28/06/2013

Decisions Decisions! ARGH!*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:01 am by The Water Bearer

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As a parent there are a lot of tough jobs. They come in waves, ganging up on us, after a while a different range of jobs becomes the focus…… or the torment! 😉

Lately the wave of ‘decision making’ has tumbled me over and over, and then pummeled me into the hard sand below.

I only work part-time, so I am there to pick my girls up from school everyday and share as much of their time as I can. I am with them a lot, so of course they ask me the most questions. I am sure most Mum’s can relate.

Young Girl : Can I have Tuckshop today Please??? I haven’t had it for weeks….

Young Girl: Can my friend sleepover? We promise not to be noisy……

Old Girl: Can I go to this party?

Young Girl : Can I ride my bike on the road? I promise to watch out for cars, My sister used to be allowed….

Young Girl : Can I play on the Wii before bed?? I will sleep straight after, I promise……

Old Girl: Can I go for a drive with my friends?

Young Girl : Can I watch this movie?….It’s only got some mild course language. I will not listen to it or think its funny….

Old Girl: Can I stay out past curfew just this once?

Young Girl : Can I save the rest of my dinner for lunch tomorrow? I am not that hungry and it will be so nice for lunch…..

Young and Old Girl : Can you straighten my hair before school?

Young Girl: Can I have $2 for an ice block?

Old Girl: Can you drive me to the shops?

Young Girl: Can I come in to pay for the fuel? (And ask for half the store while I’m in there)

Old Girl: Can I have $50 for a new skirt and shoes?

And on and on it goes…..

OH.. GOD HELP ME!!!

Coming up with reasonable answers when put on the spot is hard enough, but when those answers are challenged with convincing and logical replies, aimed to change my decision, it can, at times, become unbearable.

I think I am a pretty tough Mum, I stick to my guns more often than not. I give my explanations so they understand why I made that decision.

Now I am wondering if those explanations are the flaw in my plan…

As my children are growing, their voice of reasoning and negotiations skills are developing, and I think perhaps I have taught them too well. They know exactly what to say to make me question if my decision is fair, or right, or reasonable. They know how important I take my role as their Mum, and that I want to make as many right decisions as possible.

With my current condition and medication aggravating my mood disorder, over these past few months I have experienced a few old familiar “episodes”, these are my inner enemies. Some episodes are manic, some depressed and anxious, some irritable and reactive. When the enemy of anxiety rises up, making decisions is almost impossible to do with any certainty. Second guessing yourself is a constant companion. Then again, so is third guessing and fourth guessing and so on….

Unfortunately, the questions don’t stop just because I am mid-episode. Young girl doesn’t read the warning signs and demands more from me when I am fragile, and old girl (who was always the most compliant child) has found her challenging teenage voice. After 3 months on the medication that stirs up inner enemies, I was at breaking point!

Family meeting time!

After taking the time to explain my condition in more detail to my family, I asked for some extra grace through this trying time, and for them to ask themselves if their questions are really that important or urgent. I also explained that when you share a house with anyone, whether it is family, friends, strangers, borders etc, a major part of making it a healthy household is being considerate of each other. If you can tell that someone is having a hard time, a bad day or asking for some space, then the polite and respectful thing to do, is do your best to accommodate them. That way they might return the same grace to you when you need it.

I ended our family meeting with a gentle warning:

If you poke and rabid dog with a stick, no matter how much it loves you, it will eventually turn and bite. And if you ask an anxious Mum too many questions at the wrong time, the answer you get may be unfair, unreasonable and wrong. Yet that is the chance you take when you ignore the signs of your poor worn out Mum, who loves you more than words can say, but won’t like you very much if you wake her from her self-prescribed recovery nap to ask if you can finish the rest of the jelly!

sleep

04/09/2012

Walking the Neutral Line Between Fear and Promise**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:59 pm by The Water Bearer

A few years ago, I was going through the toughest time, so far, in my life. It was a time I had been called to obey God in an area of my life that was more difficult, and scary, and emotional than I have ever had to do before or since. I was directed to walk away from my God given promise, away from my blessed ‘dream come true’ and wait for it to come find me again in a new stage of God’s perfect will.

As I waited in obedience I spent a lot of time sharing my heart in the sanctuary of those trustworthy and dearest to me, this lessened my heaviness and got me through many ominous weeks.

I wonder if any of them managed to keep up with the plot of my story very well?

I remember that I spoke a lot about my fears, the sense of impending doom which hovered around me day and night, as I waited on the promised outcome of both the situation and my life. Much of the time I was floored, barely able to hold the phone to my ear as I poured my tears into the receiver. Overwhelmed with thoughts hammering me to give up, cave in, and disobey. Convincing me I was drowning in an ocean of faithless doubt.

Then the next time I reached out I felt elated, the sun shone brighter and colour reappeared in my world, as I shared some small, seemingly insignificant, event that had sparked hope in me. Often I was directed to a reminder of God’s promise, a perfect sign to confirm that all was not lost. I would let this tiny shred of positive gold uplift me to clouds of high hope. I would prattle on and on, in a excited, overjoyed way, certain that this divine piece of evidence was the turning point in my pain, proof that my promise was not far from my reach. However usually, if I held on too tight, my buoyant piece of fluff would be blown away by the days end.

Another wave would come, heavy and unexpected, it would swallow my hope whole, like unwelcome and uninvited guests, dragging their luggage of negativity and dread into my life.

My mood and focus polarised from one minute to the next, like an unpredictable swelling sea. I filled my soul with scriptures speaking of God’s strength and faithfulness, of His love and mercy. I sang songs of praise daily, determined to keep my faith strong through the trial. If I stopped this for too long I crumbled under the attack of an enemy, who slipped through the cracks in my armour, and toyed with me in the worst ways. I was simply blown in all directions by breezes from the spiritual world. It was unbearable at times, unsure if I was even sane anymore.

My Dad was a priceless ally during this stormy season, as I helplessly clung to obedience like it was a lone life jacket floating in shipwrecked waters, I recall clearly the pearls of wisdom he gave me.

“Waiting patiently on God, in a tumultuous time, is less extreme if you can learn to stay neutral. If you allow yourself to get too emotionally high then you will have farther to fall when the next blow hits. If you stay hopeless and low it will be harder to drag yourself back up to be able to cope each day. Try hard not to be pulled either side of the line into optimism or pessimism, until you have proof that the season has changed and God has completely fulfilled His promise to you.”

He went on to explain that the enemy may give me positive hope only to make his blows of destruction all the more painful and hard to bear. I was to remain in the middle, not overjoyed and not defeated.

He was absolutely right, it made all the difference to try to execute any amount of emotional self-control and trust that God was working things out in His own time and His own way. The waves began to level out.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

We can get through these types of trials without the massive tumult of highest highs and the lowest lows, if we try to walk the neutral line between the fear and the promise. Realising that faith in an unseen God can allow all our hopes to become reality.

Somehow, with the continual support from those who poured into me with faith, compassion and scripture, I managed to hold on in obedience for a number of months until the season did change. The proof was confirmed in the most miraculous ways. And God did in fact bring my promise back into my life. Only when it came back, it was far better than the version of the promise I had let go of and trusted into His hands. He is an awesome and powerful God, only limited by our own lack of faith, our impatience and our mistaken presumption that He is unwilling to perform.

30/07/2012

The Emotional Hangover**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:40 am by The Water Bearer

I am coining this as an official title,

“Emotional Hangover”

I am beginning to see a pattern form, of getting an emotional hangover after a day of emotional battle, a day of raw exposed fear. The kind of inner battle when you can’t control a thought in your head or a word from your mouth. When you are so overwhelmed with the onslaught of emotions that your clarity of thought isn’t even in the same suburb as you! Tears are shed, hearts crumble under the painful attacks of fear and guilt, words are rambled and all capability is lost. Many psychological conditions bring on these bouts, such as Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, Cyclic Mood Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. The battle itself is difficult at best to get through, however I have noticed the next day or two I am exhausted and extremely sensitive. I feel like I’ve been through hell and back.

Every ‘Drinker’ knows a real ‘Hangover’, you may as well write-off the whole next day because you know you are going to be useless. Getting out of bed is like lifting a wreckage from the bottom of the sea, that first sip of warm Coffee or Tea gives you slight hope, which only fades as the cup drains. The second cup doesn’t hold the same potential as that first hopeful sip, regular responsibilities are unbearably weighty, if you can manage anything at all then you’re grateful.

Not too long ago, I suffered from this type of “Emotional Hangover”.

Getting out of bed caused an argument with myself, until I managed to drag myself off the mattress.

I snapped at my family members when I saw the rubbish overflowing onto the floor, spewing out of the bin which was well over capacity.

I cringed and growled out loud “ARGH!” when I saw the heavy rain fall onto my work uniforms as they hung neatly on the washing line.

I could barely hear my children speak to me through the thick fog of unfathomable thoughts, and each question they threw at me squeezed into my mind which was as full as the rubbish bin. When I tried to conjure a response, the pressure inside my mind became too much and only something regrettably negative burst from my mouth.

I stood in front of the pantry trying desperately to come up with a side dish I felt able to make with dinner, I slid down the cupboard door behind me until my backside hit the floor, looking up at the shelves of food begging something to cry out “I am easy to make, you can manage to make me”. Only to give up and go to bed for an hour or so.

My head was heavy, my heart was heavy, my body was heavy, my mind was mush under a heavy fog. I’ve felt this before, many times.

I was very grateful to read a fellow bloggers post Mental Fatigue. Which let me know I wasn’t alone, every word rang true as I read, my realisation sparked this post.

I began to remind myself that these battles haven’t been so common recently, that I have been much better for many years, even though I do still get hit randomly, though not as often, but still HARD. An overflow of the inner war I discussed in a previous post Why so Fragile? I know that my inner enemy is using fear to deter me from writing…again. This time bringing out the ‘Big Guns’ of my psychological disorder to dissuade me from exposing these tactics.

The details might be different for everyone, but my deep personal fear is similar to many. Fear of being unloved, fear of being rejected, fear of being worthless, fear of temptation, fear of failing, fear of suffering, fear of regret.

I pray more than ever in these times, I instinctively reach for the powerful words of my Bible. My faith will get me through, I know this. He is my strength when I am weak.

In a confident state of mind, and a trusting, loving connection with God, these fears are irrelevant. I know I am loved by my Heavenly Father, that He will never reject me, I know how valuable I am to Him, I know my sins are forgiven, I know I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me, that I can endure suffering and be better for it, and that my regrets are what improves me.

I Know this! I Know this! So why do we still get attacks of feeling this way, believing these lies, folding under the fear? Whether for days on end, or just for one day here and one day there?

Because in this fragile state, this knowledge is hidden behind the heavy fog.

I used to think I was alone in this until I began sharing my story, I have found there are many of you out there, many like me who battle these inner enemies at various times in your lives.

So why does God let all this happen to us who love Him, who trust in Him?

I believe He wants to make us avid opponents to His enemies, He wants to strengthen our abilities on the battlefield, this fragile state of mind forces us to stretch our faith and reach further for His hand, to bring Him into our circumstance. These difficult times remind me to be vigilant in wearing my Godly armor, and to keep me truly hungering and thirsting for His word. What about you? Do these types of battles diminish your faith in His protection, or do you understand that He uses all things to bring about His design and build our relationship with Him and our strength of faith?

I watched the film “The Vow” recently, it touched me so, and a part of the story fits in here. The husband tells his wife who is suffering from amnesia that He will make her feel the love they once shared, that it will be like reading her favourite book for the first time. She will get to experience the most amazing feeling in the world again, the feeling of “Falling in Love“.

I feel like that when this fog lifts and I am saved by my Loving Father in Heaven! I fall in love with Him over and over again. I feel the safety of trusting in Him return to my awareness, I marvel at His demonstrations of Love when my prayers are answered. I am humbled by my weakness and encouraged by His strength. I am uplifted and enlightened, yet mystified and amazed by His complex puzzle for life and growth.

It may seem confusing but He knows things we don’t, He sees around the corners of life which we have yet to view. He uses these times to refine us as one would remove the impurities of precious metals, heating up the rocks with the hottest of fires causing the imperfections to rise to the surface and be removed!

“I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’

Zech 13:9 (ESV)

What about you? Do you also struggle and battle with fears similar to mine?
Do these types of battles diminish your faith in His protection?
Or do you understand that He uses all things to bring about His design and build our relationship with Him and our strength of faith?

22/07/2012

Why So Fragile?**

Posted in Encouragement, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:06 pm by The Water Bearer

A few years ago I read this statement by Author Lysa Terkerst and have tried to refer to it ever since.

“Don’t let the compliments of others go to your head, or their criticisms to your heart”

I failed to adhere to this advise recently, and it has become the foundation of a new level of perspective.

Having had a very successful couple of months of blogging, I have become somewhat ‘hyper-enthusiastic’, it has been so wonderful to see people all over the world reading my stuff, then even ‘liking’ some and giving such wonderful compliments. Yet I have fallen into a trap set for me by my inner enemies, I confess that I have come to rely on my ‘blog stats’ to verify the success of my calling. I can hear all the horrified ‘GASPS’ of shock. (*Wink) I imagine this is pretty common.

Unfortunately it is not as trivial as it may seem, nothing ever is with me!

This is dangerous territory, treading way too close to pride than I like to get. By no means can I take any credit for any of this success, I completely acknowledge all glory goes to the Lord for any ability He has given me to write. Besides people always like His stuff much better than anything I try to come up with on my own 🙂 I suppose it is simply that I have become overly animated by the evidence that He can use me.

A big element of my personality is an addiction to WORDS. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very busy mind, often have many thoughts, words and ideas buzzing around inside my head and I am drawn into sharing these with others. Sometimes expressing them and seeing them more clearly brings tremendous benefit to my chaotic state of mind, other times I become manic and fear that my testimony may be damaged as I ramble on in a state lacking control.

I am also compulsive by nature and harbor much nervous energy. I used to smoke irregularly when my busy mind found an empty moment to kill, when I quit smoking I took up Facebooking, filling the spaces by automatically checking for notifications using the app on my phone. On a bad or slow day this simple act can get out of hand, so I knew I needed to once again take action. When I quit Facebook, I took up blogging. You see a pattern here? I am now constantly tempted to check to see – Who has viewed? Where were they? Did they ‘Like’ it?  “Does someone want to share ‘words’ with me?” All stemming from these long standing traits.

A month into blogging, this pattern began emerging (again) so as usual I went on a 3 day Fast. I didn’t go onto my blog site at all, didn’t check my ‘stats’, was determined not to read any comments or reply for 3 whole days! (Luckily God didn’t allow me to be tempted by comments during those three days, as my blog received none, He knows! Lol)

I have come to find that fasting something for 3 days, is extremely beneficial to our development of faith and victory in overcoming the habitual temptations of life. In times when either breaking a habit, or preventing one from forming, or simply going without something we enjoy for God, is a symbol of recognition that we need Him in our situation more. This is because 3 days is fairly achievable, and therefore we are less likely to break our promise and become self-condemning. 3 days is also long and difficult enough to need help to reach the promised goal. Every time the tempting thought pops up during this time, we can  acknowledge the promise we made, and ask God for Help, this breaks up the automatic train of thought. It invites Him into the situation and an army of angels are dispatched to our aid.

So even though I have fasted blogging a couple of times, I must admit that due to all the new experiences it has brought me, my state of mind has become even more excitable than usual and I have allowed the compliments of others to somewhat go to my head (or perhaps rather my hands).

Compulsive nature can be easy fodder for our inner enemy to form habits, dangerous ones that try to to push us off the narrow path. It brings a whole other side to the coined phrase “Idle Hands are the Devil’s plaything”.

Next came phase two, when I received a couple of blunt criticisms which I let go straight to my heart, deeply. I reacted badly, defended, felt guilty, then that old familiar fear began to rise up from the depths of my soul, pressing hard on my heart, it began to choke me, forming a lump in my throat, and by the time this fear got to my head I was lost and consumed by it.

The main focus of these criticisms:- my unruly mouth. A negative response to the easy and common temptation to think too much and share every thought in my head, especially during a bout of psychological ‘mania’. I am aware of this, I have been all my life, it has brought me great shame, I have prayed and confessed about this more than anything else. While I have seen much improvement during the years God has been changing and developing me, this is the one area of weakness that I experience the most regular and regrettable backward slips. Old habits do die hard!

Often the desire to force being different from the reality of who I am causes severe bouts of depression.

When I get attacked with a bout of depression like this a few things commonly happen. I doubt and condemn myself and confess it all to God, I believe the words of people I care about and respect so much that I ask God to help me become what they think I should be. At the same time I try to remind myself that this is how God made me, I need to love and accept myself, and that I need to work with Him to bring about any changes He is guiding me to make. It can become quite a confusing mixture of thoughts as I try to determine which ones I should listen to.

This inner to and fro can lead to thoughts of insanity which creep to the threshold of my mind, leaving me unable to trust a thought in my own head. Battling these types of psychological conditions causes mental fatigue, I refer to this as an emotional hangover’ , a few wasted days spent heavy and extremely sensitive. After this it is common to want to make up for lost time and I can become manic and go into overdrive to catch up and get ‘on top’ of things, only to fall short of my own expectations.

It is common to want to reach out to someone, needing them to help clear away some of the self-condemnation, however often human misunderstanding of spiritual or psychological systems can lead to badly timed good intentions which can clumsily handle a fragile heart. Now while I personally have found much support through professional therapists, they can not cover all the bases these situations require. Only God and His word know how to properly handle this type of vulnerability, so we need to reach out for Him in prayer.

These attacks soften the heart, making it fragile as it prepares to receive the new level of perspective and to break off old unwanted strongholds. Forcing a new level of complete submission to God, depending on Him for every thought and every action, begging Him to take the wheel and drive.

As usual I prayed for clarity and for sanity, I prayed for Him to keep a tight reign on my lips, I prayed for freedom and self-acceptance, I cried bitter tears of remorse, I asked for forgiveness, and I begged Him to meet me in my pit and rescue me.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”. Psalms 51:17 (ASV)

Within a few minutes of intense prayer at the time my heart was at it’s most fragile, I was sent comfort. First I received a pleasant surprise to distract me from my thoughts, a little later an unexpected, warm, lingering embrace and a confession of Love. The next day a special family evening, spent sharing ‘words’ with those I love and cherish most on this earth. Then a days break, a day alone to listen to soothing music and allow me to begin to collect my thoughts. Hallelujah!

Since all this has really taken it out of me I have taken some much needed R&R, which you may have read about in my recent post A Fragile Heart.

When we obey and make steps to fulfill our calling we open ourselves up to the inner enemies attacks to try and put us off track. This may come in obvious ways  through physical circumstances such as a verbal attack from someone unexpected, perhaps burning your hand or cutting a finger while cooking dinner, or disturbed sleep from petty annoyances, perhaps just an unruly household with everyone in a ‘mood’, rubbing each other in the worst ways. Sometimes the enemies attacks can come through more subtle ways, through temptation, or creating a fearful mindset, through psychological weakness, or a moment of confusion at the expense of your faith. These are his scare tactics, hoping we will not follow through in obedience, and you can be sure that if we do continue on the obedient path we will see some of these attacks result afterwards as well. This is the enemies backlash in retaliation to any ground we may have made toward God.

Yet this is the war we are in, and when we are obeying the Almighty and keeping our hearts open to Him, He gives us comfort through faith by knowing He will be victorious. We are on the winning side even if the evidence all around may appear bleak. Depend on His strength when you are weak, find comfort in knowing you are Loved no matter what lies the enemy or the world tells you. And be prepared to suffer and to grow, and to rest and to fight again and to succeed, then suffer and grow, then rest and then fight and then succeed ……..and so on and so on….. Until this war and life as we know it ends, and we are finally free from this battle, changed by Him forever. When the enemy loses all influence and Righteousness Reigns into ETERNITY!

02/06/2012

The Battle Continues!**

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:22 pm by The Water Bearer

There are times when the circumstances of life get heavy for me and the depression I have fought with rises back up against me. I recognise that my mood is contagious, if I am happy and full of joy so is the rest of my family, and if I am irritable and low it seeps through causing a bad mood to set into the whole house. While I am mostly known to be a person of positive and high spirits, I have a hard time being that way all the time, especially behind closed doors. I feel the pressure of that weight on me and sometimes it breaks me.

I want so much to help others find the methods that helped me through the darkest times of my life. But I still have so much to learn, how can I begin to teach others? I guess once again my disorder is causing me to doubt my calling, and it is pretty much impossible to publish a blog when I am filled with doubt.

I can see so clearly ways to help future generations live a life of faith and learn to let God have His way with our lives. To bring the abundance of peace, joy and love that I see when I have visions of the future, where God is once again given ultimate authority over this place.

I see it, I believe it, but I still struggle every day to live this life as that premium version of myself!

I believe my children deserve a Mum who doesn’t drag down the mood of the house with the heaviness of depression and the instability of anxiety, yet I have to submit to the fact that God knows why He chose me for the job.

My inner enemy is always trying to convince me that my girls deserve a better mother than me. I get so disheartened when I allow the negative poison inside me to overflow out onto them. I know what damage it can do and I want more than anything to protect them from it.

I have had a rough couple of weeks, with health issues and extra emotional pressure. When I get like this I remember all too well how deep I sank into depression the first time I felt this useless. My accident left me damaged and a shell of my former self. I was unable to find any joy or peace, except in my faith. But Faith isn’t as easy to share as you may think. Faith can hold you tight by the ankle as life drags you out over a cliff, on the outside I may look like I am faithless, panicking and freaking out as I stare down into the abyss beneath me. But I manage to stay there until I am once again placed on solid ground, over and over this happens and I guess I must find comfort in knowing that I haven’t been dropped to meet my doom. My faith has held me tight, no matter how far from calm I am.

I hit my lowest point a number of years ago, in my darkest moment I believed that they would actually be better off without me. As I stared at a handful of pills, and kept half an eye on a bottle of vodka, I thought to myself ‘It’s that easy’. I cried out to God to help me! Praise God I snapped out of it! I had to accept that my illness was clouding my clarity of thought. I had to put myself in my girl’s shoes and I realised that they would not understand that I was doing this for them. All they would know was that I left them, and the thought of leaving them alone to struggle through this life without me was even scarier than the damage I thought I was already causing them.

I thank God that He gave me the help to escape the trap my mind was setting for me. I swore that day that I was going to keep on my godly armour, to surround myself with an army of angels and prevent those thoughts creeping back in.

My faith pulled me back over the edge of that cliff and put me back on solid ground, but I had to work hard, I had to keep my eyes on God, and make sure I was honest in my therapy sessions. I kept myself surrounded with people who supported me and had to distance myself from those who may not have realised it but were dragging me down.

During my recent heaviness I shared some of my thoughts with my very faithful, eldest daughter, she said many wise words but mostly she wanted me to see myself through her eyes, that she saw me as a strong, loving and faithful Mum. She also reminded me of the weight of sin Jesus carried, how heavy it was for Him. How He pleaded with God in the Garden of Gethsemane to find another way to save people, to avoid His suffering. Yet He still walked in faith and finished His horrendous job.

So, if God wants me to write, then I am going to keep trying until I finish the job! I will give Him the glory of being my strength when I am weakest.

I may not always be the best version of myself on the outside, but I find comfort in knowing that God knows what is in my heart, He has given me self-awareness and a way to be able to share that awareness with others. I pray for us all that we hold onto our faith even as we stare into the abyss below, knowing that He has got us! For us to grow together through the internal war which the inner enemy is using to try to destroy us, and to find Godly weapons to make us VICTORIOUS!

In the mighty name of your son I pray… AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!

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