Little Victories

“But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:57

 

Live one day at a time.  Anxiety doesn’t let you live one day at a time.  It has me thinking of days, months and even years in the past or in the future.  In 12 step recovery programs the advice of taking “one day at a time” is given.  I have never been a part of a 12 step recovery program, but I have learned how much value there is in being present with each day and living today for today.

 

My life overall, has been less anxious than it was a year ago.  But then there are some days where anxiety camped out in my mind.  My friend started a small support group for those dealing with anxiety.  I look forward to it, but ironically I get anxiety going to group.  The anxiety is from being vulnerable in front of others and for not overcoming anxiety once and for all.

 

Last week we met and I was having the hardest time settling in after we started.  The leader put on some worship music and wanted us to breathe slowly and think about a place in our body that felt calm.  But I couldn’t.  I did not like the song.  And I felt guilty for not liking a song about Jesus.  The song had a fast rhythmic beat which made me antsy.  I could feel a surge of panic because I knew I had to be still for the next 5 minutes until this song would be over.  There seemed to be no place in my body that was calm and settled.

 

For some reason, I looked at the palm of my right hand and noticed a vein that would pulse.  I began to focus on that and felt my breath slow and relax.  The following thought crossed my mind as I observed the pulse.  Even though I felt out of control, my body’s physiology was still working.  With anxiety, I feel like a floating head, a zero connection with my body.  But this time, my mind and body connected and I relaxed.

 

We went around and shared our experience with the song.  I shared my pulse story and the leader congratulated me.  It didn’t feel like a big deal to me.  But she explained how that was a victory for me and I found something to go to any time I felt anxious.  I finally found something to quell the anxious feelings.

 

Afterward this leader encouraged me to be thankful for the little victories I have won over these past years.  She reminded me how much I have improved on relaxing and have less anxiety.  I thought of those that deal with addiction to alcohol and drugs (or other things) and how each day is a victory when they don’t succumb to their former vices.  Praise the Lord for those good days and continued strength for the daily battle to live in victory and freedom!

 

Lesson Learned:  Little victories won every day, will beat the lifelong battle.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for equipping me with what I need to win the battle everyday.  Thank you for the strength you have given me Father God.  Remind me what you have carried me through.  I thank you for the little victories you have blessed me with in conquering these issues.  Praise you and thank you Lord Jesus for the ultimate victory you won when you died for us.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Didn’t Like What I Had Become

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is a way to death.”
Proverbs 14:12

Most people decide a moral code for themselves. As we grow up, in childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, this code forms. This moral code provides us with the ability to get through traumatic situations as well as making everyday decisions.

My parents taught me to be a rule follower. Whether I was in school or home, I was expected to abide by the rules. Of course, I was human and broke rules. I suffered the consequences and usually learned the first time (okay, maybe after the third time) rules are there for a reason.

I feared disappointing my parents, teachers or God, so I stayed out of trouble throughout high school and even into college. However the summer before my senior year of college, I began to question some things and loosen up on following the rules. And the reason being, I met a cute guy.

The summer before my senior year of college, I interned for a professional roller hockey team. This team and their staff were filled with really cute and athletic men. Since I love hockey and many of them played minor league ice hockey in the winter, I felt like I was in hockey heaven. Not before long I noticed their athletic trainer and equipment manager, named Mike, who was a couple of years older than me.  He began to notice me too.

Mike and I began to hang out at the rink and soon began dating each other.  He would tell me about his goals of going to medical school after he saved some money from work. His father was an assistant coach and he seemed to approve of me as well.  The family seemed great and he was driven and on his way to being successful. But there was just one thing…he was a drinker, a heavy drinker and I never drank.

To describe my drinking history would be non-existent. I didn’t try any alcohol until I was 21 years old (rule follower). And even the couple of times that I would order a drink, I would sip about 25% of the drink and be done. I never had a hangover either.

As Mike and I dated, I began to drink. I knew my tolerance level, so I still would manage to not get drunk. He would be wasted. I was the designated driver for us.  After games, we would meet a local bar. I noticed a staff member named Michelle, starting to flirt with Mike. They each already drank a 6 pack of beer and the night barely started. I was getting angry that she was aggressive and he was loving it. In my anger, the quarter of margarita I was drinking for over an hour, suddenly was gone. Mike noticed I finished with it, gave me a “high five” and diverted his attention back to me.

We decided to leave, but this time, neither one of us could or should drive. I knew that I never wanted to drink and drive because I knew the severity of drunk driving. However, I tried to drive anyway. I was driving about 5 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour on the street but pulled over and said I can’t drive. Mike offered to drive and I told him neither one of us should drive. He got angry and said that maybe Michelle (the one flirting with him all night) should take him back to his hotel. I got mad, started the car and drove him to his hotel.

By the grace of God, I made it to the hotel. He wanted me to go up to his room and I did, even though I knew it was a mistake. Even as I made terrible choices that night, I prayed for a way to get me out of this situation. He opened the door and his father already was back from the bar.

Halleighluia!  This was my way out! Because I knew Mike would never try anything with his father there. I think Mike’s dad knew I was uncomfortable. He told me that Mike would pass out shortly and that I could stay on the couch (that was outside the bedroom) until I sobered up. I called my dad and told him that I felt to drunk to drive but I would leave as soon as I felt normal again. I drank water and rested. Sure enough Mike was passed out and I sobered up and left for home.

On the drive home, I did a lot of thinking about what became of myself. I didn’t like how I was behaving or the decisions I was making in the time I was dating Mike. It was time to stop dating him.  The next day,  I told him my decision and later that day, he was already hanging out with Michelle. Even though I knew it was the right decision, it still hurt.

I was 22 years old when this happened, I’m 40 years old now and haven’t drank any alcohol since that night.

Thank God, I didn’t get into an accident that night or was taken advantage of sexually.  So, I am glad that I realized I followed rules for a reason and my morality should be aligned with what God wanted for my life. In the next few years, I still made mistakes but I always found my way back to God.

God will always give us a way out of temptation if we look for it. To reap from sin is not a way to live.

Lesson Learned: If a choice seems knowingly bad, align it with what God would want for you and make the decision to stop.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Forgive me for making poor choices. I ask that I hear the Holy Spirit loud and clear to make the right decision. Remind me that all choices have consequences to help me not make poor ones. In those areas where there is lack, fill them with love, acceptance and grace. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Mid-Life Transition

“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” Proverbs 20:29

It has been 6 months since I turned 40 years old. Some days, I can feel the pain of it, both physically and mentally. There is a growing level of disappointment about my life that feels suffocating and tiresome.  Honestly, it is a terrible way to live.

It was time for my yearly wedding ring inspection at the jeweler. They inspect and clean the ring back to its original luster. I love my ring, it isn’t too big or too small. It has a vintage look and I still receive compliments on it after 14+ years. Some of my husband’s family couldn’t believe he bought me that ring because it wasn’t on clearance somewhere. His sister saw the ring and said, “Hey, come look at what my cheap-skate brother bought his girlfriend! Welcome to the family!”

I gave the ring to the sales person and she went back to inspect and clean the ring.  She came back and said, “have you considered upgrading your ring?” I stood there with my mouth open in disbelief. She said, I deserved a bigger ring because we are nearing our 15 year anniversary. I told her, that I love my ring and it has true sentimental value, plus I wouldn’t want to have someone Kim Kardashian my finger to steal it. Now, she was in disbelief, as I thanked her and walked out of the store.

As ridiculous as that situation seemed, it planted a bad seed of discontent in my mind. While I didn’t want a new ring, I thought maybe my husband may want to upgrade and get a new wife. I felt this way because I know of two women that are separating from their husbands. One wanted to, because she felt she could do better while the other one was blind-sided by her husband’s decision to separate. Other people I know are discontent in careers they have been working hard in for 20+ years. They say, there just has to be something better but simpler.

One Sunday morning, I was driving my family to church. I felt this overwhelming sadness hit me. As the tears streamed down my face, I silently prayed, “Lord, what is going on with me?” The response I felt was, “I feel like I am having a mid-life crisis.” I giggled on the inside and thought, “am I going to buy a Ferrari next?” But I realized that I am feeling the same thing that many are feeling in their lives. The commonality of a lot of these struggling people are we are all in our 40’s, assessing our lives, wondering-what next?

Ironically, that same Sunday, our pastor began a series on the book of Daniel. He told a story about his own insecurities when he started off as a pastor. The pastor prayed about the insecurities and God told him, “just be you, be who I created you to be, no one else.” That sermon took a hold of my heart.

After the pity party at church, I gave my friend a call. She is able to listen and give a Godly assessment. I told her what I was experiencing, mentioning the mid-life crisis. She told me, “I don’t believe that this is a mid-life crisis, more like a mid-life transition.” My friend was right. God can create a change in our hearts to be who He intended us to be.

Living life in this world pulls us in many different directions. We believe we have to: make a certain amount of money, marry someone aesthetically pleasing, live in a nice zip code, own lots of things, give our children a life with endless activities. To attain these things, we believe we have to work overtime, supply our kids with material things, instead of attention. I admit, I was lured into thinking that I needed the $200 French face cream to combat the wrinkles that are forming. Yet, life can be much simpler. We can take a step back and communicate this to our loved ones. More than likely, they are feeling it too.

Lesson Learned: I won’t lament over the idea that life is over.  I will access them and ask God, what is it that you are trying to show me?

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for living my life in the world. Show me what you created me to be. Give me the confidence to pursue your will instead of mine. Thank you for supplying all of my needs. Create a grateful heart, not one of discontent. Convict me of those times, when I am envious of others. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Speaking Up

“Pay attention to yourselves!  If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,”  Luke 17:3

 

Confrontation…one of my least favorite things.  My usual mode of operation is to not say anything and ruminate over it for days, even months.  I feel like the character, George Costanza, from the television show “Seinfeld” who would have that zinger of a comeback,  two hours after the argument.

 

After seven years of saving, I decided to remodel our kitchen.  The idea of spending thousands of dollars, hurt my husband but he knew I was not happy with our 35-year-old kitchen that falling apart.  He told me I had free reign over the decisions of the remodel.  I hired a contractor and he began the work.  

 

There was a hiccup on the first day of the remodel.  The cabinet company delivered the wrong color painted cabinets.  But since it was pretty close to the color I picked out, I decided to deal with it.  I asked for them to refund me the price I paid for painting the cabinets and they did.  After that, the remodel was went well and even on time.

 

We were nearing the end of the remodel and the backsplash was going up on the wall.  I had spent a couple of weeks, looking at samples and deciding what I wanted.  The backsplash was going to be a stone material, which the contractor had never used.  

 

The day he was starting the installation of the backsplash, I was at a Girl Scouts event with my daughter on a Saturday.  For some reason, we never discussed the color of the grout.   Instead he asked my husband what color would he like for him to use.  My husband told him that he could decide and began working on the backsplash.

 

The contractor’s wife came by to check out the progress of the kitchen.  My daughter and I came home and we walked into the house.  His wife was saying how great things were looking and I told her how happy I was with everything so far.  I walked over to the kitchen and saw him putting a sand colored grout on the back splash.  My heart sank into my stomach.  I wanted a white colored grout.  There is a big difference in those colors.  

 

The anger and frustration welled up inside of me.  I walked out of the kitchen and went upstairs and screamed into a pillow.  My thoughts were, “great now I am stuck with this color forever, but wait…why should I have what I want?  I knew I would walk into that kitchen everyday and hate it if I didn’t say anything right then and there.”

 

After I calmed down, I walked downstairs and told him “we should have discussed the color before hand, but I am not happy with this color.  I will not be able to accept the color and I need something to be done.”   He looked over at the hours of work he completed and started getting mad.  His wife said, “she is paying for a new kitchen, it matters to her that she gets what she wants.”  He took a deep breath and said, I will scrub out as much as I can now and then think about how to fix it and come back on Monday.  

 

On Monday, he began using the white colored grout.  But the stone absorbs a lot of the sand color.  He decided to water down some white paint and roll it over the backsplash.  He fixed it and it ended up being better than I could have expected.  The funny thing is, when people see the new kitchen, the usual first comment is how nice the backsplash looks!

 

That situation seems like an easy one to speak up on, but how about those times when it isn’t easy?  Like when your child is making bad decisions.  Someone is being abused and they are continuing to live in that situation.  You hear gossip about a person that you know isn’t true.  There are times, when standing up for what you believe in is important and necessary, especially in today’s times.

 

Lesson Learned:  In truth and love, standing up for what we believe is necessary.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, give me courage and strength to speak the truth.  Show me how it to be done in love and grace instead of judgement and condemnation.   Forgive me of things I do that are wrong and things I am unaware.  Give me the right words to say and may your justice prevail.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

We Have a Friend in Jesus

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 18:24

In this age of Social Media, the more likes and views you get, the more important you appear.  Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers, etc.  means the higher your value.  I look at my Facebook friends and the number seems high.  Yet, I could probably count on one hand the number of friends I really have in my life.

A friend of mine went on Facebook and vented about her bad day.  She was completely left out of a work function.  Everyone was included except her.  She is one of the most giving people and always goes above and beyond for a party or project.  As she knows, one isn’t invited to everything, but this was a blatant attempt to make her feel bad by a troublemaker in her office.  One could feel her sadness and rejection.  I am sure her self-worth took a hit that day.  It would have for me too.

There is an “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy was feeling forgotten by her husband and friends.  It was her birthday and no one seemed to remember.  It turns out they were planning a surprise birthday party.  She was so distraught that she went walking for hours.  Lucy ended up in a park and a group of people, called “Friends of the Friendless”  came marching through, literally marching band and all.  They asked her why she was sad and decided to make her their friend because their goal was to make sure no one felt lonely.  She marches down to her husband’s night club, where the party was planned, to show him her new group of friends.  And as “I Love Lucy” episodes happily end, she sees the surprise party and forgives all.

I wish there was a group like “Friends of the Friendless” to appear for us when we get hurt or rejected.  Sometimes, we feel like the only ones in the world that aren’t included.  However, we really do have a friend in Jesus.  Honestly, though it sounds ridiculous since we can’t see Him.  But we need to invite His presence to be with us at times of loneliness.   In turn, He will provide a person in our lives to comfort us.  They usually say just what we need to hear.

That friend, who was jilted by her co-worker, had a flooding of comments to that post.  Some people told her how much they love her, others warmly threatened this jerk.  The enemy wants us to feel isolated and rejected.  We end up feeling so lonely, we retreat in our misery and find it hard to come out of it.  Thankfully despite her vulnerability, she reached out and let people know she was hurt.

Lesson Learned:  When we are hurt by people, may we seek comfort in the loving arms of the Lord.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, in times of rejection, help me to find your love and peace.  May the arrows of affliction reflect off of me.  Thank you for creating me uniquely.  Surround me with people who are my true friends and family and remind me how loved I am always.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”