Friday, June 15, 2018

Belligerent Depression

Yesterday was a hard evening.  I made my hubby a delicious meal, planned something special to show him I loved him and gave him time to relax playing his favorite game.  I was especially pleased and happy.  In that moment of happiness my hubby said something I'm sure he thought was a joke but hit me like a ton of bricks.  Instantly I bottomed out.  My joy fled, my happiness dissipated and I spent the rest of the evening silently seething.  I felt the depression circling my heart.  By the time my hubby came to bed I knew he had no idea he had hurt my feelings so I told him.  My hubby is famous for being Capt. Oblivious (yes I capitalize it, he has "super powers".  Capt. Oblivious is his hero name)  He is also sensitive and loving.  He doesn't like to have a break in our relationship.  It makes him extremely anxious.  But I couldn't let it go and I knew I wasn't just skirting depression, I was actively choosing belligerent depression.

Over the years I have learned what is and is not acceptable during an argument with my spouse.  I learned this at the expense of my amazing husband I am ashamed to say.  There are many reasons why my husband and I don't spat very often and one of the big ones is that I'm usually in the wrong.  Even if I'm right...

This isn't a commentary on who wins arguments, because if that were my goal I'd "win" every time.  My husband would acquiesce and apologize.  I could rule him like the queen of hearts.  My reign would be cruel and terrible.

In our first year of marriage God made sure to teach me some powerful lessons in submission.  My husband has a quiet, patient spirit that God designed to be the perfect mate to my impulsive, blunt spirit.  It took me a while to figure out how my big personality was supposed to submit to my husbands humble spirit.  It's a good thing God got started on those lessons early.  I needed lots of time to learn.  While learning that lesson I discovered something about myself.  Sometimes I get mad or depressed.  Randomly, without warning.  My husband, being a convenient, safe and non combative target, most often becomes the focus of my ire.  Sure, I get upset under the pretext of something he has done "wrong".  Some word or thoughtless action that hurt my feelings.  Years of marriage have taught me that my anger and depression have almost nothing to do with my husband's actions.  He hasn't changed.  The thing I laughed at last week suddenly becomes the thing that sends me over the edge today.

In the midst of hormones and whatever else is going on in my brain and body it's been difficult to stop myself from taking it out on my husband.  For the first few years I would remind myself that being mad at my husband (especially for as long as I felt like being mad) was like kicking Bambi.  Staying in an angry or depressed state for as long as I "wanted" to just made it more and more difficult to figure out how to extricate myself.  That's when I started the ridiculous habit of  the "Stupid Fire hydrant".  I had been punishing my husband with my anger for a time and I knew it was wrong.  I couldn't think of how to dismiss my anger until a red fire hydrant caught my eye.  God whispered quietly to me that my anger at my spouse was just as pointless as being angry at a fire hydrant.  I don't know what God did  but it felt like he supernaturally increased the amount of fire hydrants on that trip home and I just started saying "stupid fire hydrant".  After the first two times my hubby and I both began to laugh.  That allowed me to dissipate my anger and talk to my husband again without an agenda.  As my hubby and I approach our second decade of marriage I have learned how to apologize for getting upset and depressed.  I'm not apologizing for being on the "wrong" side of the argument or for biological predispositions.  I'm apologizing for reacting wrong.  My confession and apology to my husband aren't about making him feel like a lord over me (if he even noticed things like that)  but about me and the attitude of my heart.

Even after years of practice at asking myself if I am getting upset or depressed because of something my husband has said or because there is something going on in my mind or body, I still mess up sometimes and react wrongly or choose to cast blame at my spouses feet.  It's gotten easier to apologize over the years but every once in a while my pride stands in the way and the upset lasts way longer than it should.


There are consequences to stubborn pride and belligerent anger.  I know enough about my cycle of depression to be aware of the warning signs and for me it usually begins with pride and belligerence followed by isolation. God knows my family history, I am fearfully and wonderfully made after all.  If He hadn't taught me how to notice my reactions, submit, apologize and re-center I would continue down the depression spiral.  So I gave up my belligerent anger and appologized.  After years of practice it's no longer easier said than done, it's just done.  I appologize and let it go.  You can too.

What are your triggers?  What sets you down a negative spiral?  Do you have a hard time letting go of being angry?

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Balancing Act

I was watching a Korean escape room live action show this week.  That sounds weird doesn't it.  I do believe I warned you that I was an Odd Duck.  One of the challenges had the teams trying to solve a puzzle that involved weights that they had to pass from one side of a platform to the other while the whole team stood on it and had to keep the platform balanced.  Each over correction or miscommunication in the team sent the platform tilting into the penalty zone.  It got me thinking about balance.  In this season of rest that God asked me to enter into, I have been struggling.  One of the reasons I don't like resting is that I feel predisposed to laziness.  In my youth I poured out prayers to God asking Him to give me discipline.  I've always known that I had a problem.  It's one of the things I liked least about myself growing up.  Those people that know me now laugh at this idea.  I'm always busy.  I've got a schedule that has to be carefully maintained.  But that's the thing, I schedule.  I to do list.  I took my desire for discipline and I built a framework that would allow me to maintain it.  This season of rest has shone a spot light on the fact that without my careful constructs, I still don't have any discipline.


I knew that God had some things to teach me during this time of rest and it was clear from the start that when He asked me to clear my schedule, He meant it.  Just like God didn't move in Abram's life until after he had done ALL of what God asked of him (see Gen 12:1).  God told him to leave country and family behind but he couldn't do it.  He traveled with his nephew for a time but didn't get further direction from God until he parted ways with his family like God had asked him too.  So I set aside my scheduler and my to do lists.  They have been sitting blank and forlorn for weeks.  I blocked out huge swaths before our Hawaii trip to remind me that I didn't have tasks to do, I had rest.  

There is definitely a lesson in reminding yourself that obeying all of what God has asked of you is important.  Lifting one finger on the clenched fist you have around the thing He's asked you to let go of is not obedience.  It's a step in the right direction but it is not the end of the journey.  

So here I sit, feeling adrift.  What exactly is God asking me to do.  I've got things I could be doing but without my schedule and my to do list....I've done pretty much nothing.  I wasn't even spending quiet time with God for a while, which was not okay.  What exactly did God mean for me to be doing while resting.  It can't seriously be nothing, because that's awful, and yet that's what I was doing.  That's why this moment on the TV program hit me.  Life in general seems to be a balancing act.  We're trying to maintain moderation and sanity.  I didn't realize how often I tilted on a huge fulcrum.  All busy or all lazy.  Frantically over balancing myself trying to correct, leaning too far one way or the other.  So afraid of leaning to the lazy that I never even attempted to correct my seriously tilted life.  


Most people would tell you that the secret to physical balance is all about staying centered and micro corrections.  But stress responses usually throw that knowledge right out the window.  Just like physical challenges that affect balance, we have mental traumas that can have the same effect. It can start to feel like the deck is stacked against us when it comes to balance.  It's easy to forget the easiest trick to maintaining proper balance...
a point of focus.

You see, over correcting my flaws is what happens when I take control of trying to fix them.  

So, I'm learning in the quiet to do one thing.  Focus on my Savior.

How about you?  Have you over over corrected your balance?  Do you need to take some time to refocus and regain your balance?  You're not alone.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Dealing with Consequences

A few weeks back I talked about waiting for the other shoe to drop and this week I found myself on that spectrum of thought again.  When I was younger, I had a pastor that I considered my first "real" pastor.  He was during my teenage years so mostly it's because I remember him.  The only part of his sermons over the years that has remained with me was a story he would tell on occasion.  Pastor Randy was allergic to chocolate.  Pastor Randy loved chocolate.  Every once in a while, especially around Easter, when all the little bit sized chocolates where in abundance, he would sneak a little chocolate egg.  He told himself it wasn't a lot and probably wouldn't be a big deal.  Sure enough, by the end of the day he would have a big old scaly rash around his mouth.  It was an allergic reaction that made it clear to everyone that he had done something he shouldn't.

I was thinking about that this week as I was suffering day two of a migraine.  I knew exactly why I had a migraine.  My wonderful mother made a salmon in  puffed pastry for Sunday lunch.  My husband painstakingly took his salmon out of the puffed pastry pocket, but not me.  I thought, it's not a lot.  I'm sure it will be fine.  It is not fine.  I'm learning the depth of  nuh-uh my body has in reaction to grains and gluten.  I should have been even more strict with what I'm consuming this week because of travel, which is especially hard on my body, but my temporary pleasure has led to days worth of pain.  It has me thinking, what do I do with totally legit consequences?

We know that suffering for Christ's sake has a whole lot of encouragement that goes along with it, but what does God's Word have to say about dealing with consequences we brought on ourselves?

Galatians 6:7-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
    and test the mind,[a]
to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Hebrews 12:11 English Standard Version (ESV)
11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

but we also have precedence for coming back to God and admitting our fault and asking for His help.  We're all familiar with the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15).  When he came to his senses he determined to apologize in hopes of at least being a servant in his father's household.  Sampson has a similar story of getting himself in big trouble by disobeying and being remembered by God again (Judges 16).


No matter what mess we've gotten ourselves into, we don't have to wallow with the pigs.  God may not take away the consequences any sooner (or at all) but there's a big heart difference between being right with God and not being right.

So I went to God and thanked Him for the consequences.  I thanked Him for the reminder that He's brought me some miraculous changes over the last year, one of them being the suffering of less migraines and headaches (praise the Lord).  Then I asked Him to heal it quickly if it was His will and to help me through it either way.  I haven't been healed but I sure got a lot done today despite the pain and I walked it with joy.  I haven't gotten as much done on some of the days I was feeling fine!

Are you dealing with the consequences of your own willful/sinful/wrong-for-you actions?  Do you use those consequences to flagellate yourself?  Do you bemoan the consequences as unfair?  Do you stoically trudge on?  Or do you return, hat in hand, to your loving Father to confess, hoping that you can start building trust again slowly and instead are surprised by the depth of compassion you find there?  I have to admit that I've been the stoically trudge kind of girl.  I have been missing out on the treasures buried just beneath the surface of dealing properly with my wrong doing.  How about you?

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Warning Signs

So, one of the things that could have been a huge check mark in the "Why is everything going wrong on this trip" column was a phenomena I was ignorant of.  Apparently, schools of jellyfish migrate in to shore once a month.  In response, the life guard stations all put out these warning signs reminding everyone that jellyfish stings are painful and you are swimming at your own risk.  I thought it was hilarious.  Mostly I was coming to the beach after yoga to do my Bible studies.  The potential presence of jellyfish in the water didn't really affect me one way or the other. 

Clearly, there were people who felt the warnings signs were alarmist or who didn't value the potential pain worth the sacrifice of time in the water.  In fact, I saw a great dane in a life vest out with his/her master.  She kept trying to get the dog further in the water but the dog was having none of it.  I can't help but feel the dog had the greater wisdom. 

I went out once to dip my toes and saw these huge swaths of dark patches in the water that seemed to disappear when I approached.  I thought they were patches of seaweed but a passing stranger must have thought I was afraid because she assured me that the patches of darkness were schools of sardines.  That explained the fisherman on shore.  I love getting to experience wildlife outside of my normal experience.  I've never eaten a sardine, much less swam with one.

The jellyfish sign wasn't the only warning sign I saw either.  Near the beach I usually visited was a War Memorium that was interesting to look at until you got to the closed gate.  Clearly, this had been a something and now was not.  I had no idea what it had been built for or what purpose it served.    It looked kind of like a stadium but the "stage" area was all water.  I wondered if they did animal shows or if it had fallen apart so much that the stage was gone.  Behind ornate gates were many warning signs of various sizes.  Like most signs, it was clear they had been ignored by someone who felt the best thing to do with a warning was to write their mark on it.  Honestly, it was beautiful.  The mystery, the abandoned beauty, all of it.  I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.



It did get me thinking about warning signs though.  Why they are put up?  What imminent danger do they really signify?  


As I approached the structure it was clear that parts of it had been renovated.  It was also clear that the inside was crumbling and dangerous.  The many warning signs, not surprisingly, warned as much.  It got me thinking about the difference in the two places I had encountered that day where warnings had been set up.  One was an "at your own risk" the other made it clear it was dangerous and criminal to violate the warning.  

I think God does this for us.  There are definitely things in our life that are "permissible" but not always recommended.  You may be able to do them without getting yourself into trouble but you are definitely skirting the edge of something you don't really need to be doing.  Other things are closed doors with big warning signs.  Sure, you could climb over the fences, past the locks and signs, and feel the thrill of defying the warnings because you'll probably be fine.  

Probably...



There is beauty in knowing where to stop.  In seeing the warning for what it is.  A blessing given to us by a gracious God.  There's a difference between stepping out of your comfort zone and giving up your need for control in favor of a God who is actually in control and defying warning signs.  It can feel oddly similar.  That thrill of fear when letting go and the thrill of fear when defying authority.  So how do you tell the difference? 

The warning signs



Just like in life, our spiritual warning signs are designed to give us pause.  To slow our progress forward and make us take stock of the situation.  For me it feels like a gentle push.  I'm a rule follower, so seeing that danger in red lettering feels like a magnetic repulsion.  Giving up control feels like an infinitely patient God gently pulling my hands to remind me to let go.  What does it feel like to you?  Have you ever thought about the difference?  The difference in how it feels in your spirit?  Let's learn to recognize the subtle push of a warning sign verses the subtle pull of being asked to give up control.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Expectation vs Anticipation

Welcome to part two!  If you haven't read Anticipation vs Expectation, I highly recommend you start with that.



I long for adventure.  It's a big part of how God created me and I'm just now discovering that in my life.  That it's okay to long for the things God made me to long for.  Ultimately, that longing for adventure is a longing for God who wants to take me on an adventure.  I was thinking of that while on vacation with my hubby and the fact that it's the company, not the setting, that makes the trip.  Going away from the "normal" of our every day lives somehow gives us eyes to see the beautiful, the amazing and the exciting, but it's usually the companionship that makes the whole experience valuable.  If you read last weeks blog you will know I had a list of expectations that I was trying to set aside for, the much preferred, anticipation.  Boy, oh boy, did God test me on that list.

If you haven't guessed already, I got to go to Hawaii for the first time in my life. As much as I talked about expectations last week I found some had settled into my mind without my notice which really polarized my experience.  More than that, God exposed those expectations to me before hand but I failed to anticipate He would challenge them.



Hawaii is a study in contrasts. Million-dollar skyscrapers next door to moldering buildings. Islands renowned for their beauty slowly being overrun by those coming to see it.  Awe and sorrow mixed up together.  I expected to see lush tropical landscapes from quaint bungalows beside the sea....yeah, nope.  I also half expected to get a lei when I got off the plane.  That didn't happen either.  Waikiki is packed full of skyscrapers competing for a view of the ocean.  I get it, its' a tourist destination, what did I expect?  I was very pleased with the hotel we chose, they gave me wine when we walked in the door and they were separate from the hustle of "the strip" which suited us just fine.

The first thing we did in Hawaii was to go to church.  God totally orchestrated this and I can't tell you how grateful I am to God for that.  We arrived too late or too early due to some old information but it wasn't "too" anything because we talked to people and ate with them and just generally felt loved and welcomed to a degree I haven't felt in a very long time at church.  I got to sing in worship with a congregation for the first time in years and I straight up wept for joy.  God started our time in Hawaii by reminding us how seldom we appreciate what is going well.  We take "well" for granted.  You walked up those stairs without tripping, isn't that amazing!  You have food in the house, isn't that spectacular?!  We notice when something is absent, not when it's present.  It was a theme that God gave me practical experience in that week. The church itself was also a school and they had been there for about 100 years.  In the middle of their playground was a huge mango tree that might have been as old.

There was a guest speaker who spoke on American Exceptionalism, an amazing speaker and historian, and I totally recommend you give it a listen, which was kind of a fire hose of information, but totally worth it. 

They gave us lei's!  We also had people talk to us for hours after the service and we didn't want to leave!  They also presented their intention as a church to pray for Muslims for 30 days, especially during Ramadan, and had booklets to help guild you through it.  I'm totally committing to this, more on that later, because we have friends who celebrate Ramadan and I love them and want them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.  All in all it was amazing and I can't express how much we loved this place.

I don't even remember what else we did that day because we knew nothing would top church.  Oh yeah, we did an escape room...it did not exceed the fun of church.  



I had three days on my own and I expected that I was going to sit on the beach, fully sun-blocked, and catch up on my Bible Studies and have a totally deep time with the Lord as I soaked in the beauty of His creation.  That kind of happened.  Mostly I got sand in my Bible Studies while I watched the ocean and the few people brave enough to join me on the partly cloudy, windy, cool beach.  I thought the weather was perfect.    We were watching the news carefully about the earthquake and increased activity in the volcano and the new vents.  We had made arrangements to visit the Big Island of Hawaii during our trip and wondered about safety while we prayed for the safety of the families directly affected.  Some of what God showed me during this time needs to be fleshed out in blog posts later on, so you all get to enjoy Hawaii with me for a while longer.


I have to admit that up to this point Hawaii felt very...normal.  The city feel of Waikiki could have been anywhere.  The sharp contrast in the poverty level between streets could have been any inner city.  Other than a beach, which I could walk too, I wasn't seeing the lush tropical forest I expected.  Even though I thought I had set my expectations aside, I had kept some unawares.  I'm from a very dry state.  Water is a novelty to me.  Green is a miraculous color.  While the ocean was lovely, and the green beautiful, it didn't feel amazing.  I expected...I anticipated, amazing.


Had I trained myself to see amazing in my every day to the point where I was unable to recognize the miraculously lovely?  Had I desensitized myself to adventure by seeking it in every circumstance?



Nope.

I was failing to see that the very list of expectations I had exposed last week were being challenged.  Looking back over that list I can see that God made sure every one of those expectations were broken in one way or another so I had a chance to see what I would do.  I had been practicing seeing disappointment and hardship as an exciting adventure at home but it's a totally different animal when you are not at home.  Why is that?  Why do we expect things to be different when we're away?  We are the same and we go wherever we are.  How often are our disappointments based on the belief that things should be different?

There were plenty of disappointments on the trip.  I expected to see a volcano.  I expected to be awed by unfamiliar beauty.  I expected to stay healthy.  As in most things in life, all of those expectations are a little more complicated than the few words I boiled them down too.  I was disappointed, not in the trip, but in myself for struggling to have a good attitude.  I was living as if I expected vacation meant it would be effortless.  That it would come without struggle.  That I would rest from all the "good work" I had done in enlightening myself with God's wisdom.  Yeah, God disillusioned me of that pretty quickly on vacation.  You don't own the lessons God has taught you until the test.  How insufferable would I have been if I had walked serenely through my amazingly perfect vacation, I shudder to think.


The day before we left, as I was walking to the third location on the airport complex looking for my glasses case that had my boarding pass for the airplane of what could not even be charitably called a "comedy" of errors, God reminded me to thank Him.  To thank Him for the errors, the mistakes, the fumbles and the hardships.  He reminded me to thank Him for all the things that were going right in that moment of frustration.  Praise the Lord, He took a "failure" of a day and helped me put on joy.  He redeemed my day not with what I expected  but with what He anticipated.  I almost missed out on wonder.  I almost lost the adventure.  I forgot for a moment that adventure almost always comes from the unexpected.

 

Because sometimes adventure is no toilet paper, swollen ankles, sunburns, lost important items, travel hiccups, lost cars, lost CC scares and wasted money but it's also my hubby tracking down ice, seeing lava, exploring sights we wouldn't have seen, finding the CC at a restaurant after a whole day, someone at church on mother's day asking me if it was okay to wish me a happy mothers day even though he didn't know me or my situation and delighting in what's going well even when not everything is.



Because no matter where you are, God is there with you and He delights in us delighting in Him!



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