How Do You Find Hope?

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Reading through some fellow bloggers’ posts tonight I was struck by the number of people struggling with deep seeded anxiety and depression.  Many of them expressed such an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.  It made me want to run out into the middle of the field, wave a big banner and yell, “There IS hope!  There really and truly IS!”  But then I realized what my hope is built on and I got to wondering about how other people cope.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am no stranger to anxiety, though I count myself one of the most fortunate ones.  The panic attacks I’ve experienced have all been, for the most part, linked to difficult life changes – marital and financial struggle and subsequent divorce, job change, situational and hormonal changes (Oh Yes, THANK YOU Mother Nature for the early menopausal symptoms).  It is an extremely frightening thing to know in your head you need to calm down while having absolutely no control over the fight or flight reaction racing away within you.  It is sometimes a result of a trigger and other times simply the body’s response to an overly stressed heart and mind – an alarm that has no preset timer.  It simply goes off when it will.  That is what makes it so frustrating.  There is no reasoning it away.  It will last as long as it lasts while the sufferer engages in various attempts to quiet the body and return order to things. Sometimes that order is short lived, other times it can last days, weeks, months, or years before another something-or-other triggers the body’s now heightened response to stress.  But what truly helps people cope?

For me it is the blessed realization that I never was nor ever will be perfect.  Regardless of how hard I strive, seek, push myself, will it, or even pray for it, perfection is not only elusive but impossible.  I know without a doubt there will be things I cannot possibly forsee in my future nor prepare for.  My attempts to succeed in certain areas may or may not actually result in success by any monetary definition of the word.  Success means different things to different people, I realize.  My point is that it is expectation that is the doozy here.  What I expect myself to achieve may not be what I am truly able to achieve.  It is what I do with my disappointments, when my own expectations are not met, that will determine my feelings about my level of success. My expectations of success will determine the scale with which I evaluate myself.  My level of perceived success or failure will then ultimately determine my sense of self worth.  Where do we get our rubric from?  How do we decide what makes a worthwhile person?  What scale are we using?  I personally am so thankful for mine.  It is one I have to return to time and time again.  It is one that has absolutely nothing to do with me and yet it tells me who I am and what I’m worth.

My scale tells me that I am loved. John 3:16-17 I don’t have to “clean up” to be loved by God. Romans 5:8-11 I can approach Him as is and it is HE who makes me worth saving, not me.  Speaking of worth, He says I am worth dying for and because of my sin, His grace grows greater Romans 5:20-21.  It is He who works inside of me to do good because His Holy Spirit lives within me as a believer. Phil 2:13  These are the promises of God.  I don’t have to clean up to come to Him.  I can come as I am; and I don’t have to save myself, it’s He who does the saving.  He calls me beloved and finds me personally worth dying for.  Because He knows how flawed I am, He reached out to me.  He made sure that nothing could separate me from His love by making His own Son pay the penalty for what I personally have done. All of my past?  Gone.  Who else could love you more than that?  Who else in your life has said to you, “You’re a mess, but you’re my little mess and I’m crazy about you.  I’ll help you through whatever you’re going through if you’ll let me do the healing, let me bring good out of your pain, let me be your strength.  Let me love you like noone else.  You can’t make me stop.  I’ll never leave.  I’ve been here all along waiting for you to look at me, notice me, ask me and let me be your Savior.”

How can I be hopeless when I know there is Someone who finds me so stinkin’ irresistable that He took all of the punishment for my screw ups and then had the gall to say, “What screw ups?  I don’t remember any screw ups!  You’re my sweet angel!”  How can I be hopeless when I know God is working in me through His Holy Spirit to change me, heal me, make me new and that His version of new totally blows out of the water any stupid thing I ever did, erases it, and lets me emerge “not guilty?”  How can I be hopeless when He tells me He has good plans for me, for hope and a future? Jeremiah 29:11-14 

He continues to teach me day after day that my job is simple – to depend on Him.  That sounds totally crazy, doesn’t it?  Give up control of your life to Someone you can’t see who, in your opinion, may or may not exist in desperate hope that He might actually show up and blow your socks off, teach you a new way to live and free you from stuff you never knew you were in bondage to?  To that I have one more promise to add. Jeremiah 29:13

So if you are one of the many, the anxiety filled, the fear riddled, the panicked, I urge you to try on my scale for size.  See if you don’t like how much better you look through His eyes.

To peace!

On a side note, I would like to say that I am a firm believer that we are blessed to have medications that can give relief and make life not only manageable but downright healthy feeling for those suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and a myriad of other conditions that I may be entirely quite ignorant of.  Please feel free to educate me.  I won’t take it personally…

Photo Courtesy of Dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For more encouragement on how to live a life depending on Christ, see “Freedom in Dependence: 30 Days Closer to Christ.”

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Not Going to Church

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There are many so-called church affiliated groups in the news whose main function and focus seems to be telling other people why they believe God finds them unacceptable and unworthy of love – the second message being that if they would just get with the program they too could be a squeaky clean near perfect Christian complete with church certified seal of approval.  God would then find them acceptable.  Worship this way, align your political views that way, either do or don’t do this or that and you too will be given the golden ticket to heaven.  The truth is, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Then, there’s Set Apart Church.  The name says it all.  Here the invitation comes with no strings.  You don’t have to change a thing to show up.  Come in your pajamas, your shorts, your favorite t-shirt.  It won’t matter.  Come ready to hear exactly what Jesus said about God’s love for His children with no political slant, no judgment, and no request for money.  Just come.  Here you’ll find a welcome invitation from your Heavenly Father.  You’ll learn through a series of online sermons and devotions exactly how He feels about you.  The answer may surprise you.  If you just need someone to pray for you, you will find a place for that as well.  All of it in church online.

At Set Apart Church it’s God meeting you wherever you are.  It’s a church without walls where the door is always open.  There you’ll find a passion for Christ that comes from true relationship with Him and a deep desire to share the forgiveness of God, His love and His heart for you.  Whatever your reason for not going to church, here is the answer.  What do you have to lose?  You never know what you might gain.

 

 

Photo courtesy freedigitalimages.net  “Old English Church on a Sunny Day – Stuart Miles

Things My Dad Taught Me

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I’ve been thinking about my dad today.  I am one of three daughters – three daughters who were not shielded from doing some work around the house and yard.  I remember climbing onto the roof to do clean out gutters, painting furniture, trimming bushes, planting trees, mowing the grass, ripping up old carpet to put in linoleum, laying cement pavers, and a myriad of other things that simply required our family pulling together.  My parents didn’t pet us, they taught us how to do things for ourselves.  I learned to cook simple meals, do laundry, sew, clean a house correctly, change a tire, change out old spark plugs, and deal with repairs on my own.  They taught us to work together until the work was finished.   And it felt good to be a part of the work and a part of a beautiful outcome.

Today my husband and I spent the day outdoors trimming bushes, raking, sweeping, and getting ready to mulch and plant for spring.  I thought of my dad.  He never treated me differently because I was a girl.  His confidence taught me I was capable.  My parents’ expectations taught me to rise to the challenge and get things done when they needed to be.  It made me examine my own parenting.  It reminded me that hard work is such a tremendously healthy thing – for mind, body, and soul.  It helps families grow together.  I think I feel a few projects coming on.

Thanks, Dad.

 

 

image by amenic 181 freedigitalphotos.net

Ink and Shade – the blog

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"Tree" by Dan at Free Digital Images

“Tree” by Dan at Free Digital Images

A friend asked, “What’s with the blog title Ink and Shade?  I get the ink because of books and writing, but shade?”  I had to laugh.  Maybe it does sound way too arbitrary.  Just what is this Ink and Shade thing anyway?

An artist will tell you it’s the shading that makes things really pop.  Without shading things look flat.  I think life is like that.  It’s the shades of our past lives, the darks and lights of it, that make who we are more clear.  Without the dark there would be no sense of becoming.  There would be no new if we didn’t come out of the darkness, the shadows, and into the light.

I have, on more than a few occasions in my life, followed someone or something down a path I knew was not right for me.  To shield myself from taking the responsibility for my choice I simply lied to myself….over and over and over until I believed it.  My heart, however, could not be fooled.  It was a hard climb out of the pit.  I didn’t do it alone.  Couldn’t have survived it alone.  I won’t tell you what it is.  It really doesn’t matter.  The point is that life must be lived honestly.  I believe that down to my toes.

I really do believe good trumps evil.  I believe embracing one’s own fallibility and examining one’s own prejudices, fears, desires, strengths and weaknesses is what the journey is all about.  Writing helps me reveal the truth to myself.  If I need an answer, I write.  It is the ink that clarifies for me all the subtle nuances of what’s buried deep.   Simply, that’s my quest with this blog.  I will take what I’ve already written, share more of where I’ve been, and look deeper to reveal the beauty the darks in my life have highlighted.  More than that.  I will celebrate the light.  I will laugh along the way, probably cry too.  But I will be honest.

I’m looking forward to sharing this journey and learning from others along the way.

(Anything But) Silence

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While the audible noise is at zero, there is plenty being said.

Between you and me and all the ways and all the whys of how you and I are so incredibly different.  We may be silent, but inside I am anything but.  I scream “How could you possibly be so selfish?” My stomach burns and my lips tighten and I start counting the score…again.  I imagine me standing, screaming all the things I want you to see, all the reasons why I want more from you, more for you.  I look at the man you’ve been to me and I see so much, so very stinkin’ much you have to share and I can’t stop wondering “Why?”  Are we really so different?  Is what drives me, makes me breathe, wakes me up in the morning and keeps me awake at night so completely different from you?  And if it is, then what?

What does that mean?  Is it then two lives running parallel or is it moments of diversion, moments of union?  Do I really need it to be all together?  Would I really want it that way?  I am angry that you do not see like I do,  yet that is what I love in you.  You see things in me I cannot see.  You point to the truth I cannot perceive.  You have a way of knowing what I’ll do that drives…me…crazy.  You let me breathe and cheer me on when I stop believing in what is possible.  You let me be me.  More.  You celebrate.

So now, let the silence be my teacher.  Let me see you with new eyes.  Let me notice fresh your needs, your fears, your passions, your heartaches.  Let me be the one to celebrate.

image freedigitalimages.net

I Can Almost Breathe

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It has been a long, long winter.  People in the south are not accustomed to winter.  Ask anyone who has lived here for more than 10 years and they will tell you that winters here do not require parkas, snow boots, sleds, or any other winter weather gear.  If we receive more than 1 inch it is a miracle of nature.  A normal winter is weather in the forties with an occasional dip into the thirties.  But this year?  I am lost.  I fear I am headed for a case of S.A.D.

I have to preface this by saying that I am usually able to find solace in a movie, a crochet project, or a good book.  Sometimes things sneak up on you, though.  I didn’t realize how truly affected I was by the cold, the snow, the overcast days of gloom until a tiny clearing in the sky and the mere mention of spring flowers made my heart jump.  Hope ignited.  Just the thought of warm sun on my back and the children in my class during recess running wild OUTSIDE instead of cooped up in a gym, voices echoing.  Sigh.  Just bliss, I tell you.  I caught sight of it and, I kid you not, I inhaled.  Not just a breath, I mean I sucked wind.  It was as if my heart itself were saying, “It’s almost here!  Wahoooo!”  Yes, we say that in the south.  Can’t you feel it?!

Tonight as I sit here checking the weather for another possible snow storm I will laugh at Winter.  I have seen the glimmer of things to come.  I shall rejoice.  With my “Yahoo!” and my “Yeehaw!”  and a few timely “Amen”s here and there.  Hope has arrived.

And, I can almost breathe.

 

Photo courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalImages.Net

 

With Love for the Tattoo

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My Chick Phase 1

I finally did it.  I got my first tattoo.  It’s been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager.  We pierce our ears and wear makeup.  We clothe our bodies in things that flatter.  We want to look good.  Something about that outer appearance thing has always bugged me.

My parents have often referred to my high school days as my “mourning period.”  I wasn’t interested in dressing the way other people did.  Yes, I wore a lot of black.  I didn’t hate the world or go through some horrible “I hate all adults and all humanity” phase.  I just didn’t want to dress like everybody else.  More than that.  I wanted to be defined by something other than the clothes I wore.

Much later I learned a thing or two about first impressions.  Sometimes that’s all we get with some people.  Mess that up and you might miss out on the job you want or something else you’re looking for because you appear aloof, angry, unkempt, and anything but serious about what you’re going after.  There is a game to be played if you want to gain some things in life.  Like it or not, it’s true.  But a tattoo!  It can be hidden if you want it to be, can be peeking out from under a sleeve or a neckline if you want to reveal something about yourself, or exhibited proudly – and it’s something that’s only for you.

I should probably be embarrassed by how many hours I’ve spent watching tattoo shows on TV.  I’m fascinated.  Being an artist, I have incredible respect for those who bring to life the vision, the emotion, the deep connection for their clients.  It is, in many ways, an almost sacred thing.  Not Godly sacred as in Holy Communion or Baptism.  But life affirming, hope giving, connection with loved one granted.  Nothing does that like a tattoo.  It is, in a sense, a new life through the pain.  A rebirth.  It has real significance for many.  For others, well,  whatever. I can’t speak for them.

For me, it ushered in major changes – a huge shift in thinking about what I wanted the rest of my life to look like.   It was an unconscious promise.  A gift to myself.  It’s my little chickadee sitting watch on my shoulder to see to it that I make good on my promises to myself.  Of all the birds at our bird feeders, the chickadee is by far the bravest.  It makes me smile – a deep heart smile.

I’m not finished.  She needs some flowers surrounding her.  And later, who knows what she’ll inspire?  I’m just glad she’s there reminding me of someone I owe some hard work, endurance, love, grace, and patience to – myself.