The Power of Fear: Two Anniversaries

On June 5th, 2014 I was sitting with a dear friend on the 6th floor balcony of my dorm hall. We were studying for finals and looking over the campus on a perfectly sunny day. We heard a police siren coming down the street, not an uncommon sound in the Seattle area, and didn’t think much of it. Slowly, the sound grew louder. We stood up from our chairs and watched as police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks raced towards lower campus. Our RA walked into the room and told us that we needed to get away from the windows and lock ourselves in our rooms: an active shooter was on our campus. For the next two hours we all crammed into a friend’s room to silently watch the news. Some girls sat and watched the TV, anxious and expectant, some holed up inside themselves, leaving a stoic outer shell, others wept openly, while some silently hid their tears. We watched as the news reported high injury counts, and an ever-raising body count. It was horrifying. After sometime, the reporter explained that “only” one death had occurred, the shooter had been captured, and we were safe.

The next few days were full of mournful prayer gatherings, honest embraces, and an indescribable peace that only the Holy Spirit can provide. As a community we understood the pain, and together we were able to cope.

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Just a week after the shooting, however, finals were over and I moved home for the summer.

Away from the community that understood how I felt, I began to live my life in fear.

One day I took a walk alone. I remember that as I walked I grew more and more panicked. Every noise threw me on edge. I suspiciously watched each person I walked past. It overwhelmed me. The fear of it all was too much and I began to run. I ran into the nearest coffee shop, locked myself in the bathroom and curled up in the corner with my arms around my knees and wept.

I wept because I was afraid; I was afraid for myself, I was afraid for my loved ones. I began to fear that summer that the Lord would take my loved ones from me. I feared that just as he had taken a member of my school community, Paul, who was a roommate, a brother, a son, God would take someone I loved from me as well.

It has been two years since the shooting. I have undergone a lot of healing since that first brutal day. But fear still has its grip on my life. It does not always find me, but it will hunt me down when I am at my most happy, when I feel the most blessed. It attacks suddenly and I become overwhelmed with the inevitability of painful loss. This fear had stopped me from doing a great many things.

I don’t know how to fight this fear. I certainly cannot do it alone.

Let me tell you another story about fear:

As a child, my mother was always worried. I thought it was funny how afraid she was of my sisters and I getting hurt. I thought it was funny, that is, until she made us wear helmets to climb the small trees in the park. But that is what she needed to feel like we were safe.

My family has always traveled, but it hasn’t always been so easy. My mother had a horrible fear of flying. It threw her into panic attacks and almost nothing could calm her down. She also feared being underwater, the unpredictability of wild animals, and basically any fast paced game that my two fearless sisters and I thought up. I always thought of my mom as a ‘scaredy cat.’

Fear ruled her, it was a major factor in her decisions, it was the lens through which she saw the world.

But one day, that all changed. She got onto an airplane for her work and decided that she wasn’t afraid. She decided that fear wasn’t worth it, that she couldn’t live her life as a slave to it anymore. She wanted to live fully in the freedom of Christ.

Blog Mamma 2Since that day, she has traveled countless times overseas, she has stood over crocodiles, swam in the Amazon jungle, eaten strange meats, pet a cheetah, recently overcome her fear of scuba diving, and even led a group of travelers to safety after a terrorist attack. These last ten years or so have been a blossoming of someone so beautifully free that the Lord’s hand in her life is unmistakable. She is not letting fear have a foothold in her life.

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Today is this beautiful woman’s birthday and as I reflected on who she is and who she has become, I was hit by the polarity of her story and that of mine. This weekend I mourn the second anniversary of an event that filled my life with fear, but this weekend I also celebrate the life of someone who has overcome crippling fears and has run wildly toward the adventures of a lifetime. How humbling a contrast. To try and hold these stories as equal is to try and diminish the Lord’s awesome power of healing in an effort to validate my fearful lifestyle.

I cannot go into this weekend with my head hung low, defeated by fear, because I have seen a vivid life where fear no longer has a stronghold. I have seen the Lord free someone from it, and I know that by giving into my fear, I am not living the life that God has asked of me.

I choose, just as my mother did that day she got into that airplane, that I will not be afraid. I will always mourn June 5th, but I refuse to continue to live in the fear of it. I know that there is still healing that must come, but I choose to live in the freedom from fear that God has given. Because only in that freedom will I truly heal.

 

 

 

 

To all of those whom I was with on June 5th, 2014, I miss you and I am praying with you this weekend. I hope that you will join me in letting go of fear so that we can mourn in the safety of God’s loving arms.

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My Freshman Fifteen: An Open Letter to My Soon-to-Graduate Sister

My Sweet Gracie Goose,

11146237_10203987530910148_7427676907801260218_nBefore you go off to college this summer, I wanted to make sure to tell you a story that I have rarely, if ever, told with total honesty. First of all, I am so excited for you to start your college journey; my freshman year of college was the most formative year of my life, I was faced with a continuous stream of choices that lead me to discover more of who I am and where I wanted to go. These choices shaped my perception of myself and the world around me. 

As a college freshman I have no doubt that you will hear about the infamous “freshman fifteen”; it’s the age old ‘horror’ story of the cute skinny girl moving out on her own and binging on school cafeteria cookies until finally those cookies form a solid fifteen pounds that seem to have miraculously appeared by the time you go home for Christmas break. I should first say that the freshman fifteen is not a myth; it’s true what everyone says, you really can eat as many of those ridiculously tasty cafeteria cookies as you want and no one will stop you.

What no one will tell you, however, is that you can stop eating, and no one will stop you.

I moved into school with this horror story of the ‘freshman fifteen’ imprinted on the walls of my stomach; it became the filter through which I looked at every one of those ooey-gooey, straight from the oven, cafeteria cookies. I feared the freshman fifteen as if it were an infection disease that I would inevitably catch; to me, those cookies embodied what it meant to be undisciplined and I was positive that being even slightly lenient with myself was the embodiment of a weakness and addiction for food. I saw every single delicious calorie I ate as if it were an entire pound added to my body.

Like many women my age, I have deeply struggled with my concept of body image since early middle school. I remember nights where I would poke and prod at my stomach and legs as I cried, angry with God for making me the size that I was. I lived daily with the fear that I would gain more weight, that I would get ‘fat’.

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My freshman year of college, that fear manifested itself in every bite I took. At the beginning of the year I made the choice to try and maintain my weight, but there was something inside of me that thought this wasn’t enough. I had found that in the freedom of the cafeteria, I could easily control the amount of calories I ate each day without anyone to question it. I slowly lowered the amount of calories I ate each meal, determined finally feel in control of my body. This choice defined who I became for the next year and a half.

Every single night I would look in the mirror, poke and prod, and think about how disgusting I was. I hated myself for giving into food and eating that extra snack, or taking that extra bowl of salad. I would step on the scale every morning, angry that I had was not the weight I wanted to be, and promise myself to try harder that day. By night, I would weigh myself again, fruitlessly hoping that I had miraculously lost weight during the day, yet again promising to eat less or work out more the next day.

What I hadn’t noticed was that I was actually losing weight. A lot of it, and quickly. Within two months I had lost nearly twenty pounds.

And I still didn’t like what I saw in the mirror.

What I realized at that point, was that what I hated the most about myself was not my body, but rather the fact that I hated my body. I felt weak for feeling like I wasn’t thin enough, for buying into the world’s idea of beauty. I felt like I had sold out to the idea of the thin beautiful ideal that the world was selling me. I hated myself for that weakness; I hated myself so much for that weakness that I refused to tell anyone how I felt, I wanted to be the strong one and I didn’t want anyone to see me as weak.

When I came home for Christmas break I was ashamed of what I had done to my body but I also felt a sick sense of triumph at the fact that I had won the battle with my appetite. When our family members commented on my weight loss I felt an inward sense of pride and shame all at the same time. I knew that I was better than that, but I loved that I was finally being called thin.

It got to the point where I was eating so little that I was blacking out three to five times a day. I eventually sought out the school nurse for a blood test, thinking that I was sick. She informed me that I have hypoglycemia, which means that my body processes sugar extremely fast, leaving me with low blood sugar. The nurse recommended that I consult the school nutritionist to understand how to eat in a way that would not leave my blood sugar so low. In my discussion with the school nutritionist I discovered that I was eating only half of what my body actually needed to function properly.

This was the first time in six months that I felt confronted by the idea that I had developed an eating disorder. I would not be honest about that until nearly six months after that.

Almost two years later I am in a much better place. I no longer feel ashamed of where I was, I no longer feel like I am not thin enough, or like I cannot control myself. I can say with pride that I feel strong and healthy, and believe me, strong and healthy feel so much better than thin and blacking out. I can also say with pride that I eat those cafeteria cookies (they really are quite tasty) frequently.

I sit here writing this story for the first time Gracie because I love you dearly, because I know you are stunningly beautiful, and because I need you to know that this dark voice is just waiting for you to give into it and I never want you to listen to those lies. I still have 10636297_10204808957973129_6336477092888678102_ndays where I look in the mirror and hear that sickly voice in the back of my head telling me that I am not enough. I am still on my journey toward mental and physical health, but at this point I feel like I have overcome the shame of it and know that I am strong and courageous for fighting against that mentality.

So my dear, sweet, beautiful, talented, lovely little sister, please remember that the freshman fifteen doesn’t have to define you. It doesn’t have to be come a part of who you are.

With all the sisterly love I can give,

Julia Jones


Click here for more information on college and eating disorders.

For more information on eating disorders in general, click here.

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Confessions of a College Student: My Excuse For Not Tithing

We sit on the packed Sunday school benches of the slum church; children of all ages are sitting atop each other in a way that resembles stacked Legos, they sing as an offering plate is passed around by a little girl in a pink “princess dress”. The room feels thick and I am sweating slightly (I will spare you the details on the amount so that you can maintain a lady-like picture of me). I catch my breath as I hear the words to the children’s song: “we give to those who need it more”. The breath that I had just caught grasps my heart painfully as I see every single child in the room give what is roughly equivalent to ten cents.

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As a college student, my professors often refer to me as a member of the “temporarily poor”. I will elaborate: I am a full time student, I spend roughly 18 hours in class each week, followed by homework lasting long into unbelievable hours of the night, the job I have offers me two hours of work each week, by the end of my quarter this gives me just enough to pay for text books for the next quarter. My point is, in America, I am considered poor. And you know what, I have taken that as an excuse to not give and I ran with it. I have gotten so good at this excuse that I have created another, more disturbing excuse: “I really want to give, but I would barely be able to give anything at all, so what is the point of giving? My ten bucks is worth almost nothing to this church”.

As I sat on the wooden bench, sweating out my conviction onto the unlucky child mashed against me, I became furious with myself. In the week that followed I thought deeper into this anger of mine. Why have I come up with this excuse? Where did it come from? I felt powerless against my sin. And then I was struck by a thought: how many times have I seen in society those who have the largest sums of money are the ones who are given more authority? And the more I thought on this, it all became about power to me.

In essence, my excuse was not just one of feeling personally incompetent, it was a feeling of marginalization (oh what an angst ridden word); in other words, I had equated tithing in the church with power. I sat and fumed again as I thought about this, part of me praying that I would forget about this discovery and continue living the way I had in peace. But as I prayed, it would not sit right with me, is giving in the church really all about power? Then God reminded me of a story:

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”

I read this line over and over again, and eventually saw that there needs to be a change in my heart. This parable not once mentioned the widow gaining any power with in the church after her offering. Monetary amounts have never, and will never indicate the amount of authority God will give, tithing does not equate with power within the body. My tithes to God should be an offering of love and trust in response to the gospel message!

As I thought about this I was dumb founded at how obvious this should have been, of course I should be giving my ten dollars, it is what I have to give, God calls me to give everything I have to Him, and if ten dollars is all I have today then that is all I have, I cannot refrain from tithing expecting to be able to give more the next time around. I came to find peace knowing that to God, my ten dollars is as much to him as the “fat check” that the well established woman who sits in the front row gave with a joyful heart, and even less than the ten cents that the five-year-old wearing a pink “princess dress” in the slum church gave as she sang of helping the impoverished. Oh how beautiful is this God that we get to know, that we are not judged by our physical means but by the position of our heart in relation only to Jesus Christ.

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As you go to church this Easter Sunday, I encourage you to give what you can, whatever it is you can, whether it is ten cents or a thousand dollars. Take joy in the reminder of Gods loving sacrifice of His son for you so that you may be forgiven of your sins. It is humbling for me to ask this of you as my own personal sin is of a greedy heart, but I seek repentance as I am reminded (especially during this week) of Gods ultimate generosity. I will remind myself of the widow in Mark, who gave all that she could and give joyfully, free from the burden of the worldly authority that money possesses.