Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Fear of Man: Part Two

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trust in the Lord is safe.” – Proverbs 29:25.


In the book Stop Calling Me Beautiful, Masonheimer reminds us that this verse doesn’t say the fear of man is a snare, but rather the fear of man lays a snare. She calls the fear of man the trapper, not the trap. I’m paraphrasing here, but she basically says the trapper deceives, hides the trap, makes it blend into the surroundings, feels normal so you’ll feel safe to walk in that direction.

Wow.

The fear of man is a burden I don’t want to carry anymore. It has weighed me down in some seasons more than others, but I want to be free. Don’t you?

What’s the opposite of being taken in by the trapper? Trusting the Lord. That’s how we stay safe.

As an example, I’m thinking about my writing, my platform, and the whole process of trying to gain the approval an editor.

I changed genres from what I first set out to write because someone in the industry suggested it—telling me my genre (women’s fiction / contemporary fiction) won’t sell and suggesting instead that the manuscript be something else. So I re-wrote that entire book to make it a romance because romance sells.

Fast forward seven years, and I just finished re-writing that book (again) back to women’s fiction because when I returned to God’s words to me, what He has spoken over me about my writing, I remember that He called my work to be real and relatable, to write about people, families, marriages that are authentic and flawed but so capable of being redeemed.

Of course, I love a good love story—and my work will probably always have some element of that because the gospel is the greatest love story ever written. But my heart has always been to write about women and overcoming their struggles within themselves and in all relationships—marriage, family, friendships.

I have also shied away from really writing some of the stories on my heart because I get so worried about other people’s opinion. I shared this with Howell for the first time last year when I told him, if I write about a failing marriage, will people assume it’s ours? If I write about sisters who hate each other, will people think I’m harboring some deep resentment toward my own sister? If I write about a mom/daughter or dad/daughter conflict, if I write about blending families or divorced parents, will people question my own family, my own relationships? Will people think I’m writing about them if their story is similar?

Maybe this is a normal concern for writers who are getting started, but I have felt so trapped by these fears for a while, and I think making the decision to re-write my manuscript last fall was my first step toward freedom.

But the fear of man is not just about my writing. I’ve entered a new season with a renewed desire to deepen the friendships I have—to invest in new ones and to return to being real and vulnerable with the old ones.

No area of people pleasing / people fearing affects me more than communities of women. Friendships.

This is not to say I can’t fall into the trap with my family or in my marriage, but there’s a certain level of security there, right? I have confidence in their love for me, no matter what I do or say.

The commitment to be friends—and stay friends—is not as certain.

And that uncertainty makes me feel insecure.

And insecurity makes me want to control.

And sometimes control looks like not engaging, because I’ll just get hurt.

Can you relate?

I like how it feels to be on the inside, but any reminder that I’m really just on the fringe makes me feel insecure. And the people I work the hardest to please and worry the most about disappointing are often not even really my friends. They’re acquaintances at best and strangers at worst.

I can sometimes get so caught up in wondering and trying to anticipate what other people want or think that I lose sight of what I even want or think.

And even more muddied from what I want or think becomes deciphering what God wants or thinks about me.

Isn’t that what happened with my writing and the back-and-forth genre struggle?

Isn’t that what happens when I shrink back from other women, when I choose not to engage, when I avoid getting hurt?

But if I listen to what God thinks about me, I would know He’s already pleased. I have his full approval. I’m accepted and loved. I have need of nothing else because nothing else can really top that.

The fear of man lays a snare, but I choose not to let the trapper trick me. Not this year.

I will trust the Lord. I will believe what He says about me. I will listen for his voice above the noise.

What about you, friends?

P.S. If you missed Part One, check it out here

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Peace or Fear: Part One

“I don’t want to die.”

These are my forced, barely whispered words between gasps for air as Howell and I argued (again) about whether to call an ambulance and have (another) visit to the ER.

It sounds dramatic, but even now, weeks later I can still remember the fear that gripped me.

I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand, couldn’t think straight.

Because the only thoughts running through my brain were 1) our hospitals are over maxed capacity; 2) if I go to the hospital, they’ll put me on a ventilator; and 3) if I go in, I might not come out.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

I was truly terrified.

Obviously, I didn’t die, though I did feel like death for a while.

And while I did have COVID pneumonia, my symptoms weren’t actually related to the virus.

And while all of this did lead to another surgery this year (after the almost baseball-sized tumor on my thyroid this summer), I did not have to stay in the hospital this time.

But I keep coming back to that moment, to those words, to that level of gut-wrenching fear.

What if I don’t come home? What if I never see Howell’s face again? Never hold my girl?

I can think of at least two other life-threatening moments I have experienced (this was not), and the stark contrast between my fear here and the peace I felt in those moments is astounding.

Peace or fear. I get to choose, right?

I have experienced and witnessed a lot of fear lately.

Fear falls into two camps, one related to our (potential) circumstances and one related to people. I’m hoping to dive into this second one in a Part 2 post, but for now—and for this specific situation—my fear was definitely about a potential circumstance. What might happen.

Years ago, Jackie Mize called FEAR False Evidence Against Reality.

Isn’t that so true? What we fear almost never comes to reality.

Kris Vallotton says it like this: “Fear is imagining the future without God.”

Let’s look at Jesus’s words to us in John 14:27. He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.”



How can He tell us not to have troubled hearts, not to be afraid?

Because He has given us his peace.

We have the peace of Jesus.

We have the gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence at all times.

We have the promise of God’s goodness and faithfulness always.

What better news could He give us? His Word tells us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper (IS. 54:17).

But here’s the question… Here’s where we have to get real: Do we really believe His word? Do we believe what He says is true?

I have struggled with this question more in the last year than most recent years, specifically in the area of healing.

Because sometimes God doesn’t heal in the way we want or ask, no matter how firmly we believed or how repeatedly we prayed.

And because sometimes hard stuff still happens to us, even when we prayed it wouldn’t.

In these moments, it feels like God’s word isn’t true.

But we have to choose. We choose to say yes to His word, yes to His nature, yes to His character. We stand on His faithfulness in the past. We stand on His sovereignty and the good plans He has for us.

It’s okay to ask the hard questions. How are you being real with Him if you don’t?

Ask and listen—and then trust and believe.

And if you find your heart troubled by present or potential circumstances, don’t give in to the fear. Embrace the peace that is available.

 

p.s. If you need a pep talk for overcoming fear and embracing what God says about you, read Romans 8 every day this week. I promise you’ll be encouraged.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Stepping Forward

I started blogging in 2007, before blogging was popular. (And I’m now told that it’s dying, like all things print, because people only want to watch or listen. Gosh, I hope this isn’t true.)

When I created this site on Blogspot, before there were other fancier forums, I titled it Obeying the Call because that’s what it felt like. Every post seemed vulnerable to share—and to do so was always my act of obedience.

I’m an introvert—and not the kind that thrives in virtual spaces where I could have a larger-than-life personality. I’m afraid my online persona is basically the same as me in real life. (To give a slightly embarrassing example, even social media posts that get a lot of comments can sometimes overwhelm me, and I’m always in awe of those who can reply (cleverly) to each person. Meanwhile I’m like—ahh, all. the. people.)

And so, here I go again—sharing and being vulnerable—because I feel God nudging my heart to pick up my blogging pen more in 2021.

2020 was awful. I think we can all agree.

I lost two friends.

I had COVID twice.

I had two non-elective surgeries.

You see a pattern there?

I started studying the significance of the number two, and although not the only symbolism for this number, two can represent division or contrast or opposites. Like a line in the sand—that’s the picture God gave me.

The number two represents a choice.

Life or death.

Light or darkness.

Faith or fear.

Spirit or flesh.

Peace or anxiety.

Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Two masters: God or money.

The narrow gate or the wide gate.

There are always two paths. We always have to choose.



God continually invites us to go deeper. Writing that sentence reminds me of a dream I had years ago where God opened the door to a staircase and said, “Come.”

There’s always a new step, a deeper level of discernment, a stronger capacity for faith, a fresh understanding of His Word.

We’ll never have all the answers.

We’ll never have Him all figured out.

We’ll never know everything there is to know about His Word.

We’ll never not need Him. (Yep—double negative there. That’s how strong this truth is.)

Aren’t you glad?

In 2021, God is still opening doors to staircases for me, still extending His hand, still saying “Come.”

And He offers you the same invitation.

Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we asked for, but do you know what He never withholds? His presence. His goodness. His faithfulness. His joy. His love.

And when we look back, when we reflect, we see that He’s always answering, always working, always making a way. Sometimes it’s a new path. Sometimes it’s the same. But we have to move, participate, engage.  

We have a choice this year, this day, this hour.

I’m taking a step forward. How about you?

 

 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

2019 ACFW Mix and Mingle

Hey friends! In a few weeks, I'll be attending the ACFW Conference in San Antonio, and this week, I'm participating in the annual Mix and Mingle, hosted this year by my friend, Janine

Name: Laura Brandenburg
Location: West Texas (near Lubbock)
What you write/tagline/trademark: I write feel-good, real-life stories of redemption, forgiveness, and grace. 
Place in the book world: I'm an avid reader. Currently pre-published. My agent and I sent out proposals this summer for my split time novel. 
On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: I'm definitely a hugger, but maybe a bit reserved with new friends. 
Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? I usually get a flat white or a vanilla latte, but it's pumpkin spice latte season, which is my fav! Mmmm.
The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: I love college football and Gilmore Girls and grammar. And like most writers, I love talking about books. I read all sorts of genres for both CBA and ABA markets, but my favorite authors are Kristen Heitzmann and Charles Martin. 
Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: I'll be 31 weeks pregnant, so I'm bringing along my hubs and our soon-to-be daughter, but we'll be missing our Weimaraner, RIzzoli, at home. 
Conference goals we can pray for? I am hoping to have good meetings with editors and, of course, get the request for my manuscript. I also want to meet and connect with authors. I come away from ACFW every year grateful for the new friends I've made. We need each other on this journey, and so I'm praying for re-connections and new connections. 
Anything we can celebrate with you? After years of praying and believing God for a baby, we are expecting our first this November! That's not book news, but it's the best news ever. :) (In book news, I finished my third book earlier this year and am working on a companion e-book. :))
One or two ways we can help you build your platform? If you like to read or write, I'd love for you to follow me on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for my newsletter.

I hope to see you in San Antonio! Remember to link back to Janine's page if you're participating in the mingle. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Miracle from Heaven


We have seen God perform miracle after miracle this year—from His provision to His yes to His word of comfort to me when Howell found me sprawled on the bathroom floor, in and out of consciousness. All I could say each time the pain subsided was our baby is going to be okay. God told me so.

But I need to start at the beginning…

Last December, the Lord told us we would have a baby in 2019. We felt both excited and a bit doubtful. After all, over the last eight years, God has given us a lot of words confirming that we will have children—and sometimes, we’ve even thought we heard him say a specific time frame, only to be disappointed with another “not yet,” “not this year.”

With the little faith we had, we bought a crib on December 27 and began to wonder whether we were supposed to try fertility again or pursue adoption again—all paths we’ve tried before. We made an appointment in January with our fertility specialist—a consultation—and we decided we’d let God tell us through her. She’d journeyed with us these long eight years, and if she thought there’s nothing left to try, then so be it.

To our surprise, she suggested IVF—one more time. It had been five years since we tried it the first time—and since then, God had healed so many parts of my body, miraculous changes that even she had witnessed.

God opened all the doors and provided us so much peace. Everything about the process was easy—even taking 4,592 shots. 😊 The appointments fell on perfect non-teaching days. My body was responding as it should. And the timing for the egg retrieval and transfer came at spring break, the ideal week for no stress. Then we waited, as we’ve waited so many times before.



IVF Transfer Day!

On March 20, I took yet another home test (impatient for the blood test we’d have later that morning). I can’t tell you how many hundreds of them I’ve taken over the years. All negative. Always “not pregnant” flashing on the screen. We held our breath in the bathroom, and then the words appeared, words I’d not once seen and have long desired: “pregnant.”

When I began to weep—really more like wail, I couldn’t even recognize the sound coming out of the depths of me. Howell had to check the test again—and then said, “it’s positive right?” and we had a good laugh despite the tears running down my face.

Our miracle had begun to form, to take shape, to grow and develop as he or she should.

Every day felt like a battle of fear. I would declare God’s word to us over and over, repeating every scripture I’d ever memorized. And the longer we stretched through the first trimester, the more confidence I gained. This was happening. Our baby was coming. He or she continued to grow and progress perfectly, which is why—when I found myself writhing in pain on the floor at almost ten weeks, when God told me our baby would live, I believed him. 

Howell wanted to go to the hospital right away, but I kept saying, it’s okay, the baby is ok—God said so. He began to pray over me in that bathroom, quoting scripture and declaring God’s word over us. After several minutes of intense pain, I gave in and told him to help me up because I didn’t want to pay for an ambulance (ha!). But I blacked out again in his arms, and despite my wishes, ended up being carried by two EMTs moments later.

Not fifteen minutes after we got to the ER, we had a sonogram and knew right away we still had a heartbeat. The tech got a different sonogram machine and did more searching—and less talking. Then the doctor gave us the news: I had a heterotopic pregnancy, which meant I had one embryo in utero and one ruptured embryo in my fallopian tube. They wanted to send us to Lubbock right away for the surgery, as already I had blood in my abdomen, which was the main source of my pain. Our fertility specialist stood by in Lubbock, ready to do the procedure with confidence that she could do the surgery and still save the one in utero.

I ended up being air lifted to Lubbock, where I was in surgery within minutes after landing. Afterwards, our doctor said the flight saved my life. I’d lost 1.7 liters of blood, which is a lot. They transfused me with blood during surgery—and for the next several days afterwards. While the ruptured ectopic pregnancy is dangerous, so is the bleeding disorder I've been diagnosed with for years—and together, they created the perfect storm.



But we know the One who walks on water, who calms the raging seas, who tells us, “do not be afraid.”

I’ve never felt so covered in prayer. So many were literally standing in the gap for us. One of our friends happened to be in the neighborhood and was praying over me as they wheeled me out of the house. Other friends were at the ER as soon as we got there and immediately started praying over us.  Even the precious care flight crew paused before loading me to pray with us. And I kept telling everyone who came—the baby is going to be okay. God said so. 

The Plainview and Lubbock waiting rooms were full of people who prayed and believed, not only for my life but for our baby’s life as well.

We grieve the one we did not know, will not get to meet. But we rejoice for the baby who is coming. He or she is a trooper, a fighter, a survivor. An answered prayer. A promise fulfilled. 



Our God is good and gracious and powerful. And He’s not done yet. These next two trimesters are going to be full of peace and joy and anticipation.

His word is true: with God, nothing is impossible. He has delivered on his promise to us. What He has done for me, He can do you for you. 

We give him thanks and praise and all the glory. 

P.S. I need a few more lines to say how incredible my husband has been during all of this. I knew I’d married a powerful man of God. I knew I loved him deeply. He has been my best friend and my partner in all things for the last almost eleven years. But my love for him has deepened in a way I can’t describe. His inability to leave my bedside. His patience and tenderness as he’s showered me, dressed me, and bandaged my incisions. His hard work to do every.single.thing around the house, from laundry to dishes, while I’ve been homebound. His persistence to pray over me, as he has these eight long years, and to believe with me that God has answered our prayers, that He will deliver on His word.

If you are single, my friend, never, ever, ever settle for less than a man who will love you when you are pale and weak and in need of his airplane noises while he spoon-feeds you Jell-O.