What Fear Does

Hey everyone!

I have been taking a long break from blogging as we have been busy adjusting to life here in Ecuador. I’m hoping to be able to write a little more frequently in the coming months but for now I’d like to repost this article I wrote for our home church’s blog. It has been exciting to see this blog start up and all of the wonderful content being produced by our brothers and sisters in Christ! You can check the entire blog out here. Scroll on down to see my article.

 

*Originally posted at https://www.crosstownokc.org/crosstown-blog/post/what-fear-does

 

“Wow, I could never do that. You are so brave!”

I can’t tell you the number of people who have said that to me as we prepared to move overseas with our 3 children who were 4 and under at the time. What they didn’t know, however, is that I’m not a particularly “brave” person. A bit of a daredevil maybe, but when it comes to the everyday realities of life, and especially when it comes to my kids, I have a lot of fears. I worry for my kids about all kinds of things: their emotional and spiritual development, poisonous snakes, even them getting hit by a car. The threat of serious illness can trigger a panic attack.

Ironically, as people have marveled at our “bravery” over the past 2 years we’ve been overseas, God has taken me on a journey of learning and overcoming my fears. I initially boarded the plane to Costa Rica white-knuckling the armrests, but slowly God has helped me overcome my fears and live in freedom.

Not only am I not a particularly brave person, I’m also not a very original person. I’ve always been slightly jealous of those people (like my husband) who can take a pile of Legos or a blank sheet of paper and actually create something. I, on the other hand, am very good at following directions and executing someone else’s ideas. So, the majority of what you are about to read are not my original thoughts at all. As God has been teaching me about fear and how to overcome it, he has used a Bible study entitled Fear and Anxiety, a small pamphlet called Living in a Dangerous World: Moving from Fear to Faith, and a book by Elyse Fitzpatrick called Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety. Anything profound you read here probably came from one of those sources, but I’d like to give you the blog post version of all that God has taught me.

First, let me be clear about what kind of fear I am referring to. God created us with the ability to recognize a dangerous or threatening situation and programmed us to generate an emotional response: fear. This is a good thing! We need this fear response in many situations to keep ourselves safe; not walking off the edge of a cliff, for example. Sometimes, however, our perception of what is dangerous or threatening can get skewed. Fear and anxiety can become overwhelming, even debilitating. It can keep us from obedience to Christ and can actually be rooted in sin. This is the kind of fear I want to talk about. With this in mind, I’d like to share 3 things that God has taught me about fear.

#1. Fear Reveals Our Idols

Our fear can be a very helpful tool in pinpointing where we have placed something above God. This was a huge revelation for me and the one that most drastically changed how I approached my fears and anxieties. If we have put something in the place that only God should have in our lives, and we are placing our hope and trust in that, it is only natural that we will feel fear any time that object or idea is threatened. For example, if my kids have become an idol, then anytime their well-being is threatened, I will feel fear. Maybe you fear losing your job because your finances have become an idol. Maybe you fear sickness because your health has become an idol. Whatever your fear is, try to trace it back to the root of what in your life has taken the place of God. Acknowledge what you are placing your trust in and repent from worshipping some part of God’s creation rather than God himself (Rom 1:21-25).

#2. Fear Is Rooted in an Incorrect View of God

Fear is almost always rooted in an incorrect, too small, view of God. If we consider God’s attributes revealed to us in scripture, and if we truly believe them, our fear many times will vanish in the face of the reality of who God is.

Perhaps the most consoling attribute of God when we are anxious is his sovereignty. Elyse Fitzpatrick writes, “God’s sovereignty is the only safe harbor when we’re assailed by the winds of fear, doubt, and worry.”

God’s sovereignty, his perfect power to do whatever pleases him, means that he controls every event of our lives, determines the number of our days, is in control of the weather, and can overrule even our stubborn sin and rebellion (1 Chron 29:10-11Psa 68:20Gen 8:22Rom 9:18).

Coupled with God’s absolute power we find him to be absolutely wise, absolutely loving, absolutely merciful, and absolutely holy. The most powerful being in the universe is also our wise and loving Father who knows and cares for every aspect of our lives. Why then do we fear?

#3. Fear Reinforces Our Control Issues

Fear, according to the dictionary is an “unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” In other words, it is our response to something that is happening or that we think might happen.

Often, the result is we try to control and manipulate every possible unpleasant scenario, especially ones that in reality we have no control over. For example, I fear that I or someone in my family will contract some illness like dengue fever, malaria, or something as simple as parasites. Fear causes me to spend my energy attempting to control all aspects of our life that could possibly be connected to getting sick: bug spray always, washing everything, not eating certain foods at specific restaurants, etc. Fear causes me to believe that if I work hard enough to control the situation, I can avoid the object of my fear. But the Bible says just the opposite. Proverbs 1:33 says, “But whoever listens to mewill dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” And Proverbs 3:7-8 says, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Fear causes us to try to control rather than trust the One who is actually in control.

Thankfully, God does not leave us to struggle with our fears and anxieties on our own. In the next part of this blog post, we will look at 3 ways that I have learned to combat my fear.

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Ice Cream Princess

We celebrated Zoe’s 3rd birthday this past weekend. I cannot believe she’s three! Yet in other ways, just like all of life’s changes, I can’t imagine life before her. She is definitely the firstborn-girl of the family, the little momma-in-training. She is sweet and spunky, princess-loving, yet comes home from school covered in dirt from playing hard. Whatever she does, she does with all of her energy and emotions. Which means, when she is happy, she is SO very happy. And when she is upset, the world is ending. One of our favorite Zoe quotes is this one: as we are walking to the park on day, she looks up at the sky and says, “Blue!! I love blue!!”

And that is exactly her outlook on life. Everything is exciting and joy-bringing and full of life.

She asked for an “ice cream-princess” party so it was a fun challenge finding a way to bring those two loves to life. Here are some pictures of her big day and all of the friends who came to celebrate her.

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Anyone who knows us knows we love a good party! But we are done with the party-throwing for this year. Tune in next year for more crazy Souza parties.

Our U.S. Visit

Thank you all for your prayers over our recent visit to the U.S. Everything went smoothly and it was such a blessing to get to spend time with family and friends before the big move to Ecuador in just 4 MONTHS! It’s getting close!

Since we were practically AWOL from social media during our entire trip, here’s what we were up to during our time away.

Can’t you tell it was a great flight from the faces in the first picture?! Actually, the kids all did really well. The big two are pro flyers (I think this was their 20th airplane!) and Clara did really well in her carseat for most of the flight. If you ever need tips for flying with kids, we’d love to pass them along but the basic rules are: there is no fool-proof plan, you make it up as you go along, and it will all be over eventually. Oh, and take lots of snacks.

 

We arrived in the US with no issues and were all so excited to see the grandparents (and, ahem, chick-fil-a)!

Our first stop (after chick-fil-a) was the Brazilian consulate in Houston to finish the paperwork for our kids to become official Brazilian citizens. We had a small hiccup on the consulate’s end and weren’t able to complete the process that day so we did the next logical thing…go to space!

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Well, the NASA Space Center in Houston, that is. The kids had a blast.

In the middle of all of the unplanned, we were really surprised to realize how much we’ve changed in just the past 8 months. For example, our ability to handle stressful or uncomfortable situations has really increased by living overseas. Because we live every day here in Costa Rica with just a little bit of underlying culture stress, when you take that away back in the States, we’re able to handle a whole lot more “extra” stress than we can when we’re here. Which is a really nice feeling after feeling like you’ve barely been keeping your head above water for 8 months! We give all the credit to the Lord as He continues to grow and stretch us out of our comfort zone (something that especially I (Maddie), am not a fan of!). We know that these changes in our personalities and the way we view life and handle stress are just more preparation for what He has ahead of us!

The next day, with the Lord’s favor, we were able to complete the registration for these cuties to be Brazilian citizens! Notice the process of Clara’s independence…

 

The next few weeks were filled with family and friends…Easter celebrations, science museum trips, cousin playtime, a train ride, visiting grandparents, catching up with friends, and so much more! Here is a really quick photo overview.

 

We also had a few other paperwork issues we needed to handle while being in the States and those went smoothly as well. Again, thank you for praying.

Our church in OKC provided a night for us to share with them and for them to pray over us (of which I have exactly zero pictures). It was so refreshing to our souls. Thank you, Crosstown family!

One of the most encouraging things about the whole trip is that by the end of it, we were all ready to come “home”…to Costa Rica! Praise God for that huge answer to prayer that we, and our kids, felt a sense of missing this place that at times still feels so foreign to us. That is exactly what we prayed would happen!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Until next time,

Maddie

 

January Birthdays

This was our first year to celebrate two January birthdays with parties for each of them. It was a full and fun month of birthday-ing! Here are a few pictures from each of their special days. A huge thank-you to my sweet friend, Hannah, for taking these beautiful pictures for us!!

Their birthday parties were days I expected to be really hard, but while we missed family and friends in the US, we felt so loved and our house was so FULL of new friends here! We are so thankful that God has put so many friends in our lives here to help ease the pain of homesickness. 

Enjoy the pictures!

Clara’s 1st Birthday Pancake Party. Fresh flowers (which are cheap here!) and homemade pancakes…ya can’t really go wrong with that. 

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And Elias’ 5th birthday Lego party! If you can’t tell from his face, he had a blast!