Unconscious-Subconscious-Insomnity-Insanity

Sometimes it feels as if the entire universe is conspiring against you when all you want to do is sleep. Each night I crawl into bed, my body bone-weary and over-tired; my mental acuity checked out and settled in for the night – but then … NOTHING! Why is it, when both your body and your brain are on board and ready to head to Slumberland – YOU JUST CAN’T SLEEP! Image result for images for I can't sleepInsomnia continues to be a major problem for me, pushing me to the edge of insanity. Part of my continuing problem – is that when I finally do fall asleep, my mind is so active, never powering down, that I dream the craziest, most bizarre things. Like mini movies in my mind, these dream movies that originate in my unconscious subconscious are so fantastical that I wake completely exhausted from the crazy adventures in my “sleeping brain.”

Years ago, I went to bed every night begging God to visit me in my dreams. Some of my favorite stories in the Bible, involve people who were visited by God in their dreams. “God, I WANT THAT!” was part of my nightly, bedtime ritual. After about 10 years of praying this, with little or no communication from the Lord, I stopped praying about my dreams. It bears noting that God works on His own time schedule, and He has a profound sense of humor and irony.  It was only AFTER I stopped seeking God for dream visitations, that He chose to show up in a big way. Image result for images for Acts 2:17

For nearly a year straight, God blessed me with some of the coolest prophetic dreams. Dreams that were all related and thematic in nature, that were specific instruction to me regarding a book project. God spoke into existence my second novel, The Name resulting from three dreams. So when I say this book was co-authored entirely by a ghost writer – that specifically means, THE HOLY GHOST. The Name: A Novel

Over the course of a week, God gave me three separate dreams. After the first dream, God waited a couple of days before He gave me the second dream – but what was so bizarre, was the fact that the second dream picked up exactly where the first dream left on. The same thing happened with the third dream. After the third dream, God specifically told me these three dreams were to be the subject of my next book. Of course, I proceeded to argue with Him about how daunting a task it was to take this project on. I felt completely unworthy (not to mention, overwhelmed) to be given such a monumental task.

After a few more dreams confirming this was indeed a challenge from God, I picked up the gauntlet and ran with it. It took me a few months to write the story and around six months to edit, re-edit and edit some more, before I finished the project. Throughout the entire journey, God continued to speak to me through my dreams almost nightly. Especially on those days when I struggled with dialogue or the story progression. Nearly every single dream involved water. Being swept away in a current or struggling to stay afloat was the most common recurrent dream. Image result for images for being swept away in a flood

When I had these dreams, God was faithful to remind me that He was writing the story. As long as I followed His direction and kept my eyes on Him, I would not succumb to the elements trying to take me out. He wasn’t going to let me drown or get in over my head. Many times I wanted to veer off in a different direction with the story.  Whenever I tried to go my own way, the drowning dreams intensified. God kept the story on track and moved it forward through the recurring dreams. Many days I merely needed to show up and turn the computer on. The Holy Spirit worked through me; I was simply on auto-pilot trying to get my fingers to type faster to keep up with the story the Holy Spirit unfolded.

Lest anyone should think writing everything at God’s command is easy – you should know that because I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that this was GOD’S STORY – I suffered more attacks from the enemy than ever before in my life.

For months, the enemy did his best to slay me physically. I had such foot and knee problems that I could barely walk for months. Literally! During that time, I logged so many hours in the recliner, I could have been a test pilot for Lazy-Boy. Knowing these attacks were purely supernatural and orchestrated by Satan, I surrounded myself with a support system that included people praying for me who were willing to come to my house and lay hands on my feet, if need be.  While in the physical – it proved to be uncomfortable for someone who rarely lets anyone breach her circle of safety, the  prayer coverage was a necessity paramount to my success and overruled my discomfort.

Once the enemy figured out that I was getting “inside writing information” from God through nightly dreams, he did his best to block the flow of my dream creativity. I was seized upon and punished with horrific nightmares. Many a night I would awake screaming. My husband can testify to this! The dreams were so frightening and demonic to the point that I began to dread going to sleep every night. Image result for images for being satanic nightmares

For extreme circumstances such as this – it pays to know your Bible and know it well. God, in His goodness, allowed me to be semi-conscious when my subconscious was unconscious (I know – right! Image result for emoji faces for confused). I battled myself through the nightmares by speaking Scriptures repeatedly until I came fully awake. The nighttime nightmare rituals lasted as long as most of the writing of the novel. Image result for images for 1 John 4:4

Finally, just weeks away from completion of the book, God showed up in a big way one night during my fitful sleep. As God is my witness, I awoke from a nightmare to see three ethereal beings standing at the end of my bed. In an instant, God calmed me with the knowledge that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were watching over me, so I need not fear the enemies in my mind in my dreams. Image result for Trinity Father Son Holy Spirit Art

After that night – the nightmares stopped. I completed the book and successfully published it a few months later. To this day, the story remains one of my personal favorites. Shortly after the publication, I was invited to a book signing at a Christian book store. The manager of the story did a little Q & A and asked which of my books was my favorite. I quipped, “that’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite!” But – truth be told – The Name is secretly (well, maybe not so secretly) my favorite piece of work!

This book isn’t going to set the world on fire. I have no idea how many copies it’s sold to date. A few thousand … maybe??? Let’s face it … I’m basically a nobody with a small following. It’s a very simple story about an innocent little girl who believes that The Name of Jesus can solve just about any problem. I believe this to be true as well. This, however, tends to be a controversial topic in a world driven by things other than God these days.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.  Psalm 91:14 (NLT)

I’m honored that God chose me to write this story. Whether it ever becomes a best-seller (while unlikely) was never the point. The purpose of the dreams and the corresponding book was simply about obedience and trusting God. Whatever path this book takes is entirely up to God. I am merely a vessel.

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That period in my life was such an amazing adventure, I find myself “begging” God to visit me in my dreams again. I’m ready for another big adventure! I’m ready and waiting to be divinely inspired – even if it means that I’ll have to do battle with the enemy again. Call me crazy for wanting to invite that sort of challenge into my life – but hey, life is short. If you can’t spend your days doing what God has called you to do – then what’s the point? Image result for Images for 1 Corinthians 1:27

I guess, the joke is on me and these “dreams” I used to pray for, are a clear case of “be careful what you pray for!” God certainly has done his part and filled my unconscious mind with dreams. My dreams of late haven’t exactly been fodder for the next book, but they at least, are certainly entertaining.  If my brain is going to continue to work overtime and keep me from rested slumber, at the very least I hope there’s a new book in there somewhere! The last book came when I least expected it, so perhaps there’s a remote possibility that this insomnia is working up to something amazing. Lord, I hope so! If I’m going to be half crazy from insomnia … hmm, foggy brain can’t complete a simple thought and I really am half crazy working my way up to a full-on crazy!

In the meantime … happy reading … happy writing to all of my fellow creative word junkies!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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FAKING FINE

Yesterday women the world over celebrated Mother’s Day. I know this day can be particularly challenging for those who have lost children or for the children whose mothers are no longer with them. Women who struggle with infertility are likely more troubled by this day of honor than most. My heart goes out to all of those women who hate the painful reminders of Mother’s Day and all that this day is NOT. Image result for Images for mother's day

My mother passed away 16 years ago. She actually died the day BEFORE Mother’s Day. Some years, Mother’s Day falls on the exact date of her demise – but most years – Mother’s Day and the anniversary of Mom’s passing are within two days of one another.

Sixteen years is a long time to be without your mother. My mom and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things and frequently argued over one of the most important issues in life: knowing Jesus as our Savior. Our relationship was fraught with all manner of emotional dysfunction for reasons that are far too complicated to share here. Even now, years later, I continue to walk in regret and guilt regarding the way our mother/daughter relationship ended. My mother passed quietly in her sleep with NO warning beforehand. Consequently, the abrupt end to her life and our relationship left me with unanswered questions and unresolved pain from childhood trauma.

All these years later though, our many disagreements are inconsequential. The fact remains, I miss my mom. Now that I am a grandmother, I find myself missing my mother more than ever. I look at my children and the amazing people they are and the children they themselves have borne – and I think, “I wish mom was here to see how well her grandchildren are doing.” I’m saddened that my mom never got to know the joys of being a great-grandmother, as well. It sucks that she’s missed so many important milestones. Image result for grief

The grieving process plays out differently for each and every one of us who have experienced loss. People who’ve never suffered through the loss of a loved one, would argue that 16 years is more than enough time to get over it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You don’t simply just get over it when someone you love is no longer in your life – no matter how many years have passed. The statute of limitations on grief has no expiration date.Image result for grief

Most of the time – I am fine when I talk about my mom or her passing. On the days that I am not fine —such as Mother’s Day, my mother’s birthday, MY birthday, the anniversary of mom’s passing and just about every single major life event that happens with me, my children or grandchildren – I’ve honed my skills and become proficient at faking fine.

You know how it goes … may even know firsthand the discomfort of the “How are you?” question and found yourself formulating the requisite, “I’m fine,” response. Because let’s face it … when most people ask you, “How are you?” they really don’t expect, nor do they welcome a real answer that’s likely to be wrapped up with truth, pain, tears or anger. Many of us KNOW this, which is why the only response is usually “I’m fine.”

Personally, if I know someone REALLY well, I may press for further explanation if I deduce, someone is anything BUT fine. When you can tell that someone is totally faking fine, you have to be willing to gamble and press for a genuine reply. Image result for I'm fine

The problem with pressing those that are hurting is – emotions can be messy and complicated. We oftentimes realize (after it’s too late) that we may have dug ourselves in deeper than we expected and bitten off more than we can chew. Few of us like to chew on someone else’s messy feelings – especially if we have more than ample trouble processing our own complex emotions.

Relationships and friendships require a lot of work if they are going to be mutually successful and satisfying. Nowadays, society has made it far too easy to isolate ourselves and hide behind our social media personas. We may have several hundred Facebook or Twitter friends and followers – but how many of those “fake friends” would drop everything to come and cry with us or grieve with us when we find ourselves in a faking fine situation?

I’ll be the first to admit that I could be the president of the faking fine club. It really is easier to hide behind my computer and pretend that I’ve got everything together than face interrogation and possibly risk revealing buried emotions. It’s tough to open myself up to anyone. I’d rather not pick at emotional wounds that have finally healed — or at the very least — scabbed over. Image result for I'm fine

Faking fine is just one of the skills I perfected with my mom while she was alive. I had very few open, honest and soul-bearing conversations with my mother. But then, I suspect my superior skills were an inherited behavior passed down from her, as they were inherited and passed down from generations of Sicilian women before her. She and I were never able to communicate beyond a superficial level. We were a family that never talked about anything and denied everything.

Life is filled with shoulda, coulda, woulda regrets. I’m unable to go back in time and undo all of the relational mistakes I made with my mother. That relationship is sealed in stone. Rather than live with the continual regrets and guilt though – what I CAN DO is forgive her, forgive myself and press forward and learn from those past mistakes.

Today is the day to move forward and become a better mother and cultivate the relationships with my children and grandchildren I wished I had with my own mother, but was never able to achieve. Above all, it’s important to realize that a life wasted faking fine really doesn’t make life better or easier. So, while I didn’t have the relationship I longed for with my mother while she was alive – she is teaching me a thing or two about life from the grave. I don’t want to live and die faking fine for the rest of my days left on this earth. Image result for regrets

How are YOU? Are you faking fine? OR are you someone who is really good at discerning and helping others who might be faking fine? Pick a team and dive in. Make sure though, that whichever group you fall in to … you invite Jesus along for the journey. Jesus can free you from failures, fears, false feelings, friendless futures, faking fine … and pretty much EVERYTHING life throws at you.

My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 (GNT) Image result for Galatians 6 1-2 Restoration

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Once An Addict … ???

It started with something as simple as ICE CREAM. Somehow though, the ice cream opened up a whole can of metaphorical worms. The grocery advertisement proved to be a temptation almost more than I could bear. My flesh wanted desperately to download the digital coupon. In my mind, I plotted how I could rearrange the freezer in order to hide my slide down the slippery slope of my addiction. The coupon was for Blue Bunny Ice Cream snacks and pints of Blue Bunny Sundae concoctions – all of which fuel the fantasies of one hopelessly addicted to … well … FOOD! To someone like me – those grocery ads are quite simply – food porn!  Image result for images for Blue Bunny Ice cream

It’s not just supermarket ads either. Let us not forget – Cupcake Wars, Cake Wars, The Great British Baking Show, Spring Baking Championship, Kids Baking Championship – and ALL manner of Food Network Shows that feature the word BAKE or CAKE in the title. You can easily turn off the Food Network Channel, but of course, there are all of those other television mediums that zing you with their restaurant ads and snack commercials. And YES – even the weekly supermarket ads are extremely challenging. They ALL send me into a fit of caloric lust for which there is little escape. Image result for Depressed Cupcake

The likelihood of me actually downloading the digital coupon and making a trip to this particular grocery store are slim to none. It’s not a store I frequent – plus there’s that whole thing of being techno-challenged by downloading anything on a two-year old phone that has little to no storage space. I knew in my heart I was safe from falling down that particular rabbit hole BUT that didn’t stop me from entertaining those fantasies of falling. And fall I did, for several minutes at least.

In my mind, I could see myself buying six (it would have been more, but six was the coupon limit) of the most decadent flavors of gooey, chocolaty, chocked full of peanut buttery, treat-filled, creamy ice cream ever concocted in an ice cream manufacturing plant. In my mind, I wanted to devour every last morsel of the forbidden frozen treats – one pint at a time, one cup at a time, one bar at a time. And heck, if I was going to sink to that level of debauchery, I might as well download the digital coupon for Double-Stuff Oreos, Nutter Butters and BOGO (buy one-get one) Donuts while I was at it. Let the flesh experience a total and complete breakdown of normal, common-sense, Herculean restraint and Weight Watcher will-power!Image result for no willpowerWhile part of me is proud of the fact that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would never succumb to such a temptation – the OTHER part of me was faced with the reality that although my flesh is able to abstain – my mind was diving ALL IN, face first and devouring as much as I could, as quickly as I could. For several minutes, I mentally undressed every frozen ice cream bar and fondled every unearthed candy-coated peanut butter bunny.
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Once an addict – always an addict – at least FOR ME. True – I may not actually hide in the pantry and devour snack foods in secret as I once did. But there’s no denying that to this day, I remain an emotional food addict.

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I have a friend who swears that if you are an addict of any sort, those addictive behaviors can very easily seep into other areas of your life. My friend swears that having one addiction, makes you more vulnerable to many other addictions. His beliefs are borne out of a past life of surviving simultaneous addictions to alcohol, cocaine and gambling.

I don’t dispute this argument, especially after a being coerced into visiting a local casino last week.

I’m not much of a gambler, per se. When it comes to casinos, if it weren’t for BAD LUCK, I’d have NO LUCK at all. Truth be told, I seem to have a very UN-lucky streak and free stuff rarely just magically comes to me the easy way. I positively hate throwing money away “just for the fun of it,” especially since “extra” money is really hard to come by in my household. But, visiting out-of-town relatives convinced me they really wanted to visit the casino before they headed home – and it would be oh-so-much-more-fun if we ALL went together. Isn’t that what families are for? Who am I to argue with someone who plays the “family first” card?

Not surprisingly though, the moment we  hit the casino floor – everyone scattered to divide and conquer their own particular favorite machine or table. So much for spending time with family! I opted to circle the casino floor a couple of times, mainly for the benefit of adding steps to my fitness tracker. Plus, I wanted to get the lay of the land and size up my machine choices before blindly throwing my money away on the first machine I saw. Image result for Casino slot machines

My stingy nature being what it is, I watched and waited for the right machine to call to me. Sadly, every machine that whispered my name, all repeated the same message: LOSER! After a mere 15 minutes and down by $15.00, I knew when to cut my losses. I found a comfortable chair near the lobby and alternated between checking Facebook, reading my emails and playing Slotomania on my phone. (How much of a loser do you have to be to go to an actual casino and play casino games on your phone???) With almost two hours of wait time ahead of me before rejoining the family, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes of a little eye-opening people-watching session.  Image result for people watching

I deduced that my friend really knew what he was talking about with regards to addiction.  Though it may come in many colors and styles – no matter how you label it – addiction is all the same and possesses the addict fully and completely. Here it was the middle of the week and the middle of the day and the casino was packed. (The over-flowing, multi-leveled parking garage SHOULD have been my first clue!) How is it so many people have time to hang out in the middle of the day, for hours on end and throw away so much money? Throwing away hard-earned money on the hope that you might just be that one to strike it rich has a certain appeal – but clearly comes at a high price.

Years ago, I once sat next to a woman who won $5,000.00 on a slot machine and rather than cashing in (as I WOULD HAVE), she continued to dump money into the same machine for the hour that I was in the casino. For the love of all that is holy, WHY??? Unless of course – she was a serious addict.

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Many of these people seemed to corroborate my friend’s theory of multiple-addictions as well. The largest percentage of the casino patrons who held vigil at slot machines that seduced with their flashing lights and bells and whistles – ALSO smoked and imbibed of the free liquor being offered. And don’t get me started on the obese guy I saw seated at a Black Jack table, sitting in an electric scooter, smoking a cigarette (in spite of the oxygen tube hanging from his nose), drinking a beer, and eating from a large trough of pasta that had been delivered to his table. The only thing missing from this picture was a high-priced hooker sitting behind him wishing upon his lucky four-leaf clover and rubbing his rabbit’s foot necklace. Can you say multiple addictions? I think so! Image result for different types of addiction

While it may seem as though I’m standing in judgment of these people – I promise, I am not. If anyone understands the power of addiction – it’s me. I will likely always be a food addict. To my way of thinking, a food addiction is probably one of the worst  – because let’s face it, we cannot survive without food. You can’t say that about cigarettes, liquor, sex, gambling, shopping or most other addictions.

My list of past and present addictions is a lengthy one. Some of these addictions are rather benign, while others … not so much.  I would wager If people are honest, just about everybody harbors some sort of secret addiction. Heck, how many of us are addicted to our cell phones these days? Or coffee? Or diet soda?  At what point though – is an addiction just an addiction and not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? OR does addiction start as one thing and then end up as OCD? Gambling in and of itself probably wouldn’t qualify as OCD, but whose to say that your compulsive need to buy a lottery ticket at the same place every week at the same time isn’t the thing that pushes you towards a full-blown addiction??? Sometimes there is no explanation for our weird quirks that begin simply and metamorphosis into addiction.

How can you know if you have a real bona-fide addiction? If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I can quit anytime I want to!” a little self-analysis might be in order with regards to your behavior. Simply ask yourself – “can I give this up? Can I walk away from _____________ whatever this thing is?” Image result for 1 John 5:21Perhaps if you are reading this, you can honestly say, “Yeah … I’m good. I don’t have ANY addictions.” If that’s you, that’s amazing! Good for you! In which case, I’m just writing this blog for my own benefit!

I know I have a problem in certain areas. Every day is a struggle. Every day finds me in pursuit of living a balanced life. The more I’ve come to understand the WHY of the reason I behave the way I do, the more I realize how lost I am and in need of a Savior. Will I ever get it right this side of Heaven? Only the God of Mercy knows for sure. With my every breath though … I’m going to do my best to keep pushing forward!

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Romans 6:16 (NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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THE THINKS I THUNK

Many “experts” agree that the majority of people have one similar need and one common fear.

The most common FEAR – is death. Let’s face it – we are ALL going to die someday. The time, the place and the manner in which our spirits leave this earth, are all up to chance. Well not entirely. I’m pretty sure God has the final say so regarding our final expiration date. The fact remains though, that at some point – it’s going to happen whether we are ready or not. Image result for images for RIP

**SIDEBAR NOTE HERE: My advice to anyone reading this – GET READY! And by that, I mean – the only way you can know FOR CERTAIN whether you will spend eternity in heaven or in hell, is to say “YES” to Jesus, and the sooner the better!

The most common NEED we have is, acceptance. “Most people” (obviously, not ALL) crave acceptance and love based on who they really are (warts and all). The problem is so many of us work to hide “the real us” out of fear that we will be rejected. We think that if people really knew “the real us,” (that part of us that we never let anyone see); they wouldn’t want to associate with us. I fall solidly in this category. In fact, I could be the queen of this parade.

I’ve spent much of my life living inside my head. The battles warring inside me are lifelong. I’ve wrestled with low self-esteem (sometimes NO self-esteem), likely since the womb. I was born seven or eight weeks prematurely, so I imagine I probably started comparing myself to my peers from an incubator. Throughout my lifetime, everyone has always been prettier, more athletic, more physically fit, had better jobs, boyfriends/husbands, nicer houses, perfect children, more money, more educated, closer to God, wiser, more talented and gifted, blah, blah, blah – you get the idea. Essentially, in my mind EVERYONE is just overall – BETTER than me, in every single category that makes any kind of difference. Image result for warring thoughts in my head

The secrets I work to hide from the world, are the ones that hold me prisoner on a regular basis. I’m a contradiction of everything the Word of God tells me I should aspire to be. I’m judgmental. I’m fearful of everything. I trust no one, sometimes – least of all God. We’ve already established that I compare myself and come up lacking to just about everybody. I’m a chronic whiner and complainer. I give in to the temptation to gossip. I go to bed angry. Most days I live in a bubble of escapism. Escapism is actually how I get through life’s tough circumstances and the monotony of a life that’s not gone as planned. It’s easier to imagine my alter-ego is perfect in every way, married to the perfect man with perfect children and has a fat bank account that never runs dry.

But wait – I can’t tell anyone about how awful I am. I can’t let the monster living inside of me out, because who could possibly love or accept anyone who thinks such awful things? Some days my thoughts are so positively dark and evil that I scare myself. Where do these vile things originate, if not from me? Image result for where do our dark thoughts come from

Not all prisons are made up of concrete and metal bars. So many of us are held prisoner in the six-to-eight inches of grey matter in our skulls inside our brains. Our thoughts can be so damaging and self-destructive, making us our own worst enemy and our biggest critic, by far. Image result for being a prisoner of our minds

Joyce Meyer, a well-known Christian speaker and author has a saying about those dark thoughts we dwell on. Joyce says: “think about what you’re thinking about.” Her best-selling book The Battlefield of the Mind, is all about winning the battles that war in our minds.

Basically, she recommends that whenever we are prone to despair, depression, hopelessness, all those dark thoughts, etc. we need to take a look at what our thoughts are fixated on. Image result for joyce meyer the battlefield of the mind

Most of us know that depression and anxiety are very real mental illnesses. Sometimes mental illness can be the result of a very real chemical imbalance in our brains, which frequently requires medication to bring things back into balance. BUT, many of us who suffer from depression, end up that way because we simply can’t make ourselves “look on the bright side.” We aren’t able to train our brains to focus on the positive. Well-meaning friends or relatives frequently suggest to simply “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” thoughts from our minds. “Just stop thinking all those negative thoughts!” Oh – if only it were that simple! Honestly – if it really were that easy, don’t you think we would have done that years ago?

Would you tell someone with diabetes to simply eat better and train your pancreas to do its job? NO. Do you tell an alcoholic, just stop drinking! Do you tell a smoker to just stop lighting up!” NO. Name an addiction, pick your poison and then just -STOP DOING THAT THING THAT IS CONTROLLING YOUR LIFE! Seriously?

For me personally, I know that once a negative thought has taken root in my mind, no amount of positive mental dynamite is going to blast it away. It’s that whole falling down the rabbit hole; or surrendering to the dark side thinking. As soon as you surrender to the pull of downward emotional gravity, the thoughts in your head quickly become like compound interest on a credit card. Once you open the door and give a tiny negative thought a foothold, it quickly spirals out of control, compounding one negative thought upon another and another until you are buried under a load of crap from which there is no escape.

A mental foothold quickly becomes a stomping ground for the enemy. Image result for Negative Self Talk

Since I’ve been on medication, there are days when it’s easier to recognize the deception of the enemy and I can quickly shut down the lies by throwing Scripture at them. The Bible, Christian music, devotions or books can act as a type of mental super power that defeats the enemy, stopping him in his tracks before his lies gain momentum.

But on those other days … not so much.

It pains me to think that even with medication and being a strong, long-practicing born-again Christian who knows the Word, I continue to deal with these mental and emotional weaknesses. Not surprisingly, the reality that I am not perfect is just another one of the many thoughts that keep me so dependent on the Lord. He knows this about me. He knows every thought I’m ever going to think today and tomorrow – the good, the bad and the ugly – yet … He still loves me and accepts me just as I am. Image result for Jesus loves me

So … here we sit, judging ourselves because we don’t measure up (or so we think), because we’ve set the bar so impossibly high with ridiculous expectations we impose upon ourselves. In reality – while we are fixated on OUR insecurities, these people we compare ourselves to – are battling their own insecurities and likely comparing themselves to US. How mixed up are we?

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So, what do we do with all of the negative thoughts bouncing around in our brains? In a perfect world, retraining our thoughts not to wander off in the wrong direction would be as simple as breathing. Do it once – and you’ve got it down for the rest of your life. We don’t, however, live in a perfect world. Redirecting our thoughts is like trying to teach yourself to use your left hand, when you’ve lived for 60 years as a right-handed person. Translated – it’s going to take a fair amount of work.

Unlearning the bad habit of dwelling on negative thoughts should start with the simple suggestion of a common acronym people use before they say something they may regret later. It’s that old adage of THINK before you speak. But in this case the advice is –THINK before you THINK and become completely consumed by a dark, disturbing thought. Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Is this thought True?
  • Is this thought Helpful?
  • Is this thought Inspiring?
  • Is this thought Necessary?
  • Is this thought Kind?

An air conditioning filter is designed to prevent all matter of impurities and allergens from circulating throughout our home. We need to employ a crap-o-matic filter in our thought life to sift through the garbage the world and the devil throw at us. We NEED to prevent the impurities of negativity from circulating in our brains. Image result for Breaking Habits

While it may not be as simple as “just stop thinking those negative thoughts,” perhaps by taking a minute or two to ask ourselves these basic simple filtering questions – we can teach our “old-dog brains” to learn a few new tricks.

THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Till Death Do Us Part

A Facebook friend of mine lost her husband of 30-plus years to cancer just two days ago. His fight was swift and incredibly painful. Only five months after being diagnosed he breathed his last just hours shy of Easter Sunday. Watching my friend and her family battle through chemo and radiation, only to see their loved one wither and die so quickly leaves me speechless. Image result for cancer sucks

My friend faithfully posted regular Facebook updates throughout their journey for the purpose of asking for specific prayer needs with each health hurdle. Through it all … every surgery, every medication, every treatment, hair loss, steroidal weight gain then dramatic weight loss, every bucket of vomit, even the last 24 hours when his pain was unmanageable – my friend was strong, positive and at peace. My friend and her husband, who was her best friend and soul mate, both had a strong love for Jesus.

My friend did cancer well. I’m sure in her quiet time she must have railed at God a few times – probably had a breakdown or two. Who wouldn’t in that situation? No one would blame her for falling apart. Yet – her public social media presence was never anything but positive words of affirmation and trust in the Lord. She knows her husband is rejoicing in heaven now – cancer free and whole in mind and body.

I am both humbled and awestruck by her amazing faith, courage and love for her spouse and for God.  What an incredible warrior this woman is.

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How does anyone do cancer so well? How does anyone survive an abusive past, overcome addiction or come through losing everything in a horrendous natural disaster? How does anyone do ANYTHING and maintain peace through it all?

The answer is simple: Jesus. Image result for glorified bodies in heavenYet during difficult trials and challenges – especially the loss of a loved one – so many people choose to run away from God rather than running TO Jesus.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I find myself unable to write about (or complain about) anything else in my life today, except my love for the Lord.  Watching my friend’s journey, I don’t want to complain about years of battling depression and anxiety. I don’t want to complain about my dismal bank account or how my life hasn’t gone as planned. I don’t want to complain about my ongoing struggles with food addictions or yo-yo weight losses and gains. Because, realistically … I have nothing to complain about — not even politics, global warming, worldwide hunger or the border crisis.

Easter is a time to reflect and be thankful. I may not have as much as someone else, but I have more than a lot of others. I am blessed to sleep in a warm, comfortable bed every night – and even on those nights when insomnia is relentless, I still have a bed to rest my weary head. I have clean sheets, blankets, air conditioning and ceiling fans when it’s hot and central heat for when it is cold.

I’ve got reliable transportation, food in the pantry and the fridge, hot and cold running water and fresh air to breathe through lungs that are strong and healthy; as is my heart and mind (most of the time). I’ve got family and friends and while we may not always agree on everything – especially politics and the Lordship of Jesus Christ – I know they’re always there for me. Image result for what if you woke up tomorrow with only

If all of these things were to somehow suddenly disappear, I know… that I know … that I know … that I still have the most important thing in life – and that is a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. I serve a big God who loved me so much, he sent his son to die for me. No matter what I’ve done – whatever horrific thought I’ve ever had, every hurtful action or deed I’ve committed, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus died for me. I know that Jesus loves me and when I breathe my last breath and my spirit leaves my body, I will get to live with him in heaven for all eternity.

Jesus did death better than anyone ever has, because he beat death by coming back to life and rising from the dead. The grave could not hold him. Image result for He is risen

He is risen. He is Lord. He died for you – no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus loves you.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NLT) 

My friend’s husband was lucky in the fact that knowing he was going to die – he took advantage of the last months of his life to get his affairs in order. I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine this man did what most people do when faced with their mortality and a specific end date. He had the gift of time to say his good-byes. Time to right right any wrongs. Time to  offer and accept forgiveness. He had time to help his wife set everything in order financially. He died in peace knowing that his family would be taken care of.  He died with the knowledge that this life is not his permanent home. He passed knowing that Jesus was waiting with open arms for him.

Not everyone is given a specific expiration date. A family member just received news that a high school classmate was killed last week while running. He was 25; hit by a car doing something he did every day. Every day of our life is basically a crap shoot. We never know when the death knell will sound for us. We might have the chance to accept Jesus in those final moments … but then again, we might not. Why would anyone want to gamble on something so important?  There are only two choices: HEAVEN or HELL. 

The choice is yours. Which will you choose?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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The Choice You Choose

It’s 3:00 A.M. and your body may be horizontal and still, but your mind has been in overdrive for the last two hours – and the conversation in your head isn’t pretty:

I hate my life … Whose life is this anyway? This is NOT the life I imagined for myself all those years ago. Who am I? Where did things go so horribly wrong? I have no friends. I’m fat, ugly and stupid. My writing sucks. I’m a talent-less hack and I am making no worthwhile contribution to my family or society. Why was I ever born?”

Of course, the crème-de-la-crème of self-debasement and the mac daddy of lambasting of self-loathing is always, “God do you hate me? God do you even care that I’m suffering … and God … ARE YOU EVEN REAL?” Image result for images of God are you real

At this point, a “normal thinking human” would shake off the shackles of negative thinking, roll over and go to sleep; chalking all the mental mudslinging up to lies rooted and grounded in insomnia and sleep deprivation. A “normal thinking” Christian would be smart enough to recognize the falsehoods as fabricated lies from an enemy that never sleeps.

I’m clearly not a “normal thinking human” and maybe not even a great Christian – because rather than poo-pooing the onslaught of lies from the pit of hell, I roll over and stew in the juices of my miserable failures, missed opportunities and stupid past decisions. That’s called normal-abnormal thinking for someone who suffers from depression and/or anxiety. Image result for What's Normal

And here we are AGAIN. I’m sure I’ve written this same blog a million other times, because evil truly NEVER sleeps and the lies never seem to stop!

I really did have a legitimate reason for this most recent onslaught of severe internal verbal vomiting. Over the weekend, I caught a slight 24-hour stomach bug and spent one whole night curled up on the cold tile floor in the fetal position. The monumental intestinal discomfort moved me to switch up my position occasionally, forcing me to bow down and worship at the altar of the porcelain throne. Gripping the sides of the throne in a white-knuckle clutch, I prayed for all I was worth that I wouldn’t throw up – because I HATE throwing up. But at the same time, I was hoping I WOULD throw up, because at least then, I knew I would feel slightly better once I expelled the remains of some very questionable pork tenderloin and green bean casserole.

As with most people – this scenario of gut-wrenching pain and severe nausea during the wee hours of night and early morning, becomes a contest of making impossible deals with God and the art of creative negotiation. Mental clarity vanishes from this particular vantage point. Image result for throwing up

I hate to be sick or under the weather in the slightest. Nothing in my life makes sense when I’m sick. The lack of sleep and a night of vomming/not vomming/needing to vom – and my brain is pushed beyond its limits and devoid of all sound reasoning. There simply is nothing left, making it impossible for me to rub two rational thoughts together.

Without sleep and with my body dehydrated and depleted of all nutrients, I had a bona fide crazy woman living inside my head for the next 24 hours following the 24-hour stomach bug. The second 24-hour period was when a buttload* of anxiety kicked into high gear. (*Translated – A buttload means, enough torment and paranoia to require a mild dose of anti-anxiety meds, but not enough to require me being carried out on a stretcher in a straight-jacket.)  Image result for straight jacket

The anxiety was enough though, that the negative self-talk and negative existential life-altering questions morphed into an internal angst that simply would not be quieted. Not with exercise. Not with reading my Bible. Not with Christian music. Not with prayer. Not even mindless reality TV could distract me from the roar of doubt, displeasure and discontent of … well, ME.

It was like hearing the hum of a thousand bees buzzing inside my head and throughout my body, making me want to jump out of my skin to escape. The indwelling angst stayed with me for the entire day. The familiar need to junk-food-carbo-load dogged me off and on for the whole of the day. Resisting the temptation to eat myself stupid (mostly resisting, anyway) pushed me to seek solace from a more practical outlet. In situations like this, my first choice AFTER FOOD is always retail therapy. I knew an afternoon of shopping would scratch the itch – or in this case, medicate the hum of bees, but as usual, retail therapy always presents an insurmountable obstacle. Shopping requires money – and I have none. Image result for shopping therapy

The next best alternative is always to rearrange furniture in the house. Move something. Paint something. Craft something. Sand something. At the very least, plan out the next home remodeling project. Walk through each room and visualize how I want it to look someday when I have the money to redecorate and give each room a new personality. Anything to quiet my spirit and still the voice of discontent.

My mother used to do this. She was always rearranging furniture in our house. At the time, while I was growing up, I never understood this practice – but today I do. Image result for Funny Rearranging Furniture

Dear Lord, help me. I’ve morphed into the thing I’ve worked hard to avoid and dreaded most of my life: my mother! It’s not that she wasn’t a great person or someone worth emulating. I loved my mother, but she led a very troubled life and died while still harboring a lot of unresolved anger and bitterness. Her discontent had to do with the fact that her life didn’t turn out the way she had planned. She was profoundly unhappy for reasons that only she knew. I have my theories – but no matter. Her hard-shelled exterior was tough to crack. She moved through life rearranging furniture with a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign around her neck, making her very unapproachable and at times, a little tough to love.

Is this who I am? Who I’ve become? I’m wondering if this is the new family curse??? I always thought it was depression. Maybe this behavior is merely a bi-product of depression.

A few hours of self-analyzing and picking apart my contribution to life’s failures and my inability and/or lack of tenacity to change things in my unhappy life – and I found myself seeking God as Elijah did … in the whirlwind, the earthquake and a fire. (1 Kings 19:11-12) Image result for elijah listening to god

My whirlwind of emotions did not reveal God’s answers to my questions. The earthquake shaking my self-doubt and self-hatred was met with God’s silence. The fire of the voices inside my head igniting my doubt about who I am to God and who God is to me burned me with shame – but still no answers. And then, the still small voice of God whispered to me through a quote I read in a devotional book:

When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety. ~ A.W. Tozer

Hmm, why is it the enemy shouts at us, but the Lord, who is a consummate gentlemen, prefers to whisper to us? Image result for satan shouts, the Lord whispers

But there is it was, that whisper of peace. Peace that passes all understanding. The angst slowly back-peddled. The hum quieted.

OF COURSE – why WOULDN’T the enemy work overtime to slay me through illness and profound tiredness? That’s when I am the most vulnerable! That after all, IS his standard MO.

It all makes semi-perfect sense now. I feel as though God should greet me everyday by reminding me that everything that will happen within the confines of a single day is merely a test. Each night should be confirmation that “this day was only a test.” Life is after all, a series of multiple choice.

We can choose to believe the lies of Satan or the truth of God’s Word. We can choose to believe that we are nothing and matter to no one, or we can believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We can choose to believe we’ll never amount to anything or that we were created with a plan and purpose before the creation of time (Ephesians 2:10).

We can choose to believe that this is the worst day ever or we can choose to believe with God, there is always hope. We must choose to believe that God’s mercies are new every Single. Day.

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Every day is a battle –  but not every battle is new.

Choose wisely. Choose this day, whom you will serve!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

 

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FUN FOOD FAST (or fast food fun feast?)

It’s crazy to think that the foods that we eat can physically change the design of our body. If you eat too much fast food, chips and dip, cookies and donuts, basically anything classified as a FUN FOOD on a regular basis – you have to expect that your body IS going to change – and not for the better. Unless of course, you’re one of those rare unicorns that can eat anything and everything you want and never gain weight. In which case, I want to hate you, but a good Christian should be above that sort of thing, and I hope I am. Image result for images for junk food

It is also true that what we put in our mouth can drastically change our body for the good if we opt for healthier, less processed foods. And while most of us know that healthy eating is better for our bodies, we frequently select the foods that are not so great for us, because, hey … it’s easier. It bears noting that this process of eating healthy to change our bodies, i.e. losing weight and getting in shape – takes considerably longer than it does to pack on the FUN FOOD pounds. A sobering fact regarding the FUN FOOD to body composition ratio is simple: more food equals more of us AND it can happen in an incredibly short period of time.  Weight that takes months or a year or more to lose, can make a return engagement in literally, a fraction of that time – practically overnight!  CONTROL and BALANCE are key. Image result for balanced eating

Last week, a bout of severe depression related to a recurring relationship problem, sidelined me for a few days. The cloud hovered dark and ominous, but never fully plunged me down the rabbit hole into the bottomless pit of despair. Thank goodness! The darkness did however, cause much chaos with the warring factions within me. My flesh and the part of my brain that often makes emotional (stupid) decisions wanted to ravage every food stuff housed in the Pantry. I wanted desperately to snorf  down anything boxed, bagged, canned or swimming in sauce or its own juices – in no particular order.  At the same time, my spiritual voice of reason that is pushed, pulled and swayed by sound common sense, logic and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, wanted to go on a hunger strike and fast from ALL food until the cloud lifted. Image result for cloud of depression

Neither faction experienced complete success. The push-pull of the voices in my head and my spirit refused to be silenced though – and consequently, I made a couple of wrong decisions with regards to my eating. My infractions were minor. I was never fully out of control, which is a heck of a lot better than the old me before my weight loss.

Fasting is a great spiritual discipline when you approach it for the purposes of hearing from God and getting answers to some of life’s struggles. Me, however … my spiritual discipline with regards to fasting isn’t very disciplined at all. I find fasting for more than 6 or 8 hours during my waking hours to be a Herculean task. (As with any dietary changes, consult with a trusted health professional before beginning any type of food-related fast, whether for weight loss or spiritual purposes.) Image result for fasting for spiritual growth

Limiting the FUN FOODS is problematic in the fact that my husband and I eat entirely different foods. His likes lean towards chips and dip or salsa, ice cream, nuts, licorice and sugary breakfast cereals. My husband could have a lucrative career as a cereal killer. He could eat his weight in General Mills and Kellogg’s boxed crunchy bits without batting an eye or breaking a sweat. He is KING when it comes to stocking (more like OVER-stocking) the pantry shelves  with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs and/or Pebbles, Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes. Image result for boxed cerealsImage result for boxed cerealsSee the source image

He’s got a weakness for coupons and 3-Day weekend sales which makes him one of those hoarders who buys in bulk, because he can. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — that all of these cereals fit nicely in the palm of your hand as a great snack sans milk. And yes, they are chocked full of yummy goodness and all manner of riboflavin, assorted vitamins and minerals BUT they also contain a lot of sugar disguised as tough to pronounce preservatives — which is of course, what gives them their yummy flavor.

During last week’s dark and stormy depression days, I reasoned that if I ate a half cup of sugary cereal while walking on the treadmill, those calories wouldn’t have an opportunity to latch on to my hips or thighs. Surely Mr. Gravity would do his part and pull the crunchy bits of sugary flavor down through my stomach and all the way to my feet for release — or at the very least, express the calories through my pores as sweet sweat.

I don’t know if it worked, but in my compromised condition, it made perfect sense – at least for one workout. Thankfully, I kept the cereal snacking to a minimum, as well the rest of the FUN FOODS. I struggle with guilt though, for merely thinking about snacking. My metabolism is so screwed up from years of yo-yo dieting and binge eating, I fear that the mere thought of FUN FOODS, junk foods or even an over-indulgence of healthy foods – will somehow make me gain weight. I KNOW that is a monumental lie from the pit of hell, but whenever a day of darkness strikes – sound reasoning is in short supply.  Image result for lies of the devil

One of the biggest lies that the enemy continues to whisper in my ear – is that if I was a “real Christian,” or a “truly committed Christian,” then why can’t I simply pray away the depression? Whenever I’m lost in a vulnerable state of despair and hopelessness, I find myself asking God the same question.

I admit, Christianity can be a little bit of a hard sell to unbelievers when it becomes known that you live with depression and anxiety. For that matter, when you live with any sort of problem, addiction, disease, big life sin, whatever … unbelievers all ask the same thing: “IF your God is so good and so BIG, then why doesn’t he just heal you of your FILL IN THE BLANK____________?”

As lovely as it would be to pray away life’s struggles and problems with one simple prayer once and for all – God doesn’t operate that way. God is not a genie in a bottle, a wish upon a lucky star or a game show host who is willing to trade your problems for what is behind Door Number 2. Image result for Let's make a deal

I KNOW God loves me and cares for me and doesn’t like to see me suffer. The Bible never promises us that we will have problem-free, disease-free, sinless lives once we say “YES” to Jesus. the Word of God reminds me that God can take my pain and the trials in my life that the enemy uses to destroy me – and turn those trials into triumphs. God never wastes our pain and will always try to work things around to bring glory to the Savior. Image result for Romans 8:28

If God answered all of our prayers immediately, we’d soon lose sight of why we need a Savior in this world. Our challenges, trials, struggles and difficulties are meant to push us towards God. As we learn to trust God more and more with every aspect of our lives, we grow in wisdom and knowledge and spiritual maturity. The entire reason God doesn’t save us and then immediately call us home to heaven, is because we are meant to use our struggles to help others and be a witness for Jesus.

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The Apostle Paul is a great example of a committed believer who struggled with a serious affliction for which he was not healed. While it’s not known exactly what this affliction was, it was severe enough for Paul to repeatedly ask God to take it away.

… to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT)

Somehow, I have a hard time believing that in this lifetime I will come to a point where I take pleasure in my weaknesses as Paul did. Paul’s confession that when I am weak, then I am strong,” humbles me. If depression has taught me anything, it’s that I know myself well enough to know that when I am weak, I am monumentally weak.

I’m far enough along on this journey that I’ve accepted that depression and anxiety are my “thorn.”  For years the thorn was obesity and weight-related issues. God finally extracted that thorn from my flesh, but apparently there was some sort of underlying noxious pus that spewed out and mutated into a brand new thorn, and it’s name is depression.  Image result for thorn in the flesh

The light at the end of the tunnel pulls me through on the knowledge that with Jesus all things are possible and he’s not going to leave me alone in the pit of depression. Each time I emerge from the abyss, God is faithful to put someone in my path whom I can encourage by sharing my struggles and my faith in God. My God continues to give me victory – one trial at a time … one dark cloud at a time. He’s good that way.

My victory this week was practicing restraint and not giving into the FUN FOOD’S siren song. It ain’t much … but hey, we all spell victory differently. My victory is spelled … NOT TODAY, SATAN!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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I “DITTY” The Fool …

About a million years ago, I was a “sort-of” groupie for an up and coming Christian rock band. My infatuation with this band, (whose name I can’t even remember) was short-lived.  This little band that could – or more aptly couldn’t — barely had an opportunity to get going before their spark fizzled. They crashed and burned quickly without igniting any interest or any real chance at stardom. Their success was as short-lived as my groupie-ness glory days.  See the source image

The one thing that has stuck with me though, all these decades later, is the chorus and melody for one of their original “hits.” The song was called, “Whose Fool are You?” The chorus repeated, I’m a fool for Christ’s sake, whose fool are you? It had a catchy beat that could easily dig in and attach itself to your neurotransmitters and play endlessly on a loop in your head, almost to the point of leaking brain matter from your ears, never stopping – even when you prayed to the good Lord and all that is holy, that it would. I guess that’s why it popped up in my memory banks and was so easy to remember, especially since April fool’s day is upon us. Image result for mr. t i pity the fool memeImage result for April Fools Meme

I found myself humming this little ditty yesterday as I was working on this week’s blog. (As I was only able to remember one line … over and over and over again … and not the entire song, this tune is hereby classified as a “ditty” in my book.) Along with the ditty recollection, I found myself treading water in the deep end of the pity pool as some very unpleasant memories surfaced as they related to this particular groupie juncture in my life. These long forgotten painful memories rose to the surface much like dead fish in a stagnant pond. Image result for floating dead fish

Like a lot of women, once my thought process kicked into high gear, my brain plunged into the dark recesses of the “way-back” machine of my past and I started remembering way more details than I was prepared for. One memory led to another and then another … and that segued into another embarrassing mistake regarding a poor decision I’d made, which in turn reminded me of the stupid things I had to do to undo the previous stupid thing, which only reminded me of the events that pushed me into a horrible relationship and my out-of-state move and that time I wanted to forget that other thing … and so on … and so on … and so on.

Is it just me, or women in general, whose thought processes can branch out in a hundred different directions in the blink of an eye based on one initial thought, reaction or response? I’m firmly convinced that my brain is hard-wired much like a giant rubber band ball – where every thought, emotion, feeling, mood swing, decision and mistake are all bound up together in a giant jumbled mess. Every band is wound tightly together like painful nerve endings that trigger, ignite or spontaneously combust whenever an attempt is made to untangle one simple thought or one specific problem at a time. Image result for rubber band ball

As my mind went on its merry way, analyzing each remembered situation, I was a bit tempted to plunge headlong into the deep end of the pity pool. I’ve made so many stupid decisions throughout my life that were all rooted and grounded in irrational emotions, false feelings and manipulative lies from the devil. Who am I kidding? The pity pool is really more of an estuary that flows into a giant lake of depression – which is where these uncomfortable, painful memories were swimming towards; hoping upon hope that a substantial vat of ice cream or sleeve of Double Stuffs awaited me on the rocky shore.

BUT because the ditty’s roots were grounded on the words of whose fool I wanted to be … I grabbed a life raft and hoisted my sorry self out of the pool and the beckoning lake and Double Stuffs. Since music was the cataclysmic push into the pool in the first place, I counter-punched with an earful of Christian music for the next couple of hours. Music that specifically speaks to the lies of the enemy. Music that buoys me with hope. Music that I love. Music that offers praise to God and points me right back to the one and only Savior; my Lord, Jesus Christ … whose “fool” I am glad to be. Image result for Proverbs 28:26

Unbelievers often argue that this life is the only one there is. When we die, we simply cease to exist. As a Christian, I believe in heaven and hell and that only those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13); forever guaranteeing that their name is written in the lamb’s book of Life (Daniel 12:1); and they shall live in heaven for all of eternity (2 Peter 1:8-11). I believe that those who choose not to believe in Jesus, shall be cast in the lake fire (hell) for all eternity (Revelation 20:15).

You can call me a fool for believing in such things, but if I die and find out there is no God, no heaven or no hell – I’ve lost nothing. I will at least have lived a life of hope, one spent in trying to be a good person because of my beliefs. Image result for heaven

If someone who DOES NOT believe in Jesus and heaven and hell, dies and discovers that they are in fact, ALL REAL … that person is the real fool, because they have wasted their life in selfish pursuit and have literally lost everything. They may have gained the world – but they have lost their soul.Image result for hell

Have you ever asked yourself, whose fool am I? It’s a question that could have eternal consequences. Don’t be a fool for the devil and let him continually rob you of every good and perfect thing that the Lord Jesus has to offer.  Say “YES” to Jesus before it’s too late and live like a fool – like me.  I am a fool for Christ’s sake and pretty darn happy, thankful and blessed to be so ….

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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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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