Strength For Today

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

Suicide : Is There Any Hope?

Suicide is not a fun topic to write about.  It is not something that I care to spend much time thinking about either.  In fact, if I were to be totally honest with you, I would say that I am extremely uncomfortable even typing these first few sentences.  What do I know about suicide?  Nothing, really.

But, I do know that yesterday’s news of Robin William’s death has really stirred up something in my heart.  A desire to learn, to understand, and to help.

Robin Williams is not the first person I have known to commit suicide.  Pause here.  Did you notice that I wrote “I have known” in that last sentence?  I mean, what did I really know about Robin Williams??  I knew nothing of the person behind the actor.  What I did know, was that he continuously portrayed happiness, joy, and a lightness of spirit in almost every movie he ever acted in.  I find it interesting, yet not at all surprising, that those of us who have watched his films over the years would be SO SHOCKED that he ended his own life yesterday.

On the surface – the Robin Williams we all “knew” was the definition of HAPPY, right?  I mean, he was the GENIE in Aladdin for goodness sake!  He was the voice of Good Morning Vietnam!  He was the sweet, loving, kind-hearted father who went to extremes for the sake of the love of his children in Mrs. Doubtfire.  He was Robin Williams.

He was an actor.  A darn good one at that.  And it is not like I am not aware of that fact.  I realize that there is a person behind every actor.  A person that the public rarely gets to know.  Why?  Because they would become too real.  They would become human. And maybe we would stop idolizing them.  Stop putting them on these pedestals.  Stop expecting them to be perfect just because we see them that way… or should I say, we WANT to see them that way?  Stop the pressure.  Just a thought.

The point of this message is not that actors should be more real. Please don’t stop reading here.  The point I am trying to get across is that EVERY person is an ACTOR.  And EVERY actor has a truth behind the life they lead for others to see.  I am an actor.  You are an actor.  We all present ourselves one way to the “world”, and another way behind the safety zone of our own hearts and minds.

This has become incredibly clear to me as I have walked alongside other women in recovery.  Being totally transparent and honest with others is something that does not come easy.  God blessed me early on in my recovery with the gift of transparency without shame. I have come to understand that this is a gift I should not take lightly.  I have learned that one of the most difficult things for some people to do, is to expose their “underbelly”, so to speak.  To get real.  To get gut-wrechingly honest.

And I have learned that this is an incredibly painful reality for those who suffer from the darkness of depression.  More often than not, they suffer in silence.  They become captives inside their own mind – prisoners in chains.  They walk a fine line of hopelessness, feeling very alone and isolated in the world.  They may not show it on the outside, but on the inside they are screaming for someone, anyone, to SEE them.  To know them.  To help them.

More often than not, we think we do know the people in our life.  We think we know them because we see what they want us to see.  Very few people ever get the opportunity to witness the true person behind the actor.  Sometimes I wonder if we were to invest a little more effort into the relationships around us, would we discover that most people are NOT who they portray themselves to be?  Would we discover that there is hurt and pain inside every heart, inside every life?  I would venture to say yes.  As I am beginning to invest myself into the lives of others, I am coming to find out that there is a great number of people just in the circle of those I know who suffer from depression.  Who battle constantly with negative self-image.  Who see themselves as “less-than” the rest of the world.  A great number.

I did a little research on suicide today.  Did you know that the number of suicides that take place every year in the United States of America is over 30,000?  Does it make you stop and wonder if anyone in your life might be heading in that direction?  Chances are, someone you know has contemplated ending his or her own life – probably more than once.  Even scarier is the fact that you probably know someone who has TRIED it.  Maybe you even know someone who has done it.

So, herein lies the REAL question I am posing:  Is there hope????

I say a resounding YES!!!!!  Depression has been around for as long as there have been people.  If you know anything about the Bible, you know that the psalmist suffered from severe depression.  How did he endure?  He dug his heels into his relationship with his Creator!  He called, cried out desperately, to God – and he was saved!!!  It’s all over the place in the book of Psalms.

Does that mean that all we must do is cry out, and sit and wait for God to move?  That is NOT what I am saying.  What I am saying is that a relationship with God is vital.  Crying out to God is the very first step we must take.  Then, as we are prompted to act…we must act.  Sometimes God will cause a miraculous healing to take place, and crying out to Him is all it takes for the darkness to lift.  More often than not, however, once we cry out to God – He will create circumstances in our lives in which we will be able to receive the help we so desperately need.  He will place resources in our path which will become vital to our recovery.

One of the most precious resources that God has bestowed upon us is people.  He gave us the gift of relationships.  We have EACH OTHER.  We are not alone!! What an amazing and priceless resource this is!  Reach out to someone today.  Ask them how they are. Then listen when they share.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Share with them.  Be someone’s hope.  You never know… God might use your words to reach them at exactly the right moment.  God might use YOU to save someone from walking the dark and desperate path toward suicide.

Get to know someone today.  And let someone really get to know you.  It might just save a life.

 

 

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I am NOT Worthy

Me.

Unworthy.

Inadequate.

Insufficient.

Lacking.

Incomplete.

Limited.

 

I have been in an emotional battle lately.  I have been in face to face combat with feelings of inadequacy in many areas of my life, especially my writing.  I have stood toe to toe with the monster of unworthiness.  I have been dodging bullets of insufficiency, and tiptoeing around in the minefield of all that seems to be lacking within me.  I have wrestled with my own incompleteness until the point of exhaustion.  And I have fallen into the trap of doubting my limited human capabilities time and time again.

At first glance, this appears to be spiritual warfare to me.  At first glance, I think that I have been listening to the lies of the deceiver, and giving him victory over my emotions.  At first glance.   I should tell you all that I haven’t been combatting these emotions blindly.  I have been fully aware of the war, and actively engaged in each new battle.  In fact, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve just told Satan to GET BEHIND ME!

The emotional battle continued, no matter how many times I rebuked the LIE!  I must admit, it was starting to get downright aggravating.  Until it hit me.  This is definitely a spiritual battle that I am fighting.  But I’m starting to think that it isn’t with the deceiver.  I’m starting to think that this emotional turmoil is actually exactly where GOD wants me right now.  Why would God be responsible for these ugly emotions?  Only one reason comes to mind:  Because its TRUE.

I believe God wants me to fully submit to His worthiness, His adequacy, His sufficiency, His abundance, His completeness, and His limitlessness!  The only way for me to fully submit to these attributes of God, is to fully recognize my own humanness.  If I am still depending on my own strength to get me through, then how can I be fully committed to Him?  Simple.  I can’t.

My human nature, my FLESH, wants me to believe that I can handle this life.  The truth is, apart from God, I can handle nothing!  I am not worthy of my calling.  But GOD IS worthy of my obedience to His calling.  Alone, I am inadequate for just about everything I am called to do.  But GOD is completely adequate.  My strength and my talents are insufficient to carry me through to the final stretch of this journey called life.  But GOD is totally sufficient.  In fact, His Word tells me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness!!  On my own, I lack for any good thing.  But, thank GOD that HIS ABUNDANCE makes up for all that I lack!  I am and will always be incomplete while on this Earth, in this body.  God is the only complete that exists, and I will know completeness when I stand before Him in Heaven.  Finally, my capabilities are definitely limited.  I am only one person, and can only do and handle so much.  But when I place my life in His hands, the possibilities are limitless, because God is limitless!  

Oh, Thank the LORD that I do not have to rely on my own human strength to make it through this life!  Praise God that I can LEAN into Him in every single area of my life, from my parenting to my writing, from my finances to my career, from my health to my marriage and recovery…  in ALL things, He is and will continue to be MORE THAN ENOUGH.

Finally, I think I get it.  I can stop fighting these emotions.  I can start accepting that this is exactly where God wants me.  He wants me to experience my humanness in FULL right now because He has something He is preparing me for.  Whatever that is, I am not privileged to know.  But I am led to believe that it is going to require my total trust in HIS capabilities and not my own!  In His Sovereignty, I can trust that He knows all.  He knows exactly what He is doing and exactly WHY He is doing it.  God never promises a comfortable life.  In fact, He promises suffering, trials, and tribulations.  And He promises that we will NEVER walk through them alone.  Tonight, I am going to rest in that truth. God is working out something within me, so He can use me for His purposes.  Ok Lord, once again, YOU win!!!

 

 

God.

Worthy.

Adequate.

Sufficient.

Abundant.

Complete.

Limitless.

 

 

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How Does God Speak?

How does God speak to you?

Think about it for a minute.  If we believe what we say we believe as Christians, and that is that GOD IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE in our lives every day, then He must be communicating with us, right?  And there are so many available options when it comes to communication in our day and age!  I mean, there’s the spoken word of course. God uses people to speak to us all the time.  There are sermons given at church, on-line, on the radio, and on the television. There are amazing Praise and Worship songs out there today as well!  Then, there is the written word (I’m actually referring to the ‘old school’ WRITTEN word here… like BOOKS).  There is the Bible, daily devotionals, various individual, small and large group studies, and other Christian books written by a myriad of respectable and noteworthy authors. There is also the cyber word!  There are emails, on-line Bible studies, on-line devotionals, on-line prayer groups, and pretty much everything else you can think of!  God has a multitude of ways to get our attention!

images

One of the most amazing things about God is that He cares deeply for each of us as individuals.  We are not just a collective group of His people.  We are a collective group of His children.  And like children, we each have a unique learning style.  We each have a means of communicating and receiving communication that works BEST for us.  And you know what?  God cares about that!  He cares that you receive information best through reading, while someone else receives it best through listening.  What amazes me about this whole thing is the astronomical NUMBER of people that God is intimately concerned about.  It’s a number too large for my simple mind to comprehend.  And that is OK.  That is where my Faith comes in.  I believe what I believe because God says  it is the TRUTH.  And so, I believe that He takes the time to communicate on a very personal level and in a very intimate way, with each of us.

So, how does He speak to you?

Like anyone trying to communicate with us, God cannot get through to us unless we are willing to listen for Him.  I mean, think about it!  If your spouse is trying to talk to you, and you are in the middle of talking to someone else, would you really be able to hear him or her? I mean, really hear?  Basically, that is what we do to God.  We are always so busy busy busy!  Busy doing this and that, busy talking to this person and that person, busy with our jobs, our parenting, our relationship building, and even our thinking!  We are often so busy, that we miss God’s messages!  I don’t know about you, but just that thought makes me feel uneasy.  I, for one – do NOT want to miss a single word that God has for me!  So, how do I do this?  Well, a wise person once said some words to me, and they have helped a great deal in this area of hearing God speak.  She said, “Dawn – sometimes you just have to shut your mouth, quiet your mind, sit still, and listen!”

Sitting quietly before God is a wonderful thing to do.  Some people are able to just shut off their minds and sit before God meditatively, receiving messages galore from Him!  I must be honest with you.  That is not me.  I have tried and tried, but my brain will just not QUIT when I am sitting in silence.  And to be honest with you, the noise of my thoughts (even the thought “Be quiet brain!!”) becomes loud enough to drown out anything that God might have to say in that time.  So, while I enjoy quiet times of just sitting still periodically, that is not the way God speaks to me.  But it is a good start.

For me, going before God with my mouth quiet is essential.  Being still is not necessarily as vital for me.  (In fact, I hear from God a lot when I’m running.) But the number one way that God speaks to me is through the written word.  I get revelations through reading the Bible, devotionals, and other individual or group studies.  I hear God when I read alone, and when I read with others. I have discovered over the years, however,  that God communicates with me on an incredibly intimate level the most, through my own writing.  It is awesome really.  I usually think I’m just “venting” or “praying” or “reflecting” in my journals.  But when I get a prompting to go back and read something, I typically receive messages from God for THAT moment from something I could have written weeks, months, or even years ago!  Also, sometimes I think I am writing for a specific purpose, and I come to find out that I was really writing because there was something God was trying to communicate to me.

Case and point:  In my most recent blog post, Letter to My Daughter, I thought I was initially only writing to my daughter.  Thenthought I was writing for other mothers/fathers to share with their daughters.  It was only yesterday that it hit me.  I was writing that letter because GOD had something to say to me.  In fact, it was this sentence that struck me, and caused me to re-read my words to my daughter in a very different way:

 “If you have a strong connection with the Lord, you are going to recognize your True Beauty and Worth.  You will KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that YOU are a daughter of the MOST HIGH KING, and you are perfectly LOVED, perfectly VALUED, perfectly ACCEPTED, and ADORED.”

Yesterday, I realized that I had been struggling with this very issue.  I had been struggling to see my own True Beauty and Worth. I was having a difficult time remembering the TRUTH about being perfectly loved, valued, accepted, and adored…simply because I am HIS daughter.  It hit me, and I cried like a baby.  God loves me so much, that He spoke personally to me through my very own writing.  It never ceases to amaze me, How incredibly loving and faithful our God is!!  Every time I am discouraged, or down… every SINGLE time, He comes through the fog of my mind, and speaks.  My only part is to listen.

 

So…  How DOES God speak to you?

 

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Letter to My Daughter

Recently, I got married for the second time.  My new husband and I went on a beautiful honeymoon to Colorado, and were gone for exactly 8 days.  I have a daughter who is turning 11 soon, and who really struggled with the separation.  It was a challenge for her to accept that I was going to be gone, but more importantly that she was going to have to stay the entire week with her dad.  She loves her dad, don’t get me wrong.  But, he’s just not her mom.  And she is at a stage in her life when she really needs and wants her mom.  We engaged in many conversations surrounding my upcoming absence before the wedding day.  We shed some tears together, we prayed together, and we anxiously awaited the day, together.  It made for some wonderful mother-daughter bonding time.  But, unfortunately, when the day came ~ all those conversations didn’t take away the pain.  My daughter struggled to hold back her tears as we drove to meet her dad the day after the wedding.  And when we finally did get to the place we were meeting him, the dam broke ~ and my girl was sobbing uncontrollably in my arms.  It was difficult, to say the least.  And the fact that her dad completely opposes my decision to remarry complicated things a bit as well.  Finally, I reminded her how God was going to stretch and strengthen our Faith and love for one another during this time, and I was on my way.

I don’t know if you know anything about “Mom Guilt”… but wow, did it dig its ugly claws into my heart on that ride back to my new husband.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for God to release my daughter of her sadness and fill her with His joy!  I know she is at such a vulnerable and sensitive stage in her life right now.  Her body is growing and changing, and her mind and heart are overflowing with emotions that she is not yet equipped to understand or deal with effectively.

Fast forwarding a few days, she did struggle the first day or two that I was gone, but eventually she came around and was able to enjoy herself at her dad’s house.  As I was driving home from my honeymoon, I called her.  She and I had said that we would write to one another, and neither one of us had actually done it.  So, we decided to write a letter to each other that day.  As my new husband drove, I wrote.  Words began flowing from my heart to the page.  I began to write to her with a passion that came out of the clear blue.  Once my pen started moving, I just couldn’t stop.  It was as if the Spirit Himself were whispering the words in my ears.  Words of love and encouragement.  Words of wisdom and hope.  Words that I hope she will reflect on as she continues to grow up … words that I sincerely wish someone had taken the time to share with me when I was her age.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to share the heart-felt words I wrote to my daughter on that ride home.  But the fact that maybe even just ONE mother will read them and feel so inspired to share with her own daughter gave me such a case of the goose bumps that I had to share.  So here goes:

“A Letter to My Daughter”

 

Dear Daughter,

Hi beautiful girl!  Let me start this letter off by saying that I am extremely proud of you for everything you are and everything you are becoming.  You are in such a precious stage in life.  This is a very delicate phase in a girl’s life.  It is the place where you are caught between a young woman, and a child.  You are really neither one, and yet you are both.  You have feelings and emotions related to each.  This can be a very confusing time, especially for girls ~ and I am so blessed to watch you navigate through it.

The most important part of this season of your life (as well as every other season) is going to be your relationship with The Lord. The health of your relationship with God is going to determine how you view yourself, how you view others in your life, and how you handle life’s many challenges and changes.  If you have a strong connection with the Lord, you are going to recognize your True Beauty and Worth.  You will KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that YOU are a daughter of the MOST HIGH KING, and you are perfectly LOVED, perfectly VALUED, perfectly ACCEPTED, and ADORED.  You will know that you are worth MORE than diamonds or rubies, simply and profoundly BECAUSE you are HIS.  You will understand that the people in your life each love you the best way they can ~ which may look and feel very different from one person to the next.

If your relationship with God is strong, the way that others love you will always be filtered through God’s Grace and Mercy.  So, regardless of how well or how poorly the people in your life show you love – you will ALWAYS feel beautifully and wonderfully LOVED.  For it is ONLY through the lens of God’s Amazing Love – His Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness – that we are able to received and give love at all.  If you choose to place God first each and every day, you will be able to handle every circumstance that comes your way!  God has such a beautiful way of taking every situation and creating beauty from it.  The wonderful and amazing part is that we can not understand how He does it, but FAITH tells us that He does and will continue to work out all things for the GOOD of those who LOVE Him!

Baby girl, you are a precious and beautiful child of God!  I pray that you will allow nothing to take the place of the Lord in your life. He will always be there for you and He will never let you down.  Every single relationship you ever have on this Earth will disappoint you at some level (yes…even me).  Only God will never disappoint you!

My sweet sweet daughter, as you enter this next stage of your life – know that I will be praying for you every single day for your relationship with God to grow stronger and stronger!  Know that your friends will come and go – your physical beauty will constantly change – your life will have both good and bad times.  Your relationships will succeed, and some will fail.  You will enjoy some things, and you will strongly dislike others.  Some days you will feel successful, and other days you will feel like you can’t do anything right.  People will please you, and they will disappoint you.  They will be pleased with you, and some will be disappointed by you.

Through it all, NO MATTER WHAT, I love you.  Every single day I love you.  On your good days, I love you.  On your rough days, I love you.  When you are happy with me, and when you are upset with me, I love you.  When you are happy, and when you are crabby, I love you.  Every day – ALL THE TIME – I LOVE YOU.

And if I, your mom, just a human being, can love you that much and that constant ~ imagine how much your Father in Heaven LOVES YOU!!!! More than you could ever think, say, or imagine!  Miss you every single moment I am not with you baby girl!!!

Love You Always More & More,

Mommy

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The Years the Locusts Have Eaten

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.  You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.  Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.”  ~Joel 2:25-27 

 

God has been bringing this Truth to my mind and heart quite a bit recently.  I am so eternally grateful to have eyes that can see God’s truth as it unfolds!  He has truly been restoring the years that the locusts have eaten in my life over the past 4 years!   Everything that I once thought was gone, He has replaced with His abundance!  That which was once lost, has been found.  All that I thought was wrong, has been made right.  The darkness has become Light.  The fear has been replaced with trust.  My life is truly amazing today.  At this juncture, it is impossible for me to wrap my words around the amazing Goodness that IS GOD.  I cannot write about all that He has done just yet, but I will.  And when I do, His story will unfold like the wings of a delicate beautiful butterfly – as the new life emerges from the cocoon – and the new creation flutters its wings for the first time, and flies FREE.

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Can’t Heal Myself

Why do I continue to try to battle my demons alone?

Have you ever thought about this question?  Is this a question you ask yourself?  I wonder, because it is a question that I find myself asking more often than I would like to admit.

One of the first thing you see when you walk into many centers where recovery gatherings take place, is a sign that reads “You Are Not Alone”.  It is such a powerful truth, one that many desperate alcoholics cling to as they emerge from their darkness and into the light.  It is TRUTH.  We are NOT alone.

I am not alone.

Then, why do I feel like it sometimes?  Why do I act like it sometimes?  Why do I CHOOSE it sometimes?  I mean, here I am, 16 days from my wedding and just moving into a house that is in complete disarray.  I know I am stressed.  I know that I am not in a healthy thinking place.  So, why is it that I continue to try to battle through it on my own?

God never intended for us to be alone.  He didn’t.  He intended us to walk in fellowship, to engage in relationship – first and foremost with Him.  That is no where I am right NOW.

I was there yesterday, at least for most of it.  Just this morning, I was there – walking side by side with my Creator.  What happened between now and then?

I started engaging in selfish and self-seeking thoughts.  My character defects started to surface, and instead of putting the kibosh on them, I let them hand around for a while.  I let the door open just a crack, but I forgot how insistent they are.  All they need is a cracked door.  Those flaws of mine came pouring in like water from a fire hose.  At that point, there was nothing I could do to stop it.

What happened when a water hose sprays something?  It gets wet.  And I am WET.  My character defects drenched the joy right out of my day.  They took me captive and overran my territory.  Why? Because I let them.  I gave Satan a foothold, and he climbed right on board.  I wasn’t paying enough attention to my own walk, rather I was focusing on those around me.  I could see their issues popping up all over the place, but I missed my own.  Go figure.

And now I am going to have to work again to get them back down to size.

I’m starting with a gratitude list, as suggested by a wonderful friend of mine:

I am grateful for:

waking up this morning and not “coming to”

my Salvation

my recovery

having 3 healthy children

having a job

having a car

having a home

having a man who wants to spend forever with me

soon to have 3 step-sons

supportive family and friends

people blessing us over and over again for our wedding

time to sit and write this

willingness to go beyond my self-imposed limitations

stretching my faith

praising Him in the storms

wonderful friends in my life

quiet time

the Bible

facebook

sleep….

 

Have a Blessed Day!  What are you grateful for today?

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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.

 

 

 

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Learning to Recieve

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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!!

 

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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!!

 

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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!)

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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…

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