Anxiety, Distorted Vision, and the Power of Christ

You may have heard it said that each of us view our world through rose-colored glasses, which means we perceive situations or perhaps events as being better than they actually are. I disagree. I think, most often, our

woman with splattered glasses

Image by Noah Black on Unsplash

perceptions are distorted by a combination of garbage-splattered lenses and curved reflections similar to those displayed by carnival mirrors.

Our vision is tainted by past hurts, pride, fears, sin, and deception, making it hard to see God’s hand and clearly discern His guidance.

This spring, as all my vision distorters fight for dominance, I’m combatting them with truth. This is the only way I’ll be able to clearly see God’s will and heart for me.

In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if you eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

In Scripture, vision refers to one’s ability to view our world and lives from God’s perspective and clearly discern His heart and plans. Our vision sharpens as we grow closer to Him and align our thoughts and actions with His truth. It dulls when we move further from Him and become increasingly consumed with self—our sin, desires, and concerns.

Our family has hit some financial challenges that have me prayerfully questioning how I spend my time. My first response is often to plot and plan ways to “fix” the situation. Where and how can we cut our spending and increase our income?

According my wisdom, it seems logical to allocate my time differently, focusing on those things that generate the most income while reducing those tasks that don’t. Though there’s great honor in providing for our families, when doing so, we must operate from a heart that is completely centered in Christ and His will.

Because we can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We can’t live enslaved to our bank accounts and clearly hear and heed God’s voice. If our focus is on the here and now and finding security in material things instead of, ultimately, in Christ, the voices of fear, insecurity, and greed will drown out that of our Saviors. The result will be confusion rather than clarity and anxiety and angst in place of peace.

“Therefore,” Jesus said, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus said. Do not marimnaó about your well-being, which means allowing your anxiety to draw you into opposite directions and pull you apart. Do not be internally divided, acting as if you were an orphan forced to rely on yourself and navigate life on your own.

Instead, God invites us to live like a child of the victorious, risen King. An adopted and chosen heir of the One who loves us deeply, knows us intimately, and holds the entire world, our lives included, in His hands.

Seek God first, Jesus said, and trust Him to provide, knowing He truly is a good and attentive Father.

Let’s talk about this! Why do you think Jesus sandwiched the passage regarding spiritual vision between the section talking about money and the one on worry? In what ways have you seen worrying distort your vision? What are some ways we can maintain a clear and accurate vision?

Share your thoughts, verses, and stories with me in the comments below.

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The Debilitating Fear of Failure

Fearful woman looking upFear of failure can paralyze the most gifted writers, singers, artists … (insert any other field) perhaps more than anything else. Here’s the ironic part–it is this fear, not any failure we may experience, more than anything else that gets in our way. One of these days, I really want to unpack this common and insidious fear, because I’m 99.9995% certain, when it rises up, it’s being fueled by something else, namely, a false sense of identity.

In our Wholly Loved conferences, we talk a lot about fear and moving past it through faith. Each conference, see women taking steps toward that, and it’s inspiring and amazing and incredibly awesome. Can you imagine the impact we’d have if we consistently focused not on our gifts or our plans or even our insufficiencies and instead centered our vision and thoughts on Jesus and learned to lean hard on Him?

My guest today, a sweet friend and Wholly Loved ministry partner, shares how God helped her do just that.

The Debilitating Fear of Failure

By Kristen Terrette

My fear of failing has paralyzed me.

I was keenly aware, through much prayer, that God wanted me to take a step in faith and venture into writing, but my fear of failure stalled and suffocated. The risks were too high. I was afraid.

I didn’t know how to write a novel! And as a children’s ministry director, I enjoyed a flexible job which provided my family a second income and health insurance. I worked with my spiritual mentors, one of whom was my lead pastor and one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. He took a chance on me and gave me my first staff position in ministry. He helped me become a leader in our church.

Could I give all that up? What if I did and failed?

But still, my desire to write grew stronger each day that I fought it. I smothered myself with excuses. I asked, how could God be telling me to quit a job I love? How can I abandon the kids in the ministry or my pastor and staff? How could I give up my income and insurance? How could I become a writer with no formal training?

And as the months went by, I became bitter and anxious. My love for teaching on Sundays lessened. My husband’s growing resentment toward our church and all the duties I had on the weekends soured our marriage. Even my kids began to dislike attending services.

After a while, my husband and I finally had a serious discussion. We laid it all out—our fears, anger, loneliness, and decided it was time for me to be home and present for my family. We felt God was calling me into new ministry—to my husband and my kids.

In Mark 5:36, Jesus spoke to a synagogue leader whose daughter had just died. “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” Jesus said, then Woman jumping with sun behind her and text for Mark 8:36He raised the dead child to life.

God says the same to us every day, in every situation.

To believe. And take that next step toward whatever He’s calling us to do.

I did. And guess what? When I told my pastor, he celebrated with me and helped me prepare to leave my position. Years later, he’s one of my biggest supporters. I resigned gracefully and was able to devote time to writing while our kids were at school and pre-school.

What’s more is that God protected us financially. We cut a few expenses, sure, but it’s miraculous how we didn’t “miss” my income. Bills were paid on time with money left over. I look back and think how in the world it was even possible, and the only answer is that it was supernatural.

God did it.

I’d like to pretend that four years later I have a thriving writing career and tons of book sales. That’s not the case, but I’m obedient … and I’m joyful, which I know comes from being in God’s will. But best of all my husband and kids are happy too. They love Sundays again.

Let’s talk about this! What is God asking of you? Have you allowed fear to hold you back? Has God given you an instruction and you’re being disobedient to His call? I pray you’ll remember Jesus’ words to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”

Get to Know Kristen!

Kristen Terrette's author photoKristen holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and served as a Children’s Ministry Director for five years. She cherishes her Southern roots and currently lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. With the support of her husband and two children, she stays at home writing Christian fiction, allowing God to take the story where He needs it to go. She’s also serves on the women’s leadership and teaching team at her church and writes for Wholly Loved ministries at WhollyLoved.com and Crosswalk.com. You can read her personal blog and check out her current novels at www.kristenterrette.com.

Check out her upcoming release, Morning Star:

Morning Star, Kristen’s third installment in her Christian Contemporary Romance series called Moanna Island, releases January 8, 2019 with pre-orders starting soon. In her new novel, love interests Shane and Cover image for Kristen's Book, Morning StarAddie, both struggle with fears over failures and taking risk. Read below to get glimpse of her upcoming release:

Addie McHenry, restoration home builder extraordinaire, catches her big break when the House to Home network contracts her to film a reality TV show focusing on how she brings homes back to life. She sets her sights on one of the oldest on Moanna’s beach and has to risk everything just to get it.

Shane Armstrong moved from Savannah to his grandmother’s Moanna oceanside house when his world shattered five months before. He went on leave from his job as a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, hopeful his grandmother’s peaceful street will help him heal. The reality TV show’s arrival threatens this serenity.

But the construction and camera crews are nothing compared to Addie herself. She’s tough as nails, challenging, and superbly bossy as she works to get her way. But she’s also kind, hardworking, and has a relationship with God Shane can’t begin to understand.

With each encounter, Shane’s walls start to crumble as Addie brings more than just the historical home back to life, but him as well. Addie tries desperately not to enjoy spending time with the irritable and scowling boy from next door. He hides his heartache well, but she sees it there behind his prickly exterior. Soon she begins to uncover the sacrificial hero underneath the façade.

With both of them only temporary residents on Moanna Island, their thin ice relationship crashes to a halt. Can Shane return to his risky job with the Coast Guard? Does he even want to? And can Addie let him go and follow her dreams even when tragedy strikes?

 

God Among the Bullet Points

planner and pensEvery birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.

God among the bullet-points

By Jessica Brodie

Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.

It went something like this:

  • Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
  • Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
  • Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
  • Age two, moved to better house
  • Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
  • Afraid of everyone and everything

I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.

Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.

Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.

“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.

Ah, younger me.

I knew nothing.

See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.

Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.

I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.

Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.

Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.

That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.

That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.

Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.

And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*

Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.

*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com

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Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.

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Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.

What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I wanted to invite you to join me and my Wholly Loved sisters each Wednesday for our new video devotions–short, transformative nuggets designed to help you center yourself in Christ and His truth. You can watch our first two HERE and HERE, then return to the Wholly Loved site each Wednesday for another inspirational message. And if you haven’t done so, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content, recipes, short stories, and more sent directly to your inbox. As an added bonus, subscribers cover image for study based on 1 Timothyreceive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

For those in the Omaha/LaVista/Lincoln area, join us for one of our upcoming conferences. You can find out more HERE.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

I know fear. I know uncertainty. I know the desire to cling to and remain in my comfort zone, and I’ve seen what happens when I follow God and step out, whether that means walking across the street to engage with a neighbor, joining a ministry, maybe galavanting across the nation–as I happen to be doing right now. 😉

If you were in the audience this past Monday, you learned I can easily allow fear to hinder my obedience. But I’m learning not only how futile many of my fears are, but where I need to place them–in Christ’s hands.

I thought of this, and my self-protecting tendency, when left on my own, as I read Laura Hilton’s post below. If you find yourself clinging to safety nets and searching for comfort zones, may you be encouraged, inspired–and challenged–by Laura’s devotion.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

by Laura Hilton

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). 

I am a coward. There is no other way to put it.

My son was graduating from A school with the Coast Guard. This is a school where Coasties are sent to learn the job they would be doing in the Coast Guard. My son is a DC rating and his job is “Firefighter” but firefighting is only a small part of what he does.

Basically, he is a “Damage Controlman” and does it all. Construction. Plumbing. Welding. Firefighting. And so much more.

So, my Coastie really wanted us to come to his graduation. This is a big moment for them. This, and when they graduate from bootcamp.

But I’m looking at the map from the northern part of Arkansas to Newport News, Virginia and thinking, “Um, we have to drive through Nashville, Tennessee.”

Terror strikes. I get freaked out driving through Little Rock, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri. Memphis, Tennessee is a nightmare. And Nashville will only be worse.

Thankfully, my husband loves me. We loaded up the car with three of the five kids (one was in college and couldn’t come) and headed toward Virginia. And he googled the trip so we could take a bypass around Nashville.

But then there was Knoxville. He hadn’t googled to find a bypass for Knoxville and we hit it at five o’clock rush hour. Five lanes of traffic, going one way, all at a complete stop.

I was praying, shaking, but trying so hard not to freak out and scare the girls, because they were scared enough. Like me, they were used to rural Arkansas traffic where five cars on the road is considered a traffic jam.

But God came through. We survived Knoxville. And the Great Smokies and Appalachian Mountains we saw were absolutely gorgeous. Some of God’s best handiwork. I was able to stand on the Appalachian Trail (an item on my bucket list) and my children actually hiked a portion. And standing on the trail I knew why people hiked it to find God. There is just a tangible peace around that place.

And I saw the ocean. For the very first time. In real life. I handled it. In my hands. Another item on my bucket list.

Even though I was ripped out of my comfort zone, the trip was worth it. For more than one reason. I got to meet some Coast Guard Moms I’d become internet friends with. I planned to meet some reader friends (but that didn’t work out.) I met courageous young men my son talked about as they were in his classes in A school. I saw my son. And I checked two items off my bucket list.

God came through. And even though I’ll probably panic when facing a long trip through major cities again, I learned that God is able to protect us in rush hour in unfamiliar cities. And He has some pleasant surprises along the way.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you felt fearful, uncomfortable, or insecure about something but chose to do it anyway? What was the result? Would you do it again, if given the choice? Did you learn anything about God during those times? About yourself?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

And while we’re talking about encouragement … I’ll be releasing the next edition of my quarterly newsletter this month! Are you a subscriber yet? If not, how come? You’re missing out on some fun and inspiring free content: short stories, recipes, devotions, and of course, info on where I’m at or what’s next for me. Plus, in the very near future, I’ll be hosting regular fun give-aways available only to subscribers. Want to sign up? You can do so HERE.

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Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas. Visit her online at

her blog,  follow her on Twitter @laura_V_Hilton, and connect with her on Facebook.

Second Chance Brides:

Hope for Happy Endings Is Renewed in Nine Historical Romances

Meet nine women from history spanning from 1776 to 1944 feel the sting of having lost out on love. Can their hope for experiencing romance again be renewed?

Love in the Crossfire by Lauralee Bliss – Trenton, New Jersey, 1776
Gretchen Hanson watched her beau go off to war and never return. She soon falls for an enemy scout who stumbles upon her farm. If Jake is discovered, it could mean death for them all. Will Gretchen let go of love or stand strong?

Daughter of Orion by Ramona K. Cecil – New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1859
Whaling widow, Matilda Daggett, vows to never again give her heart to a seaman. But when debt drives her to masquerade as a cabin boy on a whaling ship, a young harpooner threatens both her vow and her heart.

The Substitute Husband and the Unexpected Bride by Pamela Griffin – Washington Territory, 1864
Cecily McGiver, a mail-order bride, arrives in the rugged Washington Territory shocked to find herself without a husband—that is until Garrett, a widower, offers to take the position. Can the challenges that face them lead to love?

The Prickly Pear Bride by Pam Hillman – Little Prickly Pear Creek, Montana Territory, 1884
Shepherdess Evelyn Arnold left her intended at the altar so he could marry the woman he really loved. Dubbed Miss Prickly Pear, Evelyn is resigned to a loveless life and the ridicule of her neighbors. When Cole Rawlins sweeps her out of a raging river, she realizes even a prickly pear can find love.

The Widow of St. Charles Avenue by Grace Hitchcock – New Orleans, 1895
Colette Olivier, a young widow who married out of obligation, finds herself at the end of her mourning period and besieged with suitors out for her inheritance. With her pick of any man, she is drawn to an unlikely choice.

Married by Mistake by Laura V. Hilton – Mackinac Island, 1902
When a plan to pose for advertising goes awry, Thomas Hale and Bessie O’Hara find themselves legally married. Now Bessie and Thomas must decide whether to continue the charade or walk away. Either choice could ruin them if the truth gets out.

Fanned Embers by Angela Breidenbach – Bitterroot Mountains, Montana/Idaho border, 1910
Stranded in the treacherous railroad camp after her husband’s murder, Juliana Hayes has no desire to marry a ruffian like Lukas Filips. Can she release prejudice to love again? Or will they even survive the fiery Pacific Northwest disaster to find out?

From a Distance by Amber Stockton – Breckenridge, Colorado, 1925
Financial Manager Trevor Fox sets out to find a lady to love him and not his money, then meets and falls for an average girl only to discover she’d deceived him to protect her heart after he unknowingly rejects her.
Buy it HERE.