Word Wednesday

How to Engage Fear and Make Room to Overcome

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1-9

My flower gardens have been a delight for me and for many people that can by to visit. I love the feel of the dirt as I work in new plants, the site of new seeds sprouting up into possibilities, and even the critters uncovered during the gardening progress.

Well, most of the critters anyway.

When we moved out onto our property in 1994, I was hands-on all the way. I used a bush hook (also known as a ditch bank blade) to help clear the first five acres of the land. I waded into mucky streams with chest waders to clear out beaver dams. I pulled, cut, and, cleared with the strongest of them.

Once we had the front acreage dried out (after an epic argument with the local beavers), we moved in our house. It was going to be torn down to make way for a new 4-lane highway, so we got an amazing deal.

I started the flower garden in earnest the next year. I needed a place to put all of the gifts my mom was passing on. She was a plant enthusiast extreme, and our patch of land was a great place for her to expand her collection.

I used a sod cutter, a tiller, a smaller tiller, the tractor, and plenty of hand tools as well. Although I did get some help from my husband and my sons on occasion, the flower beds were almost completely me. I loved every minute of it.

One summer, my sons wanted to earn some extra money. I was dividing some of my iris and daylilies, so I agreed to let them take the extras to market to sell. We dug, divided, and then I had the joy of replanting what was to stay behind. I enjoyed the process because it allowed me to spread the colors or to redesign.

It was a cool morning, before the sun hit the top garden, that I went out to dig a few clumps of daylilies for me and the boys to work through later. I stuck my pitchfork in the ground and felt the bite – or what I thought was a bite.

I do not have a good relationship with fire ants, and I assumed one had gotten in my glove. I didn’t see any ants, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Instinct, or maybe Grace, sent me running for the house.

I looked out at my pitchfork – still sticking up proudly next to the clump of daylilies. You couldn’t see the top for the swarm of yellow jackets. It was a lone yellow jacket that had braved the unusually cool morning, to sting me through my glove.

The pest control company came out and treated the nest for us, but I stayed away from the area for a few days.

Still, my sons needed more flowers and I was determined to help them out. The went on an errand with their dad and I determined to surprise them with new flowers to sell. I found a spot – plenty of distance from where the yellow jacket nest had been. It was dead and the only sign of its existence was the remainder of the white foam.

Just before I got started, my father-in-law pulled up to let me know he was going to the neighbor’s house to shoot a rattlesnake in her yard. I waved him on and went to work as soon as he was gone.

I plunged the pitchfork into the ground and almost immediately was met with a sting on my inner thigh. I ran to the other side of the garden. Another sting soon followed. I ran down to the bottom of the yard – and then another sting.

At this point I was desperate. I began shedding clothes as I ran towards the house struggling with all my might to get away from whatever monster was after me. In the end, I was running naked up the driveway just hoping my father-in-law didn’t take that very moment to come back from his errand.

I found later that it was another yellow jacket nest that I had uncovered.

That was almost ten years ago. My flower beds are overgrown. I rarely bring in cut flowers. I have let other things become my focus.

Or so I thought.

Today, as I was walking up the driveway, I thought about how easy it would be to whip the flower gardens back into shape and how much nicer things would be when I got them there. The next thought that almost tumbled over the thought of a nice flower garden was “YELLOW JACKETS.”

Despite my love of flowers and my desire to have my gardens back in order, that fear of those yellow stings of death overpowered me.

It led me to wonder how many other things I have “let go” because of the fear that occurred in the past.

Understanding FEAR

  • Accept that fear can be real. There is a flight or fight instinct that wells up in us when danger occurs. The best way to deal with real fear is to minimize its effect. I sent a message to my husband about the gardens. I know that he will have to weed eat as much as he can and then till around all the beds so that I can have a comfort that there are not nests for me to encounter.
  • Admit the fear. Until I admit the fear, I can’t address it. I had many excuses as to why my gardens looked the way they looked. I had plenty of reasons for not getting things done. Until I admitted to myself – and then to others – the fear that wells up in me when thinking about the garden, I couldn’t begin to address it (and in the process fix my gardens).

  • Measure the fear. How big is the fear factor? I used to watch a LOT of horror movies when I was younger. Some of the scenes followed me long after the movie ended. In certain situations, my imagination would take off and I would fear being caught in a similar situation. Because of the movie “Phase IV,” I would be convinced the ants were out to get me (of course they were, but that’s another story). I had to look at the fear and measure that fear before I could begin to overcome the limits it was placing on my life.

  • Weight the fear. Determine if it is real or imagined. Real fear occurs when you have encountered a danger and the resulting pain that it produced. Imagined fear comes about when I dwell on the “what ifs” or other scenes that I play out in my head. Although imagined fear can hinder my journey, it is the real fear that can be the biggest change. Identifying the cause of fear will make it easier to make a plan.

Fear happens. Real fear. Manufactured fear. Fear that comes about because of others. If I am going to overcome the fear or work through the fear then I have to recognize it for what it is and make a plan.

Dealing with FEAR

  1. Ask for help. You are not in this alone. Share with someone you trust so they can help you will the plan to manage or overcome the fear.
  2. Be okay with fear. We are taught to face down our fear or to refuse them all together. Fear is not the problem. It is how we choose to deal with the fear that is inevitable in every life.

  3. Be invested in learning. Learn all you can about what drives the fear, or at least keep learning about how to minimize what causes the fear.

The bumps (and stings) of life can be the driving force for my journey or I can make purposeful choices that allow me to face the fears, deal with those fears, and overcome the limits they have set up in my life.

Be blessed,
Kathryn Lang signature

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