Fear wears a mask named Responsible

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In the few days since the fire (click here to read about it) I have noticed signs of trauma.  It happens mostly at night.  As I snuggle down into my pillows and feel the normally comforting warmth of my blankets I get edgy.  My ears are heightened to sounds around me and I find myself opening my eyes to glance out the window.

I’ll hear an animal scurry or a limb crack in the woods but something tells me, “It’s a fire!”  What was that?  A pop, a rumble?  Are the trees glowing?  My heart starts racing and I want to get out of bed to look.  I quickly recognize my anxiety is irrational.  It’s very unlikely another one of my neighbor’s houses will explode in a roaring inferno.  And, yet, I feel it…


The type of fear I felt the day of the fire spurred responsible action.  It caused a respect for the danger and potential reality of a fire.  As a result our family took action steps to be as prepared as possible in the case of a house fire. (Click here for a safety checklist.) But this, this feeling I’m having at night, is not the same kind of fear.  It doesn’t cause responsible action it causes worry and sleeplessness.  This type of fear sneaks in like a villain.  He masquerades as Responsibility.  Like a bad insurance policy he promises security but demands a hefty payment and never delivers.  He’s really a thief.

He steals peace and leaves worry.  He steals sleep and leaves weariness.  He steals trust leaving a sense that my life is all dependent on me.

Fortunately, I’d seen this villain before so I recognized him quickly.  And did what you do with a thief who comes in lies and betrays you and tries to steal your precious possessions.  I kicked him out.

Hope, peace and trust in God are some of my most valuable possessions.  An abundant life does not exist without them.  I can not sit passively allowing any type of thinking displace them.  I cannot deny I experienced trauma and that it’s normal to experience triggers that reactivate the feelings of a trauma.  But I won’t allow that to be an excuse to partner with the villain who wants me to think that worry, heightened intensity (aka jumpiness), and anxiety are going to protect me and my family from fire – or any other threat for that matter.

Intimacy with the God who loves perfectly allows a trust that imprisons the villain fear.  The peace that follows isn’t rational.  It transcends understanding.

Fear is a conniving little snake.  He’s not your friend or protector. Has he snuck in on you?  Sometimes we don’t recognize that fear has trespassed until we notice the shortage of what he’s stolen.  Here are just a few examples.

Fear of the future steals our hope.
Fear of the unknown steals our peace.
Fear of rejection steals our relationships.
Fear of failure steals our success.

Do you lack hope in any area of your life?
Do you lack peace?
Do you lack depth and satisfaction in your relationships?
Do you lack momentum towards your destiny?

Perhaps there’s fear there.

Last night I slept without one worrisome thought.  How did I kick out the thief?  I remembered who my God was.  He never promised me a life without trouble but he did promise me a life of peace.  I began to thank him for all he is and all he’s done in my life.  I made a conscious choice to think about those things.  And without another thought fear was gone.

Do you want freedom?  Freedom from fear that causes worry, anxiety, loneliness, depression, perfectionism, performance driven, controlling behaviors is available through a relationship with Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. Andthe God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9 (emphasis mine)

Do you believe you know at least one person who needs freedom from fear?  Would you share this on your Facebook, Twitter or your favorite social media site?  Recognizing how fear works could be all someone needs to gain back what’s been stolen from them.

Be a herald!  Together we can make a difference!


Too Close for Comfort, How Fear could Save You

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The trees outside my balcony sliding door glowed an eerie orange as I was awakened with what I first thought was gunfire. Pop…..pop, pop.  But then I heard breaking glass and a strange rumble. Something wasn’t right.  It shouldn’t be this bright yet.  It’s not morning.  I got out of bed, opened the door and stepped outside to see the house just three doors down engulfed in flames at least 80 feet high.  I hollered in to my husband, “CALL 9-1-1!”

The view from my second floor balcony.

“What?” he said – trying to rouse himself.

I stepped inside and grappled for the phone on his bedside table and called for help.  It was a dark 4 am and all I could hear was the hungry flames devouring  the entire backside of the three-story end unit townhouse.  As I informed the 9-1-1 operator the fire began to reach into the forested park that stretches behind our houses.  Finally, (although only a minute passed) I could hear the nearing sirens of the fire engines.  The fire burst and climbed higher as a nearby tree was enveloped.


I felt the rush of adrenaline that inspires flight in times like these.  I felt relief once I knew my family was safe.  I felt intrigued to observe the life altering drama just steps away from my front door.

It was a 2 alarm fire and the wonderful men and women of our local fire department worked seamlessly to keep the devastating fire from consuming the several attached town homes.  It took an hour to contain the blaze.  Seven hours after the pop’s that awakened me the owner is still unaccounted for.  As I type I hear axes hitting the charred wood as the investigators attempt to search the home for cause and…remains.


All morning my heart has been stirred with overwhelming fear of the uncontrollable and a healthy respect for fire.  I live in a home with three small children ages 5, 4 and 2.  My husband is a heavy sleeper.  My house is cluttered with scattered toys, books off shelves in walkways, piles of laundry, briefcase and backpacks on the floor in the foyer, shoes spilling out of the closet into the path of the garage door.  All of this normal, bothersome clutter I suddenly saw as a life threatening hazard.  How fast could we get out of the house?

I had the privilege of serving breakfast to the woman who made the first 9-1-1 call this morning.  Her townhouse was the one next to the blaze.  She shared with me how fast it all happened.  The pop’s woke her up.  She smelled smoke and could see glowing out her window, she called 9-1-1, got dressed all before the smoke detectors went off! After 2 minutes the whole house was filled with smoke and she had to crawl to keep breathable air – she made it out safely but not before the entire back side of her neighbor’s home was an unapproachable inferno. From waking up to getting out it was less than 3 minutes and her house wasn’t on fire.  As s looked around at my children playing on the floor she told me how grateful she was that she her son was grown and she didn’t have pets to worry about getting safe.

My husband and I have talked on many occasions about creating a fire escape plan, the importance of checking smoke detectors and even about getting a fire escape ladder.  But we have never actually done it.  Any of it.  O.K.  we’ve changed a smoke detector battery but only when it makes that incessant and irritating beep every 60 seconds warning that the battery is about dead.

That changed today.

At first light, Jonathan went online and found this checklist from FEMA.  We changed our fire detector batteries, ordered a fire escape ladders, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors and probably the most important thing;

We did fire drills with our kids!

We made an escape plan.

Found our meeting place across the street.

Taught them how and why to crawl or stay low.  (We used Turbo the racing snail as an example – low and fast!)

And explained how to go to the neighbors to call 9-1-1.

They did great.  Perhaps it helped that we had such a tangible example for them to see, fire engines and Marshall trucks still blocking the street.

I cannot imagine if I woke up to a blaze in my house like the one I witnessed this morning.  May I never know what that’s like.  But the experience caused a healthy fear that helped spur my family to make a plan and be prepared should an emergency happen.  I pray we never have to use it.

It’s fire season.

Do you have a plan in case of a fire?  Do your children know what to do?  Do you follow a fire safety checklist to keep your household safe?  Have you done a fire drill in the last 6 months?

Please help spread the word about how taking small steps can prevent catastrophe, share this on your Facebook, Twitter or other favorite social media site.

Be a herald.  Together we can make a difference!

Have you ever seen a house fire up close?  How did you feel?

Hunting Pink Elephants

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I hate pink elephants.  You know that tangible, cut the air with a knife, tension you feel when there are unresolved issues in the room?  The Pink Elephant is the issue causing that tension.  And because the tension is more comfortable than discussing it, the elephant stays stinking up the environment.  There doesn’t have to be a group for a pink elephant to be present.  She can be there between just two people crowding the room because they won’t talk effectively about her.

I don’t hate pink elephants because they are uncomfortable to be around.  I hate pink elephants because they’re proof that strife is dividing people.  There are several reasons to avoid conflict.  Few, if any, are good ones.  If an issue is large enough to create a pink elephant then it’s time to face it head on.  Unresolved conflict in personal relationships creates distance.  It’s like that big, fat elephant is standing between you.  The longer you wait to deal with it the fatter she gets, the more distant the relationship becomes.

We were asked by a friend who is a professor at a large university, to speak to her Marriage and Family Therapy class about how we handle conflict in our marriage.  Jonathan and I had a great time sharing stories and the invaluable tools we’ve learned to enhance our relationship.  Preparing for this encounter while playing with my daughter and a pink elephant rattle of hers, reminded me of how destructive unresolved conflicts are to relationships.

When Jonathan and I first got married and began to live together I expected him to gather up the trash and put the trash can out on the curb the night before the garbage truck came by.  This was something my dad always did.  I never told Jonathan this; I figured it was understood.  So when the can was full or trash day came and I was out lugging it to the curb myself I began to grumble.  I would start to think he was a slacker, expecting me to “do everything” and work full time too!  I continued with this small under current of resentment for a while and finally brought it up to him.  He was baffled at why I was upset and once I got over myself long enough to have a discussion I realized I had an uncommunicated expectation that wasn’t being met.  I expressed my desire and he was happy to oblige me.

This is a simple and fairly unimportant conflict but it shows that even in the smallest things the opportunity to judge someone’s character and take things personally is easy.  If judgments and resentment continue, especially with larger issues, you can imagine how easy it is to become adversaries with a person you want to be close to.  When we take things personally and think the other person is “bad” we tend to start closing off parts of our heart to “protect” ourselves.  Intimacy is handicapped and the relationship hobbles along or crumbles in failure.

Now I want to emphasize that it is not the ISSUE that brings the handicap.  The injury doesn’t come because that pink elephant went galloping around the room squashing people.  All the elephant does is reveal what’s going on in the relationship.  In the trash example above it wasn’t the full trash can that caused a rift in my relationship it was the thinking that my husband was a slacker, that he was using me to do his work.  The thinking and believing that our spouse, friend, or sister is less than they should be causes us to become disconnected.  If I had been fully connected with Jonathan I wouldn’t have jumped so quickly into negative thinking about him.   I didn’t take time to understand him.  I leaped straight into judgment.

Unresolved or un-discussed issues, drive a wedge between loved ones.  Pretending they are not there or hoping they will go away on their own is a fantasy.  The whole point of close relationships is to be – – close not wedged apart.  Most of what keeps us from dealing with relationship issues is fear:

  • fear of rejection or abandonment,
  • fear of disappointment,
  • fear of failure (you don’t get what you want or the relationship ends), or
  • fear of punishment.

Another deterrent to resolving issues is dishonesty.  I venture to say that if someone says, “Our relationship is so great! – We never disagree,”  that someone in that relationship isn’t being honest.  Dishonesty isn’t always deception.  Sometimes it’s as simple as at least one party not knowing themselves well enough to express their own opinion so they only mirror the opinions of those around them.

The only reason to have a confrontation is because the person and relationship matter to you.  Confrontation isn’t a fight and shouldn’t be seen as a negative but rather a positive sign of a relationship.  No two people are the same, if you are around someone long enough you are bound to disagree and have conflict.  This is normal; it’s how we handle conflict that shows how much we value the relationship and determines our level of intimacy.

Overcoming fears, being willing to risk and be vulnerable, and sharing your desires is a huge undertaking.  Why bother?

  1. The satisfaction of knowing you are living free and honest from your heart and
  2. The potential of deeper love and intimacy.

We all have a huge need to be known and loved. So combating conflict or hunting pink elephants directly impacts how much love we have.  The rewards of a truly intimate relationship far outweighs the risk.  Yes, there could be pain and disappointment or even loss.  But how authentic of a relationship do you have if you hold back your truth?

Here are some tips that Jonathan and I try to use when dealing with conflict:

  • Confront yourself first.  Sometimes this is the only necessary confrontation. We need to examine our thoughts and feelings and know ourselves.  We need to come to a place of truth.  One time I was all ready to confront Jonathan on an issue I was having with him.  But after I took this first step of examining how and why I came to think and feel what I was, I realized it was MY thinking that needed to be straightened out.  Then my feelings lined up too.  I still shared my experience with Jonathan but there was no blame and he was able to share in what I was going through and encourage me.
    • “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts” Psalm 51:6
    • “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;”  Psalm 26:2
  • Know yourself.  Make sure your identity hasn’t gotten misplaced in the issue.  You are who you are.  No one and no thing has power to define you except God.
  • Check for a disconnect.  Outside this issue how is the relationship?  Your connection is more important than the issue.  Knowing this helps keep you focused on the goal.
  • Know your goal.  Our goal is always a more intimate, authentic connection.  If your goal is to “win” the confrontation you might want to go back to “Check for a disconnect.”
  • Timing is important.  The sooner issues are dealt with the better.  But conversations are not always appropriate “right now.”  If it can’t be discussed immediately then schedule it.  I typically want to discuss things right away, but Jonathan needs preparation to turn  his attention fully to the issue.  It is very empowering to agree, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow at 7.”  The Bible says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  This is not a power point to force a conversation for an earlier time.  You are responsible for your anger and are fully capable of letting it go before “sundown.”
  • Know  your judgmental thoughts.  Seek understanding not justification for your judgments.
  • Know your limits.  On your best day the only thing in life you have control over is YOURSELF.
  • Own your mess and clean it up.  Apologize, change your thinking that led to the mess and don’t do it again.
  • Speak honorably.  We treat others with honor because we are honorable not because they are acting honorably.  Romans 12:10

The purpose of this post is not to outline the step by step process of confrontation and conflict resolution but rather to help bring to light the value of hunting pink elephants and provide some personal tips that may not be in those outlines. There are plenty of tools available.  Conflict management theory is used by businesses and organizations as well.  If you want more details on the process of confrontation I will include some links below as well as other resources.

Happy Hunting!

No elephants, pink or otherwise, were harmed in the production of this post.


Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com

Will you let me love you?

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Before we were married, Jonathan called me one day at work to say ‘hi.’  I was working as a nurse in a busy labor and delivery unit.  That day was especially busy; I don’t think any of the staff had a chance to eat lunch.  When Jonathan called I was in the midst of a pile of paperwork following the delivery of a baby.  He was across town somewhere; I told him how busy I was and he asked if he could bring me anything.  I politely declined stating I didn’t need anything and besides it was too far to come from where he was.

English: Coffee for Love
Image via Wikipedia

In my head I fantasized how nice it would be to have a Starbucks coffee – full of calories and comfort! Immediately after my hidden daydream he offered to bring me my favorite coffee drink.  Yes!  That sounded so nice and I really wanted it!

But I said, “Oh, no, that’s ok…I won’t even have time to see you if you come.”

He said that that was fine and he could just drop it off to me.

Again I refused stating how far it was for him to come for such a short visit.

I thought I was being practical.

He continued to offer and during my lengthy decline he interrupted me and said,

“Debra…Will you LET me love you?”

I was stunned.  I couldn’t think of anything to say.

Jonathan was trying so hard to do something thoughtful and special for me and I thought I was trying to be considerate of his effort.  But really what I was doing was discounting his willingness to serve me and refusing his love.

I didn’t want him to come because it felt selfish and I didn’t want to inconvenience him.  I didn’t want him to be generous to me.  Even though I really wanted to be pampered, the effort seemed like too much trouble.  I was saying, “No that’s fine, I’m ok, I don’t need this, I don’t need your gift, I don’t need you.  I’ll do just fine on my own.”  Driving across town 45 minutes to bring me a cup of coffee was easy for him.  It was something simple he could do that he knew I would enjoy and appreciate and I refused him. I didn’t want to NEED him. I didn’t want to grow to depend on him or his love. I didn’t want…to get hurt.

It was difficult for me to receive because then I felt indebted.  Owing someone felt so vulnerable.  It seemed easier to depend on myself because then I wouldn’t owe anyone.  I’d have only myself to blame when things went wrong and I’d never have to be disappointed when people let me down.  In my deceived  mind this protected people from my frustration and disappointment and freed them of being responsible for meeting my needs (although secretly I was frustrated and disappointed with them not meeting my needs anyway). Unfortunately this type of thinking inhibits most if not all chances for true intimacy.  By not allowing others to help or serve me or simply give unconditionally to me I refuse the love I so desperately desire.  Instead of protecting others and myself I end up cutting myself off from the very thing I need.

I was taken aback when Jonathan asked me if I would let him love me. Let him? Until then I hadn’t realized that I was responsible for the love I received.

Left without reason to refuse him I allowed him to bring me the coffee.  Later I found out that by allowing him to do small things like that for me made him feel loved because I was receiving the love he was giving me and that by not receiving it he felt deflated, unloved, and rejected.

This event provided a chance for great growth and intimacy between Jonathan and I.  We both learned so much.  But the chance to grow in intimacy didn’t stop with our relationship because in the same way I was refusing Jonathan I was refusing God.

“Oh God, that’s ok, I’m fine, I don’t need your grace, your love your blessings.  I will work and strive and work some more and show you that I can do it all by myself and then you’ll be so proud of me!”

Boy, did I have it ALL WRONG!  In fear of rejection, abandonment and disappointment I refused the love, help, and blessings of God.

How easily we refuse His love.  It’s not difficult for God to bless us.  He wants to.  He’s not waiting for us to earn or deserve it.  In fact, when we were wretched, doing our own thing without a care in the world for his Love or His plan – He offered His greatest gift to us.  If while we were wretched he showered us with love how much more now that we are redeemed? (Romans 5:10) God is extravagant and desires to see us revel in His generosity.

It’s not inconvenient for Him and it’s not too much trouble.  He has gone to every effort to extend His love and is practically screaming, “WILL YOU LET ME LOVE YOU?”