Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Merrier Christmas

Gazing at the sparkling array of lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree is one of my favorite things to do, but putting up the tree is not. My beloved Christmas CDs and a steamy cup of hot chocolate usually sweeten the chore, but not this year. As I painstakingly labored to place each ornament in just the right place, I became aware that I felt so grumpy it hurt. How sad is that−having such a bad attitude I felt sick while preparing the Christmas joy?

Why did I dislike this chore so much? My perfectionism−again. With each stage of decorating, I faced the daunting task of arranging decorations symmetrically on an asymmetric tree. The garland needed to drape in a precise spiral. Every shiny ball must be evenly spaced and color balanced.

Frustration gripped me as gaping holes appeared at every turn. An almost imperceptible voice in my head whispered I don't want to do this. Press on and just get it done. Must find the perfect place for this one. No, that's not good enough. I hate this.

But wait a minute. This was a Christmas task. Shouldn't I be able to do it cheerfully?

How Lord?

My thoughts went back to four years ago when my arms ached while decorating the tree because of nerve damage from the bends. I should be happy to have healthy arms to reach and move. How many other people are not physically able to do what I can?

I have a beautiful tree, but that wasn't always so. In this economy, how many others wish they had a tree to adorn and enjoy? I should be grateful for all I have.

As my thinking shifted, the ache in my stomach disappeared. Just like that. The Christmas music seemed to get louder, and my newfound sense of wellbeing nudged me on.

I started thanking God for the people and events that came to mind with each ornament I picked up. My heart warmed with each fond memory.

Somehow, having a perfect tree didn't seem so important now. Instead of agonizing over the placement of each ornament, I started slapping them up just to get them on. I could always reposition them later. But a funny thing happened−I only changed a few. Most were fine just where they were.

This year for Christmas I received the antidote for grouchiness−thankfulness. I also took another step in conquering that joy-killer−perfectionism. Now it truly is a merrier Christmas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Appreciation Drawing

Again, thanks to everyone who encourages me by posting on my blog. It helps to know others can relate to my feelings and experiences. Last week I put all follower's and commenter's names in a basket and Wendy's name was drawn to receive the thank you gift. I greatly appreciate her support and affirming words, as I do all of yours.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Marvelous Fiji Vacation

As we passed through security at the LA airport on our way to Fiji, Bob's glasses fell out of the bin and were mangled between the rollers. I managed to find and retrieve the lenses from under the conveyer belt, but when I held the plastic discs up to the twisted strips of metal that had been the frames, none of the shapes remotely matched. I wanted to show Bob all the spectacular things my mother and I had seen last year. How could he possibly see them now? My heart plunged into despair.

During the next few hours, God started showing me how my perfectionism puts a damper on my joy. I have a hard time being happy unless everything is just right. And not just with me, but also with those around me. How can I be happy if the people I care about are having troubles?

Could I overlook this glasses catastrophe and enjoy my vacation? I prayed for a miracle−only divine intervention could put these Humpty Dumpty glasses back together again. Then I wrestled with God as I strained to let go, accept and enjoy the trip.

In Fiji, we took our sorry handful of parts to a new jeweler in town who was able to fix them. Later that day each lens fell out again, but God enabled me to slip them back into place. They miraculously remained intact the rest of the trip.

On the boat ride to the resort, God again blessed me with new wonders as, to our delight, we saw flying fish soaring above the waves and dolphins arching alongside our vessel. With fresh enthusiasm I bounded into the resort dining room to greet my favorite staff member.

A new server greeted me. When I asked if John was there, she hesitatingly told me he died unexpectedly last month. Died. Tears blurred my vision as reality set in. Was I now supposed to enjoy a happy vacation in light of such grave news?

Over the next few hours I processed the ramifications of John's life and death. I remembered his hospitality and kindness to me, and his prayers for my salvation and healing when I had the bends. He had told me his testimony so I knew he was a Christian, and at peace in heaven. I accepted life there without him, and let him go.

The skies were sunny when we arrived at Namena Island, but that afternoon a storm blew in and remained the entire week we were there. The year before, perfectly calm weather enabled my mother and I to snorkel the reef almost every day. This time the wind-blown waves were so rough we couldn't do this even once. But God continued to show his grace by giving us four beautiful dives, wowing us with His underwater creation. He showed His love by parting the clouds whenever we dove, casting rays of sunlight into the depths to reveal the vibrant colors.

Bob and I had a romantic, intimate week huddled in our cliff-side cottage, sheltered from the wind. We couldn't see all the amazing critters from past trips, but God gifted us with new ones. The protected red-footed boobie birds were sitting on their nests, and we got to see one of the first fluffy chicks up close.

Each day brought new surprises−a garden of giant clams, sightings of blue-spotted stingrays, and a swim with a school of barracuda. We even got to cuddle some adorable, tame flying foxes (yes−they are bats). There were a few more disappointments. I got sick shortly after our kids joined us, and the accommodations at the last resort were challenging. But God guided me through and helped me make the best of each circumstance.

Jesus showed me it's normal to have some bad mixed with the good. Everything doesn't have to be perfect for me to be happy. It's okay to deal with the problems with God's help and let them go, then focus on the good gifts God showers on me.

It was a joyous vacation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Too Early for Christmas?

Is it ever too early for gifts? The support and encouragement I have received from so many of you who have read my blog has been a wonderful gift to me. Now I want to give a present to you. On November 30th, as an early Christmas present, I will draw the name of a Follower or commenter on my blog, and send her the book Breaking the Worry Habit...Forever by Elizabeth George.

I will put a name in the basket for every Follower and every comment posted on this blog. Just remember to write your name in the body of the text if you post as anonymous, so I'll know who you are.

If you have problems signing up or posting, just click Technical Support in the righthand column under Labels.

And to everyone I give a big heartfelt Thank You. Your kind words are priceless.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Worry?

Ever heard of speed-worrying? Bob coined the phrase to describe one of my best-refined skills. I tend to jump in and stew over a problem the minute it surfaces. What if this happens? Or that? What is the worst that could happen…yikes! Bob says if worrying were a sport, I'd be in the Hall of Fame.

But there are so many things to worry about. I've worried about the future, the present and the past. The big issues like health, finances and family members kept me awake at night. The smaller things sometimes got equal time. I agonized over all decisions−what if I make the wrong choice? Afterwards I worried−did I do the right thing?

I spent too much energy worrying about things I had no control over. I got myself all wound up when someone was late, wondering if they got in an accident. I became anxious about the ramifications of things I'd done or said, and worried that others would make bad moves.

My level of concern escalated to such a degree that I called it obsessing. When a problem arose, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I fretted and fumed, dwelling on it day and night, until one day I realized the anxiety made me feel physically ill. At my pinnacle of worrying, I found myself worried that the incessant worrying would cause me to get cancer and die.

My husband was right. I needed to get a handle on myself. Worrying didn't help or change anything, and I didn't want to live with all this stress any longer. I didn't like the anxious, fearful person I was becoming. Christians are supposed to have peace, so I turned to God.

When grappling with my problems, I had prayed and asked for God's assistance, but hadn't let go and released the process to Him. Again, I'd only sipped God's loving provision, ignoring the full measure of His help. I vowed to work on releasing all my troubles to God at the onset, and trusting Him with the results. This decision was an important first step.

Now, when I feel my stomach tense-up about a difficult situation, I take it to God in prayer. We sort through the facts and alternatives, and He instructs me on the part I can do. I act on His directions, and give the rest over to Jesus.

Later, if I find myself dwelling on it again, I cut short my problem-solving and second guessing God and sit down for another session. This time the topic is me.

Why can't I let it go?

The Holy Spirit gently helps me unearth and face my misgivings and fears.

Do I really believe God can and will handle everything?

I remember God's help to me in the past. Bible verses detailing God's strength and care come to mind, reassuring me He will.

I can now place the issue back in His hands and enjoy the peace of trusting my loving, capable God to take care of everything, including me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Commenting and Following

Some friends told me they had difficulties posting comments, or signing up as a Follower on my blog. I appreciate all your support and encouragement, and want this site to be a place where you can find relief, not additional frustration. Here are some instructions to streamline the process as much as possible.

For the easiest way to post a comment , click comment(s), then select anonymous from the select profile drop-down menu. You can still sign your name the old fashioned way – at the end of the message.

Being a Follower just means you are interested in what I write, and want to return to read more. To become a Follower, simply click the follow button, click create a google account, then write your e-mail address, a password, and your birthday. Remember to click the Follow this blog button at the bottom.

Step-by-step Instructions:

The easiest way to post a comment:

  • Click the word comment(s) at the end of the blog article

  • Click on the select profile drop-down menu

  • Select either anonymous or Google account if you have one.

  • Write your comment in the comment box. (If you posted as anonymous, write your name at the end if you wish)

  • Click post comment

The easiest way to become a Follower:

  • Click the Follow button in the right-hand column

  • If you don't have a Google account, create one by clicking on Create a Google Account

  • Fill in your e-mail address

  • Write a password

  • In the Get Started with Google Friend Connect section, write your birth date

  • Leave the Follow Publicly default as is)

  • Write the word verification word

  • Do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around…just kidding

  • Click the Follow this blog button
    Once again, thank you for your input and support. It means the world to me.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hot or Cold

Do you remember the childhood game of "hot or cold"? As one person walks toward the unknown chosen object, the caller cheers her on, yelling, "You're getting hot." When she moves away from the object, the caller warns, "You're getting cold."

God has been playing this same game with me. When I'm at church, I notice I feel better. The worship music helps me drop my week's load and connect with God. The sermon ministers to my personal needs (how does the Pastor do that?). I leave feeling all warm and fuzzy, refreshed and strengthened.

Then as the week progresses, I get caught up in doing my own thing and become "cold." Stress and anxiety creep in. As soon as a problem pops up, anger and fear take over. Worry punches in for her 3am night shift. What happened to that Sunday glow?

I pull out my Bible and resolve to keep a daily quiet time. As I read and listen, God speaks directly to my heart and circumstances. A blanket of sanity and security envelopes me. I slip in my worship CD and spend quality time praying and communing with my Savior. God's power revitalizes my spirit. Now I'm all fired up, and ready to go.

I attack my "to do" list with renewed vigor. At first the tasks seem easy enough. But as I progress, I notice there are more jobs than hours. I dig in, speed up (this includes driving), answer the phone, juggle priorities, apologize, and stress. How did I get here again?

Now it's Wednesday evening. If I hurry and avoid interruptions, I have just enough time to make dinner before mid-week Bible study. Fortunately, Bob is a fast eater. We scarf down our dinner in five minutes then hurry out the door.

I enter the study group a little shaky, but soon my attention shifts from myself to the lesson. As we learn together, God's word builds me up. Through our discussion, my friends encourage me. It's no coincidence the experiences they talk about relate directly to me. God is so good. Strolling to the car I notice my step is much lighter. The chill of the night draws a contrast to the warmth radiating from my heart.

Although it took me years to realize the meaning of this game, I finally got it. The more I forget God and do my own thing, the more susceptible I am to stress, anxiety, worry and depression. The more time I spend with God at church, in Bible reading, prayer and fellowship with other Christians, the more peace and strength I have.

So I've made a conscious decision to keep stepping closer and closer to Jesus. I'm drinking the whole glass of God's provision by progressively including Him in every aspect of my life. I've learned the closer I get to God, the better I feel. This is one game I'm determined to win.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Music Therapy

Until recently, I didn't fully appreciate the medicinal effects of Christian music. From my Social Work background I knew music was an accepted therapy for depression, but over the years I'd dismissed it as fun and recreation. When I realized its powerful influence on my emotions, I bumped it to the top of my list of home remedies.

Now when I'm depressed I crank up the worship music. At first its cheery cadence tends to rub me the wrong way. But gradually, as I persevere, my soul's rhythm begins to resonate with the music. The pulsing beat pushes my beleaguered heart to beat faster until the two tempos are in sync.

When I'm anxious, the same music slows the pitter patter of my heart to a slower, calmer beat. Its steady pace persistently coaxes me to relax. Let go, let go, it urges as it gently massages away tension.

The soothing melodies caress my soul, quieting and comforting me like the touch of a friend. Each chord's strum brings a measure of relief to my aching heart.

But the real power comes through the words. When I'm upset, I have a hard time seeing past my problems and hurts. Christian worship lyrics urge me to release control to God. They sing of his glory and power, reminding me the Creator and Lord of all can easily handle my situation. Tender words reassure me of God's love and desire to help. This music helps shift my focus from myself to my Savior, compelling me to surrender and trust.

Worship music ushers me into God's presence. In that safe place fear and dismay disappear. The oppressive heaviness also lifts, leaving me feeling weightless and free. There I experience an intimate closeness with God, a direct connection between his heart and mine. I can now receive his full comfort, direction and healing. I have unencumbered access to God's strength.

Sipping Christian music occasionally while driving in my car is not enough. I decided to drink the whole glass of this marvelous elixir by listening to it every day. When I need a mood adjustment, I purposefully play the worship songs that draw me into the Great Physician's throne room. Throughout my day, Christian music helps equalize my emotions and sooths my soul.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stop, Drop and Release

Stress kills. Literally. Taken to the extreme it can cause a heart attack. More often it kills my joy.

Stress greatly diminishes my quality of life. My muscles tense, my stomach knots, my back hurts and my whole body aches. I get grumpy and snap at those I care about. My focus zooms in on the problem, magnifying it until it comsumes my whole life. I summon all my abilities and energy to push through to a solution, disregarding my emotional wellbeing. In the end, exhausted and frazzled, it takes awhile for my nerves to cool down and recover from the trauma.

With God, I found a healthier way to deal with problems. At the first sign of stress, I now stop, drop and release. I see stress as a signal fire, alerting me that something is wrong. Instead of pressing on and ignoring my heightening emotional flames, I stop and listen to my body.

Once I acknowledge my emotional smoke signals, I drop to my knees in prayer. Although the crisis seems urgent, I resist its pull and take some time with Jesus. Since worship music helps calm my anxious thoughts, I put on a CD to focus my mind on God.

Together, God and I work to release whatever's causing my anguish. God reminds me to let go and trust Him. I wrestle with my need to control. I struggle to relinquish my desires, the way I want things to turn out. I cling to my anger and fear. But as I turn each of these over to Jesus, my heartbeat slows and my body unwinds. My vision clears and my perspective returns. When my emotional fire is finally out, I can relax knowing God is with me to walk me through.

So now, at the first sign of stress' fire, I make a point to stop, drop and release. I stop and evaluate my emotions, drop to my knees and take time with God in prayer, and with His help I release the things that make me anxious. When I drink the whole glass of God's assistance, then I'm free to enjoy watching His plan unfold around me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Unexpected Blessing

A few days ago I woke up with the dreaded symptoms of depression. This insideous intruder confronted me at first light with an overwhelming repulsion to face real life, and an equally appealing siren's call to return to the land of dreams. Indulge, said my dimly lit room, so I escaped back to pleasant wanderings.

Inevitably, I awoke again to a brightly lit room, and the same uncomfortable, paralyzing feeling. I did a quick reality check to access what might be wrong. My recent cold had drained my physical strength. I probably forgot to take my calcium supplements, which help ward off depression. I just completed a major project, and the next one loomed ahead. But this particular tormenting feeling, coupled with some "warm flashes," signaled hormones as the main culprit.

With major problems ruled out and my enemies identified, I knew what I had to do. If I didn't fight off this depression quickly, experience said I would be sucked into a miserable existence, and a bigger battle later. So I pulled out my first weapon: giving thanks.

My mind turned to the many loving gifts God has given me. I drank them in by thanking God for the good night's sleep in my comfy bed, for my hundreds of body parts that could ache but felt fine, and for specific family members and friends who love and support me. The list easily continued, because here in America we have so much. At the thought of each blessing my heart warmed with gratefulness. God loves me so much.

Next I thought ahead to my plans for the day, searching for something to look forward to. Did I have a date scheduled with a girlfriend, daugher or my husband? A Bible study or writers group meeting? Yes I did. This was going to be a happy day, I told myself.

Although I now felt a little better, getting out of bed and tackling the day still seemed impossible. I had no ability or desire to cope with making even the smallest decision. But, I reminded myself, I didn't have to. I had Jesus to walk with me through my day. I could turn to Him for guidance at every step. In fact, that is what I should do anyway. As I moved into the realization of God's presence, delighted to submit every detail of my life to Him, feelings of comfort, peace and joy completely filled me. I love dwelling in God's light, but have such a hard time staying there. What a blessing to wake up depressed and be nudged to live my day the best way, with Jesus at my side.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How this Blog Began

Several years ago, the storm of life that did me in also knocked me to my knees. I made it through only because Jesus carried me. Afterward, exhausted and weak, God led me on a journey of emotional healing. When I was on my feet again, God showed me the steps He used to heal me. Now I'm writing a book detailing that process.

Even though my big crisis is long gone, and I feel much better, my emotions still flare at the littlest things. Stress. Worry. Fear. I don't know why I'm so sensitive. Maybe the accumulation of past traumas has me on edge. Perhaps as I grow older my coping devices are wearing out. I realize my hormones, whether PMS or menopause, contribute to the problem. No matter what the cause, I know I want off this ride.

I'm tired of being tossed around by my negative emotions. I can't stop bad things from happening, but I can change my reaction to them. Now that I've experienced God's peace, I will no longer tolerate having a knot in my stomach. Why should I? The same steps Jesus taught me during my crisis work on everyday stress as well.

God isn't finished with me yet. Thankfully, He's still working on me, raising my level of inner peace and joy daily. I invite you to come along as I continue to use the tools God lovingly supplies to gain victory over painful emotions, and to keep my moods in check. See how the same help God provides me can help you, too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Drinking the Whole Glass

Some see the glass as half empty, some half full. But I ask, am I drinking the whole glass, or just taking a few sips?

God offered me a full glass of loving care and provision, but for or a variety of reasons I rarely drank it. I was too busy with my own agenda. I wanted to do my own thing, my way. Yes, I asked God to bless my plans, and lead me safely on my chosen path. But did my way lead to the good things God had for me? How would I know if I wasn't even paying attention to His directions?

When I did contemplate following God's plans, I tended to think of them as either hard, scary or boring. Like a baby who bobs and twists to avoid the spoon of colorful mush swooping in her direction, I made excuses to evade God's nudgings. When it came down to real life issues, did I truly trust God had my best in mind?

A few years ago, tired of fighting my way through the life I'd chosen, I decided to do things God's way. When I went all-in for Jesus, He brought wave after wave of relief and healing to my heart. What a difference. I wished I'd done this years ago.

Now that I've felt His peace and joy, I strive daily to stay in step with Jesus. I'm drinking the whole glass of God's love, gulping each delectable experience He brings my way.