Thanks, Paul…for the roller coaster

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Unfortunately, this little gem of an illness doesn’t follow any rhyme or reason…any schedule or plan…  Some weeks I have four amazing, consecutive days and three blah, sleepy days.  Some weeks I have five horrible days and two okay.  Again, no….rhyme…..or……reason.

You would think I would be accustomed to this by now and it wouldn’t hit me so hard, but since I’m human and all…it still does.  Day one of a “funk” is usually not too bad but any more than that and I, unfortunately, let it get the best of me.  I doubt myself, I worry about other health conditions, I stress about what I am *not* doing.  I am sad because I am missing out, I’m angry at my own body for fighting itself and then I feel guilty because I know God is in control.  Oh…and that whole, “someone else has it worse” game I play is brutal sometimes, y’all.

So….a few days of this and I REALLY start to feel convicted.  I feel horrible that I am doubting God…that I am worrying (sinning) and forgetting everything I know to be true.  I am forgetting that there is peace in rest.  I am forgetting how amazingly understanding that my family and friends are.  I am forgetting how capable my family is of taking care of things when I can’t.  I am forgetting to give grace to the one person that I so easily forget to give it to 99% of the time – myself.

Many times I wonder if it’s just me. Am I the only person who has this roller coaster of a mind that sins…then recognizes it…then repents…only to do the whole cycle again KNOWING FULL WELL that I am doing it?

Well, as I was reading in Romans this morning I found that my buddy Paul wrote to let me know that I AM NOT ALONE.

Romans 7:14-25 {ESV version below} is a roller coaster.  Not a long steady track with just one twist and a drop, either.  It’s upside-down, looping, twisting, turning and a looooong drop before coming to rest on level, safe ground.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Paul is struggling here.  Paul wants to do right, he knows the right thing to do, but he lacks power internally to resist the impulse of sin.  Through verses 20-23 he is battling himself and by verse 24 he is worn OUT. He has tried ALL THE WAYS to fight this battle on his own and he finally says “who will deliver me”….not “how will I deliver myself”.  Verse 25 was beautiful music to my ears this morning.  Paul finally looks outside of himself to Jesus and immediately has something to thank God for!  He admits his struggle but thanks God for the victory in Jesus!  He isn’t pretending that looking to Jesus immediately wipes away the struggle – Jesus works through us, not instead of us in the war against sin.  He knows there is victory in Jesus.  I once heard it described as, “we fight FROM victory, not FOR victory.”

I needed this reminder that it is NOT about me.  It’s not about MY body.  It’s not about my hopes of how the day will go or how much I get done or who I let down by not being able to show up. Every day, every step, every decision – it is about Jesus!  He guides us, He gives us rest, He forgives us, He gives us grace and He will give my mind peace, too.  But, I have to look to Him for all these things.  I can’t do it alone.  I can’t win.  He already did.

Letting Go by Looking Up

I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find that when I attempt to save this blog post I am prompted to change the title due to the fact that I have already written one named this.  It seems like it’s something I have struggled with, constantly.  Feeling the need to control or be in control or….well, worry.

Let me back up really fast before I dive in.  I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression in my life and I deal with both quite regularly.  It doesn’t mean I am never happy or always fidgety or ever crazy…it just means that is my reality and just as you’d take medicine for cholesterol or diabetes, I take medication for that.  End of story, not up for debate and save the judging for Jesus, okurrrr?  🙂

So….when I go to a retreat or am in a period of deep thought or reading a devotion I am consistently looking for what the Lord is showing me through His Word, praise and worship music and through other people.  I was blessed to be able to attend You Are last weekend.  If you are local…or not…you need to just start planning on being there next year.  It is indescribable. Such a gift that I live just a few miles from where it is held but honestly, after going the last two years…if they moved it to the moon I’d be there!   It is so well thought out…with times of praise, worship, prayer, teaching, fellowship and even shopping!  One of the greatest moments I experienced there this year was in the prayer room….  Again, I can’t even describe the feeling of being one of HUNDREDS of women literally waiting in a line for prayer (by over twenty other women that were pouring out prayers over others!!)…it was a surreal moment to see the huge calling for prayer set before me so visually….and to be honest that was the first thing I thought of in reflection.  It gave me a new focus and new thirst to be in prayer for those that are hurting, doubting, stressing, searching…..just all the things.  Whew.

As I prepared my heart for even getting out of my seat to go to that place, I found myself wrestling with the question of what exactly I was going to ask for prayer about.  My health?  My family?  Our country? My parents or inlaws?  Friends that are in need of healing?  Friends that are hurting?  These are things I pray for every single day, mind you…but would I use this time to really focus on any of those things?  I literally started making a list in my notes of the things that I found myself worrying about….x, y, z….1, 2, 3….and I had quite a list, y’all.  I was saying to myself…”hmm, I worry about this and that and them and those”…..and then, I am just going to tell you exactly how it happened…..I prayed one more time for the Lord to just fix my eyes on the thing that He would have me pray for.  My eyes searched up and down the list I had made…..and then as clear as the sun, a word jumped off of the page…..as I realized it was listed over and over and over (honestly more than I even remember writing it!!) – WORRY.

Y’all this was NOT breaking news for me.  This was not some revelation that I never realized I had a problem with.  This was the same old thing creeping back up and making me realize I push it back down and don’t deal with it.  SO many times I pray about trusting more, I push it down and then it pops up again….within MOMENTS.  Not this time.  I am telling you that had the devil himself stood between me and that prayer room I truly believe I could have fought him with my own little hands.  This was an urgent kind of need to pray….but I am not going to paint the picture that I went in there and never “worried” once I stepped foot in there…because I did just that.  Once I wrote my name on a tag and sort of came out of the “moment” a bit…I started to (over)think about who I might be praying with.  Would I have to tell them my life story?  How could I work in the depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, move from NC to TX, the fact that I’ve had five surgeries in as many years (four of those pretty major)…in a short period of time and still get across ALL THE THINGS?  My heart raced.

But, God.

When the sweet lady led me to the face of the woman that would be praying over me, I saw a friend.  As a matter of fact, I had sat beside her the night before at the conference.  We had held hands in prayer for the conference.  We have had coffee dates and she was even my Bible study leader my first year here in Texas.  She gave me a look of, “are you ok with me praying for you?” and I laughed and said “YES!!  I don’t have to tell you my life story – you already know it!!”

So, with all of that behind me, and as another reminder that He has little ole ME in the palm of His pierced hands….I admitted that I have a problem with WORRYING.  That sometimes it consumes me and I know it’s not healthy.  I know it’s not something He rejoices in.  I know it is not from Him and I know without a shadow of a doubt, that He wants more for me.  He wants me to trust Him completely.  With the huge things – which I seem to have less of a problem with….but also, with the silly things that seem to “worry” me all day long!  I received such a blessing in that prayer room…a prayer so sweet, so freeing, so intentional and so perfect JUST FOR ME.  I truly believe the Holy Spirit got me to that room and interceded where I was absolutely DREADING to go and admit my failures.  When I think of the BIG things in life, I truly feel like I trust Jesus….totally.  But, y’all, with the mundane little things?  The things that likely most of you don’t even bat an eyelash at????  Ummmmmmmmm…….

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Seriously, that was my life!!!  All the doctor appointments, the waiting for test results, the day to day things that were not 100% clear or answered – WORRY.  The feeling that I might not be doing enough, or doing too much, or being unsure about directions to a place…the worry that I might feel *gasp* embarrassed.

Well. Not. Any. Longer.

I cannot tell you the peace or difference that I feel today versus even Friday.  Only hours have passed but I feel like a lifetime has.  I cannot imagine the hours I have wasted in my life of trying to retain control over a situation that was absolutely not mine.  That was not my circus, my monkeys, my family or even my friends….  I have always excused my worrying ways with statements like “I just worry for everyone” or “that’s just me” or by calling it something that it is not – like anxiety.  They are two different things.  Yes, both can lead to physical FEELINGS but my worry was out of control and Jesus is healing it.  He is helping me remove that from my life and I cannot tell you the weight that is off of my shoulders today.

I have not shared this with anyone, becuase I felt like I needed to tell the WHOLE story – all at once – and not pieces of it…so that it’s clear that I am not judging people who have a tendency to worry.  You do you, boo.  I had to deal with the root cause of a lot of the issues I was facing – the things that were keeping me up at night – the things I felt so deeply were affecting my daily life (besides my fatigue) in such a large way.   This was a HUGE thing…and does it likely feed into the depression and anxiety that I face?  I have a hard time thinking it does not.  So, who knows how this whole thing will effectively change my life in more ways than one?  God does.  He’s already worked this all out and tied it up in a bow….and I’m just here with a smile on my face, a song in my heart and a considerably stuffy nose from the crazy amounts of crying I did this weekend.  It was amazing, to say the least.  To know that there was a purpose for my attendance there, totally just makes me so grateful that I answered His call to go.

I am already so very excited for next year’s conference.  Instead of worrying about who I’ll go with, what I’ll wear, the perfect time to arrive….my thoughts are full of promise and wonder about what answers He will reveal to me next year.  What will this year in between look like for my spiritual walk?  How is He going to use me to show and tell others about His love and His provision?  Ohhh the possibilities are endless and so is His love.  For that, I am SO grateful.  Without a worry in the world.

 

Focusing on the grace…not so much the race

This is a post I’ve wanted to share for a long time. I’ve written probably fifteen iterations of it over the last few months and every time I let fear win…I delete…I walk away…I keep it to myself.

I’ve not landed on a word for 2020 yet. I had one last year…I’ll probably decide on one this year, but it’s something I do with prayer and intention…but I can tell you that a theme I keep hearing in music, in scripture, in prayer and in life – is SHARING. So, I’m going to DO THAT. When I feel something resonate with me that I hope can help others, I have a natural inclination to want to share it. So here it is today:

Having something wrong with you that others cannot see is a struggle. When I show up at Bible Study with my hair curled, a dress on and my shoes actually match…you don’t know that I had to wash my hair the night before because there’s no way I can wash, dry and fix my hair without a break in between. You don’t know that I had to pick out my clothes the night before to make it easier for myself the next morning or that I decided against makeup because holding my arms up for extended periods of time makes me exhausted. You don’t see the tears I cried last night because I didn’t feel like cooking dinner for my family because I knew it would wear me out and that a bath would be out of the question….because even that is tiring. You don’t see the depression that cycles from missing out on life events…the anxiety that comes with planning anything – literally anything – because I am afraid that when it rolls around I will be too fatigued to show up. You don’t see the worry that comes from letting people down and fearing that they won’t give you grace – again.  You don’t see the disappointment from getting excited about getting out and doing something but then it’s “one of those days” and there is NO way you can make it out of the house….and quite frankly, the bed.  You don’t see the way I miss the race of deadlines and a work family and last minute presentations.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a THING.  It is one of MY things and I have truly tried to own it.  To just live with it…to give MYSELF the grace that I’d extend to any of my loved ones.  To pace myself. To do what I can and focus on THAT.  Focusing on the things I can’t do…the things I run out of steam for…the things that do not get crossed off of the list? That leads to frustration, shame and sadness.  Which puts me in a funk…which leads to a depressive state…which….are you seeing a pattern here?

When you see someone with a cast or a sling or hear them coughing or see visible scars – is your inclination to judge them or feel a certain pang of hurt for their illness/injury?  Just because all scars are not visible does not mean that we don’t all have them and need that sympathetic/empathatic smile you’d give someone that you knew was going through something based on their appearance.  I have to tell you, I barely made it through this afternoon.  I overcommitted myself this week and I was struggling this afternoon.  Once I had the chance, I got comfy and I slept for HOURS. I needed it. It didn’t mean I am lazy or worthless or unproductive.  It meant I was taking care of a need.  I needed rest.  But don’t think I didn’t go to my calendar, make a line for rest, draw a box AND CHECKED IT OFF.  Focus on what you CAN do, friends.  It makes a world of difference.

*******SIDE NOTE TANGENT BELOW*******

While I’m at it…a reminder…check on your friends.  The sick, the well, the strong, the weak.  The busy, the bored, the employed, the retired, the traveling, the homebodies….ALL THE PEOPLE.  Ask how they are…and listen to the answer.  And y’all…if someone asks how you are, TELL THEM.  I don’t know about you but I mean it when I ask someone how they are really doing….I want to hear the truth.  I don’t want to a hear a standard answer or a flippant reply.  I want to know HOW they ARE….how can I be praying for them….have the prayers I’ve been praying been answered?  I value my friendships…I value my prayer time…and I want to be sure that my friends know I am praying for them with intention, as specific as possible and as often as I say I am.