Moving From My Head to My Heart

God has revealed to me that I am not a disappointment to Him, and that He loves me dearly. He has shown me that, through His Son, I can have real understanding of what is true. But these revelations came at great cost, through intense personal struggling. As I meditated on these great truths, I asked God to show me something good that has come out of all my pain and suffering.

God whispered to me to think about my prayer life and what it has become because of this adversity. He wanted me to look through my journal, paying close attention to what I had written during times of hardship, to see what had happened to my prayer life over the past few months and years. What I saw in my journal entries opened my eyes. I realized that there had indeed been times when I had lost hope, but then, somewhere along the way, I saw a change.

I have always believed in the power of prayer. I am involved with the prayer committee at my church and have helped plan prayer-emphasis services. I have been active with Moms in Prayer International (formerly Moms in Touch International) for over twenty years. For over fifteen years, I have met with the same friend to pray for our children and their schools. On many mornings, I have sat at the front window of my house and watched my daughter’s friends drive by on their way to school; they would honk their car horns at me, and I would pray for them. I strongly believe that prayer changes things.

Prayer is a form of protection against the evil forces that want to kill, steal, and destroy the world around me. But, honestly, at times my prayer life has lacked a little something. When I started my journey of deep depression, I even stopped praying altogether, apart from my regular meetings with my Moms in Prayer friend. She was so faithful and always there to keep me going. Without her, I probably would have given up that prayer time, too.

But all that had changed. It changed when prayer became not a daily habit but a daily need. I had to pray to make it through the day. I had to pray to forgive others. I had to pray against bitterness. I had to pray for the removal of my obsessive thoughts. Prayer became more personal to me, a part of my very being.

But just as I was praying for myself, I had to pray for others, especially for those who were my “enemies.” God was calling me to pray daily for those people who had hurt me and even betrayed me. Then as my healing progressed, I realized that other people around me also needed to be free from the very things that had held me captive. I began to feel a burden to pray for others who did not know God and who were facing sorrow and uncertainty. I grieved that so many people were heading down the road to doom and destruction. So I cried out to God for direction in my praying. For whom should I pray? There are so many.

First, God told me to be more diligent in praying for my family. So I started praying specific prayers for the individual, personal needs of my husband and my children and my grandchildren. I especially prayed for their character growth and their walks with the Lord.

Okay, God, who’s next? Who else needs to be lifted up?

God gave me a mission. He told me to pray for a particular group of people with whom I was indirectly involved but did not know well. I collected their names and added them to my prayer list. These were people that I knew were not saved or, if they were, were living far from their faith. I began to pray for them diligently, understanding all along that I may never know the answer to those prayers. And, this time, my heart was different.

My prayers had moved from my head to my heart. And if my prayers could help even one person find freedom in Christ then I wanted to stand in the gap for that one person. In Nehemiah 4:7 we find these words: “[A]nd the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry” (NIV). I want to be able to write in my journal one day that the gaps of unbelief are being closed and that the enemy is very angry. I want to see these young people that God has laid on my heart turn toward God and away from bondage. I want to see my family walking whole-heartedly with the Lord, too.

Friend, to what specific mission is God calling you, what task has come out of your troubled journey? Do not resist Him any longer, but ask Him what He would have you do, and then do it! Only you can fulfill the purpose that has been designed just for you. Oh, that your trials would lead you to a deeper walk with Christ. Ask Him today.

Blessings – Lisa

Caught Between a Steak and an Ear of Corn

Four days after my raging meltdown—the one caused by my belief that I was a disappointment to my husband—Satan attacked me again, trying to defeat me. He has had years of practice to perfect his insidious methods against those of us who want to change our lives and become more Christ-like. We had battled just four days earlier, and my victory was not yet complete. This time, his assault came with a twist.

At that season of my life, making menus and shopping for groceries were still very challenging for me. My husband had decided to lose some weight, and he had chosen a particular diet that required a rather specialized menu, heavy on protein and light on carbohydrates. At the same time, my daughter and I had become involved in a different program that advocated a diet full of fruits and vegetables. I had a dilemma. I felt caught between a steak and an ear of corn! Should I commit to the program I was already undertaking, or should I support my husband in his chosen path? I could not do both.

I decided to participate in the program that I was already following. But after just three days, I slipped up and started having meltdowns. The pressure of preparing, weighing, and measuring my husband’s special meals and then having to prepare my own meals overwhelmed me. I felt very disappointed with myself, and I felt that I must be disappointing my family also since I could not keep from having meltdowns. I started shutting down emotionally, giving in to the belief that my life was spinning out of my control. So I did what I had done many times before: I gave up on my diet and binged. I figured that, if I couldn’t stay on either of the diets, I would keep neither of them.

How did I go from Point A (trying to be faithful to a diet) to Point B (binge-eating) in such a short period of time? It was because I was trying to do it on my own strength. Thankfully, I realized that, instead, I needed to stop and rest in the Truth that God wanted me to see. He used this situation—this failure—to let me know that I am not a disappointment to Him. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD” (NIV). I had been trying to start this new season in my own flesh. I later discovered that, during those days of agony, there were many “I” statements in my journal. I had taken my eyes off God and was feeling helpless and invisible, and that made me vulnerable to Satan’s attack.

Jeremiah continues in verses 7-8, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (NIV).

So God wants me to trust in Him fully and for my confidence to remain wholly in His love for me. He knows my heart, and whether or not I binge never causes Him to love me any more or any less. There may be a day when God requires me to fast and pray, but this particular season was not my personal time to do so. This was my time to be strengthened, to re-learn the lesson that I am not a disappointment to God. His Truth needed to be embedded more deeply into my soul and my mind.

Today in my journal, I will write I John 5:20, “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (NIV). This season in my life will be focused on the one who is true. He will give me understanding as I walk this new path of freedom. I am not a disappointment. He who is true loves me and gave His Son so that I might have eternal life.

Is there some lesson that has not yet been ingrained in your heart and mind? Let God work on your life until you fully believe all that He wants you to know. I want to be that tree that is planted firmly and bearing fruit whether there is drought or rain. What about you? Trust in the Lord. Believe. Have confidence. Know the One who is true.

Blessings – Lisa

The Truth About Me

When I first started counseling, my counselor warned me that I might experience fits of rage at times during the healing process. For years, I had repressed my anger about what had been done to me as a child, trapping it deep inside me, and it was bound to come out sooner or later. Finally, one day, my anger did come out, all because of one little word: disappointed.

Someone dear to me told me he was disappointed about something, and I felt responsible for that disappointment. But then I subconsciously twisted his words and interpreted them to mean that I was a disappointment to him. Not that I had caused disappointment, but that I was a disappointment. I took that word disappointed to heart: beyond reason, I believed that I was a disappointment to this one whom I loved.

I just went to pieces. My rage surfaced, and I reacted as I had never reacted to anything before. I screamed. I threw pillows and tore the sheets off the bed. I wept and cried loudly. My husband—the one whom I had disappointed—was there in the room with me. I had always done my crying alone, in private, but not this time. It was horrible. The rage had come because I did not want to be a disappointment, especially to my beloved husband.

I did not want to be stuck in the mire of my past. I had worked so hard at my counseling sessions and overcome so many obstacles, but here I was allowing a word like disappointed to defeat me. Oh God, will I ever measure up? Will I ever be someone worthy? My mind kept telling me that, no, I would never be anything but a disappointment. So I just curled up on the couch and tried to disappear. Thankfully, my husband found me and assured me that I was not a disappointment and that everything would be okay.

I went to the dictionary and looked up antonyms for the word disappointment and found the words boost, comfort, happiness, help, miracle, pleasure, relief, success, and wonder. And I remembered what I had learned in counseling, about asking myself, “What is the truth? What is the truth about me?” The Truth in God’s Word tells me that, yes, I will make mistakes and, yes, I will disappoint others but, to my God, I am never a disappointment.

I am not a disappointment! I am the opposite of a disappointment because I can boost other people around me, comfort those who are hurting and sad, bring happiness into the life of my family, help those who are needy, bring pleasure to God, bring relief to one who is distraught, succeed as a person of worth, and of course I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am a miracle. I may disappoint, but I am not a disappointment.

Psalms 147:3-5, 10-11 says,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our LORD and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (NIV).

That’s me! He heals my broken heart. He knows each star by name, so surely He cares deeply about me. He is mighty in power. I put my hope in His unfailing love, so He delights in me. Oh, how I needed to hear that, to claim the comfort of His Word as I rejected the idea that I was a disappointment.

What about you? Do you feel like a disappointment? If you are a child of God, and put your trust in Him, then the truth is just the opposite. You are not a disappointment to God. He delights in you, and He wants to heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. So put your trust in His unfailing love today. Remember, we may disappoint, but we are never disappointments. We are precious and loved. Dwell on that truth today. Believe it and walk in victory!

Blessings – Lisa

Someone To Run To In Times Of Stress

In times of stress, I used to run away from reality, to a place in my mind where a certain imaginary person lived. This imaginary person was smart and pretty and talented, the kind of woman I wanted to be. She had exciting adventures and the freedom and self-confidence to come and go as she pleased. She was a version of “me” that I had created as an escape from my fears and troubles.

The problem with this woman, though, was that she was never the hero but always a victim. Whenever I visited her in my mind, she suffered some terrible physical trauma, a different pain-filled scenario each time. How strange that this person would get hurt over and over again, never finding peace and rest. She was my creation, but I had made her vulnerable and victimized rather than strong and victorious. Why would I continually run to this person and dwell on hurtful things? Was this “me” the embodiment of how I pictured myself, as a woman who deserved evil instead of good?

Before I started counseling, during my most depressing days, I often longed to go to bed early or to stretch out on the couch just so that I could go to the place in my mind where I could find this woman, this woman who was so real to me. With counseling, though, I retreated to this place in my mind less and less, almost to the point of forgetfulness. I no longer needed this place, so it was no longer real to me.

Then one day something happened to upset me, and in reaction I fled to this place and this person in my mind. And it was almost as if I were seeing them for the first time. I had forgotten about them, but here I was returning to them in my time of despair. What a shock! I knew that this was not what I wanted in my life. I was alarmed to think that what I had been experiencing might not even be normal. I was so confused.

Then God in His awesomeness gave me a clear picture of my predicament. He used one of my favorite movies, The Two Towers from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the character Sméagol/Gollum to illustrate what had been going on in my life. As Sméagol/Gollum waged war with himself, battling to determine whether the good personality or the evil personality would prevail, I recognized that the same sort of battle had been going on inside of me for years. It was a vivid image. In one scene, “good” Sméagol triumphed over his bitter nemesis, and his freedom was joyous. But in a later scene, when Sméagol/Gollum perceived that he had been hurt by a friend, the “evil” Gollum supplanted tender Sméagol. According to Gollum, he—and not Sméagol—had been right all along.

That had happened to me! I had been doing so well with counseling, having victories left and right until—Bam!—a bump in the road. I had experienced an emotional trauma, and I had gone running back to that other “me” in my mind. I had gone running back to bondage and hurt, where there was no peace and no rest. Why would I do that? Perhaps I did it because it was what I had always done. But finally, I saw that this was not good and not right for my life. But what was I to do? Oh, God, help me!

Once again God came to my rescue. He spoke to me through the words of a song on the radio. The song talked about how the very air I breathe is what it feels like to have God’s presence living inside of me, and how desperate and lost I would be without this presence. I realized that the other “me” was not who really lived inside of me.

Now, the other, very real person living in my life is the Holy Spirit, and He wants only good things for me. And I am lost without Him. Now, when bad things happen, I can run to Him.

How about you? People have hurt us and violated our lives, but we can run to the One Who loves us so much. Let’s do that today. Come with me. Let us find rest and peace in Him alone.

2 Corinthians 3:17 says it best: “Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom)” (Amplified). Only after we realize and believe that the Spirit is within us will we be truly free. Then, our freedom will be joyous!

Blessings – Lisa

It’s a Team Effort: No One Has to Journey Alone

As you may have noticed, I have not posted any blogs for the past few weeks. That is because my life has been so very busy, so busy that I have not even had time to think. I have been writing reminders to myself that I need to sit down and blog, but the notes just kept getting pushed to the next day, then the next day, and so on and on, and now it has turned into three weeks of no writing. Finally, after hearing a sermon and a Sunday school lesson about recognizing what God has called me to do and then actually doing it, I have finally made the time to sit and think about what I want to share.
Stress. This is my word for today. Last week when I got my hair cut, my hairdresser noticed that I had become quite a bit more white-headed since my last visit. Really? I first started getting white hairs years ago while potty-training one of my children, and my hairdresser at that time noticed and asked me what was going on in my life. I guess that when I get super stressed, white hairs start popping out of my frazzled head where my brain is living on overload. For years after discovering those first white hairs, I colored my hair. I wasn’t really aware of how stress affected my hair until I stopped coloring it, and then I found that the white was just there, coming along steadily. But apparently the stress of the past few months has made those white hairs start multiplying quickly again.
That stress has affected my life in other ways as well. Not only have I not blogged during the last few weeks, but I have had no time for counseling either, and that is not good for me right now in this time of my life. Without my regular counseling, I had lost the boundaries that were meant to protect me from exploitation, and as a result I felt as if I were losing myself. It is amazing how quickly I can go downhill. So exhausted, allowing myself to run ragged meeting the needs of others, I realized I needed to stop the running around. I needed to go to counseling, and I needed to get back to a normal life (whatever “normal” really means).
So, one of the first things I wanted and needed to do was to blog. Writing has helped me so much. While I have not really been able to talk with others about what is going on in my life, for some reason I can write about it. And my counselor has taught me that sharing my journey on my blog will help others like me, others who may feel weird or afraid or alone.
In Sunday school we studied about Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. Two things spoke to me. The first thing is found in Nehemiah 4:2b: “Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble?” (CSB). Sometimes I feel as if my insides are full of burnt stones that can never be more than just mounds of rubble. Can I ever be healed? Will I ever go back to an ordinary life again?
The second revelation was how often the word we is used in Chapter 4 of Nehemiah. The rebuilding of the city wall was a group effort; it was not something that could be done by any one person alone. As I keep on this white-haired, stressful journey to wholeness, I am thankful that I do not have to do it alone. I have a counselor, a loving and supportive family, a church family, and friends. They are willing to help me restore my life, pray with me, and stand by me as I rebuild the wholeness that I am working toward.
What about you? I hope and pray that you also have a support group that will help you on your journey to freedom and wholeness. If you don’t, please find some safe people who will stand by you and help you as the enemy comes against you. For there is an enemy who wants to burn up your life. But as believers we have the resources to rebuild our lives from the rubble that he has strewn all around inside us. Friend, I am on your side, I understand what you are going through, and I am praying for you right now.
Blessings – Lisa

Bye-Bye Relapse, It’s Time To Renew Instead

As God pulled me out of my relapse, He showed me that I must believe His Truth and claim the peace of mind that only He can give. But my other issue, obsessive negative thinking, had taken control of my life. I had struggled with this problem before, and I thought I had defeated it, but here it was again. In my mind, certain negative thoughts and situations played over and over again, like a broken record. But I did not want to go there again. I wanted to banish the obsessive thoughts and regain peace of mind.

I tried to remember how I had combated this obsessive negative thinking before. During my relapse, I had coincidentally been thrown out of my routine by family matters and had been too distracted and disorganized to follow my usual habits of quiet time and prayer. But then one morning, I had just had enough suffering and pain, so I made myself sit down and have a devotion time. I had finally remembered how to fight those recurring negative thoughts. I needed time with God.

When I gave Him the chance, God spoke to me in a very dramatic and providential way. My devotion book at that time was His Thoughts Toward Me by Marie Chapian. In one particular devotion, the author shared some thoughts that reminded me of how I had battled obsessive negative thinking in the past.

The Scripture reference for this devotion was Philippians 4:6-8. Of course! Those were exactly the same verses I had read and embraced when I had faced this problem before. I looked back in my journal and—guess what—there they were. I was reminded that I can never control what others do but I can choose to believe that God is in control. I have to believe that He will finish what He has started in my life as well as what He has started in the lives of others. I have to yield every thought to Him so that I can truly have peace of mind as I wait on God’s time table.

Philippians 4:8 commands me to control my thoughts. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV). So that is what I did.

On a piece of paper, I listed all eight attributes that God was instructing me to think about. Next to each attribute, I wrote a positive personal reminder about the loved one who was causing me so much suffering. Then I posted that list where I could see it every day, and I read and reread it for weeks. I actively practiced filling my mind with what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Friend, come journey with me. Let us fill our minds with Philippians 4:8 and not with the cruel effects of this hostile world or with the evils and injustices of life. The enemy wants to defeat us through our obsessing over past hurts and situations, and he wants us to believe that we are not safe, that life is drifting uncontrollably. Dear friend, we are not going to fall into that trap again!

Instead, let us fall into the Savior’s arms. We are going to think good things. We are going to let God take control of those situations that threaten us. Let’s make that list of affirmations today. Let’s look at it and read it and believe it. Today, let’s change that ugly word relapse into the beautiful word renew. What about you? Is there a situation that you need to renew? Do it today. God is in control, and He can handle it. Give it to Him today, and live in freedom.

Standing On The Edge Of A Decision

Relapse. Slipping. Falling. An unexpected phone call had thrown me for a loop. I suddenly felt myself falling back down into the dark abyss of depression that had so long held me captive. Those bad thoughts that I had let control my life during the dark days wanted to take over my life again. When the phone call came, I was in my car, six hours away from home. I had six hours in the car by myself to mull this thing over.

I cried, yelled a little, and began questioning my ability to forgive. But God, in His infinite mercy, with His impeccable timing, began to speak to me in a number of ways during the long drive home. First, I found a Christian radio station and started singing along, and began to calm down. Then the music was interrupted by a short devotion about bitterness and forgiveness. Miles later, on a different Christian music station, another short devotion came on the air and—guess what—it, too, was about bitterness and forgiveness.

Okay, God, I am listening. You have my undivided attention. I know that I need to really forgive and to let the past rest in itself.

Today is the day to move on and, if need be, to forgive again. Feelings are so false and deceiving at times. I could hear my counselor asking, “What is the Truth?” The Truth is what I am to live by, not those misleading emotions. We must believe the Truth and choose to forgive, and eventually the right feelings will take residence in our hearts.

Then a song by Casting Crowns called “East to West” came on the radio. The lyrics spoke to me in a deep and meaningful way. In my relapse, I was drowning because I had fallen and had forgotten the Truth of what I had done, the forgiveness I had bestowed in the past. I had allowed the chains of yesterday to surround me again and to close my heart to forgiveness. I needed peace and rest, because I was not at peace. I felt only dread and hurt and pain. But I did not want to end up where I had been a year ago, at the beginning of my deep depression journey.

Those false thoughts swirled in my mind, keeping me anxious, and I knew that sleep would not come easily that night if I did not give them back over to God. The Truth is that I had already confessed my unforgiveness and that God had cast my sin far, far away. I knew I must cling to that Truth, but I felt myself standing on the edge. My choice would make all the difference.

My choice—either to relapse and fall back into the pit, or to forgive and remember the freedom in which I had been living for the last few months. As I pondered my decision, the lyrics of the song came back into my mind, and I remembered Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (NIV).

The peace of God—that is what I wanted! I wanted my heart and my mind to be guarded, but I could not do it on my own. I could only do it with God’s help and with His Word. I had to give this situation over to God and believe that He is near, no matter what may happen in the future.

Another thing that I heard from the song was that God had taken my sins as far as the east is from the west. I realized that I had to extend that same grace and mercy to this situation in my life. I had to forgive, because the price for my own sins had been paid by the scars on His hands. How could I do less?

Are you standing on the edge of some decision, in danger of relapsing and falling back into the sea of forgetfulness? Are you going to let those chains of yesterday surround you again and take away your peace and rest? Do not take that step! Stop! Turn around now and run to the Truth of God’s Word. Forgive, and let Him guard your heart and mind. It may be difficult, but I believe in you. More importantly, God believes in you, too. Let us choose to live in freedom today. Come with me now. I need your help.

Relapse – But Wait, I Can Overcome!

There is one topic that I had hoped never to have to write about: relapse. I have had such victories in my life, and I have been reminded of them as I write these posts. These personal revelations have been such a testimony of what God is doing in my life! I have come so far. Dumb, Stupid, and Ugly have been laid to rest, I have worked through many fears and phobias, and I have really dealt with issues of forgiveness and bitterness. But this week, I suffered a relapse along my path to healing and health. Life was cruising along, and then it happened: a relapse.

As I have mentioned in previous accounts, I have had to forgive some people for some hurtful situations in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. I have written letters to the offenders, dated the letters, and filed them in a place where I could be reminded that I had let go of that situation and, so, laid it to rest. At least, that is what I thought I had done. But God knows our hearts. He is always working on us so that we can be approved, tried, and tested, so that one day we can stand before Him and say that we have finished our course and finished it well.

Well, one particular situation—one particular person—that I thought I had given completely to God and that I would never have to face again suddenly reappeared in my life. (How easy it is to forgive someone, knowing that he is out of your life and out of your hands.) But one day, out of the blue and entirely unexpected, a person I had forgiven and put away slipped back into my life. Let’s just say my reaction to the news was horrible.

I relapsed into a former emotional state immediately. I started crying uncontrollably, feeling those old feelings of hurt and anger. Bad feelings overwhelmed me. But wait a minute. Hadn’t I already forgiven and moved on? What was happening? Had I really forgiven? I just kept beating myself up. A situation that I had written about only weeks earlier was now crashing mercilessly around me. What was happening?

I was so out of whack that I stopped and called my counselor for help. She reminded me about what I had written on this topic, and she reminded me that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. I had fallen for the enemy’s tactic again. But this time I was not going to stay under his control. I would remember the Truth. I would go to the same Scriptures that I had leaned on before.

The Truth is this: Yes, I had forgiven, but now I needed to make the choice to forgive again. I had to give the situation to God again and continue to believe all the promises that He had been showing me. I must rest in Him again and always.

God spoke to me through the next Sunday’s sermon, a lesson about having victories in our lives and finishing the job God had given us to do. 1 John 5:4 says this: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (NAS). Our victory comes not from what we say but from what we do. It comes from finishing the race. According to Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (NAS). Every day God tests me and tries me so that I can be true, so that I can inherit all the things that He has promised. So I must walk one day at a time with my forgiveness and bitterness, and I must be diligent so that I can be an overcomer.

Have you had a relapse into a former state of mind and spirit? Have you fallen or slipped? Stop now! Confess it to God, recall the past victories, move forward daily, forgive, pray for your enemies, read the Scriptures, and pray for strength to be an overcomer. I messed up this week. It happens, but I want to be an overcomer. Do you? If so, then let’s cry, weep if we must, get over it, and move on. God is waiting to give you your inheritance and to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You finished the job well.”

Blessings – Lisa

Peace Of Mind, Even In Stressful Situations

Mother knows best. My mother taught me that there are some things in life that have to be done annually. Every year I get my teeth cleaned and my eyes checked. And I have taught my children—and my husband—to do the same thing, too. I read somewhere that having all these annual appointments during the same month of the year, your birthday month, allows you always to know when to go. So when your children are grown and on their own, they can always remember when to get their teeth cleaned and their eyes checked.

For me, of course, these annual appointments also include the dreaded obstetrical appointment. Every year, during my birthday month, I go for my annual exam. Like many women, I really despise my yearly checkup. Then, as I got older, the annual mammogram was thrown into the mix. I have never been able to make myself self-examine my breasts, probably because of residual effects of my abuse. I have read about the benefits of doing monthly self-exams, and I know in theory how to do them, but I just cannot.

At some point, I became aware that my stress level during this month of annual doctors’ visits was increasing. In particular, I realized that as the doctors’ appointments approached I would start binge-eating and often gain several pounds just in time for my annual weigh-in. Over the course of several years, I discovered that my weight-gains followed a cycle. The anticipation of my annual physical was so traumatic for me that I would just go to pieces over it. I had friends go with me for support, and for a while I stopped getting mammograms altogether.

Then I started going to counseling. When the time came for me to schedule my yearly appointments, I really wanted things to be different. I did not want to binge or have a breakdown. I wanted to be calm and peaceful. I hated that my birthday month had become an unhappy time every year. So I brought up my problem to my counselor and she reminded me (again) that my abuse was something awful that had been done to me and not something that I had brought onto myself. She also reminded me that these annual doctors’ visits benefit my health, not only for my sake but for my husband’s and children’s sakes as well.

About a week before my annual checkup, my counselor taught me a “safe place” relaxation technique. As I went into my appointment, I was to go to my safe place and relax. I was actually excited about the prospect of going to the obstetrician, using my new relaxation skill, and then reporting back the next week during counseling. I am here to tell you that God worked in a mighty way! My exam went great, the best ever! And the next thing I knew, I was even through with my mammogram. It was unbelievable that I got through both appointments in only two hours. It happened so fast that I just sat in my car afterwards, stunned and in awe of God’s goodness and timing. These annual checkups that had caused me so much anguish for so many years had just flown by.

So, I am here to encourage you today. Do you struggle with this same issue? Do you need peace of mind? John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV). God can give you peace of mind, and God will give you peace of mind. You just have to remember, as I have to remember, that although something evil was done to us we can move past that and not let it influence our lives today. Grab God’s hand, go with Him to that safe place, and enjoy peace of mind.

Blessings – Lisa

I Needed Some Answers, And I Found Some!

Grocery shopping—going solo—became the focus of my counseling sessions. Somehow my fear of the grocery store was tied to my abusive childhood, and I knew I needed answers. My memories of that time were just bits and pieces, but they all involved the family that lived next door to us. The house next door, that horrible place where hurtful things had happened to me, was at the core of my phobia. But all I could remember was that my mother had dropped me off with the neighbors because my brother was terribly sick and had to go to the hospital.

My counselor suggested that I find old photos of myself, taken around the time that the abuse happened. I was able to find two pictures; I liked one but I hated the other. The photo of the younger me was cute, but the picture of the older me gave me strange, disquieting feelings. My counselor also wanted me to sketch whatever I could remember from that time period that pertained to the grocery store. It took me a week, but finally I was able to draw a couple of pictures. One drawing depicted a happy mom (my mom) and a smiling baby (my brother?) having a fun outing in the produce section of a bright, colorful grocery store. But the other drawing showed only a sad little girl (me) crying in the parking lot outside the store. I decided to visit my mother so that maybe she could shed some light on what those sketches really meant.

I made a weekend trip to my mom’s, hoping for an explanation of this mystery. I was very surprised by what she told me. She told me that my two drawings probably represented memories from our two different homes while we lived in that city. While we lived in the first home, my mom babysat, and one of our favorite pastimes was grocery shopping, especially in the produce department. That explained my cheerful, happy drawing. However, after we moved to our second home, next-door to the house where my molestation took place, my mom would occasionally drop me off with the neighbors for a play-date while she ran errands. I was dumbfounded. All my life, I thought Mom had left me next-door because of an emergency, not for a play-date. The little girl in me must have made up the story about why my mother had left me with the neighbors because it was the only way I could cope with the trauma of what had happened to me there. As it turns out, the neighbors would also take me to the grocery store while I was in their care. No happy memories there.

My weekend with Mom, discovering the errors and filling the gaps of some of my memories, was a very emotional time for both of us. She never knew about the abuse while it was going on, but she shared with me that weekend that she soon stopped taking me next-door for visits because she started having some vaguely bad feelings about the family. And then we moved to a new house in a new city. That is where my childhood memories begin, with the new house. I was eight years old, but I have no clear memories of any time before then. While my mom and I fellowshipped that weekend, we cried and we worked through our feelings and we found closure. She even promised me—promised the hurting little girl in me—that I would never have to go to that house again. Never. I am safe.

Psalm 91:1-2 has always been a favorite promise of mine. It says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (NIV). Yes, now I can rest in the safety of my God. I can trust Him. I can go to the grocery store and not be afraid because He is my refuge.

How about you? Is there some phobia that seems strange and unbelievable, yet is holding you back in life? Do not fear; instead, rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Just His shadow is enough to help you make it through your trying time! Then you, too, can say with confidence, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Come with me. Let’s rest in His shadow. Let’s move away from that phobia and live free from fear because we can trust God to help us. Let’s dwell with Him in His shelter today.

Blessings – Lisa