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.

I Belong

I’ve been contemplating “Belonging” this morning. I guess it all goes back to my recent start up of the Beth Moore Bible study “Chasing Vines”. There’s much said in the first couple of chapters about being pulled up from where you were planted and transplanted in an unfamiliar land. Boy do I get that. I think any woman my age starts to feel the whole “transplanted” feeling. All the familiar is shaken: Relationship with kids as they grow up, relationship with husband as you have more time together, relationship with friends as we weather the ins and outs of our new schedules, new responsibilities, new season… that’s just a few. When one of the questions in the study asked “Do you feel like you’ve been transplanted?” My reply was, “Absolutely…” Transplanted May be an understatement. “Completely rearranged” May be more accurate.

But there is a constant in an ever changing world, Jesus. And my “Belonging” to Him. My Belonging is not conditioned by my perfection, my position, my situation, or my feelings. It’s just a fact. Belonging brings security and it brings a certainty that no matter the situations we face we are secure and loved.

All this contemplating of “Belonging” brought to mind a poem I wrote several years ago. It makes me think of something I heard years ago in a meeting. “No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, come home.” When I am “at home” in Jesus, it doesn’t matter what my current circumstances may be. I am accepted by Him. “I Belong”.

Originally written in 2009:
(I read the account of a woman who had a double masectomy for breast cancer. She was concerned about how her husband would react to her disfigurement. When he saw her for the first time after the operation he came close to her, stroked her hair, and told her with tears in his eyes, “Oh sweetheart, you are so beautiful.” Like her, I look at my imperfections sometimes with a lot of discouragement, but God holds me as beautiful in His eyes.)




I Belong

You see the disfigurement of my soul.
You see the ugliness of my sin.
You touch the brokenness inside.
Your blood washes,
cleansing the dirtiness within.

I am moved by Your compassion for me.
I am set free by Your love.
I am made whole in the light of Your Glory.
I am not left alone.
I belong.

You have watched me cry in sadness.
You were catching all my tears.
You were there when loneliness engulfed me.
Though I was unaware, You were there.

I am moved by Your compassion for me.
I am set free by Your love.
I am made whole in the light of Your Glory.
I am not alone.
I belong.

I belong to You.
Held by Love divine.
You have called me precious.
You are truly mine.
I am Yours.
I Belong.

“There Was Jesus”

July 2nd 1984, 36 years ago at a small church camp, Camp Sharon, was where I had my awakening. It was where I suddenly became aware of God’s desire, not just for me to give my life to Him, but my awakening to His desire for me to be close to Him. It all started when He began calling to me to let Him have everything, my plans, my life, my hurts, etc.

For an 8th grade girl, I’m sure I had become quite a surprise to those around me. I wanted to do this relationship right, and I wasn’t sure how to get there. I went to the local Christian Bookstore and bought a book that talked about how to have a relationship with God. It covered praying and reading the Bible. It said I should read 10 chapters of the Bible a day. So that is what I did. I wanted to experience God. Not just know about Him. I would spend hours in my room reading the Bible and praying. It was such a surprising response that my mom, a faithful Christian, was worried about just how much I was reading and pursuing. She was afraid that I would burn out on it. I was just HUNGRY. Hungry to know more of that feeling of peace and love I felt kneeling and uncontrollably sobbing in the sawdust near the altars of an outdoor church camp tabernacle. I remember telling God, “If you really want me you can have me.” It’s funny how much I didn’t understand. “really want me”?!?! He wanted me so much He walked the lonely road of Calvary and died on a cross to make a relationship with me possible. He tugged at my heart so heavily that night at camp that no matter how hard I tried to walk away, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’m so glad I didn’t! I left that time of prayer new and free and filled with joy!

Through the years I’ve had my “hot on fire, so close to you” relationship with God, and others I’ve had my “It’s getting cold, where are you at God?” relationship. I’ve had my times of feeling like I had it all together and understood it. I’ve had times when I understood that I will never have it together and I won’t ever understand life. 36 years that Jesus was right there. His Holy Spirit living inside of me gently speaking to me which way I should go even when on my own I couldn’t figure out the way.

Lately I’ve been listening to Zac William’s album “Rescue Story”. I kind of have a tendency to get stuck on a song that speaks to me. Surprisingly to me, the song that sticks out to me the most off that album is a duet with Dolly Parton. “There Was Jesus”.

It hits where I find myself as of late. I’ve been looking at where I am in my life, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. The thing about the lyrics of that song that sticks out to me is that no matter where we’ve been, no matter where we are, no matter where we go, “There Was Jesus”. So the days of blessing that I laugh and smile through, He’s there enjoying the times of joy with me. The days that I struggle to understand and see, He’s there holding me up showing me the next step to take. He’s there with me when I feel nothing. He’s there with me when I feel it all.

I’ve been pretty open on this blog about my struggles and questions. It’s kind of the outlet I’ve chosen to let what I’m think about on the inside come out. You all get a little picture of what I’ve been contemplating as you take the time to read my thoughts. Most of the time I am able to lay out “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, but somehow take the turn back to the only answer I’ve found that resonates inside of me, Jesus. Struggles that we all face, whether they be depression, anxiety, addictions, PTSD, abuse, disappointment, etc. only find meaning and healing when looked at in the light of the presence of the only one who has been there for it all, Jesus, the love of our souls. The only One who is able to speak peace into storms of life, bring the dead things that we’ve given up on back to life, take a broken, wrecked life and make it a masterpiece is Jesus.

I can analyze my hurts, categorize my issues- give them names, and get understanding. These aren’t altogether bad things to do, but I shouldn’t stop there. I need to take the tools I learn to deal with the things I struggle with, and go to Jesus asking Him to heal what only He can heal. Do my part and let Him do the rest.

He has proven Himself faithful. I can trust Him where I’m going, even when I cannot see.

“There was Jesus”.

Jesus is there. Jesus was there, Jesus will be there.

Reset 2- New Beginnings

This Sunday morning, just like every Sunday morning, my husband and I got up and ventured off to our local Church congregation for the weekly service. It’s something I appreciate all the more since the Covid 19 outbreak. I sorely missed being “in the house” for a time of worship with the worship band and time in the word. The message today has been percolating in my heart. Probably since it reinforced my ponderings on “The Reset” I’ve been pursuing as of late. The ending of the service was a time of reflection on the times God has stepped in. You know when life appeared to be going one directions with a certain expectation of a bad outcome, and then God changed things. It may have been a time of financial uncertainty, emotional unrest, relationship turmoil, etc. Most certainly it has been a time of great darkness, sadness, pain, etc. The kind of time when there really was no way out. That’s the time the “reset button” of “New Beginnings” is pushed. God has a promise that has brought much comfort to me through the years. His promise is that He “makes all things new”. Revelation 21:5. That is a promise that I have had to dig my fingernails into and hold on with all my might at times. Because as one who has struggled with the monsters of the past lurking in the closet of my mind, that promise assures me the closet they have occupied has it’s light turned on, monsters evicted, and the New Beginning begun.

A few years ago I went in for my first session with a Christian Counselor to aid in my fight against anxiety and depression. The first thing she was quick to point out was how the battle in the mind has it’s rubber hit the road in the thoughts we think. It’s hard, but totally possible to change our focus from all the fear, pain, sadness, etc. to the things that are “True…Noble… Right… Pure… Lovely…Admirable…Excellent… or Praiseworthy.” and for us to “Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 Then with a reassuring smile, she handed me a sheet of confessions of who I am in Christ, and assigned me with the task of speaking these truths out loud every morning. It has been a daily reminder of the “Reset Button of New Beginnings” I pushed so many years ago as a teenager at a Christian youth camp. When I asked God to take what little I had to offer, my life, and do whatever He wanted with it. The New Beginnings began. Looking back I can see that the hard times were the times that pushed me closer to Him, and the reminder of all that I wasn’t, brought the truth of all that He is and wants to be for me.

The “Reset Button of New Beginnings” starts with the first push “Salvation”. It’s the time when we see just how much what we are doing isn’t working, and just how much What He can do in us we need. It starts with an honest talk with God, an offer to give Him all of you, and watching Him do what only He can do, “Reset” your life.

Psalm 40 has been one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible. Verses 1-5 stand out the most to me. “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” The New Beginning I have found has been when God saw where I was, heard my cries, and pulled me out. But He didn’t stop there. He set me in a good secure place and gave me a new song to sing about Him and His Goodness! I Am Not There Anymore!! That is the Philippians 4:8 stuff I am to think about. The Truth is I am His! The Noble thing Is I am the Kings Daughter! The Right thing is I have been made right with Him- righteous! The Pure thing is Me after He cleansed me from my wrong doings and sin and made Pure. The Lovely thing is Me, His master piece! The Admirable thing is the Miracle of New Beginnings He gives! The Excellent thing is His work in me! And the Praiseworthy thing is that He has done all this because He loves me, period.

That is the “Reset Button” He has given to me. That is the “Reset Button” He has given to you! Hit activate! He longs to bless you with “New Beginnings”!

“ProcessME” vrs “InstaME”

 

A life with no struggles, wouldn’t that be awesome?  Somehow a segment of the Christian world in America has adopted this view.  If you do struggle, you lack the faith you should have to overcome the obstacle that presents itself to you.  That’s hard news for people who struggle with addictions, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues or even physical issues that have not yet been healed.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t ever set you completely free from the challenges you face, but I am saying if He hasn’t it’s time to let go of the guilt of not being good enough to overcome and trust in a God who may slowly refine us, mold us, and change us into the image He has created us to be.

In the midst of a struggle that I have fought against most of my life, I’m slowly getting an understanding of this.  A friend recently pointed me back to Paul’s quote on his “Thorn in his flesh.” I was talking about my struggle with anxiety and memories of bad times.  She encouraged me to look at these times as an opportunity to praise God for the struggle because it is the very thing that has driven me to my awareness of how much I need Him throughout the years.  As 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 puts it in the Message, it is the very thing that has “pushed me to my knees.”  Had I felt no pain, I would not know the need for God’s healing.  Had I not struggled, I would not know the need for God’s help.  Had I not seen all that I lack, I wouldn’t understand how I am only complete in Jesus.  It is in my understanding of how broken I am that I find my need for Jesus to make me new, and I am able to allow Him to do just that so I can live the life of freedom, peace, and joy He has promised.

Sometimes the process of being chiseled into the Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) that God makes me  uncomfortable, and I cannot in my own strength produce the change that needs to be.  But God Is here with me He doesn’t leave me alone or unfinished.  He completes the good work He begins. (Philippians 1:6)

There’s a skit by The Skit Guys called “God’s Chisel”  I have thought of it often through the years since I saw it first.  I’m kind of fond of “InstaME”  instantly I am everything I wished I could be, perfect teeth, hair, mood, etc.  But that simply isn’t reality.  I am “ProcessME”.  One lesson at a time learned, one battle at a time fought and with Christ won, One area of struggle resolved at a time as I learn to walk in victory.  “ProcessMe” is began when I begin my life in Christ and He begins to slowly change me and strengthen me to make what I was meant to be all along.  It may take time and involve struggle, but as I learn to turn these things over to Him one struggle at a time, I find myself free.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

His Choice, His Desire, His Love

Right off the bat I want to put a personal plug in for “The Bible App” or “YouVersion”  It’s a game changer if your looking for a way to get into the Bible more and understand it better.  There are all kinds of nifty little details that it covers: making pictures with Bible verses on them, open your app daily for the daily verse streaks, devotions, and reading plans to mention a few.  My husband and I picked “The Bible Project: New Testament in One year” almost a year ago to do together.  We don’t really have a time we actually sit down and read the Bible together, but we are reading the same passage and on occasion we have struck up conversations on it.  It’s good to grow Spiritually together.  It’s been a joy.

As I mentioned, we’ve been at this for almost a year.  Which puts us in the book of Revelations.  Not really my favorite book of the Bible.  It has good stuff in it. They all do, but if there is one thing I’m not, an end times scholar is one of them.  So far we’ve made it to chapter 4 and so far so good.  In fact, what I read today is what’s been rolling around inside of me today.  Probably because I need it.  I would venture to say most people do.

Revelations 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” NIV

My first read of this verse it kind of stuck out to me.  I thought, “Oh yeah I think some worship song in the 80’s quoted that verse or something.”  But it kept sticking out to me. So to satisfy my curiosity, I figured I’d check it out in some other versions.  I’ve got my go to list of versions I like to compare verses to.  One of them is “The Message”.  Sometimes I read it and think, “That couldn’t possibly be what the Bible was trying to say.”  But most of the time I come away looking at things a little different.  This is one of those times.

Revelations 4:11 “Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all;  It was created because you wanted it.”

Shazaam!  That last little bit struck me.  God didn’t just willy nilly wake up one day and decide that just for funzies He was going to create everything.  No, He created everything “Because HE wanted it.”

It’s turkey season in our neck of the woods.  My husband and son have been hunting most mornings this week.  They get up, excited at 5 am, and go sit out in the woods/ field near our home for hours on end.  So far after 5 days of trying, no Turkey.  My husband put a selfie of himself and my son from the first morning, with the quote “Gotta love the outdoors” on Facebook. He has told me more than once how much he loves just going out and sitting in the outdoors and enjoying creation.  I get it.  I’m fond of an occasional nature hike, trout fishing, and camping.  I love the peace I feel when I look up at the sky at night and see the stars quietly shining in the sky and hear the frogs and crickets singing in the background.  It’s beautiful.  So in reading that verse, I told God, “I get it.  You wanted all that so you made it.  That’s really cool.” But then it hit me… He made me. He wanted me.”

When my kids we little and I held them on my lap, I wanted to convey to them how much they were worth to me and to God.  I would say, “Do you know who loves you?”

“Yeah Momma, you do.”

“That’s right who else?” “Daddy”

“Yep, who else?”  (The list could go on for awhile with Grandparents, cousins, friends.) But I always ended it with this statement. “That’s true, but Jesus loves you the most. More than any of us can or could.”  This usually wrapped around to the final statement I would say, “You know, God wanted a sun. So He made one.  God wanted our dog Jack so He made him. But more than anything, He wanted you, an Andy, so He made an Andy.”

That is all fine and good when you’re talking to your precious child, but it’s hard to apply when you turn the table and apply it to you.  Especially if you struggle with self esteem/ self worth issues. If God made me, and I am certain He did, that means He wanted me…

If God made you, and I am certain He did, that means He wanted you…  Let that sink in.  All the things that are right, all the things that are wrong.  He looks right at us and “wants us.”  Things I want I don’t throw away.  Things I want I take care of.  Things I want I look at with affection.  Things I want I would fight for.  Things I want I would pay the price to Get.   Hmmm… The picture comes in clearer and clearer.  I’m not a thing, but I am His creation, and everything He has made was made by His choice, His desire, and His love.

Maybe, like me, that makes your mind go “tilt” like an old pinball game.  But I’m sure if that truth is applied to my heart and mind enough, the crooked will be made straight, and my value will become clearer and clearer.  The same for you.

It’s probably time to break out the old conversation I used to have with my kids and just fill in the blanks.  “Who loves you?  Yeah yeah, but Who Really Loves YOU? Yes, Jesus.  He wanted a (your name goes here) so HE made one. That is why you are here.”

https://www.youversion.com/the-bible-app/