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When You've Reached Your Limit

I was listening to the radio station KLOVE today as I was driving and heard a Christian singer talk about a time in his life when he was de...

Friday, October 28, 2016

When The Holiday Season Comes To Call

My favorite fabric store (I love to sew and love fabric!) has their Halloween fabric deeply discounted and Halloween is not even here yet.  It's like a clearance discount.  The fabric has been there for at least 2 months.  The Fall and Thanksgiving fabric is headed down the same discounted line and we're not anywhere near to tasting turkey yet.  Stores do this every year where you start to see Christmas items in October.  I would rather be eased into each holiday more slowly so I can appreciate them more.  

For some, the holidays bring on the feeling of dred. It is just tougher for some people to make it through all the bustle without getting depressed.  It could be depression due to many different things--being single and feeling alone with no one to share the holidays with, missing a loved one who passed away during the year and won't be there to share the memories.  For others, it is the financial strain to buy this or that or family pressures.  Some people just do not get along with family members, but holidays can force getting together with all the problems that may entail. 

I was in the hospital one year around Christmas time during my 1 of 6 times spent in a psychiatric ward for being suicidal and depressed.  That was a tough time.  I was released on December 23rd.  I have pictures of that Christmas.  I got home just in time to wrap some presents for my 3 year old and wait up Christmas Eve night to set up all the goodies for her to see the next morning. My pictures tell a different story.  I don't look myself in them.  I see pain, vulnerability, feeling unsure, and not having much patience.  On Christmas morning my daughter was wearing one of those cute onesie pajamas with the feet on them.  Someone stuck a big bow on her bottom.  She was SO cute!  I also remember when my family got together that morning to open presents that I sort of felt paranoid that my family was looking at me to see if I was 'okay'.  I was also haunted at that time that I was never going to be able to be a normal mother for my daughter--that the depression and episodes would so envelop my life that I would not be able to function as a 'good' mother.  That was my biggest fear during those tough years.  But God was with me through the whole thing.  It was a slow process to get on the right track with the right 'recipe' of medications that suited my body chemically/physiologically.

Maybe you are getting to a mental state of needing some time in a hospital setting. Maybe you are getting ready to leave that hospital setting and will need to get acclimated at home again with perhaps new meds, an outpatient program or counseling services (hopefully Christian counseling). The God of grace is with you everywhere you go--even to the toughest of places that seem scary. He is there. And it's a good opportunity, if you are there in the hospital, to get quiet with God and talk to Him.  Just be you because He knows the real you to a tee. He hears; He sees you struggle.  He knows that pain.

Be patient with friends and family who want to help you, but don't know how. Let them know that their concern and caring is worth its weight in gold.  Happy people want to see other people happy.  But they may not understand it for someone who is depressed during the holidays.  As you've been given grace; give that grace to others.  There are many out there who do not understand the plight of the depressed or mentally ill, but it is far better than it used to be.  The stigma is still there, but people are talking about it--and that is a good thing. More people are being touched by knowing someone suffering with it--that used to not be so.  And that was probably due to people not talking about it.  It needs to be in the open.

So take some time to pray for those who suffer and for those who need to understand, especially in the Christian community.  I believe God wants this subject to be fully realized and understood by all believers--to embrace those of us who have been in those dark depressive trenches and all believers to take it upon themselves to understand it--showing grace, mercy and above all--love.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Keep Persevering

Have you been dragging the floor lately?  I have been there.  I have gone through times where I felt tired a lot and struggle to just make it through the day.  Maybe you feel like going back to bed....hmm?  Many depressed people want to do just that--go back to bed.  Your psychiatrist may have given you some meds at this time in your care that make you sleepy and maybe you're not able to stay awake for very long right now.  But if not, I challenge you to stay awake and do something positive in your day....read the Bible.  I know, I know--it sounds so easy to say and maybe not easy to do right now--to open your Bible and read it.  Stay with me and read further.

Lately, I have been challenging myself to do something everyday with God: read the Word, pray, work on a Bible study, talk to God by including Him in my day. I have gone through a little over a week now consciously spending time with God in SOME WAY everyday.  I can see it is changing my relationship with God. I am sensing God's closeness more, a closer relationship.  Isn't that what we all desire as Christians--that closer, deeper relationship with God?  I sure do.  I have been hearing and listening to that still small voice that is so difficult to hear with all the noise going on around us---stuff we actually hear and stuff we just DO, like getting on social media.

There is no formula to my spending time with God.  It is not the first thing in the morning.  Sometimes it is more than once per day.  Sometimes it's a combination of Bible study and prayer, or reading the Bible and Bible study.  It really doesn't matter as long as I'm doing something.  I don't pre-plan my day the day before.  I wait until I'm in that day and then see how it unfolds.  I like not pre-planning because then it doesn't feel so forced.  But maybe planning is better for you.  Just try to mix it up maybe.

One of the things I love to do is participate in Bible studies.  It gets me out there, literally, leaving the house to fellowship with other women and dig deep into the Word of God which I love to do.  I am an introvert and despise small talk. I would much rather talk about something 'meaty' with a fellow believer any time! I am in 2 Bible studies right now and about to start a 3rd one with my daughter and husband.  The first 2 groups are very different sets of ladies which is great. What we say in these groups is confidential.  So it's a safe place to discuss just about anything.  We women and men just need to talk to other Christian women and men, respectively, sometimes--we need that fellowship.  God knew that and designed the church body to need each other. We encourage one another, give insight and input. And at the end of every meeting we write down each other's prayer requests.  And of course, we actually do a Bible study in all that ;-))

I HIGHLY encourage you to put yourself out there and join a Bible study.  Just one to start with if you have never done it before.  Make it a priority in your week and stay committed--make sure you go every week at your agreed upon scheduled time and try to keep up with the homework.  IF you don't get your homework done--GO ANYWAY.  Don't let that deter you from getting your fill of God for the week in the form of Godly fellowship with other Christian women or men. Now, remember, I am an introvert and have gone through deep depression episodes and so forth as you may know through my testimony. So, I can understand any trepidation you might have to be vulnerable in a group.  It takes time to get to know other ladies or guys and feel like you can trust them.  There is no need to jump right in and expose all your bumps and bruises.  But, I have learned that when it was the right time--my being vulnerable let others see a peek into who I am as a person and my own struggles.  Others may have the same struggles.  You never know.  Awesome things can happen in Bible study groups!

These are some images I pulled to show you there are different kinds of Bible studies/small groups out there.  Some are held at churches, or at a person's house (which is more personable, in my opinion). They can be in a casual format of sitting around in a living room or in a more formal classroom setting.

I tend to favor the casual settings because people feel more comfortable and less rigid.  But if you're wanting to sit back and observe more at first, you might like a classroom or church-held study.  

I would recommend, if you're just starting out, whether married, or not is a women's Bible study or a men's Bible study.

So, where do you start?  How do you find one?
*Start with your home church--where you attend now.  Ask your pastor(s).
*Ask people within your church.  If they don't know, they may be able to point you in the right direction.  
*Ask other Christians you know who do not attend your church.
*Call other churches (who teach sound doctrine from the Bible) and ask if they have any Bible studies that can be joined.
*Maybe your community has a community board where churches or groups are advertising a Bible study.  Just be careful if you choose this avenue.  Use discernment.

Some Bible studies may have already started their study and be in the middle of it--so a group may or may not let you join or you may have to wait to join a particular group after that study is over.  Don't let it deter you if you have to wait.  Look into other studies.

Maybe you are in a situation where you want to facilitate or co-facilitate a Bible study with someone else, but you're not sure where to start--where to find materials for a study.  Two resources I recommend are:
*Christian Book Distributors under 'Bible Studies and Curriculum', then into subcategories from there.
*Lifeway Ministries under 'Bible Studies', then into subcategories from there. Some of their studies are only exclusive with them--you can only buy the materials for the study from their ministry.  You can find new Beth Moore studies there, and Priscilla Shirer, for example.  

There are so many to choose from out there.  Some have DVD's that are part of the study (sometimes if a church is hosting the study they will purchase the DVD for the group to watch to go along with the study books that are bought by each participant).  Also some churches will buy the study books in bulk for the participants which may give you some extra time to pay for it if you need it. Always ask.  Sometimes you can download inexpensive videos that go with a study to watch within your own small group on a computer.  Make sure you know how much the study materials cost before you commit yourself.

Next question:  How do I know if a Bible study is right for me, or not?
Here are some questions and statements to ponder and ask yourself.  If you are a newer believer you might find this more helpful.  And these types of questions can be applied to so many circumstances/situations spiritually.
*Ask and pray for wisdom and discernment in all things.  God will give it to you. If something is spiritually not right, He will let you know.
*Are the materials from which the study will be taught from a reputable author or ministry?  Do your research if you have never heard of the person to make sure the teachings are from sound doctrine.  **Does it line up with the Word of God?
*Are the members/participants of the group welcoming and open to you joining or do you sense a clique in the group?  It can happen even in Christian circles. Do you feel like an outsider after going for a few weeks?
*Is there a problem with confidentiality/gossip in the group?  Do you feel unsafe to share in the group?
*Do all of the participants believe in sound doctrine from the Bible?  You don't want to be in a group that believes in something off the wall.  **Does what they believe line up with the Word of God? This will not likely happen if you have done your research about who the group is and where you found the group.

Things to be open about:
*Don't worry if the meeting gets off-topic here and there. It happens. Sometimes the materials spark a discussion that leads somewhere else, which then leads to another place. Sometimes it leads to someone sharing something very personal where God just wanted the time to be that and not sharing our answers to our study questions. But if it happens to go off-topic on a regular basis, you might want to mention it to the facilitator and see what she/he says.

With all this said, the whole point is to get you out of the house and involved in fellowship.  Bring a friend with you if that would help.  Give Bible studies/small groups a chance.  They will grow your faith and trust in ways you didn't think could happen in a group setting.

Until next time....God bless and invite God into your day!

Monday, October 3, 2016

When You've Reached Your Limit

I was listening to the radio station KLOVE today as I was driving and heard a Christian singer talk about a time in his life when he was depressed and oppressed.  He felt like Satan was keeping him from getting a message out.  And he was telling God how can I do what you're asking when I am feeling the way I am.  And God told him to trust Him as he moved forward.  The singer was able to break through that depression and oppression, trust God and write the song that God wanted him to and get the message out.

1 Cor 12:9 tells us, "...My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."...  I have been feeling like I have been hitting a wall lately.  It is one of those things I cannot pin-point, but feels very real.  Do you have times or moments like that?  I have been feeling rather lost these past few days with a feeling of yuck.  So, when I got in my car and I started listening to this guy's story, it hit a nerve.  You know how it feels when you KNOW God is talking to you...you just know it without a doubt.  Well, that's how it felt.  My eyes were glued to the road, but they were bugged out as if someone knocked me in the back of the head.  I knew I was getting a much-needed lesson from God.  And even though it sounded simple---I had been begging for simple, for something!  No one likes to sit in yuck you feel like you've been stuck in for a while.

I felt God was telling me that exact same thing that even though I was feeling depressed and oppressed that I need to keep moving forward and trust God through it all.  People are people folks.  People that we as Christians may consider super Christians--people who are in the forefront of the Christian community--Christian ministry leaders or singers of men and women that you and I know of.  They have they own struggles, their own tragedies in life.  They are not super just because they are in the forefront.  God has placed them there to help us in our journey, our walk with God while on this Earth.  But they are just Christians like us.  No one is better than anyone else.  We can learn so much from each other though--that is part of why fellowship among believers is so important.  To come along side one another and help one another when someone is struggling and having a difficult time.  If you are in the midst of a difficult time, keeping moving forward and keep looking to the One who won't let go.  God bless!