If you read through my blog, you might remember when I declared at the end of 2017 that 2018 was the best year of my life even though I hadn’t seen the year yet. I’m here to report that 2018 did not disappoint. I’ve had more joy and personal fulfillment in 2018 than any of my previous years combined.
Not that the enemy did not try.
We went through a nearly fatal car-accident, loved ones were hospitalized with less than favorable diagnosis and we had our low points but in the midst of it all, God has been more than faithful. The year 2018 saw me living my dreams for the first time in over 11 years. I no longer felt like a walking advertisement of all of my personal failures. In 2018, I made significant headway into becoming the woman I know that God desires for me to be.
2019 is an intentional year for me and my family. It’s the year that I’ve determined to build on the successes of 2018 and see breakthrough in old areas of stagnation by God’s grace. January gave me one of my biggest wins, the opportunity to move up professionally and earn a salary that could help my husband go back to school. Exactly two weeks after I was given the opportunity, I experienced the biggest blow of my career. A setback so devastating it seemed likely to swallow up everything I’ve worked for over the last 15 years of my life since I started on this career path.
Naturally, I’m a worrier. If we are late on a bill, I immediately imagine the worst – foreclosure, repossession, homelessness, being destitute on the street with nothing to show for our years of work. That’s how my natural mind is inclined – to imagine the worst and worry myself into an ulcer. It has taken years of training and retraining my mind away from imagining the worst when challenges present themselves to get to a place of peace. As someone who has been traumatized by lack, loss and life changes, any deviation from what I call the norm makes me nervous.
When this potential setback presented itself, my world crumbled around me. I had my first full-blown panic attack in years. I was screaming and shaking so violently that I scared my children (sorry, boys). Here was a manifestation of all my worst nightmares come to life – the thought that I could work hard for years to make a life for myself and those that I love and something can swoop down and steal it all away within seconds, never to be recovered again. To say that I was devastated is putting it lightly. I was absolutely inconsolably. I imagined all the ways my life would be forever changed and destroyed from that point on. I thought about all the people I would no longer be able to help because I couldn’t even help myself. I imagined all the dreams that would go unfulfilled in my life because surely, this is the end for me.
Faith, in that moment, had been swallowed up completely by fear. After having my initial meltdown, I started reaching for those whose faith could bolster mine when my heart was failing. I called my husband at work (for the first time ever). I called my best friends and then I called my army – the circle of prayer warriors that I have been cultivating pretty much all my life. My mom, one of my best friends in Rhode Island, and my mentor in Maryland. Over the course of the weekend, I poured my heart out to these ladies and received words of life. They reminded me who I was and what God has promised over me. They spoke the verses that had long fled my mind in a moment’s panic. They prayed and prophesied until my shrinking heart received new courage. I went in – a quivering mass of fear, but I came out a slightly shaky but steadfast woman of courage. Through it all, God has remained constant. When worry tried to overtake me, I would blast my music at full volume with lyrics that declare the faithfulness, might and sovereignty of God. When fear would peak around the corner, I began declaring to my own hearing “I choose faith over fear!” I repeated it so often it became a mantra. I’m sure I looked every bit of unstable to those on the outside looking in. I was literally walking through my day speaking audibly that “I choose faith over fear!” I was talking to myself!
I laugh now but whatever it would take for me to keep my mental health thriving and keep my heart from giving into defeat, that’s what I’ve had to do. I am still walking through the fire. I am still traveling through my storm. But the God who has promised me that the fire will not consume me and the flood will not overwhelm me is walking with me. I will not be afraid. I choose faith over fear.
More than anything else, my current place in life represents the fear I have allowed to grow into the Boogey Monster of failure and reproach. I thought since I conquered my fear of failure by taking bold steps of faith, I no longer had an issue with fear. It turns out that I only conquered one kind of fear in my life, not all of them. Certain things seem unlikely to happen so I’ve never had to question my disproportionate fear of the unknown until the unknown presented itself in such a threatening and forceful manner. The truth is that this fear is crippling – for it to trigger an anxiety attack that felt like I was drowning in air and moments away from a heart attack – this is not an every-day response. I am wholly convinced that the Lord is using this opportunity to deliver me from this fear. I have created a monster in my own mind and when a shadow that resembles my fear manifested itself, it literally almost took me out.
I refuse to be conquered by something without teeth, without claws and without form. As I walk this particular valley, I am looking forward to my victory over fear. Regardless of the outcome, I know that God will not allow anything in my life that He cannot use for my good and His glory. I’m not excited to be tried by fire. I know there are many more battles for me to win in this war and I’m sure there will be casualties as well as scars, but nevertheless I will not back down from the fight. I refuse to just curl up and die. I will come through the fire, and by God’s grace I know that I will not be destroyed.
No! Rather I will be refined as gold.