If you’re an 80’s baby like me you might remember those “choose your own adventure” books. The whole idea is to assume the role of the main character and the book periodically presents you with options. The choices you make determine the story’s ending. The thrill is in the mystery and anticipation; not knowing what will happen next! I being an eager child (& now adult) often decided to skip all of the build-up, and stress by flipping to the back and reading all three endings at once. That way I could choose the ending I liked the best and enjoy reading the story with the comfort of knowing how it ends. Only, once the adventure book lost it’s mystery it also lost its excitement. It ended up on a cluttered bedside table with a tangled up yo-yo and an abandoned braid of gimp. My impatience and need to know rushed the book and took all of the joy out of it!
The theme of this third week of advent is joy! We light the pink candle and look forward in joy to Christmas which (unbelievably to me!) is now only days away! There are so many things in my life which bring me joy that I could choose to write about today, my husband, my children, a good book and a hot cup of coffee..but, since we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus into the world I would like to focus on him, our ultimate and eternal wellspring of joy!
The joy that comes from my relationship with him cannot be contained in my heart and spills over into every area of my life. Carrying his spirit with me enhances everything and gives even the smallest things a sense of wonder and deeper meaning. When you come to know the Lord you understand that all things are a gift from him. Think of the joy you feel or witness in your children on Christmas morning when they eagerly unwrap their presents and reveal what treasures await them. That is what a relationship with the Lord can bring to your daily life. How can you not feel joyful and thankful when you are constantly receiving gifts?
It is not always easy to see everything as a gift but, when we live in a state of gratitude it leaves little room for malcontent! Joy is our inheritance in Christ and we can claim it! Choosing joy and seeing things through his eyes just makes everything richer, deeper and more meaningful.
When I am walking through the woods and see a beautiful tree or the sunset I see more than just scenery, I see the beauty and power of God’s creation and feel happy that he created such a gorgeous world for us to live in. Or when I look at my children, I see more than just cuteness (although they are quite cute!) I remember that God knew them and set them apart before they were even born, he has plans for them which I can’t begin to imagine, and he formed them in my womb and allowed me the honor of actively participating in their creation. It’s nothing less than miraculous!
Or when I look into my husbands eyes and appreciate all that our marriage means to me and our family and how much pleasure comes with it and to know that it is also something that honors God and personifies the gospel! Or when I am pursuing my passions to write and read and create with my hands, a need that God himself placed within me. These things I enjoy so much are more than hobbies, its the avenue through which his will in me will be accomplished. Or when I see others through the loving eyes of God and appreciate how different he made us all and see the good in them and it makes me want to bring others happiness or speak words of encouragement to them when they are down. I want to share the joy that I have found so everyone can experience it!
Joy can be a choice. With so many difficult things in life and negatives to focus on we can choose instead to think positively, view ourselves and others positively, speak positively, appreciate and focus on what we have rather than focusing on what we lack. When I remember how much I have to be thankful for it is difficult not to feel joyful. Gratitude proceeds and breeds more joy. Even my trials take on meaning, I know they are shaping me into the person I’m meant to be and even in those dark times I can see God’s light shining and hold on to the glimmer of his promises.
So when we are opening our presents on Christmas morning lets remember what they are to represent, the gift of salvation and a daily, enriching, interpersonal relationship with God through his son. Let’s remember that the spirit of this holiday and the people who surround the tree are far more a gift to us than anything that we could find under it.
I know I am a little..okay, a lot.. late to be writing about the theme of Advent Week Two: Peace but, this week has been hectic! #Momlife am I right? But I digress… Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. He desires that we find peace with him not only in Heaven but also while we live out our lives here on Earth.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11
Since childhood I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Though they go hand in hand my depression was the main problem when I was young. I was at a tender age where I was learning that not everything in life is pleasant and when my parents divorced it filled my safe-feeling world of innocence with doubt. As I became older anxiety took the reigns and was unfortunately exacerbated by PTSD. I am a survivor of domestic abuse (a story for another post). My ex and I had a daughter as teenagers and after a traumatic stretch of time we separated. My second family in a few short years had crumbled before my eyes.
A couple of years passed and I moved on. I went to school and worked hard to provide for my daughter as a young, single mother but, put little thought into healing myself. Time went by and things got better. I met an amazing man, now my husband, that treated me well and showed me what it was like to truly be loved and respected. I grew up Catholic but had turned away from the Lord in my youthful angst. Once I was in a stable job and relationship, the feelings I ignored in order to put my life back together after the abuse started to come back up. I was experiencing flashbacks, waking up screaming with night terrors, and this is when my anxiety became crippling. I could feel the longing for the Lord in an empty place in my soul. He was calling me and so I sought Him out and he took me in (My testimony story for another post too!).
Fast forward a few years…I was in one of the happiest but, busiest times of my life! I was engaged to my husband, working full time in the medical field, taking college classes online, raising my daughter, and planning our wedding. I was thankful that my life was so full of positive things but, my anxiety had become a staple of my everyday life and was at an all time high. I was taking medication to ward off panic attacks up to 3 times a day.
About 4 months after our beautiful wedding we found out we were expecting a baby! I was so happy to have another chance at motherhood and to finally give my daughter a sibling after 9 years. As you mamas know, pregnancy changes your life in so many ways. One way for me was that I could no longer take my medication. That crutch that I had held for so long was kicked out from under me and my only option was to limp. I was forced to find other ways to cope.
When I felt my chest tighten and my heart race I resorted to breathing exercises, hot showers, or asked my husband to talk me down. Those things helped but, what brought healing was leaning on the Lord. I would come to him in desperate prayer, meditate on his promises and ask him to take my burdens and carry them for me. As I did this I entered into a deep and transformative life of prayer. I knew that God would help me through if only I would turn to him. As my trust in him grew my hope grew with it. My anxieties faded and before I realized it they had all but vanished. Anxiety was no longer was the staple of my life, instead it was hope.
Without all my time being spent worrying there was space in my heart and mind to receive the things the Lord was trying to reveal to me each day. So my trust, hope and faith grew deeper and deeper still. Sometimes I still get nervous when I worry about my children’s futures or when I don’t know how we will make it to pay day. But, instead of wallowing in my doubt I have hope! When the path ahead feels dark and unknown I try to remember where God has taken my life from where he found me. When I was bruised and broken hearted I never could have imagined the life I have been blessed with today. I trust in my heart of hearts that God has a plan for all of us, he is faithful, and he will help us to get through and provide for us every step of the way.
Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you deal with it?
If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!
Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? Those yet to be worn stilettos in your closet tell me yes! As a writer I tend to suffer from sharer’s remorse. I will get inspired and excited and turn to social media as an outlet and end up posting a poem, opinion, or status more personal and meaningful than my usual funny cat memes. Then the neurosis begins! I hit post and read it over and over again (I’m an editor at heart). If I read it enough times I can convince myself that what I was so proud to post a few minutes ago is really lame! My introvert side deflates and drags my openness back into the safe dark turtle shell.
If you pay attention to the time stamps you will see that this was also the case with this very blog (and Instagram)! I created the account confident enough but the things I learned in my college writing classes became a hang up! What was my tone? Who is my audience and am I writing to their needs? Do I have authority to speak on these topics? I’m no expert. I struggle. Does anyone care what I have to say? How DO I feel about that?! WHO EVEN AM I?!
As a people-pleaser by nature I have always struggled with others’ perceptions of me. I have always had a hard time fitting perfectly into the little labels, boxes and expectations that people put on one another (that I truly think NO ONE lives up to 100%). Am I too much of this? Not enough that? Alas, I am an enigma and always have been. In me as in everyone exists flesh and spirit, dark and light. I am a work in progress not yet complete. Even so, God has plans for me just as I am. He knows my heart. He created me (and you!) to reflect and spread his love in a very specific and individual way. The truth is that if I wait until I’m perfect I will be waiting forever. I don’t believe that is my purpose.
I am working toward being myself and loving myself fully, writing my truth and letting others appreciate it or not. Its okay to express my feelings! I am after all speaking on the world from behind my own eyes and examining MY own existence here and no one else’s. Yes, I’m flawed but maybe someone can relate. If I can help one person not feel so alone then its worth the potential criticism, and exposure of my innermost self (which is at its very core shy yet at the same time has so much to say). I know that if I want to connect with people in any genuine way that it requires honesty, transparency, and a bit of bravery. This passion wasn’t placed in my heart so I could hide it away. Gifts are meant to be shared.
Have you ever experienced sharer’s remorse? What are your passions and gifts? Comment below!
We live in quite a fortunate time in history in terms of modern convenience. Of the many modern conveniences I enjoy each day a dishwasher is not one of them. With a growing family that means visiting the sink often to stay on top of the ever present pile of mugs and plates. Sure, there are times I’d prefer to toss them in the waste basket but soon I found the menial task had become a welcome reprieve.
The windowsill above the sink once held all of the hallmark nick-knacks of a well loved mama; assorted bottles of sand art, heart-shaped rocks, small potted herbs, perfect pine cones and gifts from little hearts and hands. One gift was a small cross that reads “Peace, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” One day I was on a re-arranging kick and I decided to (finally!) clear and clean the sill. I was moving all my chotchkies into an old shoebox but when I reached for the cross I hesitated, deciding to leave it where it was.
When I went back later on to do the dishes (again!) I read the message over and over. I found myself thinking deeply, staring through the humble kitchen window at the trees in the yard where my pets and children play. Warm water ran over, soothing my busy hands as I thanked God for the opportunity to be still and rest in his peace. By the time the last spoon hit the drying rack I felt my anxieties drain with the suds and dingy water. The little cross which I barely noticed before served as a gentle reminder and the chore became transformed.
Over time I have added other meaningful things to the sill and it has become a sort of altar in my home; a special place I go to pray over my family, water my herbs, offer up the work of my hands, and set my intentions for the day. It just goes to show anything can become meditative, prayerful and intentional even simple tasks. We don’t need only to be in church or on the mountain top to grow in our spirituality. God’s extraordinary presence can enrich even these ordinary parts of our lives and reveal a deeper meaning in the mundane. Now don’t get me wrong, I may not completely enjoy doing the dishes every day (every mom knows the “angry clean” LOL!) but I do know that if I approach this and all things in love, myself and those around me are simply better for it! Let’s let go of our expectations and allow God to reach us exactly where we are.
What do you do to fit in time for quiet contemplation? Comment below!