Go Ahead…Do it Afraid

When I’m with my mother, I never know where our conversation will land. Monday we had doctor’s appointments at the same office. We arrived thirty minutes early, so we sat in my car, talking.

“I wish I could’ve overcome my shyness around boys earlier in life,” she said.

“Mother, you’re not shy.”

“I used to be. Around boys.” She pulled the visor down and fluffed her hair. “I’ll always wish I’d slow-danced with Richard.”

“Richard who?” 

And who is this woman sitting in my car?

“A boy in high school. Since my daddy died when I was two, and I was an only child, I didn’t know how to talk to boys. Sort of like they were Martians. Even as an adult, I got nervous talking to men–the mailman, the butcher, the pediatrician.”

“Are you still afraid to talk to men?”

“Heavens, no.”

“How’d you break free?”

“I guess it started when y’all were little. I volunteered at the hospital teaching people to paint. They asked me to work with a man who was paralyzed from the neck down.”

“Were you scared?”

“Terrified. I stood outside his room for a long time, shaking. Finally, I said, ‘Okay, God, you’re on.’ Coy was strapped face-down in a Stryker frame bed about four feet off the ground.”

“What’d you say to him?”

“‘Hi, Coy, would you like to paint today?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ He told me to break the paintbrush in half because it was so long I’d choke him with it. We laughed. I used a cardboard box for a canvas, put the brush in his teeth, and he started painting.”

“What’d he paint?”

“Birds and rabbits and flowers. The woods. He was incredibly talented. The newspaper did a big write-up about him.”

“You found God in Coy’s room, didn’t you?”

“I sure did. His room was full of the sweetness of God’s Holy Spirit.” 

“How’d Coy help you overcome your fear of boys?”

She smiled. Looked down at her lap. 

Even though I’d turned off the engine, the car filled with warmth that cold February morning. 

Whatever she said would be good.

I could tell.

“He was seventeen when I met him. I was twice his age. Our friendship lasted for thirty years.”

She paused and I held my breath.

“Coy taught me there’s not much difference between boys and girls and their emotions. And everybody has needs. Even more than that, he taught me to go beyond myself. To step out in faith and take a chance.”

“Wow. That’s beautiful, Mother. Thank you.”

Are you a little bit shy too?

Have you ever found God in unexpected friendships? In a hospital? 

Have you discovered how much we receive by volunteering? 







  1. first…the photo of your mom is fantastic. What a beauty she is 🙂 I completely understand her hesitancy to talk to boys …I’m a little shy too- You and your mom learn so much from every experience- I so admire that…I’m going to think about this a little more ~ xo

  2. I know! It’s gorgeous. When we got the doctor’s office, she refused to take off her vest and boots to weigh or step on the scales. :/

    Yep. The shyness. You and me both.


  3. Stepping out and giving of ourselves reveals so much of God’s provision for us. Staying “safe” entraps us and robs us of so much interaction and experiences with others. Fears quickly turned into new awareness. An awareness of God being right there in the middle of it all, helping us all. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to step out.

  4. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Okay, so…yeah, I USED to be shy, but not anymore. Something happened to me when I began homeschooling almost 30 years ago. My pastor put it this way, “You sure found your niche!” Not sure some people would say that, especially when I get on my soapboxes! 🙂

    However, that’s not what I hit “Reply” to say. I want to encourage everyone to find one way to volunteer, if you’ve never done so. God’s blessed us with a needy world, one that can now be reached much easier than ever before.

    I’ve probably been known as the “Queen of Volunteering” around my community. (Well, truthfully, I still have a bit of shyness, so others may not know it’s me.) I’ve volunteered at the library for story hour, at homeschoolers’ homes for help w/subjects they have trouble with, with the local art festivals and historical societies, with a cancer organization for children, with the Girl Scouts. I even helped with the Cub Scouts, when I was young.

    That’s where I got my start – by my mother’s side. We worked side-by-side, helping little boys make firepits out of foil milk caps (remember those?), guiding children’s hands as they sand-painted in terrariums, and doing numerous crafts at our local senior citizens’ center. And that’s where God has brought me – full-circle back to volunteering at a senior-care facility where my daughter works.

    For several months, I’ve delighted at the hours I’ve spent there. I’m finally getting to fulfill a long-time dream; I have a passion to help seniors write their stories, leaving legacies for those of us who read them. The last few months, we focused on pulling together a book with stories from all the veterans among the residents. How I loved hearing their tales! I’ve shared laughter and tears, as I sat with them. This past weekend, they held a ceremony to honor these men and women who loved us through serving our country. We presented each of them, as well as their families, with copies of the book. I wish you could have seen their eyes, as they carefully turned each page, remarking about their friends’ photos from long ago, thrilling as they found their own stories.

    Does volunteering help people? Yes, of course. But let me say, with all my heart, it gives more to the one volunteering than you ever thought possible. Try it; I promise you will be blessed.

    • Cathy, Yes, yes, yes, yes, I sooooooooooooo agree!! I’ve been volunteering at a local pregnancy resource center for going on 3 years. I remember wondering if I had any skills that would be helpful. Oh, what a wonderful experience it’s been!

      It opens us up to others, doesn’t it! Stretches us. Grows us.

      How precious is your long-time dream of helping seniors write their stories! I can feel your enthusiasm right through your comment–you’re full of so much joy over this!

      Thank you so much for sharing! Who knows how your words here on this post will inspire other. 🙂

    • P.S. Cathy–look down below at Marci’s comment…see how much you moved her by your volunteering spirit!


      • Cathy Mayfield says:

        Thank you, Julie. You are so good for my lagging ego. I wanted to tell you something I’ve noticed in your replies to various people that has blessed me. You may not be aware of it, just an instinct borne of your compassionate heart. As I read their posts and your responses, I see your tone change to fit the personality of the reader. One of the things I teach in my writing classes to youth is how I want to be able to HEAR their voices in my mind, as though they are reading their pieces aloud to me. I fancy I can hear your voice as I read your blogs, as well as your gracious replies to your reader friends. God bless you, Julie. I can only hope to emulate your grace when I have my own site and through my daily conversations to those around me.

  5. Anna Haney says:

    Beautiful post as always.
    I was a lot like your mom. In many ways, I am terribly shy. Guess that’s the introvert in me. But when I was a teacher especially, I got out of my shell. It is almost like a switch is turned on and you change. You have such a longing to make the student see the light, understand, gain his or her self confidence, that you lose sight of your own insecurities.

    • Beautiful, Anna. It’s like, we forget about ourselves because we care about others.

      And I’d have never in a million trillion years thought you’d be shy! That totally blew me away.

      Thanks, my friend.

  6. Oh Julie, this one made me teary eyed. My mother is suddenly pouring forth with stories she’s never shared before, as we sit in her hospital room. We were told yesterday her prognosis is poor, and its made me desire to be all that I can be for her right now.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful God-filled moment. I find, its during times like these with my mom where I desire to look outside myself and seems the God moments are all around, when you have eyes to see. Love to you and your sweet mom!

    • Vicky, why don’t we live next door to each other? This is EXACTLY what I’m talking about–these God-moments with our mothers.

      You are right where you need to be. I can feel it in my heart.

      And with us being writers, we simply have to find a way to share our God-moments. I love-love-love reading all about yours.

      Keep writing, my friend! I love you.

  7. Eileen says:

    I can relate so much to your mother. I have always been shy too. In high school especially so. After I was married and had children, I volunteered at our local hospital. It was there that I found my shyness wane slightly. Because, it was there that people wanted to talk to me. They drew me out of my awkwardness. Today, I am still shy, just not as much as I was in my younger days. Thank you for another post that I can relate to, Julie. You always write about things that I feel were meant for me! xxoo

    • Eileen, thank you. I always, always wonder as I press “publish”….will anyone even understand this?

      Maybe shyness is something we sloooowwwwly outgrow.

      I love how you said that as you were volunteering (in a hospital!) that’s where the shyness waned (such a good word, too).

      Maybe because we are a little bit shy, people are drawn to open up and talk to us. I’d much rather listen than talk!


  8. Julie Gilleand says:

    Oh, Leafy Sister, you hit the head on the nail again! Would you believe that just this morning on my way to work, I was thinking about how there are things you should keep moving forward and do, even if afraid?! For the life of me I can’t think of why exactly that was on my mind. I just do a lot of thinking when I drive! But yes, I was shy. Still am a little. It’s more than I’m not assertive I think. In high school, I about dropped out when a speech class became mandatory for graduation because no way Jose was I getting up and talking in front of people! Thanks to a pep talk from a friend, I dove into it and was surprised at how well I did. I never did like it, but I found out there are things you can do even if you don’t want to or are afraid. Having all boys, I have done things I never would have if they hadn’t wanted to so badly! Like riding a gondola all the way up Aspen Mtn. while on vacation. We have video of this and you can see me clutching my throat which I always did when I was scared but never knew it! I’m so glad I said yes and went. What a view from up top. I just didn’t like the idea of hanging by a “thread” over a mtn. for 20 minutes getting up there! I found out the more things I did, regardless of fear, the stronger I felt and the more fearless I became. I used to be scared of crossing bridges over water. I imagined myself being flung over the side into the drink! Walking with one of my boys who was little at the time, I clutched his hand so tightly walking over such a bridge he hollered out that I was hurting him! I didn’t even know I was doing that! But one day I found myself walking across another bridge and it hit me — when did I stop being scared of bridges? I never even noticed that fear going away, but it did! A few years back I needed to call up some people to interview them for a book I was working on and I was terrified of talking to these strangers, but almost like magic, I slid right into the role of an investigative reporter, or maybe like Oprah (ha), and never ran out of things to ask and comments to what they said. I was SO intensely interested in what we were talking about! I had thought it would be stiff, awkward and uncomfortable but it was so not! I found something I never knew I’d love so much and it shocked me! But so many of those kinds of experiences and you grow a little more confidence each time it seems.

    Now you have me wondering what scary thing I’m about to be asked to do next! There must be SOME reason this was on my mind this morning and then here comes your blog! So we shall see I guess.

    Thanks Julie, as always, for sharing about your mom and about these things. I find myself looking so, so forward to Wednesdays, just because of you 🙂

    God bless you and your dear mom!

    Other Leaf Sister…

    • Leaf Sis, I can’t wait to hear what your other scary thing is, because now you HAVE to do it. 🙂 No mattter what!

      I can just see you now–riding up a mountain with your boys. Such a good boy mama!

      Yep. I’ve had the exact same experience interviewing people for Guideposts magazine. When I open my mouth, the words just come out–even though I’m not exactly sure which way to go with the interview. I love it when His Spirit takes over like that.

      Thanks so much, my faithful reader and friend.

  9. Funny how you mentioned volunteering. I just wrote a story THIS MORNING about being a side walker at a therapeutic riding center where disabled children and adults ride horses. What a thrilling experience to help them to conquer their fears. I ended up conquering my own fears of big, tall, majestic horses and how small I always feel around them. It is something I look back on as shaping who I am today. Thank you for reminding me how helping others can help ourselves.

    • You were afraid of horses, B.J.???? I had no idea!

      I love it–that helping others ride horses had a lasting affect on YOU years later…the beauty in giving ourselves away.

  10. marci says:

    What a good lesson, “Go ahead. Do it afraid” Perhaps I need to write that and post it somewhere for those times when fear creeps in. And how wonderful that you and your mom can have these heart to heart talks, and there are still lessons we can learn from our parents.

    I so treasure the talks I was able to have with my Dad over the last years. They were the kind of talks we never could have had when I was younger. He shared his experiences and things I never knew.. I knew he was a WWII Vet, but never knew what all he did or went through. I am so grateful I was able to hear those stories.

    —-, God Bless Cathy! What a wonderful thing to do for the Vets, to get their story down. What a wonderful thing for the Lord to lead her to do.
    I wish I could recall and write down everything my Dad told me. I did write down some, but not near as much as I wish I had. And I agree, when we give ourselves to help others, we often are surprised at how much it gives us! A wonderful God thing.
    Also– as Cathy has done, it is wonderful to help any senior person get the stories they have down in writing. The blessing in that, and saving so much before it is too late.

    (I am also hoping that schools will not give up teaching cursive writing, as that would be such a great loss to the younger generation to not be able to read granparents letters/ writings, etc)

    I am most comfortable with the written word,. Speaking up in public can be more difficult for me. I admire those like you who go all over and share your gift with groups.

    I don’t think about me volunteering, but I guess in a way I have. For sometime I helped at the library every day in the afternoons, when it was busy. And that lead to me being a librarian and working there for years.
    I have done several jobs- volunteering, but somehow have not thought of it as such, but I guess it was. Perhaps because I got so much out of it myself and the Lord filled my cup so full from those things.

    You have hit such a cord with so many of us with this post.

    God Bless you, and I am so glad that each week He provides you with something to share and that feeds each of us and we know– we are much more alike than different. We are not islands.

    • Cathy Mayfield says:

      marci, you have such a tender heart. And I never thought about the cursive writing situation in our schools in the light you shared. Oh, my, what a reason to write letters to the editors and our congressmen, urging them to help spread the word.

      I hope you don’t mind my responding to your comment before Julie’s had the chance to. I just wanted to share something dear to my heart that may be something you’d enjoy. Many, many years ago, a woman at my church gave me a book called Passwords to Your Past, by Dorothy Evslin and Max Kelly. The book’s purpose was to help people write their memories through using passwords to bring them to mind. Even then, I loved hearing stories, and this book blessed me in so many ways. In fact, the website/blog I’ve been trying to get up and running uses this theme.

      For example, what does the simple word “camera” bring to mind? Don’t think too long. Just write it down. This is a bit of mine:

      “Go back to lazy evening slide shows or films. Today’s technology adds to the destroying of family times (in my mind, at least). People have lost the desire to set up a screen, put slides in carousels one by one, hassle through the fine art of making a film projector do what they want it to – all midst the laughter and snacks of a family night filled with memories of fun times and people they love.

      :I can still see my dad inserting slides into the carousel, looking through each one to determine the specific timing of the event (and to make sure he put it in so it would show right side up, which of course, made it even funnier when the occasional one wouldn’t!). I can hear him clicking the remote to advance the slides, my mom adding commentary now and then, my brothers asking when the last carousel would start and could they have more snacks.”

      I’ve used this theme to write devotions and Bible studies. I’ve written letters of encouragement to people, using a password as a connection between us. I’ve even approached the local paper about a column. And of course, I’ve used it to help others write their stories, ones they may have long forgotten. I hope to do this at the senior center.

      Sorry to make this so long. I hope this idea may bring you some fun, writing your own and helping others do so. And be sure to keep watch for my website/blog sometime in the next few months! I’m thinking of calling it “Legacies of Learning.”

      • Cathy, you’re onto something big. I can feel it! I’m sooo thrilled for you! I can sense your excitement all over your comment. 🙂

        Keep going. Don’t stop. Get that blog up and running, and somehow, with technology, when your blog goes live, you “appear” different in my comments. I can tell who writes blogs because your picture shows and your name is red. If you look at B.J. Taylor’s comments or Elizabeth Stewart’s (and there are other bloggers who comment) you’ll see they “look” different.

        Wo-hooooooooooooo, so proud of you! And y’all check out the other bloggers who comment. They have fantastic blogs and write straight from their hearts.

      • marci says:

        Cathy,Thank you! I am so touched that you responded to my comment. I too am reluctant to reply to someone elses comment here, so I understand, but I am truly happy that you followed the Lord’s leading and personally responded to mine. Thank you for your long reply, and I am happy that you did not shorten it. Sometimes it takes more words. I will look into the book you mentioned, as it sounds very interesting, and helpful. I do have a few books here on the subject, some more helpful than others. A few years ago, when I was a librarian, in AR, (where I am) , Arkansas Heritage gave away ‘Telling Your Arkansas Stories”- Donald Davis. In hopes of getting as many stories as they could for celebrating AR’s b.day. But it is good for anyone anywhere and is a lot like what you told me about. It gave one sentence promps. (ex: A childhood shopping trip) I am always interested in another book on the subject. Like you, I have always liked stories.

        Yes! I do hope enough people will realize that they have stopped teaching cursive in schools, and have the schools start teaching it again. In AR they have a bill before the state to make all AR schools teach it. I hope it passes.
        Thank you for all you wrote. Julie planted seeds and look what is growing? When we step out in faith– even when a bit in fear, look what can happen! I will look forward to seeing your blog when you get it up and running.

    • Marci, of course you’re volunteering! I think it has to do with the condition of our hearts, and whenever we’re pouring into others with love, I think that’s volunteering. And I’m more comfortable writing than speaking too…however, every time I stand in front of a group and whisper, “God, I can’t do this without You,” He always shows up.

      I love how you said God fills your cup up so much, you don’t even realize you’re volunteering. Sounds to me like you’re working full of His Spirit, my friend.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts!

      • marci says:

        Thank you Julie, The Lord has used your writings and your comments back to me, and it so often gives me the boost that I need. As I said above to Cathy, you plant the seeds and now look what is growing. I can almost picture you saying, as the verse from the Bible says, “Here I am, send me” . Thank you for sharing how you always place it in God’s hands before you speak to a group. I am trying to remember that in all parts of my life.

        I stepped out in faith a few years ago to start a Prayer Shawl Ministry, and was amazed at God at work in that. As an old proverb says, ‘Start sewing and God will supply the thread’ (or yarn in this case). I would like to send you a shawl, if you would like one. You can send me an e-mail if you would like.that.
        God Bless.

        • A Prayer Shawl Ministry. Oh, that’s so “like God.” I love it, love it, love it. I remember years ago, my father was going through radiation for brain cancer, and my mother felt God move in her spirit, to find a certain shawl in the top of her closet, and to take it to a woman receiving radiation, and to place it around her shoulders. And say, “This isn’t just a shawl. It’s a prayer shawl. And it’s like God’s arms around you.”

          I would LOVE to have a prayer shawl….would you send me one? I’ll email you…can’t believe you’d do this!!

  11. Kim says:

    Oh Julie, you had me laughing with just the title! I thought, “Ok Lord, what am I going to learn today that I need to hear?”
    I have always had a shy tendency. Some areas have improved over the years, while others, not so much. I still hesitate to step out of my comfort zone when there is a risk of being seen/heard or when I feel unqualified.
    This goes along with our conversation a few weeks ago about my not living into my word of the year. The thing I first refused to consider but then after prayer came back and said ok to… training begins in a few weeks, Mar. 8, with implementation happening after Easter. So, yes, I will be doing it. Afraid.

    • Kim, yep. I’m with you. Something clicked inside me (in slow motion!) after turning 50 and the shyness improved.

      Wo-hoooooooooooooooooo, you’re doing it….AFRAID. Cheering for you!! I have happy tears for you!!!! Hugging you from here!!!

  12. Patricia Martin says:

    Hi Julie! My friend Shirley and I became friends shortly after the passing of her beloved husband. Even though we are generations apart as I am in my twenties and she is in her late eighties, we both like the same movies, have read similar books, and enjoy many other things in the same way. Shirley has been volunteering for several years and makes such an incredible difference where she works.(((: she works at
    Saint Anne’s which is a place for young, unwed mothers. Every year she helps out with three bazaars to raise funds and tells me about what’s going to happen.
    Hope you are having a super week,
    Patricia xoxo

    • Patricia, there’s so much love in your post–can you feel it?

      This. Is. Beautiful. I LOVE unexpected friendships! And your friend Shirley sounds like such a lovely lady. I’m so glad God brought you two together.

      Thanks for sharing~~~

  13. I love your mama stories.

    • Elizabeth, I do too. And I felt that gentle prompting….pay attention…you’re going to want to remember this. And I just knew it would touch my readers. I mean, people are just people! What a life lesson.

      Hugs from Georgia!

  14. Absolutely beautiful- profound- simple! I le the truth that we need to do it afraid anyway- go beyond ourselves. I struggle with meeting people in new situations. But as a pastor’s wife, God has helped me slip into the mode- “God- use me today to meet the people who need you most.” I’ve learned over the years to quit thinking about “me” and look for those who need encouragement. Hugs and blessings Julie!

    • He’s teaching me the thing–to just get over myself! And do it!

      XOXOXO Tell Bethany I said, “Hi!”

  15. Roberta Messner says:

    Oh, that picture of your mother. I love, love, love her! Roberta

    • I know. This pic means so much to me, Roberta. I’ll always be grateful we had our “little talk” in the parking lot. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  16. Vi Gommer says:

    I met you mother at Montrose Christian Writers conference in PA. She was so helpful to me with my writing. I kept in touch with her over the years. Then I discovered you in Guideposts lately. My heart has been touched by your devotionals… Just as your mother’s writing has. Blessings to you.

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