Monday, August 30, 2010

Beginning my list of 1,000 Gifts

I've been reflecting lately on my struggle with anxiety and fear over the last two years. I hadn't had "an episode" for a while....until two nights ago.

"I'm not over this yet," I told myself in the midst of my chest tightening and my body shaking. "God is still working on me."

And I turned to one of my favorite tactics for getting the anxiety under control: thankfulness. The only thing that worked that night was laying in bed and focusing on what I'm thankful for. My thankfulness turned to prayer and before I knew it, I had drifted to sleep.

I feel that I am a grateful person by nature. I have written thank you notes to people since I learned how to write. I go out of my way to thank people for taking care of my kids at church, for their service, for thinking of me or just for being someone who blesses my heart. I keep a journal where I list what I'm thankful for before I go to bed at night. I often drift to sleep thinking about everything I have to be thankful for.

But it's a work in progress.

I've been following Holy Experience for a while now and have considered joining the Gratitude Community and beginning my official list of 1,000 gifts.

Realizing that God is still working on me with the anxiety issue, I thought I still need to be intentional about preventing the anxiety in the first place, including living in a place of constant gratitude.

So I'm finally taking the plunge.

1:: my fourth annual leadership retreat

2:: being inspired by amazing women of God

3:: being cold in August

4:: fuzzy pink socks that smell like peppermint

5:: being given a new book

6:: new insights from The Book

7:: sleeping alone

8:: giving a devotional about shoes

9:: walking by faith

10:: anxiety returning and the reminder that I still have growing to do

11:: knowing my boys are left in great hands when I'm gone

12:: finding perfect peace by resting in Him

13:: repentance and healing

14:: chamomile tea

15:: coming home to a clean house

16:: sleeping with my baby and my hubby

17:: re-connecting with an old friend

18:: my milkaholic baby

19:: my huge 4.75-year-old

20:: M&M cookies

Read all about the art of Joy Finding

holy experience

Friday, August 27, 2010

Peace Part 1: "The Method"

{INTRODUCTION: In May 2008, I suffered a miscarriage, which was the beginning of a season of fear for me that lasted for about two years. For four months of that time (March '09 to July '09, during the end of a pregnancy and postpartum), I battled feelings (and physical symptoms) of anxiety and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with. My husband wisely advised me to embrace that season to learn about PEACE and now, two years later, I am a very different person as a result. I promised God I'd share my story so here I am.}

PART 1: "The Method"

We're selling our home. We love our home and we don't really know where we are going from here. I could easily (and justifiably) get stressed, worried and anxious about the moving process, where we'll go next, where we'll end up and all the details involved in each step....but I refuse.

Being a former anxiety sufferer, the #1 thing I do now to prevent it from sneaking back up on me is focusing on the here and now and taking life one day at a time.

In one day, however, a million things can try to pop up on my stress radar. Is he judging us for short saling our house? Is she offended that I postponed our play date again? What if our closing costs are more than we planned for? What if I get pregnant again? What am I going to do if we move far away from all of our friends then the kids get sick then I get sick....who can I call??....and on and on and on.

Pop, pop, pop. Blips on my stress radar, blinking red.

What do I do? I already posted about
my tendency to run everywhere but to Him.

But I have discovered a method for when stress starts to rear her ugly head. The solution comes from Philippians 4:6-7 which says "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (NKJV)

Peace doesn't come automatically. There's a process for getting to a place of peace. These verses suggest a method.

1. "Be anxious for nothing." NO-thing. Even if it's something minor, if I'm feeling anxious about it, it's something. And a lot of little somethings add up to a LOT. If it's a blip on the radar, it counts.

2. "In everything by prayer and supplication...let your requests be known to God." Supplicating just means praying, or asking God for something. All the "things" above? Big or small, life-altering or seemingly insignificant, I talk to God about them. EVERY-thing.

There's a lot to this concept but I often think about the idea of asking God for peace in the storm rather than asking Him to end the storm. I ask Him to help me handle what is going on, to give me wisdom to work through whatever I'm dealing with or to bring resources my way. Sometimes I just ask Him to be present.

3. "...with thanksgiving..." was nestled into that verse, too. This is very important!

Psalm 100:4 says "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."

In other words, when I approach God, He'd like to hear some praise before I start firing off my requests. It's the "Gosh, Mom, you sure look pretty today. Can I have twenty bucks?" tactic.

Besides God wanting to hear me proclaim how good He is (and rightly so), there's another important component to this: when I start with thanksgiving, it gets my heart and my focus into the right place.

My requests change when I "get into a place of thankfulness" first.

At the height of my anxiety, when I was feeling especially off-kilter, my husband would instruct me (ok, force me) to go somewhere quiet and "get into a place of thankfulness." It made a world of difference for me. I just started naming everything I could think of to be thankful for and before long, I was smiling and feeling hopeful again and, oh, look at that--my heart and mind aren't racing any more!

Besides running down the list of things in my life that I was grateful for, I would also thank Him for the very thing that was causing me the stress because I knew He was working it out in my favor.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

And once we've been thankful and have made our requests, and no-thing is on our radar anymore....

4. THEN..."and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." I'm so peaceful, I can't even comprehend it or explain it! It's when we say to people, "I should be stressed but I feel so at peace." That's the peace of God that surpasses understanding and there's nothing like it.

Peace isn't automatic but God offers His method to bring us into a place of HIS inexplicable peace. And there's no better place to be.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where do you go?

When life isn’t working for you, where do you go?

A friend comes to you with a BIG problem. Where do you turn?

Even daily…
I’m feeling blue, so I pick up a magazine to distract myself with throw pillows, the current fashions or skin care tips.

When my marriage hits a rocky spot, I call a friend to talk things out.

When I don’t know what to do about a problem with my kids, I go to my favorite web site or post a comment on Facebook to see what suggestions I get.

When I’m frustrated, I have a cup of tea.

When I’m sad or lonely, I craft.

Then what am I tempted to do when I’m in a spiritual slump? Or, better yet, when a crisis hits? I do what I always do. I turn to magazines, a friend, a web site, Facebook, food or crafting. I may even open my Bible and find an encouraging verse to bolster my spirits.

And I may feel better for a while…especially if my temporary solution involves chocolate.

But before long, I find that I’m right back where I started. I'm still frustrated, blue, lonely or sad.

When I was dealing with anxiety at the end of my last pregnancy and postpartum, I tried everything to help alleviate my symptoms. I found some temporary relief from reading good books, talking to friends, getting advice from doctors, deep breathing and eating well. But it didn’t last. Not really.

Now I’ve learned. I have to go to the cross. I have to run to God. I have to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Matthew 11:18 “Come to ME, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Get that. Where are we supposed to go??

Jesus doesn’t tell us to go to church. He doesn’t even tell us to go to the Bible.


He asks us to come to Him. We can find rest in Jesus. We can rest in Him.

But that's so simple!

I’m a doer. I’m a striver. I’m a rule follower. I’m even borderline legalistic. I’d have made a great Pharisee! So I like formulas and check-lists. I really like checking little boxes with a blue or black ball point pen. I’d kinda like it if God gave us a to-do list!

But God isn’t into that. Jesus told us to come to HIM. Stop doing “STUFF…” and just COME. And rest.

So simple. Just go. Maybe we'll run into each other on the way there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Story of My Life

I heard myself say it recently when my husband and I were having yet another late-night talk about our financial challenges. My husband mentioned (in strictly practical terms and NOT trying to condemn me) another one of MY debts we weren't able to pay and I said, "Well, that's the story of my life."

My husband, thankfully, doesn't let me get away with much of that nonsense.

"No, it's not." He said.

I replayed what had just happened in my head.

It all started when I was 18. I got a gym membership with a three-year contract.

We moved to Arizona and the closest gym was 19 miles away from our house, 1 mile within the limitation of the contract that kept me obligated to continue paying, despite the fact that I never intended to drive 19 miles to go the gym. I wasn't working at the time and couldn't afford the payments so I defaulted on it. It would be many years later before I paid it off and only after a substantial ding to my credit.

I did learn a good lesson. I don't sign many contracts anymore. And I always advise people to be careful about gym memberships.

But that wasn't the last time.

There was our first son's birth, which we planned to be a home birth but ended up being an emergency hospital transfer.

We got to not only pay the midwives for not delivering our baby but we also got to pay enormous hospital and doctor bills, too. Why didn't anyone suggest that we get insurance, "just in case?"

Then a few years ago, I signed up for a credit card service so I could run credit cards for my home-based business. Unbeknownst to me, it also had a three-year commitment attached to it. I only used the services for about nine of the 36 months I was under contract for, but I paid the bill every month, along with other monthly processing and credit card company fees. It's no wonder I never made a profit.

Since then, there have been other minor financial hiccups and more less-than-successful home-based business ventures. More money failures, as I saw it.

The last straw was falling victim to a teeth whitening scheme that I should have seen for what it was.

I wasted many hours and about $20 to set that one right but it could have been worse. If you see an ad about "A stay-at-home mom discovers the secret to whiter teeth!" I implore you to read the fine print. Please.

That brings us up to the present when my husband mentioned my student loans.

Siiiigghhhhh. Here we go again. Just another reminder of the pattern of financial failures that have defined my adult life. And to poor husband (Mr. Perfect Credit, always-pays-his-bills-on-time, ACCOUNTANT husband) knew what he was getting himself into when my dad said, "You can marry her but you have to take over payments" married me, anyway. Bless him.

"No, it's not," my husband said that night.

Wow. To think that "The story of my life" is defined by one financial mistake after another and all the guilt, regret and self-loathing that goes with it.

When I thought about it, it went deeper than that list of "Tab's Top Five Big Money Blunders." Every time I wished I hadn't bought that lipgloss because we ended up short on grocery money that week...every time I let lettuce go bad in the fridge...every time I accidentally broke a plate or a glass...every time I gave something away to Goodwill that was a "can't live without it" purchase at the time...I felt the condemnation. I could hear the lie being whispered in my ear: "It's just like you to waste money like that. You've never been good with money and you never will be. It's just who are are."

And that became the story of my life.

But no more.

My husband said, "The story of your life is redemption. It's blessing. It's God working in and through you. THAT is the story of your life."

So I made up my mind that night. I would only use the "That's the story of my life" phrase in a positive context.

So now I try to use the phrase any time I can.

"Your team pulled off another wonderful event!"
"That's the story of my life!"

"Look at that beautiful baby! And after you had that terrible miscarriage, too."
"That's the story of my life!"

"That post you wrote really spoke to me."
"That's the story of my life!"

And when I hear the whispers, as I inevitably will...I just remind him (the father of lies) that "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NKJ)

Everyone makes money mistakes. Everyone fails to read the fine print sometimes. Everyone screws up every now and then...or even multiple times before breakfast. But that doesn't define who we are.

Or whose we are. We are "Children of God" (Romans 8:16). We are loved, forgiven, righteous and highly favored.

And THAT is the story of my life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

If you are a human....

...then this should be required reading.

Nie Nie Dialogues

And required watching.

Little has touched my heart--and made me more grateful for my family--than this woman's story. It is truly inspirational.