Be steadfast

I go through phases. Do you do that? I find that in stressful times, especially prolonged stressful times, I became emotional and reactive instead of proactive. I am driven by circumstances, rather that “believing anyway”. Is my faith weak? Not necessarily. However, during prolonged stress I get worn down.

HandleTheJourneyPoster

At those times, of course, there is something I need to do. I need to spend more time in prayer. As soon as I feel that anxiety creeping in, I need to instantly pray. I need to insistently hand those worries over to God. I need to openly state that I trust that He will provide me the grace to get through it. I need to remember that the issues or problems I, or a loved one, face can be solved.

If I am steadfast I will be insistent and determined to release that anxiety. Even if I am exhausted, I will reach out to God and remember that whatever it is that I face is survivable. No problem that I face is bigger than God.

Today I plan to do some things at home that will reduce my anxiety as well. What? Catch up on chores, paperwork, de-clutter, while I sing and pray.

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. For God my Savior, has ransomed me.”

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Cast your cares

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Sometimes we can become consumed by worries and anxieties, or at least I can. Of course, worrying and fretting never improves a situation. What is called for is a clear head. That is easier said than done when we are faced with huge challenges. There are days when I supposedly give a situation to God, and then almost instantly grab it right back. Psalm 55 addresses this. “But I will call upon God, and the Lord will save me. At dusk, dawn, and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard. God will give me freedom and peace from those who roar against me.” (Psalm 55: 17-19).

I was at a presentation last night, and the speaker was talking about this psalm, and went on to mention Psalm 55:23 “Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you”. I was in a group discussion after the presentation, and I said that this particular verse really hit home with me. I noted that the verse is He will sustain me, not He will prove to everyone that I was right and they were wrong. Sustaining is really all we need. His sheltering arms and His grace are all we need in order to get through some of life’s biggest challenges. No one has a magic wand.

i love to go a-wandering along the mountain paths, and as i go i love to sing, my backpack on my back

Magic wands are not what mountain climbers use to reach the top of Mt. Everest. No, indeed. The successful climbers go through physical training, a lot of planning, gathering a team of climbers and support personnel, and develop a schedule and plan that includes setting up camps for rest along the route.

When we are dealing with challenges, we do so successfully when we use this approach. For me, part of facing challenges must involve my support team and putting God in charge of it all. Then I need to listen for hints about what approach makes the most sense.

One of the keys for me is to resist the urge to panic or overreact. Just because I do not instantly have a plan or solution to a situation does NOT mean there isn’t one. Once I calm down and trust God, the early part of the path becomes visible. If we trust God, and step forward on that path, we will continue to see the way unfolding. Or, if we do not see it, perhaps we will have peace in our hearts and be able to figure out a path. What I am saying today is this: He will sustain us. He will strengthen and support us through it all. His grace is enough.

difficultRoads

If you are worried or anxious today, may His promise in the Psalm sustain you and give you peace. If you have been off the path and gotten tangled up in underbrush, look around and head towards what appears to be a path. Don’t worry, keep asking God to reveal His path. You WILL head towards the correct path. Face it, if I can find a way with the help of God and loving friends, so can you. You are less alone in your battle than you realize.

May God bless you today ~ and every day. Just around the corner may be a friend, a friend who blesses you with her friendship and a cup of coffee. My God is an amazing God ~ He gave me this friend and a few others who have reached out in these past few months, with perfect timing, and loving non-judgmental hearts. Yes indeed, God sustains me.

timHorton

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Writing can heal and change

I have always felt that sharing and openness can help to effect change–not only in ourselves, but in others. I came of age during the time when my generation shared their feelings, journaled, participated in encounter groups, went on retreats, etc. Our parents were more stoic. However, my parents encouraged my brothers and me to communicate and discuss. Anyway, I have known forever and a day that when I am burdened I need to share. Sometimes the sharing helps me to define why I am in pain. Perhaps that applies to you, too. A friend of mind shared a link about the healing that can come through writing. It is an article from Time magazine. It is written by  @maiasz

Here is the link, and I am pasting the article here as well. I found it to be fascinating. Note the difference between the impact writing has on stoics and non-stoics. I am going to do a follow-up article about stoics, writing, and healing. Stay tuned!

http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/13/how-writing-heals-wounds-of-both-the-mind-and-body/

How Writing Heals Wounds — Of Both the Mind and Body

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GETTY IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES

Talking about difficult experiences can be a way of easing the emotional pain of trauma, but the latest research shows that expressing emotions in words can also speed physical healing.

 

The study is the latest delving into the mind-body connection to suggest that expressing emotions about a traumatic experience in a coherent way may be important to not just mental but physical health as well. It showed that the calming effect of writing can cut physical wound healing time nearly in half.

Researchers led by Elizabeth Broadbent, a senior lecturer in health psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, studied 49 healthy senior citizens, aged 64 to 97.  For three days, half were assigned to write for 20 minutes a day about the most traumatic event they had experienced, and were encouraged to be as open and candid as they could about exactly what they felt and thought at the time. If possible, they were also asked to share thoughts or emotions that they had never expressed to others about what they had undergone.

The other participants wrote for the same duration about their plans for the next day, avoiding mentioning their feelings, opinions or beliefs. Two weeks after the first day of writing, researchers took small skin biopsies, under local anesthesia, that left a wound on the arms of all participants.  The skin tissue was used for another study.

A week later, Broadbent and her colleagues started photographing the wounds every three to five days until they were completely healed.  Eleven days after the biopsy, 76% of the group that had written about trauma had fully healed while only 42% of the other group had.

MORE: How Child Abuse Primes the Brain for Future Mental Illness

“This is the first study to show that writing about personally distressing events can speed wound healing in [an older] population that is at risk of poor healing,” says Broadbent.

It’s not the first, however, to reveal the intriguing connection between state-of-mind and physical health. In previous studies, this type of emotionally expressive writing, as opposed to writing on neutral topics, reduced viral load in HIV-positive patients and increased their levels of virus-fighting immune cells. The practice also increased the effectiveness of the hepatitis B vaccination by increasing antibody levels generated by the vaccine and speeding wound healing in young men.

But in terms of psychological health, the results are more conflicting. A recent study found that writing about disturbing combat experiences may improve marital satisfaction among soldiers returning home from war zones while another paper in which patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) wrote about their difficult experiences did not find that the practice reduced symptoms. Putting emotions down in words did, however, improve mood and reduce levels of stress hormone  in these patients.

One way that writing about distressing events could give the body a boost is by promoting sleep. “We found that people who got at least seven hours of sleep most nights had faster healing than those who got less sleep,” Broadbent says. Sleep deprivation can lower levels of growth hormone, which is important for repairing injuries. And writing about their traumatic experiences also seemed to help participants to actually get more sleep.  “Many people who have written about their negative experiences report that it allowed them to gain greater insight into what happened and to put the event into perspective,” says Koschwanez, “This might reduce the extent to which the event troubles them and possibly improve their sleep.”

The writing may also help the body by reducing stress; less anxiety means fewer stress hormones, which can interfere with chemicals needed for wound healing. While Broadbent’s study did not find such a link, it’s possible the researchers were not evaluating the right anxiety measures.  “It might be that our perceived stress questionnaire was not assessing the right type or duration of stress,” says Heidi Koschwanez, a study co-author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Auckland.

MORE: Blogging Helps Socially Awkward Teens

It’s also possible that emotional writing is not helpful for everyone. In one study published last month, when people who typically are stoic wrote about their worst trauma, their anxiety actually increased.  Those who were accustomed to being emotionally open, however, showed a drop in worry measures. That suggests that different people may have different ways of coping with traumatic events, and that writing may be an effective outlet for those who are normally more expressive, while pushing people to express feelings when they are not inclined to do so can actually increase risk for PTSD.

For those who do experience relief from expressing their emotions, however, writing may become an important part of helping them to recover —both in mind and in body— from difficult situations.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/13/how-writing-heals-wounds-of-both-the-mind-and-body/#ixzz2YxPp5hO1

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Vegan Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffin

Vegan Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

What You Need

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ cups of mashed banana
  • 2 egg replacers (use flax + water for a healthy boost) [i assume if you prefer eggs you can use 2 eggs instead)
  • ⅓ cup vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients and mix well: flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together wet ingredients: banana, egg replacers, butter, vanilla.
  3. Mix dry with wet and stir until just combined; don’t over mix
  4. Spoon the batter into muffin cups or greased muffin tins. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Oven temps may vary, mine were done around 13-14 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when done.
  5. Enjoy!
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You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst

There is a song we sing at church sometimes called “Be Not Afraid“. It begins with “you shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst”. I find that reassuring. It is especially reassuring to me during difficult times. It is poignant as well, since I actually do live in a desert climate. You see, Jesus is always with me. There are some days, when I get so caught up in the issues of the day or week, that I forget He is with me. Even then, He is here.

sonoradesert

If you are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, downhearted, or even apathetic, please remember that no desert is infinite. Deserts end, mountaintops are reached, storms and floods end. Perseverance is a challenge. But we can persevere. Even though our deserts continue today, along the path there are and will be some shaded areas and oases. These moments of respite, and supportive times with understanding people do help us endure, don’t they?

Remember the title of my blog is Believe Anyway. I picked it as a reminder to myself and others that no matter what, it is essential to keep believing. I encourage you today to Believe Anyway. Reach out, open up, offer support or ask for support from those who care. Remember, too that it is in giving that we receive. So if you feel alone, help someone. Volunteer somewhere. It will give you new direction and purpose. There are so many people in need, and it is good to fulfill a purpose outside of yourself or your own problems.

In the song I mentioned, there is this verse: “if you stand before the powers of hell, and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all”. In very difficult times, I can find it difficult to FEEL that this is true. However, in my heart of hearts, I still KNOW that this is true. Does it work that way for you as well? What do I mean by that? Sometimes feelings precede knowledge. Sometimes knowledge precedes feelings.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones”. (Proverbs 17:22)

So during our tough days, if we try to find something that makes our heart merry, it is good medicine. It could be something as simple as gazing at something beautiful in nature like a flower, bird, or tree. It could be making some cookies to a shut-in, or just a neighbor. It could even be something like cleaning a room, organizing a cupboard, or planting some flowers! If our hearts become a little merrier, the sorrow will lift a bit, and we will be strengthened. If we haven’t been able to sense God standing near, we may be quite surprised to realize that He is there!

Indeed, we shall not die of thirst. He is the living water. We are not alone. Be not afraid. I do not know how my situations (or yours) will work out. What I do know is that He will be with me through it all. Many years ago, a friend of mine reassured me with these wonderful words: “God not forget”. He was right. God does not forget. He sees our skinned knees. He picks us up; we pick each other up. We know how to be like the Good Samaritan. We know how to be like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. Others know how to do that for us, too. We are in this together. We are not alone. I wish you love and hope today. See this photo ~ it is desert and lake and forest, all in one. God is good. All the time.

Wildflowers along Bartlett Lake, Tonto National Forest, near Phoenix, Arizona.

Wildflowers along Bartlett Lake, Tonto National Forest, near Phoenix, Arizona.

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Good things take time

I lift my eyes to the mountains from whence cometh my help

I lift my eyes to the mountains from whence cometh my help

I have been reading Coach Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success“. I am always on the lookout for insight, succinct sayings that can serve to propel me, or my students, or my loved ones forward on the path of life. Over the past few months I have had some emotional knockouts. But you see, even though my hope and optimism dimmed, I knew there just HAD to be a reason to keep believing.

John Wooden wrote “Patience is the ability to wait and calmly persevere. We all grow impatient, but some people have more trouble waiting than others do. We tend to forget that all good things take time.” (p. 123). The time spent on perseverance is worth it.

HandleTheJourneyPoster

I have been giving that some serious thought this week. CALMLY persevere. So I prayed about that. I asked God to give me the gift of being calm. I could think of all kinds of reasons to worry, obsess, and think of negative possibilities. But you see, all of those earthly worries cannot withstand God’s grace. That does not mean that huge problems will magically go away. (Oh sometimes I wish they would)!

Instead it means that I can choose to remain calm, cling to Him in the storms, ask for endurance and strength. Some days, weeks, months, and even years are difficult and traumatic. Even lengthy battles end. Sometimes they end well, sometimes we lose.

Andrew Wyeth:Field

Andrew Wyeth:Field

Our vigilant Shepherd will always love us. If we listen for His voice, He will always guide us through the difficulties. He will lift us out of the brambles when we stumble. It is easy to think we are to take on the entire world. We cannot rescue everyone from the brambles. We can encourage, we can suggest that they listen to the Shepherd who is perfect. We can model the behavior. Patience is called for, because each of us listens and learns differently.

LittleGirlWriting

How could I forget to apply that to life? I intuitively know that each of my students learn differently. I attempt to customize my tutoring sessions so that the students can learn to the best of their ability. Well, guess what? Life is like that, too. When a loved one is struggling and not learning from past mistakes, what does that mean? It could mean they need to learn it in another way. Sometimes we must detach.

Today, just for today, I am trusting that peace and growth will continue. I realize downturns will come. But do you know what? Today I can accept “reasonably happy in this world, and supremely happy in the next”. Sail on my friends, promises await you. Have a very blessed day.

Max Sailing

 

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Roller Coasters and Jesus

Smiling Christ: Frances J. Hook

Smiling Christ: Frances J. Hook

For the past few few months, I have been on a roller coaster. No, not an amusement park roller coaster, but a multiple life events type roller coaster. You see, sometimes there are many twists and turns on our road through life, aren’t there. I have been overwhelmed. I have been flat out depressed at times, and carefully optimistic at times. I have gone to some support groups to gain some traction. I lost my hope for quite awhile, but not my faith. A group called Celebrate Recovery has been extremely helpful in the past few weeks. They have a broader focus than AA, Al-Anon and the like. They are faith based and they cover the usual various addictions as well as all kinds of other things, too. They have been a bridge from despondent island. (The photo below is by my friend Terri Shirley-Summerhayes, and is at the Jersey Shore).

JerseyShoreTerriSummerhayes

 

Recently there have been glimmers of hope once again. We are learning new ways to deal with things. My husband and I have been there for each other through it all. I know, I am not giving details, which doesn’t help you to “totally get” what my husband and I have been helping someone through. I want you to know something, though. It is worth it. It is worth it to insist that loved ones honor their word, even though initially it may have just been lip service. It is worth it to stay strong and say no to manipulation. It is worth it to commit to the right values, the right ways of living and behaving. It is worth it to find the right programs. It is worth it to seek help from people who have been down the road.

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When you have been terrified that bad decisions will end up causing someone you love to die, faith and prayer can provide respite for your exhausted heart. Respite is essential for survival when you are going through heck, don’t you think?

It is hard when you are going through roller coaster times and severe heartache to find hope. It is hard to even know what to pray for, other than endurance. But do you know what? Joy comes in the morning, the psalm tells us. We shall be blessed. God has our back. True friends have our back. Even in our times when we feel desolate, and believe no one will understand, we discover that some people do.

The question becomes, will we believe in our own worth? God never ever abandons us. He loves us through it all. In my mind, the perfect example is Peter. Three times he denied Jesus. As a result, Peter was distraught. Jesus built a bridge right to Peter. Three times he asked Peter if Peter loved Him. Three times Peter said he did. Jesus made him all new again. Jesus makes us all new. It helps us to “mount up with wings like eagles”

We, like the dear hummingbird, need sustenance.

We, like the dear hummingbird, need sustenance.

So yes, I have been on a roller coaster. For today, though, I am at peace. I am seated on a bench on the merry-go-round. Life is still traveling in circles a bit. But for today, it is glorious. I am a grateful believer. I am His daughter. My husband is my delightful partner. We shall endure these tests ~ no matter WHAT the one on the path to recovery decides. Our prayer is that this beloved one continues to decide the Godly path.

We are grateful for the goodness and the support God has recently sent our way. One day at a time.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

My favorite part of this prayer is : “so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next”.

When I went to a support group meeting and hear that part of the prayer, it warmed my heart. Reasonably happy. Yes, that could help us all, couldn’t it?

 

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