God Did His Best Work When He Created You and I

Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 10:25

 

Have you ever thought that when God created you and I, He was doing His best work? Its true. And hopefully you believe that and will show others you’re one of His masterpieces. That’s what my goal is each and every day I awake to a new day in my life.

Like me, maybe you’ve also picked up negative messages about yourself during your childhood years.  If so, then you, like I have emotionally engulfed that negativity into our psyche, and then it became a part of our own self-belief.

Well, those that spoke those messages are also flawed humans just like the rest of us. My dad constantly criticized me all through my childhood and into my adult years. But that’s how he always spoke to all five of his children. I love him, but I’ve learned over the years to take being in his presence in small doses.

I was criticized by both my parents during my childhood. Which might be the root cause of the dysthimic depression I’ve had most of my adult life. Looking back I can say that it’s been a journey of going through some dark valleys of depression.

I didn’t know what kind of depression I had, but I did know that it “clouded” my thinking. So, in my early twenties I started making changes in my life that were for my good. Prior to that I had been heading in a downward spiral since my teens.

A lot of that changed though, when I set my mind on improving my life about the time I turned twenty-three. I got new friends, for one thing. I, also had my Christian “born again” experience then, and grew in my spiritual walk. Within a year, I joined the USAF, and met my husband, Jeff at my first Airbase assignment.

But, the depression I’ve experienced didn’t just magically go away then, or any other time. First, I had to recognize my own symptoms and then, for far too long, I just learned to live with it. What has helped me is the counseling I’ve received.

God has never created anyone who was, is, or will be less than His best creation. I know that to be true. And I hope you will believe that also. I have always believed it to be true about my children, grandchildren, my husband Jeff, and myself. This doesn’t make us perfect, by any means though.

Even blatantly evil people, didn’t start out being evil, they became that way through their conscious and sub-conscious decisions about themselves.

The  question we need to ask ourselves is, “Are you or I living up to all that God has made us to be?” You may not feel that you are doing that right now. You are the one who can change it though.

Depression has rob me of my joy for life more times than I want to think about. When I did try counseling, it seemed the counselor could never pinpoint what was wrong with me. Finding the right counselor has been a journey in itself.

But, even without having a therapist, I have always found the strength I needed for each day by reading and meditating on God’s word. By doing that I finally pulled out of those “valleys of the shadow.” (Psalms 23:4).

You have potential in you that you’ve yet to reach the limit of. Life itself is constantly evolving. We’re not even aware of what half of our future goals and accomplishments are going to be.

Life will have its disappointments, to be sure. But that might be an opportunity for you to change your life’s path. Be flexible with your goals. Strengthen your resolve to be a better decision maker next time around.

Believe in yourself and make decisions that will put you on a positive track for your life. Don’t follow the group. And don’t be manipulated by a charismatic personality that just wants you around to feed their own insecure ego.

Read about great leaders. Let quality people mentor you through their writings or their life’s story written by someone else. When Dwight Eisenhower was a teenager growing up in Abilene, Kansas he began setting goals for himself to reach. He was preparing himself for stepping into leadership roles that were in his unseen future.

Later he became a young officer during WWI. Even then he was put in charge of things usually reserved for older officers. During WWII General Eisenhower was placed in charge of all Allied troop movement in Europe.

Then, after winning WWII, he became our 34th President. He was ready for each advancement because of his teenage preparation for accepting responsibility. Way before he became President Eisenhower, he knew that he first had to be the leader in his own life.

You and I are the leader of our lives. And each of us are preparing for our future, as well. Each of us is writing our own life’s story one day at a time. There are times when life seems to be overwhelming for any of us. No one’s the exception when it comes to life’s problems. You need to prepare for those times today.

What do we do when we’re overwhelmed with problems? Everyone will have different ideas on this, so I’ll just tell you what I do.

First, I reason with myself that there is a solution to this problem. I include my husband Jeff in the decision making. Maybe I’ll ask a few trusted friends what they would do. I try not to make a “knee jerk” impulse decision about anything.

In decision making or even giving a verbal response, I avoid using those quick responses that come from our amygdala region. This is where our “fight or flight” quick thinking comes from. But, it’s also where a lot of impulsive hateful comments come from.  Or choosing to “flight” rather than solve the situation.

Having a quick response does sometime pay off, though. An example of this is when I was breaking up a small mound of dirt in my yard a few years ago in early Spring. Little did I know that over the winter a copperhead snake had hibernated in that mound. I was fortunate enough to see the tail end of that unmistakable pattern of a venomous snake slither around as the cold air entered its hideaway.

Well, I could’ve, and might should’ve killed it easily enough with my shovel, but I decided since it hadn’t seen me, I ran to the back deck that was close by. “Let it slither off to somewhere else,” I reasoned. I decided in an instant that it was not my “fight moment,” but my “flight moment.” Now, I never saw it or any other snake in my yard since then.

My mother would’ve killed it, though. She grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. She and her siblings were trained to kill a snake whether it was in the garden or the yard. They always had a hoe handy.

My childhood was different than my mother’s even though we were both raised in the country. When my oldest brother, Gene saw a poisonous snake in our yard he killed it. So, I never got around to honing my snake killing skills like my mother and her siblings had to.

There are going to be times where you’ll have to choose between equally good decisions. Your ideas will be based upon who you are at your core personality. I did take a risk in not killing the snake. Because once they’re in the yard then they usually come back to that place. But I knew Jeff would mow over it soon enough, anyway.

Sometimes a decision is made based on what seems best to you. It’s nether all that bad or all that great. Either way it’s not going to be earth-shattering. So just go with what seems best in your own reasoning.

I want to make clear that one bad decision doesn’t mean a lifetime of bad decisions. That is if you recognize why you made the bad decision, in the first place. An example of this happened a summer ago to me. I was pulling up to a stop light here in my hometown of Sylva, NC. It’s still a small town, even though it’s grown a bit since my childhood years of growing up near here.

So, the light had just changed to green and I had a few cars in front of me. I was patiently waiting for them all to move forward when a young woman plowed into the back of my SUV with her tiny car. When I looked at it I was amazed that she didn’t go under my Explorer.

Well, I got out to survey the damage and realized she was doing her best to back up and drive off. Hmm, I wondered, “How far she was going to get with the engine ‘sitting in her lap?’” Needless to say she didn’t get far, maybe a few feet at the most.

So, I called 911 and the police officer that showed up also happens to be my neighbor. We talked a bit privately, then he told me to drive my SUV on home.

Well, that’s when I called Jeff and gave him the “skinny” of it all and asked him to come to where this accident had happened. I didn’t want to drive our Explorer home. So, when he got there, we exchanged vehicles and I drove our Focus home.

Right after the accident, before my neighbor arrived on the scene, I walked over to the other car, (I know, I’m a trusting individual). I was on the phone, so I asked the two women who were still in their tiny car if they needed medical help.

That’s when I observed the obvious. Both the driver and the passenger were intoxicated on drugs, and unable to make clear sense of what just happened. So, I instinctively stepped back and waited for the officer.

Long story short, the local dealership fixed my Explorer perfectly, even though it did take three months to complete it. The body shop manager told me that my tow hitch helped to slow them down some. (And may have saved their lives). Now, we keep the traditional ball hitch in the slot as a precaution.

So, what about the young woman that was driving the tiny car? I found out through my connections that she has had addiction problems in her past. And things weren’t getting better for her.

In my church on Sunday mornings we pass clip boards that have sheets of lined paper on them down each section for people to write their prayer request, or just to add their name, and leave the line blank. These requests are prayed for by our prayer team on another day.

On the Sunday morning after the accident I wrote this young woman’s first name on the prayer list. And I have also prayed for her myself that the unseen chains that have enslaved her are broken. She, like all the rest of us have an amazing life ahead of us. And we just need to get out there and live it.

When you have a tough problem to solve just go to your knees in prayer for answers. And you might not be the only one who is praying for you. When you pray, you will receive an answer just like I’ve received answers to my prayers.

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Living in the Gap of Expectations

  •  “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 ESV

How is living in the gap of expectations working out for you? Well, “what is the gap of expectations” you ask?

When you or I set out to accomplish a goal whether short lived or long range, our expectations are to arrive at that goal, right?

What if the goal is not the end result, though, despite your own best efforts? And, needless to say that others are going to disappoint us also. So, in the end, how well do you adjust to disappointment? Do you linger in an emotional “free-fall” going in and out of depression?

Or do you find yourself telling everyone, “I can handle it.” Or, “I’m fine.” If that’s true than good. But, I believe many of us say those cliches without really meaning it. We could be experiencing an emotional free-fall without fully realizing it.

There is a gap of emotional “free-fall” between expectations and the end result when our goals have not been met. Some of us adjust very quickly and re-prioritize our goals. That’s truly fantastic when it happens.  And I’m happy for you if you’re able to do that when you experience a failure, unexpected bad news, or that life just seems hard right now.

I’m, of course, writing to the ones that don’t easily adjust to the disappointing way of how things have turned out. Especially  when this happens, as it’s going to do, throughout parts of our lives. Not all the time, though, thank goodness.

We really don’t know what we can and cannot handle. It’s not just a cliche that we can be our own enemy. It’s true. And because it’s true, I think we end up self-medicating more than what we want to admit to. I’m guilty of that, too. But when disappointment happens we need to be spiritually and emotionally ready.

One thing that’s helped me the most in overcoming disappointments in my life is the Cognitive Behavior Therapy I’ve had over the last two and a half years on a bi-monthly basis.

Me being more fully engaged in my emotional well-being by going to therapy has helped me to see a more clearer perspective of my different life’s challenges. And it has increased my problem solving capabilities. Or put another way, I’ve learned to think “outside the box” of my own “self-thought” and “couple-thought” of my marriage.

Through the years I’ve tried group therapy and “dropping in” therapy; i.e. staying long enough to feel better then not going back.  And, my husband, Jeff and I have gone to marriage counseling, which we needed. I’m glad he willingly went with me. The end result of our couple counseling has been that Jeff was prescribed some anti-anxiety medication, which he still willingly takes. He says he feels better. And, he does communicate with me and now our extended family on a more positive note.

We wouldn’t have been able to figure out his particular issues all on our own. His past issues along with mine kept us “locking horns” over many issues throughout our four decades and counting marriage. The end result was usually anger, bitterness, and frustration.

Jeff is a “late” baby, and a “replacement” baby, born in 1952. His only living sibling was already married before he started school. And the middle sibling closest in age to him was several years older, passing away with a congenital heart disorder in his teens.

Jeff grew up nearly having an “only child” experience. As a result of that he “sub-consciously” expected to be pampered in his adult life, just like his mother had done during his childhood years.

In part, our childhood “shapes” who we turn out to be in our  adult years. The other part being our individual genetics.

Well, I’ll admit to doing my best to pamper him. That is part of a wife’s role in marriage. And, yes there have been times I’ve found doing this to be quite draining and I believe it added to my already low-grade of depression. But, I couldn’t see this situation clearly all on my own, and didn’t know the “why” of it all until we went to counseling.

Jeff’s mother was an angry, controlling person. She had a difficult personality, to say the least. But his dad was the opposite; he was mellow and pleased with all that he had accomplished in his life.

Both of his parents were about ten years older than my parents. Jeff’s mom was a teenager and his dad had just turned twenty when they married during the height of the Great Depression. My parents were married in their early twenty’s after WWII in 1946.

I was born in 1952, also. So he and I are both “baby boomers.” But I had an entirely different upbringing.  My parents were caring, but sometimes harsh throughout their lives. Plus, I’m the youngest of five children all born within a little more than six years. My dad wasn’t big on parenting us kids, leaving that responsibility to my mother.

My mom, worked hard to keep all of us “glued together” with wonderful meals, kept us three girls busy with cleaning the house, and she always kept an “outside the home” job, as well. There was always a lot of responsibility on my mother’s shoulders.

So when Jeff and I married in our mid-twenties we had different expectations of each other’s role in our lives from the beginning. And through the years, we haven’t always met each other’s expectations either.

All of my and our counseling efforts have had many good results, though. Another idea is to read some small portion of the Bible daily. You can go to Bible Gateway and find several plans to help you read through the Bible on a daily basis. I’ve done this for years and years through self-directed Bible studies. By now I don’t feel like my day is complete without reading at least a short devotion.  And pray often throughout your day.

“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Above all else, don’t let anxiety rule your day and your life. Anxiety is normally the outflow of two root negative emotions: fear and anger. Solve those two emotions through counseling, medication when needed, Bible study, and prayer. Doing this will help you adjust to having a more positive outlook on life in spite of whatever life “throws” at you.

Taking this action will make life more pleasurable to you and those around you.

 

Why Do Some Burn Bridges To Relationships They Should Be Cherishing?

Are you involved in a relationship where there a history of mistrust? Why do some people subconsciously sabotage relationships that they depend on always being there for them?

Yes, I’m primarily talking about the manipulators and / or emotional controllers that easily move about in our inner circle of relationships. You and I both know people that don’t seem to care about your feelings, but only theirs. Let me list a few of these type of people for you.

First, there are the “pouters” that threaten to throw a fit if things don’t go their way. This group includes people of all ages. Especially the people under the same roof as you live under. Such as parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and spouses.

The habit of being a manipulator begins in early childhood and deepens, like a murky river, into a person’s psyche during their formative years.  Only a trail of failure and then, hopefully counseling can change the course of that dark river of self-absorption. Change can happens but it takes effort.

What are the other types of manipulators? Well, how about the self-absorb people who weave “I, me, my, mine, or myself” into every other sentence? Yes, you know people like this just like I do. They are our detached and self-focused relatives, or friends. All you ever hear about from this type is them talking about themselves.

Then, there’s the temperamental relative that almost never shows gratefulness. Never a “Thank you” is uttered from their lips. The ungrateful can catch you “off guard” with saying something hateful in the middle of what seems like a normal conversation.

And, last, but not least are the “blasters!” They likely have what is called, “intermittent explosive disorder.” These individuals are the hardest on your nerves, to be sure. Their anger is out of proportion to the circumstance. We think of road rage as an example of this disorder. Or a family member who starts shouting over something that was simply misplace, but easily found, for instance

If a person has this disorder their behavior can develop PTSD in other family member’s psyche in a sub-conscience way. PTSD happens to more people than solders that fight in a war.

Encourage this person to get counseling and take the appropriate prescription for his/her anger issues. Anger plus fear create anxieties. Out of control anxiety needs to be controlled because it will affect this person’s physical health. Help where possible with them in making a long term solution in controlling their disorder.

As I’ve said, you know any or all of these people just like I do. What can you or I do about not being controlled, manipulated, or blasted at by our loved ones who see us as target practice for releasing their pent-up anger or schemes on?

For one, avoid conflict with these people, in as much as possible. Sometimes these people say provocative statements just to get us to react to them. That seems like an odd way to get attention, but as the old saying goes, “negative attention is better than no attention.”

Don’t become a victim of other people unleashing their negativity out on you. Become a victor instead. Becoming a victor may mean you going to counseling. This would give you a healthy outlet to talk in-depth with a trained counselor that can guide you into healthy communication habits.

If you work with any of these personality types, then talk with their boss. And tell him or her about what you’re experiencing in working with or under this difficult person.

Don’t “build” your self-thoughts on other’s negative statements they make about you. There will always be negative people in our lives. They are the “bridge burners” that sabotage their own selves of not being able to build healthy relationships.

You be a “bridge builder” to hope, and personal happiness without being selfish. Be a person known to have a clear conscience, and to posses quality of character. Don’t let negativity, whether its yours or someone else’s be the over-riding attitude that guides you through your day. Don’t let other people’s negative comments shape your own personal belief system you have about yourself.

Only listen to people or teachings that guide you into mentally healthy ideas about yourself. Follow those that help you to be the best person you can possibly be.

 

 

Are You Depressed?

Sometimes depression sneaks up on us. It slips in the unguarded back door of our psyche like a thief. Depression seeks to rob us of having good stable mental health. Don’t fight this enemy on your own. Seek professional help if you are struggling with depression.

How do you know if you’re struggling with depression? To an observant close family member or friend the answer seems self-evident. But the sufferer is often the last one to recognize or admit that she or he is struggling with depression.

My realization that I was struggling with dysthymic depression came about by my going to a community mental health clinic (mhc) in my small town. I was assigned a peer specialist.

My Peer Specialist had worked as “floor staff” in mental health institutions for more than twenty years. Through our weekly talks he had pin-pointed the type of depression I’ve had since my teen years. Even though he was limited to what type of therapy he could offer, he still recognized what I was experiencing, and gave it a name. And him doing that was the “key” that opened the door for me to receive the right kind of mental-emotional wellness therapy.

He suggested I attend some of the group therapy programs that the mhc offered. That sounded good to me so I started with WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). From there I went on to attend their other classes. My going there lasted about ten months. That was in 2007-2008. I felt great and had made several changes that I needed to make that came out of the one-on-one I was receiving and the weekly group therapy as well.

I’ve since gone back to therapy. Currently I’m seeing a licensed therapist. She uses Cognitive Therapy techniques, which have been very effective for me.

There are different types of depression, though. These are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That’s the “Bible” for finding out about personality disorders. This is a thick reference book that gets updated when new research information becomes available. Most of us don’t own a DSM-5, but any reputable website on mood disorders would reference this book along with experts in the field of cognitive development.

The DSM-5 does list depression as a mood disorder. The different types of depression are: Major, dysthymia (melancholy) depression, dysphoric (which includes PMS), and Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). These are the most common ones, at least.

If you think you might be suffering from long term sadness, then get a thorough checkup by your physician. Include a blood test. That test will reveal if you are low in Vitamin D or other essential vitamins. Also, a blood test will reveal any health problem or blood related diseases such as Hepatitis C. Fortunately, most of my adult life I’ve had a yearly physical.

Let your doctor know that you’re struggling with “dark moods.”  He or she might suggest a certain medication, such as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake) to help lift your moods. There are multiple new ones available to help people overcome depression that are less or not addictive than the old meds.

I’ve found that “Talk Therapy”  (Cognitive Therapy) is best for me. So, I’ve been able to avoid taking medication for depression. But I do take certain supplements every day that help lift my moods. I’ll discuss supplements later. I’ll only say that supplements can get expensive. And you’ve got to know which ones work best for you. By all means, start by talking with your primary care physician.

Please consider going to a Behavioral Health Center like I did. They offer mental health counseling that includes the family if needed. Ask to see the therapist on staff there. Let him/her know that you’re feeling depressed even if it’s just some of the time.

The cost of going to these Mental Health Centers (aka: MHC) is often free. They have group counseling classes that are designed to inform and guide you into making wise choices. Also, like me, you’ll get to have a “peer support specialists” that will talk one-on-one with you.

If you need to detox from illegal drugs or over medicating then most of these mental health counseling centers are connected to a detox unit. If you can’t control your intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis, then please check into a detox unit. Most problems are fixable. It just takes you being a part of your solution, not a part of the problem.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Have you had thoughts about self-harm and/or had suicidal inclinations?

If you’re feeling suicidal or need to talk to someone immediately, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t put your loved ones through the agony of you making a tragic decision.

There are often reasonable and successful solutions to our emotional health problems. It just takes us seeking those solutions in the right places.

Better Not Bitter

Below is a story of how my maternal grandfather became better, instead of bitter. He was born illegitimately and unwanted. But he grew up to become a caring and responsible husband, and father. He went from being a “Crop Sharer” to owning 15 acres of farmland. And it’s how he accomplished much more than all of that.  He left a legacy that’s lasted well into four generations by now.

I live within fifty miles of where my grandparents were born and raised. And so do many of my relatives. Therefore, I’ve left names out so as not to be in unnecessary conflict with my large extended family members.

My maternal grandfather was born in a very rural part of Western North Carolina, on April 5, 1898. His mother was sixteen and not married.  

After his birth, grandpa was handed over to be raised by other family members on both sides. That may have been the best decision since his mother had few resources to count on. His birth may not have even been welcomed news on her side of the family, because she was a middle child of fourteen children.

The 1900 Census shows his mother as a seventeen-year-old living over in Georgia with relatives. No baby or toddler was mentioned as living with her. (Census is collected the year before it’s published).

His dad had rejected his son, also.  But, apparently not everyone on his father’s side shared those feelings. My grandpa is listed in the 1910 Census as living with his paternal Grandmother in the community he was born in. Grandpa always went by his father’s surname

There must’ve been strong physical similarities between father and son. I’ve seen pictures of my grandfather’s half-brother and both share similar physical features.

Since his dad owned the only store in that community no doubt my grandpa crossed paths countless times in his early childhood with him. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure grandpa being rejected by his father was a difficult emotion for a young boy to bear.

His dad must’ve been a little hard to live with. I’ve found that he was married and divorced twice during his adult life. His head stone shows that he died in his fifties. And is buried in a single grave. No wife is listed on the headstone.  

In my childhood I remembered my grandpa as being stoic in nature.  Even so, he did seem to enjoy our family gatherings at his and granny’s farm. I’m sure us kids got on his nerves, constantly running in and out of their house, but he rarely showed it. He enjoyed sitting alone on his porch swing regardless of the weather. And did so when things got to be too much for him inside the house.

During grandpa’s early teenage years he was sent to live with an uncle just over the state line in GA. He owned a large apple orchard and needed his nephew’s help.

Grandpa didn’t stay long there, though. Within the year he was sent to Berry Boys Industrial School (the forerunner of Berry College). Their records have him listed as being taught carpentry. A skill he would use later in life.  He left Berry around a year later, never having graduated. His name and attendance record were found in their archives.

From there Grandpa joined the Navy and sailed to France. The year was 1917 and America was fighting WW1 on Europe’s Western Front. He’s listed as having served as a machinist on a frigate on his discharge papers.

After the war ended in 1918, my Grandpa found his way back to his birthplace. But why go back there? Grandpa had always been rejected by his father. I know this because I was told when his dad died in 1932, he left nothing but his last name to his illegitimate son.

About 1919, grandpa moved ten miles over to Murphy, NC. By then he was twenty-one, and looking to settle down. And Murphy proved to be just the right place to do that. This is where he met and married my granny. During the twenties, they had their four children. My mother was one of the two middle children.

During the Great Depression my grandparents became crop-sharers. Once, they got established than they became very frugal about all things.  Even so, it took years of “penny pinching,” for them to buy fifteen acres of farmland that included a small house.

In time Grandpa was able to add on to it and included indoor bathroom as well. It became a comfortable spacious one level home. They lived there for the rest of their lives.  

Life was hard for my grandparents. But I never knew them to be bitter about things, though. Instead they grew better about how life had turned out for them.

They never owned a vehicle of any type because grandpa had seizures. He never drove nor had a license. He did do house painting and carpentry when a ride was provided for him, though. Granny worked in mills or babysat children. Those jobs were their only income until they could collect Social Security. Plus, they farmed, raised chickens, and “bartered” whenever they could.

They were blessed in many ways all through their lives. I have many good memories of being at my grandparents’ house. Every family gathering at their house always included cousins, aunts and uncles, and lots of good farm fresh food. In the heat of summer afternoons, all of us kids would gather under a huge Weeping Willow tree at the edge of their yard. That’s where Grandpa would cut each of us a slice of cold juicy watermelon.

Grandpa and Granny were members of a small local church that they walked to on Sundays. They were the “salt of the Earth” kind of folks. They helped their large extended families however they could. All my childhood they seemed contented with what they had accomplished and how life had turned out for them.  

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32