‘Fight fear and anxiety’

Andover teacher writes book that is part personal testimony and part bible study

Written by Joe Stumpe

Becky Phelps understands the desire for privacy in our technologically-intrusive, media-obsessed world.

But she believes that baring one’s soul is the only way to truly know oneself and help others.

That’s what Phelps aims for in her new book, “Fight Fear and Anxiety: A Personal Journal Bible Study of God’s Peace, Love, and Provision.” In it, Phelps talks candidly about her marriage troubles, financial difficulties and what she describes as a “challenging Christian mission experience.” And she talks about the need for forgiveness, of oneself and others.

“When we share our problems with others, we are able to gather community around us and we are lifted up,” Phelps, a first-time author, said. “Isolation is not a plan of emotional healing.”

The book is part personal Christian testimony and part workbook for anyone trying to find their way through troubled times. Although not prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it arrives at a time of widespread fear and anxiety.

Phelps, for instance, was set to do her job teaching creative writing at Andover Middle School, beginning in early September. The district’s initial plans called for a hybrid mix of online and in-person classes. Phelps knows that some students may be nervous and is ready with strategies ranging from simple changes of seating posture and exercises to relieve tension to inspirational quotes like “Fearing tomorrow is not in your planner. It’s in pencil, you can erase it.”

Most of all, she’s excited to see and teach them again, whether in person or virtually.

“I just have this overwhelming sense of belief in middle school kids. I truly see them as the future,” she said. “My students know that writing is my passion. My goal is to relate to them, respond to them and release the creativity they have within.”

Phelps, who grew up in Dodge City, knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was in first grade and her teacher let her author the Christmas gingerbread man play. She admits she was briefly derailed by the C-minus grade she received in a college English class. “It probably crushed me for a few years before I realized you have to fight through these obstacles to do what you want to do.”

She finished college, married at age 21 and began teaching first-grade students in Dodge. “I was actually able to teach with the teacher who taught me.”

She became a stay-at-home mom after starting a family with her husband, Tommy, a manager at Foley Equipment. Today, the couple have four children: Abbey, 21, who’s an EMT with Sedgwick County; Carley, 19, a student at Kansas State University; Grant, 17, a senior in Andover; and Isaac, 13, an eight-grader. Becky and Tommy are active in Eastminster Presbyterian Church, teaching a Sunday school marriage class. Part of what makes them qualified, Becky says, is that their marriage has not always run smoothly. “One morning, I realized I was absolutely full of bitterness,” she said. “I talk about it in the first page of the book.” Forgiving her husband felt like she was “cutting off tentacles” she had put on herself.

After her first go at teaching, Phelps tried several different careers, not always successfully, and the family moved to Wichita to be near her parents. A few years ago, at a point of “financial desperation,” she was deep in prayer when she received a message that her ministry should focus on helping others deal with anxiety.

That became the focus of talks she gave to groups, which helped the book come together in a couple of months, earlier this year. “I had it on sticky notes, in notebooks, on a computer I can’t even get into anymore. I just had to figure out which stories were going to go in the book.”

Phelps returned to teaching three years ago and was thrilled to find Isaac in her class.

“That was the coolest experience. We really had a good time.”

With that book she always planned to write done, she’s focused on making a most unusual school year as productive and memorable as possible — and one with a minimum of fear or anxiety.

“We’re going to take this one day at a time.”

Excerpts from “Fight Fear and Anxiety”

“Remember to forgive your parents, they probably did the best they could.”

“I had so much bitterness and it began to grow like tentacles coming out of my chest. I could not breathe, I was so mad! I pretty much looked like Ursula cackling with hostility. It was heartbreaking that every time I needed to forgive Tommy for one small thing, I’d have to bring out a chainsaw to cut a tentacle off.”

“Fight Fear and Anxiety: A Personal Journal Bible Study of God’s Peace, Love, and Provision” is available at amazon.com. The paperback version is $15.99 and the Kindle version is $3.99.

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