Strength For Today

A journey of keeping my heart, mind, and body in TODAY

Raging Storms!

Last night, around 2:00 AM, I was jolted out of bed by tornado sirens.  There was a tornado warning in my area, but I had no further information.  You might think that being awakened by the sound of a tornado siren would create a sense of panic within a person.  I, in fact, had a very opposite reaction.  I was incredibly calm and collected.  In fact, I look at the entire experience as confirmation of my continued growth and progress on this journey of recovery and spiritual growth.

How, you might ask, can I relate a tornado experience to recovery and spiritual growth?  In order to understand this, you must first understand my history with storms – specifically tornadoes.  I thought every storm would turn into a tornado and kill me and my family.  When I was younger, if I would see dark clouds forming, my stomach would instantly go into a knotted-up mess!  My heart started pounding, and I instantly felt the “fight or flight” instinct kick in.  I would immediately remove myself to a “safe place” – which was either my water bed (which I thought was safe because the mattress was made of rubber, and rubber was a non-conductor) or the basement (if we had one, which we usually didn’t as I was growing up).  I would close my eyes so I didn’t have to watch the storm, and try to “sleep it away”. I was under the false pretense that if I couldn’t see it,  then it couldn’t harm me.  Would you believe that I actually had myself convinced that tornadoes couldn’t form in the dark?  It was one of those things that I had to believe in order to achieve some sense of safety in the storm.  I was not calm again until I could see blue sky or puffy white clouds.

Looking back now, I think storms brought with them a feeling of being completely powerless, and that made me feel extremely unsafe.  

I am not sure where this intense fear of storms originated.  I do remember being out on a boat once with my parents and their friends, when a severe storm hit.  I recall hiding under a pile of towels so I didn’t have to see or hear the storm as well, and being very frightened.  I was very young when that happened, so it is possible that the trauma of that experience created this deep sense of fear within me.  A very real fear, which consumed me for many years, and appeared to be inescapable.  Until my dad got involved.

One day, there was a particularly bad storm coming in.  The clouds were not only dark, but they were also rotating.  I knew a thing or two about storms, and I knew that rotation in the clouds was never a good thing.  I was panicked, convinced yet again, that a tornado was on its way to get me.  For whatever reason, that was the day my dad had enough of my submitting to this fear.  He looked at me and said, “We are going outside to watch the storm,”.  There was not an option for me to back out, my dad was serious.  So I went.

We went outside, stood in the garage, and faced the storm head-on.  The wind whipped in every direction.  The thunder boomed. The lightning lit up the sky with its streaks of insanity.  The rain came down in sheets.  I was terrorized, convinced I was going to die.  My dad remained a strong rock, assuring me that I was safe.  He stood next to me, and remained very calm.  He showed me the clouds as they rolled by.  He even was getting excited at how spectacular they looked.  I started to feel a sense of safety as I realized that although the storm was raging and powerful, nothing bad was happening to me.  I was OK.  I was actually safe.  The panic that had consumed me at the beginning of the experience began to dissipate.  I no longer thought I was about to die.  In fact, I found myself in awe of the intensity of the storm, it was becoming strangely beautiful.

My dad did an amazing thing for me that day.  He showed me how to face my fear.  He showed me that I was giving the storms power over me  – that the fear was actually all in my own mind.  He explained that there was a difference between respecting the power of a storm, and fearing the power of a storm.  He taught me that we had respected the storm by staying out of direct danger – by going into the garage instead of standing out in the open field or under a tree.  Storms do present a very real danger, and we can take precautions for those dangers.  I learned, however, that facing the storm and watching it is actually a way of taking some control over the situation.  Knowing what the storm is doing, actually helps me to know what to do to protect myself.  The most powerful lesson I believe that I learned that day is this: Running from my fears does nothing to help me overcome them.  If I want to overcome a fear, I have to face it.

I wish I could tell you that every storm after that experience was easy to get through.  I wish I could say that the fear of being powerless went away completely after that experience as well.  I’d like to be able to say, with certainty, that storms never had power over me again.  Well, I could say those things.  But I’d be lying to you.  What I can say is that the power they had over my emotions lessened significantly.  I can also say that I stopped running from them, and started to pay more attention.  I can also say that I didn’t project every thunderstorm into a tornado.  That definitely stopped after that experience with my dad.  However, I still had much growing to do in light of dealing with my core fear of tornadoes.  That would take many more years of intentional work.  (You can read about my battle with recurring tornado dreams here)

Bringing this back to recovery and spiritual growth, last night’s experience with the tornado sirens going off in the middle of the night, proved to me that I have truly come a long way.  My children were not with me, and yet I did not panic.  I didn’t know where the tornado was spotted, yet I did not panic.  I was not sure if my family members were safe, yet I did not panic.  I remained calm.  I responded, rather than reacted.  I made a few phone calls, and sent a few texts to make sure loved ones were safe.  I went downstairs and calmly waited out the storm.  I prayed and trusted God to protect my children and other loved ones.

These are things I was unable to do prior to recovery.  Trusting God in the storm was not something I even considered doing prior to starting my personal walk with Him.  I have learned that He is in control, not me.  I have learned that the powerlessness I used to fear is actually a welcomed opportunity to place every circumstance in God’s hands.  It turns out that He is a far better manager of this life than I ever will be.  Because of my Faith in His ability, and His plan, I no longer have to fear the outcome.  Even if a tornado did come last night, even if I didn’t make it through – I have full confidence and assurance of where I’m going, so I was not afraid.  And that, my friends, is pretty powerful stuff for a girl who used to cower in fear over the slightest roll of thunder.

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Learning to Recieve

View More: http://ayshanicole.pass.us/dawnandashley

Courtesy of Aysha Nicole Photography

I am getting married in 24 days.

Throughout this season of planning my upcoming wedding, so many lessons have been learned!  God has been moving in powerful ways for the past year of my life! So powerful in fact, that I am almost saddened to see this season coming to an end!  Can you believe that??  A bride who wants to CONTINUE the planning process of her wedding!!??  I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty unusual to me.

I have to be honest with you in saying that some of these lessons have been very difficult to learn, and the process God used in teaching them was definitely NOT the process I would have chosen.  Some things have been down right painful in this journey! Another confession I have to make is that I have definitely not learned all my lessons perfectly.  However, despite my shortcomings,  God is faithful, and persistent. He will continue teaching me, without fail, until the lesson is learned.  Thank the Lord for that!

One particular lesson He has continued to surface over and over (because I was obviously not learning) is how to receive.  This may seem strange to you, but hear me out.  Receiving gifts from others graciously has not been a strong suite of mine throughout my life.  I am a performance-driven person by nature.  I have an instinctual desire to please people around me, and to do things to earn their favor.  God has done much work in this area of my life.  My performance-based-people-pleasing nature was a huge issue for me – and a significant root cause of my drinking history.  That constant obsession inside of me to keep those around me happy, always feeling the need to be doing something to earn their favor.  It drove me to the point of destroying many relationships.  When I no longer felt like I could continue to perform up to my own unrealistic expectations in a relationship, rather than have that person bail on me (which my mind always told me they would bail when I stopped performing) I split.  I left the relationship before the other person even had a chance.  It was my way of protecting my heart, which ironically, ultimately led to my complete brokenness.

When I got into recovery, God started working on me right away in this area.  I discovered that there were many layers to the brokenness that my heart had experienced over the years.  One of the first things I learned was how to become vulnerable. As I entered into the world of recovery, I quickly learned that the only way for me to stop harboring hurts inside my heart was to become transparent.  God, in His ultimate Wisdom, placed safe people in my path who taught me the power of transparency and honesty.  I learned that I am only as sick as my secrets.  Transparency taught me that my secrets were not as monstrous as they seemed to be.  God’s love started to be revealed to me through people who showed me they were accepting of me, just as I was.  His character was illustrated to me countless times through the grace of other people in recovery,  (my fiance was one of them),  who started loving me without me having to do anything to earn it!  Eventually, I saw the Light, and realized that it was the Power of Christ who enables us to love without strings.  As I came to know Christ’s love at a deep intimate level, I came to learn how to accept the FREE gift of His Love, Mercy, and Grace.  And now, He is teaching me how to accept those same things from the people around me!

Throughout the process of this wedding-planning, an abundance of people have offered their time and talents to turn our Wedding Day vision into a reality.  I mean, people started offering to do things for us that are literally costing them time AND money – two very precious resources.  Blessing after blessing has continued to come our way.  And I’m referring to amounts of money, of time, and of talent that literally will be impossible for us to repay! All due to the gracious blessings of others.  As a result of these amazing people stepping into the planning process of our wedding, I have had to learn how to receive their blessings.  It truly is a reflection of the very heart of God and His plan for our life – to give and to receive – and to do it abundantly!

It may seem like the easiest thing to do, to accept a free gift from someone.  Let me tell you, I used to snag FREE right up!  I felt entitled to it, and I was completely unappreciative of what it cost the other person.  This process is much different.  When I began to fully understand the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, what it truly COST Him to save me, my eyes began to open to people and relationships in a whole new way!  Talk about a humility-building process!  To humbly accept the work on the Cross, as being the most significant and most COSTLY gift I will ever receive – one I could NEVER pay back, no matter how much I try, has been a significant journey for me. One that has created within me an ability to graciously receive without having to earn or repay.  A strange lesson to have to learn, I know.  But a crucial one for me.

Earlier in this post, I touched on the levels of brokenness I have in this area of being vulnerable with others.  This idea of letting people care about and love me without feeling guilty that I can’t repay them, is something that I didn’t realize was such an issue in my heart.  Relating it to my past, I think that it is because I used to be so ungrateful, I am constantly feeling like I must pay everyone back for what they do for me.  It’s like I get stuck trying to overcompensate for my past failures. I actually had one friend say to me ( and she is creating, baking, and delivering our wedding cake, wedding favors, and singing me up the aisle as as our gift) that if I didn’t stop asking her how I could help financially, she was going to start getting offended.  She told me, in a very loving way, that I needed to learn how to accept her gift.  That moment was an awakening for me, and I realized that I needed to be more intentional in how I was receiving gifts from other people.  I know that this is a God thing, because this is just one of countless examples I could share with you in how people are coming together to be of service, to share their time and talents, and to love us.

I am grateful to God today that He is teaching me how to be a more loving, humble, caring, and transparent person – through the process of others speaking into my life.  I pray daily that He will continue growing me, stretching me, and changing me, each step of the way!  I also am excited to see how He will use this growing experience to enable both Ashley and myself to bless others as abundantly as we are being blessed!  Knowing God, He’s already got a plan!!

 

Leave a comment »

Daily Prompt : Freudian Flips ~ Dream Interpretation

“Do you remember a recent dream you had? Or an older one that stayed vivid in your mind? Today, you’re your own Freud: Tell us the dream, then interpret it for us! Feel free to be as serious or humorous as you see fit, or to invent a dream if you can’t remember a real one.”

I have two very real, very common (I think), very intense, but quite irrational fears.  The first is the ocean (namely sharks, but really all things beneath the waves that are big enough to eat me!).  The second is tornadoes.  I’m not quite sure why I have these specific fears, but they are definitely there.  When I even consider the ocean, my body has a physical reaction – my heart quickens, my my stomach does flip-flops.  And don’t get me started about thinking about my children in the ocean.  Let’s just say, I am grateful I live in Illinois, far away from any ocean!

I had a dream once, about 8 years ago, that my daughter was eaten by a shark, right in front of me.  It was awful.  Unfortunately, the dream is engraved in my mind – and I can still see the look on her face as the shark came up to grab her.  But that dream is not up for interpretation tonight.  It was pretty straight forward.

Tonight I want to talk about a recurring dream I had for about 10 years.  It was a dream of tornadoes.  Notice the plural form of the word.  That was intentional.  Every time I dreamt about tornadoes, there were multiple – I’m talking more than ten.   They were always out in the distance. The dream usually involved me seeing the tornadoes, an overwhelming sense of fear and powerlessness encapsulating me,  and then me trying to get everyone around me into a safe place.  It was a constant struggle, as I was always unsuccessful in these dreams.  I would get some of the people to safety, and they would leave when I tried to find the others.  People just would not listen, nor would they understand the imminent danger they were in!  It was this elusive battle for control, every time.  And I was always alone in my attempts to save.

This dream took place in a variety of settings and during various seasons of my life.  The end result of the dream was always the same.  The panic that took place during the desperate attempts to get my loved ones to safety always ended unresolved.  They were torturous dreams.  Especially as I got older and my children were involved.

The strangest thing happened when I got into recovery for the disease of alcoholism.  The dreams began to subside, and eventually went away completely.  I didn’t have a tornado dream during the 2nd or 3rd years of sobriety.  I noticed it one day, when I was entering into my 2nd year of sobriety.  I chalk it up to the fact that I am actively working on my issues instead of suppressing them and running from them these days.

If I were to interpret these dreams, I would say that the tornadoes represented unresolved issues that my subconscious was trying to get me to become aware of.  I think the fact that there were multiple tornadoes reflects that there were multiple issues inside me that were desperately trying to get out!  My desperate and unresolved attempts at trying to fix, manage, and control the situation were my feeble shots at trying to deal with the problems without really facing them.  The fear I felt in the dream is the same as the fear I felt when thinking about facing some of my deep-rooted issues.  The fact that I couldn’t handle my problems was creating panic and a total sense of powerlessness in me.  An interesting thing to point out here is that the tornadoes never actually hit in my dream.  I never actually had to deal with the problems.  They just kind of stayed there on the horizon, while I ran around panicked and trying to control everything, and actually controlling NOTHING.  The incredible thing for me to realize, is that these dreams mirrored my struggle with my disease – before I even realized I was an alcoholic!

In the course of the first year of my sobriety, a significant change happened within me.  I turned my life over to Christ’s care and control.  I surrendered everything to Him and I asked Him into my heart to become the Lord and Leader of my life.  Some of you may think that this has nothing to do with my dreams, but I beg to differ.  I do not find it coincidental that my recurring dreams of loss of control subsided after giving my life to Jesus.  I don’t believe that it is chance that as I handed my cares to the Care of my Lord, that the tornadoes no longer were showing up on the horizon of my dreams.  I recognized my powerlessness in my life, and I handed it over to Christ.  The fear of lack of control no longer had power over me.  I accepted the fact that One greater than I had the power to handle that which I could not, AND that He would enable me – through the power of His Holy Spirit – to deal with life as it continued to unfold.  I no longer needed to fear.

Leading up to  the 4th year of my sobriety – a few months ago – I had another tornado dream.  This one, however, was entirely different than any other I have ever had.  In this dream, I was driving in a familiar area and talking to a very good friend and mentor in my life.  Without warning, my car stopped and I realized I was being pulled backward.  Suddenly I discovered that I was in the tornado!!  I had this amazing sense of calm as the realization hit.  I simply told my friend to please tell each of my children that I loved them.  Then I was overcome by joy with the realization that soon I would leave this earthly existence and join my Lord in heaven!  I lifted my hands in surrender and committed myself to Him, and then I was placed ever-so-gently back on the ground.

To me, this dream was a confirmation of the change that has happened inside of me.  I was no longer running from my problems or making desperate and unsuccessful attempts at controlling them!  I was facing my problem head-on, knowing that Jesus was in control and I totally and completely surrendered to his will for my life.  As I surrendered to His will, He released me from my problem (my alcoholism) and set me back on solid ground.  What a beautiful dream this was!!

I am so grateful that God has worked so powerfully in my heart and mind!  I no longer fear storms, not the physical, emotional, or spiritual storms!  I know that my strength comes from a power much GREATER than I, and I surrender my life into His capable hands on a daily bassi!  God is GOOD, my friends!  So, so, So Good!!

 

1 Comment »

DAILY PROMPT: Rare Medium

I read this letter this morning, and could not help but share! There is so much TRUTH behind each and every word she writes. Life truly happens One Day at a Time! One MOMENT at a time! As it unfolds before you today, embrace it! Every moment is a precious moment. It is a moment to CHOOSE to be exactly who you are, exactly where you are at. This letter has inspired me to live in my moments today, and I hope her words inspire you as well! Enjoy!

Nola Roots, Texas Heart

Describe a typical day in your life — but do it in a form or in a medium you’ve rarely — if ever – used before. If you’re a photoblogger, write a poem. If you’re a poet, write an open letter. If you’re a travel blogger, write a rant. (These are all examples — choose whatever form you feel like trying out!)

lv-1_zpse340d3cb

Expression of love in a letter….enjoy! ❤

From Me,

Let me love you one day at a time, and please love me that very same way. We may never learn all there is to know about love, but every day together will teach us a little more about ourselves and the special kind of happiness we bring to each other. One of the best things you’ve helped me learn is that love starts with being honest, speaking straight from how we really feel. I like how we’ve opened doors…

View original post 526 more words

Leave a comment »

Digging Deeper

The last 3 or 4 times I have opened my Bible, I have opened to Psalm 18.  Apparently God has something for me in this Psalm, as I have found this to be a way He speaks to me – through repetition.  I am in the process of digging into this Psalm, and each time I read, I dig a little deeper.

The first day I read it, verses 16-19 stuck out to me:

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

As I read those words, I felt myself getting choked up at the idea that the GOD of the UNIVERSE delights in ME.  I kept repeating “He rescued me BECAUSE He delights in me!!” over and over in my mind.  At first, it was more of a question… “He rescued me because He delights in me??” … almost a statement of disbelief.  I was sitting on the shore of a lake as I read those words.  I was looking out onto the water and up into the heavens, and taking in everything else around me.  I was suddenly consumed with the concept that the same God who made all of that, made me… and not only did He make me, but He DELIGHTS in me.  So much, in fact, that He rescued me.  By the end of that time with the LORD, He had given me confidence to know that He, in fact, DELIGHTS in me and cares about every single detail of my life.  What an amazing Truth that IS!

 

The second time I read through Psalm 18, I was struck by verses 7-15, where God’s Power is so beautifully described:

The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.[a]
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils

After reading through those verses, I found myself wanting to just stop and pause – to consider the greatness of God, in all His Glory, and Might.  I found myself wanting to fall in worship and praise of His Majesty.  I also found myself in awe that this same God, this God that is so immensely powerful, is the same God that delights in me, and in YOU – I might add.

 

Yesterday when I read it, I was drawn to verses 1 and 2, where the psalmist just enters into a time of praise and worship for WHO GOD IS:

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[b] and the horn[c] of my salvation, my stronghold.

God is Lord.  God is my strength.  God is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my refuge, my shield, my salvation, my stronghold.  Those words paint such a fantastic picture of who God truly is.  He is the One I can turn to in all my circumstances.  He is the One I run to for protection, for assurance, for acceptance, for peace, for joy, for love, for EVERYTHING.  God is.  He just IS.  And He is MINE – and yours too.

Verses 28-40 talk about how God is the One that keeps me moving forward.  He is the One that changes my darkness into light.  He is the One that helps me advance against my struggles, trials, and hardships.  He is the One who enables me to scale the walls I have built up around my heart, so that I can let the real me out and others in.  He is the One who does it.  He arms me with strength, enables me to stand on heights – and see all that He has brought me through.  He prepares me for battle, He DOES it, not me.  He takes care of my enemies (all things negative in my life  – circumstantially, relationally, etc.)  for me, brings them low and allows me to be victorious in the battle.  It’s all for His glory – my part is to work in unison with Him.  When I do that, I AM victorious!

28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
    my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop[a];
    with my God I can scale a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.

And this morning as I read through the Psalm yet again, I was drawn particularly to 4 words in verse 50, as this speaks volumes to me today:

50 He gives his king great victories;
    he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
    to David and to his descendants forever.

Yes, indeed.  The Lord does GIVE GREAT VICTORIES.  I am going to continue digging into this Psalm for as long as the Lord keeps me here.  And I’m certain, that MORE will be revealed.

Reflection:

What speaks to you today in Psalm 18?

Leave a comment »

Getting Started

I was reading through a blog I currently follow, which contains a daily writing prompt This is ‘write’ up my alley! Today’s Daily Prompt was to write about a typical day in a medium I don’t typically use on my blog. So, while I do love to write poetry, I don’t write it often. Here is a poem entitled ‘Just Be’:

Wake up Oh Sleeper

jump out and move

running past commitment

to whom do you prove?

Sink to the bottom

or rise to the top

the answer comes easy

but first you must stop.

Let God take control now

your license revoked

He is the driver

your control is a joke

Meet Him in silence

And soon you will see

your day is not ready

until you can just BE.

6 Comments »

Problem or Solution?

It is so easy to get stuck in the problems of life, isn’t it?

I mean, there are so many to choose from!  We can stay focused on this issue, or that one.  We can remain on the isolated island of self-pity for as long as we choose to.  We can wallow in the pit of hopelessness and despair, focusing our eyes on everything that is not working out, everything that is not coming to fruition in our lives, everything that is wrong.  We can.  It is an option.

For the majority of my life – I stayed stagnant in my problems.  The sticky muck of unmet expectations is a sad place to exist and an easy place to stay.  And unfortunately, it is a very easy place to return to.

For me, staying in the problems of life is no longer an option.  But, I have to admit that moving from problem to solution is not easy.  It is, in fact, the basis of recovery – learning how to transition from “problem-thinking” to “solution-thinking”.  It requires a total make-over of the mind, a complete renovation, a renewal.

How does one completely change the way they perceive life?  It sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it?  One that feels like a mountain!  I will tell you the most important thing I have discovered.  You can NOT do it alone.  You must have something, someONE greater than you to guide you through the journey!

Over the past 4 years in and around the recovery process, I have learned quite a bit about this change of mindset.  I do not claim to know everything (In fact, I really know only a little, and I hope to keep it that way) and everything I am about to share with you now is something that someone else passed on to me.  If you are anything like me, and sometimes find yourself mentally and emotionally stuck in the muck of your problems, then perhaps some of these practical suggestions may be of service to you! As always, the Bible has a lot to say about this.  One of the most important aspects of changing my mindset, or renewing my mind, has been to get into the Word of God.  As Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Step 1: Awareness 

The first step to changing anything, is to first become aware that change is necessary.  Without awareness, there can be no change.  I have discovered over the years, that nearly everything begins in the same place for me – my thoughts.  So, when I am intentionally aware of my thought-patterns, I can more easily recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy thinking. The Bible has some beautiful things to say about this.  One of things I have learned from scripture is that I can ask God to give me awareness of my thoughts.

In Psalm 139:23, the psalmist writes “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”  God knows every thought we have.  Who better to enlighten us than the Creator Himself?  Ask Him to show you your thoughts, and believe me, He will honor that request.

 

Step 2: Submit 

This step is a crucial step for me.  Submission, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, has two meanings, which have succinct differences:

1: to give (a document, proposal, piece of writing, etc.) to someone so that it can be considered or approved

2: to stop trying to fight or resist something : to agree to do or accept something that you have been resisting or opposing

So, based on these two meanings of submit, I have two choices when it comes to my thoughts.  One option I have is to submit the thought to someone else for consideration/approval. The other option I have is to submit to the thought – agree with it and accept it.

Don’t miss the very succinct and important difference between these two meanings of submit. This step makes all the difference for me.  If I am having a negative thought and I submit to the thought, that is the first step in getting STUCK in my problems.  However, if I take that same thought and submit it to another – for me that means I take it to God – then I have His help in changing my thoughts.  In fact, God’s Word tells us that we ought to take every thought into captivity.  2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.  The way I have found that works for me is when I become aware of an unhealthy thought cycle that is occurring, I say the following (or a version of it) “God, I give this thought to you.  If it is a thought I am meant to have, please let me keep it.  If not, please take it captive, and do not let me think it.” Oftentimes, the cycle stops there.

Step 3:  Replace

When something goes away, it leaves in its place a void.  A void that the Enemy would be more than happy to fill with his ideas and thoughts.  When I choose to take my thoughts captive and release them to God, I create a space for a new thought to come in.  Thoughts come in and out of our mind at a speed that is not even possible for me to understand.  Before a new thought, an idle thought, a dark or negative thought can come into my mind, I must make a decision to replace the negative with something positive.  How do I do this?  Well, this is one of the benefits of memorizing scripture.  There is not one verse in God’s Word that can harm me.  Not one verse in His Word that takes me further away from Him.  In fact, the opposite is true.  All scripture is inspired by God, and God is eternally good – therefore, all scripture is good.  (Even the verses that convict me and leave me a bit uncomfortable…they are all ultimately good.) God’s Word gives beautiful promises for those who meditate on His Word (Think and connect at a deep level).  Psalm 1: 1-3 says it beautifully: Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”  Proverbs 3:1-2 also has a beautiful promise in response to meditating on the Word: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”

One of the first verses I committed to memory, which has helped me countless time when I have been stuck in negative thinking is Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Another is Proverbs 3:5-6.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Step 4: Praise

After the Lord removes a negative thought from my mind, and as I am in the process of replacing that thought with His Truth, I have found it to be a very beautiful time to begin praising and worshipping God for His amazing Grace and Love.  Praising Him for taking me into His consideration at such a level that He cares for every detail of my life, all the way to the very thoughts that cross my mind.  Praising Him and Worshipping Him because He IS GOD.

Step 5: Repeat

A hard truth that I have come to accept is this: Satan will never stop attacking my thought life.  He enjoys placing negative thoughts in my head, especially thoughts that are counterintuitive to what I know to be true today.  Satan is very real, and very interested in keeping you and I from all that God has planned for us.  One of the ways that he has done this in the past, is doing this in the present, and will continue to do this is the future, is to attack the core of our being – our thoughts.  The mind is the birthplace of every idea, every action is conceived from a thought.  There are two ways to think:  problem-focused thinking or solution-focused thinking.  It truly is up to us where we want to stay rooted.  Each and every time we recognize our thought-life becoming unhealthy, we must fight back.  Our mind is is ours and we must actively protect it.

Stay focused on the One who can change you, from the inside – out!  Keep your eyes on the One who can transform your thinking, renew your mind, cleanse your heart, and set you on the right path.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

 

Reflect:

1.  Do you have a difficult time changing your focus from “problem” to “solution”?  If so, what practical steps can you take today that you have not tried before, or have not been consistent with?

2.  Write out a negative thought that occurs frequently in your thought-life.  Practice the script of what you can do the next time this thought comes into your mind.  Go a step further and write it out.  Prepare yourself ahead of time and you will be amazed at how much easier it is to change your thinking.

3.  Write down some key “go-to” verses that you can use to battle negative thought-cycles. Write out these verses on notecard and place them in a place you will see them often.

Leave a comment »

Running on Reserve Battery

I finally have taken a moment to sit.  To breathe.  To write.

Life has been moving at an unbelievable pace for me lately, a pace I am having a hard time balancing.  I find myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted most days – without energy enough to do the things that I love to do – my reading, journaling, and writing.  It is hard to plan a wedding and a move all at once.  It is hard to navigate through these final few months of preparation to be a wife again.  Sometimes there is just so much to do that I can’t figure out where to even begin!

I would like to say to you that my fast-paced living is the only reason I haven’t written lately.  But, alas, that would not be truth.  I have been lazy with my disciplines lately – all of them.  I haven’t been exercising my physical, spiritual, or emotional muscles as of late – and of course, I am feeling the effects.

Exercise, for me, always seems so daunting on the side of “I really need to ________”.  Whether it is physical exercise, spiritual exercise, or emotional exercise – it always seems so difficult to get started once I have fallen away from a routine.  Instead of sitting here and making a thousand excuses about why I am not doing what I need to be doing, and how uncomfortable I am feeling as a result, I think I am simply going to share with you some of the exercises I need to get doing again and why!  And maybe you can become my accountability partner in this.  I have found that being accountable to someone is one of the most helpful ways for me accomplish any task.

My Spiritual Exercises

My spiritual muscles have been pretty lax lately.  For me, starting my day and ending my day with quiet time has proven to be a very effective way to keep my mind and heart focused on what matters most, and away from what doesn’t matter at all.  I find that if I am not actively practicing this art of spending quiet moments in reflection with God, I am usually feeling a disconnect from Him.  I don’t always work the same muscles during this time.  Sometimes, I sit quietly with God.  Sometimes I read the Bible meditatively.  Sometimes I journal and reflect on what I’ve been studying or what is going on in my life.  Sometimes I journal my prayers.  Sometimes I pray out loud.  Sometimes I listen to worship and praise music.  And, on occasion, I am able to do it all.  Whatever muscles I am focusing on – I always tend to find peace and comfort in my times spent with Jesus – and the day that follows is usually a day when I am consciously aware of His presence in nearly everything I do.  Just writing this down reminds me of how much I love and truly do miss being consistent with my daily quiet times.

Action Step:  Tomorrow I will get up 30 minutes before my children, and spend quiet time with God.

 

My Emotional Exercises

This really goes hand in hand with the spiritual disciplines in my life.  Typically, if I am spiritually fit, I am also emotionally stable.  However, as a result of a lapse in my spiritual fitness, my emotional fitness has been less than ideal.  One of the exercises I must do to maintain a healthy level of emotional living, is to attend my recovery meetings regularly.  This is not something I have been doing with intentionality lately.  Where I really need about 3 meetings a week – I have been taking the time for 1.

Action Step:  Tomorrow I will talk to another person in recovery, and get to a meeting within the next 48 hours.

 

My Physical Fitness

Again, this goes along with my spiritual fitness.  When I am feeling grateful and spiritually fit, I tend to be more physically active.  I enjoy taking “prayer runs” around my neighborhood.  I am centered emotionally and I take care of my body.  I eat well and I eat healthy amounts.  My thinking, in regards to food, is healthy.  I feel good on the inside, and I choose good choices so I can feel good on the outside as well!  I enjoy working out to praise and worship music, or listening to a teaching or the Bible, or just spending time praying while working out.  I really need to get going on this again!

Action Step: Tomorrow I will take a “prayer run”

 

I sincerely appreciate you being here to read my words today.  It may seem silly to you, but just knowing that these words will be read by someone else, helps me to want to follow through on what I know God is calling me to get back into – SHAPE.  In multiple senses of the word.

I just love it when He does that!

Leave a comment »