{Celebrating Beautiful} Surrendering and Controlling Our Fears by Tracie Miles

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
 
I’m so glad to welcome Tracie Miles to my blog today! Tracie and I were introduced by our mutual friend Courtney DeFeo last year, and I had the privilege of reading and endorsing Tracie’s newly released book Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live. I found her book to be a fascinating weave of scientific research and God’s truth, offering an empowering message of resiliency and encouragement – and I’m honored to be able to give away a copy today! Simply leave a comment on this post and I’ll select a winner by Sunday, June 11 at 5:00 p.m. CST.
Here is Tracie Miles on Celebrating Beautiful…

Life had been hard for many, many months. My marriage of twenty-five years had abruptly ended due to circumstances beyond my control, and overpowering negative emotions seemed to be running my life.  The day finally came when I was sick and tired of feeling sad and spent, and I knew I needed to retake control of my thoughts.  I was tired of letting my feelings boss me around, and I longed to break free from their stronghold over my mind and my life, but also my peace, joy and happiness.  I could either control my mind, or it would continue to control me.

I decided to spend some time in prayer and bowed my head. I began asking God to show me what I needed to let go of – mentally and emotionally – and to equip me spiritually to break free from the negative thoughts consuming my heart and mind. God soon helped me realize that I had been struggling with many negative mental strongholds, but there was one that had a life-robbing one chokehold on my peace.

Fear.

Suffocating fears of what the present day, and the future, might hold would crush my spirit every morning before I even got out of bed, and would rob me of sleep at night. Fears of how my children were feeling and coping. Countless fears that would always morph in my mind the more I thought about them, forcing me into thinking about all the “what-ifs”. Nine times out of ten my what-ifs were followed up with fear-inducing thoughts of worse-case-scenario theories that would pull me deeper into sadness, even if they weren’t entirely rational.

So, in my prayer time that morning, God opened my eyes to the invisible enemy I had been fighting –my thoughts which were constantly igniting fear in my heart. I committed to working on controlling my thoughts so they didn’t control my life and protecting myself from having a case of bad attitude by surrendering all the fears that had been building up in my head for months.

I got out my journal and began to write down my fears one by one and to my surprise, within minutes, I had written out thirty-three fears that had slid off the tip of my pencil with ease. Thirty. Three. Paralyzing. Fears. I didn’t realize until that very moment how my fears had multiplied or how much they were damaging my attitude, much less that they had such a strong power over my thoughts, emotions and perspectives.

Immediately, I surrendered those fears and all the accompanying emotions to God in prayer. I wanted to break free from fear, and grab onto hope instead.  I committed to God and myself to take a stand against letting them slip back into my subconscious. The difference that prayer of surrender made in my outlook and my life going forward amazed even me. Slowly, yet assuredly, as I intentionally captured fearful thoughts before they crushed by spirit or threatened my peace, my attitude began to change. I invited God to help me transform my thoughts, and that is exactly what He did.

Isaiah 41:10 says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (ESV) These words were primarily directed to the Jews who had been exiled during their difficult captivity in Babylon. God was reminding them they were His, and therefore, had nothing to fear. We are also His. Therefore, we have nothing to fear.

God’s promise to be with His beloveds, to strengthen those who need strength and to uphold with His own mighty righteous hand, is as valid for us today as it was for Jews back then. We won’t always be protected from things that eilicit fear in our hearts, but we can always surrender those fears to God and trust that not only will He will never leave our side, but He is more than capable of handling whatever it is that is filling our hearts and minds with fear.

Although most of my fear-induced emotions and feelings that fretful night were valid, I had allowed them to take over my mind and, in turn, take over my life and my happiness, in addition to robbing me of much-needed sleep and rest.

Maybe today you are struggling with fear regarding a difficult circumstance in your own life. Maybe you’ve received a concerning health diagnosis, a termination at work, or are facing living life without someone you once held dear. Maybe the bank account is low, the refrigerator is empty, and the bills are due, and you have no idea where money is going to come from. All valid fears that elicit valid emotions. Yet regardless of the scary unknowns in your life which seem large and looming, many of which you feel inadequate to handle, there is great news, my friend.

We all have the power of the Holy Spirit within us to break down the stronghold of fear and grab hold of the peace God offers.  We can all learn to submit our fears to God if we choose to put our trust in Him, instead of tossing and turning every night under the weight of worry.

How wonderful would life be without the presence of fear? How much happier would you feel if you no longer had to carry the burden of worry? That type of living is possible, as we learn to focus on faith instead of fear.

We can control our mind, or it will control us.  The choice is ours.Tracie Miles is a national speaker and author with the internationally known Proverbs 31 Ministries and has spent the last eleven years inspiring women to live intentionally for Christ  In addition to Unsinkable Faith, she is also the author of two best selling books, Your Life Still Counts and Stressed Less Living. She is also a contributing author to the popular Zondervan NIV Women’s Devotional Bible, and the Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today Daily Devotional Book. Tracie has 3 children and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can connect with her on her blog.

Want to win a copy of Tracie’s book Unsinkable Faith today? Simply leave a comment on this post and I’ll select a winner by Sunday, June 11 at 5:00 p.m. CST!

{Celebrating Beautiful} Finding Rainbows, by Lauren Casper

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
 
I’ve loved getting to know Lauren Casper through blogging. In fact, I even quoted some of her beautiful writing in my book!  I was so honored when last year, Lauren ask me to endorse her book, It’s Okay About It, which just released last week! What a wonderful Mother’s Day gift this book would make. Lauren has a way of gently bridging and filling you up with her writing, even the parts of her story that come from places of deep hurt. I’m thrilled to host her today.
Here is Lauren Casper on Celebrating Beautiful…

My son, Mareto, loves light and color. He is especially excited by rainbows. One day, I was switching out a CD, and he noticed the way the underside caught the light and reflected a rainbow. He begged to hold it and spent the next couple of hours carrying it through the house with his little index finger poked through the center hole. He twisted and turned it at different angles, tilting his head to look at the rainbow. Mareto finds light and color in the ordinary.

Another day we were walking through the woods when Mareto stopped abruptly and looked up to exclaim, “Look! The tree rainbow!” I followed his gaze toward a tree that was bent and partially fallen. Its skinny trunk grew up out of the dirt and then arched over a pathway, where it ended by resting on a tree several feet away. It was tall, bending high above us, and creating a shape in the sky just like a rainbow. And I never would have noticed it.

But Mareto did. Mareto sees beauty in places I wouldn’t expect to find it, such as the broken trunk of a tree.

We kept walking, and not too many minutes passed before Mareto stooped to pick up a small, dirty, gray rock. He turned it over in the palm of his hand a few times before holding it up to show me. “The rock is a heart!” he exclaimed with bright, wide eyes, barely holding in his awe and excitement. Sure enough, this small rock looked as if it had been crudely cut into the shape of a heart. I wouldn’t have noticed that either.

Mareto’s eyes seem trained to find the beauty in everything. I remember a time when mine were, too, but somewhere along the way, I lost it.

I remember trotting through the woods with my sister as a child, looking for acorns to collect, then popping their tops off and pretending they were tiny bowls for tiny animals. I remember inspecting each rock, hoping to discover an old arrowhead. I remember lying in the grass to braid clover flowers together for necklaces and bracelets. I remember finding shapes in the clouds and dancing in the rain.

When did I lose my vision?

Life got hard and big and scary. The world no longer felt or looked beautiful; instead it seemed broken and messy and ugly. I stopped finding beauty in everything because I was too focused on the brokenness. Terrible things happen and we can’t always control them, so a narrative of fear writes itself in our hearts—scribbling out the story of broken beauty, but beauty nonetheless.

God tells us that when we love him, “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). That doesn’t mean everything that happens to us will be good; it means that God is bigger than our suffering and the world’s suffering. It means that God is actually powerful enough to make something lovely in spite of and out of the messiest and most awful parts of life.

But do we see it? Do we look for the beauty hiding around the next corner?

Do we actually see the arc of a rainbow or just the broken trunk of a tree? Do we believe the sun is beaming above the dark clouds, or do we fixate on the storm? Do we see that every single broken thing in life is really just redemption waiting to happen?

I don’t always see the beauty. I admit that it’s not always my first inclination. I spent so many years seeing the broken in the world that it takes a conscious effort to look for the good in the bad. But Mareto is helping me—taking my hand and showing me all the beautiful things in this world—and I’m watching him live it out.

Lauren Casper is the author of It’s Okay About It: Lessons from a Remarkable Five-Year-Old about Living Life Wide Open and founder of the internationally known blog laurencasper.com, where she shares her thoughts on life, parenting, and faith. She is a top contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team and has had numerous articles syndicated by The Huffington Post, the TODAY show, Yahoo! News, and several other publications. Lauren and her husband, John, have two beautiful children brought home from Ethiopia in 2011 and 2012. They make their home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.