Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Overcast skies and Downcast spirit

It's so odd when I go outside and the atmosphere matches what is happening within.  There are sunny happy days where the birds are chirping and I am feeling bubbly and excited about life.  Then there are days like today, where there are clouds hovering above me literally and figuratively.  The rain drips from the skies as the tears drip from my eyes.  This isn't a sobby journal entry, rather, it's an expression of human nature.  God created us with complex emotions and struggles.  Relationships seem to bloom and flourish one day and the next seem to be wilting and the growth - stunted.  Jobs can be successful one day - and the next be swept out from under us.  Emotions can over-take us and in turn make us lose our focus on the Lord.  For a personality type like myself (enneagram 7, thank you Carlin...) my  mood doesn't stay down for long.  I do not enjoy wallowing or even being slightly sad.  I enjoy being happy and upbeat so when these days come, I tend to look for the silver lining or purpose for these feelings.

I was reading about Jacob today in Genesis and what I read was interesting for my feelings this exact day:  (and please don't skim over these verses, like I sometimes tend to do... read them)

Genesis 32:24-28
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until day break.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."  The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob" he answered.  Then the man said, your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and man and have overcome."  (In case you missed it, God is "the man" in this)

God recognized his struggle against Him as a good thing, as something that made him into the man He had intended him to be.  He changed his name from Jacob, meaning "to follow behind, supplanter or assailant" to Israel which means "Struggles with God, God prevails." He looked at it as something to reward him for, not punish him for.  God doesn't want us to stay safe in our faith but to wrestle with it.

Sit in the discomfort.  Squirm in the uncertainty.  Run your fingers through the questions.  Wrestle with The Word (which could be scripture or God Himself). Nothing you could yell at him about will stop him from loving you or even calling you Righteous.  He is not easily offended and keeps no record of wrongs.  He can take it.  He can withstand the unrelenting doubt or questions and will strengthen YOU through it all.  

Later on in the same chapter in Genesis, Jacob names the place he wrestled with God "Peniel" which means The face of God.
"The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip." vs. 33:33 This is a picture of what happens to us in life.  We will encounter struggles which leave us with emotional scars or visible reminders of our choices and seasons of doubt.  He wasn't cast away because of his struggle, but blessed and used in a mighty way.  We will be left with scars and possibly even visible wounds, but God promises to use those in a big and mighty way.  We don't go through our experiences left without bruise or blemish.  Embrace it.  Walk with a limp.

So on days like today, when my soul is downcast within me, I look at it as a refinement period.  Just as David writes in the Psalms:

Psalms 42:5 "So then, my soul, why would you be depressed?  Why would you sink into despair?  Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior.  For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for living before his face is my saving grace!  Here I am depressed and downcast.  Yet I will still remember you as I ponder the place where your glory streams down from the mighty mountaintops, lofty and majestic - the mountains of your awesome presence.  My deep need calls out to the deep and kindness of your love."
(The Passion Translation - Italics added)

I have a deep sense of Joy waiting to emerge from behind the clouds.  Like the sun peeking through the clouds after a storm, revealing a rainbow that is His promise.

Psalm 18:17-19
"He then reached down from heaven, all the way from the sky to the sea.  He reached down into my darkness to rescue me!  He took me out of my calamity and chaos and drew me to himself, taking me from the depths of my despair! His love broke open the way and he brought me into a beautiful broad place.  He rescued me - because his delight is in me!"
(The Passion Translation - Italics added)

If only we knew the depth of His love and comprehended it.  We would come to Him with our doubts directly instead of talking behind His back.  We would ask Him the question directly and go where He leads.  We would feel secure in ourselves and let go of our shame and earthly shortcomings.  We will never be enough in earthly eyes - but we are EVERYTHING to Him.  Our human mind cannot fathom how he could possibly keep track of every living person or even understand how he finds value in every living person, but He does.  He dwells among us and within us.  He created every man and woman and child in his image.

If we look hard enough, we will see the sun peeking through the clouds.  We will welcome the warmth it brings and turn our face towards it.  We will shed the layers we have put on ourselves of ill fitting clothes, and put on the righteous attire He has laid out for us to take, woven together, fitting each individual person perfectly.

I pray that we discover who God has created us to be and start to use the gifts and talents he so graciously bestowed upon our souls.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Not sure how to follow that up...

I've spent the last few days re-reading my previous blog post, kind of surprised I posted it.  If you know me, you know that I'm an open book and I will literally tell you anything... but that post?  That was tough.  I have been wanting to talk about it for the last 18 months, but it wasn't something I had gone through, it was still something I was going through.  I wasn't on the other side of it yet. 

{If you're not sure what post I'm referring to you can find it here.} 

One of the reasons I shared that story, is because I want others out there to not feel so alone in their failures.  We ALL fail.  Possibly not as epically as I did, but we do.  I was reading a Joyce Meyer book this morning called Healing the Soul of a Woman.  If you're struggling from past abuse, self loathing or living in a constant spiral of shame, this book is for you.  Today, I read something so profound it almost quite-literally blew my mind.  

She writes, "A rattle snake, if cornered, will sometimes become so angry it will bite itself.  That is exactly what happens when we harbor hate and resentment against others - we "bite" and poison ourselves.  We think that we are harming others by holding on to spite and hate, but the deeper harm is actually done to ourselves."  

The are a few things that stand out to me here.  I have made them quite obvious.  Think about that for a minute.  We poison and harm ourselves when we are angry at the hurt that others have caused us.  We "bite and poison ourselves" when we feel cornered, like we have no way out.  We don't face the situation in the face, we become so entangled with the problem that we can't possibly see the solution.  The only thing we can harm in this situation is ourselves.  Obviously if we are angry with our children we don't hurt them, we don't hurt our husband or that friend.  We don't retaliate against them because we are decent human beings.  We, instead, mistreat ourselves.  To me, when I think about this, that was me.  I felt like I was trapped inside myself taking on the roll of "just a mom".  Getting through the endless piles of laundry, dishes, screaming kids, working husband and finding time for myself.  I coiled up in a corner and poisoned myself.  Every day.  I was so blind to what I was doing and I even justified it.  I didn't look at it as poisoning myself, I looked at it as an outlet.  As a way to ease the situation.  I used it to feel more relaxed, or to be a little bit sillier, maybe even to give me the courage to have that conversation that needed to happen (alcohol was never helpful in that situation).  

Like the snake, I needed a release and that release would only come when I had just enough to drink.  My "bite". 

Did that drink ever help?  Maybe for a few minutes.  But my anxiety and need for more only became worse the more I used.  I say "used" here because Alcohol is a drug.  It has actually just recently been listed as the most dangerous drug on the market, taking more lives annually than cocaine and heroine.

That scares me to death.

In tears days before I decided to give up alcohol for good, I told Jordan that I keep having this whisper in my ear that if I continue trying to find a "comfortable" place for alcohol in my life, it will eventually be the reason I die.  Whether it be from one of the seven forms of cancer it causes, liver disease, a car accident, alcohol overdose, dementia... the list of alcohol related deaths is extensive.  I refuse to let that be the reason, to be a statistic.  God will take me when He is good and ready, but it will NOT be correlated to alcohol in any way.  More and more young moms and women these days are believing the cleverly conceived lie that drinking in excess is the norm and you will not survive motherhood without it.  Women on Instagram are free advertisers for the alcohol industry!  They don't need to pay 5 million dollars for an advertisement during the Superbowl, because chances are, your wine rack is already stocked.  

Don't believe the lie that you need to poison yourself in order to relax, have fun, forgive, sleep, conversate, vacation, throw a kids birthday party, calm down, reminisce, chat with a friend... Honestly, what events do people NOT drink at these days?  

I write this knowing that I will probably rub some people the wrong way.  My intent here isn't to call out those people who have the occasional drink or don't have a problem with dependency on it.  My intent is to hopefully give the person who needs it a gut-check.  I got way too many gut-checks before I finally listened to it.  I have countless moments I could list where I said to myself, "Never again.  I will never drink again.  This was the final straw."  There were a lot of those moments.  More than I care to admit.  Maybe this will be one that can be added to one of your personal gut-checks.  If it is, don't let the list get too long, life is too beautiful to live one more day of it wasted.  Literally.