Thursday, August 9, 2012

He Didn't Have to Be by Brad Paisley

Here is the song I spoke of in my last post.  Love it!

All Because of a Porch Swing

When my dad passed away, almost 7 years ago, I had to change my route to take the kids to school because I couldn't bear to pass by his fire station.  I would break out in sobs every time I saw a fireman or heard the blare of sirens.  For the past few years now I pass by the station almost daily, and I rarely well up when I see the firemen out and about.  But this week I was driving past and I happened to glance at the station and I saw a firefighter sitting on the front porch swing with a woman.  I have no idea who they were, but I have been flooded with emotion ever since!  I used to sit on that exact porch swing and listen to hundreds of stories about the calls he would go on, or his buddies at the club, or something funny his dogs did.  He always had a story.  And he would listen to me share every detail of whatever it was I was doing that week.  If you've heard my Chloe talk, then you know what I mean 'cause she gets it from me. :)  There we'd sit, on that old white porch swing.

I have two big regrets that I've been holding onto for 7 years.  The first is that I never voiced to him how much he meant to me.  If you didn't know us you would have never guessed that I was his step-daughter.  We didn't live like that, I have been his daughter for almost 30 years and I always will be.  I know that he loved me unconditionally, but I felt remorseful that I never told him enough how much I loved him.  The second regret is that I didn't take nearly enough pictures.  I only have a handful of photos of him with me or with my kids and each one of them is dearly treasured.  I have been so engulfed in the grief of these two things since he died that I was clouding my memories.  For whatever reason, seeing that girl on the porch swing opened up a portal to the past that allowed me to escape into dozens of precious memories.  He came to every one of my softball games in 8th grade that he was off work for.  I wasn't even any good, but he was there cheering me on!  He taught me to drive in that old beast of a station wagon; if I could drive that I could drive anything.  He took me to my dentist appointments, picked me up from school, built forts with me in the snow, taught me the game of football (made me into a Cowboy's fan), and gave me my love for Elvis and country music.  When my beloved grandmother passed away suddenly when I was 15, he was home to take the call and carry me through my grief.  He was my dad, 100%, no questions asked.  He'd take me on midnight runs to the store, help me with my homework, make drawings for book reports, take us to the lake, drop me off with my friends at the mall or the fair and pick me up any time of the night.  He never complained about it, he just did it, like he enjoyed it all!  I loved that about him.  I do remember one Christmas as an adult that I got him a CD with a country song on it that I loved to hear talking about the love for a step-dad who really wasn't a step at all.  I sat on his lap (yes, I was grown!) and we listened to it together with the family around.  I can't believe that I had forgotten that, it was so special to me!  All of these memories flooding back to me because of a porch swing.

I do have nightmares still, they have been very frequent as of late.  Each one is different, yet all the same.  There's me and my dad, and he's dying.  Always a different death, but always long and dramatic with a lot of agony and sorrow, but a lot of talking and sharing and saying goodbye.  I have felt plagued by these, often waking up feeling the full weight of new grief all over again.  But after this floodgate brought on by a simple porch swing, I count them as a gift from God.  Night after night he allows me the opportunity to say goodbye, to tell him how much he means to me and how much I'm going to miss him.  I no longer count them as nightmares, they are my healing.  After all, it's not really "good bye" that I'm saying.  It's more like, "See you real soon!"  My dad is in Heaven.  I know this, not because he was a good man (although, he was the best), not because everyone goes to Heaven (because they don't), but because, many years before God took him home, my dad chose to put his trust and hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, the ONLY Way, Truth, and Life.  And, because I am also trusting in Jesus and Him alone for my salvation, I know that I will see him again in Heaven one day.  Oh, but the pain of waiting!

AND ALL OF THIS IS BECAUSE OF A PORCH SWING!  Praise God for His giant miracles in everyday randomness!  I love this song by Mercy Me.  I have a lot of loved ones waiting for me in Heaven and I can't wait to see them all again!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

5 Musts to Avoid Anxiety and Fear

As women we are highly vulnerable to give in to anxiety and fears.  A typical day of a stay at home mom of one child consists of laundry, cooking, meal prep/shopping, caring for the thousand demands of a child, keeping the house cleaned that gets messy faster than she can clean it.  Some of her duties may include paying bills, doing lists of to-do's from her husband, handling some of the minor "fix-its" around the house, or any number of other activities.  Now add in another kid, or 2 or 10!  Now your daily tasks have multiplied in scores.  Throw in a part time or full time job and now you have to choose very carefully what your going to take care of at home and what's going to get sacrificed.  Let's face it, it's absolutely impossible for someone to do all these things without letting go in some areas.  In the midst of all of this, we have the obligation and privilege of training our children up to love the Lord, teaching them all the things they need to know for life.  We haven't even mentioned all the needs of our husbands that we have to meet.  Adding in our constant hormone changes it's not wonder at all that we are prime targets for temptations of fear and anxiety.  The purpose of this post is to share a list of ideas that I have found over the years to be very helpful to me as I try to stay close to God, balance all the areas of my life, and stay away from anxiety.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I would love for you to comment on this post to share things that have worked for you!

1.  Make daily Bible reading a priority.  It doesn't matter how you do it, just do it!  I like to skip all over the Bible and read a few books from the New Testament and then go read a few in the Old Testament.  I've seen lots of very good reading programs out there, but I get depressed when I fall off the plan for a few days and then I quit.  So for my sanity, I just read on my own and my own pace and check off the books as I read them.  When I finish all 66, I start over.  I make tons of notes in my Bible and love to see what God is doing in my life from year to year as I pass over those notes and change or add to them as I grow.

2.  Start a prayer journal.  One of the things that drags me down is when I go through phases where I just don't feel God at work.  In my head I know He's always at work around me, but when I go through trials for years and feel like I can't see daylight, I tend to give into anxiety.  By keeping prayer journals it allows me to do two things.  One, go back and see all the thousands of answers to prayer and miracles God has done in my life to remind me that I am more blessed than I deserve.  Two, I take my conceited eyes off myself and spend a lot more time in prayer for others when I journal it.  This is crucial!

3.  Deuteronomy tells us to remember the things God has done, teach them to our children, bind them on our foreheads, talk about them when we wake up and when we go to sleep, put them up on your door and in your home so you never ever forget.  I take this quite literally and I use my walls to display His word.  I use 3x5 cards with scripture on them taped to my cupboards, mirrors, walls, kids rooms, etc.  Whenever I can afford it, I purchase artwork with scripture on it so that I can do the same thing and be a little decorative with it. :)

4.  Get involved in a Bible teaching church.  If your church does not teach from the Word of God then you need to find one that does.  Then, don't just go on Sunday morning and sit in a pew once a week.  Get involved!  Go to ladies events whenever you can, get on a ministry team and serve with others, and definitely be involved in small group Bible Studies.  These are the things that will help you grow, keep you grounded, give you support and encouragement, and help keep your eyes off yourself. 

5.  Get away for some alone time on a regular basis.  When you read the gospels you will see time and time again where Jesus sneaks off to be by himself.  Sadly, the people chase after Him the way my kids do when I go into the bathroom.  Not a minute goes by that I don't get a knock at the door or little fingers underneath wiggling at me!  Jesus knew that it is imperative that we spend time alone to talk to God and just simply be with Him without distraction.  Don't let Satan make you feel guilty about this!  Your kids and husband will survive without you for a day or two.  Go to a hotel or a B&B, lock yourself in a room and just be with God.  I have yet to put this into my regular practice but I have tasted the benefits and healing that this gives and I know that it's important.

Those are just some of my most treasured practices. I would love to hear from you as to what things you do that keep you trusting God and combating fear and anxiety!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fear? Anxiety? Depression? ANSWERS? - To Sin or Not to Sin

One day I was reading in Proverbs and I came across a verse that jumped off the page at me.  It's Proverbs 12:25 and it says "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad."  There are two things that popped in my mind when I saw this verse.  The first thought I had was what it says in Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing...." The second thing I thought was "what is a 'good word'?"  I'll start with the first connection to Philippians 4:6.  God doesn't give us a choice or a strong suggestion to not be anxious.  He doesn't say, "only get anxious in stressful situations" or "don't get anxious over trivial things".  No, His words are "Be anxious for NOTHING."  The first step to my healing was understanding that anxiety is sin, plain and simple.  Notice he doesn't say we won't have stress.  If you're human, you will always be faced with stress and frustrating circumstances.  It's how we choose to handle our stress that can either lead to peace in the midst of it, or to a downward spiral to depression.  The rest of Philippians 4:6 and 7 says "...but in everything, by prayer and supplication, WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS through Christ Jesus."  When I fall into the trap of anxiety the very first thing I do is confess it as sin to God.  I share with Him how I'm feeling, what's going on, when I need and then I begin to thank Him for anything and everything I can think of to be thankful for.  This is a process that I do time and time again and I am living proof that God's word heals.  In order to experience this peace and healing, you first must have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Until you've accepted Christ as your savior you will not begin to experience His peace.  If you are a child of God, then it's imperative to stay in His word every day, to surround yourself with things that glorify God, talk to Him in prayer, and follow what He says in the Bible.  I want to be clear that I am NOT saying that if you are doing all these things you will never struggle with anxiety or that there will never be stress in your life.  As long as we live in this fallen world there will be trials and tribulations, the Bible assures us of that.  I have found in my life though that I am much more sensitive to the Spirit when I am close with God, and the deeper our relationship grows the quicker I am to repent of my anxiety and feel that deeply desired peace that I long for.  I challenge you to first make sure that you are a child of God through salvation, and then genuinely repent of your anxiety and talk to God about it.  Spend time thanking Him for everything and anything in your life, there is so much to be thankful for!  Take the challenge from His word and enjoy His peace instead of the bondage of depression!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fear? Anxiety? Depression? ANSWERS? - My Story

I am writing this blog series dealing with the topic of fear, anxiety, and depression because it is something that I have battled for a very long time.  I spent most of my growing up years being worried and anxious about one thing or another.  I could never quite get content, always wanting something different, something more.  I was never very popular, not good at anything, and kind of a nerd.  I always felt like I needed to have a boyfriend so that I was worth something, but any guy that actually sort of like me would go out with me for a little while and then break up with me, some time's for no reason at all.  I was annoying, my voice bothered him, his friends were making fun of him, or he just really didn't ever like me, he was just playing a game.  (Do you have any idea what it feels like always be the one getting dumped, never ever the one doing the dumping?  This excruciating truth in my life is why I counsel girls all the time to wait until they are ready to get married and find a husband, don't just date around.  Guard your heart now while you're young so you don't have these unnecessary insecurities going into marriage!)  My entire growing up years were drowned in abandonment and insecurities. 

I firmly believe that these events have shaped my psyche to be a prime target for Satan's attacks on the battlefield that is my mind.  Day after day he tries to tell me I'm no good, nobody really wants me, I'll never be any good to any body.  And day after day I'm faced with the choice:  succumb to the lies of the devil, or fill my heart with Truth and trust God and what He says about me.

I am now married (going on 14 years) to a man who loves me unconditionally, I have 3 amazing kids, a fantastic church home, and a successful business.  People tell me all the time how strong I am to be able to do all that I do in homeschooling, running a business, running a ministry at church, being a wife and homemaker, and once in a while putting on some makeup!  I hear this kind of praise almost daily from someone or other, and I have no response.  Because, underneath the makeup, underneath the almost stylish clothes, under my professionally colored long hair, and under the surface of all the things I seem to be able to juggle, sits that little insecure girl that Satan is badgering with lies.... "you'll never succeed.... you're kids are going to suffer because of your work.... Homeschool?  What makes you qualified?.... You can't minister to women, you haven't had enough experience yet....  no body wants you... lies, lies, LIES LIES!" 

Yes, I know they are lies and I praise God that He has brought me to the place that I can finally have a little bit of understanding into who I am, how He made me, and the Truth to deal with the lies.  I've learned that these lies aren't going to go away.  This is my weak spot and Satan knows it.  He will keep attacking me as long as I am a threat to him.  But I have chosen to trust in Someone who is bigger and infinitely stronger than the devil.  I know that I have been chosen by God alone, and He loves me always and forever.  He not only loves me, but He cares about my day to day struggle with these attacks.  He never promises me an easy road, but He does promise to carry me when I'm weak. 

Paul talks about having a thorn in the flesh that he asks to be taken from him.  Finally he accepts that it will never be taken from him, he has to live with it and choose to love God and serve God in the midst of it.  I don't know if that thorn in his flesh was an attack from Satan, a weak spot, or if it was a physical impairment, but I do know that God doesn't always remove our problems.  What he desires is that I choose to love Him and serve Him and OBEY Him when these attacks come.  I cannot stop Satan from firing off his darts at me, but I can absolutely defend them with the shield of faith from the armor of God. (Ephesians 6)  That's what I intend to share in the following blogs.  Scripture after scripture of truths from God's Word that have taught me to combat Satan's lies.  Scriptures that explain the root of anxiety and depression, that offer answers for how we are supposed to deal with it, and give hope for overcoming it.