Friday, July 12, 2019

When Your Plans Get Hijacked

Hey Friend,

My husband, Dave, and I were looking forward to this summer.  It would be the first summer in seven years that I wouldn't be having surgery or recuperating from it.  We'd planned some trips and one day excursions.  Memorial Day was on the horizon and we had plans to kick off a great summer season.

That was until we discovered a leak in our crawl space that had been shooting upward for a period of weeks causing 20K in damages to our house. The kitchen (the hub of any household) had taken the brunt of it.  That was our "Day of Memory" (aka Memorial Day).  

Cancel, juggle, rearrange, make reservations, ask for help, and move into our "cozy" efficiency for twelve days.  I'd like to share some lessons that God has been teaching me since our summer plans were hijacked that fateful day.

1.  The Grand Entrance (Humility/Humor):  

Needless to say we were all a little rattled having thrown our bags together to move into a small efficiency in town, closer to Dave's work.  Our sensitive beagle got noticeably more anxious with each bag that was carried out to our cars.  Were we going to leave him behind??

After pulling stuff out of our cars at the hotel entrance (much like the clown car act), we loaded up two luggage carts and made our way to the reception desk.  I was on dog and luggage duty while Dave checked in.  The lobby was full of all sorts of people.  Topper pulled me around in circles as he did what all beagles do, sniff everything imaginable.  I silently prayed the check-in process would go faster.  It didn't.  Then it happened....

Our sweet and obedient dog, who'd not had an accident indoors since he was a pup, did the "dirty deed" right smack dab in the middle of the lobby.  All eyes were focused on us.  Looks of disgust, pity, horror; as well as chuckles and audible laughter came rushing toward us in waves.  

Like all good dog moms, I happened to have a poop bag in my purse.  I apologized profusely to the folks behind the desk and asked if they had Lysol wipes and paper towels and I would quickly clean up the mess we'd made.  I knew then and there that we'd been labeled as the "Fecal Family".  

Lessons Learned:  God loves a humble and contrite heart.  If we get too haughty, He can easily level the playing field.  Humor is beneficial.  May we never take ourselves too seriously.  Laughter IS good medicine.  We have a fabulously funny story to share about our adventure.

2.  Friendly Port in a Storm: (Gratitude)

Since, Topper (our beagle), will howl pitifully if left by himself in the efficiency, (and we can't afford another incident lest we get tossed out); wherever I go, the beagle goes.  

Some eating establishments along the busy streets post in large letters, "No Dogs Allowed."  We pass on by.  I'm getting hungry for something to eat and I am hoping we can walk in an establishment, order, and wait outside.  I poke my head into the next eatery to inquire if we can come in?  "Sorry, no dogs allowed unless they are service/therapy dogs."  At this point I need therapy, but decide not to push my luck.

Really hesitant by this time, I crack open the door of the Crepes and Coffee Shoppe.  "Might we be able to come in," I ask.  "Sure, come on in," the young lady with braids twisted upon her head beckons. "Your dog's so cute.  What's his name?  Can he have a treat?"  

She gleefully put Topper through his paces with tricks for treats.  She even filled a dish of cool water for him.  It felt SOOooo good to feel welcome.  We'd found our port in the storm.  Topper and I sat outside and he blissfully munched dog biscuits while I savored a blueberry muffin and a delicious cup of coffee.  Ahhh...we were finally welcome.

Lessons Learned:  For all the bad out there, look for the good and stay focused on it.  When God grants you a port in the storm, don't forget to offer thanks and show gratitude. 

3.  The Omelet Station (Patience/Mercy)

Dave and I traded off heading downstairs (return to the scene of the Grand Entrance) to get our complimentary breakfasts.  As usual, I headed first to the omelet station and put in my order with Clarice, the omelet gal.  Then I meandered around getting coffee, oatmeal, and fruit.  It was a busy morning so the omelets were taking longer.

One man, obviously annoyed and in a hurry, asked three times if his omelet was ready.  Another woman took five minutes to explain all the special ingredients her omelet required.  Then, as I turned to see that my omelet was finally ready, it was swooped out from under me and, in halting English, the eager eater poked a finger at the spinach in the omelet and said, "This not MY omelet...has spinach!"  

The young omelet maker, perspiring over three omelet pans, responded with amazing kindness, "That's because it's not your omelet; it's hers," pointing to me.  In a huff, the omelet snatcher complained that the omelets were taking too long, then turned and left. 

"I'm so sorry," the poor young woman apologized.  "I'll make yours right away," she continued.  

"No problem," I said.  "You're doing an awesome job under not so great circumstances," I said with a wink and a nod to all the vultures lurking around her station.

Lessons Learned:  In an "I gotta have it right now world," a little patience goes a long way.  When you can, show mercy.  After all, you've been given the greatest gift of mercy.  Give what you've gotten.

We still have a week to go and I'm sure there will be more stories.  Things might not be going as planned, but boy do I have an appreciation of my home and all the blessings God has given me.  Maybe my plans needed to be hijacked in order to build my character...or maybe "Life" just happens??  

Either way...let the next story unravel...with God, I've got this!

Dear Heavenly Father, First, forgive me for when I take the everyday blessings for granted - like a familiar roof over my head.  Let me come before You with a humble and contrite heart and let laughter be my default mechanism when times get tense.  Keep anger and frustration far from me.  Let me have an attitude of gratitude both before and after blessings you bestow abundantly.  Let me be a messenger of mercy and build my character with patience and perseverance so that my response to "Life being Life", will bring YOU glory.  Thank you for always being there even when the road gets rough.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Have your plans been hijacked lately?  What lessons has God been teaching you?  Is there any way of responding or reacting, on your part, that needs adjusting?  What is your prayer?  I'd love to pray for you...

Be blessed....

ps.  If you've enjoyed what you've read here today, why don't you SUBSCRIBE to my weekly blog?  Just click on the "Subscribe" tab, enter your information, AND be SURE TO CLICK THE LINK IN THE EMAIL THAT APPEARS IN YOUR INBOX to confirm your subscription.  If it's not there, check your spam filter.  Thanks in advance!!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Summer Fashion Fun: Guest Post and GIVEAWAY

Hey Friend,

In May, I had the pleasure of joining, Jodie, my good friend and fashion blogger, on her website.  I wrote a guest post re: "Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness?" in honor of Mental Health Awareness month.  The ribbon color for this illness is lime green. 

The lovely ladies of "Jodie's Touch of Style" all wore fun fashions in lime green to support the cause.

Did you know that animal prints are considered fashion "neutrals," that metallic sandals can be one of your most versatile shoe options for summer, that "No white before Memorial Day" is passe, or that a cardigan or shrug can transform a sleeveless summer dress into a spring/fall option?  

I subscribe to Jodie's blog and I have learned so much about fashion and how to diversify my wardrobe, and have fun with it on a budget.  Jodie, her mom, and step-mom give three decades of fashion options and they do it with fun and flair.

"After being a cosmetic dentist for over 20 years, Jodie is having a blast blogging with her mother and step mom. The biggest thing she has learned in this process is it's never too late to look great. While women grew up with rule after rule about fashion and style, she's finding it's time to start having more fun with our outfits and life in general. The best part about the site is there are 3 different decades of women with 3 different body shapes and styles. Something for everyone." - Jodie, Jodie's Touch of Style

I invite you to join Jodie for her latest post, "Styling an Outfit of Red and White Different Ways."  If you follow the link to her blog and SUBSCRIBE, you will be entered in her Monthly New Subscribers Giveaway which is a box of fashion, hair, and makeup goodies. 

Isn't Jodie's mom gorgeous in red and white?!  For other takes on this Summer Fashion color combo, will you join me and read along? Subscribe to be included in her July drawing...

Styling an Outfit of Red and White Different Ways

I know I’ve heard many women say they would never consider wearing an outfit of red and white because red is too bright. And I get that, but I’d like to give some ways to make the color combination work too.

Quote of the day: There is only one danger I find in life—you may take too many precautions.” Alfred Adler

While I also believe in the adage better safe than sorry, style and clothing are two of those aspects in life in which it's safe to take a risk. Even if you put together an outfit that doesn’t work out, it’s not a permanent thing...

Be blessed...and please leave Jodie some lovin' in her "Comments" section...

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Why is "One Day at a Time" So Hard?

Hey Friend,

I thought I was doing pretty well.  After all, my beagle and I endured the "demolition" phase of our water leak.  I held his shaking body close to me as we listened to the circular saw chew through our hardwood floors.  Then there was the ripping and tearing out of three fourths of our kitchen.  A major bank of lower cabinets and counter tops was pried away from a kitchen wall.

Then came the industrial fans and huge drying machines in our kitchen and dining area.  Even more were below the house in the crawl space.  Imagine living on the tarmac at the airport for two weeks.  The deafening roar went on 24/7.  I couldn't hear myself think.

Now is the calm before the next phase in which we will have to be out of the house for twelve days as they begin the repair process.  It will be "cozy" in our little efficiency...especially with a beagle who plaintively howls if left alone in a strange place.  Where I go, he will have to go.  Maybe I could claim him as my therapy dog??

I kept telling myself this would be an "adventure," but I don't think my body was believing my mind.  My lower eyelid developed a nervous twitch.  No big deal, I thought, just my anxiety disorder showing its head.  I ignored my body until my back joined in the "dance of spasms" and had me laid flat out on muscle relaxers and pain meds for two days.  "Get a grip, Bev," I chided myself.

Why is taking "one day at a time" so gosh-darned hard??  Perhaps if this was one isolated incident, I would be sailing through this, but it came on the heels of several other incidents wherein I felt "sidelined" from normal life.  At this point, I'd just had it!

In my praying and pondering, I realize I have come up against a sneaky adversary - the need or desire to want to be "in control".  I have no idea how the upcoming weeks are going to go.  I can control my attitude, but events?  That's a giant question mark.  I know that I don't like question marks, because it means that I have to loosen my death grip on my futile attempts to remain in control.  Is that pride I hear talking? I thought I'd won this battle already?

Usually I'm not one to look back, but in this case, I needed to look back to all the things I've come through...experiences that I was afraid of, and realize that God was right there with me through it all.  His righteous right hand always had a firm grip on me even when I felt like I was sinking.  

God never left nor has He ever forsaken me in my troubles.  He gave me grace and peace that can only come at the point when we are in the "blue flame" of the crucible.  Grace doesn't come even a moment before we actually need it in order to simply get us through. 

In scripture, God promises to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
He doesn't promise He'll shine His high beams into the dark forest to illuminate all the turns and obstacles up ahead.  No, He promises, only, to light the path of our feet as we take one step at a day at a time. 

So, the question is, do I trust Him?  As I look back upon all the "Ebenezers" I have raised to His faithfulness in the past and I have to ask myself, straight up, do I trust Him to bring me through this process?  Do I trust that if trying moments come, that He will show up in my time of need with His peace and grace?  He's done it many times before, so won't He do it again?

Oh how the enemy wants me to believe otherwise.  He wants me to be fearful, but fear is just a liar running out of breath.  Fear is of the enemy, not of the Lord.  I realize I need to take these thoughts captive.  I need to gather all these negative thoughts up in a giant sack and plant it firmly before the Lord...and leave it there.

Click HERE to listen to "Not Today" by Hillsong United...

We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Yes, I'm writing this post to myself, to remind myself of the Truth that I know and that I can cling to.  "Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world..."  (1 John 4:4)

I've just let you read along in my "self talk" in case you ever find yourself in a situation where you just don't want to hear, "Take it one day at a time." It sounds trite.  It sounds cliche, but it also sounds scriptural.  The best news is that God doesn't ask us to do it in our strength alone, He promises His enabling strength to see us through.  We are never, ever, left alone.

The Lord will fight for you(me), you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14)

I have a feeling that I will be reading and re-reading these words God has given me as the days and hours tick away.  May we both be reminded that He is the same almighty God, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Faith as small as a mustard seed can topple mountains of uncertainty.  

I've faced much, much higher mountains than this, so here we go.  Hand in hand.  One step at a day at a time.  Our God is able.  

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you for all the trials you have brought me through.  This may seem small in comparison, but the enemy is prowling about.  I claim the promise that at the precious name of "Jesus" the enemy must flee.  Thank you for the grace, peace, and strength that you give me in my hour of need.  Thank you for being the lamp that lights my feet, one step at a time.  Be with me as I go forward, holding onto your righteous right hand.  Comfort me with your whisper of, "Be still."  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Are you facing something that has you anxiously looking into the future?  Do you struggle with taking things "one step at a time"?  What might God be speaking to you, here, today?  Do you trust Him?  Will you share?

Be blessed....

ps.  If you have gotten something from this post, today, would you like to receive my weekly blog posts?  (That's all that I will send).  You can unsubscribe at any time.  To SUBSCRIBE, go to the "SUBSCRIBE" tab above.  Enter your contact information and then be sure to check your email INBOX for a CONFIRMATION LINK to finish your subscription.  Thanks :)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I Will Never Leave You

Hey Friend,

It was a sunny day outside, but my mood was far from sunny.  I sat, by myself, in a very official looking conference room in the office of the mediating attorney.  My soon to be ex-husband sat in another conference room somewhere removed.  

My attorney stepped out of the room to meet with my husband's attorney and the attorney who would be facilitating the mediation.  Mediation is "short" for after 25+ years of marriage, it all comes down to a giant balance sheet of who gets what and who owes what.  Bottom line.

As I sat there, alone, I wondered how did it come to this?  I never thought I'd find myself in this situation.  Never in a hundred years, yet here I sat solitary with my thoughts.  It wasn't long before my eyes welled up with tears.  I wished my dad, who had passed away less than a year before, could be with me.  I needed his composure, his wisdom, his strength.

My hand began to tremble as my fingers fumbled around in my purse.  I pulled out a starched and ironed handkerchief that was my dad's.  He always carried one of these in his pocket.  I learned to iron by ironing my dad's cotton handkerchiefs when I was a little girl. Holding it up to catch my tears, I suddenly felt his presence.  I knew he was with me, there in that room, and I knew I would get through what the next few hours would dictate.  

I look back on that memory and my dad's presence comes readily to mind.

What a comfort to know that I wasn't alone in my hour of need.

If my earthly father, who had passed away, gave me that amount of comfort, how much more so could my Heavenly Father give me strength, peace, grace, and comfort in my hour of need?

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

That memory of my dad has pointed an arrow directly to the love of my Abba, Daddy.  I admit not always having an intimate relationship with God the Father.  I related more to Jesus, but as the years have ticked off, I find myself drawn to a God whose heart softened time and time again to His people, Israel.  No sooner would they swear allegiance to upholding their end of the Covenant, then they were off worshiping idols and defying God with their disobedience.  

Even with such blatant disobedience, God remained faithful to His

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)

Despite what I may have thought, God never becomes disappointed with us.  It's simply not in His character.  Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.  Nothing can ever separate us from His love.  

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities,  neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, 3neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.… (Romans 8:38-39)

As I think upon and remember my dad today, I find I miss him even more as the years have gone by.  His love language to me may not have been in the words so dearly wanted, but He spoke to me through his reliability, his providing, his quiet strength and wisdom.  I've learned to appreciate these facets of my dad's love.  

Knowing that I could count on my dad, has helped me to know, without a doubt, that I can count on my Heavenly Father.  His love is far beyond any human limitations we place on it.  God's very definition is "Love" and He cannot deny himself.  

Praise for His goodness that is never-failing!  His lovingkindness endures forever!

Thanks, God, for giving me my dad and for the way that His life pointed an arrow directly toward you.  To my earthly and heavenly Fathers...thank you that you never leave nor forsake me.  In this I take confidence and strength.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you, today especially, for my earthly father and how his love reflected your love.  But, for all those whose earthly fathers may have let them down, help them to know that Your love is always constant and never forsaking.  Thank you that you are a Father who can be trusted always.  I praise you for your lovingkindness and your goodness.  You ARE the very definition of love.  Work that truth deep into our hearts.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  Do thoughts of your earthly father point to God or make you wary of God?  What does the Bible say about the character of God?  Do you trust that it is true for you?  If not, would you take this moment to invite God into the hurting places in your heart?  Feel free to share your thoughts...

Be blessed...

ps. If you've enjoyed what you've read here today, you can subscribe to my blog and you will only receive weekly blog posts.  Click on the "SUBSCRIBE" tab above and fill in your information.  Be sure to look for an email in your inbox.  Click on the LINK to CONFIRM your subscription.  (If you don't see the email, check your spam filter).  Thanks :)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Hazards of "Future-Tripping"

Hey Friend,

You would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but sadly history keeps repeating itself.  Before each of my numerous surgeries, the pre-op anxiety starts months before and then builds to a huge crescendo as the hour draws near.  

What if I don't recuperate well from this surgery?  What if it doesn't work?  How bad is the pain going to be this time?  Will I have the same obstacles as before?
What if, what if, what if?

A writer friend of mine coined the term "future-tripping", and I have come to realize I'm quite adept at it.  I look ahead to a point in the future and it's like I'm holding a magnifying glass over the situation. With the sun blazing through the glass, it isn't long before I've created an inferno.  

Anxiety takes hold and then, like someone who is drowning, I flail about grasping at anything that resembles grace, but it's nowhere to be found.  I want peace in my future imaginings and it, too, is elusive.  Why?  Doesn't God promise us His grace in our time of need?

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)

The greatest hazard of "future-tripping" is that grace doesn't show up in our futuristic imaginings, or in our past lamenting, it can only be found in our exact time of need.

Each time we experience God's grace in the moment, it gives us confidence that He will pour out His grace the next time we need it.

In our angst, grace guides our mind back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ where Truth is found that will counteract the lies that anxiety digs up.

Grace has shown up when I was scooching onto the operating table, squinting at the bright lights glaring down on me, and readying myself to go under anesthesia.  That's when grace gave me overwhelming, unexplainable comfort.  It was a reassurance that I was in God's hands and a confidence in His goodness.  For the first time, I could breathe easily.

So why do we worry about the future?  Is it because we think that in doing so, we can somehow control the outcome?  

Control is born of fear, not love.

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23“For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26“If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. (Luke 12:22-27)

My anxious worrying does not add a single hour to my life.  I am learning, albeit the hard way, to just do the next thing, and leave the future to God.  

His grace will take care of me in the future.  My job is to trust Him in this moment, on this day.

My form of trying to take control of an undefined future is to "awfulize".  I imagine the worst case scenario and then test my emotions to see if I can handle it.  This approach does no earthly good because I usually end up turning up the heat of the anticipatory anxiety.  

Another hazard of "future-tripping" is that it almost always projects weakness.  Maybe I'm just a "glass-half-empty" kind of gal.  OCD anxiety doesn't help.  More often I project myself as cowering vs. conquering.  God has an answer for this as well:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But, he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

It's okay to be weak, in this moment, at some point in the future, anytime, because THAT is precisely when God's grace will show up so that others will see how He lifts us out of the slimy pit and places our feet on solid ground.  They will see, be in awe, and place their trust in Him.

God is most glorified in our weakness, therefore, it's okay to be weak. 

Paul admonishes us to boast in our weakness.

The fact that this anxiety-ridden girl has come through six major surgeries in six years, is a testimony that God's grace is real.  I have experienced it - not in my "awfulizing" and "future-tripping," but in the exact moment I needed His peace and comfort. I found it in surrender. If He can do this for me, He can do it for you too, but it takes practice and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to stay in the present. 

No more "future-tripping"; let's live in this grace-filled moment.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for the gift of your grace.  You are faithful to show up in my hour of need and not a moment beforehand.  I praise you for the unexplainable peace and comfort your grace delivers.  Help me not to look, anxiously, to the future.  Keep my eyes focused on You in this moment.  Enable me to embrace my weakness and even my fear, knowing that your perfect love casts out fear and in my weakness You are strong.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you find yourself "future-tripping"?  What happens when you do that?  How do you stay in the moment with your eyes fixed on Jesus?  What are the benefits?  Will you share your experience(s)?

Be blessed....

ps.  If you like what you've read, here today, might you consider subscribing to my weekly blog?  Your contact information is never shared.  Just go to the "SUBSCRIBE" tab and enter your contact information.  Then, be sure to look for an email with a link to click to confirm your subscription.  Sometimes this gets lost in spam filters.  Thank you in advance :)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Add A Little Levity

Hey Friend,

Perhaps you read my post from last week, "Coming Alive Again".  In it, I describe a wonderful "mountain top" experience that had me tapping into my God-given bents that made my soul soar.  I really felt exhilarated after that trip.

I believe that God gives us those experiences, because eventually, we will find ourselves back in the valleys of life.  I just hadn't expected the plunge to be so fast and so far.

Memorial Day Morning - my husband and I discussed that we noticed more "cupping" than usual in our hardwood floors in one area of our kitchen.  A trip to the crawl space of our home revealed a dark rain forest steaming below.  A water pipe was leaking and had been spraying hot water directly upward, like a whale spout, for who knows how long.  In addition to the crawl space, our hardwood floors and sub-flooring in the kitchen were soaked.

Thus began a dizzying week of workmen coming in and out of the revolving door on our home.  Two huge dryers and six industrial fans roared continuously on the first floor with a plethora of the same in the crawl space.  It was like living on the tarmac at the airport.

It's no surprise that about midway through the week, my composure gave way to a pity party complete with ugly crying.  "Really, God?" I queried, "Do I really need this?" I asked angrily. 

 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. (Proverbs 17:22)

This is what God gave me.  Did He really want me to be cheerful in the midst of this mess?  I was definitely experiencing the second half of the verse - my broken spirit had totally sapped my strength.

Okay God, I'll try it Your way.  I thought, how can I get a good laugh out of this?

I have always had a funny bone that was easily tickled.  I remember, as a girl, I would break into fits of uncontrollable laughter.  I would literally roll on the floor, clutching my stomach, howling with laughter.  Afterward, I remember just how GOOD it felt! 

God gave us emotions for a reason - to be used.  Just as my tears were a cleansing catharsis of my frustration, perhaps laughter could be good medicine as well??

This is what I came up with...  I snapped a few selfies as I stood in front of one, of six, industrial fans.  

Then I looked at the pictures and that childlike reflex of wanting to roll on the floor with laughter returned.  I got so tickled with it all that my husband feared I had gone off the deep end.  I then started striking poses, like the super models in front of those fans, only imagine, "Vogue" gone horribly wrong!! LOL. 

  • “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” - Charlie Chaplin
Could it be that if we choose to infuse a little levity into a situation, it can actually be good medicine and have a healing effect?

Yes, I think so. 

I am learning that life doesn't always have to be an "either/or" - either I'm miserable or I'm joyful.  Instead, it can be a "both/and" - I can be both downhearted and silly at the same time.  

It is possible for conflicting feelings to coexist in us.  

Giving way to the ever-offered grace of God can help us tap into a joyful strength when life is at its most difficult.  

We still have a long way to go on this project, but I know I need to keep adding a little levity along the way.  God gave me laughter, as a gift, and it's up to me to use it.  Selfies anyone?

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise You that you care about every detail of my life and you care deeply about my feelings.  Thank You for the emotions you've given me to be able to express them, often with healing benefits.  Help me to not live my life always in the "either/or," but enable me to allow room for the "both/and."  Even in my trials and struggles, let Your praise always be on my lips.  A cheerful heart is, indeed, good medicine.  Let me choose to add a little levity to life when it hands me lemons.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Are there two opposing emotions trying to coexist in your life?  How can you help the situation by adding a little levity?  Have you ever been joyful in the midst of did you do that?  Will you share?

ps. If you like what you've read here today, why don't you subscribe?  Just go to the "SUBSCRIBE" tab above and enter your contact information.  BE SURE TO LOOK FOR AN EMAIL in your "inbox" (click the link given) to confirm your subscription (sometimes it gets lost in spam).  I never share any contact information - you're family :)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Coming Alive Again

Hey Friend,

After living for many years in what I now realize was a very dysfunctional system, I am coming to truly appreciate "mutually life-giving" relationships.  No one totally lives a Norman Rockwell existence, but if we feel that we've lost ourselves somewhere along the way, it's a red flag signaling that things need to change.  I do believe, however, that dysfunction doesn't just magically pop up in one generation.  It is usually a system that has been passed down through the generations.

My husband, of five years, and I just returned from a wonderful three day weekend in the mountains.  In a short time we took in everything from the grand Biltmore Estate and Gardens to the Asheville River Arts District. 


I've always loved photography and the Arts.  It was such fun capturing the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the diversity of the numerous gardens with my camera.  My husband patiently strolled with me as I popped in and out of the artists' studios that held beauty displayed in the mediums of glass, pottery, oil paints, water colors, jewelry, sculpture, and even old inner tubes. 

I told a good friend (after I returned home) that I felt like a part of me, that had shriveled and died, was beginning to come alive again.

I am realizing that a crucial part of self care and soul care is indulging the God-given bents inside of us that make our souls soar.

I studied French in high school and college, but I have learned that if you don't "use" it, you will quickly "lose" it.  That goes for how we nurture and take care of ourselves.  If we have a gift for music, art, writing, running, swimming, gardening, woodworking, dancing, problem solving, (fill in the blank), if we don't use it, we will lose it too.  

God gave us each unique ways to explore and relate to His Creation.  He delights in us using these gifts in order to step out of the daily grind and let our bodies and minds simply breathe.  By giving my soul the space it needs, I find that I am better at re-framing how I look at the daily "to-do" list.

After photographing and breathing in the fragrance of heirloom roses, I am better equipped to let the weekly laundry be an offering vs. an obligation.

Even if we have neglected the soul care we need (for whatever reason), take heart, there is no such thing as "too late."

"I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten." (Joel 2:25)

I am so thankful that God is in the business of restoring and redeeming.  He is an expert in bringing what was dead back to life.  He can do that in us if we will let him.

Having been given this gift by God and my loving husband, makes me want to repay it.  When was the last time you encouraged your spouse or special people in your life to "get in touch with their inner child" or to give their soul some nourishment?  

Soul care is not only a gift we give ourselves or receive from others, it's a gift to be passed on.

Though going to an ACC Baseball Tournament may not be tops on my list of things to do, I know that my sports-loving husband gets a break from work stress and feeds his inner child when he takes in the distinctive "crack" of bat meeting ball, and the unique aroma of hot dogs mixed with popcorn that can only be found at a ballpark.  When was the last time you asked yourself, "What makes my spouse come alive?"  

Maybe it's time to take inventory:
1.  What makes my soul come alive?
2.  What makes my spouse's soul come alive?
3.  What has hindered this from happening?
4.  What steps can I take to make this happen?
5.  Plan it and Do it!!
* These don't have to be vacations, it could be just going for a hike in a nearby park or relaxing with a good book and glass of wine. Let your soul breathe.*

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You that You long to usher our spirits into the unhurried rhythms of grace. Thank you for the unique way in which You created me to be in relationship with You and to enjoy Your creation.  Help me to realize the parts of my soul that need nourishment and, through Your grace, help me to come alive again.  You are the ultimate Redeemer and Restorer.  Let me put my trust in You.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Is there a part of you that has died or gotten lost along the way?  What makes YOU come alive?  What steps can you take to give your soul the care and nourishment it needs?  Will you share?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

May is Mental Health Month - Popular Post Revisited

Hey Friend,

May is National "Mental Health Awareness Month", and if you've read my blog for long, you know this is a subject near and dear to my heart.  I featured this post - "Can Christians Truly Have Mental Illness" quite awhile ago and it has been one of the most widely read of my posts, and I have had so many hurting people contact me who were so relieved to know that they weren't alone.

I invite you to read along if you suffer (or think you suffer) from anxiety, depression, or a whole host of illnesses that fall under the "Mental Illness" umbrella or know someone who does.  Let's talk openly and continue to pull away the veil of shame and erase the stigma associated with these debilitating illnesses.  Without further ado, I revisit my post:

This is a rather lengthy and very personal post, but several things have happened this past week that have convinced me that I need to speak up on this subject.  Here is one thing that was posted on Facebook and Instagram:

It was followed by some joking remarks and quite a few laughing emojis.  Now if someone cracked jokes about cancer, or heart disease, or MS, etc., people would be disgusted, yet mental illness is fair game and the stigma is far from being erased.  After all, "It's all in your head," right?  Obviously they don't know that OCD is considered one of the most insidious of the anxiety disorders.  

A young man I know, has an agonizing obsession that loops around, and around, and around endlessly in his brain.  It says, "You're going to hell."  Compulsively, he is led to pray and read scripture continuously (for hours on end) as a way of warding this off from happening. The more he tries, the more anxious he becomes. Meanwhile, he knows somewhere, consciously, that this is irrational, but the obsessions present themselves as being VERY real and threatening, and he is helpless to make them stop.  That to me is hell....not a joke. 

I hope you'll read my personal story and perhaps glean some information that previously you were unaware of.....maybe even read up on mental illness.  Chances are someone you know has such an illness!

I can vividly remember my dad asking me, "Are you still dwelling on that?" and then saying, "For Pete's sake give it a rest already." I would get stuck on thoughts that would keep looping around in my mind without ceasing. 

When I would start a new job, even a simple job like working in a fast food place, I would get so anxious that I would literally get sick.  I was sure I was going to screw up.  

I intrinsically knew I looked at the world differently.  I didn't have as carefree an attitude that others seemed to have.  I was plagued with self-doubt and was certain that anyone else, if placed in my shoes, would do a better job at managing life than I did.

Fast forward to my first child being born.  I couldn't wait for his/her arrival.  I loved this baby and was anticipating its coming...until she came, and a dark cloud blew in and settled over me.  Another friend, who gave birth around the same time I did, seemed to be enjoying motherhood.  I was a nervous wreck. 

I had terrible thoughts like I wanted to give the baby back because I didn't like how I was feeling.  I wasn't the glowing happy mom that doted on this precious child the way others did.  Even writing this now, I feel horrid, ashamed, and embarrassed.  It's hard to think about, let alone write about it. 
I couldn't sleep even when my daughter slept.  I obsessively wrote down and tracked everything she did and when.  I couldn't go to bed at night without putting my hand on her chest and feeling her chest rise and fall.  I'd kiss her and exit the room, only to return seconds later to see if she was still breathing.  This process of checking her breathing, going back and forth, could last for hours. I feared she might die if I left her alone and didn't keep checking. 

I sank deeper into a sadness and despair at what my life had become and felt guilt and shame for not being more grateful for this gift that God had given me.  I would walk around the neighborhood in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep and one time I remember just running.  I was running and crying, and I didn't know where I was running to, but I just wanted to run away.  I remember driving by myself and thinking I just wanted to turn and head into oncoming traffic so that someone would hit me and put me out of my misery.  What on earth was wrong with me?

I finally confided in my family doctor who said I was experiencing post-partum depression and as long as I didn't feel like I'd hurt the baby (which I didn't) that I should just give it time and it would pass.  It was the "baby blues" and it was not unusual and given time I'd feel like myself again.

The trouble was that I didn't feel like myself again.  I felt somewhat better, but I knew that I just didn't feel like I should. I loved and adored my daughter, but something bigger, greater, was wrong.  

It wasn't until around my daughter's third birthday and potty training just about pushed me over the edge, that I was thankfully and mercifully diagnosed as having OCD (an anxiety disorder) and depression (a chemical imbalance in the brain).  

I started taking medicine (albeit with great hesitation) that worked on both the OCD anxiety and the depression.  It took a while, but I began to feel like I could cope.  I wasn't as anxious about things - especially taking care of my daughter.  I didn't have that feeling like if someone said to me, "Could you pour me a bowl of cereal?"  It sounded like they were saying "Go climb Mt. Everest.”  I began to feel joy return. 

I didn't like taking the medicine, however, because that meant I had to admit I had a mental illness.  Well-meaning people told me that if I just read more scripture, or prayed harder, or had more faith then I wouldn't feel this way, nor would I need to take medicine.  I was a Christian, after all, and medicine was a crutch.  

I felt flawed, less than, like my faith wasn't enough.  Surely, if I was just a better Christian I wouldn't be in this state.

These are the thoughts I wrestled with.  I remember going to a new dentist and having to check off medical history.  I would get to the part where it would list anxiety, depression, or mental illness and I’d have to check the little box.

Fast forward many years and I now realize that Mental Illness is, just that, an illness!  It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or by extreme circumstances (like what many of our returning vets experience).  Sometimes it's a combination of chemistry and experience. It's also genetic.  Many people self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, etc. 

The truth is, it's not my fault.  It's not your fault.  You have an illness.

If someone had diabetes, you wouldn't tell them they didn't need insulin, but just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, think happy thoughts, mind over matter and they'd be fine.  Perhaps reading more scripture would alleviate the diabetic symptoms?  Sounds silly, right? But this is how we treat the mentally ill.

I am a cancer survivor.  Cancer, though terribly scary, was something I could wear like a badge of honor that I battled and survived.  No one talks about battling/surviving mental illness in these terms.  When I hear about someone committing suicide and others saying things like, "How could he or she be so selfish to do something like that?" 

All I can say is that unless you've lived the pain and suffering of depression or anxiety or intense fear or all other symptoms of mental illness like mania, or rages wherein you feel like a monster, or multiple personalities, you have absolutely no idea the pain and suffering that a person endures.  It is so bad, and if left untreated, I can understand that a person could get to a point that they are in so much pain, that ending one's life is the only way to make this horrid, unbearable pain stop.

Mental illness is no respecter of persons.  

Most people would not peg me as the poster child for mental illness.  I was the captain of my cheer leading squad.  I graduated 8th in my class of nearly 800 students in high school.  I excelled in college.  I held leadership positions and have worked in Christian ministry most of my adult like.  I love to write and have been published. 

Mentally ill?  No, those are the homeless people begging for money on street corners, right?

I am the face of mental illness.  I know what it's like to wear the gray glasses and have the dark cloud come in and settle over you.  I know pulling the covers over my head and not being able to get out of bed for days at a time.  I know pain so intense that all I can do is let the Holy Spirit groan, "Jesus" on my behalf.

I needed and still need medicine and counseling - hand in hand - to get me to, and keep me in, a healthy place. It's still not a cure.  I have my episodes with OCD and depression, but I am able to function and cope in this world. I can experience joy and can find hope in scripture.

I've learned that stress, and lack of sleep and exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to a greater likelihood of returning symptoms.  I know coping techniques like distracting and holding the lies I hear in my head (from the enemy) up to scripture and if they don't match up with scripture, then I need to take those thoughts captive to Christ and let Him cast them far from me.  I can call on my faith now, because I was able, thanks to medicine and prayer, to get to the field.

Christians, Mental Illness, & Scripture - A Football Analogy: It’s like you are on a football team. God is the Coach and the Bible is His playbook. In order to benefit from the Coach you first need to be able to get to the field so that you can hear the Coach’s instructions from the playbook, practice on the field, and get the encouragement and discipline He offers. The only problem is... you can’t even get to the field. You are stuck miles away in a pit so large and so deep that you can’t possibly climb out of it by yourself. You need medicine or counseling or both to even be able to get out of the pit, to get to the field, to sit at the feet of the Coach so that He can coach you from His playbook. You, first, need to be able to get to the field.

Mental illness is the thorn in my side (like what Paul experienced).  The Lord has not removed it, but I have learned that in it - as in all trials - His grace is sufficient.  He has never left nor forsaken me and He has been faithful to walk with me THROUGH the valleys and has not left me stuck there indefinitely.  

I believe that I have a compassion for others that I would NEVER have had it not been for what I have dealt with and continue to deal with.  I would NEVER have the close relationship that I do with Jesus had I not had to call out to Him from the utter depths of despair and to know He was still holding onto me even when I couldn't hold on to Him.  

So why do I say all this?  Two reasons.  One is to let the world know that God is faithful.  He knows the pain of the mentally ill and is close to the brokenhearted that deal with this illness.

Second, I would like to erase the stigma of mental illness.  One day, perhaps NFL teams will wear bright lime green cleats, gloves, and mouth guards to bring awareness to the one in four people who suffer from mental illness…including Christians. 

One day we might talk with ease about bipolar, panic attacks, anorexia, OCD, depression, schizophrenia, etc.
I strongly encourage you that if you have felt or experienced any of the symptoms I've mentioned, that you PLEASE seek medical advice and counseling.  There IS help and there IS hope!!  We just need to talk more about it.  Take it from one who's been there.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. (Psalm 40:1-3) 
Thank you for reading.... maybe you know someone who needs to read blessed....


If you want to receive my weekly blog posts, you can subscribe by going to the "SUBSCRIBE" tab above.  Fill out your email info and then BE SURE TO CLICK THE LINK IN A VERIFICATION EMAIL you will receive (check your spam filter if you don't receive it). Thanks for reading!!  I don't share reader contact information!

CONGRATS' AND THANKS TO THOSE WHO SUBSCRIBED AND COMMENTED ON LAST WEEK'S POST:  Winners of the "A Moment to Breathe" devotional book are:  Renee G. and Nancy R. - Woohoo!  Thanks ALL for joining in the Mother's Day fun!!