizing that my womb would not hold another babe – that dream that I had held in my heart my whole life of being a mama was here – and I realized that I had not thought about life much past being a baby mama and embracing giggles, smiles, unconditional love and being physically needed. I hadn’t thought much about my kids talking back to me, sneaking behind my back, not enjoying bring in my presence, saying, “I hate you mom” or “I am going to buy a new mommy” from the four-year old sasster.
Loss, disappointment, guilt, fear…fear that started to consume me.
Because I was living in this state of confusion and fear, the new boss with different expectations shook me. The grief I was dealing with in my life then infiltrated my career – and I desperately sought freedom from the chains that I thought were external…but am now realizing were more internal around my heart.
In the midst of looking for an escape from my job, one of my very best friends was diagnosed with a terminal and incurable genetic disease. You can read more about that time here. While I was present there with she and her family through the uncovering of the diagnosis, the numerous hospitalizations and scary close encounters with death, my heart hurt deeply. Fear multiplied and the thought of losing this sister began to strangle me.
A new job opportunity eventually came and I saw it as a way out of what I thought was causing me such deep confusion and discontent. I leapt at the chance to experience something different – something that would surely release me. I was offered this new position literally within 24 hours of putting my application in. I accepted.
I sat on the beach, talking with my husband about this new opportunity, this chance to start over and anew and… to run away. And in my place in front of the ocean, my place of peace and solace in this world, the place I feel most connected with God…it was very apparent that leaving my practice as a PNP was not the right path. But, I had already accepted another position…though only a 10% commitment…still more added to my overflowing feast of fear.
Seeking of the Lord was not absent in any of this. Almost daily quiet times, seeking of wise counsel, attendance of a well-known and respected Christian women’s conference, daily prayers, church membership and attendance…all there. Check, check and check. Remember, I am a firstborn.
It was after this beach trip that I realized how badly I needed to sort through my hurts and my fears. I realized that I had been giving into fear, and that fear had a hold on me. No amount of bible study can cure a heart that is not aware of its disease…and my disease had/has been fear.
Fear – of losing another patient, of losing one of my best friends, of getting old, of never feeling loved by my children again like I did when they were babies, of missing God’s voice and plan for my life, of not knowing… Fear – of my children’s future, of disappointing my husband, of my parents growing old. Fear – of putting myself out there – in writing, in practicing medicine, in mothering, in being a wife, in being an honest “admitter” of the disease of fear.
Fear is defined by Miriam Webster as 1) a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone, or 2) an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. “To fear” means to feel anxiety or apprehension.
And this fear, this disease…I know for sure, it is not from the Lord.
2 Timothy 1:7 says this…”For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
And just how do we combat fear, fear that is so very real? It has been estimated that the words “do not fear” or similar sentiments are recorded in the bible 365 times. Hmmm. Wouldn’t that be a nifty coincidence? Now, understand, I did not go and count them…but some other wonderful God-seeking people have… and this sentiment is just that, a sentiment. Not true.
However, what is true, is that we most certainly do have a daily reminder not to fear. That reminder is carefully woven throughout the bible, estimated mentionings around 110 times. One antonym of fear found in the thesaurus is faith. Wrestling in my head and heart about this antonym is hard. I see myself as a person of great faith, so how in the world can fear grip my heart so tightly?
Well, it just so happens, that I am indeed, a human. I am not perfect. I fail, I fall, I miss the mark. Often. But no matter how many times I do fail, or struggle, or grapple with fear and even its cousin, anxiety, God is always there. He welcomes my heart every second of every minute of every day.
Lamentations 3:21-24, The Message, says this:
“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”
God’s mercies are new every morning. His relief from fear is also new every morning. His forgiveness of our trying to go our own way is new every morning. One day, one at a time, I am trading fear for faith. I am calling it out for what it is. Owning it, some would say. For it is in the recognition of our weakness, that we most earnestly seek the spark to reignite our fire, or trust, in the Lord. It is that spark that then enables us to embrace our Heavenly Father’s Spirit of power, love and self-control – the opposite of this fear that is so gripping.
But, it’s a spark. Not a flame. It starts small and it needs kindling, oxygen and careful prodding – daily. It takes a one day at a time approach, trusting God for enough, each day. And, that is how I am really being forced to live right now – because I simply have to. Balls have been dropped, i’s have not been dotted, t’s have not been crossed in the process.
While I am tending to two jobs now (cray-cray happens when you live in fear), extra helpings of two subpoenas for the first time in my medical career, preparation for a HUGE presentation for all of the pediatric medical faculty at two big hospitals, three children and all of their various needs, my husband and daily life, forgive me if I misstep, not having planned every detail to the nth degree. I am living today for today, living one day at a time and holding onto the blessing of being present right where I am, right underneath this Peppa Pig blanket with my baby girl.
One little day at a time, I am carrying my little sparkler, my releasing of fear, enjoying its flame and beauty that illuminates my life, moment by moment. One day it will be a full fledged fire that I will be refined by.