Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sledding and fun and God's abundant blessings

Today was a wonderful break in the week. It was a wonderful time of rest and fun.

I went sledding with my family and a good friend, at her family's house. They live just outside the edge of town, and at the back of their property have a huge hill.

Note the Dave and the kids going down the huge hill. I believe this is relatively early on in the afternoon, but am unsure!

We got there, and immediately this kids were grabbing sleds and heading for the hill. They were so excited. We got many great pictures, and had many wipe outs and belly laughs.

This is Peter and my friend, Angela on one of the many wipe outs!

The first time my daughter went down the hill with me, I could feel her giggling all the way! This is her and daddy going down.

We had so much fun.

And I am going to be SO sore tomorrow!

Here are a few pictures from the day.

You can tell the kids had a blast, and so did we. I needed this fun today, especially after how this week went for me.

It was a hard one, and very up and down. I started it on such a positive note on Monday. I felt really good, and was ready to go. I don't exactly know what happened. However, it wasn't pretty!

By Wednesday, I was dealing with not only depression, but exhaustion. There has been so much that has happened within the last few weeks, that I just really haven't recouped very well.

I hadn't been sleeping well at night, and I hadn't been eating healthy, and by Wednesday I could hardly keep my eyes open at my desk. As a matter of fact, I truly don't remember much of the day. And it got worse and worse.

Finally I decided to throw in the towel and go home to try to rest before worship rehearsal later that night.

I called my friend, Cindy, and we chatted briefly before I left the church. I know she was very concerned about me, especially when I didn't even have the energy to really answer any questions she was throwing my way. Seriously.

As we were talking, it occurred to her that I didn't have the kids, and wasn't responsible for them, as it was Dave's "Daddy Day" with them. Her husband was gone for the night, so she said, "Why are we still talking on the phone, get over here!"

So, I did.

I swear to you, I hardly remember the drive there. When I got there, we settled down to watch a short video that she was finishing up, then talked a bit, but I felt really incoherent. She just let me do what I needed to, chill out and not have to talk to much. I was just so under the weather, that I really couldn't even feel anything, which is very strange for me!

She fixed me supper, and as we ate and talked and prayed together, I started to feel more marginally human.

By the time I had to leave to get to the church for worship team, I was a bit more like myself. She stood with me by the door, and as she gave me a hug, prayed over me.

I didn't even cry.
Me. Not. Cry.
Not even a tear.

That's unheard of! :)

Worship rehearsal went well that night, better than it had any right to. I do remember most of the details about the rehearsal. I remember being able to worship God, right in the middle of dealing with technical stuff too.

The power of praise cannot be over rated!

I got eight hours of sleep that night when I got home.

The power of a good night's sleep cannot be over rated, either!

Slowly this week, as I have been sleeping better, and sort of eating better, I have improved.

It was really scary looking back at the day Wednesday and realizing that I really didn't remember what had gone on during the day. It is like that day is wiped out. I mean, I know I was at church, that I did some work on the computer, that I answered the phone some, and talked to people. But honestly, the details are all gone. All I do remember is feeling physically, and mentally, and emotionally exhausted and awful.

I am working on clinging to the truth. God has placed me in Ephesians, Chapter 1 for a while... and I need to soak up that and Psalm 139 for a while. I need to re-establish my identity in Christ, and take a "refresher" course.

Please pray that I would be able to so be washed in the water of His word, that I will find all the dirty and lies washed away, and so that I will see the lies for what they are, because I know what the truth is. Knowing the lies, not because I studied them, but because I study the truth, and the lies can't hold a candle to that!

I am so grateful that today was so much better.

I am so grateful that I was able to spend time with my family and a good friend.

I am so grateful that tomorrow is another day, fresh with the prospect of joy and closeness with God. I lead worship at church this weekend, tomorrow, and am excited to see what God is going to do in me - and in our congregation.

I choose to trust that He is with me, even when I don't see it or feel it. He gave me Cindy on Wednesday to come alongside me and just minister healing and peace to me. He gave me the power of His praise that night to break through the numbness surrounding my heart. He gave me a wonderfully healing night's sleep to enable me to be more mentally strong the next day.

I know God can do all of that and more. So I choose to trust Him tonight, and tomorrow. May I always make that choice!

Monday, February 15, 2010

picked up pieces...

So, my cup was overturned, empty and scattered before the retreat. But God picked up the pieces and held me together.

I made it through the retreat. It was an amazing success, that had nothing to do with me or the team or the speaker, and absolutely everything to do with God.

Friends, Jesus showed up there! There were people prayed over. There were people who's eyes were opened, and hopefully healing that was started as well that weekend.

You know, looking back on it now, I can see that God started dealing with and healing brokenness in my life, too. I just didn't see it that way till just this second.

Friday night I had to fight off anxiety and depression. Through mis-communication, I got there late with all the sound equipment, etc. After finally getting set up, I had time to "throw together" the prayer room. Thankfully God provided a perfect place.

Just as I got it done our speaker got there.
As we had been communicating throughout the past couple of weeks, usually via email, she knew I was dealing with depression.

Once she was settled and came back up to the main level, she pulled me aside and asked how I was doing, and wouldn't take "fine" for an answer. :)

We settled into the night, and got through the ice breaker, worship set and speaking portion. After wards, we had had snacks and people sat and chatted (while I, the fire bug, lit a fire in the huge fireplace) pulled out games, and generally had a lot of fun.

When I went to bed, things were still going strong and I wanted to stay up, but knew I needed to sleep if I was going to be of any use the next day in facilitating things.

I forced myself to sleep, before the depression overcame me and I cried myself to sleep.

In the morning, I forced myself awake, and went out to the commons area. I bundled up, went out and stood on the deck in the still dark morning. It was beautiful and quiet and perfect, but my eyes weren't seeing it then. I couldn't see anything through the storm of tears I was trying to hold back. I grabbed wood for the fire, came back in, and started up the fire place again for the day.

I couldn't settle in and read, or pray or journal, so I finally got up and started to putter in the kitchen till it was time to start breakfast.

During breakfast I got to sit with our speaker. The whole table of us gals talked and shared, but eventually she and I got into a private conversation. Much was shared there, but her listening and sharing got me to the point of breaking down my guard. I finally shared how poorly I was doing that morning.

Folks, I didn't even want to lead worship that morning. I wanted to go back to bed. I tried to hide the depth of it, but I know she saw it. I also know she prayed for me, though not face to face right there.

I did manage to lead, and kept going through the morning - even singing special music - going to the prayer room to pick up requests and pray for them.

I broke down in the kitchen before lunch, when the others of our team were out and everyone was elsewhere.

Not just cried.
The dam burst.

The noise of the fans and stuff in the kitchen disguised the gut wrenching sobs, that threatened to bring me to my knees right there.

It really was God who pulled me back together.
I couldn't calm myself on my own.

But once I did, it was all I could do to keep from detaching completely, in self protection. Old coping patterns die hard, is all I have to say about that.

Surprisingly (or not) God got me in on a conversation where I could help speak into a dear sister's heart and life, during our lunch time.

I was drained when I came home, but God gave me the heart and energy to pour into that same sister who needed more of Him that night.

I got up Sunday morning for church, raced in and unloaded the sound equipment, then ran upstairs to run our warm up for worship team. As I waited later for the church service to start, a new friend came over to talk and see how I was doing, because she knew I had been in a very bad place in our small group the Thursday before the retreat.

I couldn't even look at her. And I couldn't stop shaking. She pressed some tissue into my hand before she left me at the start of the service.

Our opening was fine.
The sermon was great.
Except it had me in tears. Surprise. surprise.

Then I had to get back up and sing. It was all I could do in my own strength to hold myself together, and it wasn't working. I begged God to keep me from falling over up there. It was only 3 songs. By the last song, I had to hang onto the outside edge of the pulpit to keep myself steady on my feet. I haven't been that shaky in a long time.

Then I had to pray to close the set.

Ok, I didn't "have to" other than feeling the Spirit prompting me.
You really can't ignore Him.

So I prayed and started to break down again. I barely finished the prayer audibly, and seated everyone, then fled the sanctuary to pull myself together, in time to come back in and cry through all of communion.

It was something about remember Christ's body, broken for me, topping off a weekend about brokenness, OF brokenness that did me in!

Gee. God knows how to do that too, doesn't He?

Somehow, though my cup was empty and overturned, and truly broken - when I needed to minister in worship and service - He filled me and used me, this broken cup - over the whole weekend.

After church, I got home, curled up in bed, and cried myself to sleep, like I had been wanting too all weekend.

It didn't feel nearly as good as I had thought.
It didn't really help either.

When I got to work in the morning though, God impressed on me that I needed to tell my two pastors in our staff meeting what was going on with me. When I did, at the end of the meeting they prayed for me, and though I worked through the full day, God was merciful and it was an easy day.

Late Monday night (a week ago now) I got an email from my friend Pete and his wife Donna, in response to my email to them. I ended up being able to get together with them mid-day on Tuesday. My pastor, the only other person at the church that day with me, agreed that I had to go, and caught the phone calls for me while I was gone for about 3 1/2 hours.

It was hard, but I was able to share where I was at, and only because God really broke through to me over the weekend. He broke through the self imposed isolation I had been in... even when I didn't realize till later that's where I was.

No one really knew where I was at or how I was doing, and God put a stop to that.

My friends helped me pin down some lies I have been believing. Ones that are familiar to me, and others that are new, that slipped in under the radar in the last stressful month or two.

As Pete said, I never really had the chance to process through them like I normally do. I identified them right at the get go, but got so busy and stressed that I forgot all about them... as the enemy would want it.

When they commented that they didn't want to see me go down the road I had been down 2+ years ago, I said that I didn't want to either. That I wasn't there, yet.

I think they could have done without the "yet" in that sentence. (I could have too, but needed to be honest that it felt like a very slippery slope)

I was scared at how low I had fallen into the pit of depression, hopelessness, despair.

But oh, our God is so good!

I got a full hour, at least, the next morning at work. In the quiet with no phone calls.
I was able to sit in the library by a fire (see a pattern here?!) and pray, renounce lies, announce and claim the truth, and generally spend a good deal of time in prayer and in the Word.

Though the depression didn't lift fully that day, in the succeeding days (especially as I look back from where I am now) it did lift a bit at a time.

I had a weekend away with my family, which I was not looking forward to at the beginning of last week. But now I have recovered more from the stress. I have reconnected with my family. I feel a bit more like me.

It is still way too easy for me to be overwhelmed. I am still having trouble prioritizing things. I am still struggling with depression (though not as thick and dark as before, and much more recognizable), and some major lies that are wanting to creep in there. It's one of those things, just as I feel like I am having some success on one front, the enemy is trying to outflank me, and come in the back door.

But today I had some good solid time (though shorter than I wanted) with God. It got me off on the right foot.

Please continue to pray for me as I seek to make healthy choices for my soul, and healthy choices for my body. There is a lot of opposition there right now. Like I said, the enemy is trying to use a back door to trigger more bad coping patterns and other stuff.

There will be more about that in coming days as I find more time to write, now that I am feeling a bit better.

Thank you for your love and prayers.

Thank God for how He used this weekend and my dear family of friends here to break me down! He broke my pride. He broke through my thick walls of isolation, where literally I was broken to pieces, and He is putting me together, yet again.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cup overturned, empty and scattered

Ah, friends...
It has been too long, and even now I wonder at the time I am daring to take to write, or even check my email!

Our women's retreat starts tonight.

I need to be there between 2 and 3.

All the music power point is done. The words are printed for the interpreters for the deaf. The music picked out and organized and prayed over. The women coming have been prayed over, and again. The food for lunch tomorrow is sitting on my kitchen table, waiting to be packed into the tiny spaces left available in my car.

I think I have it all ready. I think! I hope.

I am excited about hearing from God today. I am excited to see how God is going to work in the lives of the 24 women coming.

Yet, I ache with tiredness, and I haven't even started yet.

I am leading worship for the weekend. I am leading worship for our Sunday morning church service when we get back. It will be a big drain on me, yet I am willing to do it, and feel called to.

There are some women coming with some deep hurts. Scary hurts. One is facing a diagnosis of her husbands cancer. He had a heart transplant back in 2002. A year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, had chemo and is cancer free today. Just yesterday they found out that a tumor was causing the pain and other issues he had.... I didn't hear what kind. I think I was in shock, but my guess is, from where they described it was, probably colon cancer. Near his lymph nodes. There seems to be no question that he is going to be doing chemo.

How does that work with his anti-rejection meds for his heart? I don't know. There are a lot of unknowns right now, and many tears shed last night at our home group.

Another woman is battling intense depression.

Another can't come because her mom is taking care of her dad who has Alzheimers, and isn't taking care of herself in the process, and she and her sister have to go take care of their mom.

And there are so many, many other unknown stories coming into this weekend.

Our weekend theme? Brokenness. Broken hearts. Broken lives. Broken before God... and complete surrender to Him.

I am broken. Beyond fixing by human hands. I too am struggling under a weight of depression. It lifts from time to time. Then it comes back with that familiar weight dropping onto my shoulders.

Last night found us all broken at our bible study. Over the news of cancer. Over our own hurts and struggles.

I sobbed while we prayed.

Everyone assumed (I think) it was because I was overwhelmed with the retreat. That was some of it. But God has really given me a peace about it all. I know He will be there, is in all of it now, and will make happen what He wants to happen at that retreat, whether things go the way we planned or not. He is in control.

Other things have slowly piled on the last couple of weeks, that I am still struggling with, and I can't even put a name to some of them.

I am in need of great healing and comfort this weekend. I don't even know what from. God does, and He knows the deepest part of me that is hurting right now. I think He is doing heart surgery, asking me to offer my body as a living sacrifice. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is oh, so weak.

I read something in today's devotional in "My Utmost for His Highest" about binding the sacrifice to the horns of the alter (me, my flesh, being the sacrifice) and then enduring, being willing to go through the fiery trial to follow. It will burn the flesh away, the unneeded things that are hindering me.

I need to be willing to be poured out for others, like a drink offering.

Cup overturned, empty.
Not a drop left.

I feel that way now, but not the cup spent in sacrifice... but the one knocked over prematurely. Like someone sweeping off a table in a fit of rage, knocking the cups over onto the floor, emptying them and scattering them heedless of the destruction just caused.

Maybe the enemy wasn't as "heedless" as I would like to think, but much more vengeful and hateful and purposeful behind the knocking down and over, and trampling through the wreckage.

These are just some thoughts rolling through my head.
I have little time left for a graceful closing to this post.

Please pray for the weekend. It is doubtful I will have an internet connection where I am going, even with my computer with me. And even if I do, I am not going to connect to the internet at all to check email or Facebook.

My biggest request is prayer.
For me.
For our speaker, who I know is getting hit by the enemy prior to this retreat.
For the women coming, all who have faced major opposition, either not coming or beaten down but still showing up.
For the Holy Spirit to be poured out on all of us.
For our ears and eyes to be open to hear and see what He is doing in our midst, and how He is speaking to our hearts.

Please pray for me to be able to not only lead the worship, guide the transitions between things, make the lunch, and administrate in any other way needed...
But to not be so distracted by other things that I cannot hear what God is saying to me, too.

Thank you for making it through this long post.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and then to pray.
Thank you for your friendships. They mean more to me than you will ever know.