Friday, April 26, 2013

UNSTUCK- We Made It!!!

It's alway hard to come to the end of a good thing. But it happens on a regular basis, right? Life has chapters. Family chapters. Career chapters. Phase chapters. We've closed a few here at our house in the past few years with Kayla getting married, and Ethan off to college. Closing my gift shop. Closing our farm.

The sweet thing about hard goodbyes is the anticipation of what is ahead. Often we don't know. For instance, when Kayla was married in 2009, I didn't know that I would be enamored by two little grandsons by this time. And when Ethan left for college, I didn't know I would be gaining a lovely daughter this summer.

As we wrapped up our STUCK study, we all felt it. The sorrow for the last chapter. We gained so much from our time together. We enjoyed one another, opening our hearts and embracing who we are as women on this journey of life, learning and love.

I highly recommend the study. Jennie Allen is gifted in transparently expressing her heart and studying/teaching scripture. The format was do-able for everyone. It didn't take a lot of time, but it was enjoyably valuable time.

In our two hour meetings, we started by walking through our homework and sharing stories. Each week digs into a passage of scripture, and asks questions to get us interacting with the God's word. Digging deeper than a read-through.

Then there are projects. It was fun to see how much the women enjoyed the drawing projects. I think sharing our hearts through the art, or...sometimes scribbles was a fun way to "see" what we were studying, and each picture would enhance the lesson for others. We see things differently, and our lives are different, but when we let ourselves be vulnerable and trust one another, the differences intertwine and enhance our relationships and life experience. I love that!

In the middle, we watched a short (and creative) video of Jennie teaching on the chapter. The last hour was spent guided by question cards which were exceptional conversation starters. We encouraged one another and laughed a lot. Sometimes we cried too.

So we are closing this chapter, but eagerly looking for what is ahead. Ultimately for our home with Jesus in Heaven.

If I were to write a sub-title to STUCK, it would be "forget the temporary temptations and trappings, instead spend your life for eternal joy- which is being with Jesus in Heaven"

To close, I wanted to give everyone something to take with them to be a reminder of what we learned, and of our time together. So I asked my graphics-girl (daughter) if she would create a printable with my chapter summary statements. Here is what she came up with:

This is the way to get UNSTUCK:

I will trust Jesus to heal my broken places.
I will relinquish my rights so that I can truly love.
I will look for my satisfaction and glory in Heaven.
I will overcome fear by praying and trusting God.
I will listen for God's voice and live free in His will.
I will trust that I am in Jesus-the source of my life. 
I will spend my life bearing fruit that will last.

If you would like to download it to print for yourself, you can click HERE.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sad Longing For Heaven

Just ask anyone who has lost someone dear to them how much more real Heaven is...Or ask them if they long for Heaven more now than before their loss. If you don't hear them groan, you will see it in their eyes. The longing for Heaven.

Our study this week brought greater clarity regarding the feeling we are all familiar with. The longing for something more that seems to linger even on the best of days. We savor the moments of life that ignite our hearts. The precious moments like the first wobbly steps our baby takes, or glimpsing the perfect fiery orb descending in colorful horizons at the close of day, or the magnificent Ocean waves rolling toward the sandy shore landing at our feet.

And still, on the other side of those glory moments, there it is. A feeling of wanting more.

And God created it that way. He doesn't want us to settle for less than Him. He knows we are too easily satisfied with inferior things. He knows we cannot even imagine what pure glory is like, and He is eager to show us. So he gives us the longing in our soul for His glory.

When we realize that, we can embrace the longing. He loves us so much He doesn't want us to settle for "here". His desire is that we will anticipate going there. His amazing love enables us to maintain joy in the midst of the inevitable broken and messy places we find ourselves in. 

Our life on earth is temporary. Aren't we seeing that now more than ever? As the storms of life rage, we can rejoice because we know Heaven is ahead and it is eternal!  This life is like a dot on a million mile string...

The pain of this life serves us. Just like pain in training serves the goal of an athlete, and pain in labor serves the birth of a baby, so pain in this life serves our life in Heaven. This world is not our home, we are just passing through. Heaven is on the other side, so keep your eyes focused on what is ahead and maintain your joy while you wait in hope for it!

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:18-25 NLT (emphasis mine)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When You Get Overwhelmed Then {What?}

We drew pictures of what our lives look like right now. One sister's was orderly and told a sequential story: past-->present-->future. Another sister's was progressive. One day she drew how she felt and then she went back and added things. I drew where I spend my time and I ran out of room on the paper! In seeing it, I began to feel overwhelmed!

There are seasons of life when we find we have said 'yes' to one thing too many. When we do that, we have put ourselves in a position of living with little energy or inner-reserves to handle the incoming interruptions {sometimes we call them 'wits' and they can come to an end!}. When the milk is spilled, or the car cuts you off in traffic, or too many kids come through your door at the end of a long day and you feel like running and hiding or yelling at the top of your already-strained lungs.

Lungs that inhale hard because you feel like you can't get enough...

And then there are seasons when it is not due to a choice, but life circumstances. Loss of a loved one, disagreements with a friend, or spouse. And transitions are stressful, like a move or job change. Circumstances involving change can deplete our inner-strength bank.

The question we all face in these times is, "How do I manage this crazy life without going crazy or driving everyone around me crazy?" or more importantly, "How does God want me to respond in these overwhelmed seasons? In my overwhelmed moments?"

Surely we need to step back and take a look at what we have said yes to and ask God if there is anything that He wants us to eliminate. Then we need to do it. {that is the hard part, right?} Then we need to remember He is in it with us. {AH! That's right!} Sometimes He leads us into places where we are limited so we will learn to tap into His strength. Then we re-learn that we still are human. :)

When we feel stretched to the limit and on the verge of anxiety, we may have failed to consider that God is with us, and the very simple-yet profound passage stating that, "Without Him we can do nothing." John 15:5 

Or we might be doing things for wrong reasons (like to build our own kingdom instead of God's) and with our own energy (without God) and soon come to the place where we are ready to plant our face in the pillow for awhile.       Matthew 6:33

When we need a guide for our choices, when we need to know what God wants us to do, He is there willing to lead us. He reminds us that we can hear His voice and follow Him through prayer, reading His word and usually He also confirms what He is saying with outer circumstances or other people in agreement.

Isn't it good to know that He is always with us and just a prayer away? That even in sustained dark-valley seasons, He is working things for our good. Romans 8:28

Once again we find that our perspective and our attitude have much to do with our experiences. They determine our motivation and the value of the things we spend our life on. We are all given gifts, resources and time. If we follow God and use our resources His way, we will reap rewards that will come with us to eternity. {See 1 Corinthians 3:11-15} 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When We Sit 'n Spin Scared

We sit and spin our strategies for making our life work...or toss and turn at 3:00am while worry wears us down. Sleep stolen and life-on-hold we dizzy ourselves with mental anguish and we don't even realize often that we have the power to "stop this crazy thing!" {Remember George Jetson on the treadmill?}

I try to figure out how to make so-and-so_____________. {it could be children that do what we want, friends that do what we want, a husband that does what we want} My greatest fear is _____________.  {fear of anger, fear of failing, fear of losing something or someone...the list could go on and on} The things we highly value can consume us and we can become in bondage to them. Whatever we fill in the blanks with can become idols in our lives. Idols always bring us into prison.

"Whatever you fear is your god." ~Ann Voskamp

Anxiety has been an unwelcome companion in my life. If you type 'fear' in my search box, you will find more than a few posts. I'm always learning and seeking greater freedom from it...and now this chapter in our STUCK study. It is entitled "Scared". Its the place I am most likely to be tripped up. Ensnared. About a dozen years ago, I was. Spun into a web of fear that derailed my life, paralyzed me in many ways and really landed me 'rock bottom' in the dark place where one has no choice but to surrender their faulty concept of life being something controllable.

It was excruciatingly painful. But also beautifully good.

It was a gift. A hard gift. Its what Ann Voskamp calls "Hard Eucharisteo"  and my friend Laura Boggess writes about it more here.

Perhaps you've heard from teachers that when you teach something you are likely to be tested in it. Its true. I experienced what I've come to believe at the end of the week as God lifting His hand of protection over me and allowing the fear-bully to have access to my soul another time. I haven't had a full-blown panic attack for quite a while, though I do still at times experience symptoms of anxiety (breathlessness and like I need to run).

Last Thursday while in the salon, head bent for foils by my hairstylist of three years, the young woman... I am still uncertain of whether she likes having me and all my hair in her chair... I felt it. The rise of heat and the split-second of blackness in my head, and then the fear-feeling of panic and need to immediately exit for air, or water, or a really wild scream. And the cape was choking me, and the foils felt heavy. I wasn't sure it was a panic attack, it felt like it might be a physical condition-you always wonder what it is. I'd started my day with two cups of coffee. Maybe it was that.

What if I pass out? Should I tell her I feel like passing out? She would feel alarmed! And then I would feel more alarmed because she would be maybe freaking out inside. And on it goes. And I remember reading 'no one ever died from a panic attack'...

So, as I had done in the past, I kept thinking faster than usual. Where is my faith during this time? What is happening? Process. Remember: give thanks in all circumstances. God is here. What is the worst thing that can happen? I could pass out? "Thank you God that you will still have me!" I might need people to care for me, and heaven forbid, carry me? "Thank you God that you will be there too!"
Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. 
It gave me some comfort to process, but I still felt the urge to get away-that's the best way to describe it.

I had one more panic attack later that day. And then I felt so discouraged. Then came the fear of "going back there" into the pit like before. But I remembered when I was being rescued a decade ago, I asked the Lord, "What if I fall into this hell again?" to which He distinctly so-I-would-remember replied, "Just keep holding my hand." and I knew that He would uphold me. I am always in His hands. This gave me great peace and the ability to walk forward and mostly free until Thursday.

...perfect love drives out fear... 1 John 4:18

Monday I sat down to do the study. I saw the title: SCARED. As I was doing the work, I realized that what had happened to me was something God wanted me to share. I had never admitted before to having a full-blown panic attack. It scared me bad. I've always called it 'anxiety'. That felt safer to say, it made me feel less weak. I prayed. Then I sent half a dozen text messages to friends and to my mom asking them to pray. I knew God wanted to use this story for my freedom- and maybe for others to understand or find freedom and I had to fess up. To reveal the thing that scared me. Expose my weakness.

I also understood my salon-chair fear was prompted by several things converging in my life including hormones, the caffeine from my morning, recent challenges, and the thoughts I was having that day about her not liking me as a client (which are most likely not true). God revealed that to me. I also knew I needed to renew my reserves; to enhance my natural tranquilizers by rest and laughter and exercise. But mostly recharge my trust. To remember (again) it is not me who is running this show. {ha ha, I know. but I still live like that sometimes! ~as if!!!}
Oswald Chambers says, "Anxiety is calculating without God" 
Ann Voskamp said, "Pride is fear's father and kin to all the cowards." 
It has been my pride that makes me want to hide. Exposing my fear is freeing. Not only for me- I learned already that God has encouraged at least one friend who struggles. And I know He knew. He knows what He is doing. And I am His. And she is His. And He wants to see us free from fear's shackles. Have you faced down fears? Are you fighting them even now?
Trusting Love is the antidote to fear. God is love. Trusting God then. That is freedom...
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:36

The LORD is my shepherd...Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me...Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days fo my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:1, 4, 6