In the studio yesterday I connected with an up-and-coming musician in OC who was looking for advice, and I realized the only encouragement I could offer carries on to all aspects of life. I’m calling this an “Artist Pep Talk” but I’m pretty sure it applies to everyone.
Here are 7 things I have learned to live by:
  1. Find out your WHY, and let that carry you through when it’s hard. (And by the way, “because it makes me feel alive” is a good enough why!)
  2. Everything important is on the other side of fear; therefore being afraid is not a good enough reason not to do something.
  3. Art is meant to be shared. Do what you love first for you, protect a few pieces if they really are too intimate, but otherwise let others be moved by your creations, just as you are moved by the art of others.
  4. If you’re nervous or feel lost, start small. Then take the next step. Then the next.
  5. Don’t flatter yourself—most people aren’t thinking about you as much as you fear they are. If you make a mistake, most people won’t notice, and the ones who do notice rarely care.
  6. The few who really have a strong negative opinion of you and take time to bring you down with it are not the kinds of people whose voices should matter to you. Let. It. Go.
  7. Be yourself and do your best—that’s enough!
I have sooo much still to learn as a person, as an artist, as a musician, as a functioning adult! 😅 But I have found the above to be true. Whatever your art is—whatever makes you feel alive—I hope you do it boldly!

What advice would you give someone who’s embarking on a new creative or professional journey? Comment below or tag me on social media!

Happy New Year!

2015 was a year full of blessings, difficulties, and A LOT of growth. I believe there are far better things ahead than what we leave behind, and I’m planning for 2016 to be even greater.

But I’ve realized there’s one enemy that has and will continue to rob me of fully living if I remain paralyzed by its power—FEAR. That sucker has messed with me my whole life! I’m tired of my fears inter-fear-ing! (I know that was painful for some of you to read, and I’m sorry I had to do it anyway.)

Fear has inhibited me from the things I love most, the things that make me me Sharing songs I’ve written. Talking to strangers. Exploring new stores and restaurants alone.

Fear has also been an entryway for shame to beat me up when I cave to it, which in turn completely freezes me from making any sort of progress in the future, resulting in me feeling pretty miserable.

So today and this year I’ve decided that I’m done. My only New Year’s resolution is to do something that scares me every day.

I can’t make fear disappear, but I can decide that it will no longer rule my life. Fear may roar louder than ever this year—I almost expect it to. I plan on choosing courage anyway. In 2016 I’m going to be intentional about noticing fears when they’re out of place and conquering them.

I hope that a year from now I can say I’m braver, but even if I’m just as afraid of silly little things 366 days from today, at least I’ll have tasted freedom from the ice cold grasp of fear. At least I’ll be able to say, “I lived.”

So when misplaced fear shows up uninvited in 2016, I will do my thing anyway… at least once a day! 😉

And if you’re even half as fed up with fear dictating the course of your life as I am, I encourage you to do the same. Let’s live!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10b

Remember that one sleepless night I mentioned a few weeks ago? The one where I admitted just how crazy I am deep inside, and how I stayed up from midnight til dawn because I was housesitting alone and scared?

Well, I wanted to follow up…

The next morning I started blaming my very protective upbringing. I’ve been raised to fear. I wish I were like some of my other friends who were educated but given confidence. Now I’m stuck like this.

No. I felt God gently directing me. You are not going to blame your childhood anymore for the decisions you’re making as an adult.

He was right! I’ve spent so much of the last year searching for the root of my insecurities and it’s easy to point the finger and give up. But we don’t have to be the product of our childhoods; we can choose a different path as adults. We can choose to pursue healing and overcome the obstacles placed in our lives by circumstances and other people.

No more excuses.

I was determined to beat this. Later that day I enjoyed a light swim in the pool with my younger brother and felt complete tranquility.

What was I even thinking last night? I’m safe—I don’t know anywhere else I’d feel so relaxed. I’ll sleep just fine tonight.

Hours passed, my brother left, and the sun went down. As darkness crept in, so did my fear.

Are you serious!? Again? No…

But I could already feel it everywhere. My hope of overcoming lifelong “worst case scenario” fears was dwindling—and quickly. It was getting later and I was terrified of never sleeping again. I decided to try a friend who had sincerely encouraged me to call anytime. Because I’d noticed the 3 AM timestamps on her Facebook posts, I figured she meant it.

I gave her a call and fought the shame urging me to be silent. “I’m ok… this is really dumb… it’s nothing really… but I’m staying alone and I’m scared.There. I said it. The statement sounded ridiculous, but it was true.

Grace met me through the words of my dear friend on the other end. “That’s not dumb, that’s real.

She told me I wasn’t alone and that she had once learned how to sleep by herself in the midst of a crazy neighborhood with very dark nights. She encouraged me that this fear was a spiritual attack—this refreshing housesitting gig was a gift only God could grant me and the devil was trying to take it away. Satan can’t snatch what God has given someone, but he can try to scare them into forfeiting their gift.

My friend instructed me, “Anoint the doors of that home with oil and claim Psalm 92 over your situation. Blast praise and worship music, sleep with the light on—whatever you have to do to feel safe—and know that you are.”

As we hung up I felt a boost of courage. The fear was smaller, and an ember of faith was burning within me. Hope permeated my soul and for the first time in forever I had total confidence that I would destroy this fear—once and for all. I brought my frankincense oil, Bible, and phone to play “Christ be all around me” and approached the first door.

“Lord, this represents the protection You’ve already promised me.” As I smeared the oil on one doorpost after another, I thanked God for the faithfulness He’d proven my entire life. I expressed gratitude for the gift of this temporary home and His promise to keep me safe. After covering each door, frankincense was soaked in my fingertips and the home was filled with its royal scent.

Although peace and protection were always available to me, they finally seemed tangible. Inspired by this new awareness, I place the oil on my chest and prayed, “Lord, seal and protect my heart. Keep me from fear.”

The scent of frankincense had already become a calming reminder of protection, so I placed one small drop on my wrist and climbed into bed.

That night I slept with a tiny flashlight nearby and a worship playlist on repeat. I woke up twice a little panicked. Both times, like a child looking for comfort, I smelled the oil on my wrist and was immediately soothed. That simple smell triggered peace by reminding me that the house was surrounded by the God of Protection. I fell back into a deep sleep.

It’s been more than three weeks since that night, and I’ve been sleeping soundly. This blog post is a testament of victory Christ has claimed in my heart and mind. Never in my life have I felt so much peace, confidence, or security.

Sure, we’ve all been influenced by our upbringings. But I am finding increasing joy in being influenced by my Heavenly Father who never intended for us to live in fear. He created us for freedom, and by His grace I’m one step closer to that today.

I truthfully didn’t imagine resolution so quickly when I wrote the last post. I expected to reference that blog months or years down the line. Little did I know my Father wanted me free even more than I did! My natural response is praise and gratitude to the One who doesn’t leave us broken. Thank You, Jesus, for continuing to set me free!

I didn’t sleep last night. I’ve been housesitting for the past few days and I’m extra cautious when I’m staying alone. I’m pretty predictable: The first night I get used to the surroundings and sleep pretty lightly, the next night I settle in and sleep better, and by night three I’m completely out, dreaming I could stay forever.

Yesterday was night four, and I was significantly more scared than the other nights. It’s not that I feel particularly threatened in this neighborhood—it’s full of young families and gentle elderly folk. It’s not even that the house is unsafe—I have an alarm to set before bed which will immediately notify police should anyone enter.

But as I lay awake at about 2:30 AM last night I realized a funny pattern: In living situations where I’m probably the most secure, I often feel the most afraid.

Growing up I was instilled with a lot of fear masked as “caution.” While basic caution is wise, excessive caution is code for fear. I’m always on the lookout for something bad to happen, always trying to protect myself by staying one step ahead. It’s exhausting.

I think trying to protect yourself from everything you’re afraid of ultimately breeds more fear—threats are as endless as your imagination. Since I’m a creative writer, there are more things for me to worry about in one night than could ever happen in a lifetime.

So last night—even though I had locked all the doors and set the alarm—I had to worry about an intruder shutting off the power to the house and disabling the alarm and phone lines, a crazy cult leader and his wife who inevitably snuck in while I took the dog outside for her last potty break and were about to kidnap me as their newest bride, the murderer who wouldn’t mind the alarm because I’d be dead by the time police arrived… and many more.

I knew these fears were ridiculous, but I didn’t feel completely safe from them all. And the truth is, although highly unlikely, any one of those scenarios—technically—could happen.

But I’ve slept well alone in a home with just a simple lock, where the nearest house wasn’t for miles, and where the only “security” was a friendly Labrador who wouldn’t dream of attacking.

So how could I sleep peacefully in a situation like that and yet not at all in a quiet neighborhood with police on standby?

I believe it’s because I don’t rely on God to protect me in the relatively safe situations—I put my trust in the security system and go to bed. And then when it’s dark and I’m tired, my creative mind runs with all the ways that “security” could fail. There’s no stopping my imaginary threats.

Never mind that the God of the universe is watching over me. Never mind that He will never fail me.

Verse after verse came to me last night. Promises God was asking me to hold onto instead of my fear. I scribbled them in my journal:

I will fear no evil, for you are with me. -Psalm 23:4b

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and he delivers them. -Psalm 34:7

You hem me in, behind and before. You have laid your hand upon me. -Psalm 118:6

A horse [or alarm system] is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him. -Psalm 33:17 & 18

No wonder my heart is glad and I rejoice; my body rests secure. You will not abandon me to the grave. -Psalm 16:9

With each verse, God’s peace would comfort me for a moment; but fear came crawling back, striking a chord in my heart and ricocheting through my entire body until I was paralyzed. Some Christian I am—God is promising to protect me and I still can’t trust Him!

My fear of this alarm system not being enough to protect me seemed like a perfect opportunity to sow a seed of faith. So I did the last thing I wanted to do and disabled the alarm.

I jumped back into bed expecting to be rewarded with complete peace. Instead, I was more terrified than before, more in tune to every noise, feeling completely vulnerable. In my mind I walked the perimeter of the house over and over again, door by door, trying to remember if I’d locked them all.

15 minutes passed and I started to crumble. Lord, it’s not bad if I turn the alarm back on, right? It’s just wisdom. I mean, I trust you to do what you say, but you could totally use an alarm system to scare someone off…

He spoke to my heart: Sure, you can turn it back on; but you won’t be any safer than you already are.

I froze. I had permission to do what I believed would comfort me, but if I truly believed my good, protective Father, why would I need anything else? And if I set the alarm once more because I admitted I didn’t believe Him, what kind of daughter would that make me?

Ok, but You better have my back! I told God. I even tried to manipulate Him into protecting me. I wrote down all these verses in my journal, so if anything happens to me they will see that You promised to protect me tonight. For Your name’s sake You’ve got to keep me safe. Otherwise You’ll look bad. 

I honestly don’t know how God puts up with me. At 3:30 AM I tried my very best to fall asleep and laid down near my journal open to the Psalms I’d just written, repeating the words I could remember in my head.

After about 30 more minutes on this rollercoaster of anxiety and peace, God had another word: Staying up all night won’t protect you either.  

He really wanted me to rest in the fact that He alone is my Protector and Refuge! But I just couldn’t, and I felt horrible.

More mental exploration. What’s going on? I love God, I have hope of eternal joy with Him and therefore I’m not afraid to die. If I did survive some horrific event, I have already seen from experience that God is true to His promise and uses all things for good. So whether I’m annihilated or narrowly escape death with tons of battle wounds, I know I’d be ok.

So why was I so afraid?

When I really thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I’m afraid of being frightened. I’m terrified of how petrifying it would feel to be in any of those made up situations. Since I’m both creative and empathetic, simply by playing a scenario in my head I feel what it would be like to actually live it. (In case you were looking for proof creatives are crazy, allow me to be exhibit A, B, and C.)

Sure, it’s totally healthy to experience fear in terrifying instances. But taking on fear before it’s even happened is ridiculous, exhausting, and life-sucking.

I’d really hoped I would be able to wrap up last night’s fear fest with a pretty little bow (i.e. peaceful sleep!), but this fear of experiencing terror is much more deeply rooted than I’d realized. My head was wired and I never fell asleep after it all.

I’m committing to spend this groggy day in prayer about the fear that snatched my rest last night and will definitely do it again if it’s not dealt with.

I’m not sharing this post because I think anyone reading this struggles with fear as severely as I do—I learned a couple years ago that most people can’t relate to my deeply ingrained, fairly irrational fears. But I’m hoping this post will be something I can point back to later and say, “Look what God has rescued me from! Look how far we’ve come!” And if you’re on this journey with me, I hope you’ll be able to see the difference too.

And—man—do I pray I sleep tonight.