Saturday, October 30, 2010

Forced Rest

Today has been made up primarily of sleep for me.  I wish I could have been out in the beautiful weather with the kids at the farm.  Or at least cutting back my dead flowers and cleaning up the yard, because before too long the snow is gonna sneak up on us and stuff in my yard has to be protected, put away and prepared.

However, it was not a day of work for me for sure!

I got up this morning at about 8:30 or so with the kids.  I have been sick and as soon as I stood up, I knew it was going to be a "day."  I was dizzy and lightheaded, and my head hurt.  I took some tylenol and decongestant, and then set about getting the kids settled in.  Once they had their chocolate milk (carnation instant breakfast - their "drink of choice" in the mornings) in hand, I settled down with them on the couch and watched a bit of cartoons with them.  Pretty soon they were up and moving.  They wanted to play at their desks. 

Yes, we somehow squeezed 2 desks into this living room.  We had a small one Peter was using for a while.  But we were looking for a bigger one for him, one that would accommodate a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse.   When I was visiting Cindy, and mentioned that we wanted to get Peter a new desk, she jumped up and showed me a desk that she just removed from her house.  I jumped on it.  It was the perfect size.  Peter can set aside the keyboard and mouse when he wants to use the desktop and has plenty of room there.  He's thrilled.  So is Marina, because Peter's move up means that she gets his old desk.  Perfect timing.

Anyway, as they played, I curled up on the couch under both of the kids blankets and rested.  Finally, Dave got up after sleeping in, the kids got dressed, and they all headed to the farm.  I grabbed a microwavable rice sock (gotta try those if you haven't... they are heaven and you can even make your own!!) heated it up and headed to bed.  I rested there for a bit, trying to write but that really didn't work well as I was too tired and spacey.  I finally rolled over and fell asleep for a couple of hours.

I got up and read, did a load of laundry, got a load put away, but really didn't do much for my day.  Took a hot shower and changed into fresh pj's.  That's about all.

I realize that I haven't had a day like this in a really long time.  I can't remember the last time I didn't really have to do anything.  I mean anything at all!  I think this cold is God's way of slowing me down.  I have had a little bit of time up and around with the kids, but already I can feel my energy flagging again.

Good timing, the kids are just about ready for bed, and I am planning on climbing into my bed shortly as well.

Because I haven't had a day like this in a long time, I felt almost guilty for not doing anything.  But I haven't taken a day voluntarily in so long, that I think God has used this cold to really slow me down.  I mean, I nearly had to stop everything today. 

I feel bad, because when I have a day that I'm able to detach from everything going on around me (or even a portion of a day) I try to spend it with God.  But I seriously wasn't able to even think clearly enough to hardly pray.  Maybe it was good, because many of the things that have hit me this week are too hard for me to deal with right now, and like a friend has said, it's time to take a vacation from it for a while.

Yesterday I had no voice, so I could only listen as my friend Cindy D. talked with me on the phone.  I was able to talk with her a little bit, but for the most part, it was a time for her to share.  Today I could talk more, but until now was unable to string more than a few thoughts together.

So, it truly has been "forced rest" today.  I have had no way of avoiding it, and no real energy to try.  A forced rest physically, and a break from thinking through problems or "tough stuff" and a time just to "be."  It's hard for me to do, but needed so much of the time. 

I have read so much about taking a Sabbath rest.  Not just once in a while, but weekly.  I want to do this.  I want to have a "God day" and a time where I can just take the time out from working, over thinking, and just do things that help me rest up and recharge.  Sometimes I can do that for a little bit, some portion of a day, here and there.  But I want to incorporate this into my weeks and months that are coming.

It's crazy that a long tough road of preparation for an event, and the event itself is what makes me take some days off from work, and then a cold on top of it taking me out so badly that I had to take another day really off.

It should be something worked into my schedule already.

I can see it's going to be another way to take care of myself.  Another thing in the list of "self care" that I'm going to have to work on.

It's been hard to feel so under the weather.  But when my body shuts down, there is nothing I can do.  It felt good to have the freedom to collapse as I needed to for the day.  I owe my husband a great debt of gratitude for that, for taking the kids away and letting me rest.  It was wonderful.

Thank you God too, for forcing me to rest.  May I keep in mind this break, and remember to take the unexpected breaks I get during the weeks ahead to stop and rest and be with you, and to be ok with doing nothing but sleeping, if that's what my body needs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joy strength

Oh my friends, God was so good this weekend.

We had around 200 people in our church this weekend, as we hosted our districts Annual Meeting and Celebration. 

The meeting started with a two hour prayer gathering.  We worshipped and prayed together corporately.  As the theme of the weekend was prayer, it was a good way to start.

When we entered into the general session after lunch, God just really moved in my heart.  I was helping lead the worship, and was standing up there watching others get moved in worshiping our great God.  The Spirit was tangible there as nearly 200 people gathered together singing praise.  God moved in my heart as well. 

We were in the middle of the second song, and the thought ran through my head (and heart) that if God had told me a year ago, even 6 months ago that I would be helping lead worship for our district's Annual Meeting, I would have called Him crazy!!!  As that thought came to me, it just hit me how much He has done in me.  Yes, I am still struggling with depression and still have some heavy stuff I am working through right now even, but Oh!  How He filled me with such joy and thankfulness right then and there.

I was to the point that I wanted to spread my arms out (I did with one arm in the middle of the song - but it's hard to do that with both when you are still supposed to sing into the mic.) lift my face to Him, and then fall on my face, just in awe.

I couldn't hold still up front with all the joy that was in me.  I felt lit up by Him.  I don't know how else to describe it.  It was an amazing feeling!

Later, when I talked with my friend Cindy, I told her I couldn't believe what God had done in the middle of that set of music, and she gave me a big squeeze and said that she knew, she could see it, and she was dancing in the streets right along with me.

God is so good that way.  He lifted me up and strengthened me for this incredibly big and busy weekend.  He held me up when I was exhausted, and energized me even what I thought I was running on fumes.

He filled me with so much joy, I thought I would burst!

He did all this because He knew what I faced this week.  He knew better than I did what I would have to have to be able to make it through this week.

As I walked into my day Monday, I knew right then and there that God had filled me with joy and a sense of having done my job very well.  A knowing that it was Him working in me that accomplished so very much over the weekend.  Because the things I faced on Monday, through counseling and coming to terms with some of those things were extremely heavy and hard and I needed the "joy strength" He gave me to deal with the shame and flood of other negative emotions that hit me as I started to process other things.

That in and of itself is another story.  Another post.

This one is to remind me (and you) that no matter what I am going through, no matter what we are going through, God sees it, has already seen it and has prepared us for it.  Sometimes (most times) we don't feel prepared, but that still doesn't negate the truth that He is there, He is our strength and He is the only one who will get us through the storms.  Sometimes He strengthens us before, sometimes in, and always through everything we go through.

Thank you Jesus!

I have this hanging on my wall, given to me by a friend just before the Annual Meeting.  It's hanging right where I can see it all the time.  It seems to be very appropriate for me today and every day.

Psalm 18:2 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

God and writing

So last night I spent some time writing.  God uses my writing to help me process and to hear His voice.

God used it to make me realize that I haven't dealt fully with some aspects of my past.  Things from back in Junior High, like when I was 12.  I thought I had laid a lot of that to rest.  But when Tricia and I were talking last week, we realized we hit on something right before the end of our session.

I had been bullied by a couple of different people in 7th grade.  It wasn't that big of a deal or so I thought.  But as I worked through it as I wrote last night, I realized just how big a deal it was.  I really took what was said and done to me to heart.

Though I am very high on the Empathy/Feeling charts, I find myself shutting down emotionally and unable to re-engage.  I traced it back to some things that happened while in 7th grade where I vowed that I wasn't going to let others see me cry in front of them again.  Unless I was in a "safe place" or with "safe people" I didn't cry.  I also didn't express how I felt to anyone for the most part, even to my mom, when something happened.

I can remember when my first cat died.  It was my senior year of high school.  I'd had her since I was four.  My mom was taking her in the next day to be put down because she was too sick and in pain.  I got home from school the next day, and had a friend with me.  We hung together in my room, ate supper and went back to the school for a late drama rehearsal.  I never said anything to my mom about Willow, for a long time. 

Several months later, I encouraged my family to get two kittens, and they had them for a very long time.  Later I ended up telling my mom that I stayed up several hours with Willow on her last night.  Curled up next to her on the couch, petting the one place that didn't hurt her (the top of her head and ears) and cried.  The reason I had a friend come home with me the next day was cause I needed the distraction.  But it was a long time before I could acknowledge those emotions, define them, and share them with someone.

I am not as bad as that now.  I have healed a lot in the last few years.

However, there are still times when I have trouble expressing my emotions.  Sometimes I don't even know what I am feeling.  Like I said, I shut down.  Because of the bullying things that happened to me, the humiliations, I ended up putting up walls to protect myself.

God has been faithful in helping me pull down those walls.  Many of them are down now, and I have much less of a tendency to hold in emotions than I used to.  It's much less self-destructive.  But there are still walls there. Some of these walls have people's names on them, I have discovered.  It's going to take a lot of hard work to get those walls to come down.

With God's help, I know it will happen.  In His time.

There are other things that are going on at the same time. - again - there is always something, and it seems God is working on me from different fronts, with different things all at once.  Maybe it seems like that because He is trying to help me shore up the weaknesses that He sees in me, so that I can come out the other side more whole, and a better person to better reflect His light.

All in His time.  And - as a reminder to myself - I don't need to know the why's of what's going on or what's happened.

God uses my writing to help me process different things.  Last night He helped me process and identify some things that I need to go over with Tricia.  Other times He just plain outright speaks to my heart, by impressing something on it.  Other times it is through reading His Word as well.

I am just so glad that He still speaks and heals and redeems and restores, today as always.

He's got me covered.
He's got you covered.

Praise God for that!  I am so grateful that He hems us in behind and before and that He lays His hand upon us all!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Busy week, in more ways than one

It's been a very busy week.  I am very tired and fighting a cold. 

Our church is hosting our district's Annual Meeting and Celebration.  That means that I am the point person for the church, pulling people in to help with decorations, hosting, ushering, food, media and sound, building set up, child care - among many other things.

I have been running my tail off this week because we have had meetings and I have been making many phone calls to get everything sorted out.

The meeting is next week Friday and Saturday, so if I am rather absent here in the next week, please forgive me.  I just have so much to do, and so much on my mind.

The theme for the Annual Meeting is "Getting back to Basics:  Prayer."  So I have someone who jumped onto my team, who is so fired up about praying for everyone coming.  She has organized our church to literally cover every single person in prayer.  There are people who grabbed someone's name, filled out a card to let them know they were praying for them and slipped it into an envelope with their name on it.  Those will be put into everyone's registration packets.  They then keep the person's name and pray for them throughout the next week or so, and just pray as God leads them to.

It has been amazing to feel the prayers of people.  Once this dear lady jumped in and started really organizing the prayer for the event, I have been feeling entirely different about how things are going.  God is so good that way.  She was an answer to an unspoken prayer of mine that someone would be there that I could call on to pray for me, whatever it was, and whenever.  She has. 

As we move into this next week, again things will be very busy, but there are things going on personally that will add to the stress unless I am able to let them go to hang onto God, or as I said in my last post, let Him hang onto me.

I went through counseling with Tricia this past week.  By the time I was done, I was feeling so sick to my stomach.  It took me nearly an hour before I trusted myself enough to drive home.  I just sat in the parking lot in my car.

God lifted me above those intense emotions and reactions to the things we were talking about this week as I have had other things I have needed to deal with.  I am so grateful He does that.  He has sustained me this week. 

Of course the last couple of days I have been staying with Him pretty intensely as I have been working on catching up on my Breaking Free Bible Study.  This study has been amazing.  We just finished Week 4, and I know there is much more to go, but God has been using it already in seeing patterns and areas where truly I am still in bondage.  After talking to Tricia, and then working through the bible study homework, God revealed to me some areas that I am going to have to really work on.  Not easy stuff, but worth it in the long run.

There are a couple of assignments that Tricia gave me that I have to do in the next 10 days or so.  I need to have them done by the Monday after the Annual Meeting.  I am going to be taking off the 25th and 26th from work to recover from the weekend, and I have my appointment with Tricia that Monday afternoon.  I am hoping that I don't have to do my "homework" from her that morning, but if I have to, I will. 

My heart hurts thinking about it though.  I don't want to have to do what she is asking me to, and what I feel God is asking me to.  It's difficult though I know it will bring further healing.  I don't know if I will ever get beyond the depression, or the struggle with it.  Knowing the why's or the answers to the questions doesn't help either, because I still have to deal with it.

I would like to do it ahead of time and get it out of the way.  But with the multitude of responsibilities I have for the Annual Meeting, I just am afraid these things will stir up way too many emotions.  I know that God can handle it, that He can cover it and give me the strength to do all things.  I just need prayer that I will know when to do what He wants me to do.

It makes it all harder to look at with any clarity when I am feeling sick.  I have to sing during the Annual Meeting at several different points for the worship team.  It's an added thing on top of the responsibilities I have, being available for the district executive administrator to help her with anything she needs.  I am glad to do it.  I feel that God has called me to sing and help lead worship.  With this cold, however, it will be difficult to sing if it doesn't clear up quickly!

As you can see I have a lot on my plate in the next week...  and it's not just the Annual Meeting.  My brain feels fried, and there are so many things I want to do, need to do, and should do that I am not quite sure where to start.

Thank you for listening to my babble! :)  I will be praying for all of you as God brings you to my heart and mind, but I may not be able to be around for a visit for a little bit.

If something comes up this week that I need to share, I will pop on here again, but again it all depends on how things go.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Exhaustion and choices

Lack of enough sleep really does me in.

The last couple of nights or so have been late ones, besides the fact that I was sleeping on the couch to give my visiting parents a bed to sleep in.  Needless to say I didn't sleep the greatest or long enough.

The tiredness has increased the "weight" that I have been feeling sneaking in around the edges the last few days. God is still good.  He is still in control.  I was still able to worship Him today at church.

I just feel that depression building up again.  Besides being tired, I really wish I knew its source.  It's hard to figure out because I just don't see it.  Though I know right now exhaustion is playing into it big time, it's still frustrating to see and feel the anxiety and know that I have to walk this road.

So I am choosing today to try, despite distractions and frustrations with the kids, to cling to the truth.  I'm working on keeping my focus on God.  I am struggling to stay open to Him and keep myself in an attitude of submission and surrender.

It's not an easy process and I am definitely struggling.  It's hard when all I want to do is sleep.

But I am clinging to God - and better yet, He is holding me with His righteous right hand.  His hands are holding me and that's stronger... stronger than any way I could cling to him in my own strength.

Thank you Jesus for holding me.  Thank you for always meeting me where I am at.  Thank you for loving me so much that You became sin for me, so that I might become Your righteousness.  You are so good.  Thank You for Your peace in the midst of depression and pain.  Please continue to uphold me and strengthen me for this road you have me on.  Give me the peace that passes understanding and the joy inexpressible that only comes from you.  I love you - help me to keep falling deeper in love with You every day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Falling in love

I'm falling in love all over again.

Yes, I really am.  And I never thought it would quite be like this.

First God talked to me about surrendering and letting go.

He started pulling me out and away from people and things in my life that were a significant part of my "normal."

Then, God changed the "surrender" word to "submit," and it was like a light bulb going on.

"Oh.  All of me, he wants me to lay it all down on the alter.... and it's not an "it" at all, its ME He wants."

Yeah, I know.  Sometimes it takes me a while.

Some situations sprang up in my life at that point that forced me to submit because there was no way I was going to handle it all on my own strength.  The only way to get through was to submit my days to Him and rely on His strength, not my own.

There were some really dark days there.

Then God did something to me last week Friday, that has lasted all week.  He helped me really become a part of one of the stories in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5. It was amazing the changes He did in my heart overnight through that simple account of a woman's healing.

I am only starting to grasp what happened when I reached out to touch the hem of His robe last week.

The story was instrumental in my coming to Christ originally.  I said that in my last post.  But what occurred to me just now, as I was writing this, is that it is also very instrumental in my falling in love all over again.

In the Breaking Free study, Beth Moore talks about how much she is in love with Jesus, and how He is the first and greatest joy in her life... and that she was jealous for all of us to have that type of love relationship with Him.  Then another study, that I just picked up again after a long while, last night no less... made the point about us falling in love with Jesus, because that is what is so contagious to others.  Our head over heels, abandoned love for Jesus.

Really, God?

It hit me this morning and I realized the next puzzle piece has fallen into place.  It fits.

Letting go of the things I esteem so highly, and let God take care of them.
Surrender each and every little piece God points out to me of my heart.
Submit my all to Him so that His plans for me become my plans and I just follow along.

As I thought about all this today, I still felt His call to submit and surrender.  I thought about falling in love again with Him.  I thought about how resistant I felt about that whole idea.  Because I thought it had to look a certain way or something.  I kept thinking, "Well, I can't be like so and so, she has all the time she needs to do whatever to fall in love with You. And I can't be like so and so, because I can't live at that pace, and that seems to be how she falls in love with You."

I kept comparing myself.

Finally I heard God's small voice say, "Stop."
I did.

I felt like He really pointed out to me another area I was resisting Him, another spot where I was telling Him to wait, to hold off, to not get too close to that "thing" there.

I told Him I wasn't going to do that.  That I was going to submit to Him right away.  I had already made that commitment nearly 2 weeks ago.  Yet, here I was telling Him wait again.  But this time, instead of beating myself up over it, it was just another light bulb coming on.

It was immediate surrender.

I don't know what this falling in love with God all over again thing looks like.  Not for me.  I see what it looks like in some lives I am exposed to, near and far.

I told God that I didn't know what to do.

Then He reminded me of what I did when I was first in love with my husband.  We would sit on the couch and I would snuggle up against him with my head on his chest and just listen to his heartbeat.

That's what Jesus wants me to do, just settle in with Him and listen to His heartbeat, and let the rest flow from there.  He's got it anyway.  It's His plans.  My life is His.  He is mine.  I am bought, redeemed, loved, His bride.  He loves me so much, so much that it hurts.

I think I am falling in love.
All over again.
With the greatest love of my life.

The bonus is, the more in love with Jesus I am, the more it spills out and over into the ones I love.  I love Jesus more, then I will be able to love my husband and family and friends more.  The more I will look like Jesus and less like me.

Oh, my friends, God is so good.  He is so faithful.  I may have more dark days coming.  I may have more challenges ahead.  I have some coming up in the next few weeks.  But my sweet Jesus is so much bigger, better and stronger than all of that.  He is still speaking if you know how to listen.

Just get real quiet with Him.  Snuggle up to Him and listen for His heartbeat.  It doesn't take long, and it doesn't have to be for long.  Just long enough for you to realize that His heartbeat is for you.

He loves you.
Love Him back with all of your heart!
It's worth falling in love all over again!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Worshiping, not yelling... and Never Alone!

Early this evening, I found myself on the way out to the farm.

I wasn't yelling.
I was worshiping.  
I was singing loud and strong, along to a worship CD.

I was overcome with awe as I watched the rain clouds break apart, 
the sun start to stream through,
and the trees light up with all their glorious colors.

I didn't feel alone.
God was right there with me.  
Showing Himself to me in His glorious creation and inhabiting my praise of Him.

He has been all along, but I was sinking so much in my own pain and shame that I couldn't or wouldn't see it.

What changed my perspective today?
Nothing has changed.  My situations and struggles are still the same.  The depression is still there, the feeling of being pulled away from people and things... all still there.

However, my perspective has changed.

Yesterday, after the kids had left to go to the farm, I read a friend's blog post.  She said that she would, even in the midst of her own struggles, be interceding for others.  She asked in that post for us to share prayer requests with her.  Tentatively I sought her out via email and shared as briefly as I could where I was at and just asked her to pray as she was able.

I received her reply a little later in the evening.  In the course of her email, she made a suggestion.  She said to find a favorite story of mine in the bible and read it.  But to not just read it, but fully put myself in the story, feeling it with texture, form and substance.

Well, I did as she suggested, right before bed.  I didn't anticipate how God would touch me, but I read the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.  It was one that was instrumental in my coming to Christ 17 years ago.  I read it out of Mark 5:24-34.

It was powerful, and for some reason, what Jesus said to her at the end of her story on those pages, I felt like I had never even heard before.

"Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." 


I was in that story.  I was the woman who had suffered at the hands of many doctors, spent all she had, and was worse off than before.  I was the one so worn and weak, trying to push through the crowd that was crushing Him to just try to touch his cloak.

And His words touched me.  I am His daughter.  My faith has caused me to push through the crowd to find healing in His touch, in the past, and will again.  He spoke to me about going in peace, to cease worrying about what might happen or how it will look, or what I'm even supposed to do.  Just rest in His peace.

He spoke precious words to me of freedom.  Freedom from suffering.  I know we will never be fully free from suffering here in this world.  But when we are looking at our Savior's face, the suffering fades in comparison.  I wrote in my journal last night that maybe I would never be able to shake the depression I suffer from, but maybe I can find peace in it, knowing He is there, He knows what it's like.  Jesus cares and never leaves me alone or drops me off along the road somewhere.

I know God is pulling me away for a season, drawing me apart for a while to spend more time with Him.  He's making room in my life.

For Him.
For me.
For us together.

I will be able to fill up with more of Him.  He will be able to show me the things I need to work through, the healing I need, the sins I need to confess, repent and let go of.  He is spending this time clearing out the junk so that He has room to work, and I can only sit back and watch in amazement as He does His thing.

Jesus was a carpenter you know.  I imagine He loved to work with His hands, taking a bare bit of wood, seeing what it could really become, cutting it, carving it, and shaping it, polishing it until it was a thing of beauty, and able to be used fully for the work it was made for.

He is doing that with me.  He is with you too. He sees the flaws in our bits of wood, and he works with them, turning them into ways His strength and design and plan can be seen.

This depression and depth of despair that I have had may come and go, and never really leave.  But I am working at getting it from my head to my heart - choosing to believe that it will once again be for my good and for His glory.  Depression will keep me weak, forced to depend on Him like no other.  No one else would be able to stand up to the pressure that I would put on them in my deepest need.

Only Jesus can.
Only Jesus has experienced the deepest darkness, the deepest aloneness, the most painful separation, worse than anything we could imagine.

So He knows, He understands, He cares.

He will buy back the pain and the agony of our situations.  He will use it somehow in my life, and it will spill over into the lives of others.  He has in small ways already.

I wish that I could have written this yesterday, showing the hope that really was there at the end of that post.  But I didn't see it.  I was drowning, until Jesus stepped in, through the words of my friend, and drew me to His Word where He met me.

I rocked myself to sleep with that story from Scripture last night.  This morning, when I woke, nothing had changed.  Yet, EVERYTHING had changed.  It was enough.  It was so good.

God is so good.  I choose to believe that.  That He is good, that He has my best interests at heart, and that He will never leave me or forsake me.  I choose to believe the truth of His Word.....

....despite what my feelings may say.

May I look back on this post when I am down and depressed and see no hope and remember how He was faithful to me to fulfill His Words of healing, peace and freedom in my life.

Will you choose the truth too?  Will you choose Him?  Will you choose to believe Him and what He says about you, and how much He loves you?  Will you choose His hope with me today?