A Cheerful Heart

For the past few weeks I have been battling my fibromyalgia pain in a BIG way. Most of the time I can manage the pain and it stays around a 2-3 (1-10 scale). Lately, I have let anxiety and worry really take me over and I know that my rising pain levels are a direct result of that. For the past few days my pain has been a consistent 8 or 9. Those levels make it so very hard to function day to day with all that is on my daily to do list. I have let it get me down. I have cried a lot of tears and felt pretty hopeless. This has been the worse bout of my fibro pain since I was initially diagnosed. As the pain persists, my mental and emotional state has begun to deteriorate.

But there are positives to be found in all of it. First, I have a tribe of ladies who show up daily to encourage me and pray for me and keep me positive. That is truly amazing. I am so thankful for their sweet voices and thoughts. I feel them standing next to me in my fight. Secondly, I am praying a lot and feel myself drawing closer to God through my morning devotionals and quiet time. I am spending more time in the word, really studying and leaning into what God is saying to me.

This morning, I woke and my first feeling was pain. I had a hard time just getting out of bed and instantly my mood deflated. (Not the way I like to start my day). I stumbled out of bed and poured myself my morning coffee (my cup of ambition – typed in my best Dolly Parton voice) and headed to my office for my quiet time. My morning devotional could NOT have been more fitting! (Don’t you just love when God does small things like that – just when we need them!?). “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” That first line…gave me chills. God was saying the best way for me to feel better was to start with my heart. How? What does a cheerful heart look like? It’s a heart filled with gratitude and thankfulness. It’s a heart that counts blessings! My devotional went on to explain that a cheerful heart can improve one’s health – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically! (Just what I need!). And then this…the line that hit me hard…the words that I’m carrying with me all day…”Let these divine nutrients soak into the depths of your being. Let them strengthen and enhance your health.”  My heart condition (cheerfulness) will affect my health. Does this mean that I don’t need to take my medicine…..NO. It means I need to work on my perspective and focus on what is in my heart. My cheerful heart is medicine for ALL of my being.

Probably not anything earth shattering…not a giant revelation…but rather, the gentle nudge, the small a-ha moment that God knew I needed today. How’s your heart? Would you describe it as cheerful? Make it your goal today to fill your heart with gratitude and thankfulness, and let that be your medicine. Soak in all of that goodness. Have a blessed day. Much love!

He has shown us what is good!

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  ~Micah 6:8

Sitting here with the news on in the background and coming across this verse in my devotional this morning stopped me in my tracks. The weight of the news story of George Floyd has been at the forefront of my thoughts for the past 24 hours. I have cried so many tears over this whole situation. I have cried for a life lost in such a brutal, senseless, evil, public way. I have cried for Mr. Floyd’s family who has lost a brother and has to re-live it over and over each time that deplorable video is played. I have cried for the fact that men who were sworn to keep the public safe chose to abuse their power with such heartless, hate-filled actions. I have cried because there is so much hate in the world and our children are exposed to so much ugliness. We need God. We need Him in every area of our world, and in every moment.

This verse jumped off the page of my Bible this morning. What does God require….? To do justly – to treat others in a fair, non-oppressive way. Treat people with respect and fairness; To love mercy – not just show mercy…to love it, and to act in the way that God would want us to in every way that we treat others; To walk humblynot in a spirit of arrogance or of special privilege, but rather in the spirit of humility, in service to others.

I don’t believe for one second that I “accidentally” happened upon this verse today in light of yesterday’s news. I know that this was God’s way of helping me process the world and to help my broken heart find some peace. This verse will be in my prayers and on my heart for days and weeks to come. May we as human beings plant these words in our hearts and put them into action in our everyday lives. micah

Trust enough

“God is not at all concerned with me being good enough, but completely concerned with my being TRUSTING enough.”

I came across this quote this week while looking through an old journal of mine. I think it is so enlightening to dig back through old writings to help me see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, and even how so many emotions have repeated themselves in the years of my life. This quote came from a sermon. One of those sermons that wrecks your heart. One of those sermons where you wonder how in the world the pastor knew exactly what you needed to hear. One of those “He is talking directly to me” sermons. Looking back, I do not honestly remember what I was going through at the time that made these words hit me so hard. But I do know that the quote resonates with me in a big way today.

Throughout this pandemic/stay at home/lockdown crisis, I have struggled. My emotions have controlled me. I have tried to face this out of control situation and control it. Worry has wrecked my sleep. Anxiety has overtaken my thoughts. Fear has captured my focus. I have been short-tempered with my family. I have spent days crippled by sadness – and then beat myself up for not accomplishing anything. All of this has left me wallowing in that old, lingering feeling that I’m just not good enough. I have allowed the small, powerful “IF” drive me crazy. If I was a better mom….If I was smarter….If I could manage my time better. ..If I could just be better…If I was good enough!

I do not believe that I came across this quote by accident this week. God knew I needed to hear it now. Because God truly does not need my goodness. He doesn’t need to me fight and claw to be good enough…because guess what, I never will be. I will never be “good enough” to earn His love. And that’s a good thing, because His love is offered free. What God does want from me is my trust. He desires that I would let go of the control I crave, and to trust Him with all that I am. He wants me to trust that He is in control. Trust should trump fear, anxiety, worry, and all of the other emotions that do not come from Him.

So, my prayer for today, and for every day going forward is to just trust. I pray to be wholly surrendered to Him and to trust Him enough!

 

Strength from Joy

joy strengthThis sounds good, right?! This is a great “go to” verse when times are hard. These words make for a great, inspirational social media post for those of us who are feeling run down and weak. But do I really believe it? Am I living everyday (in lockdown mode) with this joy? Is my behavior truly reflected in this quote?

As I sit and soak in the word this morning, I found myself dwelling here, in this verse. Lingering on these words in Nehemiah forced me to earnestly check my heart, and not only to ask the tough questions, but also to answer them.

So, I go back to the way I was taught to read and understand the Bible – one word or phrase at a time. Break it down and listen for meaning. Joy – different from happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances or events, and is primarily about MY feelings. It centers around ME. However, joy is a constant. Joy is a contentment of the heart, regardless of happenings and surroundings. Joy is a purposeful choice. This joy is found in the Lord – it is  the Lord. And this very joy  – is mine! It is my strength. It is what stands in the gap when I am overwhelmed by life. It is there to satisfy my needs when I can’t find my own way. This strength from joy calms my fears, dries my tears, and soothes my spirit – even in the ugliest of circumstances.

It is a promise from the word of God. And I believe with all of my heart that God’s promises are real and true and everlasting. So…..do I believe this “go-to” verse? Am I deeply, truly, strongly “bought in”? YES! I am and I am carrying it with me today and going forward. In this scary, unpredictable world, I will find my strength in the joy of the Lord!

Only the Holy Spirit

fruitsLockdown. Shelter in place. Stay at home. No matter what it is called, it still means the same thing. We are ordered to stay in our homes. Together. For an undetermined amount of time. Of course we all love our families and we all want to do all that we can to keep ourselves and our communities safe. But let’s just get real for a minute…it ain’t easy. There are six of us who live in our house. Six humans and one very rambunctious, energetic dog. No matter how much we love and care about each other, we are still going to get on each other’s nerves. We are going to bicker and argue. We are going to have ups and downs.

I woke early this morning to steal the quiet moments that exist when everyone else is still sleeping. The weight of the coming day and week was bearing down on me. In my prayer I wept and cried to God “I’m not sure if I can do this…” God gently nudged me with “You can’t…but I can.”

These words: love, peace, self-control, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, joy. They are not going to come naturally or easily to me during these difficult times. Trying to teach from home, manage the house, help my own children do their school work, and help my whole family navigate this storm is so stressful to me! Those words do not describe my demeanor over the past few days. And its hard for me to admit that I need help…but the reality is, I need help. So my prayer for my household today and going forward is that I learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to change me. I will lean into to the power of the Spirit. “Only the Holy Spirt can produce the kinds of fruits in our lives…” (Galatians 5:22)

Think on these

This morning when I woke up, there was a single moment before I was truly wide awake that I forgot. I forgot about the fear. The panic. The craziness. I forgot about the next month of being home and missing my students. I forgot that the world is not the same place that it was mere months ago. In that still, quiet moment I found peace. I found comfort in my warm bed and my furry puppy snuggled close to me. I felt safe as I listened to my husband’s soft breathing as he slept. I eagerly anticipated my first, glorious sip of coffee from my favorite, just right mug. But then, in the blink of a sleepy eye, I remembered. In that instant all of those comfortable, familiar sounds and thoughts were taken over by the realization of the current state of our world, and I climbed out of bed and said my first of many prayers of the day. 

Throughout the day today, I found it best to keep my hands and my mind busy. I sought after the normalcy of a schedule. Of the routine things that keep the household going. I tried to keep moving. Took a nice, long walk and soaked in the chilled, fresh air. However, right in the midst of my busyness, of my normal routine (which isn’t normal at all – normally I would be at school) the reality of the complete lack of anything even remotely normal washed over me. Wave after wave of reality crashed my sense of peace and sent me into another round of panic. I could trick my mind temporarily by doing things I always do, but eventually the anxiety of the unknown won out. 

I wish I had some super positive take away from all of this. I wish I could say that I have found a perfect, foolproof way to remain positive and not let panic creep in at all. But that would not be sharing the truth. What I can say about today – my first day of 4 weeks off – is this; my mind is going to be filled with thoughts all day, regardless of what I am doing. And I can’t always control the thoughts that creep into my consciousness. But I can control what I do with those thoughts. I can choose to dwell in the scary, doubt-filled moments, or I can replace those thoughts with the truths and promises of Jesus. I can fix my eyes on Him and let his word fill my mind. I am still a work in progress, and I still fail daily…but in these scary times, I am learning to rely on the spirit to guide my mind and fill me with His comfort. I am fixing my heart and mind on the one who knows my heart. I lost count of the number of prayers that I spoke today. I just know when I took the time to “cast my cares on Him” He stilled my heart and mind, and I found peace. 

 

It’s your choice

IMG_2190Some days I just don’t even know what to think about the world. Schools shut down across the country. Social distancing. (By the way – this doesn’t work with a class of 10 year olds). A run on grocery stores (and toilet paper?!?). PANIC. My mind struggles to sort it all out. My feelings about this COVID-19 crisis are like a giant pendulum. One minute, I am fine, not really worried or concerned about the impact. And then I swing wildly to near hysteria. “What ifs” run rampant through me. And then back and forth. And back and forth. Constantly swinging between “Should I be more worried” and “I am freaking out about this!”

I’m not really worried about myself getting really sick from this virus. I worry for my parents (who still don’t seem to put themselves in the “elderly” category). I worry for my husband’s parents and grandparents. I worry about my 5th graders and not seeing them and pouring into their lives for the next month! (Side note: school let out yesterday at 3:00…since then I have received 10 emails from students). I worry about my 19 year old daughter who is on a girl’s trip with two other 19 year olds. (Do they know what to do in an emergency? I worry about my 22 year old son who is supposed to graduate from college in a few weeks and is trying to finish classes and exams in an unexplored way. I worry about his girlfriend who is a nurse and is working tirelessly. I am fearful for our world. Unsettling is the best way I know to describe it all.

So this morning as I sit sipping (gulping) my coffee in the almost quiet house, I am having to make a choice. I am the only one who can stop the swinging pendulum of emotions. I am choosing JOY. I am choosing freedom from fear. I am choosing to rest in the refuge of the Lord. He is my safe haven.

I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all of my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed and the Lord listened. He saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Psalm 34:4-8

Joy and Pain

Next month my husband and I will celebrate our first anniversary. Every day that I have been married to him has been amazing. I have done things and gone places that I never would have done without him. Marrying him truly made me feel like the luckiest woman in the world and I feel like I have it all. Including fibromyalgia. I was recently “diagnosed” with it and am really having a hard time learning to manage/live with the pain on a daily basis. It sucks. I’m not good at staying positive when I’m experiencing such pain levels each day. And then when I complain, I feel guilty because I should just be able to be happy with my wonderful life. I AM happy with my life – except the pain. And then I feel like maybe I am dealing with this because I somehow didn’t deserve the husband and home and children. Somehow I’m being punished for having more than I deserve. I don’t like the way that makes me feel either. Sometimes I just get mad. I am pissed that I finally found my happiness and then this is heaped up on me. And then on top of sad and mad and scared and okay I feel hopeless. I am not sure that I will ever be pain free again and that scares me to death. I can’t imagine living the rest of my life in pain and tired like I feel now. How am I even supposed to live like this for the rest of my life? Oh and then there are the conversations I have with people who tell me that I’m not really “sick” and that maybe the pain is “imagined” – those are fun talks.

I would like to think that I am a woman of faith. I believe in God and in his plan for my life. I believe that He is in control and that He loves me. I pray everyday. I try my best to live my life the way that shows the world who I belong to. But some days I fail. Some days I let my sadness or bitterness take over and I fall. I can’t just walk around all day spouting sunshinyness and pretending that I’m okay. YES, I have a joy in my heart because of my relationship with God. But I also need to be authentic and transparent and real. Life is hard. Life is painful. Life is running me over right now.

I know that this is just a season in life. I know that it will either get better, or I will learn to better manage my emotions that surround all of it. Either way I will not be stuck right here where I am. In the meantime, I want to be truthful about where that is and what I’m dealing with. Anyone can share all the good stuff. Everyone has a highlight reel that they want the world to see. But I want to share it all. Life is about the ups and the downs. It’s about the pretty and the ugly. The smiles and the tears. Joy and pain (haha…now that song is in your head…sunshine and rain).

So there it is. It will be an interesting journey. I am going to pay attention to all of it and listen to myself as I learn about who I really am in all of it.

No Place I’d Rather Be

set a fire

Lately I have found myself in a dry season spiritually. I have felt lost at times and very far from God. The close, dependent relationship I used to have with my heavenly Father – the one where we talked daily and where I worried less and relied more – that is not currently where I’m at. I know that life is about ebbs and flows – and in all relationships there are periods of closeness and periods of distance. But I am NOT okay with where I am at in my relationship with God. Continue reading “No Place I’d Rather Be”

Noise

 

noise   I am an elementary teacher. I’m fairly accustomed to the constant hum of noise from a roomful of kids. And that’s nothing to the noise level found in a cafeteria with 100+ kiddos. I am momma to 5 kids. Rarely are all seven of us ever in the house – much less the same room – but when we are, there is noise. (This momma loves that noise, by the way).

When you think about it, there is noise in all aspects of our lives. TV’s are often on several hours a day in our homes. Our noses tend to be buried in some sort of screen several hours a day. We are constantly being bombarded with noise…data, tweets, posts, feeds, videos, and on and on. The other day I stepped out of my car to pump gas and there was a screen blaring commercials and music. Constant noise.

For me, the constant noise – the ever-present distractions become almost comforting. When I’m listening to a tv show, or scrolling mindlessly through the same feed I’ve read through already three times I don’t have to think about “the other stuff.” And sometimes its just easier to drown out the hard stuff. But easy isn’t always best.

I’ve recently tried to start eliminating some of the daily distractions so that I can consciously seek after these deeper things. I’m going after peace. When I’m not busy worrying about social media, or Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy, my mind is forced to really ponder on bigger thoughts. Sometimes I end up praying…talking with God. Other times I’ve ended up worshipping – just me on my own. I’ve also found myself thinking about all of the many things I am so grateful for.

I’m certainly not trying to say that social media is bad or that we shouldn’t ever turn on Netflix…not at all. I think what I’m discovering is that distractions can very easily take up all the space in our heads and not allow any time for us to reflect on what’s really important. These breaks from the noise have been so refreshing for my mind and my spirit. I encourage you tofind your quiet!