Life to the Full

loneliness

Image by Ferran. via Flickr

Over the last few weeks months, I’ve been slipping into a depression.  With all the transitions and trials in my life, I rather expected the ever-looming dark cloud to pop up above my head & drench me in self-pity.  However, I’m quite acquainted with my gloomy shadow, and can usually kick it to the curb before I get too far into the pit of despair.  But, this cloud has lingered, and its shadow has darkened the goals I set for myself during this sabbatical from ministry.

I lived 15 years with a full plate…and now that that plate has been scrubbed clean and stored in a cabinet, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Overall, the transition has been refreshing.  I feel little stress and NO pressures to perform perfectly.  There’s no rushing around from one commitment to the next.  I do what I want, when I want, and how I wantand it feels good!

However, accompanied with these new luxuries of time and freedom comes boredom and loneliness.

I’m not surrounded with the abundance of friendships that used to envelope me weekly.  Phone calls & texts have stopped.  Facebook messages & comments have significantly decreased.  Invitations to dinners, parties, and game nights have ceased.  I know I still mean something to these friends, but it’s difficult to be on the outside.

And, because I’m not invited anywhere or involved in anything, I’ve got nothing to to do.  I’m bored.  Except for the occasional, once-a-month weekend activity, I do nothing but come home from work, get on the computer, cook dinner, get back on the computer, watch a movie, read a little bit, and then go to bed.  It was nice for a while.  But now it’s tedious and making me lazy…and when people only idle about, they become overwhelmed with feelings of uselessness…which leads to depression.

I’m not excusing my depression.  I’m quite aware that it’s unacceptable…and I’m working on it.  I’ve opened up with Josh and a few friends (and now to the world), and am making steps to lift myself back up.  I don’t expect it to be a quick process, but that’s why it’s called a process…it takes time to figure out solutions and implement them.

One of those friends who knows what I’ve been going through, sent me the following poem.  It has been a huge encouragement and is exactly what I needed to hear.  For so long I’ve lived a full life…but it’s time I figure out what it means to “live life to the full.”

For years I lived full.
Full schedule.
Full plate.
Full speed ahead.

I found myself weary, wondering,
“Is this really how it’s supposed to be?”
And then it seemed God asked me to learn to live differently.
To focus on love.
To make time to listen to His voice.
To embrace what He’s called me to do and let all else drop away.
“Isn’t that what I’ve already been doing?” I asked.”Don’t you want me to be busy, to push myself to the limit?”It seemed the heart of heaven smiled and these grace-words drifted into my day. “Daughter, I did not come to give you a full life. I came to give you life to the full.”
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

–by Holley Gerth

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operation beautiful

I found this note stuck to the bathroom stall door at work.  It was positioned perfectly at eye level once you sit on the commode. 

My first thought was, “oh, sad day…this person misspelled truly.  Too bad I don’t have a sharpie.” 

But then I scolded myself  for being so petty, because the message on this little post-it is powerful…more important than any spelling lesson.

I wish I had believed that message growing up; it would have saved me many years of turmoil.  Even today I catch myself listening to the lies of “you’re too fat”, ” you’re not pretty enough” and “you have the ugliest smile”.  

The same lies are believed by millions of women around the globe.  But, that’s not who we are…and it’s not who God says we are…We are wonderfully made! (Psalm 139:14)

We are truely beautiful!

www.operationbeautiful.com

Communal Complaining

As one blogger friend recently posted, we all have a need to be understood.  Apparently, I need to be understood (and need to clarify) concerning a facebook status I posted yesterday.  If you did not see the status, it said “Dear friends who are moms…I would rather be a mom of a fussy child than to be a woman who can’t have any child at all.  Be thankful, even on the bad days.” The responses ranged from agreement (even from some mothers), to those who took it in stride, to those who took great offense.  Some commenters replied in short simple words, while others took the status into other topics or broader ideologies.  Since it was my post, and facebook does not really allow the space needed for my clarification, I will attempt to lay out my thoughts here.

My status was birthed from a simple observation – that many mothers had posted complaints about their children or about being a mother.  This is not a generalization about mothers, about the love that the mothers have for their children, or whether complaining qualifies someone as being a good or bad mom.  It is a fact that the mothers were complaining.

Most of the time I skip past the complaining statuses, perhaps say a small prayer for the situation, and am not overly affected emotionally by the negativity that exudes from those statements.  But yesterday was different….it was splattered all over the place and it was constant.  Yesterday was also different because, for me, I am currently going through the stages of infertility acceptance.  So, when I see mothers who do nothing but constantly complain, it affects me emotionally.  I am not so prideful to refuse to admit that perhaps my status (in its subtle complaining) was pounded out in a state of frustration, but I simply wanted to give mothers a reason to be thankful.  And I am, myself, finding reasons to be thankful in my situation.

Complaining & Gratefulness seem to be the underlying topics.  In case anyone missed it, I did post a comment under my status that states:

I completely understand that there are going to be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. It’s okay to get frustrated, upset, discombobulated, and stressed…all very normal reactions to out of control times. However, i also don’t think moms should put on happy facades just because they don’t want to offend others…but I do believe that publicly bashing a child’s behaviour or grumbling about them does not help the situation in any way. If anything it feeds on the negativity, making one much more inclined to stress, frustration, anxiety, and anger.

I’m reminded of:

Philipians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing”

Ephesians 4:29 that says we are to only speak “what is helpful for building others up”

Perhaps it’s in the hardest of days that we should express even more thanks. Gratefulness can ease frustration and give us the right perspective and strength to face the challenges.

So, I’m giving the biggest reason of all to be thankful – that you have a child.

Did anyone catch that?   Within that statement there is compassion and understanding of what mothers go through.  I see the difficulties of raising children and know that it is not easy.  I also understand the need to vent and let out our frustrations, being real with our emotions.   But it’s the complaining that I believe is wrong.

AND I definitely don’t think social networking sites are the place for them.  Yes, social networking provides an avenue of sillyness, venting, and even life-connection, but we fool ourselves when we treat it as therapy or reality. Venting on facebook or twitter does nothing to resolve the situation, and likely doesn’t even make us feel better. Instead, it usually fuels the fire as people “like” our comment, or join in to the conversation until it becomes an all out bash-fest.  If we see a need to vent, how about going FIRST to the One who already knows our emotions and our thoughts?  Our Father God is the ultimate comforter and provider of strength.  SECONDLY, if we must vent openly, how about to our spouses, who (hopefully) understands us the most?  or maybe a third option is a close friend.  But publicly criticizing children (such as calling them monsters or headaches) is not “helpful for building others up.”

As Christians, we are to live our lives in accordance with Scripture, God’s Words to us.  Every scripture that I find about complaining says we are NOT to do it.  In fact, the scriptures can be pretty harsh against those who do (see I Corinthians 10:10).  I don’t get to choose and weed out the scriptures I want to follow or ignore.  If I follow Christ, then I follow Him completely.  I’m not perfect; there are still times I complain and fall short of His glory, but my desire is to heed his Words…because they are good and have my best interest at heart.

Good word for today

I received this devotional in my email box today.  Wanted to pass it along…

InformedFaith.com

 

 

 
 
By Dr. James C. Denison
President, The Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, Texas

November 6, 2009

Topic: hope in grief

 Tragedy at Fort Hood

 The war has come home.  Fort Hood is home to 52,000 Army personnel.  Located halfway between Austin and Waco, Texas, it has lost more troops in Iraq than any other base.  Now it has lost 12 more.  As you know, an Army psychiatrist about to be deployed to overseas combat killed 12 soldiers yesterday afternoon and wounded 31 others.  Initial reports said that he was killed by police; later we learned that he has survived and is in stable condition.

 Major Nidal Malik Hasan was born in Virginia to Jordanian parents.  Today’s New York Times reports that he is single, and that he has listed no religious preference.  He was apparently distraught about his upcoming deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

 Yesterday afternoon, he took two handguns to a deployment center where soldiers receive last-minute medical attention and instructions before they are shipped out overseas.  A few moments later, as President Obama said last night, the “horrific outburst of violence” unfolded.

 We have learned again that no place on our fallen planet is safe.  The Pentagon and Twin Towers became killing fields eight years ago; now an Army base intended to shelter our soldiers will be marked forever by this tragedy.  If a military installation cannot protect its own, who of us is secure this morning?

 This is a day to grieve with suffering families traumatized beyond words.  It is a day to pray for them and for those who are walking with them through this valley of heartache.  And it is a day to remember that life is fragile and brief, but eternity is secure.

 Paul’s testimony is our model: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 This time yesterday, none of us knew that Fort Hood would lead this morning’s news.  Today is the dot before the line, the moment before eternity begins.  The best way to begin this Friday is to surrender it to the God who redeems all we entrust to him. 

 Last night, Janet and I were discussing the Fort Hood tragedy and she showed me a statement which she included in an upcoming Bible study.  Esteemed biblical scholar William Barclay: “The only way to get our values right is to see, not the beginning, but the end of the way, to see things, not in the light of time, but in the light of eternity.”

 How do you see things this morning?

 
 _____________________________

 

The Center for Informed Faith is sponsoring a Bible study tour of Israel February 21-March 2, 2010.  The “In His Steps” tour brings Scripture alive as it traces the steps of Jesus and his early followers through the Holy Land.  Sites include Nazareth, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, the Jordan River, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and other sacred places.  This walk through biblical history and culture will deepen your faith and understanding of Scripture as Dr. Denison explores the historical and spiritual background of each site and Dr. Mike Fanning discusses its archaeological significance.  A $300 per- person deposit is due by November 20, 2009 to insure a spot on the tour.  Inquiries after that date will be filled on a space-available basis only. All monies paid before the December 20 final payment date are fully refundable except for a $100 cancellation fee per person. For more information, please visit www.InformedFaith.com.

Copyright © 2009, Center for Informed Faith. All rights reserved.

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To My Health

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~ Chinese Philosopher Lao-tzu

If you read my last post, then you know that I’m at the beginning of a personal war. I need to be completely ready for whatever comes my way: spiritually, mentally & physically. So, Today I’m starting a new journey to health. I’ve actually had many ‘first steps’ in becoming a healthier person; many of them lasted a short while, some lasted longer…all ended.

However, the goal is no longer to mirror the thin girls on the magazine covers. The number on that little white tag inside my jeans will not affect my moods anymore. I simply want only to be healthy – To not feel sick after eating. It’s time for me to allow my body to heal. Hopefully, it’s not too late to reverse the damage that has already been done.

I’m starting this journey with a Daniel Fast. I’ve done variations of this fast before, but this time I’m using a helpful site/blog dedicated only to the Daniel Fast. You can see a guideline at the website by clicking HERE.

And, of course, my main goal is to make this a true fast; not just altar my eating habits but to pray and seek God for guidance and healing.

Fasts are not always just personal journeys, they can be shared. If you think you might want to do the Daniel Fast with me, pray about it and let me know…we can swap recipes and encourage one another to be spiritually and physically healthy!

tree by rivers of water

Blessed is the mantree by rivers of water
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

I have been meditating upon these verses of Psalm 1 over the last few days. There is one phrase that is stuck in my mind, which I take as the Holy Spirit wanting me to focus upon. It’s the phrase, “That brings forth fruit in its season.”

I have a tendency, probably like many people, to want to see productivity and success flourish at all times. I feel I must always be on top of my game, seeing results and “fruit”. Yes, God promises us that we will be blessed and will prosper…but we forget this phrase “in its season.”

Fruit comes seasonally. We know that fall is best for pumpkins and apples. Winter brings forth some of the sweetest grapefruit ever tasted (esp. if they’re from S. Texas). Summer produces succulent berries, while spring brings us mango and pineapple. Our grocery stores find ways to keep many of these fruits all year long, but they are poorer in taste and not at their sweetest. But bite into a sweet, ripe strawberry in spring and, MMM, you’ve got fruit perfection. God created the fruit to naturally grow its best during one season of the year.

So, why do we expect to see our “fruits” all the time? When we don’t, we become frustrated, depressed, isolated, and throw our own big pity-party. We give up too easily and question God’s will in our lives, or if we are fulfilling His purpose.

We must remember that we have to have seasons of growth if we want to see the best fruit.

Allow the living water of God’s word to refresh your spirit, to revitalize your passion for Him, and soothe your wounds. In time, we will again taste the sweetness and goodness of God.

confession

There is one thing in my life that constantly reappears.  When I think I’ve figured it all out and believe to have conquered the problem, it rears its ugly, sharp claws and attacks me again.  I HATE it…and yet I allow myself to live with it.  It sleeps with me, commutes with me, communicates to me, and follows me around.

You see, I let my guard down.  I get overconfident; feel that I’ve completely rid the problem from my life.  I begin to see things, act upon things, and listen to lies, all the while thinking, “I’m over this, so it can’t affect me like it used to…I’ve become immune to it’s effects.”  Slowly, it creeps back in until I’m back to where I was before.  In my case, it really isn’t a sin – although my story could easily be compared to sins in our lives – but I’ve come to learn WHY this “thing” is so detrimental to my spiritual well-being…it distracts me away from God’s truths.  When this thing becomes dominant in my life, it consumes hours of my time; time that could be used for family, study, ministry, worshiping.  I think about it constantly and it effects ALL my decisions.

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  He wants my entire being; all my focus.  When this thing consumes me, God doesn’t have ALL of me – He is not the center of my focus.  Satan knows this, he knows my weak spot and he constantly attacks me when I think I’ve gotten in under control.  That is why we must keep our eyes always on the Lord; the moment we let our guard down, Satan comes in an steers our focus away from God and distracts us.

I’m thankful that the Spirit gently guides me back to the Truth and helps me refocus my attention where it should be – MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY LORD.

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