I flew across the ocean, twice, to grow my family.
I invited once-strangers to call me Mommy and made them my own.
I fielded all the hurt and anger that comes from four once-broken lives that are now finding mending in my home and sometimes finding me to be an easy (safe) target. And I loved them.
Things that many fear — loving the outsider until they’re an insider, at a variety of ages, and around the clock — I’ve done (by the grace of God).
“I’ll do anything for You, God,” I whispered under my breath a hundred times, as I slowly warmed to the reality of this “yes” I’d said to adoption, two times and four kids over. I think I even considered myself fearless during moments of walking through and over my fears for them and seeing His response.
An email and a subsequent phone call and a ball that slid right out of my hands and down what seemed to be a declining slope so that I couldn’t catch it.
I was going to publish my story. Just like that, it happened.
The story that I didn’t just write, but inhaled at 1am, months after we brought our second two children home and at midnight while we waited for them and one I had scribbled on scratch pieces of paper that I stuffed into my Bible in between making dinner and the changing of the laundry (’cause I just couldn’t get away from it), was going to be available for more than just my internal discussions with God.
And in about five seconds I went from fearless to frozen.
I’d clean up the vomit from a child who quite literally heaved as she experienced a daddy’s love and I’d shut down my entire afternoon for another one of mine who needed hours of talking and praying before she was even able to speak — but a book? A published book, with my words?
The waves of fear I had around notions of external promotion and platform and what it all might steal from my tucked-away-and-undiscovered life could leave my head spinning for not just hours, but days. Nothing was penetrating this fog of fear that left me like a five year-old on the first day of kindergarten all over again.
Talk of the book left me with a head full of confusion and fear. One minute I’m thriving in God, alive to what He’s speaking and saying, with the layers of His Word moving me … and the next, I’m winded, sucker-punched.
I’d stare in the mirror at yesterday’s woman who stood bold and confident-in-Him — the mother of (then) four who was wearing big-girl clothes — who now in one second had recoiled into a little girl, unable to think of anything but the noise in her closet at night and what it might be.
Fear does this. It sucks the oxygen out of a room and leaves us thinking of nothing but the very thing we fear and its potentialities.
And most of the time, we learn to cope. I had.
We avoid circumstances and people that elicit the fear. We carefully — often unbeknownst to ourselves — pattern our lives in such a way that we don’t have to look in the mirror and see that six year-old, terrified of the night. We turn on the nightlight. Always.
Until that purposed moment when our secret cries to God — I really do want more of You. I want a life lived radically alive to You — are heard. And He gently walks us through our valley of the shadow of death.
Because His perfected, completed love — and fear cannot coexist. New areas of our heart won over to God are always reclaiming space from old place-holders.
I could often focus on God and His Word when fear wasn’t around; so, naturally, I voraciously avoided anything that triggered that fear. Dozens of times over the years I said: “there is nothing new under the sun. The world doesn’t need another book.” It felt pithy when I said it. Fear (and the enemy behind it) are smart that way. You can dress fear up and call it wisdom and be bedfellows for years, unknowingly, just like I was.
So He took the book I wrote in private and which I fiercely guarded, and gave me a very weak “yes” to Him, here. He put it in print. Almost seamlessly. I watched friends labor through a process that, for me, felt like it happened in a blink.
I’d spent years praying “God, I want more of You,” expecting (and receiving) that “more” in all sorts of ways, but I faced no other hurdle quite like this one, where it was as if He leaned in to me and said: let’s walk through your worst fear. I promise you’ll find me here.
And find Him, I have. And am still.
It’s taken me months to be able to write this post and years to live it. I was locked-up on the inside, trapped in a haze and bowing to the fear of what this life, now-exposed-on-the-outside, might bring me.
But He was gentle. This perfect love of His moved in and scooped up the jammy-clad six year-old version of me and said “no more nightlights.” He took me where I didn’t want to go and waited it out as I kicked and screamed (silently and with language guised as measured maturity). He waited it out with me, patiently unfolding the circumstances I said “no way, never” too. He put my hand to the closet door and put His face up against mine, nearer than maybe I’ve ever felt before, and said: this is love.
This invasive love of God has opened up new spaces in my heart and mind to worship. I see Him, nearer, on the other side of this fear.
So, I once knew of a girl who feared pinecones.
I thought it was crazy, thought she was crazy, until I was given the gift of telling the testimony of Jesus in my life to many more than I’ll ever meet in person and I got crazy afraid. Just like her.
We all have them. Crazy fears, that we normalize and build our lives around so as to not trigger them.
Mine was becoming uncoiled from my beautifully-hidden space — it was publishing my story, and yours might be flying across the ocean to adopt a child who will vomit at your expression of love. Or it may be pinecones.
The danger isn’t actually in walking through our fears, the danger is in resisting the leadership of God when He scoops us up and says “no more nightlights.”
Is today your day to ask to have His face move closer to you than you’ve ever known, while He puts your hand on that closet door? Is today your day to hole up in your room, even if just for ten minutes, and say “Jesus, no more. Come and replace my fear with Yourself.”
We only have so much space on our insides. I want mine full of Him, not fear.
(Making it practical: Though I’ll likely write more about this in the months ahead, I can’t end this post without saying: The best inspirational books — even this one 😉 — might lead you to water, but you have to be the one to take a drink. His Word is that drink. Don’t just hang out around His Word and His Spirit if you want freedom from fear, get lost INSIDE of them.)
Thank you Cherish Andrea Photography for these photos.