November 18, 2015

To Calm the Storm Inside

To say my mind has been in turmoil this last week is an understatement. I have hardly been able to watch the news or hear of the events in Paris, and the chaos in the world, without being filled with anxiety. The fears of my past have been woven into my thoughts of these tragedies. I have prayed much for this fog to be lifted from my mind but, not to my avail, have continued to feel a heavy burden tug at my heart.

I have feared for our world. I have poured out my heart in prayer to send comfort to those who are hurting because of the actions of other's decisions. I have revisited my powerful fear of guns . . . and of men. I have hurt for the wounded: of heart, of spirit and of mind.  

We are all in mourning. We have mourned the loss of those who have fallen, we have mourned for their families, and we are mourning the loss of the safety we once thought was ours. In our every day activities we have been given cause to doubt and fear.  

The whole week has felt weak for me, but yesterday was one of my darkest days. I could not break the wave of fear that almost held me paralyzed. I was preoccupied in my duties as a homemaker; I was doubtful in my roles in business projects; and I felt disconnected from the people around me. But for the first time in a long time—I didn’t feel connected to God. I kept getting these dark thoughts about Why? Why do these terrible things happen? Why are people so cruel? Without any real intent on finding any answers, I began stewing over the past and present tragic events. I went back to the anger I had thought was long past. I allowed bitterness to start to build. In my dreary state I could not snap out of the agonizing feeling of chaos that filled my soul.

By the time all my children were home from school—and a few extra friends—I tried hard to create a normal front on the outside while the storm still raged inside. Soon Tytus had gotten his feelings hurt and came running downstairs to find me. He said (in a dramatic voice . . . with added breaths for effect), “Mom . . . why does Kaleeya hate me? She won’t let me play with her friend. I want to follow them, I just want to play with them. I want them to be nice to me. I just don’t know why they hate me. I am trying to be kind, but they still said NO. Why do they hate me? Maybe I should hate them too.”

I grabbed his little hand and took him into my room. Teage followed. At first I tried to think of some different options to keep him occupied so Kaleeya could just enjoy her time with her friend in peace. Then an idea came to me.  I said, “So buddy, sometimes when I don’t understand something, or I really need an answer, I come in here and I open my scriptures to a random page and just start reading."

I grabbed my bible off the nightstand. I flipped it open and began to read.

John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

I about burst into tears. A moment of seeking clarity for my self-professed-hated son, helped me find an answer for myself. The words were so simple, but in that moment it felt as if those words had been written just of me. I had been living in fear. For a week straight, it was like fear had been planted in my heart, and living in it was suffocating my faith. I could barely breathe, literally and figuratively I had been gasping for air. 

Tytus ran off to try again, while I sat on my bed staring down at the word fear. It knew me well, but how come I hadn't even seen it sneak in? Fear had surround me, and I had been too blind to see it for what it was. 

Perfect love, casteth out all fear. I had to find that kind of love. I didn't want to spend another minute stuck in this state of fear. 

My day began to feel brighter as we headed to gymnastics and basketball practice. I stopped thinking about the heaviness of the world and started seeing my family a little more. 

As night began to fall I was walking from room to room putting kids to bed. I could hear Kaleeya singing at the top of her lungs. I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with him someday.  

(I had her sing it again tonight before bed so I could record it!)

I stopped in my tracks outside of her room. For the first time in a while, I was overcome with peace. I stood in the hall for a minute as her beautiful voice echoed through its walls. The love that surrounded me was almost tangible as I thought about the words to the song. I am a child of God.  We are all children of God. These six children, who I get to raise on earth . . . are His.  In each room, where my little ones peacefully sleep each night, I sang that song to them. With the power of the words in a simple children's song I testified to my babies that they were children of a God who loved them. 

The Whys of my fears were silently hushed as I was surrounded by His love. 

During this troubled time, and with so much heart ache in the world, I have had many people turn to me asking for advise on how to combat fears—fears of the unknown, fear of guns, fears of the future, and fear in moving forward. I have felt inadequate to answer—as I must confess these recent events have tried to shatter my faith in humanity as well.

We all feel alone when the safety of our world is unknown. We all feel scared when we hear stories of everyday events turning into war zones. The uneasiness that surrounds us affects us all differently, but the reality of such trauma reminds us that much that goes on is out of our control.

When a gun sounds it shatters dreams. It cripples hopes. It has the power to end a life, and its anger can change other lives forever. Too many of us know that reality . . . and most of the time those triggers were pulled in hate, and leave an impact forever . . . settling inside of us a fear not easy to shake. Living in fear is debilitating; it makes life seem unbearable.

So as I search myself for comfort from this fear, I finally wish to share my thoughts with those who have asked. This I know after bullets try to take away our power . . . we are not alone. No terrorist, or blackened heart can take away that truth. No amount of bullets—or plans to make us feel blindsided, abandoned, and unprepared—can hide us from the light in this world. Even if you have lost someone you love to the hate of a gun—you are not alone. Even if you are in the midst of a silent battle in the walls of your own home surrounded by an unshakable fear—you are not alone. Even if you are in a distant land, separated from everything you love—and have had to step up to defend that which we should all have just been given—you are not alone.

The lie is that we are all now prisoners; prisoners to terrorists, prisoners to power, prisoners to fear and prisoners held from peace.

 But the truth we have to hold onto is that we will always be free. They can try to take away our sense of safety, they can try to take away our sense of unity, and they can even try to take away our lives . . . but in the end we will still be standing. For all of us will stand before our creator and be judged for the good works that we do and the impactful lives that we lead. We all—even the ones we call our enemies—will have to stand accountable before God.

So to those of you who have been impacted by this wave of fear, I want you to fight. Fight through the fear to greater faith and remember that you are not alone. I will not stop sharing that truth . . . because I myself am fighting for it as well. 

WE are NOT alone.

This life is hard enough without fear; some days it feels impossible. The loads that we carry get so heavy it can become hard to breath. Peace feels so far away when these dark clouds hang overhead—but we can't let it stop us from believing.

The chaos and turmoil that surrounds us during troubled times are tools to make us live in fear, instead of faith.

I am fighting today to stand tall through that fear, and not lose sight of the one thing that can bring peace. Grace.

To all of you who have lost much this week, please know that our prayers are with you, and even in the midst of this heartache there will be light. God sees all. He is there, and even He has cried for you. It is hard to imagine that it is His sons and daughters He is watching hurt each other.

I used to believe that this world was divided by: religion, social classes, countries, states, and cities. I used to think that some were better than others. I used to think that where I lived meant maybe I was loved a little more. I used to think that we were all divided by waters. 

But we aren’t. What divides this world is not oceans and borders; we are divided by lies, secrets, hate, pride, and fears.

We all have a creator—whether we believe in One or not—and He didn’t give us faith to have us hate each other. He gave us religions and beliefs so we would have something to stand on to make ourselves stronger.

We are all fighting the same war . . . and it isn’t about who is right or who is better. It is about finding love: for ourselves, for each other, and for Him.  

Hate comes easy. The world is full of it. Anger and revenge are everywhere. Fear is driving our every move. Politically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually . . . we don’t want to be wrong . . . and we sure as heck don’t want to lose.

But what we are losing—as we fight to be right—is our faith. What we are losing as guns sound to show power—is our courage. It takes courage to live life in a shattered world we cannot control. And it takes even more courage to let others believe differently than we do. But it is when our beliefs blind us—and makes us think we are better—that courage is lost.

So today—whatever your religious beliefs—and even if you don’t even believe there is a God, I want you to know we are on your team. This world is only broken because we have lost sight of the truth that we are all connected. Maybe we don’t all share the same skin color, or language, or religion, or continent . . . but we are all the same. We are connected in the fight against evil, and even those who are fighting against each other are just puppets for the darkness . . . forgetting that they are hating their own.

We are all one. We are all children of God. If we found a way to unite against the real enemy, our world could find peace. Satan knows if he can get us to fear . . . we will not have faith. If he can get us to doubt . . . we do not believe in ourselves, in each other, in our world . . . and in our creator. If he can get us to seek revenge, we will not see each other as humans. If he can get us to focus on differences, we will not see how we are all the same. If we are disconnected from love, he can get us to hate. 

So, though we will have to defend our freedom from those who have forgotten how to love . . . hopefully we can do it with faith. With God on our side, we have no need to fear.

We will be given many opportunities to doubt, as the hate of the world shows us its lies. Pray for a clear view of the truth. We are His children; He will never leave us. Though He cannot shield us from the pain, He can deliver us from our suffering.

Our world is being tested . . . to see who can hold to faith, even through the fear. Be strong. Have courage. Look for the light . . . for even though He cannot take away the storms around us, He can calm the storms inside.

Be bold . . . use your voice. Be brave . . . give your heart. Be wise . . . listen for the truth. Be real . . . remember who you are. Have Courage . . . to STAND.


Katie A. said...

Ashlee - I haven't been able to sleep tonight and I thought about your blog and remembered I'd see something on Facebook about a new post, so I came to read it.

I want to tell you something and I don't know if it will help you or not... but here it is. :) I've gone through a lot of things related to trauma - some of the same things you have, and others are different. But it's a big combination of neglect, betrayal, and abuse from various sources including parental figures and a former spouse.

One thing I've learned over the last year is that I personally have a connection in me between grief and anxiety. A lot of people experience grief and it's hard, and it's sad... but there isn't this massive fear that is triggered by the idea of grief or loss. For me, there is. And it's there because grief and betrayal have been intertwined for me throughout my life. Betrayal breeds fear and anxiety. So when I experience grief or even think about the possibility of loss or grief, it can trigger some very powerful knee jerk fear reactions for me that can completely overwhelm me - it's much like what you described in this post. I understand what you mean by it being paralyzing. I'm trying to learn and understand grief as its own entity - that it can exist on its own - not tied up in betrayal and a complete loss of stability and security. It's a hard thing to learn when you've experienced mind-blowing grief and loss all tangled up in that kind of betrayal and your whole world being turned upside down.

I'm so sorry you're having to deal with these types of emotions. I don't know how many people have really gone through those types of combinations and it can feel confusing and lonely sometimes but I think everything you're feeling is understandable. And unfortunately, we can't predict when or what will dredge all of that up.

The scripture you found is one that has always been something that I've clung to. When I was 12, my uncle gave me a blessing and he spoke those words in it. You are right in that the scriptures can help us and guide us - the iron rod is the word of God.. and it leads to the tree of life, where we are able to partake of God's love, which brings us more joy than anything else. But I know it's hard to remember that when the darkness presses in and can be so consuming. I get it. It's a constant, ongoing battle to hold on.

Anyway, I know you don't know me, but from the first time I read your story, I could relate to certain things so deeply - again.. obviously some very different details, but some that are very much the same. My heart goes out to you and I pray that you'll be surrounded by comfort. Please just know that you are thought about and you are never alone.

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