Let's Talk About Fear

Today at Simple Homeschool I'm talking about my biggest homeschool mistake.

Like I say in that post, I just don’t look at life that way – looking back to mistakes, wishing or wondering if I should have done something different.

If that sounds know-it-all, trust me, it's not. I am not perfect and I don't have delusions about that. But I do have a positive and forward thinking mindset, thanks in large part to years of marriage to Damien. Truly, two becoming one has been a huge benefit to me in this department.

From this perspective I was hard pressed to come up with a "big mistake" for this month's series at Simple Homeschool. But with some soul searching I realized there is one tempation (of many) that plagues my heart that has, without a doubt, led me down destructive paths. Destructive paths - those sounds like mistakes.

I'll save you further suspense and tell that my big mistake is giving in to fear.

Isn't using the wrong spelling curriculum (or none at all) a "real" homeschool mistake? How does fear become a mistake?

Fear isn't the mistake. It's what fear does to us and how we respond that can be a mistake. But you'll have go read the post to find out those those deep and dark secrets of mine (smile).

Learning to walk through, but not give in to fear has been a dominant theme in my life this past year. The fear I'm talking about here is not the healthy fear I experience when hiking on high ledges. That's a good thing and keeps me away from dangerous cliffs. I especially want my children to have a healthy dose of this kind of fear!

But like Donald Miller says:

..fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.

Those manipulative emotions have the power to totally cripple us and prevent us from creating the life we want to live - homeschooling our children, downsizing our life, homebirthing (a few examples from our own life). The list of "risky", countercultural choices goes on and on.

Our fears of rejection, scarcity, pain, loneliness, and ultimately death will definitely keep us from reaching our full God-given potential, if we let them.

What will people think? Will we make enough money? What if we can't find friends? What if the worst happens?

Friends, I know these fears and I know them well. You don't quit a good job in a poor economy, leave the only home your children have ever known, and move back in with your parents in your late thirties without asking these questions.

I hestitate to even write about walking through fear. It's one of my weird superstitions that writing about things is an invitation for them to visit. I am tempted now to knock on wood.

Here's the thing - to create the life you want to live you cannot avoid fear - you are going to have to walk through it. And that's a scary proposition (they don't call it fear for nothing).

Here's the other thing - you can live a good story, moving forward in your dreams and goals, when you choose not to give in to those fears.

You're going to hear me mention Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life a few times in the coming season because that book has rocked my world this fall. Here's another thing Miller says about fear,

It's true that while ambition creates fear, it also creates the story. But it's a good trade, because as soon as you point toward a horizon, life no longer feels meaningless.

I can't gesticulate enough (you've seen my videos, imagine my hands moving wildly at this point) how much I agree with this principle.

If you want to want move forward in your life and do cool stuff (whatever that looks like to you) you're going to have point yourself in that direction and walk through fears on the journey to that horizon. But don't let this scare you because the adventure of it all gives meaning to your life.

I am walking this journey right now with regards to my writing. I know the direction I'm going but have no idea the actual destination. And I'm working through some deep insecurities (fears) in the process. I feel vulnerable and inadequate.

How do I walk through these fears, not giving in?

The Word of God (both flesh and written - see John 1:1-5 for clarification) is a continual source of strength for me. Next up, reading stories of people, real or not (think Frodo Baggins), who walk and live with courage gives me courage.

I'd be lost without strong family connections and support. Experiencing the glory of creation and the transcendence of nature also puts my struggles in their place. Journaling, prayer, practicing gratitude and other spiritual disciplines are vital for me.

I wish I could wrap this up with a "go forth and conquer" rallying cry. That's just not my style and there is so much more I wish I could share on this topic, because this is a journey I'm on and I have not arrived.

Maybe we could start a discussion instead.

If you feel comfortable enough you're welcome to share some of your goals and dreams and the fears you face. Also, if you have strategies for walking through fear and not giving in I'd love to hear it. I think we gain so much from other people's stories and experience.

our neighbor's sunroom
this is where I imagine we're sitting down to chat

I want to say one more thing - I really appreciate you all. I know, that sounds like some sappy blogger talk, "I'd just like to thank my readers...", but truly it's how I feel.

The response to my last post was such a huge encouragement to me in this writing journey and I don't know how to thank you enough for accepting me, as is. Can I hug you all now?

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Heather

    Heather on Oct. 14, 2011, 12:57 p.m.

    For the past couple of years all I can think about is downsizing our life. Part of it is because I want to get rid of all the debt we have (student loans...man...if I had only known), and part of it is because I want to the freedom to travel, and enjoy life without taking care of all the stuff. Fear. I definitely understand that. We are in a position where we would really need to either sell or rent our house and move in with my mom for a while to get the debt under control. Can I do it? I have a husband and two small kids. What would the rest of my family think? Would I have a nervous breakdown moving to a space that is not my own? But the other side to this coin is that we love our house, love our space, love that we just live up the street from my mom. We keep coming back to the same thing though, sell everything, get an RV, travel, be at home fully with our kiddos. So thank you for this post today! It is very timely. And I am really enjoying following your journey! Can't wait to see what is next for you and your family!


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Oct. 14, 2011, 1:12 p.m.

    Lets talk about fear. To summarize, my husband and I got married at 18 and we had three little girls by the time I was 20 and he 21. I have always stayed at home with the children while he worked outside the home. He has always been an excellent provider but it has meant that he has had to travel with his job. A lot. Fast forward 28 years later and we have an 8 year old daughter, 3 granddaughters (yes, all girls in this family) and he is STILL travelling and we are both growing weary of it. Our desire is for him to be home every night. He says he would like to move to some obscure town and pump gas. The challenge is this, like you said, how do you quit a very well paying job that is secure, move to a new place which is less expensive and hope that you made the right decision, all this when you are in your mid 40s? Scary thought but oh to have him home....


  • Its_Lily

    Its_Lily on Oct. 14, 2011, 1:48 p.m.

    What a great topic. Yes, fear can keep us safe, but my goodness, does it ever interfere with some amazing adventures and life changes. And let's not forget about growth. I spent the majority of my adult life being afraid of so many things to the point that I became paralyzed (not literally) by panic attacks. I remember sitting on my front porch watching my young children play in the yard and I noticed the movement of my hands. I had a panic attack over that, I was suddenly consumed by fear because I didn't know how my hands worked. So strange. Fast forward 25 years and I can point to one saying I came across that helped me break through the fear. That saying is, "what would you do if you weren't afraid?" That has been my mantra for so many years now and it helps me to make decisions and move. Just a step to start, but now I'm living my life the way I want to live, not with fear, but with a sense of adventure. Oh, the fear still creeps in there, but now I know I can ask myself, "what would you do if you weren't afraid," answer the question and act on the answer. Such a simple discovery for me, but oh, so powerful.


  • heather

    heather on Oct. 14, 2011, 3:17 p.m.

    wow renee... such vulnerability, grace and strength all at the same time. this post was beautiful and reminded me (which i did not reminding of) why i adore you so much. thank you for such a wonderful post this morning.


  • Brian Powers

    Brian Powers on Oct. 14, 2011, 5:10 p.m.

    What am I afraid of? My life has been a constant "CHARGE!" and then ultimately a loud "RETREAT!" I'm still alive but am I really living.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 15, 2011, 12:21 p.m.

      Your last question has been instrumental in guiding our actions and decisions. What does it reallly look like for us to live - fully. Not just be alive (and safe all the time). 


  • Liane

    Liane on Oct. 14, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

    Fear- yikes, what a topic. Our family is constanly told how we embrace life, charge through it, eat it up, experience it and don't sit around. Our friends envy us and say "they wish they could take risks like we do." (They can) The way other people talk about us, it seems like we have it all together. Ha. We don't. But having lived for the past 7 years in countries not our own, taken risks, quit good jobs, travelled the world with unvaccinated children, homeschooled, rescued countless street dogs, hiked in some pretty incredible places, tented on many,many beaches around the world- yes, all of those things do constitute rich lives.

    Our strategy for dealing with fear is this: We dream alot. We go on dates at least twice a month where we inevitably talk about goals and how we can achieve them. We have family meetings with our girls to make sure we're all on the same page (just last weekend my 6 year old said "Mama, WHEN are we going to go on a plane again? I'm getting itchy!! Ahh, girl after my own heart...). We may seem like we make these wild plans and actually follow-through with them, but the truth is that we put an incredible amount of time and research into figuring out if it's feasible.

    Being well-prepared gets us through the fear. Knowing that life and choices can always change gets us through the fear. Being flexible gets us through fear. Doing without (whether that means no TV, no internet, 1 or no car, no new clothes- all to take a trip or live abroad) gets us through fear. You can always go back to the "safe" life you had and chalk up your year or 2 or 5 as a great adventure (where you had little money, but an adventure nonetheless). Our kids never talk about the fact that they slept on a mattress on the floor for a year. They do talk about when we took that crazy bus ride in Mexico where there were chickens flying around and kids firing spanish questions at them...

    I believe in the power of attraction- positive attracts positive. And details always work themselves out. As long as you have a dream, the "stars WILL align" (taking from you) and the details will work themselves out. They always have for us and I know they will for your family too. Because I think you're in the right head space for this kind of change. And one last thought...we've never regreted what we've done and given to our family. We may have lived in a bunch of rentals, not had a strong group of the same friends for our kids, and not put them in soccer and skating lessons. My 9 year old is struggling to read and keep up in her first "real school experience." But they speak 3 languages at 6 and 9 years old, have been on more planes by the time they were 2 than I did by the time I was 20, have stories and photos from around the world and they're cool kids. They really are. And their little friends now say "wow, you've done all that?" And they look up at me all proud. That's when I know it was all worth it.

    Whew, I'm going to stop now! Best to you and good luck with the move! You guys are going to rock...


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 15, 2011, 12:17 p.m.

      Thank you Liane for sharing your unique "been there, done that" perspective. We haven't met in actual person many people who do adventurous travel/small living stuff with their children. So I look to my internet community for support and inspiration - thank you for being another voice in that "wilderness".


  • Sara

    Sara on Oct. 14, 2011, 7:50 p.m.

    Thank for your words today at Simple Homeschool. It is such a blessing for my heart to read your words. We are in our fist year of homeschooling and I've woken up to fear every since we started last month. I've been trying to give that fear up and focus on what God has planned for our family. The motto "one day at a time" has been used alot in my head. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend!


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 14, 2011, 9:41 p.m.

      I have a few life/mothering mantras Sara and one day at a time is one of them. So is - if you can't meet your expectations, lower them. 


  • kimberly

    kimberly on Oct. 14, 2011, 7:53 p.m.

    Oh, Renee, this is the story of the last year and a half for me. We sold our house in Denver with just a desire to live simpler. Three moves and a lot of fear later, I am milking a cow and trying to farm in rural Idaho. Um, yes. Everyone thought/thinks we are nuts. We probably are. But, we will no long live wondering what might have been. Some days, it is a delight and I am so glad we did it. Other days, I think I might break under the strain of it all. And some days, I am frozen in fear and freak out a little/lot. Other days, I am ready to take on everything! Life.


  • Joy

    Joy on Oct. 14, 2011, 9:04 p.m.

    Just last night, God kept me up for hours, showing me a vision of what our life could be like. It involves giving our house and a vehicle back to the bank, living with my parents for a few months while establishing a music ministry and eliminating debt, then buying a beater RV and touring North America with our ministry and family...can you say YIKES!!!!? Fear does not begin to describe my feelings; but at the same time, tremendous excitement is mixed in there, too :) Your post couldn't be more appropriate or appreciated, Renee! Bless you as you take your next steps; if you have a few moments, please remember us in prayer as we make some major decisions...Thanks again for sharing your heart :) (and I adore the quilt on your neighbour's porch)


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Oct. 15, 2011, 1:04 a.m.

    Hugs are coming! Actually, you make me want to relocate to Gaspésie so we can hang out together and talk homeschooling and food, and life, and fears and dreams! I LOVE your blog and love having discussion here with you and the amazing community you created...

    As far as fears go, I think I am someone who has big dreams and who needs to jump into them to see if they fit and how they feel. Fear doesn't stand in the way. After spending 5 years in Canada's far north (where I had my 3 girls), we moved back to Quebec to start a little homestead and take my grandma with us (she was 87). We bought a farm house, renovated the farm and filled it with various animals all the while preparing a huge garden. All in a year. We read piles of books, jumped on mailing lists and watched countless youtube videos to become proficient milkers, farmers, cheese makers, you name it. Then, 2 years later, we realized that we felt stuck at home in this life, so we sold the farm and we are going for dream # 2, which is to travel as a family. We bought a smaller house, we rented it for the winter and are leaving for Costa Rica in a month. Sometimes, I am worried about money, about stability for the girls, about community and homeschooling network, but deep down, I feel like it will be great...

    However, I have a deeper fear, and this is the fear of abandonment. I sometimes have nightmare of my partner starting a new life with someone else and this makes me feel terrible. I carry this fear since as long as I was born, I think, and this is my Achille's heel...

    The only antidote to fear is trust. And this is what I work on on a daily basis. Finding concrete reasons in my life why I should keep trusting that we are on the right path. And that brings me peace.




    • renee

      renee on Oct. 16, 2011, 11:16 a.m.

      I love your willingness to move on to new dreams and have new experiences. I can learn a lot from that. I sometimes think what if we don't like Quebec or worse... we run into homeschool problems there. But we can always do something else, start a new dream. My deepest fear is losing Damien to death and having to raise our family alone. That is the risk of loving so deeply - that fear of loss. I simply cannot imagine living my life without him and that makes me feel weak and overly dependant. But when we've woven ourselves so tightly together in mind, heart and life purpose we really feel like one and losing him would be losing part of me.  But like you Catherine I trust because what more can we do? I trust if that were to ever happen I would be ok, the kids would be ok and a new life and plan and purpose would grow from that pain.   I pray I never have to find that out.


  • Naomi

    Naomi on Oct. 15, 2011, 1:23 a.m.

    What a topic! I personally can't say I've had a lot of fear about our situation, but despite my trust in God and in creativity to work with our situation (no job for 10 months, not sure how we're going to live this winter, bringing baby #4 into the world, etc.), I have this feeling that if I really looked at the position we're in that I would freak out. I can really only attribute my peace to the grace of God. Where would we be without Him?!


  • Kika

    Kika on Oct. 15, 2011, 2:20 a.m.

    Interesting topic. I think I do struggle with fear (anxiety, worry, etc.) lots in life and yet somehow push through and do what I really believe in anyways. Examples of this would be moving to England at 19 with a one-way plane ticket and $100 in my pocket (and a free place to stay on the other end for two weeks); moving to Quebec at 23 to immerse myself in a new language and go to university in that language; marrying someone who spoke another language and came from a culture very different from my own - basically following my heart on this; having a child while still in university against most people's (unsolicited) counsel; staying home to homeschool our kids after six years of university and huge student loans; choosing to live super frugally to repay student loans and live debt free. I am mentioning some of these things because sometimes I feel like, compared to you and some other people I read about, my life is so "safe" and "boring" but I realize that I did make conscious and not always easy choices to live this life my husband and I chose. Now, having said that, I just turned forty and feel a pull toward new change - some new dreams. Accomplishing these new dreams will require new effort and hard work and I've been wondering if I'm up to the challenge. The fear I face now isn't, then, about safety or anything like that but more a deeper rooted fear that makes me question whether or not I "have what it takes". I think I used to be more adventurous prior to becoming a mama and now, fifteen years later, am having to "find myself" again (don't know if that is the best way to describe it or not - just writing without too much filtering :)). Finally, I am honestly excited about your journey and thankful you write about it because it inspires me to dream and reach for my own goals.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 15, 2011, 11:48 a.m.

      That's so funny you'd say that. I don't think your life is safe or boring at all! The things you've shared on the blog over the years about family members you have cared for and provided for. Your cross cultural marriage and all the challenges and blessings that come with that fascinates me. Talk about an adventure (of the domestic, familial kind). I'm excited for your personal changes. I think this happens to us in our mothering/aging journey, especially when we've spent years raising and homeschooling kids and then... then what? I know it's happening to me. Maybe (probably) it will take another shift at 40 also.


  • Charity

    Charity on Oct. 16, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

    Renee I appreciated this post so much! Thank you so much for being yourself (although it makes me miss you more and wish that we had had more time to have face to face chats). I do not have time to reply about fear right now, but I hope to soon. I love hearing about your life journey; thanks for sharing!


  • Shelley R.

    Shelley R. on Oct. 16, 2011, 12:11 a.m.

    There are, sadly, some illogical fears that howl wildly and sometimes whisper softly to my heart. The most infuriating times are when those fears effect my behavior, thinking, and emotions for any amount of time before I can source that weed back to its root and yank it out. Some of those fears involve writing--daily aware of the information overload everywhere I look and what place does one more voice, one more carpenter-of-words (so to speak) have in this culture? But I can't shake the notion, that someday, with clearer direction, I will write more formally.

    But what do I do in the meantime? Even with fears like "I'm missing the 'blogging wagon'?" When I live out of any amount of fear, I am hindered in my mind, my heart, my day. The joy I experience is limited, the rest I manage to have is fretful. It's just not worth the effort--to live in fear. For me, however, the opposite of fear is not peace. It is joy. Like water, if I'm always hydrated with joy--even a calm-joy that is flowing from contentment--I do live (it appears) to a fullness, and overflowing in my life. (Yes, this is true even when I am crippled by storms around me, and this summer was a tempest in our lives that has left me battered in many ways)

    One more thought, I've also wrestled with the fear of what if? what if I never accomplish or fulfill these dreams that either I or my husband and I have dreamed together for our family? what if? Well, so what? I am still deeply loved, deeply treasured by The Creator and have done in grace all that I possibly could to live without regrets.

    Thank you, as always, for both the encouragement and genuineness of your writing and the wealth of spirit you share here on FIMBY. :)


  • SeeTryFly

    SeeTryFly on Oct. 16, 2011, 9:21 a.m.

    My six year old daughter broke her collarbone this week while riding her scooter down a large hill. This is about three weeks after our previous trip to urgent care for stitches after a particularly exciting dance that ended with a crash into some bookshelves.

    She was quite sad and upset about the broken bone, not even the pain itself but just having another injury. And I told her, "These are the wounds of childhood. They are supposed to happen as you test your limits. They are a sign of a healthy and active childhood. If you never got hurt, it means you aren't trying new things and discovering how to set good boundaries for yourself."

    May I be able to live those words as I said them to her. May fear of failure never stop me from healthy risk taking on my own journey.


  • Jennifer Brotherton

    Jennifer Brotherton on Oct. 16, 2011, 9:35 p.m.

    I recently heard someone say "WHAT IF" is what faith is all about. It's the NOT KNOWING...and doing it anyway. THAT is what faith is. You are stepping out in faith. And God likes that. It's trusting Him even when you don't know what will happen. I do this every time I have my babies unassisted at home. I always know God is there with me and that brings me comfort and I trust in Him to provide and that all will work out. I don't know what will happen and I don't know that it will be easy or perfect or anything...but that is how I do it and it's pushing past the fear and trusting God that has made me stronger and made my faith grow. It's amazing and exhilarating. The feeling you get after you do something without knowing how it will turn out....well, there are no words. It's just LIVING life and not merely existing.


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