Lord, Teach Us

How interesting (to me)! During staff meeting at work today, I talked about this almost verbatim. I had totally forgotten I had typed this up back in July until I was going through some things this evening that I had previously written in FocusWriter (the place where I like to type out my thoughts and potential blog posts) and here was this. What makes it even more interesting is that this was the last thing I had written there, so I had not even been in that app for almost 3 months. Which tells you how long it’s been since I’ve written anything besides a Facebook post. I really need to do something about that.

But it’s still crazy interesting!

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July 28, 2017

Prayer

I am feeling the draw to begin praying more earnestly for others. I spent so many years barely getting prayers out for myself and living in such a deep depression that I couldn’t see my way out. My prayers were sent up for self-preservation purposes only. I didn’t want it to be that way, but it was. For years before those dark days, I had considered myself having deep roots. I found out they were much more shallow than I had ever realized. I cried out to God over and over to deliver us from our difficulties. I did not use flowery words and there was no lilt to my voice. I didn’t stand prideful on a street corner, but curled up in my recliner wishing the anxiety would just give me a break.

Those were the days, my friend. I thought they’d never end.

God has brought me out a ways now from those days. I still struggle with anxiety at times, but it is no longer 24-7. I can feel the unsettling in my soul at times, but it is not paralyzing as it once was.

I am laughing again. For real.

So when I say I am feeling drawn to begin praying for others, it is with a grateful, humble heart because for a few years, I honestly believed I would never be out from under the heavy weight of fear and selfish prayers.

So as I am beginning this new endeavor (and it is not lost on me that I am 57 years old and how sad is it that even though I have been thinking about this for a while I am just getting started in earnest, hopefully, to do it), the heavily-logical side of my brain, per usual, wants a plan. None of this going with the flow business. That never works for me. It leaves me lost in an ocean filled with many words and nothing connecting them to make sense. I get overwhelmed and therefore do nothing.

So I am making a plan. Because I can’t function well without one.

As I’ve thought about prayers, and how to pray, I have gotten so confused over the years. As much as I love words, prayer words are always hard for me. “God, help” had been my go-to prayer for so long. I love that prayer. It says so much in just two simple words. As a woman of few words, it speaks volumes to me.

I’ve also contemplated The Lord’s Prayer more than ever over the past few years. I have been blessed for the past year to work in a Methodist church office where The Lord’s Prayer is recited quite often. I have not ever been a part of a denomination that recited that prayer that often and I am enjoying it. The words “Give us this day our daily bread” have wonderful meaning for me.

I’ve also started reading a book of prayers by Charles H. Spurgeon. I love reading his prayers and his words, unlike mine, are many and beautiful. I am blessed by his thought-filled prayers and pray them along with him while I am reading them.

And just this week, I have started typing out prayers. Writing comes much more naturally to me than speaking. A few years ago I went to a monthly mom’s meeting where we began each night listening to worship music and writing in a journal. It was God’s perfect timing for me as I was going through the darkness of my depression during those days and my journaling was simply writing prayers, as quickly as they flowed through my fingers and pen, into my journal. It was a beautiful God-blessed time for me and I still have that journal and have read through it a few times over the years. I have been able to see from a distance now the depths that God brought me out of and it is such a glorious grace to have those prayers in my journal.

My most frequent prayers these days are to simply give thanks. In the good times and difficult times, there are always some things to be thankful for. Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was also a God-send to me in more recent years as I was in a place to humbly thank God for the years of drought. They taught me so much. To be able now to thank God, not only for bringing me out from those days, but also for walking with me through them, is a blessing I cannot describe.

Our pastor is teaching us the beauty of liturgical prayers.

And the lightbulb that has gone off in my head this week as I’ve prayed for so many needs in the lives of so many friends is simply, “Conform them into the likeness of Your Son and may Your name be glorified.” I can think of no others words that need to be said.

From “God, help” to “Conform them into the likeness of Your Son and may Your name be glorified” makes me realize how far I have come. Neither prayer is wrong. Both are needful in different times.

God, use me in Your service as I pray for others. And thank You for bringing me to a place where I can see beyond myself.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

See, I am doing a new thing … Do you not perceive it?

 

I am finding it harder and harder to come to this blog and write at a time when I thought it would be easier.

Although life is not a blissful bed of roses, it doesn’t feel as anxiety-ridden and paralyzing as it has in past days. Yes, my husband had a heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass surgery this past Spring. And yes, we have had car woes every month since this time last year. And yes, we have had some other big surprises this year that we didn’t even begin to see coming. But we are used to living like this. We’ve lived like this pretty much forever. The situations change, but the stresses don’t ever go away.

However, I am at a place in my life where I think maybe, possibly, fingers crossed, I am beginning to understand that God’s got this. All the writing I have done in the past regarding learning to be content, learning to trust and rest in Him, knowing that He is always always faithful, laughing without fear of the future almost feels done. Not done as in “I have finally arrived” because I most definitely have not, but done as in “maybe it’s time to move into a different phase.”

I have felt this coming for a while now but, honestly, I still don’t know what to do with it. Our last child graduated from our homeschool 2 years ago and will be moving out of our home to start her own life next week. Our boys have been out of the house for a while now. Doug and I will be empty-nesters for the first time in 29 years. I have a new granddaughter who fills my heart with an inexplicable joy, and I have truly enjoyed getting to know and growing to love her mother as well.

All the things I have written about for so long now are still true, but continuing to write about them is not in the forefront of my mind these days.

I have begun working more hours outside the home since the kids have all grown up now and it is fulfilling. Even though we are still under the weight of stressful things, I am feeling again. I am seeing beyond my own pain and am happy to report that my prayer life has progressed from “Lord, help me” to “Lord, also help them.” My most heartfelt prayer for any and all situations these days is “Conform me/us to the image of Christ and may Your name be glorified.” In my mind at this point in time, there is no greater prayer to be prayed for anyone or any need anywhere at any time. Circumstances don’t need to be changed as much as hearts do.

My problem is simply that I don’t know what to write anymore. The writing voice I have always used doesn’t seem to be the right one to use now. But I don’t know how to write without it. It’s the only one I’ve ever used.

So I will see where this leads. I hope it leads to something new and wonderful for myself and all who may have some desire to read what I eventually have to say.

But for now … “Dear Lord, conform me/my readers to the image of Christ and may Your name be glorified.”

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

Whatever Happened to Paula Brazzell of My Hands To Serve?

 

Well, hello there! It appears I have been absent for about 6 months now, but here I am again giving it another go. We’ve had a bit of excitement in 2017.

Today’s post will simply be a quick run-through to get you caught up. But I’ll work hard to make it an interesting one.

To try and vindicate myself for going quiet for a few months, I will let you know that around the time of my last post in January, one of my 2 part-time jobs picked up and my workload increased. And then, in March, the bottom kind of fell out around here. But things are settling back down and it is good to be sitting at my laptop this morning. I have FocusWriter open with a clean white virtual sheet to type on and the world is my oyster. I’m not 100% sure what that means. But I also have coffee and yogurt, my home office window directly in front of me for viewing God’s magnificent creation, and I’m so ready to write.

Pushing back to March to begin.

For a long time, my husband had been having the signs, but we had largely been ignoring them because they would always dissipate when he would come in the house, sit down and rest. However, around 4 a.m. on Sunday, March 26, they could no longer be ignored. He woke me up and said he needed to go to the emergency room. His chest was hurting bad.

The bare bones version, leaving out detailed information I originally typed in dozens of Facebook posts and many family/friends text conversations, is that we spent 2 weeks mostly in an out-of-town hospital due to my husband being prepped for stents but then, plot twist, the doc deciding he needed triple-bypass surgery instead, and then a 24-hour bout with a-fib, and then a good week of intensive hands-on recuperation at home. Then I went back to my jobs and played catch-up for several weeks while also nursing my husband as he did his best to cooperate with all the many doctors’ and home health instructions. I am happy to say, after several weeks, life has fallen back into a groove and my husband is back to work also and doing very well.

If you have read my previous blog posts and are aware that I tend to struggle with anxiety during high-stress moments, or even low-stress moments, or even no-stress moments at times, I am happy to report that, aside from some anxious days at the beginning, and a few during his recuperation, I have mostly been strong and able to rest as I know many have been praying for us. God’s good and gracious hands have held us up throughout the whole process.

I will bare a little part of my soul here and say that much of my anxiety in any situation usually comes as a result of financial fears. And I will tell you, there are financial fears when you’re looking at a high insurance deductible, missed work with no paid time off, test after test after test in 2 different hospitals, 2 meals every day purchased in the hospital cafeteria, open-heart surgery, and a 2-week hospital stay. But God was, and always is, faithful and provided for us in some unexpected, but very humbly appreciated, ways. And I am confident He will continue to do so as we continue to pay out our bill over the next hundred years or so.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it came right smack-dab in the middle of another bit of stress regarding our modes of transportation. We have 3 vehicles – his, mine, and an old farm truck. At the point in time of the hospital situation, the farm truck was our only trustworthy vehicle. Let me rephrase that for impact. A 1993 farm truck was our only reliable ride to get us from Point A to Point B during the time we were driving back and forth to a hospital 2 hours away, first for surgery, then for follow-up visits. It rained off and on during those days so we had to pray that the windshield wipers would come on and do their job, and God in His mercy, provided, although we had a few good laughs about how they worked. They seemed to have a mind of their own. But I could see to drive when I needed to, so we just thanked the Lord and kept moving forward.

But it was not a new situation. We had had vehicle distresses for a few months, yes months, before the turn of events in March. With both of us needing to be at our different jobs, it had been a hassle for sure. And don’t get me started on the expenses incurred over all those months because, you know, anxiety. But we were determined that the last thing we needed was another monthly car payment, so we were doing our best to resist that option.

To try and keep a very long story from getting too far out of hand, I am happy to report that Doug’s car is now working again, even after an unfortunate event I had with a pothole on the drive home from our mechanic friend’s house, where he had just repaired it for what we thought was the final time, that sent me into an emotional crying jag that eventually worked a good bit of pent-up stress out of my system. So that was good. After my husband had recuperated well enough, he crawled under the car, did a little bit of this and a little bit of that, visited with our mechanic friend and the local parts store, and now the only thing that appears to be wrong with it at this time is, get this, the windshield wipers. What is it with us and windshield wipers?

And then there’s my vehicle situation. My poor little car still sits at our mechanic friend’s house where we have no idea if it is worth trying to get running again or not. We have put a lot into it already, but mess upon mess keeps descending upon it. So decisions, decisions.

But God…

In true “God fashion,” we have been blessed with another vehicle that runs so smooth and nice and, get this, has no signs of dying a painful and expensive death anytime soon. And by blessed, I mean blessed. I will leave it at that. But just so you understand, we’ve been blessed.

To recap:

We presently have working vehicles to get us where we need to go without having to work out shared ride schedules or bug other family members for a lift. And the farm truck still works, too. And while I know we need rain, we just presently pray it holds off during my husband’s morning and afternoon commutes.

We are both back at our jobs, hubby is healthy, I am all caught up with my work backlog, and at a semi-comfortable place with my home to-do list, and I’m sitting here today in my quiet house writing a blog post because I can.

So with all that negativity out of the way, and all restored that the locusts tried mercilessly, and unsuccessfully, to destroy over the past few months (see Joel 2:25), I have some exciting news to share also.

I’m a new first-time grandma.

Whaaaaaaatt? (You have to high-pitch this in your head to hear it the way I’m typing it.)

Yes, as of May 25, 2017, I am a grandma. Our son is a father. It is blessing upon blessing upon blessing. Upon blessing.

Her name is Phoebe and she is beautiful. One of the 4 most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen. If I had seen her mama as a baby, she would be one of the 5 most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen. She looks just like her mama. And did I mention she’s beautiful?

I get to babysit her periodically. And hold her, and hug her, and kiss her, and talk to her, and pray for her, and feed her, and burp her, and change her little drawers, and it all puts me in a very happy place. What a blessing new babies are. They are my favorite. And presently, Phoebe is my very favorite of all.

I AM SO BLESSED!!!!

As I went searching for the word “blessing” in my Bible app just now, I came across this verse – “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Isaiah 44:3

!!!

Well, now, doesn’t that just sum up my whole post?? I am not normally one to pull single verses out of context and rest a personal agenda on them as that can get dangerous or, at the very least, misinterpret the message being delivered within the context. However, I can’t help but believe God, at times, allows us to read verses like this one and then just sits and hugs us with them for a while.

I think I’m being hugged right now.

I seldom know how I’m going to end a post when I first start it. Most of the time, I am not even sure of everything I’m going to say within the body of it. I just start off with an idea, bleed and sweat and cry for a few hours, and hopefully finish in an upright position. The good news is, at this point in my writing career (term used as a bit of humor here), I have nowhere to go but up.

But I think God ended this one for me on a beautiful note and with a hug like only He can deliver.

AND I AM SURELY BLESSED.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

We ALL Have Hands To Serve

The name of my blog is My Hands To Serve. My purpose for this blog is to encourage all of us, myself included, to look for opportunities to be of service to those who cross our paths, whether on a daily basis as with our families, as a specific ministry we devote regular time to, or periodically as we simply go about our lives and come across those who may need to see and hear about the hope we have through Jesus.

I have not been terribly consistent with that focus due to various reasons, namely that I just have not spent as much time blogging as I would like and also due to not really knowing the full extent of my own calling for service and being a little embarrassed about it seeing as I am too old to be this ignorant.

I have read 2 different books in the past week that highlight different avenues regarding service toward others.

The first book was Falling Free by Shannan Martin. I loved the author’s humorous and passionate writing style. Her admissions of faults and weaknesses were refreshing to someone like me who enjoys knowing I am not alone in the faults and weaknesses department. It was not so much a teaching tool, but more a book about how her family does life. However, I spent a good portion of my time reading it feeling terribly guilty that I am not doing more. I mean, they adopted children of various races, they lost high-paying jobs and moved from their dream farmhouse to a smaller home in the city, hubby became a jail chaplain, they have taken in various teens who needed a place to stay, they do life with those that would be considered outcasts, and a whole host of exhausting activities that would send me straight to a quiet corner that I would never want to leave.

The second book was Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World by Karen Ehman. This book was written in a more upbeat and straight-forward teaching style by a woman who is an admitted extrovert and social butterfly and whose spiritual gifts are encouragement and hospitality. It was a perfectly wonderful book and I can see where it would be a beautiful inspiration to someone who lives to light up a room with cookies, casseroles, gifts, and the presence of Jesus. I am not that person and have to admit that, with my personality, I was even more intimidated by this book than the first one. I am positive it was not either author’s intention to intimidate anyone and I take sole responsibility for my own reactions.

Two of my favorite writers are Kristen Welch and Ann Voskamp.

Kristen was just a regular mom and blogger who went on a mission trip with Compassion International a few years ago to blog her experience and came back to the states with her life forever wrecked by what she saw. She founded The Mercy House, a maternity home for young pregnant girls who have been rescued from poverty and hopelessness in Kenya, and she now also oversees other ministries as well, helping impoverished women around the world gain dignity and know their worth by starting small businesses to support their families. As if that’s not enough, she has also recently opened a physical store in south Texas selling many of those hand-made items from around the world to continue to help support and give hope to women who are learning daily about our wonderful God.

Ann went on that same mission trip with Compassion International and has worked since that time in various capacities with Kristen for The Mercy House as well as in her own life adopting a sweet daughter from China and sponsoring an immigrant family to begin a new life in Canada where she lives. She rocks my world every day with her poetic writing style and uncanny ability to speak right into my soul with her words. I am sure there are many more contributions that both of these women have made to God’s Kingdom than I even know to write about.

Talk about feeling small and insignificant out here in the backwoods of rural Oklahoma where I live my regular life and fall into bed exhausted at night because I work 2 part-time jobs.

My purpose for highlighting these 4 inspirational, yet very different women, is to try and convince myself that it is okay for my calling to service to look different than their callings. They are all doing wonderful things to further the Kingdom of God on this earth. But they are all doing very different things according to their own specific God-given talents and giftings.

Right this very second, I need to get up from this laptop and go make supper. I don’t want to. Cooking is not my spiritual gift. I would rather sit here and write, even though it has already taken me approximately 2 hours to get this far on this post. I am not a speedy writer nor a profound one. But I do enjoy it and, although it has taken me a while to get this far, I am excited that this post is beginning to take shape and to see what it has become since I really had very little idea what it would look like when I sat down and stared at a blank screen 2 hours ago. The thrill of a blog post that begins as a mere idea and morphs into over 1,000 words in a span of a couple of hours or so exhilarates me.

However, believe it or not, while I don’t enjoy cooking, in the past I have enjoyed working in our local soup kitchen during our church’s rotation every few months. Prep work, ladling soup, handing out sandwiches, filling cups with ice and tea and water, cutting cake. I can do all those things and enjoy them. But please don’t put me in charge of making sure the soup tastes good. I can’t handle the pressure. And neither will I be the one floating around the room engaging the folks in conversation unless I have time for a 3-day nap and solitude for the rest of the week. Rather, I will be the one behind the dessert table handing out cookies and making a mental note of facial expressions while I ask God to give me a heart for intercession.

In all the reading I have done this week, there was one chapter in one of the books that perked me up just a little bit. It was in the book written by the beautiful woman with the hospitality gifting and it was the chapter about The Sick at Heart. What a chapter to have perk you up. It says something about me and my melancholy temperament, for sure. But it helped me realize a little better that, with my own life experiences and my God-given temperament and my love for all things psychology, I do empathize well. Couple that with my enjoyment for writing, and I am now praying for God to open my eyes to see those who may need an encouraging word sent to them via, get this, snail mail. I may be putting myself out there prematurely and if so, I will have to backtrack at some point and admit that maybe I jumped ahead of God for the sake of a blog post. But time will tell. God knows how to back me up and start me over and I plan to be as pliable as I know how to be in allowing Him to do that.

What a lot of words I have written here without much of a point except to try and encourage everyone who reads this post to accept themselves for who God created them to be and to be willing vessels of service through which He can do His Kingdom work here on this earth and show Himself, through us, to all who need to know Him.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

2017 Goals – It’s All In The Scripture

It’s crazy how God reveals things as I type. For instance, I was working on my 750 words today, just toodling along typing words, and ended up with this…

I’ve been thinking about 2017 and whether to make a list of goals, or pick a word, or what. My preference, really, after thinking about all the options over and over and over, per usual, is to choose another “Scripture Goal” as I have in the past. The Scripture that is on my mind lately regarding a goal is “She laughs without fear of the future”. Proverbs 31:25 NLT.

The first Scripture Goal I ever chose, about 15 years ago, was “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11 ESV. Wow. That was definitely, no denying, God-ordained and it stayed my goal for lots and lots of years. Still is, but I have learned so very much over the years about contentment and am so thankful for it.

The second Scripture Goal was from the story of Mary and Martha where Mary chose the “one thing…necessary” – which is to “sit at the Lord’s feet and listen”. Luke 10:38-42 ESV. I am not sure I ever learned that one well, but it stays in the back of my mind and surfaces periodically as something I know I need to concentrate on more than I do. I don’t really know what to do with it at this point, but will continue to keep mindful of it as it comes to the forefront of my thoughts and I’ll see if God has more in mind for me through it. I’m pretty sure He does.

So “She laughs without fear of the future.” That’s an adventurous goal for me because fear tends to overtake me quickly when anxious thoughts about the future rears its ugly head, and true laughter is nowhere to be found during those times. But I long for the days when I can live and laugh without fear of the future. I want to be so saturated with God’s love and presence that fear will have nothing else to do but flee.

I lived for so many years without truly laughing at anything. Some of my Ardmore friends who have been with me since those days of yore might remember. It wasn’t pretty and life was very hard for me for several years. The only laughing during that difficult time was the surface kind that you do because it’s expected from you in the moment and it would be rude not to. I know you know what I mean. But true laughter, where the spirit feels happy and joyous and you just can’t help but laugh? Wasn’t there for a long, long time.

As I started coming out from under the heavy cloud of depression and started, slowly, slowly, laughing again, for real, remembering, ever so slowly, what being happy felt like, it occurred to me what a gift laughter was. A journal entry during those days included these sentences – “Thank You for laughter – the gift of laughter…Your love for me is revealed to me every time I am able to hear myself laugh again.”

What a blessing it was to hear true heart-felt laughter coming from the depths of my spirit again. The picture above is a necklace my daughter gave me as a gift a couple of years ago. She knows how special that verse is to me. God is so good!

But I’m here to tell you, laughing without fear of the future is a tall mountain to climb for someone who tends to look at life from the vantage point of Eeyore. When life throws curve balls, my default coping tools are to curl up in a corner and allow fear to walk right in through a wide-open door. The only way to manage that default mechanism is through, wow, I’ve had an epiphany right this very minute, wait for it, the “one thing…necessary” – which is to “sit at the Lord’s feet and listen”. I think maybe I just discovered I have a dual Scripture goal for 2017.

This is why I write.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

He Is Faithful

great-is-your-faithfulness

 

At a recent Bible Study, we were each given a black stone and encouraged to identify it with a fear. Then we walked up to the large pot filled with water, cast it into the pot to symbolically cast it out of our lives, and were handed a new shiny jewel-like stone with just one word written across it. A word prayed over so that each recipient might be given the one special jewel that the Lord wanted to use to speak His love directly into her heart.

I walked back to my chair and sat down before looking at my beautiful stone. The word written on it was Faithfulness. I put my head on the table in front of me and cried.

It’s 2016 but this exercise takes my mind back several years to a dark and difficult season.

2002 began with my husband discussing his decision with me to give up the ministry credentials he had held for over 20 years. The Lord had never led us to work on a full-time ministry staff, even though we had been working as part-time associates and sending out ministry resumes off and on for all those years. He was feeling that it was time to change course and knew for sure at that point that full-time ministry was not what we were supposed to be doing. At that time, we were a little ways out from a former part-time associate position and we had not found another local church to comfortably settle in. I could no longer call myself a minister’s wife, and church friendships, for a time, had become a thing of the past.

I had also begun homeschooling our children the previous year and so my school mom friendships had pretty much come to a halt as well. We didn’t know many homeschoolers in our area.

February rounded the corner with news that my husband had been laid off from the job he had had for over 20 years. The company had downsized and my husband was a casualty.

It was becoming apparent that my husband’s instincts, that it was time to change course, were correct.

All of our supports had been pulled out from under us in a very short amount of time. Friends, church, school, ministry, and finally job had all vanished.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

After trying unsuccessfully for months to find a job where we were living in Texas, a job was found in Oklahoma that summer near where my parents lived.  During that summer, we were living with my parents while trying to sell our house in Texas. On one of our trips back to mow and check on the house, our van caught fire on the side of the highway in Thackerville, Oklahoma. By the time the local volunteer fire department got there, it was fully engulfed and we had lost luggage, clothing, glasses, shoes, and some bedding. It was our one vehicle and it was covered with only liability insurance.

And then 3 months later at the end of the summer, that new job was also lost. Over time, we have come to believe that job’s purpose was to simply get us to Oklahoma and it was the vehicle God used to get us here.

While still reeling from the shock of two lost jobs within the same year, our house in Texas mercifully sold and we were officially Oklahomans. All of our belongings were put into a storage unit and we continued to stay with my parents while beating the pavement yet again.

Since we were without adequate health insurance coverage, I decided to go down to the local DHS office to sign our kids up for Soonercare. I cried my way through the process with a very kind, God-sent social worker. Government assistance had never been on my radar as I pictured my life’s travels.

Shortly after that humbling day, our 5-year-old daughter broke her arm and I found myself in a pediatrician’s office with her ~ a recently transplanted homeschooling mom with a husband out of work, living in the boondocks outside of town with my parents, a daughter with a broken arm, and our kids on the state’s Medicaid program.

After hearing our daughter moan in the exam room that “no one will let me tell how it really happened!” (because she had been trying to climb down off the desk and had not just fallen off as I had been saying), the pediatrician walked back through the exam room door a few minutes later and yelled, “Boo!” to her fairly loudly. She just stared at him like she wondered what in the world he was doing. I was positive at that moment that we had been red-flagged as a possible child abuse case, but we knew no one in town yet who could vouch for our family stability. Fortunately nothing ever came of that, but I am still positive we were red-flagged that day.

To say that I was beginning to fall into a period of depression and overwhelming anxiety would be an understatement. It was a full-blown fight for my sanity. And I didn’t have much fight in me.

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

My husband was nearing 50 years of age, his degree was in Christian ministry, and his work experience, although long-term in Dallas, was in the vending services industry and, for whatever reason, he was not being looked at favorably by potential employers.

With no other options coming available and dwindling savings, he eventually began selling insurance in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and we have worked over the past several years to build that business, starting with zero dollars, and receiving payment through a commission-only system. It’s been a slow and painful process for us.

During that time, God miraculously provided a house for us in a location that would double as a small home as well as an office for my husband. We purchased it from a heaven-sent Christian man who sold it to us, owner-financed, even though we had no appreciable income to justify it. That transaction baffles us to this day. We still own the property. God’s merciful hand of faithfulness in the midst of our pain.

I was very grateful to be in Oklahoma near my parents because I knew that if or when they became in need of assistance, it would most likely fall on my shoulders. For various reasons, I was the obvious sibling to be most easily uprooted, and 5 years ago it proved to be a blessing as my mother became ill and passed away after a difficult 6-month illness. I was so fortunate to be living across the field from them at that point and to help with her caretaking along with my dad. Again, God’s merciful hand of faithfulness in the midst of pain.

The church we fell in love with, Christ Community Church in Ardmore, became a lifeline to us as the messages our pastor preached every week were balm to our souls and sent healing down to our very bones. I cannot imagine my life without Tim’s preaching during my life’s most turbulent years and I feel so blessed to have found such a wonderful connection in our church.

“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me, your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” Psalm 40:11

I was doing quite a bit of journaling during those dark days and some of my entries read, “Why can’t I trust?? Why can’t I shake this fear that controls my life?? I’m so tired and weary. It’s taking too long…” “I’ve become so fearful of the future over the last two years that it has hampered my life…I’ve never experienced the depths of despair like I have recently…I don’t want to be like this.”

In His time, in His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time…

Life has a way of ebbing and flowing. As time went on, I was able to begin journaling more along the lines of “God is so good and I have been much better these days than in the past… My faith level is up tremendously from this time last year and I’m hanging on pretty well aside from just being tired of the stress. I can take comfort in the fact that all things are under His control and, although times get rough, I am never out of His hand or His will if I’m seeking it with my whole heart. Fear is taking a backseat to faith and it is a blessed place to be!”

“For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2

As I was beginning to slowly come back to life, the thought came to me that if I ever decided to write a book, I would write one entitled “From Fear to Faith.” I was feeling so grateful that the overwhelming weight of depression was beginning to lift and I was no longer in the 24/7 throes of despair to the point of out-of-control anxiety and of being comfortable with the idea that God could welcome me to my heavenly home at any time and I’d be happy for it.

I will fast-forward a few years and simply say that the title of that book I had thought about writing has been changed from “From Fear to Faith” to “From Fear to Faith: The Journey Continues.”

Our lives since those most turbulent years have had additional joys and pains, highs and lows.

Some highs ~ A new small but perfect-for-us home built in the country near my dad, my present work situation with 2 part-time jobs that I love and suit me well, friendships here like I never knew in Texas, 3 homeschool graduates, and a grocery budget with a little bit of breathing room.

Some lows ~ A fairly recent job loss for me due to internal restructuring of the business, continuing financial stresses, an adult child who claims God doesn’t exist, and a few scary health issues that we still hold our breath over but seem to have resolved themselves for the present time.

During those times of life that still dip into the valley, it is hard not to return to my anxieties and fears. I have a tendency to rehash old memories and can still quickly fall into despair. But these days I have the first-hand experience that God is ever-faithful, He has never left me alone in the pit, and He is worthy to be trusted.

Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word. ~ Andrae Crouch

It’s a learning process ~ From Fear to Faith: The Journey Continues.

God takes us on our life’s journey and teaches us that He is God and we are not. He is faithful and we can trust. He is Lord and we are very much loved.

Corrie Ten Boom is quoted as saying, “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” I cannot compare my suffering to hers, but I wouldn’t mind going the rest of my life never hearing another person lament that they will die if they don’t get a larger home for their family or that their dishwasher is broken.

Experiencing God’s faithfulness first-hand in the midst of difficulties is worth all the years of financial loss, living in cramped quarters while raising children, and hand-washing dishes.

And I can’t stop here without also encouraging all of us to purposefully pass the baton of God’s faithfulness to the next generation. As our children see us stand on the rock-solid foundation of God’s faithfulness, their own faith journeys will start out on much firmer footing. What a legacy to leave our children.

“Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.” ~ Steve Green

“For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

Faithfulness. A word written on a beautiful shiny stone hand-delivered to me, in timely fashion, by a blessed Bible teacher and my loving Lord who is ever faithful to all of His children.

It’s A Daily Thing

This is the day

I have had various Scripture verses jump out at me over the past few years that I knew were meant to serve a purpose for a particular situation in my life at the time.

The most recent one has been “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I have woken up with this verse on my mind often lately and, paired with “Give us this day our daily bread” as well as a few others, I am very aware of the reason for these Scriptures to be my new resting place.

You see, try as I might to take it a day at a time, I have a dreadful tendency to think ahead…worry ahead…fret about the future…

Funds are tight. Vehicles need repair. Health takes a nosedive. Appliances are not getting any younger. Grocery budget slashed yet again~how low can it go. Hair not going to cut itself.

Present income streams a little shaky. Hopeful new income streams not working out.

So God has to remind me again and again, fresh and new each morning:

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22,23

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow…” Matthew 6:34

Daily rejoicing. Daily bread. Daily mercies. Daily peace.

Daily prayer. Daily trust.

IT’S APPARENTLY A DAILY THING.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

 

He Cares For You

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1)

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

I am so relieved that the debilitating anxiety I was under a couple of months ago has subsided. Those times feel very heavy and scary. There is a sense of hopelessness and fear that permeates every day and it comes and goes in waves. There are vague moments of relief from the uncontrollable overwhelm, but then it comes back with a vengeance and prevents me from functioning properly yet again. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep well, I can’t sit still, I can’t stand up and walk around, I need to be outside because I feel too closed in inside. I spend my days simply wishing for a valium to at least take the edge off a bit. I spend my nights singing songs in my head like “I’m no longer a slave to fear” trying to convince myself to calm down.

But even though the debilitation has eased, I still struggle with anxiety on a lesser level almost every day.

My husband has recently been diagnosed with diabetes and has had some scary neuropathy issues that have even affected his face and eyes.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

My oldest son renounced our Christian faith several years ago and shows no visible signs of returning.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Our financial situation has always been difficult, some periods worse than others but always hard. When my husband lost his job of 20+ years (about 15 years ago), we moved from our 2000 square foot home in Texas to my parents’ house in Oklahoma and then to a house half the size of the home we had in Texas and lived there for 8 years while all 3 of our children were still living at home. We went many years without health insurance and for a time, our children were on our state’s Medicaid. I am sure we qualified for food stamps at one point, but I couldn’t bring myself to go apply for them. For some reasons understood and others not understood, we have always grappled with low-ish income.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

I often feel like a square peg in a round hole. Different, slow to learn new things (I think due to finding it necessary to understand the whole, the why, before understanding the parts) yet also smart, a bit of a social bumbler. I tend to be a pessimist. I find it hard to let my guard down and let friends in.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

“…because he cares for you.”

“…because he cares for you.”

I think sometimes we let that second part just trail off at the end, but it is really the most important part of the sentence. Let’s read it again and let it sink in.

“…because he cares for you.”

There are times when you read a particular verse in the Bible, maybe one you’ve read many times, and it just jumps out at you like never before. Several years ago, when we were going through a particularly hard time, I was reading the Psalms as I normally did for comfort and came to Psalms 18:19, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” I don’t think I was necessarily feeling unloved in those days, but I was feeling like I was maybe a bit neutral in God’s eyes, put on the back burner for a while. To read that day “…he rescued me because he delighted in me” suddenly sent me soaring. God was speaking directly into my soul at that moment to let me know He delighted, DELIGHTED, in ME! And as an added bonus, my thought regarding the first part of that verse, “He brought me out into a spacious place,” was that the home in the country that we had dreamed about building might actually somehow, some way, become a reality. Of course, I had no way of knowing back then that it would actually come to pass, and even if it had not, I knew that God did not love me any more or less depending on whether or not our country dreams would ever be fulfilled. But 4 ½ years ago, God did bless us with this beautiful home in our “spacious place” out in the country and it came about due to some pretty extraordinary means.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

He cares for me.

When I am able to relax in that realization, then I am more able to put my cares, worries, and anxieties in their proper place. I don’t ever do it perfectly, but their prominence in my thoughts is greatly reduced and I am better able to trust when I allow my soul to remember how much He really does care for me.

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Yes, He really does.

Contentment Is Better Than Anxiety

I have learned to be content... 2

Yes, I am frustrated with myself. I tell myself I’ll type/write at least a little bit every day. I will call myself a writer as I am supposed to do so I will eventually believe it. But I sit down and try to think about something to write and nothing pours out unhindered, so I go find something else to do. My self-motivation is not just lacking ~ it appears to be non-existent.

I need to come up with a blog post to follow my anxiety-ridden post of over a month ago, but I can’t quickly think of anything, so that last cliffhanger of a post sits leaving the few who are still periodically visiting my blog to wonder what’s up with me in the present. I feel like I need to come up with something that will answer that question rather than just come up with some kind of new post that ignores it. So, since that is a hard thing to do, it remains there without any moving forward by me.

I’m a terrible person.

Not that terrible. But still.

Okay, here goes. A new follow-up blog post.

*Complete silence*

*3 very loud helicopters flying over my house. I must take a moment to inspect the situation. First on my front porch. Then through the house to my back porch.*

*Back to the computer.*

*Staring off into the distance.*

Well, hello there! I’m baaaaack!

(Perfect intro. Doesn’t get any better than that!)

I promise all one of you who continues to check this blog periodically that it has not been abandoned.

We had a brief panic in our home over some physical issues that now appear to be manageable and non-life-threatening. Our family doc would prefer that we continue to have more tests and see a specialist “just to be sure” but with a deductible as high as ours, we have decided to put the whole of it in God’s hands until we have the means to do so more comfortably. Living by faith in a world of high science, experts in every field of medicine, and scare tactics imposed by those experts is not popular in the 21st century, but here we are living it and doing our best to trust the God we earnestly profess to be our all-in-all. It is a daily, sometimes moment-by-moment, process. But we are growing as we have in past tests of our faith and, believe it or not, it can be a glorious place to live and grow.

At this point in my post, I can either take the time to come up with something that will require a lot more thinking and writing and thinking and writing to give more of a glimpse into the last several weeks, or I can simply sign off now and hit Publish so there will be something new to read for anyone who may be wondering what’s up.

I think, for now, I’ll choose the latter since I seem to be in a bit of a writing slump and something new desperately needs to be posted.

We’re coming back to life here in our home. We praise our God from Whom all blessings flow. There will be more posts soon as I’m able to organize my thoughts better. I know many people care. Thank you and love to you all!

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

Anxiety is a Witch with a B

Do not be anxious about anything

If you are the eternal optimist who lights up every room you walk into, I love you so much and am ever so thankful that I know some people like you to help counter the negativity in my more pessimistic personality.

However, you may not be able to fully understand what I am about to say. Just a warning.

For my whole life, I have dealt with anxiety. Sometimes it is just a nervous stomach when I have to do something I’d rather not do. Other times it attacks my whole body and leaves me nauseated with a burning feeling in my arms and a fear I can’t seem to control. I need to get up and walk because I am so antsy, but as soon as I try, I get weak and ill and have to sit back down. If it happens on a day I need to be working, heaven help me. I can’t even function. This goes on and on and on and is tortuous.

I have experienced some of that, yet again, over the past few weeks.

There are so many things I do believe the Lord is teaching me through all of this. Not the least of which is to be able to fully, fully trust that He is good and that He has all of my fears and potential upcoming trials under His complete control. Of course, trusting is a much simpler task when life is going pretty smoothly. When an upheaval hits, my true colors come to light once more and I again have to admit that I am not there yet. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

This is going to be vague today because I don’t believe now is the time to talk about details. (For the record, my marriage is good and our kids are fine.) But I needed to get on here and say a few things about anxiety and how it relates to my walk as a Christian.

I believe we all have our thorns in the flesh that help keep us humble, grounded, and centered on our walk with God. I believe mine may be this crazy anxiety that overtakes me when I can’t seem to trust as I should. I know this may not be a theologically correct teaching that a pastor may preach from the pulpit, but it makes sense to me. Every time it happens, I realize again that I don’t have it all together. I have nothing in which to boast. My reliance is on God and God alone and I have nothing in myself on which to fully rely for that peace that passes my understanding. Of course, I do believe it is something that I can work through and conquer with God’s help and His continual reassurance, each time it happens, that He continues to direct my every path and always will.

Someday, I will post more of the details about all of this. I may even write a small book about it! But for today, I just needed to come to my blog and do some thanksgiving for all that He is and all that He is doing in my life.

Thank You, God, for the beauty surrounding my home. The nature You have created is magnificent and to think that little old southern Oklahoma, not even a tourist destination, was given so much beauty by Your hand is overwhelming to me and I am so grateful for it.

Thank You, God, for all of the many blessings that You have blessed me with. They are too many to number. Family, friends, church, a wonderful home, the calling to homeschool, the freedom to worship, the freedom to raise my children as I choose, the laughter You have returned to my life after years with very little of it, Your obvious hand of protection and blessing that I sometimes don’t see but it’s always there.

You have given me so much. I just needed to praise You for it all today. Thank You, God.

My requests will continue to be presented, but I pray I never lose sight of all the blessings I have to be so thankful for.

“I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

“The battle is the Lord’s.” I Samuel 17:47

Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.