Missing Out On The Fear Of Missing Out

The “fear of missing out” is real. For an Enneagram Type 7 like myself, it taunts and teases me, pushing me into a corner, where I feel like a toddler puffy-cheek pouting in timeout.

You see, I want to taste and touch and experience every aspect of life. Because of that, choices overwhelm me.

What should I wear today? (Ultimately it’s based on comfort and color and practicality.)

What do I want to eat? (It’s better not to ask. I usually don’t know, although I’ll never say no to chips and salsa.)

How should I prioritize my day? (There are 8000 things I want to do in one day, so I eventually – somewhat painfully – just pick one.)

These choices are small. But what about the bigger decisions of life?

This past week, on the heels of July, which was split with a ministry adventure to West Virginia (Camp ROYAL) and family vacation in Colorado, I landed in August with 7 (yes, S-E-V-E-N) big decisions on my plate.

Ugh. The exhaustion of constantly having to prioritize what’s most important or what’s best to put aside for a season. Does this resonate with you? (Shall we pause and enjoy a cup of tea instead?!)

True confession: I’m terrible at editing… not just in writing, but, more importantly… in life.

So last week (and part of this week), I’ve been discerning decisions about two part-time job offers or running full speed ahead with vision I have through freelance ministry endeavors as well as whether or not to attend two work conferences, one spiritual retreat, and a 40th birthday trip for a friend.

Here’s the problem: it ALL seems thrilling. And guess what? I DON’T WANT TO MISS OUT.

On Sunday in the aftermath of some of that decision-making, the sermon at my church was about fear because, as my pastor said, “It’s a form of focus.” I sat through the sermon and jotted lots of notes, per norm, feeling slightly high and mighty and grateful that fear isn’t something I really struggle with. And then, after the sermon, during worship and a time of reflection, I got the gentle Jesus slap to the face.

IT HIT ME. THE FEAR OF “MISSING OUT” IS A REAL FEAR. And it carries too much weight in my life. So it IS a struggle. Sheesh.

As I sat there wide-eyed in self-analysis mode, running my brainwaves through the trails of all the events and conversations and questions of last week, I realized that the fear of missing out was hindering my ability to make wise decisions. Somehow it had floated itself to the top of the surface as a PRIORITY in my decision-making processes.

NO NO NO. NO MORE!

Here’s why: Because in that moment, standing in total shock of this revelation and in a response of dazed surrender, I realized that WHEN I’M WITH GOD, I CANNOT BE MISSING OUT.

See, if my goal is to be in His will, to be WITH HIM, aware of His Presence… that requires that I go where He is… where He is leading, guiding, directing, releasing.

And even more than that. HE IS IN ME.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
~ Psalm 139:7-12

So I literally cannot be missing out… because if I am with Him, and He is with me, I am missing nothing. The opportunity to my right or left is NOT better if He is not leading me there. It’s not more fun. It doesn’t have nicer people or ideas that will bring clarity or revelation. It’s not better than where I am right now.

It CANNOT be if He is NOT with me there. And because He is with me, because He resides in me, where I am is where I need to be.

There is no missing out for you or me… except on one thing: the fear of missing out. I’m happy to bid that one adieu.

x Bethany

the hope adventure LAUNCHES!

Hi friends –

Do you ever get to the end of a journey (which is really just the beginning) and wonder how you got there? I’m in that place right now and the only-sometimes-obvious answer is, “by taking one step at a time.”

Really that’s the only way we can do it. And I’m thankful, because otherwise, life would be too overwhelming!

But speaking of journeys and beginnings… I want to announce to you that I launched my podcast today! It’s called The Hope Adventure and is a place where we’ll explore the truth that The Greatest Adventure is His Presence.

I travel a lot. When I do, my parents always bid me adieu at the airport or in the driveway with the same encouragement, “Go find another story.” ⁣⁣

This podcast is a culmination of those stories and the deep spiritual meaning that can be found in a simple story.⁣⁣

I believe that God is always speaking to us if we would just tune our hearts and ears to listen. My prayer is that this podcast helps us do that together. ⁣⁣

And if nothing else, if you just want someone to pray over you weekly. Listen in. There will always be a moment for that.  ⁣⁣

[To listen, click on the link above or visit iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, or Stitcher, and search The Hope Adventure.⁣]

Please subscribe and leave a review so that more people can join us as well! ⁣⁣

Let’s adventure together…

x Bethany

I Am the Bird.

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Back in November, I had two unforgettable bird encounters.

After a morning of leading worship at church, I headed back to the campus to connect with a friend. When I arrived at the church, the door was locked. I stood outside debating how I was going to get in, and a flicker of yellow caught my attention on the cold concrete below my feet. It was an odd sight to behold. There, one foot from me, sat a precious little Chickadee bird. I stared at it, pondering how I could help this helpless creature.

I knew I couldn’t pick it up off the ground with my bare hands, but I had to do something for this bird. It was suffering, and my heart was breaking.

In a moment of “oh yeah,” I dug into my Whataburger sack and pulled out a pile of napkins. I gently wrapped them around my bird friend, who was now opening and closing its beak as a sign of distress. I carefully carried the bird up the steps and placed him on a pile of leaves at the base of a tree. I felt this was a safe spot for the bird to recover since there were several other birds flying in the trees nearby, which outlined the parking lot.

As silly as it may sound, with tears streaming down my face, I leaned down and asked Jesus to help this struggling bird.

When I was driving later that afternoon, Matthew 6:25-24 came to mind:

“Do not be anxious about your life… look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” 

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In that moment, I realized I am the bird. God’s love is all-encompassing and His heart breaks when I am suffering. In that pain and suffering, He loves me and provides for me. 

My drive took me to the house where I was petsitting two dogs and one tropical bird. As is habit when I’m there, I fed Kiwi and then let her out of her cage to fly around the kitchen while I fed the dogs.

At one point, I left the kitchen to walk down the hall and she flew from her perch and landed on my shoulder. She rode there as I went about doing other things through the house. I realized she was being very quiet and still, which isn’t always her “norm,” so I looked into the mirror to see what she was doing on my shoulder.

The scene caught me by surprise. She had nestled her miniature green body into my hair, just behind my ear, and was sleeping peacefully. She can be a very finicky bird, but she clearly felt safe enough with me in that moment to relax in my presence. I had fed her, and now she rested with me. bethany-kiwi

Then it hit me again: I am the bird. God feeds me and cares for me, and because of that, I can nestle into Him and rest in His Presence. 

I am the bird, friend. And so are you.

God’s heart breaks in your suffering, but He loves you and will provide.

God feeds you and cares for you, and because of that, you can nestle into Him and rest in His Presence.

x Bethany

 

 

 

Can I Hug You?

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I sat with a new friend over coffee and listened to her heart as she poured out her story before me. She delved into the depths of everything that had gone wrong in her life, but finished with the strong crescendo of everything that God had made right.

I stared into her eyes from across the other end of the fingerprint-smeared glass table, and could hardly keep my tears locked in the cages of my eyes.

After bringing me along on the journey of the ups and downs, trials and tribulations of her story, she said something really simple that caught my attention. She told me of a moment when she felt compelled to hug the person that had brought so much pain into her life. She walked up to this person, who was uninterested in emotion at that moment in that place, and wrapped her arms of unconditional love around him. In that moment, in that embrace, he broke.

The walls came down. The truth lay bare before them both.

I had a similar encounter with a homeless man in Brazil once. I was leading a mission team, and we were asked to go and pray for the people there. I had already had the most stirring God-encounter with two homeless meth addicts, and seen God work His power through prayer. I thought God was finished with me that day as I strolled towards the other end of the park with tear-stained cheeks to meet up with the rest of our group.

As I turned the corner, though, my eyes caught hold of a stoic, dark figure leaning against the wall. I was drawn to him immediately and made my way to him, asking if I could pray for him. His response was apathetic at best, but he gave a slight nod, so I ran with it.

After learning his name was Jaime, I stretched out my hands and laid them on the top of his shoulders and began to call on the God of the Universe to intervene in this man’s life and situation. As I was praying over him, God downloaded image after image that gave glimpses of what He was doing in this young man’s life. I began to speak those out over him in faith. Jaime tilted his head upwards and peered into my eyes, his weak with shame. Then I asked something strange: Can I hug you?

His expression gave me permission so I embraced this cold man, and in that very moment, the walls came crashing down. He wept buckets of tears down my back as he laid his head on my shoulder like a worn-out toddler. His body shook with the aftershocks of pain and bitterness; he wept and wept and wept, until there were no more tears to fall.

In that moment, I saw the unrelenting pursuit of God the Father – our God who never leaves us, nor forsakes us. (Hebrews 13:5) Our God who runs, though never breathless, after us until we stop long enough to notice His Presence. I saw our God who uses the power of love and compassion to meet people exactly as they are.

There’s a story in Matthew 8 that tells about Jesus’ interaction with a leper. Lepers were enshrouded in shame because of their uncleanliness. They couldn’t enter the city gates; they couldn’t touch others. They couldn’t engage in the normal activities of life, family, and culture of the day. They lived in pain, isolation, and with an aching desperation.

The story goes…

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 8:1-3

I’m struck by this thought: “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.”

Jesus, the most holy, pure man to ever walk the face of the earth stretched out his hand and touched a LEPER. He chose to touch his uncleanliness. He chose to touch that which could infect him.  He chose to touch the man’s pain.

And when Jesus touched the leper, “immediately, the leprosy was cleansed.” He was healed. The touch of Jesus healed him. It broke down the walls of isolation and being overlooked and cast to the outskirts of society. It broke down the inability to connect with others. It broke down the brick walls of emotional torture and confusion of years living with the label of “unclean.”

Jesus still does this today. He uses us, His hands and feet to break down walls through unconditional love. He does that in so many ways, but sometimes it’s through the power of simple touch.

He did it with my friend. He did it with Jaime. He’s done it with me.

He can do it now… in that person you are frustrated with, in that person who cut you off in traffic, in that person that has hurt you more than anyone will ever know, in that person who never smiles, in that person who always points out the worst, in that person who presses your buttons, in that person that speaks to you with ice in their voice.

Jesus can and will heal.

Maybe you have someone on your mind (I know I do!) who just needs the power of God’s touch, the power of a simple hug to usher in a warm tidal wave of God’s love that will wash away the grit and the grime, and the ice-encrusted layers of their heart, to break through to the truth that is lying dormant in their soul.

Because the truth is that God loves us. The power of that love breaks down walls to heal us and make us whole again.

Will you stretch out your hand or stretch out your arms in a loving embrace, and touch someone with the love of God? 

Maybe, just maybe, a hug will change the trajectory of someone’s life and eternity today.

Believing with you that God’s touch will heal.

x Bethany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is NOT what we discussed, God.

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I’m not really sure the exact moment it happened. I just know, somewhere along the path of the past 2 years, it did. I woke up to reality. Sleepy-eyed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “how did I get here?” This is NOT what we discussed, God.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve read articles & watched movies about this very thing… this “coming of age” moment when you realize that your life has already happened. And yes, it continues to happen. Every day. But when you have this wide-eyed realization that if you just keep letting life happen TO you, it might slip past your fingers and trap you in the grips of apathy & lethargy. I want to be more intentional than that.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life riding on the coat-tails of the Holy Spirit as He has paraded me across nations to experience life and culture and a broken world in need. And I relished every single moment of that. I thrived on the excitement of being a part of His bigger story for His bigger purposes. I had wild eyes and wild hair from all my travels.

And now, well now… life looks a little bit different. The years are catching up with me.

It’s been a really emotionally tough 2 years on many levels. This time in December of 2012, I was closing my suitcases on yet another adventure; my English jaunt had changed me & impacted me so deeply. I sowed tears of goodbye as I was prepping to leave such a relationally & spiritually rich season of life.

I came home to Texas ready for a new adventure, which headed south very quickly and turned very sour only after 3 1/2 months.

The rug was pulled out from under me. My dreams were caught-up in a tornado and taken away from me in an instant. Everything I knew for my future came to an ugly, painful halt.

If I’m completely honest, I’m still recovering from those pin-prick moments of pain. Every once in awhile I still feel the torment of that time & wonder if I’ll ever be the same after having gone through that hell.

This is NOT what we discussed, God.

And here’s the thing: God is still redeeming that season of my life… He’s slowly working to restore what I feel I lost during that time. He’s good like that. He takes the lost and brings restoration 10-fold.

And I would be a total ingrate if I didn’t recognize all the incredible blessings of the things I DO and have had in my life. These 2 years have been spent at home amongst friends, family, and loved ones. It’s been a time where I’ve experienced true love and learned so much about God’s grace and purposes. It’s been a time where I’ve learned that my every breath depends on Him, which has whittled away at my independent spirit. But that’s exactly what God wants to do. He wants to teach us dependency on Him. We think we got this; we think we can go it alone. He knows we can’t. He knows we need Him.

I desperately do.

Because at the moment, I remain in this cycle where the world seems like it’s crashing down on me… so many areas of my life feel violently opposed to one another. So much in my heart and head. So much confusion. So much love. So much lost. So many areas of my life seem like they are spinning out of control!!!!!

This is NOT what we discussed… This is NOT what we discussed… This is NOT what we discussed, God!!!!!!!!!!!

And there it is… right there….

This is not what WE discussed, God.

EXACTLY. It’s not about what we discussed at all. Because we didn’t discuss anything. I told Him everything.

In my 20s, I was very clear with God about what I wanted my life to look like. I want this excitement, I want that adventure. I want it at this time, in this way. I want this Promise fulfilled by such & such date; I want this dream to come to fruition by the time I’m 34. What a blatant effort to control things. I don’t know how NOT to try & control things.

Here’s my confession, today: I’m done. I’m weak. I’ve got no strength left to fight for what I think I want, for how I think my life should look, for when I think things should pan-out for me. I’m finished. I’m throwing in the towel.

I’m open to whatever He has for me, for however He wants my life to unfold. Whatever geography. Whatever purposes. Whatever He unveils.

I’m going to stop looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence. I’m going to stop looking for the next best thing and believe what’s in front of me IS the next best thing, because it’s God’s thing for me so it must be the best. I’m going to stop focusing on what I don’t have and choose gratefulness for what I do. And I’m going to let the raw emotions of today catalyze me into a fresh year of new strength, new vigor, new stamina, and new receptivity to His plans for my life.

Lord, help me loosen my grip on the reigns of my life. You are in control. Lead on.

This is NOT what we discussed. Thank You, God, because now I’m ready to hear what You have to say… 

The East Wind.

IMG_1679One of the circular patterns of learning in my life always happens around this little (yet violently powerful) thing called ‘control.’ I wouldn’t exactly label myself as a ‘control freak,’ but like many, I definitely have my major control ‘tendencies.’

The category of my ‘life/future’ is the biggest see-saw area, in regards to this topic of ‘control.’ Recently I was told that I’m like Mary Poppins, blowing in & out of people’s lives with the unpredictable change of the East Wind. So on one hand, I see myself as very easy breezy. But on the total opposite hand, I am magnetized towards that which I (think I) can control.

And here’s the striking thing; I repeatedly keep having to learn the SAME lesson: I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

So who is?

God.

And though this may be a subtle revelation, it is by no means a small one. It actually affects every single beautiful & wretched fiber of my being.

Say it with me, “I AM NOT IN CONTROL.”

Something about this revelation thrills me. (Though, yes, that may sound opposite to what I should say.) I find it extremely freeing, releasing, & empowering.

Case in point, very recently I’ve been in a situation where all aspects of my life have stared me in the face like insurmountable tasks chuckling at my incompetencies & failures. My dreams have been dangled before my dazed gaze, taunting me with screams of “you’ll never accomplish me; you’ll always fail!” Questions of ‘what if’ have filled my ears resulting in unbearable noise.

All this to say, lately I’ve been trying to control my life yet again. I’ve put myself under loads of pressure to make decisions for my future, not because circumstances dictate them, but because my piddly little self needs to figure out a way to control something right now. And when everything around me seems like it’s spinning, I tighten my grasp and yank things into order.

Well, at least I try.

And after all the exhaustion this has caused in the last several months, I awoke today to a reminder that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

You see, after a string of heavy conversations with those nearest & dearest to me recently, I decided to ‘throw in the towel’ of trying to control. I took a self-proclaimed hiatus from decision-making. I declared that I wanted to learn to live in the now & not worry about my tomorrows (dreams), learning to enjoy & be content with what I have.

It’s like a flip switched in me. All the blur in my head cleared away.

And this morning, I received a phone call from someone who represented the very dream that I had been trying to control.

So what’s my point? LET GO.

I finally came to the realization that I needed to ‘let go’… I needed to just live & be & love & enjoy life in the exact place that I am. My motive was simply to stop fighting to control, because I absolutely had no physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual strength left. I was compelled to stop grasping my dream so tightly because in reality, I was choking it. And I was choking the very breath out of my own life.

So I did. I let go.

And just 2 short days later, the dream presented itself again in an unexpected, unpredictable way.

I’m not saying that all my challenges at the moment are solved; I’m not even saying that my dream has now come true. I’m simply saying that when I ‘fessed up to the fact that I AM NOT IN CONTROL & when I finally let my stingy fingers loose of my dream, it came back.

It came back like the East Wind.

Beacon of Light in the Night Sky.

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After calling Europe home for so many years, I often get a little riled-up when people make blanket generalizations about the spiritual state of such a diverse & complex region of the world.

I’m no stranger to these all-too-often words rattling off the lips of well-meaning Christians: “Oh, Europe is a VERY dark place spiritually.”

The reason this lights a fire in me (pun intended as you’ll see if you keep reading…) is because actually Europe is a place of dark AND light. Just like America.

But from my own experience working in a breadth of denominationally different churches across varying regions of Europe, I find the difference between European & American spirituality to be subtle, nuanced.

America is like one giant beam of light & color… so much so that oftentimes the bigger picture of the gospel & true Christianity gets distorted into one mega light which at a distance can actually seem faded, colorless, & bland. Sometimes from afar it even seems grey.

But in Europe, the light places shine out as beacons in a dark sky. Where there is light, it is very light. There is a huge & dynamic contrast of dark & light, as opposed to a numbing palette of grey.

So my passion in mobilizing people to serve & build God’s Kingdom in Europe is not from an angle of “Oh, Europe is a very dark place spiritually.” My aim is to gather more people in the light places to diffuse light in greater ways. The more we empower those light places (churches that are thriving, alive, & well), the more ground the light covers because the beacon becomes a stronger, more intense wash of light in a night sky.

“The light shines in the darkness, & the darkness has not overcome it.” ~ John 1:5

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The Greatest Adventure is His Presence.