Monday, July 25, 2016

I've got a minion problems and worry ain't one

I listened to a lot of Patch the Pirate when I was young.  Don't worry if you don't know who that is.  The important thing is that I learned some valuable life lessons from these programs during my formative years.  One such lesson was that I was a worrier and I needed to stop.  I come by it honestly to be sure and the struggles my parents are having with worry have made me take a look at myself and realize to my astonishment that the Lord has been working on me in that area.  I'm not worry free, but I have gained some skills, thanks to the Lord, in how to deal with it in a healthy way.  You see, I looked at my dad a couple of weeks ago and told him he really needed to stop worrying and he looked straight back at me and said "It's not like a light switch I can turn off".  Nobody wants to worry.  It's an awful feeling and has been proven to adversely affect our health.  I remember feeling that exact same way though.  If I could have found the switch I would have turned it off too.  So what happened that helped me find the switch?  We'll get to that, but should listen to the song that inspired me when I was young...and still does.

I worry *snort, snort* worry *snort, snort* all my time away.... ah, memories.  Now on to business.

Because worry is a common problem, it is important to address it as a minion for many reasons.  Worry can rob us of the stamina necessary for ministry work because it's exhausting and there is too much to be done to waste it worrying.  It's crippling and imprisoning.  It steals our creativity and our joy.  But how do you stop doing it?

My Bible Study group knew we wanted to study HOW to take our thoughts captive.  We know the Bible says to do it but HOW?  So we started to look for material that would help us practice and learn how to ...

2 Corinthians 10:5New International Version (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

What we found was this: 

 by Jennifer Rothschild

I can't tell you how often me and my ladies have brought up what we learned from this study or how profoundly it affected us.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't an advertisement .  We found woefully few studies focused on the how to's of "don't worry", and "take every thought captive".  This study was about our destructive inner monologues.
It's true that my inner monologue was and is full of negative self talk.  How about yours?  Go ahead and think about it, I'll wait......that's what I thought.  Don't worry, you're not alone.  
As I was listening to the book of Matthew today Jesus said 
“Do you not yet realize that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then is eliminated? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. 
Matthew 15:17-18

There is a list of things in the following verses given as examples of what defiles a person including evil thoughts, slander and false testimony.  I used to think that was all spewing from the heart into the world but I failed to realize that our hearts and minds are in concert in this area.  What we believe about ourselves informs how we interact with the world.  Proverbs 12 tells us that, “As a man thinks, so is he.”

Rothschild reminded us that chopping off the root of the lies that we tell ourselves is vital to a practical working out of 2 Cor 10:5.  It doesn't take the enemy a lot of effort to use the lies we are already used to telling ourselves.  They are comfortable and familiar.  It takes effort and attention to listen to what's going on in our headspace, figure out the root of the lie and replace it with truth.  
When I was younger, I tried quoting verses or thinking about something Philippians 4:8 approved.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

It felt like a stop gap and never really worked.  Perhaps it was the vanity of youth or perhaps it just wasn't enough.  For me, what has worked is knowing and identifying the falsehood, the lie that is driving not only the negative behavior but the negative thoughts in my head.  If I fill my head with scripture on top of my wrong assumption I am more likely to try and fit what God has said into the context of what I already believe.  If I deal with the lie first, then replace it with God's truth, I have a clean space.  It's a release.  Letting go of the lie isn't always easy.  We've told some of them to ourselves for most of our lives.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the healthy and the destructive.  It is a deeply personal journey and is bound to have some false starts.  

Like I said, it takes work and perseverance. Recognize the lie, refuse it and then replace it with the truth.  Sure it sounds simple but it's anything but.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that it's worth the effort.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Attack and Parry

Since I shared with you all about what the Lord did at Crossfire last week and what I learned from it, it is only right that I share the hard bits too.  This week was not a success at Crossfire for me.  I have worked hard to maintain boundaries because I volunteer for more than one organization.  Up until this point, the boundaries have been fine.  Standing stones respected by all the tribal leaders.  It was good *thumps chest*.  This week the stones cracked and fell partly over.  In my haste to assure the tribal leaders that the standing stones still stood for something even if they had fallen, more stones fell.  It was a stone massacre.

The rest of my day was doomed to be an utter failure.  Nothing was going right!  The list of tasks got longer as I failed to accomplish anything.  I was ready to scream, tear my hair out and cry hysterically.  I'm a dramatic person, could you tell?

So..... Here's what I learned:

  1. Trying to explain to someone you don't know how to fix something, when you have demonstrated greater skill than them in a tangential area, is unlikely to cause positive results.  They can't believe you because they can't do it and they know you have done things on that computer so you should be able to figure it out or at least know better then them what to do.  
  2. I tend to do two very bad things.  When I'm busy and focused, I'm not nice.  I resent every interruption and friendly hello.  I also paint "the whole day" as a failure.  The truth is the whole day wasn't a failure.  More on that later.
  3. Failure is a normal part of life and there are plenty of pithy quotes on the subject like "it's not how you fail it's how you proceed".  While those kinds of thoughts are true in my opinion, here's why.  What you focus on will shape and color your thoughts.  If you focus on your failure; your whole day, year, life, will feel like a failure.  If you focus on what God wants to teach you through a difficult circumstance, what you can do something about in the moment, plugging back into your support group or any number of positive and/or real things....well, suddenly (or gradually depending on how deep and long you've plunged into the depths) the false impression trying to define you can be let go.  It's still a choice, and the feelings might linger, but you can end the narrative of your day differently.
  4. I didn't want to have Bible Study after the day I had, but everyone of us has at one time or other had a bad day, thought it would be better if we just laid down and hid, and instead chosen to come and been blessed for it.  Not only was I able to share my burden, which helped me release it, but the act of then turning to the Word of God and being reminded of who He is, took the focus off of me and back where it belonged.  It allowed me to ask Him what He wanted me to learn.  I believe part of what God wanted me to learn is that my worth is not bound to my accomplishments.  One of my longest battles has been with pride.  I like doing well and while that in itself isn't a problem, it can be.  It's an internal focus issue.  Yesterday was a reminder that pride does come before a fall.  Not only did I have a false sense of self, so did others. While I can't alter someone else's expectations of my ability, I can proceed in humility.  What a great reminder that I can't do it all and that's okay.  I wasn't designed to do it all.  
  5. After many years battling depression, in part for the above two reasons, I have learned to recognize the signs and I know what to do to counteract them.  It's hard.  Very hard.  But today I can start again, prioritize and proceed.  After all, a minion doesn't quit.  They just have an adventure trying to accomplish the task!  
I love stories, but several things in my life have reminded me that the heroes, sidekicks, antiheroes and minions all proceed through the story filled with hurtles, hardships, setbacks and failures.  No one skips from start of quest to triumphant ending.  That would be a terrible story.  So today I'm choosing to think of life as an adventure!  Bring on the Fire Swamp!

Thinking you've learned a good lesson and facing the day thinking you'll be able to keep a good perspective on problems doesn't mean you won't have hard things happen.  Almost cried three times today but I kept it together.  Life is hard sometimes and it takes fortitude.  Especially when there is nothing you can do but wallow or release.  Being reminded of lost dreams while you're being introduced to new lost hopes was not a great follow up to yesterday, but that's what today has brought.  So once again, I have a choice.  I can wallow and sink or I can let it go and tread water.  I know which one I feel like doing, but I also know which one I'm going to chose.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When things don't work out

I had to have a discussion yesterday with a volunteer I'm responsible for at one of the ministries I serve.  It could have been a very uncomfortable discussion.  It could have been awkward and hurtful.
This is what the Lord did.

He reminded me to listen.  I only asked a few questions and gave the person time to think about how they really felt.  The main question was this.  "Do you feel like this is where the Lord wants you?"
A while ago I was volunteering at a church that I was not supposed to be at.  I poured myself out and it was never enough.  I suppressed the feelings of exhaustion and the very real sense that things were wrong and worked at understanding the pastor and believing he had the best intentions.  While the experience was horrific, God well and truly worked it for good.  I learned two things.

  1. No matter how good or worthy a charity, mission or ministry is, You may not be called to be there and that's okay. People will often stay when God wants to release them.  The reasons for doing so are many.  You want to avoid conflict.  You think service always means sacrifice.  You want to fill the need.  Whatever your reasons, it is good and right to check in with God and make sure that's where he wants you.  I would never encourage a minion to cut and run at the first feelings of discomfort.  That's not what I'm saying.  Sometimes sacrifice is what is called for and your feelings are being stirred by the flesh or the enemy to encourage you to leave where God has put you.  But sometimes, God is trying to get your attention.  I don't claim to have a five step program to help you figure that out but I can certainly tell you how it worked for me.  
    1. I have come to believe that while service is hard work it isn't soul sucking.  It's life giving.  Doing what the Lord wants you to do leaves you filled, not empty.  Exhaustion is not the same thing as empty.  Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  That's why prayer and seeking are required.
    2. If you feel like something is wrong, figure it out.  In my case, I fought myself for a long time because I thought it was something wrong within me.  I laid myself before God and asked him to refine me in the fire of the trial that this service was, which He did.  I learned to see good in someone I didn't like.  To see things from another's perspective.  To think and pray before I approached a person with whom I had a conflict.  These were all good things.  But in the end, that sense of wrongness remained.  It was one of the ways God was trying to knock some sense into me because I wasn't listening to the subtle signs telling me to leave.  
    3. Set your emotions aside.  Emotions are tricky.  God is always trying to teach you something.  Always. Keep your focus on Him.  If you make a decision solely on how you feel it will always be an incomplete picture.  It can also cause you to execute the right decision in the wrong way.  
    4. Sometimes service is about picking up your cross and soldiering on.  Sometimes service is about picking up your cross and heading in a new direction.  
    5. Filling an area of need is a good and worthy thing, but sometimes you are filling a spot that God intended someone else to fill.  How can God call them to an area of service that you are occupying.  
  2. Recognizing when God has closed a door can sometimes be difficult.  It's not just opportunities or paths that God closes.  Sometimes he closes our skills and talents.  Tasks you had no difficulty accomplishing previously may suddenly end it failures.  If your creativity has suddenly dried up, your organization skills are suddenly gone and your mind is in chaos or your teachers spirit is suddenly impatient and unable to communicate ideas...there may be something going on.  It might be exhaustion.  Perhaps you just need to rest and be replenished.  Whether the problem is the enemy or not; Go before the Lord.  Examine and see.  Perhaps He's holding back the gifts He's given you until you are in the place He wants you to use them.
Just remember; 
Whether its you that is leaving or whether it's your ministry that is being left, it doesn't have to be a commentary on the person or the ministries character or worth.  It is good to follow the Lord.  Keep your focus on that.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Rita Repulsa Head Piece

 I got a lot of work done on the headpiece today.  I knew I needed a base to attach the various pieces to so I grabbed on of my pill box hats that I don't like and took off the embellishment.  I attached some foam.  
I then used some of my craft wire to build a structure for the pig tails.  I decided to cover it in cheese cloth and then used modge podge to give it a mache type of effect to add strength and give me a base to add the hair later on.  I then used a thinner craft wire to sew the pony tale/horn hair structures to the crown netting.  
The next step is to add the hair and fabric.  I'm happy with the base structure.  I'm also happy that it basically took a day so if I find it's not strong enough or malleable enough, I have time to start again.  I'm also pleased that I have spent $0 on this part of the project.  That ain't shabby.

I also spent some time today working on her ribbon bustle.  I'm not terribly happy with it yet but it is certainly at the good enough stage in case I run out of time.