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”.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?” Genesis 3:1 NIV
We all hear “voices”. Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let me clarify that statement. We are surrounded/ bombarded by so many opinions, statements, ideas every day. These are the voices that shout at us from the moment our eyes open until we close them in sleep, and if we are lucky, they don’t come to us at night in our dreams as well… nightmares. These voices are liars. They want to get us off course from the only way to get them to shut up, the Peace found only in Jesus.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook, something I do way too much of… But I happened upon a post a friend had reposted of someone who is struggling with Anxiety. As I read it, it was like looking of a reflection of something I was a few months ago. Statements like: “I need a break from my mind itself which isn’t possible.” “My mind is traumatized my memory is foggy and absolutely full of triggers” “I am actually just busy trying to hold it together in my safe box.” Stuck out to me. I’ve been blogging for quite a while. This all started because writing has been an outlet for me, a stuffer of emotions… Anxiety has been one of the hot topics for my blog. I have several entries if you go back and look at the history of what I have written. It has been a lifelong struggle, but I would say the most intense battles have been the past 4 years. But God has worked a miracle in my life since around September/ October. It’s one of those kinds of miracles that it sometimes seems like it is too good to be true. You know, “pinch me” so I can make sure this is real kind of deals. With each passing day, I am convinced all the more of how real it is. I am walking free! So when I read the post like I saw yesterday, or I hear of someone who is struggling with anxiety, my heart aches. Because I know just how many voices I listened to and how many lies I believed.
Satan is deliberate in his onslaught of anxiety that he has unleashed in my generation and the generations after me. From the first twinge of it until you find yourself being squeezed to death by it, he has a purpose and a lie that is not new at all that is the root of all anxiety. “Did God really say…?” I believe anxiety is satan’s way of getting us to doubt God, His goodness, His provision, His Love. I would not be surprised if it is the very force driving the “deconstruction of Christian faith” movement we hear about frequently in the news. If anxiety is ruling in your head and your heart, doubts begin.
Then begins all the futile attempts to “fix ourselves”. Believe me, I tried them. Self help books galore, Headspace meditation app- started by a Buddhist monk, trying new hobbies (not a bad thing as long as it isn’t a replacement for crying out to Jesus), numbing it all with medicine, etc. The truth of it all is “I CANNOT FIX MYSELF!!!” All my attempts to fix my anxiety, outside of getting my eyes off of me and onto Jesus, only served to dig me deeper into a pit, a very ugly pit… The truth in the lyrics of the Switchfoot song “Mess of Me” rings truer to me every day.
About a year ago, I made contact with an old friend from my college days. We began talking about some mutual experiences of abuse that opened us up to lies. One thing stuck out to me that she said in the beginning of our weekly conversations. “Janet, you have the Holy Spirit within you. You can hear the truth. You know the truth.” She had hit the nail on the head. I have been listening to WAY TOO MANY VOICES! (ME, a seasoned Christian of 39 years…”) Whether it was the lies of “what you have been will never change”, the lies of “You call yourself a Christian, yet you think these horrible things”, “try to find your ZEN”, “make a better version of yourself each day”, “the Bible does not hold the answer to what you are struggling with”, etc. Those voices only lead to one thing “DESTRUCTION”. Let me be so bold as to say that “Deconstruction of faith” is not a brave move. It is an opening to the very “destruction of ourselves”.
Here’s the deal. I cannot say do x,y,and z and you will find yourself free. I’m not 100% sure how I have ended up in this place of peace I am in today. The one thing I did do was I decided my listening to “too many voices” was not working. I needed to listen to ONE voice, JESUS. Tune yourself daily into that voice and refuse to allow even the hint of a whisper of the lying voice of anxiety to enter your ears. Let desperation for freedom cause you to RUN as hard as you can into your Heavenly Father’s arms. It is only there that refuge is found from all the voices that come against you. God is no respecter of persons, granting freedom to one and then not to another. If He has answered the cry for freedom that I uttered, He will answer you! He is just that Good!
Awww summertime! Or at least we’re getting really close to the summer solstice. Family vacation usually sets off the official summertime routine in our household. This year we’re down to two out of our four kids still left at home. So a trip to Steamboat Springs in the Rockies seemed like the appropriate trip for our crew. From our neck in the woods it is about a two day drive, if you like to take your time and have plenty of breaks. So off we went. The evening we arrived and got ourselves settled in to our condo a peak out our window at the Western sunset over the mountains caused me to pause. “I’ve got to go out and look at this sunset. It’s a once in a lifetime event.” That may sound kind of crazy to the people who live in Steamboat day in and day out. They’ve probably seen thousands of the sunsets over that mountain. It may even be so familiar they don’t even pause to gaze. But the truth of the matter is for the minutes the sunbeams shine upon the clouds as the angle changes of the light with the setting sun, each second is totally different from the first. The hues of the colors transitions from bright orange, to red, to purple to dark. It really is a “Once in a lifetime event” for anyone, not just this Missouri girl. It was awesome! But I’m sure had I let myself be preoccupied, I would have missed it…
Then yesterday, my husband and I went over to our friends home. They own a deer farm. They’ve been at this for a few years. So seeing the little fawns and petting them is nothing new, but I saw something yesterday that quite possible could be another “once in a lifetime” event, a fawn be born. When we went out to the pens to look at their growing herd of deer, we noticed a momma deer that had had her first buck fawn of twins she was bearing. Carefully we walked into the pen that allowed a better look and stood in awe as we watched her labor for around 20 minutes and finally push the second fawn out. We stood there and watched the momma clean her fawn and nurse the other one until the light of day was so far gone that we could not see very well. Once again something I could have easily missed if I was too busy to stop, or too preoccupied in my mind to realize I was going to miss something so unique that I will never see it go down like it did last night again.
It’s funny how life is just that way. If we are too locked into what happened in the past or too preoccupied with what might happen in the future, we miss the now, something that only happens “once in a lifetime”.
Saturday is wedding day for my oldest daughter. The plans are made, the ball is in motion, things seem to be ready to roll. But once again I find myself fighting anxieties of what was, what is, and what may come… preoccupied. If I am not careful I will miss it. I’ll miss the moment that will only happen “once in a lifetime”. The moment her groom first sees his bride. The moment her daddy walks her down the aisle and gives her away. The moment they exchange their vows and unite their lives. I’ll miss it all and it will never happen the way it will on that day again.
Guilt, anxiety, and worries are robbers and thieves. They come to steal one of the things that means the most, the gift God has given to us as we sojourn here on earth, our present life. In John 10:10 Jesus said something that would do us all some good to have tattooed into the back of our brains ever present in our memories. “The thief (satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Some translations say “abundant life”. All the good God has for us is not stored up for us to only be released in heaven. God has goodness and mercy for us “all the days of our lives”. Psalm 23:6. It is satan who wants to blind us with his toxic whirlwind of afflictions to the mind and block us from seeing just that- God has goodness and mercy for us every second, every minute, every hour of every day. And blinding us with toxic thoughts is the only way he can steal from a child of God. Whispering lies and getting us to believe them so we get our focus off the truth is his only game plan. Because the truth is he is already defeated at the cross. Jesus gave us His goodness when our past was forgiven, our future with Him was secured, and our present is spent dwelling in Him.
May I never forget THAT when the enemy tries to get my focus off. God intended for me to live in the Present. Fully engaged in the life to the full that He gives to me, His abundant life given to His children He dearly loves and has chosen.
My husband and I have taken up a new reading plan on the Bible App as of late called “Reading the Bible in Historical Sequence Part 1”. It’s one of those read the Bible in a year deals, but this time it’s arranged everything according to the Chronological order of events. We’ve hit the story of Joseph. One of my favorite characters in the Bible. He’s one of those people that I can look at and say “Look at all he went through. He had it a lot worse than I ever have and yet he remained true to God.” His story of abuse, false accusations against him, unjust judgements and unwarranted punishments, yet God’s continued favor towards him in the midst of his suffering speaks volumes to anyone, which I would imagine it would be everyone, who has ever walked through some hardships.
As I was reading this morning these verses jumped off the page/screen at me. I’m sure I’ve breezed by them time after time when I’ve read this story, but today it struck home.
“Joseph had two sons born to him before the years of famine came. Asenath, daughter of Potiphera the priest of On, was their mother. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.”” Genesis 41:50-52 The Message
Joseph had endured all the things I listed above, but when God had finally brought him to the place that unbeknownst to him, would be his defining moment as a hero of Bible history- the man second in command to Pharaoh and the rescuer of God’s people (his family) from a famine, he was blessed with a couple of sons. Joseph named his sons “Forget” and “Double Prosperity”. Kind of odd names if you think about it, but names that made a statement. “God has made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” and “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.” Joseph looked at his newborn baby sons with the awe and love that any new father would have and reflected on where he had been and where he was now.
I wonder how often Joseph thought of how unfair his situations were and how much had been taken from him as he worked as a slave in Potipher’s house. I wonder how many restless nights he may have spent remembering being thrown into a pit, sold to strangers, accused by his master’s wife, thrown into prison, on and on. Could he have had moments waking from nightmares of the ordeal he suffered? Or flashbacks of the horror? Yet in all that God had brought him out into a place of great blessing. He could “forget”/ leave behind the hurt and enjoy the “double prosperity” of his new life.
High school years were not among my favorite. I can remember a night that I broke down into tears over a broken car horn on my car. I told my dad how much I hated school, honors society tree planting (another story), etc. He told me, “I hated my teen years too, I don’t know why people always say these are the best years of your life. Mine have been since I married your mother and had you kids.” That stuck with me. I’ve even quoted that to my own kids as they have walked through that awkward time. There are some time periods of life that are just hard, maybe even traumatic, but I’ve found as Joseph and my dad did that better days truly were ahead.
Last night my son, his wife, and our grandbaby came over for dinner. We have 22 acres for roaming on, so my daughter in love asked if I would mind watching my grandson for a little while as she and my son went out to explore it. “Are you kidding? I’d love too!! When are you all heading out?” I sat in my rocker/recliner holding the sleepy 3 month old as he squeezed my finger, staring in his face. Then it occurred to me once again, just like Joseph did looking at his sons, “I have been blessed far beyond anything I could have imagined. Here I sit holding my son’s son. He’s beautiful. I can forget the long struggle it took to get here, because I am blessed with double prosperity where I am.”
Every once in awhile I feel like I almost need to pinch myself. I have a nice home, nice car, my needs met, sweet kids, a beautiful grandbaby, and a smoking hot husband (no exaggeration there). It’s not exactly where I’ve pictured myself being when I walked through the hard times of life and lived in the struggle. But I have been blessed. God has been good to me.
Understanding this and remembering it when the winds of adversity blow is a key to remaining in joy. I guess that’s why remembering the good and being thankful is so important. A practice that I would do good to diligently attend to.
What a evening for a sunset walk! It felt so good to listen to the birds singing as I walked by our pond. It reminded me of when I was a kid and went fishing at my Grandma’s Pond. Such a happy place of peace. As I strolled by our garden plot and looked over the fence to the Federal Forest land. I saw a deer watching me from a distance. So I decided to watch it. I’ve never really been in a staring contest with a deer before until tonight, and I have to admit. The deer won. It hit me as I watched the birds flying overhead and listened to the animal sounds. These animals don’t have a care. They do what they need to do for today and they don’t worry about tomorrow. Jesus talked about this very thing. He talked about how the birds don’t plant fields or store food in barns. Yet God takes care of them, and the beautiful flowers of spring and summer don’t work hard to clothe themselves. God does and He dresses them magnificently. He talked about how we aren’t to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. If God has the birds and the flowers, and my stare off challenging deer, He has me.
It’s Tuesday and it’s already been a week. I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be where I am during our national crises. But it is still hard not to let fear, anxiety, and worry creep in. I had to make a journey to town today. (Not that far away. Just 8 miles.) My daughter who is staying with us has a bad tooth ache. I was blessed to get ahold of our dentist, who called her out an antibiotic for the infection. It’s kind of unnerving not feeling like you can just take her to the local walk in clinic and have it looked at whenever you need to. Now it feels like a life and death endeavor. As I drove through town, our town had a large sign informing the residents of the Covid-19 threat. Displayed for all to see at the only roundabout in town. We’ve had an outbreak here. Not a whole lot of cases, but for a small town, too many. I’ve never been germ conscious in my life. But today I was not pleased to touch the gas pump handle, and pick up some necessary items at a local store. Not to mention go through a drive thru pharmacy window to pick up my daughter’s RX. Even though my social isolation with my husband and three of our kids hasn’t been that bad, (actually at times it feels like a vacation) I’m starting to feel the fear and paranoia of touching things in public and running the necessary errands. I have contemplated the hardships in New York as they struggle with their outbreak, Italy, and others. Then the weight of the heart break a family we are friends with as they struggle with the possibility of losing their husband, son, and dad as he fights to stay alive in the hospital 30 miles from my home. (Not covid related). So much weight…
Thus the walk… blue skies with light fluffy clouds and my prayer floats up too. “God everything seems to be just going on as normal. These are the same things I saw, the same sounds I heard a year ago this time on the walk I did back then. Nature has no idea the hardship and pain in our world right now. It just goes on.” Birds are preoccupied with singing and finding a worm here and there, and my deer friend: he’s concerned about whether a middle aged woman could be fast enough to bolt across a field and catch him so he’s going to keep an eye on me. All living in the moment. All taken care of by something much bigger than themselves, God.
What about me? The weight of the events that surround my heart could easily smother me if I let them. But I know I need to leave them in bigger hands than I have. My running ahead trying to figure out how this will all end up is futile. My looking back at how I could have, should have, would have done better at sanitizing everything around me is probably futile as well. Although I am a proponent of doing what you can.
Somewhere along the way I have got to just trust. I have to know that the same God that orchestrates the seasons, watches the animals scurry, and keeps the planets in their orbit so we don’t end up in an interplanetary marble game, with us riding on the blue and white ball. He’s the same God who numbers the hairs on my head (which happens to be a lot, thick hair) and watches me when I wake and when I lay down to rest. He will take care of me. He loves me. He has the current events. I must keep my eyes on Him and trust Him.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:26-31, 33-34 NIV
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2 NIV
Wow! What a week! At the beginning of the week, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that said, “Time change, a full moon, Friday the 13th…What could possibly go wrong?” I laughed at the pile of superstitions heaped onto one week, and scrolled on. I don’t believe that any of that had any weight to bear on where we are after this week of frightening announcements and unprecedented actions of our leaders. Gazing at the “natural realm” after the past week could make it quite possible for a person to be left shaking in their boots. But I can assure you that when I laid my head on my pillow last night I slept with perfect peace. Because I am assured that my God is in absolute control, and I know He cares for me.
I’ve openly shared in this blog that I struggle with the thoughts in my mind. I think that’s pretty common for the human condition. It’s a struggle that I have, at times, felt very defeated in. I have tried so many different techniques to try to conquer the fears, anxiety, and at times torments that have existed in my mind. Some successful, some not so much… Recently, I have been approaching the fight with an all weapons out approach. Everything from uplifting music, self-care, and exercise, to Bible meditation, Bible study, prayer, counseling, etc. It really seems to help. One of the videos I watched recently on focusing our thoughts has had a profound impact on me. Especially after taking the little gem of information it held and combining it with what the Word of God says.
The video pointed out how our minds are like the blue sky. Occasionally we see a peaceful little cloud float by and that doesn’t bother us so bad because we can still see the blue. However, there are times that storms rage and it seems the blue sky has disappeared, but just like an airplane can rise above the storms and see the blue again we know the blue is always there.
I like this illustration better when I put God into the equation. My mind focused on Christ is like the blue sky. It’s the mind “set on Christ, Things above.” Occasionally cute little white clouds float by and get my attention. They may be daily interactions with loved ones that are seemingly unspiritual, enjoying a cookie, laughing at a funny meme on Facebook etc. I notice them, but over all the blue sky (Jesus) is the main focus of my mind. Occasionally a storm starts to blow. As it comes in, I find myself unable to see the blue sky (Jesus) and focus on it. I know deep in my heart He is there somewhere. But the Holy Spirit has given me the power to rise above the storm of my mind. He is the airplane that can help me to fly above the clouds and once again see the blue sky, Jesus, having confidence that the storm will pass in time. But HE, Jesus, the blue sky will never leave me.
I went grocery shopping Thursday morning, as the fears of COVID 19 were starting to ramp up in my area of the Nation. I was amazed at the similarities in the over all moods of my co-shoppers that were with me and the moods of the co-shoppers I felt the evening of 9/11/2001 when I went to Walmart, the somberness, anxiousness, etc. It seems that the over all feelings of uncertainty, panic, and being out of control had hit everyone. As I was checking out, I heard an older gentleman talking to his checker and discussing the current situation. After a few words, he said, “We don’t have to fear. God is in control.” He had his mind set on the “Blue sky- Jesus” that reigns above the storm. That impressed upon me the importance of this moment we live in. While talking to my kids that remain at home, trying to give them a sense of stability in a tumultuous week, where their social lives and school lives have been wrought with changes, not to mention, dad coming home to work for several weeks (something they have never seen), I quoted a Bible verse. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV
This is our time to shine! It is the time I can point out how I have found peace in a mind that struggles. It is a time that I can speak peace to my neighbors, friends, and family that surround me. Jesus is the blue sky above the storm, whether it be anxious thoughts in my mind, or a global pandemic. I can rest in Him. Could I or someone I love suffer in the upcoming weeks? Yes, that is a possibility, but I know that Jesus is the healer. Whether HE steps in a physically heals our afflictions, or I stand face to face with Him in the time of my death. (Not that I’m afraid I’ll get sick and die). I am with Him. I can be at peace. I can let my mind rise above the clouds that try to keep it constrained, and fly high in the blue sky of God’s love knowing that He cares for me. I can be free from fear.
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” I’m pretty sure that quote was about the weather in Missouri. Monday this week was almost 70 degrees, by Wednesday we had 4 inches of snow.
I value my sunshine. I probably have a touch of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) if I’m honest about it. I’m a warm weather, sunny day, good mood kind of person, which might necessitate a move down South when my husband retires, or at least a yearly Caribbean cruise in February. (hint, hint if you’re reading this Rich)
Anyway, during my one warm day I took a walk around and looked at my different flower beds which I discovered last year that I actually like working in and that I might possibly have a green thumb. (Long story). I noticed that I had some plants coming up. Plants from some Amaryllis belladonna “Naked Ladies” bulbs my son and I planted last spring. I was surprised to see them because the situation for that particular area I planted wasn’t the greatest, it didn’t drain well and was overrun with weeds at the end of summer. So, I chalked it up to a flower gardening fail. When I looked down and saw the small green plants poking through the soil, I thought of the verses in Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” What I planted really did come up even if I gave up.
I’ve been contemplating these verses a lot this week. Mainly because it’s a part of a devotion book I’m reading Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. He was talking about how our time spent with God was like planting seeds. If we are faithful to plant them, God is faithful to grow His character in us. As he puts it, “This kind of sowing will produce a harvest in your walk with Him. It will change you and, in turn, begin to affect everything around you.”
That’s exactly what I need. I’ve been looking at the things I struggle with mainly anxiety and depression, and how I long for God to bring out His fruit in my life: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Goodness, and Self-Control. So, I began to think about what kind of Seed I need to plant into my heart and mind to take the place of the weeds of anxiety and depression the enemy has sown. Where do I need to fix my mind when it tries to spiral down that path? I was reminded of another verse. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” Back when I was in high school, I stumbled across this verse and committed it to memory. I remember it being a source of comfort when I struggled then with the fears of What will I become? Where will I go? Etc. Typical teen stuff. It was what I needed then, but it is also what I need now.
Joyce Meyer wrote a book called, The Battlefield of the Mind. There’s a lot of truth conveyed in that title. My mind is a battlefield, and it’s not a war that will stop after a few good fights. I will have to fight for my peace and my freedom within my mind until I stand face to face with Jesus. I’ve got to decide if my happiness and joy is worth the effort to fight for it. If so, how will I wage war? There are some victories that God gives us as we stand by and watch Him work with His power and glory. But there are others that He wants us to take a stand in and rely on Him to arm us for battle.
A few years ago, I began seeing a Christian Counselor for the struggles I have had within my mind. She’s given me a lot of practical ideas that help with my mood and attitude like exercise, sunshine, and gardening. But one thing she told me was how true Philippians 4:8 really is. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” She told me “It’s a matter of replacing the negative thoughts with the positive thoughts of God.”
I’m seeing a pattern here. If I am wanting to reap a harvest of peace, or see “peace flowers” come up in my mind, I need to keep my mind on the Prince of Peace, Jesus and think of all the qualities He has that are listed Philippians 4:8, and also because I am His, He has put these qualities within me. It might take a while, I may not see immediate result, and I can guarantee you that I’ve felt like many times that my mind was as ill prepared as the small flower garden area I planted the Naked Ladies Bulbs. But God assures me, What I plant I will get back. I can trust in Him to do just that. Keep looking. The green sprouts will eventually press their way through.
My Grandpa was a welder and a machinist. He worked out of a shop on his farm in a small rural community. He loved to be in his shop. When I was little I always found it intriguing to go out to his shop and watch him weld. He would give me a mask and the sparks would fly. There was a distinct hum of busyness in his shop when he was in it. It would drown out the one constant noise that was always present whether Grandpa was there or not, a radio. Grandpa had the same old radio on day and night 24/7 in the room, on a shelf, next to his lathe. I guess it kept him company as he worked long hours. He loved to listen to the local news, the swap shop, and the local personalities as they broadcasted daily.
I’ve been reflecting this week on listening to God and hearing His voice. As I contemplated how much I need to listen for God to speak to me, I thought about Grandpa’s radio. So many times I would go to his shop and it was always playing. For decades it played, with exception of the occasional power outage. Sometimes I would hear it distinctly. But other times I would not hear it over the humming of Grandpa’s lathe or the banging of a hammer. However it was always there. I would hear it if I chose to listen.
God’s voice is similar to Grandpa’s radio. The humming of life drowns out His still small whisper. Not because the humming is more powerful, but because I choose to focus on it. Sometimes the banging and clatter of life’s messy circumstances try to drown out His voice as well. They try to distract me from turning my ear towards God. It’s easy to get distracted.
The point of all this is God definitely speaks. He promises me in no uncertain terms that it is possible to hear Him. In John 10:27, Jesus promises that “My sheep hear my voice…”. It’s the way He has designed this relationship. He is the good Shepherd who calls to me and I am the sheep who hears. In fact, He encourages “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” He wants us to listen to Him because what He speaks are words of life. I am the one who must pause and listen to hear what He has to say.
One of the voices that tends to shut out His words of life and peace is the voice of anxiety that tends to bang and clamor louder than Grandpa’s hammer on a busy work day. It not only shouts, but it consistently nags from inside distracting from the joy and peace that Jesus died and rose again to give. The thing about it is it can take willful practice to learn how to tune it out and switch the channel in your mind and heart to listen to the good voice of the Prince of Peace. For me, it takes a daily time sitting in the still of my house before everyone wakes up and my day hums at a volume louder than the constant quiet sounds of the gentle ticking of my wall clock or the air quietly blowing through our heat ducts. I sit in that quiet place and read a scripture and listen. Pretty soon I can focus in on His voice that has always been there. That same beautiful voice has the power to silence the storms inside and outside of me. The Gentle voice of Peace, Love, Joy, and Goodness has never stopped speaking to me. It was that He was only waiting for me to focus in and listen. Like I did many times as I stood in the open door of Grandpa’s shop wondering if what turned into a legend among us grandkids was true. “Does Grandpa’s radio always play?” Yes it does. It is a constant. His radio never was shut off. “Does God have something to say?” Yes He does. He never left me alone. I just need to listen.
Admitting a feeling is a risky business. Especially when you’ve lived your life with a “don’t ever let them see you sweat” mentality. Today I am going to risk appearing weak, faithless, and vulnerable by admitting I am afraid. I have a situation looming in front of me. It could go one of two ways. When I look at it, I have to admit… I am afraid. It’s ironic to me that David in the Psalms also had something he was afraid of and yet he didn’t try to ignore it. He didn’t try to play out the super spiritual person and not speak of it for fear of confessing bad things. He laid it out squarely before God. He told God what he was afraid of and presented every aspect of his fear to God. Then he told God in spite of what he felt, the fear, he was going to trust God. It’s little wonder to me that the Bible refers to David as a “man after God’s own heart.” God doesn’t expect us to try to hide how we feel. It’s much better to just step on out into the light and admit it’s there and let Him do what only He can do. For me to try to put on the brave face and suck it up is like the equivalent of Adam and Eve in the garden trying to sew some leaves together to hide their nakedness. God already knew what they looked like inside and out. There’s no hiding ourselves from Him.
Yes… I am afraid. But I also know that there is a God who is bigger than my fear. I’m pretty sure that He delights in showing me just how big He is. Opening the door and letting Him see my fear gives Him the opportunity to let His love fill the room in my heart where the fear has been. That love fills, floods, and flushes out the fear that is trying to infect the core of me. “Perfect love casts out all fear.” It’s that small movement of trust that opens the door to let Him in. I feel afraid, here it is. This is what I feel. You see it and I will say that it is there, but I chose to trust You in the face of that fear.
“But in the day that I’m afraid, I lay all my fears before you and trust in you with all my heart.” Psalm 56:3 TPT