Consider it Pure Joy… Anxiety

My husband and I have been doing the church thing for 29 years. We met in church, got married in one, and have attended one on the weekly for the most part of our 28 years of marriage. In all of that 29 years we’ve not really done “Sunday School”. Mainly because the churches we attended didn’t offer one. They offered “Home Fellowships” and “Sunday School” seemed a little “Old School” to me. Around two years ago we began attending a different church that offered Sunday School, and to be honest, I thought, “That’s nice. Not for me.” But a few months ago we decided to attend one. It’s been good for us even if we have to drag our butts in on occasion.(Mainly because we want to be lazy or flat out the enemy of our souls has been working overtime to keep us away from the Family God wants to give us in a church fellowship). This morning was another one of those “drag our butts” in occurrence. Because if I’m honest, of our 29 years of church attendance, there have been ALOT of times we had to make ourselves go, but once we are there and feel God’s presence and the encouragement of those around us it becomes more than worthwhile and we usually leave with the saying out of Psalms 122:1 ringing true, ” I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (You’re not alone if you suffer from “I must Drag my Butt to church syndrome”)

Anyway, back to dragging myself into class, the Bible book of study for awhile in our class is James. Not really a favorite of mine. Mainly because there is a lot of hard stuff in it about controlling your tongue, being patient in suffering, and showing our faith by our deeds. It’s not exactly a “feel good all the time” kind of book. And today’s verse that we discussed would be another not so “Feel good all the time” kind of verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 But today it hit me. I need to reconsider my aversion to the book of James. It’s in the Bible you know so it’s gotta be GOOD!

I’d say the past week has been kind of tough. Not because of anything in particular, just mainly I have issues with anxiety, and I’ve been getting tired of having that issue. I can’t think of how many times I’ve asked God to take it away from me. I’d say it’s been an issue of mine most of my life. I have had times I’ve thought, “you’re finally getting somewhere” only to find myself sitting for a few days with my throat and chest feeling tight, for really no real good reason. It’s more than aggravating. Especially when as a believer in Jesus I believe what He did on the Cross paid for my healing not only physically, but emotionally as well. And my inheritance as a child of God does not include in any way shape or form anxiety, fear, or depression. So I bounce back and forth between I should be walking in victory over this, and I know I need to take my medicine or it won’t be pretty… Not to mention the counseling I’ve been going to for the past 3 years. It kind of shrinks you down to feeling like you’re far from a spiritual giant in the kingdom. More like a someone who struggles and struggles, and then struggles some more. Then enters James 1:2-4. Anxiety has been a trial for me, and if I’m honest my husband too. He probably at times wonders what to do with his wife. We pray, we talk, we try to distract, and we keep plugging along. Anxiety has been a test of my faith. Because to be honest, admitting that you have an area of struggle, a weakness, is not fun. It doesn’t seem very victorious or overcoming. However, that testing of my faith, when the feelings arise, is working something in me that I told my husband just this week, “If this is the only way I can get it worked into me, then so be it.” It has produced in me a longing to be closer to God. The only way to experience the peace and the joy that God intended for me to walk in is to be in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says “…in your presence there is the fulness of Joy.” The only place I can find wholeness is in Him, so I have got to be closer and closer to Jesus so His peace and His presence are what I live in. Hanging tight with Jesus is the only way to make me “complete and not lacking anything.” I was thinking about it last night. If I never had experienced the painful things that I have walked through, I would not have reason to look for healing that can only be found in Jesus. If I never had experienced loneliness, I would never had known the need for His ever abiding close friendship. And if I never had known the torments of anxiety and fear, I would never have cried out for the Prince of Peace to rescue me and pull me out of a circumstances that were greater than me. So these light and momentary afflictions, that I hate to feel, are working something in me. In them, I know I need God more and more. He is the only answer and it is only in me totally surrendering to Him and His ways, and hanging as close to Him as I can, will I walk in His paths of freedom and experience the abundant life He promised me as I keep my eyes on Him. (John 10:10)

Maybe James isn’t so bad…. “Consider it pure Joy…”

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

A Beautiful Mind—A Mind Made New

Life has it’s way of leaving scars on us. No one is exempt. We may like to pretend like we all have it all together and put up a pretty facade, but behind the good exterior is an inside that has had it’s share of struggles. Some scars come because we jumped right into a hurtful situation feet first with eyes wide open. Some scars come because good intentions did not work out and situations were more than anyone could fix. To be a player in that type of play is tragic in many ways, but God… He has a plan to work all things out for our good, even the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Psalm 147:3

Last week I found myself contemplating life’s issues and suffocating with anxiety. As I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the anxiety and the physical sensations that go along with that, I shot an honest assessment of my feelings up to Him. “God, I hate my mind…” There are times in battle that it seems victory is far away. That pretty well summed up my situation at that point, but deep inside the still small voice spoke in a whisper, “You have a beautiful mind”. Though my mind may have scars from times past, scars point to something greater, Healing. Though there may be remnants of the hurts that still need for God’s hand to touch, there has already been so much He has already healed. So my mind, with it’s struggles and sometimes pain, is actually a display of what God can do for someone who has fought a long, hard battle on the inside.

It’s been a long, long time since I have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, and to be honest, I barely remember it. Except for the plot which was about a mathematician, John Forbes Nash Jr., suffered with a psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia. He fought a long hard battle inside his mind, and then finally went on to do extraordinary things in his field of mathematics earning awards in that field. Reading bits and pieces of his story on Wikipedia today has made me think about the struggle we all face, and the tenacity we all need. I, however, fight my battle with an advantage that I am unsure if Mr. Nash knew about. The healing power of the blood of Jesus, poured out for me.

John Forbes Nash JR. And his wife Alicia

There is a popular worship song that comes to mind. It’s wording is fairly easy since it repeats ALOT! “Surrounded”- “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” Some versions throw in “At your table”. There is a place that I can take my mind as it tries to run the show for me with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. That place is at the table that God has prepared for me. It is in His presence that I am surrounded by His peace and wholeness can be found. It is there at His table that I am strengthened to get up, set my mind on what is True, Noble, Right, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) i.e. Get my eyes on Jesus, and It is at His table that I am made new by Him renewing my mind. 1 Corinthians 12:1-2.

This morning as I sat down at His table, my time with God in His word, I contemplated some hard memories that have recently hit me of days gone by. It was there that I sat saying, “God I know, You have said, “I have a Beautiful Mind” because Your word assures me that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16.) I can’t imagine a mind more beautiful than His. I pictured the blood of Jesus pouring over my mind again and again, calming the anxiety, healing the hurts, restoring the broken. Because that is exactly what Jesus does. He makes all things new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He is never late concerning His healing, His strength, His power. He is always right on time. At times, I may not feel all the feels about the truth of God over my situations, but I can rest assured that what He started He will complete, and that includes the transformation of my mind into what He had prepared for it to be all along, “A Beautiful Mind”.

“An Enemy Hath Done This”

My garden in a good year.

Awww, Summertime! Since my kids are older I find myself with a little more time. As my kids were growing up, summer was consumed with Cousins staying with us for a week, swim lessons, pool cleaning and maintenance, and keeping the peace between siblings as they enjoyed their break from school work, more time to fight… Those days are now a memory and my latest occupier of my time has been gardening. Gardening has been an area of challenge for me through the years. When we moved to our current home, 13 years ago my husband always thought it was a great idea to have a garden, and he really wanted me to think that too. But for some strange reason I had this mental block where I thought I was just no good… Probably the giant weed patch experience we had and the shame it produced in me was the biggest affirmation that I needed to leave gardening to the pros so I did… Fast forward to around 4 years ago, I find myself sitting in a Counselor’s office struggling with some of life’s issues and she looks at me and says, “What do you like to do?” Something that for the life of me I could not find an answer to… “How about gardening?” I replied to her “I did it once and I’m no good.” She replied, “It’s because you haven’t really tried”. And lo and behold she was right! I came home that afternoon and told my husband if he wanted to try to put a garden in I was game to try. I studied youtube videos and web sites, made a gardening board on Pinterest. The love for gardening was born.

Probably one of the things I love the most about gardening is when I am occupied with the manual labor of it, I take time to pray and almost always I think about the different places God talks about gardening in the Bible. Every once in awhile I get behind on my weeding, that’s when the Parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 13 comes to mind. Jesus tells about a man who sowed good seed into a field, and then in the night an enemy comes out and sows weed seeds in the same field. The quote I reflect on is verse 28. I always hear it in the King James Version. It just seems more indignant… “An enemy hath done this”. I get it. Every time I have to pull out one of those weeds, especially the ones that has prickly stems on it, I grit my teeth and think the same. Oh had it not been for the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden!! All this effort would be less sweaty, tiring, and actually less effort all around! ” An enemy hath done this!”

Weed wrapping around my bean plant

Today as I was pulling weeds and grass surrounding my green beans plants I noticed one weed wrapping it’s way around one of the bean bush. I tenderly unwound it. Then the time Jesus spoke in the Bible about weeds choking out the good plant sown in the thorny area. Jesus was talking about our heart’s responses to the word. Sometimes the word lands in a heart that is ready to let it grow. Sometimes the word falls in a heart that life’s circumstances/ worries of this world choke out the good plant. Yep… once again “An Enemy Hath Done This”.

I’ve been praying a lot lately about keeping the main thing the main thing. That is knowing and experiencing God’s love to it’s fullest. It amazes me how sometimes I look at the ground of my heart and think, “Looking good, no weeds, freshly tilled and watered. Good stuff will come out soon.”

Before the Weed invasion…

Other times I look at it and see a weed patch that somehow sprung up ultra fast, not exactly sure how all the weeds got there so quickly, except to understand that “An Enemy Hath Done This”, and If I don’t allow the master gardener, Jesus, to pulls some weeds out of my heart everything that is good will soon be choked out.

Daily maintenance of my heart’s garden, helps to keep it weed free. Especially when it comes to looking at the depths of God’s love. The enemy would like for nothing more than to choke out God’s good love with satan’s weeds of worry, anxiety, depression, anger, or anything else he can throw into the garden of my heart. But Jesus wants for us to have our hearts abounding with His love. Our willingness to participate daily with His heart gardening maintenance is what we need. Daily allowing His word to cultivate our hearts and allowing Him to pull out the lies/ weeds the enemy has sown using the power of His truth. Then His love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self control are free to grow. Especially His love! Because it is the first seed He sows into my heart, a very tiny seed, but with His care it grows to be the biggest plant in the garden. So big that others can find refuge in it and experience the shade from the harshness of life under the shadow of His love growing in me.

My Redemption Story

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!…” Revelations 21:5

Fifty years on Planet Earth gives a person a gift of great value, “Perspective”. When I earnestly started my relationship with Jesus back in the summer of 84 at Camp Sharon Church Camp, I felt like a brand new person. I deeply desired to make a 180 degree turn from the direction I was going to the direction Jesus would lead me. I had taken part in the start of My Redemption Story turning from spiritual death to spiritual life. I had no idea that God wanted to not only have me commit my entire life to Him and live in relationship with Him, but He was in the business of restoring or redeeming the things that I had chalked up to being broken forever. And from that point on until present He is still at work in my life redeeming and restoring the things that have been broken or lost along the way.

Forest Gump had it wrong, life isn’t just like a box of cherries. It is like a book, a book with MANY chapters. Or at least that is how I’ve been looking at mine. There’s the childhood chapter, the middle school chapter, the junior high chapter, the high school chapter, college, newlywed, new parent… all the way to where I am now. LOTS of CHAPTERS!!! Some of my chapters have been really enjoyable, others I am glad I survived and got to move on. There have been chapters where I have stood in awe of all the goodness of God in my life. There have been chapters I could not see Him or feel Him near because of the brutality of the storm. Chapter after chapter, and in these chapters there have been things that have happened that I’ve looked at as irreparable and broken.

This is where perspective helps out. When you live long enough to ride high on the good times and crawl through the tough, every once in awhile your remember a past chapter of your life that wasn’t so good. Mistakes were made, friendships lost, hearts broken, etc. but GOD!!! Some of these chapters “I” had the idea of how it should all be played out and my chapter should be written. You know how it is we want the perfect life, no conflict, perfect spouse, perfect kids, and perfect pets… One time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram should clue you in on this because we present our perfect world. But the truth is our chapters in our books are rarely what we thought they should be. Sicknesses happen, death occurs, hearts are broken, conflicts arise, messes are made and our chapter seems to be jumbled and confused. But standing on the hill of perspective looking back on my life I am seeing some things. Things that looked to be destroyed are turned around and as a matter of fact they are better than they were originally. That is how my Redemptive God works. When we allow the Master Author, God to write our stories the way He wants to write them the chapters always end in Redemption, He rescues us from the way it looks to be turning out, He pulls us out of our messes, He makes the broken whole, better than it was before. Our book of our life is an account of all the ways God makes all things new in our redemption story.

The Bible gives the account of an army commander in the times of the prophets of the Old Testament. Through a series of events this man named Naaman went to the prophet Elisha with a request for Elisha to heal Naaman of leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease that leaves irreparable damage and at that time almost always ended in a long slow death isolated from friends and family. Elisha told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times for God to heal him of this disease (a great inconvenience). Naaman eventually did what he was told and the Bible records this result, “…his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:14 NIV. Looking at my wrinkles and dry skin on my 50 year old body points out to me what a miracle this was. God did not just give Naaman skin to match the body of whatever age he was. God gave him “New Skin”, “Skin of a young boy”.

It may take some time for us to see the redemption and restoration of some of the chapters of our story. It may take us walking through some inconvenient steps to walk in obedience to God before we see the results. But our God is the God who “Makes all things new” and in time even the chapters of our life that we would rather have locked away in the corner of the recesses of our faintest memories (or honestly forgotten forever would suit them best) God has every intention of taking that horrific thing and giving it “New skin”, a “new chapter in our book”. A chapter that when we get to see how it turns out leaves us standing with our jaw dropped in awe at the God who has not only done miracles in the past, but is still working them in our TODAY! Because He is not finished writing our Redemption Story until we stand before Him face to face in Heaven someday. We can be assured of that and know that the God who started our story won’t stop until He finishes it and everything He finishes is NEW and GOOD!

Don’t Miss It- Once in a Lifetime

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.

The Giant Question Mark Left Behind…Suicide

I went for a walk this evening and was thinking about today’s sermon at the church I attend. There was a statement our Pastor made that stuck out to me. He was talking about the events around Jesus’ death and resurrection and how Thomas doubted Jesus being alive. “Thank God He is the God of second chances!! Or third, or fourth or more.” In light of events in my week these words hung in my mind.

Last Monday my husband and I went for our evening walk on the track at our local YMCA. While finishing up our laps, we got a call from my oldest son with very sad news. A family friend that we have known him and his wife for several years, Clint, had ended his life by shooting himself. Leaving behind a wake of sadness and gigantic question marks in the hearts of his family and his friends. My husband and I went to the home of Clint’s best friend, also a family friend for decades. As I sat there with Clint’s wife and other ladies who knew him or were friends with the family, I watched different ones shuffle in and out of the house. It was that night that I watched a grown man, biker from Clint’s motorcycle club, cry harder than I have ever seen a grown man cry. My heart broke and I have had no words to say.

Clint, his smile could light up a room.

This is the third suicide that has touched someone I know in less than a year: One a friend’s grandson in his early teens, another a sister in law’s nephew in his 20’s and then Clint, a husband, father, grandpa, son and friend. Tragedies beyond any words to describe. All this leaving me thinking about my own struggles and trying to understand. As one who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I would be lying to say that I have never ever thought of suicide as something that would be the cure. It’s a horrible thing to have your mind running with thoughts so jumbled that ending the thoughts permanently seems like a good solution. Thankfully God has graciously helped me to see something in the distance, past the jumbled mess of my mind to hope in a second chance, or third, fourth or 50th.

It occurred to me tonight as I walked, that God is always waiting there with another chance. We turn down that chance when we say we’re done and take the final step ending it all. I’m not saying God is eternally done with us at that moment. But I am saying the chance we had here on earth to see Him make something beautiful out of our broken goes away. That’s probably why the big question mark is left with all those who knew and loved us. Why? If we only knew what could we have done differently to help? There is always hope. It’s just a momentary blindness to it that leaves us choosing the ultimate act of hopelessness and leaving a gaping hollow hole in the hearts of all those who loved us in the aftermath of that choice.

The story in the Bible of Jesus’ death includes each of His closest friends struggling to find hope. One denied his friendship. One doubted his resurrection, all of them scattered so many different ways. Of these, Jesus gave them each a second chance. It makes me wonder, “What about Judas?” If he had taken his mess of betraying Jesus to God in repentance instead of hanging himself, could his brokenness been made beautiful too? That’s yet another question mark left behind by the act of suicide.

I want to find myself on the side of always taking that second chance, third chance, fiftieth… Jesus paid a huge price out of His great love to give that to me. If I can get just get a glimpse of it. There is always hope no matter how small and far away it may seem. If we can somehow let Jesus in, even in our darkest hour, that hope will do the impossible with our broken pieces of our mess. Because that is what Jesus does. He makes all things new. Even the ones that seem impossible.

(Clint was a believer in Jesus. I want to honor his Memory. I am sure that anything that points to the hope found in Jesus would be on Clint’s heart right now for those who hear his story to grab ahold of, and even in these moments of extreme brokenness that all who knew him and loved him that are left behind feel, God still will take the brokenness and make it beautiful once more. That is what God does.

There is no shame in asking for help. If these thoughts of self harm plague you, talk about them. Reach out. There is no shame in getting help. I know in religious circles there can sometimes be a stigma with receiving professional help. I go to a doctor if I can’t get over a sore throat or a cough. I go to a mental health therapist if I can’t get past the thoughts that run in my head. This in no way negates what God can do. God can use these professionals to let the healing begin. Don’t leave behind a giant question mark for those you know and love to wrestle with. You are worth more than that to God and them.)

Process- One Step at a Time Toward Freedom

“So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There are some things that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Things don’t go as you think they would, life takes turns that surprise the most confident and secure of us shaking us to the core. Then there is the constant nagging of an area of struggle. “Paul’s Thorn in the flesh” played out in our everyday life. The one thing that keeps us on our knees holding on to what we can grasp of Jesus when we can’t seem to see what’s up and what’s down.

I imagine the mood of ancient Israel during the time of its enslavement to Egypt was a combination of these emotions. There was this promise given by God to Jacob. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again” Genesis 46:3-4 And then there was the reality of their daily life trapped, enslaved, beaten, berated, suffering… somehow the two didn’t seem to go together. But God had a plan.

I’ve been living the Christian life most of my life. I grew up in church, Gave my life to God at a young age. I am one of those read my Bible daily, pray often, regular church goers. But I can honestly say that some of the “good” ideas to help others has been some of the most devastating areas of struggle in my life. Sometimes life doesn’t go like you think it will and instead of being a temporary resident of Egypt for a good cause you end up enslaved, beaten down, and suffering in a place that in your mind was not meant to be like that. “What did I do wrong?” May be the thought you play over and over in your mind. When really you didn’t do anything “wrong” at all. It may feel like you were left for a long term stay in Egypt.

The anxiety and depression I have battled in my life feels just like a long term stay in Egypt with a cruel task master on my back. Now that I admit that I struggle, (an act of being defeated as seen by some in the “Faith” world) I can see just how long the nagging taskmasters of “you’re never enough” and “everything is all up to you” have been driving me with their long mental whips. It’s been quite awhile, and much like the Israelites, I have asked God to step in and fix it all time and time again.

This morning I sat in the quiet of the pre dawn hours reading my Bible and praying thinking of my day ahead and my appointment with my counselor to come in a matter of a few hours When I came across the verses above. It hit me. God sees me. God has heard my cries because of the driving of my cruel task masters that try to tule over me and He is concerned. God sees our struggles. It’s not a disappointment or a surprise to Him. But He also has a plan and provision made for bringing us out of them. Sometimes it may be one by one, slowly, and not exactly how we expected. But He will come. He does not fail. Even though I may view my world through the eyes distorted by what the disappointment in Egypt caused, God sees me as I really am, His. His promise is not to be enslaved by the thoughts of my mind, but to step into His “spacious place” where I, with Him am “more than enough” and “cared for greatly” by Him.

And here’s the main kicker, He is going to show me all of this. Every hour, every minute, every second that I look to Him. It took God to step in a miraculously free the Israelites from their land of oppression. God has already stepped in and purchased my freedom through Jesus. I have to learn how to walk as one who is free, one of freedom’s steps at a time. (Sounds like the power of the P word “Process” Baby! 😬)

https://youtu.be/NieC8KA0EvI

Thorns in My Flesh: Foot Pain and Anxiety

“Foot pain Sucks!” There I said it. As a person who has suffered with foot issues and pain all my life, it kind of feels relieving just letting that out. My earliest memories of heading to the big city from my very small rural hometown was for the very purpose of visiting a foot specialist. My parents saw my need and did their best to provide the best they could for their flat footed child. Which meant orthopedic shoes. They were kind of special when you are 7 or 8, but by the time I hit my teen years I was fairly certain I would rather hurt than wear anything so ugly, bring on the Nikes and Adidas! But as time went on and the pain increased, my willingness to see pediatrist or orthopedic surgeons that specialize in feet increased. It gets old trying to decide if you would rather stay seated or stand on up and work on through the pain. So began my love for Birkenstock anything, Feet Fleet Shoe stores, orthopedic shoe inserts, ankle stretches, an overnight foot splint to help with plantar fasciitis (takes a little getting used to), etc. It’s amazing the lengths I go to so I don’t have to slow down, sit down, and live with a ton of pain… All this being said, The battle against foot pain still goes on and due to pain in both of my feet, I’ve got an appointment with a specialist this week to see if there are any other tricks up his sleeve that can help…

Being a person of faith, and one who believes that God does answer prayers, and that He still heals today, I’ve brought this issue up to God more than once. I’ve asked for the elders of the church to lay hands on me, anoint me with oil, and pray for me more than once as the Bible talks about in James 5:14. I know God can heal my feet, but for now I tend to view them as Paul did his affliction he mentions as his “Thorn in His Flesh”. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul asked for God to take it away from him three times and God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and there is no record of Paul’s thorn ever being removed.

This all came to mind this morning as I have contemplated another couple of “Thorns in my flesh” That seem to stick around, Anxiety and depression. Once again I have found myself going to great lengths to try to keep up with my “self care” regimen of exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, medication, rest, fresh air, daily confessions of who I am in Christ, etc. Plus the appointments with a counselor… It’s uncanny the parallel between my foot pain and my struggle with anxiety and depression. Probably the thing that sticks out the most is to what lengths I would go to get some relief for both of them. Because whether it’s pain in every step you take or pain in a majority of the thoughts you think, both are uncomfortable and therefore worth being treated the best way you can, self care, spiritually, and with help from the professionals. And just as I have taken my physical foot pain to God and asked for healing, I have done the same with my mind, but I believe part of the reason my struggle has not been totally relieved isn’t because I am doing something wrong. It’s more a matter of God helping me to get a perspective I never had before.

My youngest son has some of the same issues with his feet that I have, sorry son… If he complains of his feet aching, I automatically empathize with him deeply. I’ve been there, as a matter of fact, I’m there now… I can also say that my accepting where I am in my struggles with anxiety and depression, has given me compassion for those who struggle in their mind. I can tell you what little I know that works the best for me to get relief and I can point you to the One who ultimately makes sense out of all the ins and outs of life- Jesus. I know that looking back through the years and seeing the path I’ve walked that His presence and His help is what has made the difference for me, and although I haven’t seen Him come in and zap my mind into always thinking happy thoughts, I have found Him more than enough when I was unable to see straight or find the will to keep getting up and keep going on. In fact, it is in my growing in knowing Him more that I can take the time to stop and appreciate the little things like the changing leaves, my grandson’s smile, laughter with my kids, or the embrace of my husband. All of these are gifts He has given me to show me that it is true, “God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Whether the weakness be the aching of my feet or the struggles in my head, I can confidently say, “God and His grace is enough for me.” and “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13. Because the Evidence of God’s goodness is there, even in our struggles. It’s whether or not we chose to open our eyes to see it.

Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.