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.
Last Monday, April 15th, I went for a drive to clear my head before recording my podcast. When I got into my car, my phone started blowing up. People were texting me from all over the place saying, “Bethany, have you seen what’s happening in Paris?”
I stopped and scrolled the news and found that Notre Dame was on fire, and I literally just started crying. I know it’s just a building, but the reality is that it’s so much more than that.
I had people texting me because they were saying, “Bethany, when I think of Paris, I think of you.” And the reason is because I used to live in Paris, and when I lived in neighboring Switzerland, I traveled to my beloved city of Paris as frequently as possible. It was only a three and a half hour train ride from Geneva where I lived for about five years, and I would get on a train as much as possible just to spend the weekend there. So, anytime there’s any world news about Paris, my heart is stirred because I’m drawn to that city more than any other city in the world.
On that Monday, I just was really struck. I was moved by the fact that the world paused and everything was put on hold.
When beauty burns, something within us changes. I don’t know about you, but when I see an animal that’s dead, it really affects me. I remember when I lived in Australia, I used to walk down this path to school and church on a regular basis and it was just a sidewalk in a neighborhood. Nothing special about it. But I remember one spring, there were these beautiful butterflies that I had never seen in my life. It’s not the kind of species that we have in Texas anyway, and they had these really clear wings with like beautiful specs of rainbow colors and big polka dots. They were shimmery and shiny. They almost looked like an art project with glue and glitter and sparkly bits. And I remember walking down the sidewalk and I saw this butterfly lying on the ground. It was so beautiful, but there was no more life in it. I stepped onto the grass to get out of the way of passers by. And I just wept.
I don’t know what it was about beauty that made me pause. I don’t know why. When I go to the mountains or when I stare at the ocean, sometimes I’m just captivated. My breath seems to disappear. It catches in my throat and in my chest and I just cry. Beauty is one of the things that we are created to live with and not created to live without.
God Himself, His is beauty. And He is the Master Creator. One of my favorite things is creating and one of the times in which I feel most like God. That may sound kind of weird, I don’t mean that in a prideful way. I just mean one of the most connected times I have with God is when I’m creating. He is the creator and when I’m creating I feel like I’m following in His footsteps and I’m mimicking His pattern. And to me this all ties back into beauty.
That day as I was driving around the countryside, just thinking about my love for Paris and thinking about all my personal memories at Notre Dame, I thought about the people. I thought about the beauty of the stories of centuries and centuries of people. I thought about the beauty of the craftsmanship of those who built that wonderful ancient place. I thought about what offering people brought, what expression of their own heart and spirit that went into the work of that Cathedral. And not only that, I started thinking about every moment of sacrifice and praise and heartbreak, every moment of joy and triumph and celebration that’s happened within those walls. Every proposal, every first kiss, every breakup, everything that’s happened on the outside of those walls. Every moment of strangers meeting for the first time, every moment of reunions and meetings after a separation of years.
I thought about all of those things and how rich those stories are and that the reality is this burning of Notre Dame is not about a building. It’s about the hearts of humanity. It’s about people. It’s just a symbol. It’s a symbol of the beauty in our world and when beauty burns, something in us feels lost. Something in us feels like we’re dying; there’s loss and there’s mourning, and though, that’s a hard place to be in and we don’t always want to face that, it’s exactly what we have to do.
I got home from my country drive just and I went over to my shelf of really detailed and organized journals in my room. I have about 30 journals on my shelf and they are all dated from 1995 all the way to current. I picked up my journal from 2003 when I was an au pair living in Switzerland. And I started just randomly flipping through the pages of this journal and no less than five times did I see the words, Notre Dame, scribbled on the pages.
As I mentioned, I have so many memories there and one of my favorite ones is when I met one of my American college friends in Paris. We made our rendez-vous point Notre Dame – it’s in the middle of the city. It’s easy to get to. You can see it from far away. And I remember I hadn’t seen her in a long time and we met there and we hugged wildly and then we went on an adventure for the day. We went to Centre Pompidou. We went to the Louvre. We went and had crepes with Nutella and banana under the Eiffel Tower, and in a turn of events, we stumbled upon Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France. We didn’t even know it was happening and it was on both of our bucket list. How crazy is that?
One thing I reflected on that Monday of Holy Week was that more than Notre Dame – a symbol of history and the stories of a nation on fire – there was Jesus. It made me think of Jesus because He is the most beautiful and divine human this earth has ever known – beautiful because He is a physical, tangible representation of the Father and the Father’s heart.
I thought about being there on that Palm Sunday and ushering in the King of Kings. I put myself in the shoes of a person who thought that king was going to come and save everyone from this evil empire. I thought about the disappointment that they must have faced when they realized He came to be beaten and to be put on a cross because He was coming for a different kingdom. He was coming for a different purpose.
And the people couldn’t see that. They didn’t have eyes to see that, but those who did have eyes to see saw him on that cross beaten and bruised with His flesh torn apart. His body ripped to shreds. Jesus struggling on that cross to lift himself and breathe. They saw him bleeding and sweating and in agony, and I wonder if they looked at Him and thought, this beauty before us is dying.He’s going down. He’s being defeated.
Beauty feels personal. It’s like we own it. We hold onto it, we possess it, and when there’s an attack against it, we feel like we have to protect it. I see someone throw trash into the ocean and it really bothers me. Or someone leaving garbage on a beautiful mountain trail. Why? Because it’s pure beauty that they’re messing with and it feels untouchable. And I think that’s how the people must’ve felt about Jesus. He’s the beautiful representation of God. He is other worldly. He is the King of Kings and you’re messing with beauty.
Even so, He gave Himself up to die on a cross.
But we all know that’s not where the story ends. The resurrection is coming. It HAS come!
The purpose of the pain is around the corner. The beauty will rise again in a more beautiful way than we can conceive or believe. But this – this is the plan of God.
Here’s what I know to be true. In those moments when I feel like beauty is burning in my own life, there is always purpose in the pain. There is always redemption on the other side. We do ourselves an injustice if we just move past the pain into the resurrection, per se. If we move past the pain into the light and the beauty again, so quickly… we miss something. We miss the importance of sitting in that place and knowing who God is with us in that place.H
My hope for you today, as we pause to reflect on the journey of Jesus from Calgary and the cross where He died to the moments of the empty tomb, is that you would stop and reflect on who He is to you, what He’s done for you.
He is the one and only true beauty.
I pray your hearts would be stirred by Him this week. But I also pray that you would sit in that place and linger longer in that place of pain… BECAUSE PURPOSE IS COMING.
Let me pray for you.
Jesus, my heart is broken for the city of Paris, for the people who are hurting because they are watching a symbol of their history, of their freedom, of their triumph, of their deep years of faith come burning to the ground in ashes. And yet I’m thankful for the perspective to know that You are with us in the fire and You are with us in the flames. John Wesley said, “Catch on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
I think about that with Notre Dame. The whole world has its gaze locked on the city. And I pray that You, God, would make Your presence known in peoples’ hearts – that You would be so real and so present in they’re suffering and in their confusion and in our suffering and in our confusion, in our places of pain where we feel like beauty is burning right before our eyes.
God, I’m thankful that that is not where the story ends, that the sun is rising metaphorically and literally the Son, Jesus Christ, has risen. Tomorrow’s a new day, but may we not miss You in this moment in this pain. May we see You with us and know Your goodness and know Your touch and know You’re nearness. We love you so much. We give You all the glory in Your mighty name, Jesus.
In January of 2018, I was traveling back from serving with refugees in Athens, Greece when the plane I was on flew directly over Brandon, Canada. I was currently discerning a job offer and my would-be boss was named Brandon so it caught my attention like a shimmery light on the horizon.
Let me pause here and insert a small caveat: I love words. I love their double, triple layers and believe that meaning can be found anywhere that we take time and space to dig deep. I believe this not because of some weird, airy-fairy thing, but because one of the deepest convictions of my heart is that God is ALWAYS speaking. We just have to train ourselves to shut out the noise – the non-stop thoughts about our to-do list, how to wisely navigate that relationship, what to eat, what to wear to that event, when to make that decision, etc. – and STILL our hearts long enough to wonder.
So when that shimmery light of a word, “Brandon,” caught my attention, curiosity struck. So I researched that blip on the map and stumbled across some important words. The city’s motto is from the Latin: VIRES AQUIRIT EUNDO –> It gains strength by going as it goes.
Fast-forward to January of this year  and as I was reflecting on what God might have for me this year, He kept whispering the same phrase into my spirit: It gains strength by going as it goes.
2018 was a whirlwind, in regards to my work. I took that job as an event coordinator for an action sports ministry [ROYAL] and spent my entire summer in West Virginia working with young athletes, published my first book [Kiss My Fish: Tales of Chasing God Around the World] as well as my first e-devotional [Give My Heart], and completed a 6-piece commissioned art project for a friend. Those twelve months flew by!
I was geared up and ready to hit the ground running in 2019. I had days marked on the calendar for goal-planning and dream sessions. I had a list of to-dos longer than my forearm and I was motivated to take it all on with the focus of a horse with blinders on.
And then, it happened. I woke up on December 26th with a full-blown cold/sinus/headache/allergy thing that knocked the wind, energy, and all my motivation sideways. For two weeks straight, I fought that monster. I tried to hit my to-do list. I tried to sit down and plan my goals. But I could never get past the throbbing headache or debilitating fatigue.
I could feel myself rapidly spiraling downwards into a dark hole. I had been in places like that before and I wanted to do everything in my power to thwart being thrown completely off-track at the start of a new year.
Eventually, my body healed, but the feeling that I was already way behind lingered on repeat in my mind. In the middle of that fast-paced descent downwards, God came alongside me with gentleness. He said over and over again to me, “It gains strength by going as it goes.” I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but it gave me enough oomph to do the next right thing.
And so, I did. The next right thing was taking it a day at a time, breathing in-between, and continually asking Him, “What’s on Your heart today, Father?”
And now, here it is – the end of February, which I deemed as my “official” [re]start of 2019. And I’m excited to announce that exactly one week from today [on March 5th!] I will be launching my podcast – The Hope Adventure, a place for us to explore the beautiful truth that “The Greatest Adventure is His Presence.”
One thing I know for certain is that in those moments when I felt zero motivation and was stuck in analysis-paralysis due to clouded thinking, confusion about which option to pursue, and an overall pause to my momentum, I kept the mantra in front of me and personalized it.
I gain strength by going as I go.
I gain strength by going as I go.
I gain strength by going as I go.
And I figured for that to be true, I just needed to keep going. And maybe you do, too…
One 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?
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.
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
Many of you know that I went through a difficult & challenging season in the Spring of 2013, where I experienced a deceptive & dangerous ‘gospel’ first-hand as a staff member of a mega-church.
I don’t believe in bad-mouthing institutions (I use that word intentionally because this was one of those ‘church run as a business/institution’ not as a church kind of situations).
I DO believe in speaking the truth… & the following is what I felt God was saying to me through my experience there. It’s a strong reminder that the Church is about HIM & must always come back to JESUS.
“WARNING! Do not align your hearts to the deceptive culture… that says wealth is your reward for serving Me…that says comfort is the means to life…that says Jesus is the way but requires loyalty to a leader…that says we support orphans but we stay in luxury hotels because dirt under our fingertips ruins our manicured nails…that says ‘Spirit, come’ & then the clock runs out…that says we see God but we don’t bow our heads to pray for even 3 minutes in a 3 hour meeting…that says take a step towards Him, but make sure you are wearing the right shoes… that says we welcome you, but only special people can come in & sit at the front…that says we are the church, but you can only be a part if you do it our way…that says be a part of us, but first sign your name & serve our leader…that says Jesus’ words bring life, but we quote our leader more than the Jesus because he’s quippy & creative…that says we’re here to build the Kingdom but the only empire to be seen is the one that stands empty 5 days a week & shines with the glitz and glamour of high-dollar…that says it’s all about ‘the reach’ but only to fill empty front-row seats to present a good ‘look’ for the TV cameras… YOU SEE, THE CHURCH IS ABOUT ME. I WILL NOT TOLERATE A MAN-MADE EMPIRE THAT ROBS MY GLORY, THAT DISTORTS THE TRUTH IN A GREY JOYLESS VEIL, MAKING ROBOTS OUT OF MEN. JESUS IS MY GLORY. WE ARE & ALWAYS WILL BE. THE SANDS OF TIME BLOW AWAY, BUT WE REMAIN. WE ARE THE BRIGHT MORNING STAR, SHINING OUR GLORY FROM AGE TO AGE. WE REQUIRE SOLD-OUT HEARTS & LIVES, NOT EMPTY WORDS. EMPTY WORDS BRING DESTRUCTION; ONLY OUR WORDS BRING WORDS OF TRUE LIFE.
Reflecting on 2013 today, I find myself utterly grateful for God’s grace & redemption this year…
That despite the fires & trials of life, He is & always will be.
That through the storms of life, He is & always will be.
That through the deceptions (though well-intentioned), He is & always will be.
That when I feel lost & floating, He is & always will be.
That when I have no idea what’s around the corner, He is & always will be.
That when life looks different that what I imagined, He is & always will be.
That above ALL ELSE, He is & always will be.
That God always speaks truth because He is & always will be.
I am ever grateful for His truth, His guiding, His providence. Praise be to God & may His Church glorify HIM and no one else.
“Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands & step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.” ~ Oswald ChambersHere’s to an Irresistible Future with Him in 2014! Be blessed.
Last week I found myself amidst the culturally labeled riff and raff. I ended up in the middle of a tent village just outside St. Paul’s cathedral in London, where I was enamored with the vibe and beat of a raw passion forging revolution.
As I circled the area, amongst the hand-made cardboard signs and poster drawings promoting “people over economy,” I came across a lengthy hot pink strip of tape that read in repetition: “Another World is Possible.”
I was struck by this thought: not only Christians realize the world is broken.
Really? Jesus followers aren’t the only ones who believe the world needs to change?
It might sound obvious to you, but I was caught in a stream of thought… the world is so broken that everyone sees it…
This is massively important, because I believe that only out of the realization of our brokenness can we realize our need for redemption and wholeness. And it is from that place which Jesus, the perfect revolutionary, steps in and takes our broken pieces and glues them back together, fusing them with holiness.