Archive by Author | 2ChanceFamily

Deep Waters

 

I have been having a very difficult time the last few months. Life is just so hard at times, and I find myself battling depression quite frequently. You would think that having survived my husband’s adultery would make other problems, like financial worries, seem so trivial and easy to handle, but that is not the case for me. Perhaps the reason why is that the affair was temporary, but the situations I live with every day are chronic, and there seems to be no end in sight. I have been feeling very discouraged and am battling depression from the endless onslaught of life. I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and there are times when I have honestly wondered how much more I can handle.

My husband has chronic, severe migraines that are debilitating. Lately, he has been having hemiplegic migraines more frequently. Hemiplegic migraines have many of the same symptoms as a stroke, so they are hard to deal with. Dealing with a chronic illness that so drastically affects one’s quality of life is quite challenging. It takes its toll on all involved.

In addition to my husband’s health, I help take care of my MIL, who also has multiple physical problems. My daughter has issues with anxiety, and she is simply not able to handle attending public school right now, so we teach her at home. With my husband’s illness, I am the one who primarily has the responsibility of teaching. Add to that the daily demands of housekeeping–dishes, laundry, and routing cleaning, and I feel like I am drowning. Handling these problems has been a huge adjustment for me, and, to be honest, I have not handled the adjustment well. I feel exhausted and worn out, which only compounds my feelings of depression and discouragement.

A couple of days ago, I was taking my daughter to an appointment about an hour north of where we live, and she was playing music from my iPhone. Her favorite song is Hillsong’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).” I have never paid much attention to the lyrics because it is hard to understand the words at times. But this day was different. Before my daughter and I were even out of town, I was already feeling like the dam of emotions washing over me was able to break. I did not want to be a basket case for the appointment, so I started asking God to help me.

I am very honest with God about how I feel and how I see things, so my prayer began with something like, “God, I really need help right now. I don’t know how much more I can take. Please help me.” I asked Him to help me focus on Him, to remember His goodness, provision and faithfulness instead of me focusing on all the complications of life and how I feel. Then, my daughter played her favorite song, and I really listened to the lyrics, and God began to reveal things to me as I continued to pray.

For one, I walk by faith. I must choose to walk by faith daily, sometimes several times a day. I must choose to walk by faith, not to walk based on what I can see or on how I am feeling. I cannot let my emotions guide me. Secondly, faith requires me to give up control, and that is a hard one for me. It’s hard for me to accept that the dishes may not get done or the laundry may not get folded and put away because I simply have too many other issues to contend with.

I began speaking God’s word over my life and circumstances and I reminded God of things in His word as I prayed. I asked for wisdom and direction and guidance. I spoke words of life over myself, and I began to encourage myself in the Lord. It was a battle, I’m not going to lie. I did NOT feel like focusing on God, like focusing on His Word, or like reminding myself of who He is and what He has done. It was a deliberate act of my will to recall the times God has taken care of me and helped me, to remember His goodness and faithfulness. By the time the song by Hillsong had ended, I was feeling much better in my spirit. My soul was not in despair and chaos. Instead, I had a sense of peace, not because my situations may change, but because I knew that Jesus is in the storm with me.

I felt as if God was telling me it is time to go into deeper water, water that may be so deep I cannot possibly make it on my own; water that is so deep that my feet may fail. Yet, it is in the deeper water that I can learn to trust my Savior more; it is in the deeper water that I realize I don’t have to worry about drowning, because Jesus is holding out His hands to me, pulling me up. In deeper waters, the boundaries of my faith will be tested, but I need only to remember that the One who, with one word, can calm the storm is in the boat with me. His sovereign hand will guide me and keep me. But the wonder of faith is that it is only strengthened when it is tested and challenged. It can only grow as much as I allow it to grow. It won’t grow if I stay in shallow waters where it is safe, waters where I can see where I am and the things that are around me, waters I can easily get out of in my own strength. No, God has me in deeper waters, so my prayer has now become not for God to help me out of the water, but to help me WALK on the water. That’s a huge stretch for my faith, but I’d rather walk on the water and experience Jesus reaching out His hands to rescue me if I start to drown than to stay in the boat, afraid of the wind and waves that grow louder and louder, throwing my soul into chaos. That’s not how I choose to live my life. I choose to venture into the deeper waters where I know my faith can grow.

When Jesus laughed at me!

Speaking of giants…

A few weeks ago, during worship, the worship leader was leading us in a song about seeing Jesus, something like “Oh, I can see you now…” As I sang, I closed my eyes and then I saw the face of Jesus…Yes! I did! He was smiling at me, with a sparkle and twinkle in His eyes, and then He started laughing at me. I asked, “Why are you laughing at me, Jesus?” He said, “Because I rejoice over you! I find joy in you! You are my daughter. You are accepted! You are loved! And you are still that mighty woman of God.” As He spoke softly to my spirit, I began to shake with quiet sobs. I almost thought I was going to fall to my knees. He continued, “I rejoice over you. You feel insecure, unworthy, and unaccepted, but you are accepted! I love you! Let my joy over you be your strength.” The song continued, but all I could hear was Jesus, His loving, piercing, soft voice reassuring me, validating me, loving me. I tell you, I haven’t cried like that over something God told me in a long time. It was like a healing balm was applied to my soul. All the wounds from rejection. All the times when I feel like I haven’t measured up. All the times I look at myself and just see all my flaws and faults. But that is not how God sees me! He doesn’t look at me and think, “Oh, she just isn’t good enough. She messed up again!” or “Whoa, she’s got herself in a mess now. I told her this would happen!” You know, the kinds of things I (and probably you) would say to our children or a close friend if they messed up. “It serves you right;” “You should have known better,” or “I told you so!” That is not who my God is. He isn’t a God who beats me upside the head every time I mess up or make a mistake. He isn’t a God who tosses me aside if I don’t live up to His expectations all the time. He isn’t a God who shames me or belittles me. He is a God who accepts me, loves me, approves of me, and rejoices over me. Even on the days when I’m struggling to hold things together. Even on the days I royally mess up. Even on the days I wonder if I matter. Even on those days…and we all have them, if we are honest. So, the next time I start hearing those little voices that tell me I’m not good enough; not accepted; not worthy, I hope Jesus will laugh at me again! He rejoices over me with singing and dancing! So, go ahead, Jesus, laugh at me all you want!!!!

Facing my giants

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor preached on a passage from the book of Joshua, Chapter 14. The story revolves around Caleb, who, if you know your Bible, is one of the ten spies Moses sent to check out the Promised Land. Of the ten spies, only Joshua and Caleb came back with a good report, firmly believing that though there were giants in the land, God would fulfill His promise to give them the land. In Joshua 14: 6-12, Caleb approaches Joshua, who is now leading the Israelites, and reminds him of the promise Moses made to give Caleb the land of Hebron: “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly” (vs. 9, NIV). At the time Caleb spied out the land of Canaan, he was 40 years old. Caleb had to wait another forty-five years to obtain the land Moses had promised to him.  I wonder if he ever wondered if he would see the promises fulfilled in his lifetime. Here is what Caleb says to Joshua in verses 11 and 12: “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then…You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there (the Promised Land), and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” And, in Chapter 15, Caleb drives out the giants in the land he was promised. He was 85 years old! I can’t imagine! Yet, he never doubted that God would help him face and conquer the giants. For the tribes that didn’t believe, they didn’t drive out the peoples in the land, and those people were a constant thorn in the side, as well as a continuing enticement to forsake the Lord.

I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness throughout my walk with Him. I have seen Him keep His promises, even when I have doubted. But, that did not mean God was not requiring something of me. You see, the people of Israel had been promised the land of Canaan, but they had to go in and drive out those who were living there. God didn’t just make those people disappear or go away quietly. The people of Israel had to fight and then take possession. If they failed to drive them out, they had to live with the people and the consequences.

I wonder how many blessings I have missed because I have not followed through on something God was asking me to do; or promises I squandered because I wasn’t willing to fight for them, even if I didn’t see the results immediately. I am challenged by the example of Caleb–unwavering faith that waited 45 years to see a promise granted.

I am also inspired by David, who battled the giant Goliath, a Philistine. Goliath met David, cursing God and mocking the Israelite people. When King Saul’s best soldiers saw Goliath, they trembled in fear. Not David, who, by the way, was only a young shepherd, NOT a soldier, at the time. When he saw Goliath, when he heard how Goliath was mocking and cursing God, David rose to the challenge and faced Goliath with only a sling and some stones. I love what David said in response to Goliath’s ridicule: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 15: 26, NIV). Then, in verse 45, 47: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…” And with only one shot of one stone, David killed Goliath. God was totally involved in that battle. I mean, who can kill a giant with only one stone? God…only God.

Wow! What kind of dynamic faith! David wasn’t looking at the size or strength of Goliath; he wasn’t looking at the weapons of Goliath. No! He was focusing on God, the source of strength, and he knew that even the best, biggest, strongest warrior cannot stand in the face of God. David understood what I have come to understand, yet all too often forget–the battle belongs to God. I don’t have to fear the circumstances; the pain; the darkness. I don’t have to try to get by on my own power and strength; I don’t have to worry what that person does to me or says about me BECAUSE I AM A DAUGHTER OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, AND HE IS MY SHIELD, MY FORTRESS, MY STRENGTH. HE GOES BEFORE AND BEHIND ME. HE SURROUNDS ME. THE BATTLE BELONGS TO HIM. So what if that woman (or man) can’t stand you? So what if she mocks you? What does it matter how she sees you or what she thinks about you? You don’t battle against her in your strength or ability; you battle in God’s strength. She (or he) may win a few skirmishes here or there, but the battle is won! God guarantees the victory when we allow Him to fight for us. The same principle applies to the situations in which we often find ourselves because of the actions of others. The battle still belongs to God!

I know…It’s a lot easier said than done, and I fail miserably at times, as will you. But, keep your eyes focused on God, who gives you the victory against whatever giant you face. Maybe your giant is addiction, or sickness, or insecurity, or fear…The list is endless. That giant hasn’t defeated you IF you are willing to confront it in the name of the Lord and go to battle against it in God’s strength. My pastor ended the sermon I mentioned with this powerful admonition: If you don’t conquer your giants, your children will have to live with them.

I know some of my giants, and I am glad I do. That way, I can begin to conquer them. What are your giants? What are you battling? Who is fighting for you? Whatever your giants may be, the God of heaven’s armies fights for you!

The Art of Communication

Communication. That’s a tough one to learn in relationships. Rather, let me clarify—learning how to communicate in a healthy way is tough to learn. Communication, or lack thereof, can make or break a marriage or relationship. Learning to communicate with my husband, and he with me, in a positive, mutually beneficial way is often a challenge. We have different communication styles, and we frequently butt heads, but, thank God, we have learned what works and what does not.

Here are some things to consider about the way you communicate:

  1. Are you more interested in winning the argument, or in being proven “right,” than you are in resolving the conflict? When we are more concerned with winning an argument, we are more likely to fight dirty and rely on tactics that are manipulative and unfair. Maybe you are right, but what is more important– being right or having a good relationship and finding ways to resolve a conflict in a manner that is beneficial for both parties?
  2. Do you always have to have the last word? If so, why? Is it part of winning the argument? Why not just let the issue go? Sometimes it’s better to bite your tongue than it is to respond. Some people like to have the last word because of their pride. That’s it plain and simple. They would rather keep the conflict stirred up than find peace and a resolution. They may use the last word to insult, accuse, or take some sort of parting jab at the other person. It takes an enormous amount of self-control to refrain from having to have the last word. It takes maturity and a willingness to consider if what you want to say will help or hurt the situation and if it will build up or tear down the other person. A wise person knows when to hold his tongue, but a foolish person likes to keep talking.
  3. Avoid using qualifiers like always, never, every time, all the time, etc. Simply rephrase what you want to say. Instead of using one of those words, use something that is more indicative of reality, such as often, rarely, seldom, frequently, etc. Using qualifiers puts the other person on defensive. Think about it. Does that person really ALWAYS do X? Does that person honestly NEVER do Y? What is your first response when someone accuses you of ALWAYS doing something? Isn’t your response something like, “I do not always do that…”? If you don’t want others to use qualifiers when talking about you, give them the same courtesy.
  4. Do not play the “tit-for-tat” game. For those of you who are not familiar with that phrase, it is when someone says you do X, and then you come back with, “Well, you do Y,” and bring up irrelevant or petty things, or even  dredge up something that was already supposed to be settled; in many cases, it was supposedly settled years or months ago. Focus on the current issue and take responsibility for your part of the situation at that moment.
  5. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. You and your spouse will hurt each other’s feelings; that’s an inevitability. However, if your spouse says something that hurts your feelings, don’t automatically assume he meant to hurt you. Give him the benefit of the doubt. When you feel ready to address it, let him know he hurt your feelings and why. Sometimes we say things in the wrong way and it comes across as insensitive or insulting when that was not the intention. How many times have you been frustrated or sick or rushed and responded in a way that came across as mean or insensitive or harsh, but that wasn’t how you meant it? I love my husband; however, I sometimes say things in a manner that is harsh because I’m frustrated, but I’m not using a harsh tone with the intention of hurting his feelings. He gives me the benefit of the doubt and I do the same for him. I’m NOT saying you should overlook negative patterns of communication or ignore hurtful things. Those things should be addressed, but you need to be careful how to address them.
  6. Do not be disrespectful or scornful in your communication. How many times have you responded with “Whatever!” in a sarcastic tone? I have many times, and I have apologized for it. I get that it can be frustrating when you feel like that person does not understand what you are saying or when that person disagrees with you, but always try to respond in a respectful, courteous manner. The Golden Rule of do to others what you would have them do to you applies to communication, too. If you want others to talk to you with respect and courtesy, talk to them in the same manner.
  7. Don’t disregard or shrug off what someone says because you disagree or don’t like what he is saying. Avoid using phrases like, “Blah, blah, blah” or “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Those phrases are not only disrespectful, they also demonstrate a great deal of immaturity. The other person is just as entitled to his/her opinion as you are to yours. You do not have to agree or like what the other person says to respond maturely and respectfully.
  8. Fight clean. Avoid accusations, insults, sarcasm, name-calling, and saying things you know will put the other person on the defensive. If you would not want someone to say that to you or to say something to you in the way you are saying it, then give that person the same respect and courtesy you desire from him. Own your feelings and clearly, but respectfully, let the other person know how his/her actions or words affected you. You might want to say something like “Your actions (words) really hurt me” and then calmly explain why. Or politely express that you disagree and why you disagree without calling the other person names or hurling accusations or insults.
  9. It’s okay to disagree; in fact, you won’t find anyone who will agree with you 100 percent of the time. The key is learning how to work through disagreements and accepting someone’s disagreement simply as that—disagreement—instead of assuming the person has malevolent or evil motives or taking the disagreement as some sort of personal insult or attack against you.
  10. Understand that there is a difference between making excuses and offering an explanation. An excuse, however, is not always negative and is not necessarily about the person trying to get out of taking responsibility for his/her actions. Some excuses are legitimate. You miss work because you are sick, and you must give your employer a doctor’s excuse. It is not okay, though, for someone to excuse hurtful behavior or bad choices by refusing to accept responsibility. Trying to figure out the cause of something or offering an explanation should not be confused with the negative connotation of making an excuse.

The way you communicate with others says a lot more about you than you realize. If you always assign blame to the other person, accuse others, insult others, etc., then you need to learn more effective and healthy communication skills or you will never have a satisfying relationship. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who consistently fights dirty? I know it is easy to speak out of hurt and other emotions, but one sign of maturity is avoiding doing those things. Speaking out of emotion is rarely wise; it often leads to more conflict. I have learned (am still learning) to go off by myself for a while if I need to calm down and get some perspective. I’ve also learned (along with my husband) that there are certain times of the month when I should avoid talking about heavy subjects because it will almost always lead to an argument. I’ve learned that when I am irritable, tired, or sick, I also need to avoid certain topics or even certain people or situations.

You have to be on guard and take the necessary steps to avoid heading into an argument with others. Sometimes all it takes to be able to resolve a conflict in a mutually beneficial way is to wait until you have had some time to think about things and get yourself under control before talking about it. Sometimes, walking away from a person or from a situation is necessary, too; this is especially true for dealing with people who just like to argue. Walk away…You don’t have to say anything. Just walk away. When that person is ready to talk to you in a calm, courteous, respectful way, then, and only then, should you talk to them. If they start in with what I call drama or they start fighting dirty, then walk away. It takes two people to argue. I’m not saying it’s easy to do these things, but it is worthwhile for the sake of your emotional health.

I do not claim to always do these 10 things, but I do try. I’m learning how to better communicate with my husband, and he is learning how to communicate with me more effectively, and our relationship is reaping the benefits of it. So, I’m just challenging you to check yourself. If any of these tips helps you avoid an argument, isn’t it worth it? Wouldn’t you rather have peace with that person instead of there being drama and needless hostility or antagonism? You cannot control what the other person says or does, but you always have control over what you say and do; so, just work on yourself. If you are anything like me, that is enough work for a lifetime!