How Do We Bloom, When Life is Tough?

I think as women we spend much of our time over thinking things. Have you ever asked yourself these questions: Is what I'm doing making a difference? How does my life count? What sort of legacy am I going to leave behind? Am I worthwhile? Am I enough? 

For this particular post I am not going to address all those other questions we ask ourselves: What am I going to make for dinner? Does my spouse really love me? Are my kids listening to me? Am I too fat? Am I pretty? You get the idea and I am sure you could add your own list of questions.

petunias

You have probably heard the phrase, "Bloom where you are planted." It has been around for a while. I found an interesting article on Huffington Post written in 2014. You can see that article here. The author, Smita Malhotra, MD has a basic premise; that we can live a full life no matter what situation we find ourselves in if we just practice four things:

1. (Remember) Every step in life prepares you for the next one.

2. Stop complaining.

3. Be a blessing.

4. Bloom through concrete.

To thoroughly understand where she is coming from it would be good to read her article. What I would like to do is use that as a spring board for us, specifically as wives, mothers, and grandmothers. You all know it is true, motherhood and sometimes being a wife is a thankless job.  I'm sure there are those who would say, If you teach your children properly, they will be thankful. While this is true, the hard bits of motherhood are not easily understood until experienced. 

I think there are several scriptural ideas that we need to be reminded of to enable us to better bloom where we are planted. 

1. God is in control. I know we all say it. It rolls off our tongues as easily as water, but how many of us actually believe it? It's okay to be honest. I have a hard time with it myself. Didn't the disciples struggle with believing He was in control those dark hours after Jesus was crucified then laid in the tomb? Read through the Psalms. David questioned God on more than one occasion.

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
— Psalm 10:1 (NASB)

But he always came back to the fact that God was in control.

The Lord is King forever and ever;
Nations have perished from His land.
O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
— Psalm 10:16-17

Perhaps that is part of the problem. We let ourselves go through hours, days and even weeks of wandering, worrying and hand-wringing, when really all we need to do is exactly what David did. Bring it back to God. 

2. God is trustworthy. There is an element to trust that must be akin to jumping out of the airplane. Let go! When it comes to our kids and our grandkids, we want to be able to keep them from all evil, but frankly evil happens. Our wishing it away, or ignoring it, is not going to keep bad things from happening. However, we can choose to place our trust in the One who is higher than I. 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)

The Psalmist again, questions God's goodness at the beginning of the Psalm. This is showing us, it is okay to feel these difficult emotions. The worry, stress, fear, anger, are all part of being human in a fallen world. 

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6 (NASB)

By the end of the Psalm, which isn't very long, the psalmist remembers who God is, and that He is faithful. He makes a choice to not allow his thoughts to stay on the despair and agony page. He is confident that God is trustworthy.

3. Thankfulness makes a difference. I can't say this enough. Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book on the subject, called One Thousand Gifts. Go to Amazon and type in books on gratitude to see the list that pops up. Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote Choosing Gratitude. For perspectives that are not strictly Christian there is also, The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Daily Gratitude by National Geographic. Thankfulness can transform our minds and our lives. It is, after all, commanded in God's word.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

4. Get positive. I wanted to differentiate this from being thankful because I think there is more to bringing our thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, than just thankfulness. Thankfulness is a huge part of it, but we can forget to be thankful, or we can express gratitude and then quickly move on to something else that is wearing away at our peace. God's word expresses this idea of positivity in the book of Philippians.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

This verse comes after verses 4-7 which talk about rejoicing, not being anxious and the peace of God. This verse brings the whole idea of positive thinking into fine focus. We are to be thinking about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent and worthy of praise. Start measuring your thought life up against that list. Would you say your thoughts are mostly positive or are you seeing some work that needs to be done? 

Positivity can come from music, good books, uplifting movies, non-toxic friendships, exercise, getting out in nature, owning a pet and of course things like going to church and reading God's word. 

mirror

There are times when I look at my reflection in the mirror and I talk out loud to myself. I tell myself I am valuable, loved with an everlasting love and beautiful. I also tell myself that most of the worries I have are never going to happen, so just chill. Sometimes, I pray out loud, doing battle with the enemy and hearing myself say it makes me realize I have the power of God available to me at all times. I love to go for walks and when I do, I try to thank God for the beauty of the world around me, even on a gray day. 

Blooming where we are planted is basically the ability to be the person God wants you to be no matter where you are at any point in your life. You might not think you are blooming, let alone thriving, but try to remember whose you are and that He's got it all figured out. Then just lean into Him. He will help you to grow through the toughest concrete out there. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Mulling it Over - Part 3

Right now I am devoting the second Monday of each month to mull over a particular piece of scripture. I have been working through Ephesians 6:10-18. In Part 1 I looked at verses 10 and 11. Part 2 covered verse 12. I know I am going slowly, but I feel it is imperative that we examine each verse carefully. This week I want to look at verse 13, but as a refresher, let's look at the first three verses again. 

Bible
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB)

Now let's move on to verse 13.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesian 6:13 (NASB)

When I was a young person taking English in high school one of my teachers would say, "If you see a therefore, you need to ask, what is it there for."

1. "Therefore..." When we stop and ask what is this therefore there for, I would say that it is referring back to what was previously stated. The apostle Paul begins this section of scripture admonishing us to put on the armor of God. What follows is a statement of just what sort of warfare we are up against. So important is this fact, that he says, "...take up the full armor of God..." This is the second time in just four verses that Paul tells us to "put on" or "take up" the full armor of God. Therefore refers back to the struggle against other worldly forces we are facing in battle.

2. "...take up..." This is an action. Passivity is not an option when dealing with spiritual warfare and being prepared for it. We have to be proactive. Think about the sort of training a soldier goes through when he enlists. He goes to bootcamp. Why do they put these men through such a rigorous training routine? They know that a prepared soldier is a soldier that will be able to fight. Bootcamp requires not just physical training, but mental and emotional training as well. If we were faced with a war we would want soldiers who know what they are doing and are not afraid to put their lives on the line. The same is true in the spiritual realm. We are God's enlisted men and women. Our job is to be prepared and then to fight. We can only do that by actively getting ready.

3. "...the full armor of God..." I love all the Marvel super hero movies, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers are all fun to watch. If you think Iron Man has a cool suit, you haven't see what God has prepared for us. Tony Stark is a genius, but God created the mind of that genius! I know, those are just fictional characters, but you hopefully get the point. The God of the universe has armor and it is for us to put on. He created it, He knows it is our strongest defense and He knows we are capable of using it. 

 StockSnap -  Michael Kulesza

StockSnap - Michael Kulesza

4. "...so that you will be able to resist in the evil day..." That sounds rather heavy doesn't it, but look around you. You don't have to look far to see evil. However, what I find interesting is that we must put on the armor so that we are able to resist. This means that evil will be appealing to us. We often think of evil as being the blatant things like Hitler terminating the lives of thousands of Jews or Jeffrey Dahmer raping and murdering men and boys then eating their remains. Yes! That is evil, but most of us would easily be able to resist doing those sorts of things. Why, then, does this verse say "...so that you will be able to resist..." I think it is because there is so much evil that comes disguised as something not so bad. Aren't pride, selfishness, hatred and gluttony also forms of evil? 

In addition to those forms of evil that walk among us like wolves in sheep's clothing, I also believe that evil has a way of waring us down, to the point where things become a bit fuzzy. Eventually we won't even know the difference between right and wrong

5. "...and having done everything, to stand firm." Once a soldier has prepared he knows that he will go into battle having done everything he can to be ready. Those of us who have signed up for this spiritual boot camp and the ensuing war need to be able to face the battle knowing we have done everything we can to be ready. This brings me to a question that I need to ask myself. Have I done everything to be ready? Will I be able to stand firm, or will I falter as soon as the bullets start flying? Maybe now would be a good time to get back into the Word. Maybe now would be the right time to start getting back to church. How about you? What are you doing to ensure that you have done everything to stand firm?

Next month, we'll start looking at the armor. Please leave me a comment below about what you are doing to make yourself ready for spiritual warfare. I love to have your input! 

Have a great day!

 

Feeling a Little Anxious?

I have always been a bit of a "nervous Nellie". When I was young, the first few days of each new school year were often a challenge. My stomach would get tied up in knots, I'd assume disasters were going to take place as soon as I got on the school bus and I would feel desperately lost until I could connect up with familiar faces. When I went to college I battled home sickness fiercely until I settled in to a new routine with new friends. I still struggle with anxiety before doctor or dentist appointments. I worry over my kids and my grandson.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Anxiety is prevalent. We pace the floor over scenarios that may never take place. We begin waiting for bad stuff to happen. It seems that as I age, anxiety has once again taken a front seat on life's journey. If we look at the number of people taking anti-anxiety medications I'd say I am not alone. 

Life is stressful. Being married, having kids, working a job can all add stress to life. That stress builds when marriage is hard, children rebel and the job expects you to do the work of three people instead of just one. As if that is not enough to get our fight or flight motor revving, then we find out a parent is severely ill, a friend has died, our hairdresser found a new job and there is a lump where there shouldn't be one. 

I cannot tell you what to do when you feel anxious, because I am not a qualified counselor. As Christians we sometimes throw out verses expecting that they are a miracle cure. If you just think on this verse all your anxiety will melt away. God's word is not Calgon. Some of you may remember those commercials....a frantic woman living a real life, but when the stress is too much she just sinks into a hot tub sized bath full of Calgon bubbles and her cares slip away! If only it was so easy. 

We do have some control over what our minds are thinking. At this point in my life I do not take anti anxiety meds. But that doesn't mean I never will. Many elderly people take anti anxiety medicine to help them, not only feel less anxious, but get to sleep at night. So don't be anti medicine. There are times it is right and good. However, if you are on meds, but still feel mastered by anxiety, work with your clinician to find medicines and counseling that enable you to still live life to the fullest. 

If you are like me and anxiety pops up from time to time, but is not debilitating, often just changing our focus will chase the anxious thoughts away. Here are some ways to redirect our thinking:

1. Scripture - while God's word is not Calgon it is a powerful mind changer. Granted, it is the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about change, but the Bible is an important tool in that work. These are a few of the Scriptures I ruminate on when I am feeling anxious:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)
3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.
4 “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
— Isaiah 26:3-4 (NASB)
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
— Psalms 27:14 (NASB)
1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
— Psalms 34:1-5 (NASB)
1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.
— Psalms 121

There are many more scriptures about His peace and His care for us.

2. Think about it - This may sound counter intuitive, but thinking about why we are feeling anxious, might help us to recognize the source or sources of the anxiety and lead us to ways of dealing with it. If I am anxious about an upcoming dental appointment, I usually find that I just need to not think about it until it happens. Life is busy enough I can do that, but if it is a more complex problem like just finding out you have cancer, then it might be better to process that with your spouse, pastor, friend or counselor. Talking about a difficulty can make it easier to bear and make you less anxious. I write, of course. I have journals filled with my anxious thoughts, my prayers to God and my gratitude for all He's done.

riding a bike

3. Get active - Sometimes when you are anxious, the last thing you want to do is do something, but activity can lessen anxiety. Gardening, taking a walk, doing the laundry, mopping the floor and going for a bike ride can all help clear your head and move your anxiety to a back burner. If you really want to blow that anxiety out of the water, put on some good music while you are mopping or baking and dance. Lift your hands up to the One who made you and who gives you the ability to breath and move.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4. Be thankful - Ann VosKamp's book 1000 Gifts is her discovery of the healing and worshipful effects of gratitude. 

And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.
— Ann VosKamp - One Thousand Gifts

5. Prayer - God's word tells us to "pray without ceasing." I find the more anxious I am the more I need to be in the posture of prayer. That doesn't mean I need to be face down on the floor, although I have assumed that position many times, but my heart and mind need to always be aware that He is near and I can talk to Him at any time. 

The most effective treatment of anxiety I have found is to not dwell there. It is a normal place to visit, as we are fallen humanity so in need of His grace and mercy, but He has provided a way to rise above this flesh we live in, we just have to work it out. Sometimes that means taking a walk, writing in a journal or talking to a friend. Sometimes that means going to a counselor or a clinician and getting medication to help slow that roaring motor inside of you down. If you are not sure how severe your anxiety is, please seek out a professional, either your family practitioner or a counselor as they are better able to determine your health needs. 

If you regularly deal with anxiety, leave me a comment and tell me how you try to curb that feeling in your life. I'd love to hear your input.