Risk vs Fear

There’s an image I can’t shake from my mind’s eye. It happened last Friday. My husband, son, and I were having a fun evening of shopping. Life felt almost normal. We were shopping at a local grocery store where there were no floor signs directing traffic, no one yelling that we were going the wrong way down an aisle, no mandatory mask signs, the shelves were full, and we even found toilet paper. We were feeling downright giddy, and laughing as we decided today would be a good day to splurge on some ice cream. We rounded the bend of the frozen section, still laughing at a random joke, and I stopped cold.

“Sorry, sir.” I said with a nervous chuckle as we stopped short of crashing into an older man pushing his own cart.

But he’s not moving. Not matching our smiles. And not tearing his stare from us. His eyes are wide. His knuckles are white from his grip on the cart. They match the pale color of his face mask.

I nervous chuckle again, and try to continue around him. But my heart immediately turns. I can’t shake the image of his eyes. They’re engorged with fear. And suddenly this pandemic is far from over.

It’s amazing how lightening fast fear can creep under our skin. It seems to take forever to get over our fears; years of therapy, countless days in prayer, volumes of books on positive thinking, long-term relationships to prove we can trust, etc. etc. etc. But it only takes a single incident to bring it all crashing back. At least, it seems that way.

I probably looked just as horror-stricken when I had to shop for necessities in the middle and end of March. I sanitized EVERYTHING, made sure Riker stayed at home with Andrew, and hid in my house 99% of the time. Will we be the next victims of this disease? What if we got it? What if this is the new normal? What if we die?? Fear is all-consuming when you give in to its grasp.

Enjoying the pools opening in South Carolina!

Today, our state is one of the minority that have mainly resumed business life. Our restaurants are open to 50% capacity, salons/barber shops/gyms/museums/parks/pools etc. are all slowly opening, and only a small percentage wear masks. Yet, people all over are saying, and I quote: “Just stay home.” “It’s not safe out there.” “It’s time to live in the future and worry about what’s ahead because there will be more deaths.”

I’m not saying these people aren’t right. There’s death and disease all around us. We risk calamity the minute we walk out of our front door.

But there’s also risks inside out own homes. Suicide, abuse, and diseases are in our very homes. So where is it actually safe?!?!?!

The answer: nowhere on this earth.

Have I depressed you yet?

But that’s reality. Nowhere is safe. Nowhere is without risk. There is nowhere that can guaranty you will not die or succumb to an accident.

But when did the risk of falling stop a rock-climber from reaching the top? When did the fear of getting burned stop a chef from flambeing a dish? When did the fear of a car accident stop a NASCAR driver from racing? When did the fear of concussion stop a Quarterback from playing in the Superbowl? When did the fear of contacting a disease stop a nurse from tirelessly entering a hospital everyday? When did fear stop the human race from living?!?!

Many of my readers and friends know that I’ve been through my fair share of near-death experiences. Read part of my story here: Forever Blessed – No Matter What! Last Christmas I had the tumor the size of a grapefruit removed, along with one of my ovaries. The internal bleeding led to me loosing 2 pints of blood during the emergency surgery. It was a scary time. If anyone had a reason to be scared, it was me. If anyone has a reason to continue to be scared: also me. The doctor told me there was an 85% chance of it coming back within the first several months after my surgery due to the internal bleeding.

I lived through January, February, and March, with a false brave-face. Inside I was shuttering. Praying the least little pain or discomfort I felt in my abdomen wasn’t the cancer returning to eat me alive. While the rest of the world was worrying about a virus, I was fearing my own body.

This came to a head in the last week of April. The pain in my abdomen had become more than a ghost pinch. I had a doctor’s appointment the beginning of May and I was scared of what they could possibly find. I was scared of a re-occurrence, the need for chemo, and death itself.

I went to church on Sunday, April 26th (yes, we have a fiscal church service!!), with almost doubled-over pain. But I didn’t let it affect my smile. I still felt so blessed to be out of the house, and around people. I stood, and I worshiped. And in my singing and worship, I prayed. I prayed for healing. For peace. And I didn’t just pray for me. I prayed for those around me. For my family, friends, and strangers. I got my eyes off myself. And without even realizing it, my pain vanished. Completely.

The very next week, I went to the doctor’s office. He ran tests, and completed blood work for tumor markers. The results were undeniable: I’m cancer-free and the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. Praise God!!

But you could argue saying that I’m still at risk, and you’d be right. You could say I’m living in a delusion: I shouldn’t leave home, I shouldn’t eat anything besides vegetables the rest of my life, that I should take a few rounds of chemo just to make sure all the cancer cells are truly gone, and never leave my house without a mask again. And I would answer you with:

But in the day that I’m afraid, I lay all my fears before you
and trust in you with all my heart.
What harm could a man bring to me?
With God on my side I will not be afraid of what comes.
The roaring praises of God fill my heart,
and I will always triumph as I trust his promises.
-Psalms 56:3-4

God’s promises include never leaving us, blessings, protection, healing, loving us unconditionally, prosper instead of harm, and strengthening us. God’s promises are yes, and amen. That means they are final. All we have to do is accept them. That’s it.

The words at the top of my website read “Writer. Artist. Risk-Taker.” I created that about 3 years ago. Those words are not a coincidence. Risks are all around us. But let me put a “risk” in a different light:

If God’s promises are final, and He promises that we will have His strength, are we truly taking a risk in doing something He tells us to do? I.e. if God tells me that I’m pregnant (which actually happened years ago – God told me through my pastor that I was pregnant 2 weeks before I could take a test), is it truly a risk to take a test and worth the fear of it being negative? If God tells me I’m healed (which He again did through my current pastor one week before the doctor told me I’m cancer free), is it a risk to take a test and worth the fear of it coming back positive? If God tells us to move to a new state, is it truly a risk to make that move? If God says in Luke 10:19 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Is it even a risk to walk out our front door??

This is a crazy, crazy world we live in, and seems to get more insane by the day. There will always be something to fear, whether cancer, virus, or murder hornet. There are measures to stay safe, and there are measures to stop living. It’s up to us to listen to what God says, and take the “risk.”

Don’t be the man who’s afraid to even smile. Don’t be like me and waste countless nights in fear of a disease God promised to heal me from. Please don’t stop living because you are too afraid of dying.

Love you all! Be blessed!

Author Of Our Future

We live in an era of uncertainty. And I hate not knowing the future.

I’m someone who loves to make plans, schedule, research, and know everything about anything. I’ll constantly become bogged down in my writing because of my incessant need to research.

For instance, yesterday I wrote how a character visits another character on W44th Street in Manhattan. What did I do? Well, I had to search Bing maps for an aerial view. Then a street view. I explored all over 44th street, and went down 9th Ave (virtually). Spotted a few restaurants and bars to reference. Did a search for apartment buildings. Found a condo for sale on the exact corner I needed. Got the specs from listing pictures, details on layout, and the location of doors, etc. etc. Needless to say, I did about 30 – 45 minutes of research for one single paragraph.

But, I NEEDED to know! I needed to know the layout so I could continue my story without any surprises.

Guess what happened on the next page though? Yup, another plot twist I needed to research.

That’s just in fiction. In the real world it takes me weeks to plan the perfect vacation, party, or event. I say I love surprises, but in reality I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy a surprise properly.

So, this not knowing the future is driving me crazy!! When will everything reopen? Will we be able to have a family reunion this year? Will we even get to the beach? Will Riker have school next year? Is this all a ploy by the government? Will we lose all of our rights? Is everything fake? Or is everything more real than they’re saying on the news? Are we living in the end times? Will every restaurant close down before I can try a true southern meal?!

I don’t know.

But God knows.

I’m sitting in my sun room with the screen doors open. My cats are restless. The wind has been wild all day, and the clouds are rolling in. The air tastes thick with humidity. It doesn’t take a weather reporter to tell me there’s a storm coming. It’ll be here in a couple of hours. By the time you read this, I might be in the midst of it. It could be bad, or it might only bring rain. We’ve had some tornadoes in the area twice in the last few weeks, and there’s a possibility of more again tonight. But no one knows for sure. All we can do is wait it out and prepare. I cleaned our garage today so we can put our vehicles inside, and we have an amazing neighbor who has offered her basement to us if things get bad. But there’s not much more I can do to physically prepare.

Mentally though, I can choose to not let fear consume me. Riker senses when I’m upset; he’s sensitive that way. I made the mistake last week to get a little frantic in my last-minute tornado prep because we got a phone alert only 5 minutes before the wind picked up (we’d known the weather reports, but denied that we had anything to worry about). He was terrified; feeding and magnifying on my own fear. I’m not making that mistake again. This time, I’m prepared.

We might not know the future, but we don’t have to be surprised by it. We can see the signs coming, prepare, and rest in the knowledge that God has us in the palm of His hands. That doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. That means:

“Because you are God’s child, you can be confident that he will give you wisdom. And because he will give you wisdom, you can be sure that you will have a future and a hope. When you have the wisdom of God, you don’t need to fear the future.” Proverbs 24:13-14.

There’s one verse in particular that came to my attention this weekend. Our pastor loves to read from The Passion translation of the Bible, and I find it brings new understanding to verses I’ve heard all my life in the same formal translations.

“For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

As a mystery writer, this wording brings an instant picture to my mind. In mysteries there are clues and references for the end to come. A truly keen reader can follow the right clues and guess the ending that the author has planned. There’s clues and answers speckled all around us: in our relationships, our minds, even on the news, and especially in the Bible. God wrote MORE THAN 400 references to Jesus in the old testament. That’s a heck of a lot of clues. Yet, the majority of the Jewish people were surprised by his coming. Why? They didn’t need to be. And neither do we need to be surprised by our country’s future. By our own individual futures.

Am I surprised that I’m a wife, mother, writer, artist, living in South Carolina? Not really, because God put every last one of those desires in my heart years ago.

Will I be surprised if we’re hit by a tornado tonight? Not really, because I’m watching the winds bringing in the dark clouds. But that doesn’t mean I’m living in fear.

Am I surprised by this pandemic, how fast everything shut down, and how divided our world is becoming? Not really, because I’ve read the book of Revelation. I’ve read Matthew 24: “Nations will go to war against each other and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be terrible earthquakes—seismic events of epic proportion, horrible epidemics and famines in place after place. This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin! …. But keep your hope to the end and you will experience life and deliverance. Yet through it all, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God. And after this the end of this age will arrive.”

But don’t worry: we all know how this story ends. If we trust the author.

Is it a coincidence that I’m currently writing a book all about possible futures? Not really.

Let me leave you with my latest video I created with a fitting bit of poetry. Be blessed and encouraged no matter what our futures bring!!