Fear

To reach that spectacular, beautifully rugged land’s end, I needed to cross that blustery bridge. It was the summer of 2015, and my husband and I stood on the rocky soil of County Antrim, Ireland. The smiles of the people waiting in line for their turn were like lifelines to me. Tourists who had already made their way over the popular Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge waved across to all gleefully, eager to share their joy at reaching a point of the Emerald Isle that would have been treacherous any other way—if not for the bridge made of simple wood planks and intricate knots of thick, trusty rope.

I wasn’t so sure that rope was so trusty.

Shortly after we returned to our home in California, I turned on the computer in our home office and immediately discovered my husband had changed the desktop wallpaper. It was a picture of me on that bridge. I was confused. Why not a picture of the two of us from some other photo op on that trip? Usually, our desktop wallpaper was something of us together, or of our beloved dog, Amber.

I called out my question to him from where I knew he could hear me in the living room. It was quiet for a bit, and then I heard the muffled sound of his feet brushing across the carpet as he made his way to the room.

“I know how hard that was for you,” he replied quietly from the doorway.

I felt my heart swell with love for this man.

“I know how hard it was.”

Although our trip to Ireland that year was overall an amazing experience, it seemed like I was trapped into facing one battle after the other. Instead of being excited to fly across the Atlantic, I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart racing in fear of our upcoming flight. Instead of every moment thrilling to the luscious green land all around me, at times I struggled to catch my breath. Instead of marveling at the natural wonder of the hexagonal columns at the Giant’s Causeway, I trembled in near panic as we walked along dirt paths next to cliff walls…certain they would crumble down on top of us at any moment. The odds of that happening were extremely slim.

The fear I struggled with is a distant memory now, but at the time that gruesome pest was taking all the fun out of an extraordinary trip. And my worrying over every little thing was draining the strength out of my mind and spirit.

So by the time we arrived at the “car park” of the rope bridge, he looked over at me before we got out of the car. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I peered out the windshield and looked at the path which led to the ocean. I could barely see the bridge, but from this point it didn’t look quite as scary as I had imagined. “Yep,” I huffed with a tight smile. “Nope,” my heart shot back, the echoes of my discontent bouncing around my rib cage.

As we got closer to the line of tourists waiting to cross, however, my breath started to come out in hesitant, quivering bursts. I squeezed my eyes shut in an effort to quiet the evidence of my uncertainty. “Are you sure?” he checked again when he caught me staring down at the crashing sea 100 feet below.  (That’s the part you can’t really see in many pictures.)

“Yep.”

When we were next in line, I looked up at the young, fair-haired Irishman whose cheeks were red from being slapped by cold, wild coastal air. He was one of two workers there who were the gatekeepers, so to speak, supervising and limiting the number of bridge crossers. The three of us chit-chatted loudly over the roar of the waves while we waited, laughingly trading California and Irish stereotypes, and how he’s been meaning to make his first trip to the States to visit a friend in San Diego.

Finally, I looked into his friendly blue eyes—certain God had placed him there that day to comfort me with his quick camaraderie—and all of a sudden blurted, “I’m a little terrified, but I’m going to do this.” It had been the statement I’d repeated silently the whole way down the path up to this point. I was sick and tired of letting fear beat out my faith and trust. I said it over and over until I believed it.

The stranger’s kind smile gentled, and his eyes turned serious as they acknowledged my fear.  “Not to worry,” he said, his musical Irish accent calming me, “you’ll do just fine. Are you ready?” He had received the nod of permission for us to trek ahead from his partner across the way.

And so, step by step I worked my way across the bridge. The creaks of the rope swaying in the gusty wind invaded my ears, but the strength of the planks below my feet, my silent prayers, and my belief that I could squash this feeling of trepidation—because I chose to—upheld me and my courageous soul the whole way and back again. For the rest of the day, you couldn’t take the smile off my face if you tried. Even thinking back on it now, the memory girds my heart.

“I know how hard it was for you.” My husband’s answer whispered to me again.

Currently, I’ve chosen to focus on the truths of courage over the lies of fear…but I still have my moments of not believing I can do certain things. Even now, I have some goals that leave me shaking in my boots when I think too long on it. But the things I want to conquer don’t have to be achieved all at once. I believe that some day I will be able to scratch each one off the list, but I have to be patient with myself and give myself the grace to persevere—one step at a time, if need be.

There are some fears I’ve fled from and didn’t triumph. And yet, I won’t dwell on the ones from the past which I may not have the opportunity to face again. Instead, I’ll find new things to find victory in.  Whatever you may be facing, believe that you can declare yourself the victor. The feeling of accomplishment and relief…the burden of dread lifted…the surrender…it is so worth it. Will I ever bungee jump? Never will I ever. For me, today… in about 10 minutes, it’s going to be the pile of dishes in my sink that I will conquer. That mess seems impossible. But I believe I can tackle it, and so I will.

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Strength

If you ever want to see a visual of how Christ can strengthen your life, just go tackle a vine. Until one summer two years ago, I’d only examined a vine once in my life, and at that time it was a baby vine. I saw the potential of its strength, but I had no idea how tenacious, resilient, and intricate a fully grown vine could be. My husband and I had let some things go because of the drought, and one morning I decided to try to remove a big ol’ vine bush from our backyard. Well…I sweat. My muscles ached. My back became sore, and even my breathing became labored! Not really having done ANY sort of yard work in my life, I had no idea such an innocent looking bush could be such a challenge!

But as I worked these words kept floating around in my head:

“I am the vine…I am the vine.”

“You are the branches.”

“Abide in me.”

The more I dug in with my trimmers, the more I discovered how this plant was so intricate, so strong…so amazingly beautifully ugly. It was imperfect and unkempt, like how I feel on a daily basis. Yet even in a drought it persevered, grew, and formed a weave of sturdy branches…some wider than my thumb! The vines were tangled, yet glowed a vibrant green…what I thought was ugly slowly became beautiful strength in my eyes.

“I am the vine…you are the branches…abide in me.”

When we abide in Christ, we do that by reading the bible to know Him and how He would handle situations…we pray and do not lose hope, even when things seem hopeless or we don’t understand why He didn’t answer the way we begged Him to…we trust Him…we are conscious that He is ever beside us. And if we abide in Him, the result? We are the branches!!!! Those strong, tougher than nails branches which make the bad things more difficult to penetrate and affect us. Yes, I was able to cut those thick branches, but not without grunting, Herculean effort (for me, at least!)…if we have that strength in us, how much harder will it be for others to try to attack us, hurt us, or to allow ourselves to give in to despair, jealousy, and fear??? Many days pass when I do not read the bible as much as I’d like to in order to gain and be reminded of this strength that comes from Jesus…I’ve felt the disconnect when trying to pray…but after seeing this real-life example, I can’t help but want to run to my bible and dig in!!!

“I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5

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Rest

When life is not quite sailing along the way we think it should be, we cannot allow our spinning wheels to cause us to forget the miracles, gifts, and answered prayers that God has blessed us with. Remembering those good things alone can turn a scary or frustrated thought into a much needed smile. 

Take a quiet moment and be still today. God is in control…we need not worry so much. We can rest in Him and give Him our burdens. Praise Him for the good things in your life because, if we take the time to look around us, there is much to be thankful for. The list of what’s going wrong may be piling up, but give some extra attention to what is going well. Doing that, you may find that you will be able to move forward much easier than if you dwell on the negatives.

In your still, silent moment, listen for His voice of compassion and grace. Take a moment to breathe in His goodness and sovereignty. Ask Him for wisdom, and receive His love. He is waiting for you.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.” -Psalm 46:10-11 (NIV)

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