Mark 34-37 “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
In my neck of the woods there is an event called Ashes to Beauty Women’s Encounter. It has many powerful moments in a weekend but there is one moment that always leaves an impression in my heart . That moment is when a woman takes a small purple papers she has written on confessing areas of struggle or hurt and walks it to the front of the auditorium where there is room for personal reflection and prayer. There is a large wooden cross with nails right in the center of that area. It is there that she takes that paper and nails it to the cross.
It’s powerful to put to death the areas of our lives that have kept us away from the arms of Jesus. The verses in Mark speak of us not only nailing our hurts, addictions, unforgiveness, etc to the cross. It speaks of us nailing our entire life to the cross. Go all out! 💯. When we “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus” something powerful happens we lose our lives but gain His. It is only when our self will is lost, crucified, that we become fully alive with Jesus life living in us. People may say “I want to live my best life” or “ be the best version of me”. That “best life”, “best version of you” is a life that has been nailed in submission to the cross. And now is resurrected with Jesus life flowing through it! Jesus living in me is the best life!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” 2 Timothy 4:7
When you’re a writer, you write. I’ve been at this for a while. It’s probably the best way to sort out what’s going on on the inside of me. The other day I was digging through one of my MANY 1/2 finished journals and stumbled upon this entry.
The above journal entry must have been right before I started a new school year. I was calculating the cost that day, and I’m pretty sure I must have been overwhelmed. My baby would have been almost 3 1/2, youngest daughter – 7, older daughter -9, and oldest-13. As I have told many, I have no business teaching math, I was a little off on my calculation for graduation of Andy- the baby, it is this year, in fact, it’s less than a week away.
I did it! It’s almost a done deal. The verse in 2 Timothy 4 has been running through my mind. Paul was finishing up his race on earth., and I’m not planning on going anywhere soon i.e. dying… but as far as the homeschooling season of my life, all 22 years of it, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” It’s really been hard for me to believe it is true. Although, this past year, has had relatively little homeschooling for me, since Andy took some classes at a small private school for dual credit, it signals the end of the homeschooling season for me.
Years ago, when all this started up, someone asked me how long I was planning on homeschooling my kids. I told them that I had no idea. It would be as long as God gave me the ability to do it, and I am glad that He did give me the grace for 22 years. I knew in my heart that God had called me to homeschool my kids, but I have lived with self-doubt of my abilities to teach my kids the entire time. I have had a nagging voice telling me how I was “Screwing them up” whispering in my ear frequently. I have woken up many mornings thinking about how I needed to figure out how to get the school bus to pick up my kids. But in the end after all my self-doubt, fears, and thoughts of quitting, I would not change the past 22 years for anything in the world. In fact, being at home with my kids since July 1995 when my first born came home from the hospital has been the joy of my life and I am thankful that God gave me the opportunity to do just that. I’ve often told my kids the reason I wanted to stay home and then homeschool was that I wanted to see all their firsts: Their first steps, their first words, their first word’s read, their first field trip, their first dance, and oh yes, their first time driving on a road with a permit… so many firsts. All this culminating with being able to stand on a stage in front of friends and family and hand their diploma to them personally as their teacher K-12.
I want to attest to you, that completing the past 22 years is not something that I did in my own strength. I finished the above journal entry on the next page with these two sentences, “Who else have I got besides you God? If I don’t trust, what can I do?” If you only knew me, you would understand how much I have needed Him the past 22 years. In fact, looking at the future, I still see how much I need Him for the next 49 of whatever He has for me to be about. It’s a little disconcerting to find yourself done with the one thing you have focused so much attention on for so long. I’ve found myself tearing up more than once the past couple of weeks contemplating it all. I’ve got things to be about, but honestly, I feel a little lost. Who I have been for the past 22 years is a “homeschool mom”. Now I’m not 100 % sure who I am supposed to be. I’ve got some ideas, but just like it was 22 years ago, when I think of what that means for me to be about it, I find myself shaking in my boots again, thinking about how unqualified I am, self doubt, and the old familiar “you will definitely screw that up…” So I guess I’m on the right track. lol. Because once again I find myself needing to write in a journal for 5/15/2022. “Who else have I got besides you God? If I don’t trust, what can I do?”
I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.
One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.
This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.
There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.
I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.
Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” Daniel 4:34 NIV
“God, I hate my mind!” – my prayer after another day drowning in anxiety. 8/31/2021
Emotions and feeling can take us on the wildest roller coaster rides of our minds. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond a little extra stress. Having lived with an anxiety disorder for years, I have felt like the crazy inside would never end. But I’ve had what I would call my “Nebuchadnezzar experience”. After raising my eyes toward heaven, my sanity has been restored.
I have known the torment of hideous nightmares, sleepless nights with my mind running 100 mph and no sign of stopping. I have known the fear of going to sleep because of not being to control what was going on around me while my eyes were closed and I slept. I’ve known what it is like to not be able to stay present in a situation. The whole Fight, Flight, Flee, or Freeze. I would freeze under extreme stress of fear. It was fairly unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Zoning out, feeling like you’re sinking into a tunnel inside your head, everything around you becomes just noise. Then there’s the tightness of your throat and chest that would go on for days. Before the meds- crying and not really sure why, after the meds- not crying a drop, numb. Going over and over and over again inside your head trying to make sense of the memories you would like to shut out, but can’t. I would have them hit when I was about to fall asleep and then feeling the tension of my shoulders as they tighten and I would find myself holding my breath like I was waiting for a shot to hit me.
All this going on while I have been a Christian- loved Jesus, a wife, homeschool mom, served on boards for different groups, lead ministries at my church, and tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t hit as much or I would hopefully forget. The problem is it would calm down on occasion, but all it took was a trigger and I would be back into the torment of my mind.
After 3 years of knowing me, my best friend suggested that I would go and see a counselor. So I did. I also began taking Prozac, which then had Hydroxizine added to it, then Buspar as the MG of Prozac grew too. I would make sure I took the pills as soon as I got out of bed and most days I couldn’t wait for my next dose in the evening. But after awhile, even the medicines weren’t working.
Four years of counseling… CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming were some of the things I tried. There were things that definitely helped in some areas, but nothing stopped the anxiety. In fact, it seemed to get worse.
I tried doing everything the counselors I went to recommended. I began reading self-help book after self-help book trying to figure out how to get the feelings to stop. I tried the suggestion of “making room” for your anxiety. Imagining it being able to grow and not be resisted so that if I didn’t struggle it might stop. Then I tried Meditation. I downloaded the “HeadSpace” app. Which was started by a Buddhist Monk. I tried to blend their beliefs in with the Bible. Thinking that maybe I could make them fit and then justify my willingness to embrace things that went against what the Bible said. I wanted to believe that my problems had absolutely nothing to do with a spiritual world. That anxiety was my cross in life to bear/ thorn in my flesh/ in my DNA. That I might have the power within myself to fix myself If I tried to faithfully work through all the coping mechanisms that I was learning about that I had developed. I was starting to believe that the best I could do was to try to be my best me and live my out my truth, whatever that was and manage “my anxiety” (like it was my new lifelong pet). Then there was trying to let out pent up emotions as recommended to me, by getting alone in my car, finding the most angry/depressing music I could think of, usually Metalica or Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, then screaming as loudly as I could. Again, all this while attending church regularly, but not necessarily willingly (as time went on), also reading my Bible after trying to calm my mind by meditating. Every night ending with a tight throat and chest and not so restful sleep.
I tried everything I read and all that was recommended to me. Yet I was still drowning in anxiety and getting to the point that thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more frequently. I would find myself driving my Jeep and praying to God, begging Him to heal my mind and telling Him how much I hated my mind, then having my mind have this weird sensation and thinking, “I have to stay present! I see a red stop sign. White car, my steering wheel is black. I feel it’s rough yet smooth touch. My seat feels like fabric. I smell…”. “The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method” for grounding, all this while driving. My mind was tortured and there seemed to be no end on the horizon.
Finally, I had to come to the end of myself. I found myself sitting in a counseling session talking about the past and these words rolled off my tongue, “If there really are any demons…” In searching to figure out “my truth” (as is a common theme in today’s culture), I had started to doubt “God’s truth”. When the words came out, I immediately thought, “I am in trouble. Am I going to Believe Jesus, the Bible, what my whole life had been built around since childhood, or am I going to turn away? God HELP me I am in trouble, and I can’t get out of this.”
In January of 2021, I had started attending a Bible study in our area called W.O.W. (Women on Wednesdays). One of the sessions talked about how as Christians we choose to wander in the Wilderness, following after fleshly things and this will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Sins were specifically mentioned, among them was “Anxiety”. This offended me. My mind ran like a hamster on a wheel uncontrollably, how could they say that struggle was a sin, something I chose to live in? But for some reason, I knew I needed whatever they had, so I kept going until the Spring session was over. Then, during the summer, I felt like I needed to get to know these people who were saying this, so I would not struggle with anxiety about going to the Bible study so much. I texted one of the leaders and offered to just help- set up or tear down, nothing more. You would have thought that I had shaken a jar of yellow jackets and set them loose inside my chest. I couldn’t do it, not even help. So, I texted her back, and told her that I was rushing things, it would be better for me to just attend for a while. I was too anxious to help even just a little. She urged me to pray about that and not make any quick decisions. I told her, “I struggle with anxiety, but I will pray.” God helped me to say that I would serve as a door greeter. If you knew my history of serving in church, this should be a piece of cake. (I like people, most of them ha ha) But it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to tell women “Good morning” when they arrived. It was because, just walking in the building was hard for me. I would arrive in the morning, on time, and sit there for a few minutes in my Jeep, asking myself, “Why did you say you would do this? Now you have to come all the time… They don’t like you. You’re a bother…” the session of lies would go on and on, then I would think, “I have to go in.” and I would make myself get out of my Jeep and walk into the church. After a while of being there, I would somewhat calm down, but the struggle went on and on. I would occasionally mention the anxiety I suffered with to the leader I was kind of getting to know. She mentioned the Co-founder of the organization had struggled with Anxiety and that she might be good to talk to. She was the one who mentioned Anxiety being a part of the wilderness experience the semester I attended before, it intimidated me to talk to her about it, but I was desperate. So, I texted her and asked her if I could talk to her about anxiety. She made time and we talked. It was then that she told me I was going to have to fight. That I could be free. That I was believing lies. That I had lost my first love, my passion for knowing Jesus. Everything she said hit home. She gave me a paper and told me to take it home and write out what I want, what I want with my relationship with Jesus, my life to be, etc. I took it home that afternoon and this is what I wrote:
“This is what I want… to walk in freedom from anxiety, but more than that I want to be close to Jesus. I want to drop the Buspar- Pop my eyes to you Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things that the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run to Jesus and my response to be one who falls at His feet close to HIm. I want Peace. I want You to be my peace…”
This is the beginning of freedom. I’m not sure of the timing but shortly after I wrote that, I woke up one morning with the words, “Anxiety is not a part of my inheritance. I do not have walk in anxiety anymore.” running through my head. The whole day when anxiety would come to me, I would say, “NOPE, you are not my inheritance. My inheritance in is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness in Jesus.” One day would go by… Not too bad of a struggle, two days, three days, etc. Then I woke up one morning and thought. You don’t need the Buspar. Skip the morning dose. Did that for a week, felt good. Skip the evening dose. Did that for a week, felt good. I think I’ll drop them both. Quit the Buspar. Thank you, Jesus! Feeling less and less numb inside. Then, I started to believe that I can be free from the Prozac. I talked to my doctor and told her I was feeling better, and I wanted to go off it. She was all for it. Drop 10 mg. A much slower tapering off, 10 mg at a time, for weeks and weeks until I am finally Free! And feeling Soooo much better!!
Now when Anxiety comes to rattle my cage, I have a battle plan: I pray. I pop my eyes to Jesus. Speaking who God is and how He is worthy of praise. Worship music. Quoting Psalm 18. If it’s real strong, engage my praying friends. I’ve not lived in this kind of peace ever. God has set me free!
I have not needed the oftentimes-weekly counseling sessions I was going to for 6 months. Spending time in Bible Study and Prayer has been more than enough. Praying with my husband if I’m struggling and having friends pray have helped so much.
Do I battle? Yes, Satan knows where to hit me at, but God has shown me how to let Him hit back. It’s not by anything I do. It’s by me Looking to Jesus. Calling to Him for help. Thinking about How GOOD He is. Doing this over and over and over and then it Goes!
All the ME Centered living: my effort, my wants, my plans, my truth, etc. Only led me further and further away from peace and further and further into a pit. Repentance, and running to Jesus, hiding away in Him, relying totally on Him, trusting Him, surrendering to Him by submittance and obedience. It is the only thing that works because it is how He designed me to live. It is the only way out of the wilderness living to the abundance of Jesus’ Kingdom living.
The song “Too good to Not Believe” has a line in it that brings tears to my eyes on occasion. “Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection. I’ve seen mental health restored. Don’t you tell me He can’t do it… I believe You’re the Wonderworking God… The miracles I’ve seen. You’re too Good to not believe.”
God truly is too good to not believe! He can do anything. A little over a year ago, I was struggling to believe that there was any way to get free from the anxiety inside of me. Fear of needing to take more meds, try more self-help techniques and knowing what I had already done was not cutting it shouted its lies to me over and over. But Jesus heard my cries for help, and He came to my rescue! If you only knew the difference I feel, you would see, God is “Too Good to Not Believe”.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.(Jesus)” Philippians 4:11-13 MSG
Life seldom goes the way we have it planned. That is something I should get used to. I can’t count how many times when my kids were growing up that my husband and I would plan the perfect camping trip. Hours of packing, preparing, and then driving, only to find the first night is a night when one of the kids came down with the croup, or threw up all over our pop up camper. There was the first trip to the ocean, only to discover it was jelly fish mating season and several jelly fish stings to be dealt with in the hotel, or we also had the long planned trip to Disney World that was interrupted with a short lived bout of head lice. That was a real treat… I should not be surprised when circumstances are not the glorious picture I had weeks before the actual experience.
I guess I had it in my mind that since our kids are all adults, I would be immune to the disappointment of a planned getaway going south. But here I sit in the most perfect March weather literally yards from one of my favorite trout fishing parks with a sick husband. (The stomach bug had to be going around). Bummer… disappointment.
This disappointment is minor in the scheme of things. Lay around, eat junk food, watch Westerns on the cabin’s tv, and play the occasional game of solitaire. I’ve weathered far worse.
As I’ve sat here this evening on our front porch watching the cars go by our cabin, I thought about Paul saying “I have learned the secret of being content” in Philippians 4. Contentment is not easy to gain. It requires a focus on Jesus and a trust in His plan. Both of which are hard to come by if you’ve lived an anxious life. Self-focus and self preserving protection are what seems right in our world, but it is far from God’s greater plan of our total trust(dependence), total submission, and total obedience as He provides all we need for our life and directs us in His good plan for us.
There’s a lot of things in my world that are disappointing right now. There are the global things, the National things, the local, and the personal. Plus this minor fishing trip thing. There are a lot of things that beg for me to pay attention to them and live in discouragement, apprehension, and fear. Not to mention the temptation to walk in distrust, unforgiveness, etc. The list could go on and on. But God knew there would be times like this- the one we live in. He also knew there would be months like this, weeks like this and days like this one. Whether the situation is a minor disappointment or a large earth shaking one, He tells me how to be content. I am to hang as close to Jesus as I possibly can. Listen to His voice alone, and be faithful to what I know He has told me to be obedient in.
The old Hymn I sang as a girl in the small country church I grew up in says it best,”Trust and Obey. There is no other way to be Happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
His Joy conquers all disappointment. Gigantic ones or small ones like a sick hubby on a get away. My God is good! All the time!
When I was in college, I went on two short term mission trips with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to Juarez, Mexico and also Creel, Mexico near the Copper Canyon where the Tarahumara Indians live. It was life changing. I loved the culture and the people (still do). At that time in my life, I had plans of finishing school, I was majoring in Spanish, and then joining YWAM full time, working in Mexico or possibly Guatemala. Of course, I… had plans… God had other ones. Long story, but here I am a 51 year old, mother of 4, homeschool mom for 22 years, grandma, and housewife for almost 27 years. Definitely not a foreign country missionary.
One of the phrases that has stuck out with me through the years from the trips I made besides the Spanish name for YWAM, Juventude Con una Mision, is “Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer”- “To Know Him and to Make Him Known”. My first trip to Mexico was with a youth group from a church near my hometown. I was sponsored by some of the leaders of that youth group. It was for a week. It was awesome! My second mission trip signed up for a “Summer of Service” which was a 3-week trip. I boarded a plane to El Paso, by myself (20 years old) and went with a group that I knew no one. I ended up with a group of kids from another youth group. Some of the kids, were obviously not into missions, more into drama… So we spent the first few days on the El Paso side of the border trying to get our attitudes right. We were cleaning ministry buildings, and basically working on tasks that were sweaty and unenjoyable like moving boxes that had cock roaches under them that were big enough you could put a leash on and take for a walk. YUCK! Then when we finally got to cross the border, we ended up cleaning up a goat pen for one of our first major projects. It was good, but kind of a bummer for someone who had worked hard at raising money, and had visions of “getting a little taste of the glory” while in another country.
On my second trip, word got out that I was a cook at a nursing home, back in the states. So, I got put on the kitchen crew, another blow to my ego. Since I was cooking all the time as my job at home…Ha ha. When we went down further south into Mexico, I was one of the two cooks for the whole team. At the time, I was thinking, “this isn’t so glorious”. Cooking on wood stoves in a kitchen with a skirt on (almost caught it on fire), with a bunch of Mexican ladies that I could barely communicate with. For some reason I had not learned the word for “Spoon” in my Spanish lessons. You should have seen them laughing at me while I was telling them in Spanish “I need a thing that does this” making wild stirring motions. ha ha Looking back, it was perfect, and I would not change anything in those experiences for the world.
Then there was sleeping on a concrete floor of a church (we were helping to build) with only a sleeping bag. Experiencing Montezuma’s revenge (diarrhea) after eating vegetables that were washed with local water. Everyone on the team using the same outhouse while having the diarrhea as well (Words cannot describe the smell). “Showering” using a barrel and a scoop. All this, to “¡Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer!”. “Know Him and Make Him Known”.
I’ve mentioned before that I was given a bracelet at a Skillet concert recently. When I put it on, something on it deeply resonated within me. It says, “Make Me Like Jesus”. “Yes Lord, that is all I want, ‘Make me like Jesus'”. Here lately, when I look at it, a question comes up in my mind. “What would Jesus be like in this….?” The answers are challenging. Jesus would be patient. Jesus would forgive. Jesus would give himself away… etc. It’s having the same affect on me that the 20 year old Janet experienced 21 years ago in Mexico. Humbling to see how far away from Christlike I can be…
Life is not always what I expect it to be. Sometimes it can be somewhat “mundane”, lacking excitement, dull. But God is far from mundane. He is beyond all the expectations I have. That is why in the daily, mundane tasks of life, even sometimes the gross tasks…, my aim should always be simply “to know Him” and with what I learn of Him, “make Him known”. Had the mission team I was on back in the early 90’s not been there for the mundane.working on projects, helping the full time missionaries, we would have missed our chance to help an elderly missionary make it to the local hospital in the dead of night while having a health issue, a very dangerous drive through the mountains of Mexico. We also would have missed being able to pick up a young Mexican mother along the way who was in labor and rush her along to the hospital as well. Believe me, that was a hair raising, exciting story. Had I missed the mundane times in motherhood, I would have missed the excitement of getting to pray with each of my children to ask Jesus in their heart. I would have missed the deep conversations on faith that have shaped them and quite honestly myself. Had I missed the mundane tasks of going to the grocery store, paying bills, cleaning house, etc. I would have missed the excitement of having friends over for an evening of food, fellowship, worship in our living room, and prayer. All the seemingly mundane of the world, when set apart by the constant companionship of Jesus through prayer and worship, (while driving, folding clothes, doing dishes, etc.) suddenly becomes a Holy time. It prepares us for that opportunity to come where I am able to “make Him known”. Whether it be in conversation with a friend, giving to a stranger, or helping someone in need. That is what Jesus would be like. Make me like HIM!!
Although I have been present during the birth of all four of my kids (It would have been hard not to not be), I have never watched a baby be born in person. My husband did. He cut the cord for three of our four. (One needed immediate medical care.) Each one of the births was a moment like no other. For lack of a better word, I would call it magical. Those first few moments holding your newborn, listening to the first cry, pretty special.
Today is my birthday… for reasons not altogether known to me, it’s a day I don’t always eagerly anticipate. Not for the lack of celebration. My mom always made me my favorite cake, angel food with icing, when I was growing up. In recent years my husband and kids have made it a point to make the day special too: Surprise parties, dinners out at restaurants, etc. Each year I end up feeling loved and appreciated by them. It’s just getting there and getting through it that seems to be hard.
Years ago, my husband and I took our stab at song writing. I wrote quite a bit of poetry and he put a song or two to music on his guitar. I wrote a couple of songs as well that I came up with music for on the piano. This song is one of the songs I wrote. While sitting here this morning with my Bible and cup of coffee, I was praying about my birthday aversion, and I remembered this song. It’s been almost 15 years ago that I wrote it. I felt that still small voice say, “You know, I was there when you were born, and the way Rich felt for each one of your kids was born, I felt for you.”
Probably the reason I’ve not made too much hoopla over this song is the lyrics can be a bit uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve not always had an accurate perspective of God being a Good, good Father. Religion (not relationship with Jesus) has often left me and I’m sure others viewing Him as the God of lightning bolts for the ones who don’t uphold a very strict standard. But Jesus, Himself presented God as Abba (Papa) Father. Galatians 4:6-7 says, ” Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” The God that so many think is a God of punishment, lightning bolts, and tolerance of us, is actually a God of Tender love toward us. Tender love that watched with eager anticipation as we were born, but not only that, He intimately knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is the God that longingly desires for us to run to Him so He can show us just how great HIs lovingkindness towards us is. And even when we feel like our imperfections are glaring and disqualifying, He is known to be the Heavenly Father/ Daddy that Zephaniah 3:17 “Takes great delight in us” and “Rejoices over us with singing”.
So even when we feel like our birthday marks ANOTHER trip around the sun for us (ho hum). Our Heavenly Father sees it as a day special to Him, because He was there, and it was one of the beginnings of Him waiting for the time we would turn to Him and allow Him to show us just how much He loves and wants us to be in a close loving Father/ Daughter (son) relationship. He is just that Good!
Daddy, Abba Father (originally written March 25, 2007)
You were there when I was formed
There when I was born
You held me close when I breathed my first breath of life.
You have drawn me to your side.
In Your Safety I abide.
I am deeply loved and cherished I know.
You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight.
I am Yours I know you never let me go.
I am loved
I am your child.
You are always there for me.
I can safely rest in You, my God.
You are Daddy, Abba Father
The giver of my life.
I am deeply loved, and I love you.
You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight.
I am deeply loved and God, I love you.
The summer before my 8th grade year my mom talked me into going to church camp. She must have known it was exactly what I needed. Things weren’t easy for me my 7th grade year. There were the typical things: becoming a teenager, first year of junior high, trying to navigate all the changes of growing up. There were the hard things I went through too. The kind of stuff that sent me out for long bike rides on the regular each day after school. Blasting rock music into my ears as loud as I could to try to shut off my brain and deaden the feelings inside. I wanted to wear black all the time leaning toward going “Goth” when I didn’t even know Goth was a thing. Anyway, Mom convinced me to go to camp, though I protested much.
Camp Sharon held its evening worship services in what they called a tabernacle. It was a large open sided building with sawdust floors and rustic wooden pews for seats. I remember sitting through the first night of service feeling like God wanted me to come forward and pray during the altar call/ prayer time, but I was determined I would not go. The second night I sat there determined not to yield again, until they said service was over. Then I could take it no more. I went up to the front knelt in the saw dust and cried so hard I could not talk. The only thing I can remember thinking is, “God, IF you want me, you can have me.”
“IF”, I don’t know if you have ever approached God with the feeling of “If you want me” before, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have. I believe one of satan’s biggest lies he spews to try to get us to not turn to God in our time of need is the lie of, “God does not want you.” “You’ve fallen too far. You’re not good enough. God tolerates your existence. God doesn’t see you or care about you. etc. ” If satan can get you thinking about God in “if you want me…” terms, he has succeeded in propagating one of his biggest lies. Thankfully, God has His way of tearing down that lie and breaking through.
As I sit here this morning with my heated throw blanket, cup of coffee, and laptop on my lap, I am watching it snow. We’re getting quite a lot of it for my neck of the woods. It is beautiful. A few days ago, when the forecast started talking snow, I started thinking about snowflakes. When my kids were little, we would take a black piece of construction paper out on a snowy day and catch snowflakes so we could see the individual detail of each one. Each one was unique. I remember us talking about the God of details. Then it hit me, this current snowstorm has millions, maybe billions of flakes, much more than I can count. And God has given each tiny flake an individual identity. He knows their shape. He knows their size. He knows the moment they will form and the moment they will melt. God cares that much about detail, and all this fuss over a tiny snowflake. Yet He never took the time to send His one and only Son, Jesus to earth so the snowflake could experience Him and His goodness. Not so with us, You and I are exactly the reason Jesus came. How much more then does this God of a billion snowflakes, actually care about me. To say He wants me is an understatement. The God of that much detail, took the time to zero in on a 13 year old Missouri girl out of the billions of people on this planet, to draw me to a place that I could say, “If You want me, You can have me.” It was there at that point that the layers of lies began to peel off. Some of them still slowly being removed some 38 years later. The God of a billion snowflakes wanted the heart of this one Missouri Girl. That is good news! He not only wanted me, but He wanted to have me, to hold me, and to show me what a Good, Good Heavenly Father He is to me. You and I can both be assured if the God who takes the time to design a billion snowflakes can step into my, one in the billions of people, world, He can take the time to step into yours. He’s just that Big and yet He comes to us individually in just that small of a way! He not only Loves us, He wants us! He is good!
I have some of the happiest of memories: the look on my groom’s face when I walked in the sanctuary of the church and slowly walked towards him down the aisle at our wedding, he had the biggest smile; The first time I saw my first born as the doctor held him up over this sheet that covered the area where the c section was being performed, he was one mad little guy; the curls on my first daughter’s hair as a 3 year old and her sucking her thumb; my second daughter watching veggie tales in her bouncy saucer sucking on her passy when she was around 9 months; and my youngest son, at the age of almost two telling me verbally he wanted to nurse on “the other side” … time to wean that kid. lol I could go on and on with the good memories especially now that I have the good memory pump primed. But I, like many of you have also struggled with some very hard memories, traumatic ones. Things that when remembered, cause my mind to freeze up for a moment and feelings of fear to flood me. Those memories are hard to shut off once they get to rolling.
I was thinking about the nature of traumatic memories this morning. Having went to counseling for over 3 years, there have been tools that were given to me to deal with the reoccurring memories that try to play in my mind: the 5,4,3,2,1 method, distraction by doing something physical like exercise, etc. They have been helpful, but lately I have been on a quest for “Shalom” in my mind. Peace but a little more than just our English word for peace. It encompasses well-being, tranquility, prosperity, security, wholeness. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” That perfect peace refers to “shalom” a wholeness in my mind. This is promised to the one whose thoughts are “fixed on you!”. During my time in counseling there was established a “safe place” in my thought life that I could go if something came up that was unpleasant to think of. So bad thought comes, think about safe place. When I first thought about it, honestly, I thought, that seems pretty dumb… But with help I established that place, “in my mind” and it did “help” a lot. But I don’t just want “help”, I want “whole”, and the Bible has a concept very similar to this that promises to bring the “wholeness” I am looking for it is “fixing my mind on Jesus”.
Years ago, I watched “The Passion” Not an easy movie to watch… The accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and the beating he received just before it was horrendous. It occurred to me this morning just how traumatic of an event this would have been for his disciples to witness. It really is no wonder they denied, they ran, they hid, etc. Watching the torment of someone you love would be horrible. Watching the final breath… more than a person can take, traumatic. But God did not leave them there to deal with the repeated flashbacks of evil unleashed on the one they loved. God gave them a resurrection. Thank God that in Jesus there is always a resurrection! There is life beyond the hardships we suffer, the trauma we endure. He takes what was dead in us and makes it alive in Him. As the verse says He “makes all things new”. If there is a “Cross” and a “grave” in our life, there is always a “resurrection”. That should be the “safe place” in our minds, the place we go when the thoughts of a painful past try to replay over and over in high definition. That traumatic thought deserves its place nailed on the cross, but don’t stop there it deserves its NEW resurrected thought that always comes after the cross in God’s kingdom. “I am not there, I am FREE!”
The movie “The Passion” also has its short scene of Jesus in the resurrection. I am glad that Mel Gibson did not stop with just the death. In that scene, the grave clothes are empty and Jesus with His nail scared hands, stands, moving forward into His resurrected, victorious life. That will be my new “Safe place” thought. There is nothing safer than a life closely lived to the power and presence of the resurrected Lord. Traumatic thoughts of a crucified past… resurrected reality of our all-powerful risen Lord! Victory! There is no dead thought that can overpower the thoughts centered in His life! There is no thought wrapped in grave clothes that can hold His resurrected thoughts down! Hallelujah!!
Last week my husband and I got away for our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a three night get away at Branson at our favorite hotel, The Savannah House Inn. Every night it serves blackberry pie, peach cobbler, ice cream, and cookies, an obvious winner. The week before I started looking for entertainment for us. We have been known to go to shows, my favorite so far “Reza the Illusionist” and “The Cleverly’s” when they are in town. I can do some of the other shows to keep me above boredom, but I’m kind of a child of the 80’s and Rock/ Metal is more up my alley. As I was searching the internet, I stumbled across a youth concert festival with some of my favorite Christian musicians. I had struck gold!! We the Kingdom, Zach Williams, and Skillet were some of the big names. We went to the door to buy tickets and “SCORE!!” we were in. We felt a little out of place since most of the people our age was “youth leaders” or “youth sponsors”, but we were not deterred! We were ready to rock! lol.
The night that Skillet played had arrived and I was super stoked! I knew it would be loud and I knew it would be fun! They did not disappoint! I just had to keep in mind that head banging when you are 50 feels a whole lot different than it does when you were 17. So, I tried to control my enthusiasm. Something impressed me that night that I have been thinking about ever since. The lead singer took some time before introducing the song “Sick of It” to the crowd. He said, “There are some things I am sick of. I am sick of Teen Suicide rates climbing. I am sick of Teen anxiety rates climbing as well. You have been lied to. The media has lied to you. The world has lied to you. It is time to get sick of the lies and take your stand!” Lied to! I may not be a teen, but anxiety has been lying to me. Telling me that I can never be free! Fear has been lying as well. All the self-help techniques haven’t been putting too much of a dent in it. But God!
I’m not sure of exact timing, but I can tell you God has been redirecting me on how to take my stand against the anxiety and depression that has been predominant in my life for several years. It’s been about a year ago that I started to attend a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings called WOW “Women on Wednesdays”. At the time, I was trying to fight my anxiety issues, the best I knew how at the time, with my own effort. They had a slide that they displayed in their main session that quite truthfully, offended me. One talked about living in God’s Kingdom with Joy, Peace, Patience, His Goodness, etc. Then the one about the wilderness that listed things like “conformed to the ways of the world”, “Self-imposed captivity”, “Performing but not obeying”, all of which I could reason my way around but “Fearful and Anxious” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I figured, “They do not know what I experience on the daily. That is not something I can just control.” There was a part of me offended, but a part of me that thought “Could this be true?” “Could I be freed?” Even though those statements bothered me to no end, I kept going. Sometimes with everything I have had within me, making myself walk through the doors of the church each Wednesday morning after sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out why I was making myself do this.
One day One of the leaders said something to me that stuck out. “You need to write down what it is you want to ask God to do for you.” I went home and did just that. I wrote, “I want to walk in freedom from anxiety.” That was number one. Then I wrote, “I want to drop the Buspar (anti-anxiety med) – pop my eyes to Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run for Jesus and my response to be one who falls at HIs feet. Close to HIm”. This did not happen in an instant, but I can tell you today that I am closer to the “total freedom from anxiety” mark than the “Drowning in it” mark I was at a year ago. But it took something that John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, was describing last Wednesday Night at the Concert. I needed to get sick of it! I needed to be desperate enough to realize that I was not fixing me. It would have to be Jesus.
I don’t know if you have ever gotten lost as a kid. I did. I was around 5 years old, and my parents had taken me and my brothers to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I rode a kiddy ride, and my mom was waiting by the exit for me to get off. Problem was when I got off, I distinctly remember looking at the world of waist down humans walking around me. I couldn’t figure out where on earth she was. I was short, you know, 5 years old kind of height, and they were adults. So, I started to wander around, and because of my height, my mom couldn’t find me either. Then it hit me. “I am lost”. But it also hit me that I could see a hat sales booth just a little bit away. I went to it and told the worker I had lost my mom. I asked for help. Seconds later I looked up and there was my dad and my brothers coming down the hill. Talk about relief. I’ve been thinking about that time this morning quite a bit. Anxiety, fear, and depression can make you feel like you are swimming in a world of legs, like my 5-year-old perception did that day. It feels like there is no way to get above it, but determining that you will not stay there, you will go to Jesus for help is the only way to realize the peace of your Heavenly Father’s arms.
It may be offensive to read this. It would have offended me, and I certainly don’t have the corner market on an anxiety fix. I’m just coming as one beggar who has found a place to get bread and wanting to share the location of the generous giver. Hanging close to Jesus and keeping your mind fixed on Him has been working pretty well for me here lately and believe me there are plenty of times I need to be reminded where I need to get my focus on, thank God for good friends. Because our enemy is relentless, and a bully, He won’t shut up until we get “Sick of It”, and deliberately decide to stop listening to his lies, and to listen to the words of Jesus instead, running to Him.