Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lessons learned on my Journey to Joy Part 2

*If you haven't read Part 1, please take a few moments to peruse that entry before reading this one...

4. I have to CHOOSE Joy. Some time during my Journey to Joy, God gave me the scripture, "You love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else" (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9, NLT). I heard Him very clearly in my spirit tell me that He was going to pour out His oil of Joy on me--more than on anyone else. It was overwhelming and incredibly humbling. In some ways, that felt like a lot of pressure, but I found myself rejoicing in His promise because I was sick and tired of being sad and depressed as well as full of anxiety and rage all the time. I didn't like myself in such a state. 

As I began studying everything I could get my hands on about JOY--specifically on CHOOSING JOY, I quickly learned that in order to know TRUE Joy, we must suffer extreme sorrow. Don't think that I'm trying to say that I'm "glad" I've gone through the horrors I've experienced. If I could have any of my babies here with me to touch, kiss, and snuggle, I would--in a fraction of a heartbeat! I'd very much love NOT to have the still painful scars on my belly. It would be wonderful not to have to have experienced anxiety to the degree that I had to take medication for it.

But I do know the truth of God's word that He will turn my sorrow--my mourning--to JOY (Esther 9:22; Isaiah 61:3; Lamentations 5:15; NLT). The only difference between God's promise in these passages and the one in Psalms and Hebrews is the promise of giving the anointing oil of joy to ME MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE. 

I found myself accepting God's promise and telling Him that I also receive His promise of pouring out His anointing oil of joy on me more than anyone else. It has not made my journey to joy easier or lighter, let me tell you. I have to continually CHOOSE to choose JOY and to remind myself of God's promise. I still have days when it's difficult to choose, but those days are growing further and further apart, Praise the Lord.

5. I cannot allow anyone's words or actions steal my JOY. I call it "pop my balloons." I have spent a lot of time over the years listening to nay-sayers and Negative Nancys and to allow their words and actions to determine my level of joy--or lack thereof, as the case typically was. 

I personally think that the biggest reason why I struggled in this area as much as I did was because I didn't like--or love--myself. I hated myself. I hated who I was. I hated who I wasn't. I hated what I had been through. I hated my husband. I hated life. I was angry with myself and with everyone around me. I was a nay-sayer, a Negative Nancy.

And I hated myself for it.

After reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I began keeping
my own Gratitude list--just like Ann's. I started in a little red moleskin journal that I kept in my purse. I came to a place at work where I realized that my co-workers and I were spending an awful lot of time complaining, so I made the decision that for every complaint I made, I had to give them 5 positives. That first day, I had to do 20 positives! It got much easier after that, but once I got started, I found that I enjoyed writing about things that gave me JOY--that I was grateful for. So I continued the list--writing 5 things that I was grateful for--for the next several months. I posted them daily online--Facebook.

I gradually moved to naming just one thing that brings me JOY each and every day. I keep the list on Facebook as well as write each entry in a special journal my mom gave me for Christmas. The more I focus on what brings me JOY--what I'm grateful for, the less the nay-sayers and Negative Nancys affect me--pop my balloons!

Every once in a while, one will come along, armed and ready and pop a balloon or two before I realize he/she is even there, but the more I see what God is doing in my life--where He has brought me and what He has brought me out of, the more I am able to move my balloons out of harm's way!!




Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lessons Learned on my Journey to Joy Part 1

One of the awesome suggestions Michele Weldon makes in her awesome book Writing to Save Your Life: How to Honor Your Story Through Journaling is to write down lessons I've learned throughout my journey to healing, or in her words "to save my life." So here are a few of the lessons I've learned on my Journey to Joy. Note carefully that this is just a first run-through!!! ;)

1. No one can heal me but ME--and God. I can remember thinking to myself that it sure would be wonderful if someone would come along and just tell me EXACTLY what I needed to do in order to begin healing and moving away from the sadness, depression, anxiety, rage, etc. I even asked my counselor after I had been with her for a while why she never admitted me to the hospital. She told me that she had seriously considered it, but they only admit patients who specifically request it! Believe you me, if I had known that early on, I would have requested it. I desperately wanted my husband to notice how very bad things were for me and DO something--ANYTHING--to help me. 

Coming out on the other side of this journey, I see that I had needed to tell my counselor AND my husband as well as others around me that I needed help, but I wanted them to recognize that I needed help without having to be told.

Crazy, mixed-up mess, right? Yes, it was as horrible a vicious cycle
as you imagine it to be.

The truth is that even if someone had tried to help me as I so desperately wanted, I would have fought him/her tooth and nail. I would have declared that there wasn't anything wrong and laughed it off. But I was in such a desperate state that yes, I did consider the "S-word"--once, I was driving onto campus and realized that I was speeding up as I headed straight for a light pole. 

I can only Praise the Lord that He had His angels protecting me and that when the time came, with His help, I did ask for and get the help I needed.

2. It really is ok to say that I am NOT ok and to ask for help. As a pastor's wife and someone who has been a Christian the vast majority of her life, I felt an obligation to BE "on"--to be Strong in spite of the fact that I was dying by slow degrees. I was supposed to be the support for others, not the other way around. 

There was this one day when I was having a BAD day to end all bad days. As we trooped in for a faculty meeting at the end of this long, no-good, horrible, bad day, all I could do was complain. I complained about my students. I complained about not having enough time. I complained about having to grade so many assignments. I complained about.....I was grumpy and I sounded, looked, and acted grumpy. No matter what was said during the meeting, I had a negative comment that I refused to keep to myself. 

Once the meeting was over, I took my time gathering my things together to leave. Within a few short moments, I was left alone in the room with my boss' wife. She moved to stand beside me, laid her hand on my shoulder, and gently and quietly asked me, "Polly, what's really going on?"

And the floodgates opened. I bawled. I sobbed. I snotted. I even screamed quite a bit. It had only been a few short months since we'd lost our precious James Isaac and I had been filling my days with busy-ness in an attempt to deal with my grief. All it took was one gentle word from a loving friend to help start me on a different path.

It was a start. Unfortunately, the path I started on that day took a lot of side treks as well as did a lot of backtracking over the next 10+ years. But I will always remember Mrs. Gruver being so perceptive of my true heart that horrible afternoon. 

Not everyone is as perceptive, though, so it is vitally important that we tell others that we're NOT ok when we're really NOT ok.

3. Directly from #2, I have also learned to lean on and trust my friends, family, and loved ones. I especially have learned to trust that they will love me no matter what--unconditionally. Yes, there was a fear in me that if I wasn't the strong Christian woman I expected myself to be that the people around me would love and respect me less. 

Oh, how easily we allow ourselves to believe and justify the lies of the enemy!!!

I have always been one who believes and lives the adage that honesty is the best policy. For most of my life, I have been completely unable to lie. I have "tells" when I lie and they're pretty obvious. I became a Master, though, at convincing everyone around me--except those most perceptive like Mrs. Gruver--that I was just fine when, in reality, I was a quivering, pathetic mess. All I wanted was for everyone to love me. And I honestly believed that if I didn't hold myself together, no one would love--or respect--me anymore. 

Once I realized the lies of such thinking, it has been proven time and again how very much my friends, family, and loved ones actually do love me--unconditionally. And let me just say, it feels GOOD to be so loved!!!!

*To be continued.....



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Let's each Sing our own Song

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist: "The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don't let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you" (104).

Why is it that sometimes we need "permission" to live our lives as WE see fit rather than as everyone else sees fit?! My counselor has been telling me for years that I have to make my own life; I have to do what I need to do for Polly and quit worrying about whether or not what I do pleases anyone other than Polly--and God. (I feel that God's approval goes without saying, but sometimes I need to be sure I clarify that because without Him, I am nothing.) 

Part of what added to Shauna's anxiety, as she describes in her book, was her attempt at living to please everyone but herself--what SHE wanted in life. She told herself, or as I see it--she allowed herself to believe lies from the enemy, that if it was something that came available, God must have opened the door, so it was her responsibility to walk through it--every time.

I can relate!!! 

You????

I've been offered a job that I know I'd love, but yet I'm very happy and fulfilled where I am. Well, it must be from God, so I'd better quit where I am and accept the new job....right?!

Isn't that how we tend to think??? It's one way we have always felt the Lord telling us what He wants us to do, isn't it? I know it has been for me--many times in the past. Thankfully, most of the time the doors that have opened that I've walked through have been the "right" doors for me at those times of my life, but there have been a few times when I felt that just because such-and-such opportunity arose that it must be from God. Maybe it was, but that didn't necessarily mean I HAD to accept. 

For example, when my husband and I first moved to Missouri, I applied for jobs EVERYWHERE. The only type of job I could get, though--even though I already had my BS in English Education and was almost finished with my MA--was as an administrative assistant. I took what I was able to get and learned a lot from the jobs I had, especially about computers. But my heart was in teaching, so I continued to try to get a job as a teacher throughout the time we lived in Missouri. Then, within a week after making the decision to move back to North Carolina, I received a call from the college my husband was attending, asking me if I still wanted a position with them. As honored as I was that they finally called me, I knew in my heart-of-hearts, deep down in my soul that moving back to North Carolina was the best choice for my husband and me.

It was difficult, but I turned down the job offer.

I believe that God allows opportunities to open up for us, but He leaves it up to us as to whether or not we accept/receive it. I don't believe it's disobedience to Him and what He has for us if we go in a different direction. My God is a God of free will. He wants us to CHOOSE Him above ALL. When we choose one door over another, He honors us for our decision because we took the time to seek Him and because we work as unto Him and not for ourselves. 

Yes, sometimes we realize that we made a mistake, but most of the time, I believe that God simply wants us to do the thing that He has placed in our hearts to do. He wants us to SING OUR SONG. He wants ME to sing MY OWN song. My song is probably different from your song. That doesn't mean we can't both sing our songs. It simply means that both CHOOSING to SING!!!

I LOVE to sing even though I may not have a voice others want to
listen to. I read a book once that talked about how we don't want to come to the end of our lives with our song still in our hearts. So even if your song is different from my song, let's join our voices in song and God Himself will take care of the harmony!!!!

I DARE you to DO the THING that God has called you to do!!!