John 11 is the account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. I love this story. It truly displays the heart of Jesus. Especially when we know great disappointment in our lives.
Mary and Martha were Jesus friends. They sent word to Jesus telling Him, “…Lord, he whom you love is ill.”” John 11:3 ESV They knew Jesus was the answer to the problem they were up against.
When Jesus received word of Lazarus’ condition He told those He was with, “…This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 ESV Jesus promised that Lazarus would not die, but His life would be used to glorify God. Later we see Lazarus did in fact die, but it was to give Jesus the opportunity to display His miracle of resurrection power! So Lazarus did in deed live!
When Jesus saw the heartache before He performed His miracle at Lazarus’ tomb, He felt compassion for Mary and Martha, who He loved. He wept.
That is where I come in. There have been situations in my own life that I prayed and asked God for a miracle. Only to see the situations seemingly end in “death.” I have felt the heartbreak of disappointment. As I read this chapter I am assured that Jesus did indeed hear me, and He has seen my heartbreak. Jesus has felt as I did and He has wept. But in the end I can believe that His plan always ends in “life and life more abundantly.” John 10:10. He is the God of resurrection. Even though we die, we live when we believe in Him. The seemingly dead and over situations are simply “asleep,” when entrusted to Jesus. His plan will always end in life for me. Jesus asks me the same question He asked Mary as I am asked to trust Him with my greatest disappointment, “Do you believe this?”
Do you believe He will do what is best and work all things out for your good? Even if you have a season of waiting to see His resurrection power in your life?
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” John 11:25-26 ESV
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” Daniel 4:34 NIV
“God, I hate my mind!” – my prayer after another day drowning in anxiety. 8/31/2021
Emotions and feeling can take us on the wildest roller coaster rides of our minds. Sometimes the feeling goes beyond a little extra stress. Having lived with an anxiety disorder for years, I have felt like the crazy inside would never end. But I’ve had what I would call my “Nebuchadnezzar experience”. After raising my eyes toward heaven, my sanity has been restored.
I have known the torment of hideous nightmares, sleepless nights with my mind running 100 mph and no sign of stopping. I have known the fear of going to sleep because of not being to control what was going on around me while my eyes were closed and I slept. I’ve known what it is like to not be able to stay present in a situation. The whole Fight, Flight, Flee, or Freeze. I would freeze under extreme stress of fear. It was fairly unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. Zoning out, feeling like you’re sinking into a tunnel inside your head, everything around you becomes just noise. Then there’s the tightness of your throat and chest that would go on for days. Before the meds- crying and not really sure why, after the meds- not crying a drop, numb. Going over and over and over again inside your head trying to make sense of the memories you would like to shut out, but can’t. I would have them hit when I was about to fall asleep and then feeling the tension of my shoulders as they tighten and I would find myself holding my breath like I was waiting for a shot to hit me.
All this going on while I have been a Christian- loved Jesus, a wife, homeschool mom, served on boards for different groups, lead ministries at my church, and tried to keep busy so it wouldn’t hit as much or I would hopefully forget. The problem is it would calm down on occasion, but all it took was a trigger and I would be back into the torment of my mind.
After 3 years of knowing me, my best friend suggested that I would go and see a counselor. So I did. I also began taking Prozac, which then had Hydroxizine added to it, then Buspar as the MG of Prozac grew too. I would make sure I took the pills as soon as I got out of bed and most days I couldn’t wait for my next dose in the evening. But after awhile, even the medicines weren’t working.
Four years of counseling… CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming were some of the things I tried. There were things that definitely helped in some areas, but nothing stopped the anxiety. In fact, it seemed to get worse.
I tried doing everything the counselors I went to recommended. I began reading self-help book after self-help book trying to figure out how to get the feelings to stop. I tried the suggestion of “making room” for your anxiety. Imagining it being able to grow and not be resisted so that if I didn’t struggle it might stop. Then I tried Meditation. I downloaded the “HeadSpace” app. Which was started by a Buddhist Monk. I tried to blend their beliefs in with the Bible. Thinking that maybe I could make them fit and then justify my willingness to embrace things that went against what the Bible said. I wanted to believe that my problems had absolutely nothing to do with a spiritual world. That anxiety was my cross in life to bear/ thorn in my flesh/ in my DNA. That I might have the power within myself to fix myself If I tried to faithfully work through all the coping mechanisms that I was learning about that I had developed. I was starting to believe that the best I could do was to try to be my best me and live my out my truth, whatever that was and manage “my anxiety” (like it was my new lifelong pet). Then there was trying to let out pent up emotions as recommended to me, by getting alone in my car, finding the most angry/depressing music I could think of, usually Metalica or Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, then screaming as loudly as I could. Again, all this while attending church regularly, but not necessarily willingly (as time went on), also reading my Bible after trying to calm my mind by meditating. Every night ending with a tight throat and chest and not so restful sleep.
I tried everything I read and all that was recommended to me. Yet I was still drowning in anxiety and getting to the point that thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more frequently. I would find myself driving my Jeep and praying to God, begging Him to heal my mind and telling Him how much I hated my mind, then having my mind have this weird sensation and thinking, “I have to stay present! I see a red stop sign. White car, my steering wheel is black. I feel it’s rough yet smooth touch. My seat feels like fabric. I smell…”. “The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method” for grounding, all this while driving. My mind was tortured and there seemed to be no end on the horizon.
Finally, I had to come to the end of myself. I found myself sitting in a counseling session talking about the past and these words rolled off my tongue, “If there really are any demons…” In searching to figure out “my truth” (as is a common theme in today’s culture), I had started to doubt “God’s truth”. When the words came out, I immediately thought, “I am in trouble. Am I going to Believe Jesus, the Bible, what my whole life had been built around since childhood, or am I going to turn away? God HELP me I am in trouble, and I can’t get out of this.”
In January of 2021, I had started attending a Bible study in our area called W.O.W. (Women on Wednesdays). One of the sessions talked about how as Christians we choose to wander in the Wilderness, following after fleshly things and this will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Sins were specifically mentioned, among them was “Anxiety”. This offended me. My mind ran like a hamster on a wheel uncontrollably, how could they say that struggle was a sin, something I chose to live in? But for some reason, I knew I needed whatever they had, so I kept going until the Spring session was over. Then, during the summer, I felt like I needed to get to know these people who were saying this, so I would not struggle with anxiety about going to the Bible study so much. I texted one of the leaders and offered to just help- set up or tear down, nothing more. You would have thought that I had shaken a jar of yellow jackets and set them loose inside my chest. I couldn’t do it, not even help. So, I texted her back, and told her that I was rushing things, it would be better for me to just attend for a while. I was too anxious to help even just a little. She urged me to pray about that and not make any quick decisions. I told her, “I struggle with anxiety, but I will pray.” God helped me to say that I would serve as a door greeter. If you knew my history of serving in church, this should be a piece of cake. (I like people, most of them ha ha) But it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to tell women “Good morning” when they arrived. It was because, just walking in the building was hard for me. I would arrive in the morning, on time, and sit there for a few minutes in my Jeep, asking myself, “Why did you say you would do this? Now you have to come all the time… They don’t like you. You’re a bother…” the session of lies would go on and on, then I would think, “I have to go in.” and I would make myself get out of my Jeep and walk into the church. After a while of being there, I would somewhat calm down, but the struggle went on and on. I would occasionally mention the anxiety I suffered with to the leader I was kind of getting to know. She mentioned the Co-founder of the organization had struggled with Anxiety and that she might be good to talk to. She was the one who mentioned Anxiety being a part of the wilderness experience the semester I attended before, it intimidated me to talk to her about it, but I was desperate. So, I texted her and asked her if I could talk to her about anxiety. She made time and we talked. It was then that she told me I was going to have to fight. That I could be free. That I was believing lies. That I had lost my first love, my passion for knowing Jesus. Everything she said hit home. She gave me a paper and told me to take it home and write out what I want, what I want with my relationship with Jesus, my life to be, etc. I took it home that afternoon and this is what I wrote:
“This is what I want… to walk in freedom from anxiety, but more than that I want to be close to Jesus. I want to drop the Buspar- Pop my eyes to you Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things that the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run to Jesus and my response to be one who falls at His feet close to HIm. I want Peace. I want You to be my peace…”
This is the beginning of freedom. I’m not sure of the timing but shortly after I wrote that, I woke up one morning with the words, “Anxiety is not a part of my inheritance. I do not have walk in anxiety anymore.” running through my head. The whole day when anxiety would come to me, I would say, “NOPE, you are not my inheritance. My inheritance in is peace, love, joy, patience, kindness in Jesus.” One day would go by… Not too bad of a struggle, two days, three days, etc. Then I woke up one morning and thought. You don’t need the Buspar. Skip the morning dose. Did that for a week, felt good. Skip the evening dose. Did that for a week, felt good. I think I’ll drop them both. Quit the Buspar. Thank you, Jesus! Feeling less and less numb inside. Then, I started to believe that I can be free from the Prozac. I talked to my doctor and told her I was feeling better, and I wanted to go off it. She was all for it. Drop 10 mg. A much slower tapering off, 10 mg at a time, for weeks and weeks until I am finally Free! And feeling Soooo much better!!
Now when Anxiety comes to rattle my cage, I have a battle plan: I pray. I pop my eyes to Jesus. Speaking who God is and how He is worthy of praise. Worship music. Quoting Psalm 18. If it’s real strong, engage my praying friends. I’ve not lived in this kind of peace ever. God has set me free!
I have not needed the oftentimes-weekly counseling sessions I was going to for 6 months. Spending time in Bible Study and Prayer has been more than enough. Praying with my husband if I’m struggling and having friends pray have helped so much.
Do I battle? Yes, Satan knows where to hit me at, but God has shown me how to let Him hit back. It’s not by anything I do. It’s by me Looking to Jesus. Calling to Him for help. Thinking about How GOOD He is. Doing this over and over and over and then it Goes!
All the ME Centered living: my effort, my wants, my plans, my truth, etc. Only led me further and further away from peace and further and further into a pit. Repentance, and running to Jesus, hiding away in Him, relying totally on Him, trusting Him, surrendering to Him by submittance and obedience. It is the only thing that works because it is how He designed me to live. It is the only way out of the wilderness living to the abundance of Jesus’ Kingdom living.
The song “Too good to Not Believe” has a line in it that brings tears to my eyes on occasion. “Cause I’ve seen real life resurrection. I’ve seen mental health restored. Don’t you tell me He can’t do it… I believe You’re the Wonderworking God… The miracles I’ve seen. You’re too Good to not believe.”
God truly is too good to not believe! He can do anything. A little over a year ago, I was struggling to believe that there was any way to get free from the anxiety inside of me. Fear of needing to take more meds, try more self-help techniques and knowing what I had already done was not cutting it shouted its lies to me over and over. But Jesus heard my cries for help, and He came to my rescue! If you only knew the difference I feel, you would see, God is “Too Good to Not Believe”.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.(Jesus)” Philippians 4:11-13 MSG
Life seldom goes the way we have it planned. That is something I should get used to. I can’t count how many times when my kids were growing up that my husband and I would plan the perfect camping trip. Hours of packing, preparing, and then driving, only to find the first night is a night when one of the kids came down with the croup, or threw up all over our pop up camper. There was the first trip to the ocean, only to discover it was jelly fish mating season and several jelly fish stings to be dealt with in the hotel, or we also had the long planned trip to Disney World that was interrupted with a short lived bout of head lice. That was a real treat… I should not be surprised when circumstances are not the glorious picture I had weeks before the actual experience.
I guess I had it in my mind that since our kids are all adults, I would be immune to the disappointment of a planned getaway going south. But here I sit in the most perfect March weather literally yards from one of my favorite trout fishing parks with a sick husband. (The stomach bug had to be going around). Bummer… disappointment.
This disappointment is minor in the scheme of things. Lay around, eat junk food, watch Westerns on the cabin’s tv, and play the occasional game of solitaire. I’ve weathered far worse.
As I’ve sat here this evening on our front porch watching the cars go by our cabin, I thought about Paul saying “I have learned the secret of being content” in Philippians 4. Contentment is not easy to gain. It requires a focus on Jesus and a trust in His plan. Both of which are hard to come by if you’ve lived an anxious life. Self-focus and self preserving protection are what seems right in our world, but it is far from God’s greater plan of our total trust(dependence), total submission, and total obedience as He provides all we need for our life and directs us in His good plan for us.
There’s a lot of things in my world that are disappointing right now. There are the global things, the National things, the local, and the personal. Plus this minor fishing trip thing. There are a lot of things that beg for me to pay attention to them and live in discouragement, apprehension, and fear. Not to mention the temptation to walk in distrust, unforgiveness, etc. The list could go on and on. But God knew there would be times like this- the one we live in. He also knew there would be months like this, weeks like this and days like this one. Whether the situation is a minor disappointment or a large earth shaking one, He tells me how to be content. I am to hang as close to Jesus as I possibly can. Listen to His voice alone, and be faithful to what I know He has told me to be obedient in.
The old Hymn I sang as a girl in the small country church I grew up in says it best,”Trust and Obey. There is no other way to be Happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
His Joy conquers all disappointment. Gigantic ones or small ones like a sick hubby on a get away. My God is good! All the time!
The Tea- “Gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop, the news …” -Urban Dictionary
Conversations with my 21-year-old daughter tend to prove to me just how old I am getting:
Faith: “Here’s the tea Mom…”
ME: “The what?”
Faith: “The tea… Gosh MOM! The tea, It means, the scoop on, what’s up with so and so, the…” and on and on…
My mind goes to “I am getting old.” But I assure you the next conversation I was asking, “What’s the tea on…?”
“The Tea” that was probably started due to tea parties or teatime where people sat together and talked about other people and all kinds of subjects.
It’s taken me awhile, but I am learning. We need to be careful of what voices we allow ourselves to listen to. This morning my Bible reading was in John 10. Jesus is describing the Good Shepherd and His relationship with His sheep. One thing that has been sticking out to me more and more lately is how the sheep know the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how they listen to it. They won’t follow another voice. In John 3:5 Jesus says, ” they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” It occurred to me that not only do I not run away at times, there are times I sit down and have a regular old “Tea Party with Satan” where I listen to him fill me “Spill the tea” on others around me with accusations and assumptions. Or I listen to him give me “the tea” on myself: What I am, What I am not, what I’ve done or did not do. He is a very chatty “Tea Party” host if I allow him to be. Unfortunately, I had been attending Tea Parties with him, frequently. Here is where I make a very bold statement… I’m pretty sure the source of much of the anxiety and depression I have suffered is my frequent attendance to “ALL DAY LONG Tea Parties with Satan.” That he throws. He pulls out a chair, whispers a juicy lie, and offers me a seat to a morning, noon, and night, sometimes all night Spilling of the Tea. It usually starts with, “You know you are not enough for X,Y,Z you face.” “You know so and so doesn’t really like you, they tolerate you…” “You know, If your friends only knew this and such about you…” On and on and on…If I accept his invitation, and sit down for a listen, I find myself drowning in all the fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, etc. That he wants me to be overcome with. His Tea Party is a success.
Jesus said, “His Sheep run away from a strangers voice.” This has been resounding in my soul today. It is time to not only decline an initiation to Satan’s Tea Party, but to run. I must run away from his voice and run straight to Jesus’ voice. Jesus declares the truth. He declares the truth about who I am and who He and the Father are. His voice is there calling out. It truly is a question of “Who will I listen to?” and to “Who’s table will I run?” Jesus offers me a banqueting table, full of delights, that the Word says has “Banner of me of Love”. It is there that I find myself fulfilled, at peace, and with joy. But it requires that I decline my invitation to Teatime with Satan, that comes frequently throughout my day. And that I run from the tantalizing whisper of the lies he spews. Focusing instead on the feast of the truth and promises in God’s word regarding who He is and who I am. Positioning myself close to His heart. Where I can clearly hear Jesus. It is there that I am safe from the tea of anxiety and depression, and whatever other flavors of his deadly teas, Satan wants to serve.
Invitation to Teatime with Satan Declined!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8
Newborn babies are wonderful! I could hold one for hours, as long as they don’t cry. Holding a newborn does not get old. My newest grandson is one of those cuddly babies. I haven’t heard to many whimpers out of him, never seen him mad, in fact, I’ve not really seen his eyes very much. He’s sleeping most of the time. I absolutely love him. What Grandma wouldn’t?
There’s this newer/ probably not so new idea that hospitals are using with the newborns called, skin on skin time. (They didn’t do this when my 4 were born) It provides bonding between the parents and the baby. The warmth of the parent’s body against the warmth of the newborn’s body is a time the newborn can feel the presence of his parent and listen to their heartbeat. The parent gets to hold their little bundle of love. Absolutely beautiful!
This morning while I spent my time with God, I was reminded of another old worship song, “Heart of Worship”.
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship And it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it When it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus”
I started thinking about how close God wants to be to me. Just as close as little Levi in the hospital bonding with his Daddy during their skin-on-skin time. The problem is unlike little Levi, I wrestle with God and fight getting close at times. My mind flies through so many different things. Then I got this picture of how it would be if Levi lay there refusing to be comforted, refusing to be held. That is me and I’m sure that is you sometimes as well. I was reminded of a verse Psalm 77:2 “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted.” The issue with having that close “skin-on-skin” time is having something in between you and your Heavenly Daddy. We can choose to lay on our bed of offences- injury, anger, displeasure, or we can choose to let Him wrap us up in the warmth of His arms of love. We can refuse to be comforted or we can choose to let go of everything and simply come seeking to let our lives be “all about our God”. Only one way leads to the peace we all seek and that is intimate, unhindered communion with our Heavenly Daddy. This only happens as we let every unclean, soiled part of us be washed by Jesus’ precious blood, and we simply come willing to leave behind what we sometimes hold onto for dear life, thinking it protects us. Trusting that there is no safer place than against our Heavenly Daddy’s chest, held by His all powerfully strong arms, listening to His heartbeat of Love for us. It is the only way to the peace He gives. Just be held! He is just that Good!
“You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” – Angel “Redeeming Love” The Movie.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8
The second house my husband and I owned was an earth contact (basement house). It was surrounded on three sides with dirt. It is super energy efficient, but if you’re a fan of having sunlight shining in your house, the lack of windows would not be your thing. This basement house was located in the middle of the woods with lots of trees around it. it was so shaded that we literally had no grass. It just would not grow. I have several happy memories in that house. It is where we lived when my kids were little before their teens. I would back the suburban out of the garage, crank the stereo in the living room and we had an instant roller-skating rink. We did nature walks in the woods identifying the trees that surrounded it, and probably one of the funniest memories was the deer running across our roof. An earth contact in the woods… makes perfect sense. Happy memories are a plus, but I really didn’t like that house. No windows in the bedrooms worked on my fear of house fires (my grandparent’s house burned to the ground when I was 11). And only 3 windows that were 2 sliding glass doors in the living room area and a kitchen sink window. This caused serious issues with my needing all the lights in the house turned on from the moment I woke up until I went to bed at night. Words could not express how happy I was when we moved to our current house, grass in the yard, windows everywhere. Since we live out in the middle of 23 acres, my first act as an official homeowner was to strip every curtain and shade off of every window with the exception of the bedrooms. I told my husband, “I don’t want any curtains. I haven’t seen outside for the past 7 years.” I didn’t put curtains up for 11 years. Three years ago, I put up some decorative ones much to my husband’s surprise, but they are never closed…
The two things that I had missed in the 7 years of living in our earth contact was sunrise and sunset. Quite honestly, I don’t remember watching a sunrise or sunset before that either. I just never noticed them. Maybe I was young, maybe I was busy, maybe I just didn’t care. I’m not really sure why I don’t remember really paying attention to them until I moved here. The view out of my dining room and also over my kitchen sink looks over our back field and faces west. It didn’t take too many evenings here to realize I had suddenly been given the most perfect premium seats for watching the sunset EVERY night. Then there is the front upstairs deck. It faces east. I quickly figured out I could put a chair out there, take a cup of coffee with me and enjoy God’s artistry of the sunrise EVERY morning too. The more I watched the sunrises and the sunsets, the more I began to appreciate how God made each one different and unique. I would contemplate how awesome it would be if I could paint such beauty. I’ve tried my hand at painting before, I’m pretty sure this is out of my expertise.
I’ve blogged quite a bit lately about the women’s Bible study I have been attending, WOW (Women on Wednesday). Today’s discussion in the class I am in got me to thinking about all this. We were talking about “Knowing God”. One of the aspects of knowing God was to “Experience Him”. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my life thinking that experiencing God was always related to a “Goosebump” moment. It was something very emotional. I am not opposed to the emotional/ goosebump experiences of God that do occur occasionally. However, some of my sweetest experiences with God have not involved goosebumps or exciting emotions. They have occurred when I have paused and looked at the sunrise or the sunset. It occurred to me back when I started pausing to gaze that God truly is an artist. He paints scenery that cannot be recreated by human hands. But more than that, when I pause and look at what He has made, I realize that very moment, that very combinations of colors and shades were placed in the sky for me to look at and to stand in awe and wonder of God, who wanted me to enjoy what He made for me. God orchestrated it right then just for me. I whispered, “Thank you God”. Right then I experienced God. It was beautiful and it was simple. For me, a person who tends to overcomplicate things when it comes to my relationship with God, experiencing Him is an area that I easily overcomplicate. Pausing to simply enjoy His blessing and thank Him has been a source of experiencing Him like none other. It is beautiful!
This past weekend I went to watch the new movie “Redeeming Love” at the movie theater twice. One of the scenes involves Angel, a prostitute that had endured horrendous abuse at the hands of men from a young age, and Michael Hosea, a farmer who loves Angel with a pure love as they watch a sunrise over the mountains near their home. Angel recalls that moment and the tenderness of sharing something so beautiful with someone who loved her. “You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” It was the first experience she shared with the first person who loved her with a pure love. It hit me, that is me and God. I never paid attention to sunrises or sunsets either, until God blessed me with the home I now have that has windows facing east and west. It was then, I stopped for a moment to watch the beauty of them, and I experienced God’s tenderness with me. He did all this so I could know Him better and get another glimpse of His great love and I respond with “Thank you my heavenly Daddy, I worship you”.
Last week my husband and I got away for our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a three night get away at Branson at our favorite hotel, The Savannah House Inn. Every night it serves blackberry pie, peach cobbler, ice cream, and cookies, an obvious winner. The week before I started looking for entertainment for us. We have been known to go to shows, my favorite so far “Reza the Illusionist” and “The Cleverly’s” when they are in town. I can do some of the other shows to keep me above boredom, but I’m kind of a child of the 80’s and Rock/ Metal is more up my alley. As I was searching the internet, I stumbled across a youth concert festival with some of my favorite Christian musicians. I had struck gold!! We the Kingdom, Zach Williams, and Skillet were some of the big names. We went to the door to buy tickets and “SCORE!!” we were in. We felt a little out of place since most of the people our age was “youth leaders” or “youth sponsors”, but we were not deterred! We were ready to rock! lol.
The night that Skillet played had arrived and I was super stoked! I knew it would be loud and I knew it would be fun! They did not disappoint! I just had to keep in mind that head banging when you are 50 feels a whole lot different than it does when you were 17. So, I tried to control my enthusiasm. Something impressed me that night that I have been thinking about ever since. The lead singer took some time before introducing the song “Sick of It” to the crowd. He said, “There are some things I am sick of. I am sick of Teen Suicide rates climbing. I am sick of Teen anxiety rates climbing as well. You have been lied to. The media has lied to you. The world has lied to you. It is time to get sick of the lies and take your stand!” Lied to! I may not be a teen, but anxiety has been lying to me. Telling me that I can never be free! Fear has been lying as well. All the self-help techniques haven’t been putting too much of a dent in it. But God!
I’m not sure of exact timing, but I can tell you God has been redirecting me on how to take my stand against the anxiety and depression that has been predominant in my life for several years. It’s been about a year ago that I started to attend a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings called WOW “Women on Wednesdays”. At the time, I was trying to fight my anxiety issues, the best I knew how at the time, with my own effort. They had a slide that they displayed in their main session that quite truthfully, offended me. One talked about living in God’s Kingdom with Joy, Peace, Patience, His Goodness, etc. Then the one about the wilderness that listed things like “conformed to the ways of the world”, “Self-imposed captivity”, “Performing but not obeying”, all of which I could reason my way around but “Fearful and Anxious” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I figured, “They do not know what I experience on the daily. That is not something I can just control.” There was a part of me offended, but a part of me that thought “Could this be true?” “Could I be freed?” Even though those statements bothered me to no end, I kept going. Sometimes with everything I have had within me, making myself walk through the doors of the church each Wednesday morning after sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out why I was making myself do this.
One day One of the leaders said something to me that stuck out. “You need to write down what it is you want to ask God to do for you.” I went home and did just that. I wrote, “I want to walk in freedom from anxiety.” That was number one. Then I wrote, “I want to drop the Buspar (anti-anxiety med) – pop my eyes to Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run for Jesus and my response to be one who falls at HIs feet. Close to HIm”. This did not happen in an instant, but I can tell you today that I am closer to the “total freedom from anxiety” mark than the “Drowning in it” mark I was at a year ago. But it took something that John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, was describing last Wednesday Night at the Concert. I needed to get sick of it! I needed to be desperate enough to realize that I was not fixing me. It would have to be Jesus.
I don’t know if you have ever gotten lost as a kid. I did. I was around 5 years old, and my parents had taken me and my brothers to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I rode a kiddy ride, and my mom was waiting by the exit for me to get off. Problem was when I got off, I distinctly remember looking at the world of waist down humans walking around me. I couldn’t figure out where on earth she was. I was short, you know, 5 years old kind of height, and they were adults. So, I started to wander around, and because of my height, my mom couldn’t find me either. Then it hit me. “I am lost”. But it also hit me that I could see a hat sales booth just a little bit away. I went to it and told the worker I had lost my mom. I asked for help. Seconds later I looked up and there was my dad and my brothers coming down the hill. Talk about relief. I’ve been thinking about that time this morning quite a bit. Anxiety, fear, and depression can make you feel like you are swimming in a world of legs, like my 5-year-old perception did that day. It feels like there is no way to get above it, but determining that you will not stay there, you will go to Jesus for help is the only way to realize the peace of your Heavenly Father’s arms.
It may be offensive to read this. It would have offended me, and I certainly don’t have the corner market on an anxiety fix. I’m just coming as one beggar who has found a place to get bread and wanting to share the location of the generous giver. Hanging close to Jesus and keeping your mind fixed on Him has been working pretty well for me here lately and believe me there are plenty of times I need to be reminded where I need to get my focus on, thank God for good friends. Because our enemy is relentless, and a bully, He won’t shut up until we get “Sick of It”, and deliberately decide to stop listening to his lies, and to listen to the words of Jesus instead, running to Him.
Last weekend I got to get out with my youngest daughter and some friends for an overnight Ladies Retreat called, INSPIRE Retreat with Candace Payne as the guest speaker. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she is also known as “The Chewbacca Mom” for her viral video watched more than 145 million times. She was awesome! Such words of encouragement and also words that challenged me. The last session on Saturday has set off a churning of things inside that I haven’t experienced in awhile. Mainly because in her comical communicating she landed a concept of depth that I’ve not been able to grab ahold of for quite some time. All this from her thoughts on an account of a man in the Bible named Lazarus and a miracle that few have witnessed and seems to be impossible, but I guess that’s why it is a miracle, his resurrection from the dead. John 11 in the Bible contains all the details of this miracle, and the truth is I’ve probably read this, heard it read, heard songs about it, etc. off and on for hundreds of times throughout my 50 years on Planet Earth. But this time something finally hit home.
The account of Lazarus begins with him getting sick, and his sisters, Jesus’s friends, asking Jesus, a known healer to come and heal him. But for some reason Jesus gets in no hurry to go the two mile journey to their house. He waits for two days. The thing that has hit me so hard about this concept is just that “two days”. Why wait? Why allow Lazarus to go through the pain and suffering of the dying process? and Why allow Mary and Martha to have to sit and watch their brother go through all that pain? Especially if the journey only takes a two mile walk. That’s about 40 minutes at the pace I usually walk. Not a very long time or distance to go.
The more this churns around in my mind memories of my own experiences watching my Father in law die of cancer 10 years ago and my Mother in law die of cancer 1 1/2 years ago have been replaying in my mind. Mary and Martha must have felt the things I felt as I sat there and slowly watched my loved ones slip away. Helplessness, deep heart pain, the finality of it all, etc… Then there’s all the other things I’ve walked through in life that have been unfair, unjust, painful, just plain sad… I can relate to the feeling they must have had when you know that Jesus is soooo close, but for some reason He seems to be ignoring it all. This is where the profound statement that Jesus makes changes things. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV This is the point that God changes what we see as our “break down” as His “break through”, Our “End” as “His beginning” , our “dead end” as His “way through”. I’ve been becoming more and more aware as of late that Jesus does not ever “ignore”. He is always there, always hearing ever cry, always collecting every tear. He sees our hurt but what seems to be His delay really is His perfect time. Because He wants us to be able to participate in glorifying Him and even as He says when trying to explain His delay, it may just be for “our sake” that He waits and that He is “glad … so that we may believe.” John 11:14.
Prayers are not answered, unless there is a need that has to be prayed for, Miracles don’t happen unless there is something that is broken and in need of a supernatural intervention, Resurrections don’t occur unless someone has died. A life adrift and lost cannot be rescued unless it is just that “adrift and lost”. I think you may be getting the picture. All these things cannot happen and bring glory to God unless there is someone who needs Him to show up and show off all the Good He can do!
I know what it’s like to sit thinking “I am DONE”. There is nothing more. I can’t hurt any worse. I cannot fix this. But that is exactly where God steps in and shows me how He IS! Sometimes I need the delay of action on His part so I can see that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out of the mess I’ve been in and then finally take the chance to “Believe”. I think when we finally hit the “it’s either I believe, or I will die” mark, the end of us, that we see.
I don’t know I need a Rescuer until I realize I am in peril. I don’t understand I need to be free until I see just how enslaved I am, and I don’t know how I need a new/ resurrected life until I find myself rotting in a stinky grave of all the bad choices I can make. It’s only when I find myself spiritually dead that I realize how much I need Jesus to be that “resurrection and life” for me.
The cool ending to the account of Lazarus is a resurrected man, given back to his sisters. Great sadness turned into the greatest of joy! And the most important thing was all those around watching as two sisters grieved for 4 days over their loss, those who comforted them, cried with them, and stood by them in their sadness, saw what Jesus did and “Believed in HIM”. John 11:45.
Whatever we face that breaks our hearts, deteriorates our bodies, or just plain hurts are all things that Jesus “The Resurrection and The Life” takes and makes a part of our story that brings glory to HIM and reason for us to Praise Him, the one who makes all things work out for our Good and His Glory! AMEN!
“… When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind…” Luke 8:35
There is an account in the Bible of a man who was severely demon possessed. He spent his days running around naked in a grave yard taking rocks and rubbing them on his skin so he could cut himself. No one could subdue him or help him. If they tried to bind him with chains he would break them and run off to be alone. That is precisely where Jesus found him, tormented and alone. The man fell at Jesus feet with the demons inside begging Jesus to send them into the pigs nearby. Jesus cast the demons out of the man, and much to those who lived in the area’s amazement, they found the demonized man “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.”
I’ve often wrote of my struggles with anxiety in this blog. There have been times that I’ve felt tormented, much like the demoniac of Luke 8. Anxiety can make you feel like you are losing your mind, and it tends to make you want to be alone in your misery. There have been times I’ve felt like nothing I tried helped, and at times it’s felt debilitating and hopeless.
God has begun something new in my life. It’s so new that it feels awkward. Kind of like a baby horse figuring out how to stand on it’s legs. BUT I am soooo in awe that I have to share. I’d say the past 4 years at least, but really more I’ve struggled more intensely with Anxiety and depression than any other time in my life, and though I’m not exactly sure how I have found myself here altogether, I have had 10 full days of peace. Jesus has stepped in and I am so grateful. By God’s grace, I have found myself able to hold out my hand to Jesus and ask Him to set me free, and it has been amazing. I find myself much like the man set free of all his demons, wanting to just sit at the feet of Jesus, because I finally feel like I have been restored to my “right mind”. I’m not saying the battle is totally over, because I know as long as I live here on planet earth, the enemy will want to try to beat me over the head with anxious thoughts of distrust, fear, and powerlessness. But by God’s grace I want to stay as close as I can to the shepherd of my soul, Jesus. Because He truly does surround us with peace in His presence, and He goes out of His way to find us where we are to set us free from the chains that bind us. His end game is to have us sitting close to Him, dressed in His garments of righteousness, in our right mind- the mind He has given us, a mind set upon Him-Jesus. He is all about us standing in freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
I was reminded last night, as I thought about my 10 days of peace ,of a poem I wrote back in 2007 about another time that God worked in my life to move things between us out of the way. There have been, are, and will be things that come up from time to time that I will need God to bring freedom to me in, but I can be assured that the closer I get to Him the less that will hold me back from being who He created me to be, His beloved Girl.
Dancing on Shattered Walls- 3/1/2007
There they go again.
Can't you hear them fall?
The closer I come to Him
Soon I'll have no chains at all.
His freedom is amazing.
I can stand tall.
I hear the songs of Heaven.
I am dancing on shattered walls.
All the things that held me
Melt away in His light.
I am loved so deeply.
He has made all things right.
His freedom is amazing
I can stand tall.
I hear the songs of Heaven.
I am dancing on Shattered walls.
Early in our marriage my husband and I were rich in love but POOR in possessions. However, we decided early on that we wanted to take a literal “vacation” each year. We would scrape around and save enough to go to Missouri’s vacation Meca, Branson, rent a cheap hotel room, and hit Lamberts cafe on the way home for some of their hand thrown rolls, a must if you’ve never been to one. About 15 years ago we agreed we were a little tired of the whole “Wake Up To Missouri” tourism motto and we wanted to venture out. My husband had never seen the ocean in any way, shape, or form. So we did a little research. Packed up our suite cases, Buckled in 4 little kids into the Suburban. and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a chance to see the Gulf/ ocean.
We arrived after a 13 hour trip, probably more than that with all the potty breaks we had to take. And rushed out of our Suburban to see the vastness of the ocean. It was awesome. It didn’t take long for us to discover we needed some boogie boards to play in the water with. So we went to a local surf shop and bought 4 of them. One for each kid.
As a small group of Missourians we had a small problem, Ignorance of the ocean. It just so happened that we arrived in the midst of Jellyfish mating season. Our hotel displayed flags for ocean condition in it’s lobby, and happened to have the “dangerous animal” flag on display. That did not deter us. We had come to play. So out into the ocean we went, and we got stung. Several times… The other thing we had not thought about is an ocean is not like the Lake of the Ozark. It has currents… So my, at that time 8 year old daughter, who could barely swim, and I decided to hang out together on a boogie board together. She had no life vest on and I’m not a strong swimmer. As we were floating around she asked me, “Uh mom… can you touch?” I put my foot down toward the bottom and low and behold I could not. So in my usual “I will not panic” voice I said “Laura, let’s swim back toward the shore. Hang on tight to this board.” As we headed back toward shore, I could hear a roar behind me… a WAVE! I held on tight to her, the boogie board, and prayed. It slammed into us hard, but we kept kicking and making our way back to shore. Thankfully we did, and the rest of my stay at the ocean I decided I would rather hang out in the hotel’s pool and observe the beauty of the ocean from the shore. Maybe occasionally wading up to my knees in the waves.
Later I learned there’s this thing called a “riptide”. It’s like a river in the ocean, a current. I also found out that people like me from the Midwest can end up in one of these and not realize they are quickly being swept away from the shore by a current much stronger than we are. The thought of the possibility of me and my daughter ending up on a boogie board in a riptide makes me shutter to this day. God protected me in my ignorance from both the riptides and the jellyfish. But I learned a very helpful lesson. “I am from Missouri. I need to respect the ocean, and stay close to shore.”
I’ve been writing a lot about how God has been overhauling my spiritual life, a very good thing. One of the things He has been pointing out to me is all the voices I have been listening to. Voices have their way of distracting us from the one true voice, God’s word. The voices are like the Sirens of Greek mythology, they lure us away from where God has called us to sail, in the depths of His Truth, enchanting us to go closer and closer to the rocky shore of torment on their island of lies. Kind of like me in my ignorance out on a boogie board with my 8 year old daughter in the Gulf. We think we’re all good and wake up realizing we’ve not been paying attention to what the Bible really says or justifying what we want to believe, and “we can’t touch” because we have become a “Heart adrift”. The voices can also be haunting voices of the past: condemnation, guilt, shame, etc. They play over and over as loudly as they can so you can’t hear the gentle voice of the Shepherd, Jesus, who has assured us that His sheep know His voice and they won’t follow another. Yes there are a lot of voices. BUT GOD!
I find myself parked in Psalm 18 lately. A very good read for a heart that needs to get back to the basics of hanging close to my Shepherd, Jesus. Listening to His voice speaking truth. Verse 16 -19 says “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
How good it is to know that God sees us! He sees us when our hearts begin to drift. He reminds us, like my daughter did that day, “Uh mom… can you touch?” His desire for us is to be safely on the shore of HIs love with Him. He hears our faintest cry and pulls us out of the “deep waters” that are too much for us.
So much in this analogy of our trip to the Gulf. I haven’t even touched us ignoring the “Dangerous Animal” flag, stinging Jelly Fish, and paying attention to the things we have heard or read from God’s truth. God’s life lessons really are like the ocean in many ways. I’m pretty sure He delighted to watch our young family on the beach that day so many years ago saying, “She doesn’t even know how I’m going to bring this memory back of some family fun. In about 15 years, when she needs to remember how I had her on that Boogie board with her small child, I’ll remind her. I had her then and I have had her these past few years as she struggled to keep herself close to me. I never did take my eye or my hand off of her either time. She’s my girl.”