Do it scared.

It was almost two years ago when I sat across from her, a stranger. It was dark in the auditorium. People were spilling out as we leaned in, her heart and her eyes wide open.

There’s something profound about telling a stranger your story. Something freeing, giving them pieces of you, knowing that their insight and wisdom will come from God above, not a lifetime of knowing you.

I told her what I was scared of, the year ahead, the move – the changes, oh the changes. And she told me words I’ve never forgotten:

Do it scared.

I couldn’t tell you her name, but I can tell you this: her words changed my life.

Because I went home after that weekend and I would soon receive an acceptance letter, and although my future wasn’t clear I would pack my bags and heart and boxes. And I would move,

and I would do it scared.

Because bravery isn’t the absence of fear.

It’s doing it anyways.

And who knew that two years later I’d find myself in that place again, asking different questions but seeking the same answer –

How do you do it scared?

And I’m reminded: you do it by taking a deep breath, trusting God’s in the darkness, and knowing your people are jumping with you.

And then,

you jump.

 

 

The Coffin

The roof above me glistens as the light makes its way through the stained glass. I always notice something new each time I find myself sitting in the hard, wooden pew: the way the lines intersect above me, the way the golden tiles shimmer behind the cross at the altar. Hours earlier she’d asked me what it meant for me to rest. Bowls of steaming soup between us, she’d asked, “What does rest look like to you?

After a moment, I tell her I am afraid. Afraid of the silence that rest often brings.

And as I stare at that ceiling, whispering a few words up above, I ask Him: “It always comes back to a fear of being known, doesn’t it?”

A fear of being seen. It was what Adam and Eve feared that day in the Garden; it is what I fear and yet long for the most. To be seen, remembered, known.

How is it that our greatest fear can also be our greatest longing?

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I am convinced – that the longing for love and to be known – may also be what we fear the most.

Because we tend to build up walls, and push others away, and put on our masks – and yet all the while we are hoping that One will climb the walls,

pull us back,

and peel off the mask.

We fear and yet hope simultaneously. Why do we give so much voice to fear, and yet hold so loosely to hope?

CS Lewis writes in the Four Loves that to love at all is to be vulnerable. To be seen may require heartbreak. And if you want to, you can bury yourself in the coffin of your selfishness –

because that is what living in fear does. 

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When we are convinced that we need to protect ourselves from being seen we actually rob others of experiencing love through us.

(Does that not shake you to the core?) Being seen was never meant to stop at us. It opens our eyes to see others, to hold others, to love others.

And if we protect ourselves from being seen,

from being vulnerable,

from being loved,

in our need to protect (our self) we hurt ourselves and those around us.

I hear the echoing Voice of the One who asked Adam and Eve so long ago where they were. Fearful, perhaps – but I emerge out of the coffin, dusty and withered, and in a shaky voice I answer:

“Here I am.”

 

 

 

 

The Other Side of Fear

I moved to Toronto a few weeks ago. It was hardly a move across the world, or a move worthy of a tractor trailer (well, don’t ask my dad that question) – but it was a move nonetheless. It required summoning up some deep breaths, a lot of prayer, and a lot of sleepless nights. But I’m here. And I live in this little apartment on the third floor in the big city, and I have a roommate who makes me laugh and keeps me up too late, and a balcony that looks out on some woods.

Life is sweeter than I imagined it to be on the other side of that move.

I imagined a lot of tears, and a lot of regret, and a lot of missing. A lot of the aching, something’s absent in my life kind of pain.

And I feel inclined to write this here – that sometimes, on the other side of fear is exactly what your heart hopes for.

There are days when my car shakes a little too much, and my bank account is quite empty, and I cry on a beach because everything hits me all at once. Lfe really is never perfect. But on the days when my car shakes a bit too much? I get to where I need to go. And on the days when I close my eyes for a minute before checking my bank account? I have food in my fridge. And on the days when I sit on a beach because life seems a bit too much? There are birds that fly overhead, wind that makes my hair fly wild around my face, and a whispered prayer that God brought me to the water I love so much.

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Change is hard for me, and maybe it is for you too? Sometimes I fall into the pit of depression I wrestle with, and that’s a reality I’ll always face. But when change is written in your story, and God somehow promises to use all things for His glory, can you and I find Him in it all? Will I look for Him? He promises to be found when we look for Him with all our hearts. Do I open my heart wide enough to search for Him even when things don’t look the way I hoped they would? Or even, when they do?

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There’s this city outside my door, and it’s a city I get to plant my feet in. I get to walk the harbour at night with him and dream about where the boats are off to. I get to wonder about the people who walk through the cafe each day, and talk to the mamas at the playground as I watch the little guy who’s stolen my heart. Did anyone ever tell you that the place you are in needs you today? That that city outside your door, the one you packed up to move to, the place that had doors held wide open for you to enter, it needs you? It needs your smile and your hands and your feet? 

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I’m telling you, it needs you. Don’t forget it. You are needed right where your feet are. But are you willing to land? Are you willing to let them rest there, find their way there, find their home there?

Because on the other side of that fear –

There might just be something beautiful.

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Surpassing all Understanding

The other day I sat across from my doctor and listed the symptoms. Anxiety. Racing heart. Nausea. Shaking. 

Before he responded with his diagnosis, I could already hear the words he was about to speak whisper into my ear. Panic attack. And sure enough, seconds later, he proceeded to confirm what I already knew. We talked about options; we talked about a solution and thankfully, underlying his words was the reaffirmation that I needed to hear: you’ll get through this.

The other night, as my mom sat across from me on my bed, and I recounted to her the conversation between my doctor and I, she frowned and put words to questions I too have wrestled with. “But I don’t get it,” she said. “How can you have panic attacks when you have the peace of God?”

And I sat, stumped by her question, because in all reality I just really don’t know.

But tonight, questions stir in my heart because I wonder.

Does the peace of God mean the absence of anxiety? 

If there’s anything my life has taught me, it isn’t that Christ necessarily seeks to take away trials from us but rather He seems to want to walk through them with us.

And I just wonder, if even in the midst of a panic attack, His peace is found in the Hand that holds mine and gently whispers, “Breathe. You’ve got this. You’ll be okay.” And in doing so, those times of severe anxiety don’t reflect a lack of peace but rather peace that surpasses all human understanding. Instead those times reflect the great presence of Peace.

I’m reminded of the verse in Exodus, “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” The battle was never averted but rather God promised to fight it for them. He was just as present in the midst of the battle as He would have been in its absence!

And I wonder if maybe, just maybe, His Presence and Peace are just as present in the midst of anxiety as they are in its absence.