FIX ME!

More than three years ago, when my husband and I downsized and moved into our current house, I intended to use the move as an opportunity to organize my new closet. I hoped to utilize every available space while taking advantage of my mild (to moderate) OCD and get rid of outdated clothing and arrange things so everything would fit into the much smaller closet space.

I purchased black and white hangers with the intent to change out the multi-colored hangers and coordinate my clothes by seasons and colors. Nearly three and a half years later, all of that color coordination stuff apparently wasn’t a high priority for me and I don’t even know what happened to those black and white hangers! Purging those out-of-fashion clothes or worn out or damaged garments didn’t seem to make the “To Do” list either. The closet never came together the way I’d imagined it in my mind. For the last three years, I’ve just been shoving stuff in there with nary a care about organization. I’m not going to lie – the space has become a bit of an eye sore. Image result for images for a messy closet

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Marie Kondo who is a “tidying expert, bestselling author, star of Netflix’s hit show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” and founder of KonMari Media, Inc.” (This description came directly from Ms. Kondo’s website.)

I’ve never watched this Tidying Up show, but considering the state of my closet, I decided a little research might be in order. After reading a little about her, the basic premise of Ms. Kondo’s show is all about helping people de-clutter their lives little by little. Rather than working from room-to-room (which she states can be too overwhelming), she suggests doing things by categories. Clothes, books, toys, etc. Her philosophy is that you keep only those things that “spark joy.” There are some other basic principles, that you can check out at https://konmari.com/pages/about. Image result for images for Tidying Up Marie Kondo

Over the weekend I had some unscheduled free time and decided it was time to Marie Kondo my closet. I attacked the space with a fair amount of fanatical OCD and overzealous verve – at least MY side of the closet, anyway. My husband’s side of the closet is a project for another weekend.

It was during this Kondo-ing closet purge session that I received some much-needed enlightenment from God regarding a previously mentioned problem. I’ve been praying and asking God about my issue of not being able to let loose and have fun and my inability to just act silly and/or foolish. I’ve been seeking God’s guidance for what is at the core of this problem, but He’s been pretty silent on the matter. At least until a couple of days ago. Isn’t it just like God to remain silent when WE want an immediate answer, and to shout at us when we least expect it!

There I was pulling XL sweatshirt castoffs off their hangers, when I heard in my spirit …

Kathy, you are a control freak!

Who, ME, Lord?

Well … maybe – but at least I’m not as hardcore as some!

Okay, okay … I’ll admit that a certain amount of OCD flows through my veins.

This revelation was made clear BEFORE my closet Kondo-purge was fully underway.  I’d barely gotten started on my clean-out mission, when I noticed ALL of my clothes already were arranged facing in the same direction. My obsessive control streak was evidenced in the way my clothes were already organized by color. Even the long and short sleeved shirts were separated, as were my winter and summer outfits. Hmm, who knew? Without even realizing it, I’d naturally already semi-organized things in a controlled pattern. Image result for images for OCD organization

Throughout the day, I bagged out-of-date clothes that no longer “sparked joy” in me.  Which is code for these “joyless” clothes didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of ever becoming fashion forward throughout my remaining lifetime. I amassed an entire mound of things that are too big for me since I’ve lost weight. (Praise the Lord and all that is holy!) When all was said and done, I compiled two gigantic trash bags full of discards that will be donated.

With my task completed, I stood surveying my perfectly arranged, color-coordinated, seasonally sectioned closet with brand new black and white hangers – marveling at my accomplishments. All of a sudden I had a great epiphany. The reason I am incapable of letting loose and acting silly is … because to do so, would mean relinquishing a certain amount of well-ordered control. I hate to lose control with anything in any way, shape or form. Image result for losing control

This “epiphanious” eye-opener brought awareness to the notion that control is not just limited to closet organization, but with practically everything else in my life. The way I fix my hair and make-up has a set order. Because my weight was so out of control for so many years, now it’s imperative that I specifically control my daily exercise routines and my daily food journal. Even my daily quiet time with God must be done in the same obsessive fashion and routine in order for me to feel whole or “normal.” At least normal as defined in the brain of someone like me.

This control starts first thing in the morning immediately upon waking. Every day begins with making my bed. The routines all line up in order like good little soldiers. Brushing my teeth, working out, showering, breakfast. Daily devotions and time with God. All are repeated the exact same way every day, seven days a week to the same sub-conscious repetitive checklist. The real revelation was the understanding that all of this obsessive scheduled, routine control is because of my depression and anxiety disorder.

When you live with anxiety and depression, an attack or episode is completely random and unpredictable. A dark cloud of depression can move through like a sudden summer monsoon storm. Without warning, anxiety and depression swoops in without showing up on your radar, catching you completely off guard. Being unable to control a mental health disease is so overwhelming, it makes “normal” thinking or reactions nearly impossible. Even with medication my anxiety and depression are still unpredictable. I realize my moderate OCD with every aspect of my life is my sub-conscious mind trying to store up rational behavior in the hopes that I’ll have a surplus of control when needed to deal with a sudden anxiety attack or bout of depression. My need to control tangible routines is necessary for my daily survival.

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In the middle of figuring out this OCD stuff, my mind was suddenly flooded with several events that happened to me in my past where I was ridiculed or laughed at for “letting loose.” My memories included several incidents from childhood and early adulthood that I’d stuffed deep, deep down for all these years. These memories were painful as I remembered the embarrassment I felt due to my childlike uncontrolled behavior and the way I was ridiculed and made fun of. I’m guessing God chose this time to help me remember these selective memories at this point in my life because my healing journey has progressed to the point that I am now able to handle these painful memories.

Handle them, I did, too. I put myself back into those situations, one by one and picked them apart. Who was there? What exactly was I doing that caused me to become so embarrassed? While the whole exercise left me with a little residual embarrassment, I was able to recognize that these situations were magnified in my mind and likely immediately forgotten by those that I thought were judging me.

My life-long relationship with low self-esteem and worrying about other people’s opinions have roots that go way back. I CHOSE to relive these situations repeatedly, ad nauseum, before finally stuffing them down in my sub-conscious with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind lie from the devil. (And most certainly, these painful memories were stuffed down with a sleeve of Oreos or other high caloric snack food, because THAT is how a food addict deals with pain.)

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully let loose and relinquish this obsessive control I’m married to. As with most problems, hang-ups, addictions or personality quirks – real help comes from the Lord. Me … You? None of us will ever know complete healing and wholeness until we pass on and meet our Lord on the other side. Since none of us know the hour or day when that will happen, the goal needs to be following God’s path for us, starting with John 10:10:

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The Amplified Version actually says: The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

I want that! I want to enjoy my life!

Since I’ve uncovered some of the answers I’ve sought, I find myself asking God, “Seriously, Lord … how can one person have so many things wrong with them?” And “how can God still possibly love me knowing that I have so many things wrong with me?” The good news is, He DOES know every single thing that is wrong with me, yet he loves me unconditionally in spite of it and will never leave me or forsake me.  Revelation and healing are progress! Now as I move forward – my constant prayer is simple:  LORD, FIX ME … one problem at a time!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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JIGGY WITH JOY

It’s a rare gift that few possess. In my lifetime, I’ve probably only encountered two people who enjoy this gift on a full-time basis. It’s the gift of joy, which is not to be mistaken for happiness. Image result for images for joy

Happiness is more of a circumstantial emotion or feeling that can be triggered by people, places or things. Joy is in found in your soul and is usually the result of making peace with yourself for who you are, why you are and how you are. Image result for images for happiness

I have a friend who is the walking, living, breathing epitome of joy. I’ve never seen this guy without a smile. He is always happy, even in the midst of chaos. He seems to have an internal light of joy burning within him that shines like a bright spotlight whenever I see him. He carries joy in his heart because he has such great love for God and his fellow man. More importantly, he obviously is at total peace with himself.

Me, on the other hand … not so much. I love God fiercely, but I’m not what you would call a people person. Sure, I have moments in life when I am happy and content and I can be cordial and friendly with people. I’m not a complete emotional misfit. The thing that I lack however, is deep-down joy. I have experienced the joy of the Lord many times – but I’ve got some sort of a leaky joy valve – as it seems as though my joy leaks out. Either that, or my joy doesn’t reach all the way to my soul.Image result for images for a leaky faucet

My problem is due in part to the way I was raised and my joyless childhood. My house didn’t seem to abound with laughter, joy or happiness. I was a serious child who was forced to hone her survival skills early on rather than playing make-believe with friends. There simply wasn’t a lot of time to just be a kid and have fun. My siblings and I were the original “latch-key” kids who spent after school time doing chores and homework rather than goofing off while our single mother worked to support us. When my mother remarried a horrible, vile man – every smidgen of joy, happiness or fun died a quick, painful death. Mix that all together with childhood depression and you’ve got a recipe for behavior that is the complete opposite of joyful.  Image result for not a people person

A marginal childhood that limits childlike behavior has a tendency to handicap you in many ways. My happy upbeat emotions have parameters, boundaries and restrictions. I’m not one of those people who can be silly, let loose and just act carefree, even with the people closest to me.

This handicap was glaringly obvious to me when I attended a Women’s conference at my church a few weeks ago. Towards the end of the event, the keynote speaker, a high-energy, fast-talking radio host and fitness guru, asked everyone in the building to stand. We’d been sitting for a couple of hours and she invited us all to let loose and “dance it out.” She couldn’t wait to impress the crowd with her choreographed dance moves to a fast beat song.

All around me, everyone was moving, dancing and singing. The room was packed to capacity with more than 2,000 women all getting jiggy with it and thoroughly enjoying themselves – save for the elderly, the infirmed … and ME. NOTHING in me wanted to move to the beat. I kept my hands busy videotaping the speaker leading the melee of moving maniacs. Using videotaping as a guise, I dared not even fantasize about dancing and letting loose with this large crowd of women. This exercise did not make me happy, nor did it inspire me to joyfully dance with abandon. Image result for eileen benes dancing on seingfeldImage result for chandler dancing on friends

I am completely incapable of letting loose, looking silly, acting foolish or behaving weirdly. The very idea of looking stupid or foolish (which is how I imagine I would certainly look) holds zero appeal for me. The idea of people – friends or strangers alike – laughing at me makes me crazy just thinking about it. So much so, that I’d sooner have an invasive gynecological procedure or a root canal than to behave in a childlike fashion of letting loose and risk public ridicule. I don’t dance at weddings. I despise those photo booths with all of the silly hats and props. I can barely sing “Happy birthday” at a party for fear of embarrassment. I don’t even enjoy standing up and doing the wave at a sporting event.  Image result for crowds doing the wave

I do act silly and dance around with my one-year-old granddaughter – but only when she and I are alone together. I figure because of her limited vocabulary, she’s not going to rat me out. She enjoys my silliness; it makes her laugh. I love that she appreciates my weird voices, faces and dance moves – but in all likelihood, I suspect my childish behavior will slowly start to subside the older she gets.

I DESPISE this personality defect. I would love to be that person that throws caution to the wind and dances till the cows come home. But I absolutely cannot because of this emotional paralysis, which is one of the things I’ve been praying about during this Lent season. Each day as I spend time with God in prayer and in the Word, I’m asking the Lord for a change in my soul. The Word of God tells me that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Image result for nehemiah 8:10

Image result for Romans 14:17These personality quirks of mine were developed over the course of my lifetime – so they aren’t likely to diminish or disappear overnight. I have to believe that true spiritual joy is attainable this side of heaven. The Bible talks about joy hundreds of times in both the Old and New Testament. Joy is listed as one of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

I want joy to flood my soul so it will shine like a beacon through me, as it does with my friend. I want people to know before I even open my mouth, that I am a joyful person, not some sort of unapproachable snob with a permanent “resting B” face. I know that this is something I cannot change on my own. Without God’s help, living and walking in joy will be a near impossibility for me and my serious, unyielding nature. BUT … with God ALL things are possible … even turning an emotionally handicapped individual like myself into a beacon of joy. Image result for beacon of love

I love God with all of my heart. Love is to be shared and enjoyed with others. I want the same happy, happy, joy, joy I feel inside when I record a great weight loss to burst through and surround me every single day for the simple reason that God loves me.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

 

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My Numero Uno

They can define you in dozens of different ways. They can sink you or save you; kill you or cure you. They can elevate or promote you. The can make you more important than you really are, and do so much more – in dozens … or hundreds of different ways. Heck, they literally bombard us daily before we even have a chance to put our feet on the floor.

What are they? NUMBERS. Image result for images of numbers 1-100

Our days are numbered in 24-hour increments. The numbers remind us when we have to be somewhere and the numbers dictate how many minutes, hours, days, weeks or months we can remain there.Image result for digital alarm clock

The numbers you receive on your blood work can decide your fate. Healed? Diseased? Remission? Normal? Your blood pressure and cholesterol? Both measured by numbers.

The amount of money you have in a bank account or the number of combined assets can mean the difference between living in a palace or living in your car. Your sales numbers can promote you to a higher position or demote you – or worse yet – get you fired. Image result for 401k memes

Your SAT numbered scores can help you get into a great college with scholarships or remind you that you’re probably better suited to a career in the service industry.

Without a social security number and a birth date, you probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish much. Both of these numbers are literally your ticket to health care, home and car loans, bank accounts, careers, universities … etc.

During World War II, all it took was a number tattooed on your arm to condemn you to a death camp – where the very name depicts unimaginable horror. Image result for images of world war 2 death camp tatoos

Our I.Q. is measured by numbers. The internet and the dark web operate with numbers. Scientific discoveries, curing diseases, measuring gestational periods – so much of life boils down to numbers, numeric equations, algorithms, geometry, etc., etc., etc.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a number of times – I hate math and I’m not great with numbers – so in my life, I try to keep the numbers as simple as possible. I know that if I eat too many calories in a day, the number on the scale is likely to climb. Just last week at my monthly WW weigh-in, I recorded a 2.8 weight loss which was a strong enough number to change my entire outlook for the day. It was a happy, happy, joy, joy kind of day – all because of a number. It’s crazy how much the numbers on the scale can dictate my moods, in spite of my best efforts to keep that from happening.

My number obsession isn’t limited to merely my weight and the number of points or calories I consume daily. I tend to obsess over numbers as they relate to my daily workouts. I push myself to unrealistic goals in the time I spend working out, or the level of intensity that I apply on the treadmill – which are all measured in numbers. See the source image

Numbers are frequently the reason for mood swings and being downtrodden or wallowing in the doldrums. If one of my blogs receives minimal likes on social media, I feel down and disappointed. If only a few people are added each week to my meager following – double doldrums are the result. Clearly, social media numbers make me crazy too.

It was in the midst of the low number doldrums this past week, that I got quite the message from God regarding my out of balance numerical obsession.

It started last Wednesday, which was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. My husband and I are participating in a 40-day challenge of Bible study and Lent related videos. We started discussing our desire to “sacrifice” something personal during this season leading up to Easter.

In past years, I’ve given up things that were tough for me (all things sugar related, to be sure!). Clearly, a person can survive without sugary foods indefinitely – so how much of a sacrifice is this, really?  This year, God laid it on my heart to sacrifice something that will really “cost me.” Something number related. Immediately, I was reminded of a story in the Bible regarding King David that deals specifically with numbers. The story can be found in both 1 Chronicles 21:1-26 and 2 Samuel 24:1-25.

In the story, Satan convinces David to take a census of his army and the Israelites. I was always confused as to why this was such a bad thing in God’s eyes. From my research, apparently David had no right to conduct such a census because the Israelites didn’t belong to him, but to God.  In part, David got caught up in how big “his army” was. David wanted to focus on the numbers, which God disapproved of.  Image result for census numbers

David knew immediately after the census was taken that he had sinned. The morning after the census, a message came to David telling him that God was going to punish him and the Israelites. God let David choose from three different punishments – all of which were very destructive and unpleasant. David makes his choice of which punishment he and his people will receive and wants to build an alter to make a sacrifice to God to repent and to hopefully stop the punishment.

21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked. David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”  22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.” 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.  25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.  2 Samuel 24:21-25 (NLT emphasis added)

I love that David was so repentant that his moral integrity wouldn’t allow him to offer anything to God that would be easy for him. David knew his repentance needed to match the severity of the punishment, in the fact that, it needed to be difficult and should cost him dearly if it was going to make a difference in receiving God’s forgiveness. Image result for david's sacrifice to god

The older I get – the longer I walk with God, my attitude mirrors King David when it comes to sacrificing something for God. Even though I KNOW there is nothing I could possibly sacrifice that would ever equal what Jesus sacrificed for me, I want to make a sacrifice that will be difficult for me. A sacrifice that will cost me something must do just that – COST ME; be it comfort, money, time … something big.

I prayed and asked God what that “something” is? I read several devotions on Ash Wednesday and watched a couple of videos and surprisingly, the message became quite clear. All the signs pointed to one thing in particular. My obsession with numbers – specifically with regards to my writing. God reminded me that I am writing for his good pleasure and no one else. While it is nice to receive positive affirmation or monetary contributions, that is all secondary. If no one buys my books or reads any of my blogs, I need to be okay with that. I need to stop checking my stats every day to see how many people have visited my site. I need to stop obsessing over how many people like my status or are following me. The numbers don’t matter and should not influence my writing in any way.

My sacrifice is the time I put into everything I write, oftentimes for little or no money, and very little positive feedback. My sacrifice is staying off of social media (except for posting weekly blogs – because hey, somebody might read them and be helped in some way). My sacrifice is to spend quality time with God, thanking him for the innumerable blessings in my life. My sacrifice is to write for God as if he is the only one reading my work. The only number I want to concern myself with is my one and only … my number one … my Lord and Savior!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

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Layers of Pain and Healing

This week’s blog started out in about three different directions. I stopped and started so many times, unable to focus on one particular subject. I’ve definitely had a little bit of writer’s-attention-deficit-disorder the last few days. So many words in my brain and my spirit, all fighting to be heard and read that my fingers can’t keep up with the verbal onslaught desperate to be recorded.

My writer’s ADD is the direct result of some things I heard at a Women’s Conference that I attended late last week.  For the past three days, my mind has been in a general state of emotional disarray. Some of the subject matter discussed by one of the speakers ended up poking the sleeping bear deep inside me from a den of buried pain. The “bear” has been roused, making me realize that I’ve still got a long way to go in healing from certain painful childhood experiences. Image result for don't poke the bear

The speaker focused a lot on that whole “healing happens in layers” thing. Like peeling away the layers of an onion, emotional healing happens little by little – one painful layer after another. Every uncovered emotional issue forces you to dig deeper, peeling away the pain one layer at a time.

Each time you work your way through an emotional trauma, it’s easy to get a little cocky and think, hey, life is finally good. I’ve got this  – And then … bam! God sends someone along who uncovers an old wound. That someone gets close enough to peel back another layer, revealing a repressed memory forcing you to face a forgotten experience. Suddenly there you are standing knee-deep in horrible memories – again – wondering just how much more is buried in there? (Do I really want an answer to that question?) Will the root cause ever be uncovered this side of Heaven? Is total healing even a possibility? 

The conference speaker got my attention when she said, “your inmost being is where the lies go to hide,” to which I can personally testify to. So many lies buried with the pain, all waiting to be resurrected when I least expect it. When the speaker stated (rather emphatically) “you have to feel it, to heal it,” my mind was conflicted between, “but I don’t want to feel anymore,” and “isn’t that what I’ve been doing my whole life?”

Emotional deficiencies, mental illness, depression, anxiety … it’s all so exhausting. I find myself asking God for the bazillionith time, “Lord, how can you possibly love someone who is as broken as me?”

With this week being the beginning of the Lenten season, I’ve decided to tackle some of these overwhelming issues while at the same time drawing closer to God. For those of you who didn’t grow up in a Catholic household, Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, moderation and self-denial that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Its purpose is to remind ourselves of the value of repentance and the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf through his death and resurrection. Image result for images for lent

While I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, I’ve got enough ex-Catholic in me that I still recognize the importance of the Lenten season. As a Christian, repentance should be an everyday thing – not just something for a specific period of time.. Lent is a time that can be used for us to sacrifice something meaningful so that we might share in the suffering of Christ. As a child, I “sacrificed” childish things, like chocolate or sweet treats. Over the years, I’ve used the Lenten season to fast from things like social media, television, chronic worry or obsessive behaviors.

Many people fast from certain foods or bad habits (smoking, gambling, alcohol, etc.) during Lent. While others may choose to use their 40 days to spend more time reading God’s Word or setting aside a certain amount of time to sit  and talk with God. There are no specific rules or regulations on how one chooses to observe Lent. You don’t have to be a Catholic or Protestant – just someone who wants to draw closer to God.

Image result for Lenten season There’s a story in the book of Genesis, Chapter 32 that tells of Jacob spending a night apart from his family, wrestling with God for the entire night, until the break of dawn.

 

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:24-26 (ESV)

Jacob was tenacious, refusing to let the man (God) go until he blessed him. How I admire Jacob’s resolve. I want to use my Lenten season to challenge God in the same way Jacob did. I want to spend the next 40 days praying for emotional healing and I don’t want to “let God go until he blesses me” with answers. I want to uncover the root cause of why am I so wounded and broken that I can’t seem to ever feel joy? An unhappy Christian is an oxymoron, to be sure. But when one is struggling with clinical depression, you can’t just pray the dark clouds away. For me, the darkness may lift temporarily, but it’s always there. I suspect it has something to do with the lies buried in my inmost being. 

I know that with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE, but I must ask myself, if God hasn’t healed me from the depression and darkness after so many years of suffering and praying … then the real question should be, God what do you want me to learn from this?  God never wastes pain. God did not give me depression, but God can certainly use the depression and all of the buried pain in my soul to draw me closer to him. Perhaps the purpose of delayed healing for any of us is for God to use our pain and our experiences to help others who are suffering.

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Realistically though, with regards to Lent – I know that whatever “sacrifice” I may make during Lent will never in any way compare to the sacrifice that Jesus made for me. My desire is to get to the point where my life is less about me and more about Jesus. I know WHO I want to be in Christ. I KNOW that Christ already sees me as who he created me to be. Every time I peel back another layer and look the pain in the eye and deal with it, I am one step closer to becoming the person God intends for me to be. Every layer brings me one step closer to actually believing that I am that person.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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