Monday, August 29, 2016
Some of the toughest men and women can be brought to their knees through a dramatic or tragic change in their life circumstances. The sudden death of a spouse, divorce, or the death of a child are just some of the most severe and heart stopping situations that can cause the 'toughest of the tough' to crumble and weep like a child.
I recently viewed a program that highlighted a group of Jewish children who experienced and survived one of the most horrific events of our time, the Holocaust. Of course, these children are no longer children. Today they make up an elderly population of just under 200,000 in the country of Israel. Most, if not all of them, are living below the poverty line.
As a few of them shared their stories, I watched as the events of so long ago, became real to them again. They remembered watching their parents and siblings perish while they, somehow, survived. I believe it was to tell their stories, even though brutal, to the rest of us. That we would not only be educated on something that most of us wouldn't even give a second thought to, but also to know that it really did happen.
I couldn't deny that it happened as I watched people tell their stories, shaking and crying, some showing pictures of their families and describing how they died. One man cut off a third of a piece of bread to give a visual reference of what the daily bread ration was for the prisoners. I wept for them and wondered how often their circumstances brought them to their knees. Watching as they played old videos of the conditions of those camps during the program, made me realize that sheer physical weakness would have, easily, brought me to my knees. Not to mention the desperation to see those conditions end, whether by means of liberation or death.
In my own life, I have faced times when I didn't have strength to stand and be strong and came crashing to my knees. Sometimes I would kneel in silence, while other times I wept bitterly like a small child. For moments, at times hours, I would cry not understanding what had just happened in my life that, now, brought me to my knees. Heartbreak, loneliness, and frustration were just some of the things that made me crumble. They still do.
However, as a Christian, I have had a recourse in my life that brought comfort in the moments I didn't have the strength to stand up and face life. That recourse was and is prayer. During the year of 2011, I came into a very clear understanding that I was to be a woman of prayer. I took hold of that understanding and have been praying for myself and others even when I went through times of struggling to pray. I have even experienced times when I doubted the power of prayer.
Nevertheless, there was always something in me that kept me praying during those times of doubt and uncertainty. I think that the Jewish people in those concentration camps during the Holocaust would have prayed. Even those who had never prayed in their lives prior to their imprisonment. For me, there is something about prayer that brings peace and comfort. It has been life saving in a way and a source of hope when I felt hopeless. A way to mourn and grieve the things in my life that I didn't have the courage to share with another person.
Prayer has been my conduit to get beyond the pain and hurt and to reach the other side of a dark chasm that felt bottomless. It wasn't until I got through a time of desperation, on my knees in prayer, that I felt so lifted up. Prayer does matter and it is powerful. Even if you have never prayed before, it can make a difference in your life and someone else's.
What are the things that bring you to your knees? What gives you the strength to get back up and be stronger than before? I really want to hear from you. Let's talk! You can also private message me on Facebook to share in confidence.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Hope is defined many ways. I came across a definition of hope that was kind of all encompassing and applicable to my own life: 'To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future'. There are things we hope for. A sick friend to get well, a job to be found, world peace, and a future.
My older sister is visiting me for a couple days right now and as we spent time together in conversation, I posed to her the question, "What do you hope for?" She replied, "A hope for peace of mind and heart and happiness." Those were great answers. Then she began to draw from her past about a greater hope.
In January of 2002, she sustained a spontaneous spinal cord injury. There was no cause or reason for it to happen. It just did. She was 7 months pregnant with her second child when the injury happened. The spinal cord injury caused numbness in her body from her nipple line down.
Emergency surgery was performed to first extract her premature baby of 2 months before being turned over to have a blood clot removed that was compressing her spine, causing the paralysis. Even though she was able to wiggle her toes 4 days following the surgeries, the doctors told her that she wouldn't walk again.
As she continued to recall the events in her mind to me of that time, she said that it was hope that kept her going. She refused the doctor's diagnosis and through months of determination and perseverance, it was her hope of walking again that made the difference.
Nine weeks after the injury, she was released from the hospital, wheelchair bound, but her hope and determination to walk never waned. The more progress she saw, the more determined she became. Seven months after leaving the hospital she walked on her own, unassisted. She shattered the grim diagnosis given to her by the doctors and defied all the odds of a spinal cord injury all because of a hope to walk again and her two children.
In my own life, I've had hope for many things that seem to continue to be deferred: A hope to have a relationship with my son, a hope to be married again, and a hope to be a successful blogger and public speaker. Of course I have many more hopes like salvation for my family and friends, contentment, and that I'm moving in the right direction for my life.
Have I ever lost hope? Yes. Many times. The crazy thing about losing hope is that I've always found it because hope, I believe, is something that is inherent in all of us. A natural part of who we are even when we don't understand it. Hope is something that has kept me going in the darkest and most difficult times in my life. It was what kept my sister going when others said walking wasn't possible and all the odds were stacked against her.
Hope is something we can hold on to when everything else is gone. I choose hope. I need hope. I embrace hope. Some days it's all I have when I'm praying and all that keeps me going. Hope can change everything within our circumstances when we're staring into the face of all that tries to defeat us. Never. Lose. Hope.
What do you hope for? Have you lost your hope for something? I want to hear from you! Let's talk!
Monday, August 15, 2016
Busyness, schedules, obligations, responsibilities. Family life, job life, everyday life. Do more, give more, be more. These are just some of the characteristics of a stressful and, sometimes, chaotic life. For me, my stress and chaos came from living in a city 7.5 years longer than I wanted to. Of course I thought it was the greatest idea to move to a big city in the beginning. The pulse, excitement, money, and opportunities were at the forefront of my mind and, honestly, my heart. I thought I had it made but then things started to change. I started to change and the fast paced craziness I once enjoyed was no longer appealing. The excitement soon changed to dread. It seemed like I was always in a hurry to get somewhere that took me, what felt like forever, to get to. As each year passed, I felt more drained, hurried, and stressed.
It was only after I moved from the city into the country, two years ago, that I gained a perspective of just how stressed I was. For 11 years, living in the city, stress had taken a hold of me. At first it was subtle, benign, almost undetectable. Only a few years after being in the city, the stress was no longer undetectable. It was obvious, painfully obvious. It was affecting every part of me. My mood, behavior, and body. I was easily irritated, frustrated, and I had a lot of body pain and muscle tension. There were even times I remember driving in the city that I would become so infuriated with other drivers that I was contemplating doing things I wouldn't normally.
I read an online article posted by the Mayo Clinic that addressed the issue of stress and how destructive it can be to our bodies, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If stress isn't properly managed, it can lead to major health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
The article went on to list several other effects of stress. They included: headache, chest pain, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability or anger, feeling overwhelmed, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, social withdrawal, and the list goes on and on! I was taken back by how many of the effects I recall having in the years of city living.
The Mayo Clinic article also offered stress management strategies to help offset the negative impact of stress. They are: regular physical activity, deep breathing, getting a massage, keeping a sense of humor, socializing, and having hobbies. They also suggest getting plenty of rest and eating a healthy diet along with seeking medical help if you experience symptoms that may be associated with stress or if your efforts to manage your stress have become unsuccessful. Seeking help can equip you with coping skills to better tackle and manage the stress you are facing.
While it was a long time before I was able to properly manage my stress, the greater relief was when I came into a personal relationship with God and Jesus. The peace and contentment I have come to know in them, even in the midst of chaos, equipped me to live in a crazy city and a crazy world without completely losing my cheese! Hahahaha It also helped me to stay sane until my desire to be in the country, happened. I can honestly say that now I'm in the peace and quiet I longed for, I wouldn't trade it for anything!!
There is a story in the Bible, in the book of Luke, that talks of stress in everyday life and how we can lose sight of the things that are truly important when we allow stress to take over. That story is about two sisters, Mary and Martha, who lived together and received an unexpected visitor one day...Jesus. They were both excited and Martha started busying herself with preparing a feast. She soon became stressed and annoyed that her sister wasn't helping. Meanwhile, Mary was so overtaken by Jesus' presence that she immediately dropped everything and sat at His feet. Resting. Breathing. Taking in the moment.
The video I included as part of my blog speaks to this breathing. That being and choosing to turn from the chaos brings peace, quiet, and a time of refreshing. As one line of the song says, "Chaos calls but all you really need is to just breathe."
How true this has become in my own life. Sure I could allow the pressures of the world around me to dictate my reactions and increase my stress levels but I choose not to and opt for peace and deep breathing. To be in the moment, to be present, and to just breathe.
What stresses and chaos exist in your life? What are the things taking precedence over your own well being and stress management? Do you take time to just be? I want to hear from you! Let's talk!
Monday, August 8, 2016
I am what I do, what I own, and who I'm dating. I am a sex addict, alcoholic, and drug user. I am suicidal, hate filled, and profane. These are some of the answers I would have given to the question, "Who am I?", over 20 years ago. It was a 15 year period of deep darkness in which my personal goal was to destroy myself. I was hurting and very angry.
I was also dying. On the inside. Of mind, heart, soul, and spirit and I needed an intervention. One which I had decided would come in one of two ways; driving my car into a pole or drinking myself to death. I couldn't take much more of the pain that was consuming me and what I, realistically, was inflicting on myself.
Well, nine years and three months ago my intervention came. It wasn't by my own hands nor was it packaged as a group of friends who were waiting to confront me at my home with a suitcase packed for rehab. I had no friends. No, it was a combination of years of my mother's faithful prayers, an all-knowing and good God, and the caring heart of a new and special friend that collided the afternoon of May 6, 2007, that set me on a course to recovery. It wasn't in the traditional ways of AA or Sex Addicts Anonymous. It was what I can only describe as being supernatural.
An intervention that quickly turned my world upside down as I entered a place of unconditional love, peace, and joy that I had never before experienced. A place that brought me face to face with the ones I had spent most of my life running from. The ones being God and Jesus Christ. I had rejected them, cursed them, and avoided them at all costs. I even verbally attacked anyone who dared to talk to me about them.
Turns out the ones I spent most of my adult life avoiding were the very ones I needed the most. As I entered this foreign territory of a relationship with God and Jesus, a time of healing began. The very things I thought defined love; sex, control, manipulation and self-abuse concerning men, were torn away and replaced with the truth and knowledge of a real love. A pure love, that could only come from a perfect source that was God through His Son, Jesus.
Soon the ideas, dispositions, and lies I had spent so many years feeding on and believing were blown to pieces and I felt as though I had been set free. Free to be me, the real me. The true me. Someone who, while imperfect and in need of help, became someone who now stands firm on the truth that I am welcomed all the more in my imperfection. Welcomed by God and showered with His truth.
The truth that I am loved and worth loving. That I am beautiful, precious, protected, and accepted for exactly who I am. No. Matter. What. It's what God sees in me that I have come to believe, not the inconsistent and harmful 'truths' of this world. I am so much more than what the world says that I am.
And SO ARE YOU!!! You, yes YOU, are all these same truths! Loved, cherished, and adored! My creator God knows exactly who you are, the true you, the beautiful you and His truths are far beyond all the lies you've been fed for too long. The truths that, I have come to discover, can only be found in a relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ.
So, who are you? What are the things you have come to believe about yourself? What are the things the world has said or people around you have said that you have believed to be true? Let's talk!! I would love to hear from you!
Monday, August 1, 2016
In 2016 TIME posted an online article showcasing the top 10 epidemics in history. From the Black Death to the 1916 Polio Epidemic to SARS, our planet has been plagued by some of the most devastating health crises. However, I believe there is an even greater epidemic that is among us right now. Where the statistics of the lost are not truly known but grow in number by each passing day. I believe that epidemic is loneliness.
The Globe and Mail did an article on September 18, 2015 speaking of loneliness as a crisis that is looming. It said that, "More Canadians than ever live alone, and almost one quarter describe themselves as lonely. In the United States, two studies showed that 40% of people say they're lonely, a figure that has doubled in 30 years."
Britain has even formed a registered charity to bring an end to chronic loneliness. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said of the lonely, "a forgotten million who live amongst us ignored, to our national shame."
Ami Rokach, a psychologist and lecturer at York University in Toronto, has been researching the subject for more than 3 decades. She said that, "Loneliness has been linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility, increased vulnerability to health problems, and even suicide." She also noted that, "There is such a stigma about it (loneliness)."
Other articles I have read have made a connection between loneliness and suppressed immune system and cardiovascular function, an increase of stress hormones that our body produces, that it causes wear and tear on a cellular level and impairs sleep. Even going as far to say that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking or being overweight.
There have been observations that an increasingly self-absorbed society could be to blame for more loneliness, causing a move away from a concern for others. There was even a study conducted by the University of Michigan showing that the use of Facebook increased feelings of loneliness and alienation.
The information I was reading was startling to me until I began to see things from a different perspective, my own. See, I am one of the loneliness statistics. While I don't feel lonely all the time, I have felt loneliness on a level that was almost crippling. A loneliness that I have had to fight through in order to get out of the house and socialize with the outside world. At times it felt impossible to get beyond the crippling effect of my loneliness but I can say that I had and still have help during those times.
My help comes from the relationship I have with God. Even though I am a Christian, I battle the same kinds of things that any other person out there will battle. However, because I chose a relationship with God and have a friend in Jesus, those battles aren't as overwhelming as they used to be. I became a Christian later on in life (just over 9 years ago) so I didn't have the help to get through some really hard times earlier in my life.
Now that I have that help it doesn't mean that I don't struggle but it does mean that I am not alone and, even in my times of loneliness, there is someone greater than me to help me push through the crippling loneliness and find joy in the things and people around me. To get out and socialize if even for a short time to break out of being lonely.
I'm not alone and neither are you in this. I pray for an end to your loneliness as I pray for an end to mine. There is nothing to be ashamed of in saying that you are lonely. I'm officially saying it in my blog, "I'm lonely sometimes and I'm not afraid to say it anymore."
Do you live with loneliness? I think we all do at some point in our lives. Do you find it crippling like I do sometimes? Do you find it impossible to push beyond the loneliness to go out and socialize? I would really like to hear from you. Let's talk.