Are You Empty & Stuck in Pj’s?

Ever been stuck in your pajamas? You wake up empty, and no amount of caffeine can rouse your spirits because you’re feeling low and haven’t got a drop of energy to face the day.

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My mentor, Loretta, once said, “The year following my husband’s death, I ran on empty. I’d slide one foot out of the bedcovers and groan, ‘Lord, I can’t.’

And the Lord would nudge me out of bed by assuring me, I know, but I can. My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Empty and weak. That’s how my other friend felt when an ongoing storm—with no end in sight—hit her family.

Fatigue and anxiety try to take over,” she said. “Sometimes, it leaves me numb and paralyzed. Yesterday, I couldn’t get out of my pj’s. Today, I wore them till noon. I couldn’t help myself.”

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Life happens, right? Personal storms, that drain us, become the new normal and threaten to crush our spirit like someone stepping on an empty soda can. We’re tired of being strong. And we’re afraid to hope because we’ve been empty so long. 

So what can we do when we’re stuck in pj’s?

Put on Grace instead of Shame.

“I hate when I’m stuck in pj’s,” said my friend, “but I’ve stopped feeling ashamed. Now, I know it’s a marker to show me how I’m doing. I’ve learned to observe what’s happening and give myself grace in the storm. Knowing this too shall pass.”

Be Real and Willing to Receive

My friend cringed when someone knocked at her front door one afternoon. Dressed in her pj’s, without any makeup, and her wet hair wrapped in a towel, she said, “I didn’t want to answer the door. I wasn’t comfortable letting my friends see me this way. Vanity aside, it’s scary to share my struggles. I’d rather appear strong. But the ones who came to my door love me.”

If my friend had pretended to be strong, or refused to open the door, she would have missed out on their love and a much-needed (and appreciated) gift. “It’s awkward receiving gifts,” she said, “but it’s the perfect picture of God’s love and generosity. We’ll never deserve it. He simply gives and we accept.”

Freedom to Listen Instead of Sing

There were Sundays when my friend went to church, but she didn’t have the energy to sing during worship. So she remained quiet and listened to the people sing. “There’s freedom in letting words of praise be sung over us. Certain songs bring tears and help us stay yoked to Jesus. So I listen to praise music until I can sing.”

The storm isn’t over for my friend. She still struggles with emptiness. However, my friend knows God is present and working in ways she can’t imagine. For she told me, “I await the day when I can look back and trace God’s fingerprints all over this storm.”

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What helps you in difficult times? Have you seen God’s fingerprints?

Photos: Pixabay Images

Are You Sitting in Ashes?

Being depressed is like having a bloodsucking leech embedded in my flesh. Drains me physically. Muddles my mind. Squashes spiritual zeal. I can’t seem to detach the ugly thing. Ever been there?
images-6If you want to get technical, the dictionary defines depression as a psychotic state of mind that entails sadness, despondency, hopelessness, inability to think or concentrate, inactivity, and the desire to sleep. The verb, depress, means to lower.

During the winter months, I often feel like I’ve been lowered into a dark hole. A lack of sun and exercise. Rainy days and long nights. Head colds and flu. These all contribute to a seasonal melancholy state of mind. But experience tells me this too shall pass. I know the Lord will lift me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He’ll set my feet on solid ground and steady me as I walk. (Psalm 40:2)

But oh, how I wish the Lord would rush to the rescue sooner, particularly for those I love. Because my ‘depressed spirit’ also resulted from concern and empathizing with so many family members and friends who are suffering far worse than me.

If they were mentioned among the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, their woes would be listed as such: experienced the death of a child, unemployment, loss of a home, financial devastation, divorce, major surgery, lack of health insurance, life-threatening illness, agonizing chronic pain.

Some of them remind me of Job. Sitting in a heap of ashes.

Begging for mercy. Pleading for answers. Waiting for the storm to pass. Trusting the Lord when everything shouts, “Give up!”

My spiritual mentor and friend, Loretta, once told me, “Trusting God is the most important ingredient in a believer’s life. Because there will be days when we’re in the desert and God appears silent. That’s when we have to trust who God is. And His promises.”

Loretta learned to trust God’s sovereignty early in her marriage. Trusting God—no matter what—proved invaluable and enabled Loretta to cope when her husband died in a plane crash. Instead of becoming a missionary with her husband, as planned, Loretta became the sole breadwinner and single mom of three young kids. Over the next twelve months, three other beloved family members died. Can you imagine the pain?

That living nightmare happened decades ago, and yet, from those ashes, grew a deeper trust in God. Here’s what she said:

“We have the opportunity to choose how we respond during adversity. We either bend and let God work in our lives in order to mold us. Or we resist and lose out on His lessons. Life is full of difficult circumstances. If we believe our circumstances are allowed by God, and that He withholds no good thing from us, then our trust grows and we’re better prepared for the next hard thing. Trust becomes—or can be—a way of life.”

Today, as I emerged from my lethargic fog, I thought about Loretta’s words when I saw the yellow daffodils preening in my yard beneath a blue sky.1929165_79192745912_7011292_nLast week, these flowers were bent. Beaten down by the cold, pummeling rain. Now, the daffodils stand tall. Their stems stretch heavenward as they soak up the sun. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear them sing. Heralding the coming Spring.

And a small voice whispers in the cool breeze. Trust God even in this…. 

 

 

 

How To Cope with Pain & Adversity

Today, I saw my neighbor at the grocery store. “How’s your wife?” I asked, standing in the canned vegetable aisle.

“Hanging in there. She still has another month of recuperation.”

I wish I could say his wife is the only one who entered the new year with a major injury. But I know multiple people who are recovering from broken bones and surgery.

Other friends live with chronic pain, depression, and debilitating diseases like Parkinsons, and in one woman’s case—terminal cancer.

C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Have you—or someone you love—been roused by pain? Patience worn thin?

When Job was tormented by grief and agonizing pain, he implored God, “Why am I suffering?” However, he refused to follow his wife’s advice and curse God.

Instead, he said, “‘Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In this, he did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

My mentor, Loretta, calls this …

Job’s Intolerable Compliment—God trusted Job to honor Him in his circumstances.

Even Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow….Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:34-36)

Honoring God in our adversity begins with the heart. Accepting and trusting God’s sovereignty.

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Several of my friends deal with chronic pain and health issues. They pray for the absence of pain. They believe God has the power to restore their health, but they agree—for whatever reason—God’s allowed poor health in their lives.

They’ve come to a place of submission.

  • Accepting what they cannot change.
  • Acknowledging God’s eternal purpose—to use everything—to teach and mold us into Christ’s image.

One friend said, “When I’m in pain, I cling to God. Sometime I wonder if my faith would be as rich if I’d been a healthy woman.”

She admitted, “Some days, all I can do is pick up my son from school and put dinner on the table. On these days, it’s my choice to…

  • Get angry and kick myself; feel like a failure.
  • Compare myself to healthy friends; feel resentful.
  • Have a pity party; feel sorry for myself
  • Give myself grace; accept this is all I can do.

Her attitude echoes another friend’s words. “When I’m in pain, I try to pray like Jesus, ‘Father, Thy will be done.’”

Perhaps like me, you don’t deal with chronic pain. Maybe your adverse situation is unemployment or dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction. If so, there’s a lesson to be gleaned from Job’s Intolerable Compliment.

Honoring God even in this…..

 

Photo: JennyWredePhotography

When Spirits are Bone-dry

This is my yard in the summer.

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And this is my yard.

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Both patches of earth are inches apart, and have access to the same water running beneath the ground. Why the difference?

Part of my yard is tapped into the underground irrigation system; the other is not.

Duh, tell me something, I don’t know, Karen.

Tell me what to do when my spirit is bone-dry.

  • How do I smile and pretend life is great when one dog-day somersaults into the next, and the horizon seems to flat line into nothingness?
  • How do I avoid feeling jaded when I strive to live right while the other guy reaps the rewards?
  • What if this is good as life gets?

Daunting questions when the spirit is dry on an August day.

By 8:00 a.m., the air is already thick as a wool blanket.

I’m parched as the squirrels that guzzle water from my birdbaths. Plants droop despite the drip lines that watered them a few hours earlier. My cat is stretched out on the warm grass, her lids half closed.

My motivation to pull weeds evaporates like the water drops clinging to my ivy. I plop on the bench swing. I need more than a glass of water or the hum of an air conditioner to chill my mood.

Stuck on Self, I need to tap into the Living Water. Lord, please evict the melancholy from the tenant.   

I know, same old Christian song and dance, right? But some things never change.

Meeting with the good Lord is the surest fix for a bone-dry spirit.

  • Not talking about flipping through Bible pages like I’m hunting for coupons.
  • Not talking about randomly pulling a verse out of context to choke down like a vitamin pill; hoping I’ll have a feel-good day.

I’m talking about camping on one passage. Laying down my burdens, and allowing God to to excavate my heart.      

Lord, you want me to become more like you and bring you praise? Then use even this…

Use my melancholy and the dog-days of life to teach me how to smile, and truly be glad in this day.

Rid me of spiritual indifference that blinds me to the Light or makes me lukewarm.

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Lift my chin heavenward like the ivy vines that stretch up my pine trees towards the sunlight.

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Jesus told the woman at Jacob’s well, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4)

  • Whenever the spirit is bone-dry: “Come and drink.”
  • Whenever life appears hopeless: “Come and drink.”
  • Whenever we’re sweating the small stuff: “Come and drink.”

Drink until your thirst is quenched, then drink some more.

Drink until the Living Water springs up and bubbles over into the lives around us. 

Have you come to Jesus?

Are you drinking regularly?

 

Not What but WHO

The house is robed in darkness when I slip away from the warmth of my bed and my slumbering husband. I’d rather brew a cup of tea and pray than toss and turn.

I weave my way through the dark and around the furniture until I find the kitchen light. While tea leaves steep, I notice my hungry cat waiting at the back door.

Open a can of food for her, open the Bible for me.

I’m not a morning person, but I love the silence where God is able to speak without interruptions.

If only I can keep my mind from distractions. My year that began slow has picked up speed. The winds are changing.

I tell myself “rejoice in the Lord” because my joy is not based on What is happening in my life, but WHO is ever present.  

El Roi, the God who sees me, even in the dark while I sip tea.

How odd…or is it…that I open my Bible to Psalm 143 where my words were once scrawled in the margin: February 2001: anxiety attack and winter depression.

What happened long ago that caused me to underline emotions that King David experienced: “persecuted, crushed, overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember why those emotions held me hostage, but the solution remains underlined.

“I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul longs for Thee as a parched land.” (verses 5,6)

On that winter morning, I lived in dark places. (vs.3)

But I knew then…as I know now…the ONE True God who could and would …

·        Revive me.

·        Teach me.

·        Deliver me.

And bring my soul out of trouble.

Even now, as I write these words, night has slipped away. Daylight is here. And on my window sill, a cross with the words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”    

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If anxious thoughts woke me, they are gone.  Not because my circumstances changed, or God fixed my problems overnight.

My soul is at rest because the Lord is my hope and refuge.

And He never changes…not even in this.