one thousand gifts

One thing I’m learning as I seek to retrain my thoughts (taking every thought captive), is that one of the best ways to fight episodes of fear and anxiety is to focus on thankfulness. Instead of labeling all the things that are causing fear, label all the things that are blessings.

This year I am challenging myself to one thousand gifts. It was started (as far as I can tell) by Ann at A Holy Experience. Her new book is racing up the charts on Amazon and it it is on my list of books to read asap. Every Monday, there is a community of believers who are listing out their one thousand gifts and I’m joining in. I’m doing it here for two reasons: one for accountability (knowing that at least one other person is reading this) and for a record for myself. So here goes…

01. listening to my husband pray with my son every night

02. the smell of freshly baked bread

03. the children that come running when they hear said bread timer going off

04. my husband who loves me despite all my faults

05. the cracks in my life that are starting to break apart and shine forth His light

06. the Word that is starting to slowly take root and crowd out my fearfulness

07. a church that is willing to admit it’s faults

08. the surprise meeting of friends at the park on a chilly afternoon

09. the sunshine on a chilly afternoon

10. a warm house

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intentions and truth

I have come to realize two things that have/have not ruled my life lately…intentions and truth.

By intentions I mean: for what or who am I doing such and such?

When I go to a book, when I go the computer, when I spend too much time reading blogs, when I post a facebook status…for what reason am I doing it? The truth for me is that, more often than not, the intention is escape. Don’t get me wrong, we all need a break or escape from the things in our lives that wear us down. God gave us the Sabbath because He knew we would need a rest from this weary world. But, for me, escape often means not dealing with what is in front of me.

When my kids have been/are being tough,

when I have argued with my husband,

when I have struggled with my parents

when I have…. fill in the blank

do I come to the Lord? Do I crash onto my knees and ask for His patience and wisdom?

I don’t. I escape.

I have often struggled with blogging and writing and sewing and all these things in my life that are “out there” in cyber world. For what purpose do I sew? It is a relief for sure, but more often it is a reaction to fear. Fear that I have to do something to contribute financially to our one-income family or that I have to find ways to make ends meet.

For what purpose do I blog? It is also a relief, but more often it’s the satisfaction of the stats of the comments of the thoughts of man.

In my struggles with overcoming anxiety and fear, I am learning to cling to truth.

To cling to Christ. To cling to His Word and what it promises me.

It promises me that if my intention is for MY gain or to try and satisfy my fears.

i. will. fail.

but if I ask for His help, wisdom, guidance and shelter

he. will. provide.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Truth is, I am more valuable to God than I could even begin to imagine. He clothes the grasses of the field in garments even greater than Solomon and I am so much more than grass.

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my story

I was the good little girl growing up. I had this big brother who, while he wasn’t horrible, he challenged my parents in pretty much everything. By the time I realized that my actions brought about a reaction in my parents (as did his) I made the choice to please them. I didn’t want my actions or choices to bring about the reaction that he got from them.

Fast forward to high school when two things happened: I was a teenager (which naturally brings about a desire to separate from your parents) and I became a Christian (something that my parents were not). These two things drove me mad. If you have seen the movie Tangled, there is a scene when she jumps out of the tower and she is this crazy mess between extreme freedom and excitement and desperate depression because of how her leaving the tower would make her mother feel, but yet how free she finally felt; she was finally doing the thing that her heart had longed for. That was me. I was torn between being who I was learning I was in Christ (and what that meant) and not upsetting my parents (like my brother was doing). In his book, Changes that Heal, Henry Cloud writes:

We are separate people with separate identity, and we must not be conformed into someone else’s wishes that may conflict with what God has designed for us. We must own what is our true self, and develop it with God’s grace and truth. Peter says it like this, “Each one of us should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (I Peter 4:10)

I am learning now, that this choice I made to not separate from others wishes has left me with an inability to make choices. When you are someone who always feels responsible for others and you are faced with a choice or decision, that decision is already made for you. Not based on what you think or feel or what your desires are, but rather on what the other person might think.  This lack of my own control in my life led me straight into an eating disorder. I now know that my history with anorexia was straight from a desire to control something in my life. At that time, it was the one thing that I had 100% control over. I could eat or not and that was my choice.

At 35 years old, I am just now awakening to this part of my story. I think the reason why I feel so muddled and lost right now is because I truly can do whatever I want. Granted I have a family to think of, but how I spend my day in my house with my husband and my children is 100% me. The problem is that I have no idea what that means. I’m struggling with what I desire. I am awakening to the fact that I am not in control of what others think of me or how they react to my choices. As Cloud states: “I am only responsible for what happens in my yard.”

But what do I desire? I asked myself that question this morning and I couldn’t answer it. So this is where I am today. I am sitting with the reality I must admit “my desires so that God can work with me to meet them, delay them, encourage me to give them up or whatever would be helpful…and I must own up to my desires before he can do something with them….God is at work in my desires and I need to bring them into relationship with him.” (H. Cloud)

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

What amazes me most as the Lord begins to reveal this story to me, is the reality of how he has pursued me from the beginning. When I look back and how he has weaved people and experiences into my life, I can truly see His hand holding me, covering me and moving me to a new place. That, my friends, is grace.

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how i am like rapunzel

I took the kids to see Tangled this week and if you are looking for a good movie (probably best ages 4 and up), this is a good one. While it seems like a girly movie, it has just enough humor and excitement to keep little boys entertained (and a super funny Monty Python-ish scene too if you like that kind of dry humor) I digress.

While pondering this movie and the story of Rapunzel, it hit me that this is me. Or this is where I feel safest. Rapunzel lives in a tower, her world is basically controlled by others and yet she feels like she is in control. The opening scene in the movie is her singing of all the fun she can have in her tower room. She has all this “freedom” to spend her days as she wishes and she is basically safe. Until this guy comes and plops himself in her room. Up until this point, she has stared out the window at the world, wondering what is out there, but not having the courage to break out from the control she is under or that she think she has.  Then this guy shows up and it prompts her to realize that there really is something else out there.

She gets the courage to ask him to take her to see these lights that show up every year on her birthday. She finally is leaving her tower room. She is breaking free from the control and the inability to make her own decisions (always worried what others will think). The first thing she does is to let down her hair and herself and just before she hits the ground she stops…she goes back into that habit of worrying about what’s going to happen if she makes this decision. How will her mother react? How will others react? What if she gets hurt? But then she sets her feet down in the grass and for the first time she feels the coolness of the grass on her bare feet…and she is truly free.

It’s a Disney movie, so obviously there is a happy ending and a sweet romance brews, but the main gist of the story is that you have to take risks. I’m in a place right now where I’m letting down my hair and starting to come out of a tower room that I’ve been in for many, many years. I am beginning to wrestle with making my own choices for myself and my family, coming out from the control that I’ve lived under and I’m beginning to feel that cool grass on my toes for the first time in my life.

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