Choosing Joy

Psalm 31:21-22  Bless the Eternal! For He has revealed His gracious love to me when I was trapped like a city under siege. I began to panic so I yelled out, “I’m cut off. You no longer see me!” But You heard my cry for help that day when I called out to You.  (VOICE)

Lately, I have felt like a “city under siege.” Two years ago our mentally ill loved one decided to quit taking his medication. His episodes of mania and outbursts of anger are more frequent and he refuses to get help.

Then my best friend died. We had spent every Thursday together talking and sharing our lives and praying. She had been quite ill for a very long time, so I don’t begrudge her life now with Jesus. Someday I’ll see her again. That is the hope given by faith in the Lord Jesus.

Both of these events in my life have worn away my energy, and I have let them steal my joy.

Let me repeat that: I have let them steal my joy.

I can relate to the speaker in the above verse from Psalm 31. It seems like God wasn’t there, wasn’t hearing my prayers for my friend or for my stepson.

The reality, however, is that God does see, and He does hear. Scripture says He is near to the brokenhearted, and that is a great comfort to me at this time.

Rennett Stowe photo

So I choose this day to believe that He has never left my side and is working in my life to strengthen and grow me into the likeness of His Son. He uses these hard times I experience as the fertilizer in the soil of my life to help me grow strong and mature.

Join with me today in choosing to be aware of God’s presence, to believe what He has promised, and to choose joy.

 

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Building a Godly Heritage

Colossians 2:7 Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.  (VOICE)

I’ve been thinking lately about my heritage as I’ve been going through some boxes and rearranging some books. My family gave me a precious heritage, a good foundation I can build my life on. I hope I can pass on a little of that to others.

The following rather long quotation was in the preface of a book I saw recently, and I want to share it with you. The book is all about carpentry and building, but it struck me as being about so much more than construction.

“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our father did for us.’ ”    John Ruskin  (Audels Carpenters and Builders Guide #2, Audel & Co., Publ., New York, 1923)

When you have a loved one with a mental illness, it can seem like you’re building with pebbles instead of stone. But if we persevere and keep our focus on Jesus, the Master Builder, He’ll make the foundation strong enough to be a substantial heritage.

Don’t give up when the work seems hard. With a thankful heart, keep building.

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God’s Flowers

Psalm 104:30  When You send out Your breath, life is created, and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.  (VOICE)

We ate at a Chinese restaurant the other day. While we were waiting for our food, the waitress created a rose out of the paper sleeve from a straw. Something you usually wad up and throw away became a flower.

Living with a loved one can be stressful, to say the least, but I am thankful even for that. It is making me more resilient and more patient (hopefully).

Even though more high-profile people have been open about their struggles with mental illness, it still carries a lot of stigma. Those with a brain disorder are ignored or avoided. Even in the church, the one place where they should feel safe.

photo by Gila Oren

God doesn’t see mentally ill people as throw-aways. Like the waitress, God can take imperfect people (and aren’t we all imperfect), and create something beautiful. He sees the flower in us before it is there.

I need to begin to see all people the way God does, as beautiful and renewed. It happens when His Holy Spirit breathes life into us.

Join with me as we resolve to have God-eyes. When we go through rough places with our mentally ill loved one, we will ask for Him to help us see that person the way He sees them.

After all, every one of us is an unfinished flower, being folded into a gorgeous bloom, part of His eternal bouquet.

 

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The God Who Is Trustworthy

Psalm 112:7-8  They will not be afraid when the news is bad
because they have resolved to trust in the Eternal. Their hearts are confident, and they are fearless,
 for they expect to see their enemies defeated.

Discouragement and fear might come easy in these days of violence, whether it is from extreme natural disasters or from the hand of a human being such as we saw in Las Vegas yesterday. Sometimes it seems as if God has lost control of His creation.

photo by Alex on Flicker.com

But He hasn’t. I can’t explain why He allows such things to happen, and I am suspect of anyone who claims they can. How can we know the mind of the Almighty, the One who created the universe out of nothing?

Here’s what I do know: He is trustworthy.

Even on a smaller stage in my own family when our mentally ill family member has a crisis, I can be confident that God is in control. He sees and knows everything, and I can shake the uncertainty that can roar into my heart at such times.

My enemies can be defeated, my enemies of fear and confusion and doubt, my perennial opponents worry and anxiety.

So have I achieved perfect peace? Not by a long shot. But I’m better than I used to be. I have scriptures on little notecards around the house. I turn to God in prayer more quickly. My close friends will pray for me when I ask them.

Prayer, God’s Word, and Christian relationships can be your lifelines, too. Resolve ahead of time that when stuff happens, you will still trust in our holy and loving and perfect God.

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Inventions in My Mind

Proverbs 3:5 Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on Him completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions.  (VOICE)

The other day I invented a complete conversation with someone. Everything I said was so intelligent, and even brilliant. That person changed his ways because of my words.

Of course, that conversation only happened in my mind.

Photo by Ainali

We who belong to the IWC (International Worriers Club) are good at inventing things. We invent scenarios that could happen, might happen, should happen. Of course, they seldom do.

Come on now. I know I’m not the only one who does this.

I am currently trying to give up my membership in the IWC and joining the OTG (Only Trusting God) group. It’s not easy. Worry is a habit, easily obtained and not so easily lost.

Living with a stepson with a brain illness (bipolar disorder) has often led to worry. I’ve worried about whether he’s taking his meds. I’ve worried about his choice of friends. I’ve worried about when his next outburst is going to be. But I’m slowly changing from a worrier to a truster.

You see, God is sovereign. He’s ultimately in control of everything in my life in the sense that everything that happens is filtered through Him. Even the bad things He allows because He always has my best interests at heart. He loves me.

He loves you, too. Drop the IWC and join the OTG bunch. The club is big and is growing. You are not alone. Read the Bible regularly. Go to church and make relationships with other believers. Pray about everything.

But the only requirement for joining the OTG club is a heart full of desire to change.

Let God do the heavy lifting.

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Changed in His Presence

Ezekiel 46:9   When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed festivals, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate.  (VOICE)

Today this verse was in part of my morning devotions where Ezekiel is talking about God’s plans for the temple. I am not a Bible scholar, so some may not see what I saw in this verse.

God gave specific instructions to the people about how they were to approach worship. They were to leave the temple through the door that was the opposite of the one where they entered.

It made me think about how I enter into God’s presence. Sometimes I’m angry or sad or discouraged. And I’ll admit that sometimes I really don’t even want to be there, but I do it out of some sense of obligation.

God wants me to go to Him no matter what my state of mind is. When I go to Him with all of my raw but honest emotions, He loves me. And that love changes me.

So when I leave His presence, I leave in a different way.

Life with a mentally ill family member can go from peacefulness to World War III in an instant. Can you relate to that?

There is hope. Hope that somewhere down the road there is healing for our loved ones, and hope that God will sustain us throughout the storms. That’s what He has promised in the Bible.

Don’t avoid God when you are in the throes of a crisis. Run don’t walk through that door into His presence. You will leave changed.

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The Valley of God’s Glory

Ezekiel 3:22-23  Then the Lord took hold of me, and He said to me, “Go out into the valley, and I will talk to you there.” So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the Lord.  (NLT)

Our life journey consists of mountaintops, valleys, and the occasional flat plain. Lately it seems like I’ve spent more time in the valley than I want to. Living with a mentally ill family member sometimes feels like taking up residence in a valley. But when I look back at my life, it’s in those valleys where I’ve made the most progress in my faith, where I’ve seen the glory of the Lord, and those valleys are never permanent.

photo by photographersnature

Valleys can seem like dark places because the sun is blocked by the surrounding mountains a good part of the day. But here’s another thing about being in a valley: You can’t help but look up, and when you look up you see God’s glory.

What does the glory of the Lord look like?

It’s strength when I feel like I’m done. It’s peace when I feel agitated. It’s comfort when things look overwhelming and I feel alone.

So being in the valley isn’t all bad. And the road through the valley will eventually lead you out either into a spacious plain or on a road that takes you up to the mountaintop.

If you’re in a valley, look up. God’s glory is there.

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