Tag Archive | story

I am (fill in the blank)

2015-03-01 NGChurch (80)2

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

Daddy! I need you…

photo

“the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15b-16

I saw this in the grass the other night when I took our dog out before bed. It looked like a little bird, but I had no idea what it was. It’s still there and I still don’t know.

photo (2)

 

This morning I saw something next to it. Now, some of you may know exactly what it is and I would certainly appreciate it if you would share you knowledge with me, but it’s got me a little befuddled!

Is it some type of exotic mushroom?

Is it a hive or nest of some kind?

Is it a seed pod from a tree or a body snatcher pod from the movies?

If I get a long stick and try to flick it, will something fly out of it?

Will it know I flicked it and come after me?

Will my neighbors know I flicked it into their yard?

I would love to put this off and leave it for my husband to remove. (I do that on occasion, but don’t tell him.) The problem is that he’s not going to be able to deal with it for a while and it’s right where we take the dog out so it would be easy to forget and overlook. The last thing I want to do is accidentally step on it or have the dog try to eat it.

And even as my mind goes through all the scenarios of what could be and how I could take care of it if should I choose to accept the mission, I am reminded of another such situation over a decade ago.

In our family room two houses ago, we had a bar type counter with a space for a waste basket. I was cleaning, bent down to remove the garbage and in the corner of the cabinet was a big, dark, furry looking creature. I was armed with a bag of garbage, an empty can and a broom. Maybe some of you can relate to the idea that this was not going to cut it. The bag wasn’t heavy enough to crush it if I should get it out with the broom. If I was able to capture it with the can, how would I then get it out from under the can? And besides, it would probably grab onto the broom and climb up the handle before either of these could be valid options!

So what did I do while my husband was at work?

I called my dad.

Yep, at the time I was a thirty-something wife and mother and I’m calling my daddy to kill the bug. Of course, that meant my mom would come as well. Never mind that they are older and move slower than me so whatever reaction time I was worried about with my own abilities would be cut by some fraction. Never mind that they lived half an hour away so I would need to wait and keep an eye on the cabinet lest it get away. Never mind that they were always out and about enjoying the retired life so they might have to stop what they are doing to come to my rescue.

In spite of all this, I called anyway.

And my daddy came; He answered my call. He always did. I never doubted that he loved me because his actions always showed me he did.

I understand this isn’t the truth for everyone. Not everyone has a dad who answers when called, who loves at all times.

But there is a heavenly Father who loves unconditionally; who is ready and waiting to answer your call for help and is already intervening in ways you don’t even know. He knows you, loves you and is for you. All you need to do is call out to Him.

Because of my dad, I’ve had a better understanding of God’s love for me which leads me to ask the question: will my children understand the love and sacrifice of Jesus better because I am their mom? Will they know the importance of faithfulness and kindness, peace and patience? Will they understand the difference between punishment and discipline and be grateful for me choosing to do the hard thing?

When I’m not sure if what I am doing is the best for my children, I know I have a Father in heaven who will answer my call for help and show me His loving ways.

By the way…the big, dark, furry bug ended up being a candy bar wrapper that missed its mark. My dad had a great laugh, too!

Something to Consider…

Do you know God as a loving Father? Why or why not? Who in your life has painted the picture of who God is to you?

Do you believe He is always available, ready and willing to come when called…already by your side in times of trouble?

Who in your life will know the truth about Jesus because you have given them an accurate picture of who He is through your words and actions?

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son (Jesus) into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba,Father.'” Galatians 4:6

Fight or Flight? (Part 3)

This is the third part in a four-part series.

Two Empty Chairs in a Field“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I can’t speak to how anxiety manifests in any other person or why others struggle. I only know my story and if there is anything anyone can relate to and learn from then it’s worth telling.

This has been by far the most difficult post to write. I have anguished over how to describe my anxiety: what caused it, how I reacted, what it turned into, how it affected me, how it affected others and finally realizing that everything I thought I knew about it was wrong.

Flight, n.: The act of fleeing; the act of running away, to escape danger or expected evil; hasty departure.

I grew up believing lies about myself, about others and about God.

It’s funny how the smallest thing can change your perspective of yourself. I have spent my entire life trying to hide and keep myself safe. I have feared the opinions of others, their judgment, their rejection and my own failure. I avoided and ran from anything that put me in the spotlight. As long as I was left alone to do my work I was fine. No challenges, no confrontations, and no humiliation. To even consider the thought of making a mistake and being found out was paralyzing. Running and hiding was my way of taking control, but you can’t out run God and nothing is hidden from His sight.

The stress associated with my fears manifested physically and the anxiety grew with each incident. My internal flight instinct grew. I was trying to escape a perceived danger.

There came a point when I truly began to understand the lengths I was going to trying to protect myself. All these years, I was hoping that someone would step up and protect me. I needed to believe I was worth protecting; that somehow I was worth more than the pain and suffering they would endure.

And then God reminded me of Jesus, the pain and suffering He endured on my behalf to protect me from death, to set me free and to give me a place in this world for Him.

See, God was calling me out of the shadows and He wasn’t giving up on me. The more He worked, the more I fought and the more I ran from the very situations and people He was using to grow me, change me, and transform me. I questioned His authority and control over my situation. I struggled with the reality of who He was making me and who everyone else expected me to be.

When my knowledge was challenged, I assumed I didn’t really understand. When I wasn’t perfect, I assumed I’d never really be good enough. And when I gave in to pressure, I assumed I’d never really be different so why bother.

What I had forgotten was that Christ is not only with me, He’s in me. When I am uncertain, He knows. When I think I’m not enough, He is more. When I don’t trust myself, He is faithful. I didn’t need to rely on my own understanding or strength, but turn to Him in every situation and His peace would be my guard and my protection.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

There was a time when I didn’t know better. But that’s all changed. And in my knowing better I have decisions to make. I can rely on my fears and worries to keep me safe or I can turn to God, relying on and trusting in Him completely.

Something to Consider…

Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. We are to trust in God and in Him. (John 14:1)

In what areas do you worry or doubt the most? What is your ultimate need in the moment? Give this worry to Him and tell Him about your need. Trust that He not only knows, but he is faithful and more than enough to meet your every need.

Into what lie does God want to speak His truth? As you give Him your fears, He will tell you the truth about who He is, who you are in Him and what that means for you going forward. Peace is found when we rest in His truth.

Fight or Flight? (Part 1)

 IMG_1655This is my story…well, at least one of them. This is what came from years of trying to deal with, manage and hide the truth. I am not perfect, but I have gained ground and found freedom. I hope by sharing my story someone else will gain ground, find freedom and have hope as well.

I was recently at the doctor with one of my daughters. I was listening to the doctor and her carry on a conversation about the nervous system. She had recently covered all of this in her high school biology class and was completely engaged in the conversation about all the different systems and what they control.

I, on the other hand, could barely listen without feeling like I was going to pass out. That was until I heard the part about the sympathetic nervous system which brings about the “fight or flight” response.

I have been plagued with anxiety since the early 2000’s. From approximately 2002 to 2007, I didn’t really understand the occasional attack that would send me into a panic. There had to be a physical problem for this feeling so I would go to the doctor to get various issues checked never considering the anxiety itself was the problem.

In 2005, depression was added to the mix. It wasn’t until 2007 that I finally went to a counselor after an anxiety attack landed me in the emergency room. We talked through all of the situations that came to mind with my angst and all of the situations that led to my thinking a certain way about myself and others. During this time I found ways to deal with and manage my anxiety. I also discovered the tale-tell signs of an attack.

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me. This happened in situations where I felt I had authority. I was ready for a fight.

At other times, my mind would race with worry. The thoughts flew at me and my mind ran circles trying to avoid the barrage. In those situations where I felt I had no authority, I would have a worrisome fear. Flight: getting as far away from the situation as I could was the answer.

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:4

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

In both situations, my anger and fear were over things in which I felt I had no control. Neither response was appropriate and the weight of the guilt was overwhelming.

The truth is there are many situations and circumstances in my life in which I have no control. The idea that I could not change where I was and that I had limited options on how to survive threw me into a fight or flight response.

The truth is in Jesus I don’t need to go to extremes in my response to problems. Jesus is helping me turn anger into a solution and worry into peace. In my next few posts, I’ll go into more detail on just how that has been possible for me.

Something to Consider…

How do you react in difficult situations? Do you tend to strike out with a fight mentality? Or do you retreat escaping in flight, ignoring the situation or denying the problem?

This may not be an extreme issue for you, but you may find you have hot buttons that when pressed set you in one direction or the other. How does your ability to control the situation influence your response?

Ask God to show you the truth of the situation. Choose to be open to what He has to say.

More than Girl Friends

SAC Camping 2010(Jesus said) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“Any part of my life that I am not willing to let God have, take control of, correct, or change is a part of my life that will keep me at a distance from Him.”

This was my first thought as I sat down to reflect on the past five years.

Five years ago today, my husband had a meeting with someone who was, and thankfully still is, a very important and influential person in our lives. Unfortunately, at the time there was a division. I didn’t know how it would turn out, what all would take place in the process, but I remember at the time telling someone it would be okay. That was all I could say.

God has been so faithful since that day, just as He was every day before and will be every day going forward.

18 months after this event and after much turmoil, I received an email from a friend. She was someone I was just getting to know really. We knew of each other, but didn’t really know each other. She reached out to invite me into a group of women who were seeking God together.

It was in God’s perfect timing that this invite came. I was alone, abandoned in some ways, struggling for freedom in others.

What I found was a group of women so focused on God that over time, they would allow God into every part of their lives and encourage others to do the same. It sounds simple in some ways, but in so many ways it was no small task.

They are gentle, peaceful, loving women who simply want what God wants and not just for themselves but for every woman, every person. Their real and raw thoughts, feelings, emotions and struggles made it possible to see God’s hand in their lives which in turn, helped me see Him in my own joys and sorrows, struggles and needs.

About three years ago we did an action challenge.  We were to be intentional about being the hands and feet of Jesus whether it was through kind deeds, words or prayer. We traced our hands, some traced feet, and on them wrote out all of the things we did over the two weeks. I looked at my “hand” last night for the first time since the challenge.

I am humbly amazed at the prayers answered, the solid friendships that have grown and the huge family of sisters I belong to. I don’t know where I’d be without Jesus and I am grateful that He chose to love me through these women.

Prior to this group, I often wondered if I was too serious about my faith. Does everything have to be about God? I discovered with the help of these women the simple answer is “yes”.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

The truth of Jesus is real and it matters. Everything we do, think, or say has the opportunity to draw us closer to Him, show His love to another and bring Him glory.

These women have drawn close to God, showed His love to many and have brought Him glory in all things. They are not perfect, they have made mistakes, but their hearts are set on Him and He has worked all of this together for good according to His plan.

I am not perfect, but I am also not who I once was in part because of the time spent with this group. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their obedience and willingness to be vulnerable. I thank them for being more than friends, but family…Sisters in Christ

Something to Consider…

Are you wondering about God just wanting to know what is true about Him? Who is He? Does He really love you? And if so, what does that mean for you going forward? Seek Him by seeking out others who also really want to know Him. His love for you will be evident as you seek Him together.

God’s love for us is made complete through the obedience of people. You cannot be alone and fully understand or grasp the love of Jesus. Commit yourself to a local church and you will find more than a building of Christians, you will find a family and a home.

Created for a Purpose

Family“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will,” Ephesians 1:11

When my husband and I rededicated our lives to Christ, it was the first time I really believed God had a purpose just for me. I had always felt I was here for a reason, but didn’t really know what it was, what I should do about it, or that I could actually know that purpose with certainty.

One night, as I was lying in bed ready to fall asleep, I let my mind go to this place of purpose. This was often the time I spent asking God various questions over the years: at night, in the dark, quite and feeling alone with Him. My mind immediately went to the thought of a dangerous mission trip. “Don’t go there! Don’t give God permission to send you there!” (As if God needs my permission to decide what His purpose is for me…) Rather than think of all the things that could be my purpose, I finally settled on simply asking Him the question and allowed myself to fall asleep.

As I began to wake up, while I was still in that foggy place of coming to, I sensed God sharing His vision for me.

“Love your husband and support him in his work. He works hard to provide for your family.

“Love, care for and teach your children. You do not know what they may grow to do, what I have planned for them.

“Manage your home. Do not let it be a burden to your husband. He has enough to deal with. This is your responsibility. Remove that weight from his shoulders.”

Three simple tasks. Was that really all there was to my purpose? Did I just make that up? Was I taking the easy way out of a mission trip? What purpose would this serve?

Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is my first call. This is my second.

When I lose sight of this purpose, my world begins to fall apart. I am not weak; I am just not living in my sweet spot. I am not living in alignment with God’s will for my life.

My life. Not yours or someone else’s, but mine. And yours will be different or may be similar.

I love my husband’s heart for his work. Craig has an honest desire to work hard and help his company be successful. He also has a desire to see the client’s best interest served and that they would prosper as well. I know God has a purpose for him where he is so I need to honor God by honoring my husband.

I admit, many women I have known over the years would not have agreed with this purpose and would not have encouraged me. But God did not put a yoke of oppression or burden on me. He said to me, “You are able and capable of doing this. It is not too much for you nor too little. I will help.”

And then there are my children. I have often wanted to say, “Do what you want! I give up. It’s your choice.” But as the thought crosses my mind I realize I cannot give them that permission. I cannot relinquish my authority or influence in their lives. I cannot nor should I squelch the Spirit in their lives; while at the same time, I need to teach them the difference between the Spirit and the flesh.

They now, at their young ages, have a stronger, firmer foundation of faith than anything I had at that same age. My husband is moving toward God in all areas of his life. Did these three simple tasks change the entire trajectory of my family? Did simply loving my family the way God called me to show them His love for them?

My purpose serves His purpose not only in my life, but in the lives of others around me. I am grateful to God for how He has worked in me and through me to make a difference in the lives of my husband and my children for Him. It was a bigger, greater purpose than I could imagine.

Something to Consider…

As my children grow to adulthood, my authority and influence in their lives will change. I’ve made it clear I will use whatever authority and influence I have, but do understand it will be different. I know that as my life changes, God will have new opportunities for me to serve a purpose for Him.

Do you know your purpose? Have you asked God what He has planned for you? Are you willing to move forward should He give you His vision for your life?

Have you been living in His purpose for you? Are you at a crossroads in your life with a decision to make about how you proceed? Is there a dream in your heart that is beyond your imagination?

No matter how big or small your purpose may seem, God will be served. He will bring good things from it not only for you, but for those around you as well.

The Likeness of Christ

s“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26a (NIV)

I love this verse! Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness. God is the creator of the universe, of everything in it and He, the Father, Son and Spirit, decide to make people. And not just any people, but people who are made in His image, who are created to be “like” Him.

Everything in the Bible is based on two things: relationships and love. They are at the center of every story. How we live together and how well we love in the process. This isn’t just between us as people, but between us and God as well.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) The very first image of God’s love for us is found in the first chapter when He makes man and then woman so he wouldn’t be alone. We don’t know what it’s like to be God, so we have each other to relate to and live with in a different way than we live with God. Genesis 2 goes into more detail on the making of both man and woman and then finishes up with a picture of how we are to live together and love as men and women.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

So if we are made in his likeness, we should be doing things like He does them. Ultimately, we should be loving Him and each other as He first loved us. Our relationship matters to God. They should matter to us as well!

My husband and I, with a group of friends, recently completed a marriage study titled The Art of Marriage. We were excited to learn what it really looked like to have a God-centered, God-honoring marriage. Not that we haven’t considered it or done other studies on marriage before. We are just in a new place in our walk with Jesus and we really hadn’t been intentional about it for some time.

We went to the first session and got so much out of the teaching, had great group discussion and really felt like we were moving forward. Then, we had to actually talk to each other about the topic and lesson…

This shouldn’t have come as any surprise to us; I just don’t think we thought that far ahead. Maybe we were in denial. Maybe we thought all the years of communication issues (one of our friends had actually nick-named us The Bickerson’s) would just disappear because we wanted to do it God’s way. Maybe we just hoped this time it would be different.

In our group, we had decided that each week a different couple would lead the discussion. Since we had already done session 1, there were 5 sessions remaining and 5 couples in the group, we would have the couple who had been married the longest lead the next lesson, second longest the next and so on. As it turned out, we had been married the third longest so we got the lesson on, of all things, communication and conflict. God definitely has a sense of humor.

And God knows what He’s doing. In everything, He loves, teaches, corrects, and encourages. We did have some difficult times communicating and may even have had some conflicts come up. But this time, we focused on God’s desire for us to love each other and His purpose for our marriage. We made it through with barely a hint of a scratch! We discovered some new ways to communicate and are set on trusting each other for good first!

Something to Consider…

God created you to be in relationship with Him. He loves you deeply and cares about you. How well do you nurture and care for your relationship with Him? Do you love Him first before all things? Consider what you can do to love Him well and keep Him first in your life.

Marriage reflects Gods love for each of us to our spouse. We are Christ in flesh for each other. If you are married, how well do you nurture and care for relationship with your spouse? Does what you do or how well you love depend on the other persons willingness to do the same? Choose to do your part well so your spouse knows they can trust you for good.

If you’re not married, you still live in relationship with many other people. We all do. How well do you nurture and care for the other relationships in your life? Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people with whom you volunteer, clients you serve, the stranger on the street all need encouragement and love. While we shouldn’t give to get, we do reap what we sow, so be sure to love others well. We don’t need to be married to be the likeness of Christ to others!