STRESSED OUT: The Gift of What Just Might Kill Us

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Clara Bow — Silent Film and Talkies Star –1920s — She was the inspiration for Betty Boop.  She also suffered with mental health issues due to stress.

 

Stress. We all carry it. Like interest on a credit card, it compounds. Quickly.

We are living in extreme days.  Our country is polarized, and some of us, perhaps many of us feel like we are hanging on by a thread.

Our daily responsibilities exceed the available time to accomplish them. I’m talking only about the things on our “MUST DO” list. Forget totally about our “HOPE TO DO” and “WANT TO DO” list.

Then, predictably so, like a promise that arrives early, a CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS lands in your lap exactly as your energy levels drop below zero. Couple this with your due date for everything urgent was expected yesterday and before, and your list of what you have to post pone due to emergency, is stretched to indefinite, if not infinity and beyond.   Generally, this will happen when you don’t have the following to cope:

  • money to pay for it
  • time to absorb it
  • energy/resources to fix it

Everything from demanding jobs, to family crisis, to health crisis, to a death in the family, or news that feels like a “sentence” feel like they are going to pull us under the waves.  Up to now we were at least managing our overwhelm, however precariously, as we bobbed between the waves of life’s stormy seas.

Here’s the hardest truth of our lives: Sometimes it sucks. I mean that literally. The challenge of just getting to the next day seems near impossible, because TODAY feels like it is vacuuming every last ounce of our energy, time, and resources to simply deal.

We can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. And then…..

BOOM!

The unthinkable. The unimaginable. The unbearable.

Like it or not. It’s here. How now will you get through it?

I’m not a doctor or scientist or even theologian who claims to know. I’m just a girl who’s been around the block a few times. And each successive lap does get harder, but……

it’s true—that which does NOT kill us, really does make us stronger.

My Christian faith has comforted my heart, and my mind knows many of God’s promises. But that never negates the reality of what is, and the pain/frustration/fear one goes through when one is on overload. The feelings are real, even if our analysis of what’s happening doesn’t agree with others’ perspectives. The truth is: We feel what we feel.

So, how to deal?

Something I learned a long time ago at church. Our wise pastor told us:

You are going to suffer in life. That you don’t get to choose.

The only thing you get to choose is HOW YOU SUFFER.

Will you waste your suffering?

Or will it be redemptive?

I have never forgotten that lesson. I mean I have in terms of application sometimes:

  • I get negative ( I whine to others.)
  • I forget to pray. I forget to be still.  (I’m SO busy!)
  • I complain. (As if stating the problem a dozen different ways will somehow change it.)
  • I avoid reality, or at least dream of it. (I think I will hide under my blankets and pet the cats and just listen to music all day. Yeah right.  )

And then: I remember another profound truth:

IT IS WHAT IT IS

 Seriously, reality always wins.

 I pause.

 I remember.

I get to choose my suffering.   I. Me. No one else.   Other people or life situations—they may overwhelm, even slay me. But I CHOOSE how I deal. Or die. Or live. That is my power. And no one and nothing can take THAT away from me! No one can take the power that I believe God has already put in me, unless I give it to them.

There’s a lot of anger out there these days. The election comes to mind. I get the disappointment and anger. I really do. But seriously, how much power are YOU going to allow someone else to have over your lives?   What changes can you make?  More importantly, WHO will you CHOOSE to be?

We don’t get to change our circumstances much of the time. The only thing available for us to change is: OUR PERSPECTIVE

Stress can BE our friend.   We can “reframe” our situation.

These things I’ve learned for sure, especially in crisis mode:

We can only solve one problem at a time. Tackle your tasks and finish them one by one. It may mean going off-line, off-grid, turning your phone off. That’s okay.   People will live without you for a few days. But you won’t live without you.

If other people can’t understand your limitations sometimes, that is their problem, not yours. Is it good to care what other’s think of us?  Sure.  But our health, our life comes first.

“No” is a complete sentence. This is a biggie, especially for women. We want to give and help so much, we can give ourselves away sometimes. But say no sometimes. Even if it’s just to practice for a real emergency. It’s so freeing. The relief that comes from knowing you don’t have to be responsible for everything just because someone thought you were the most capable to do it.

Get enough rest. No matter what. No good decision is ever decided when running on fumes.   Which brings me to: Delay big decisions until you have had at least one good night’s sleep.

Ask for help. And then don’t be ashamed. Be it tasks or an understanding ear, reach out to others. Please. Other friends don’t always know when we struggle. They are stressed too.

Daily Quiet Time. (DQT) Prayer. Meditation.   Simple solitude where you simply empty your mind of all thoughts, if only for ten minutes. This is absolutely essential if you are on overload. Practice this now. Make this your habit, so you won’t forget in emergencies.

Breathe. Just breathe. Slowly. Take it all in, understanding you don’t have all the answers. Remember? You can’t control it all.

Consciously choose to accept with grace, to the extent that you are able, what is happening now. I recently read a wonderful quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It only empties today of it’s strength.

For those of you suffering severe stress right now, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend. I found just taking the time, all precious 15 minutes or so, recharged me. It reminded me why we are gifted with our present. We have this beautiful opportunity to be brave as we rise to the occasion of our challenges.

You WILL suffer.

You WILL have to make a choice (even not choosing is still a choice).

Be brave.  And may you choose well.

 

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Close your eyes. Just listen to some pop pscyhology. There. Did your demons float away if only for a few minutes?
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The Poker Game of a Lifetime

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I had a thought tonight while pondering mid-life as my family has faced quite the challenges of late:

If life were a poker game, what card would I love to trade?

I can just see it now.  All my 40-50ish (and beyond) aged friends would be sitting around a round table.  Some of us would be drinking mojitos. Others would be drinking Ginger ale on ice.  Some of would be smokers, the others vegans.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  All are welcome here!  Some would be staunch conservatives, and others would be die-hard liberals.  Some of would be married, some widowed, some never married.  Perhaps some would be “questioning” all that.

We’d swap stories of our current status in life, trade success and horror stories of our marriages, our kids, our parents, our careers, our faith, or lack there of (any of the above).  And we’d talk about our health.  The entree to the former appetizers we’d linger on now for a while.

It’d be like a poker game for the post-menopausal mid-life crisis club.  Except that for us it’s not a crisis.  It’s standard fair for this stage of the game.  Mid-life.  Not young anymore.  But young enough to really want to LIVE still.  Tender enough to still cry.  Strong enough to perservere when we’re done.

We’ve seen some tragedies.  Some have lost parents.  Or breasts.  Or ovaries.  Or our homes.  Our marriage.  Our jobs.  Our sanity on occasion…sometimes we simply lose “it”!  In spectacular fashion even (the icing on the cake!)  Because it’s all just so much to keep up with:

Jobs, responsibilities, family members with issues, trials, health, chores, endless ways to communicate, finances, weight, and the ever-present thought:

My TIME is running out.  Not yet God.  Not yet.

So we’ll sit around the table and play a little game of poker, trading stories:

“Oh, I can top that!  I tell you what, I’ll trade you my leaky silicone tatas for your surgically stolen ones thanks to your BRACA results!”

“Ummm, no I think I’ll trade w/Sue over here because she said she’d give me her perky pets if I’d take her husband with the wandering eye and since I don’t need a man, that’s fine with me.”

“Oh yeah,” says Emmy who lost her husband at 47 to a sudden heart.  “No, I’ll give you my somewhat deflated tatas AND I’ll raise you one and give you my nice house that is paid for free and clear from the insurance settlement.  I miss Fred so much, so very very much.”

“Are you kidding?” Jane pops in who at 57 is back to where she was fresh out of college, renting an apartment after her husband became disabled and couldn’t afford to support the family after 30 years of valiant efforts.  A stay-at-home mom all these years, she now finds herself working at Target, grateful, that she is able to help out at all.  She is so tired, but doing the best she can.  “I’d give up my tatas to have a home, and especially to just rest some times.  I’m so tired!”

“Um…I don’t know”  Linda says.  “That might be a bad deal!”  She’s thinking she could trade her paid for home, and may consider consider trading her husband, okay only for a moment.  After all, Phil drinks way too much, has a red hot temper and at least Jane’s man is so loving, so kind to her all the time.

Round and round we’d all go.  Sometimes pining for the good graces we weren’t privileged to receive. Grateful for the trials we were spared.  But at the end of the night, there’d be no winners.  No losers.  We’d simply fold.  Together.    

We’d be the way we were when we first sat down to play this game.  All those years ago.  Before the botox.  Before the bankruptcy.  Before the cancer.  Before the addiction.  Before the coffins and the good-byes that came too soon…parents, spouses…..a child.  That one trumped everything.

And yet we are all still here.  The fortunate ones, anyway.  The blessed ones already left us.  And they are waiting.  Smiling.  Willing us to go on one more day.  Endure one more trial.  Wait patiently on that which you can not possibly know, see, much less understand.  Consider the joy set BEFORE us as we suffer.  And trust.  God has us!  He is for us!  Oh, how we get to practice that, lest we lose our minds totally.

And keep on loving our families, each other and counting so many blessings as we bet our chips on the tales from our lips.   With dignity, grace, and strength, we keep on keeping on at Poker Game of Lifetime!

Deal me in!

Driving out the Demons

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PHOTO CREDIT: DEVIANT ART

How do you deal with your inner demons? I’m not talking about a Debbie Downer day where it feels like you’re walking under a black cloud all day and nothing goes your way.

No, I’m talking about a real wrestle-with-God, wrestle-with-your-own-soul day of darkness. The sixteenth century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross calls it The Dark night of the Soul. Sometimes it lasts a day or two, a week, perhaps a season. For him, it lasted forty-five years! However long it lasts though, it’s tough. It’s challenging to find even a pinhole of light anywhere, when it seems darkness surrounds you everywhere.

I call it fighting the demons. These demons are like riding out a storm at sea. Sometimes with these tall looming ocean waves, you have no choice but to bob up and down with it, rather than exhaustively fight it and drown.

A Christian writer that I greatly admire, Joyce Meyers, has an acronym for FEAR that has always made sense to me:   FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL

Well, I’d like to piggy-back on her acronym, and add my own: DEMONS

DOUBT (and) EMOTIONS MERGING (with) OUR NARCISSISTIC SIDE

Basically it works like this:

Our feelings and opinions shape our perspective regarding the trials and challenges of our daily life.   You can’t help it. They just do. This is the lens of how we see the world–our filter. Some of us naturally just have a sunnier, brighter disposition and see things from a lighter perspective. Others are a bit more cynical and jaded. We see life through a polarizer lens—everything is a bit darker as if looking out through sunglasses. Yet when light shines through, it is definitely sharper! It provides a nice contrast to the dark around it. Perhaps because sometimes we’re not expecting the light to break through.   Doubts are the demons we get to wrestle with.

Fear and demons go together actually. Both have the ability to paralyze us, rendering us unable to act. Both make us focus on and inflate our sense of self, rather than something so much bigger: God.   Doubt at its core tries to reduce and diminish God to a point of non-existence. The problem with doubt is: It puts the whole burden on us to make sense of it all.

Since our feelings and emotional thoughts drive our decision-making process, we need to remember that a logic based on faith would serve us better at being the DD (designated driver) of our lives.

BUT HOW?

How do you find light (hope and a sense of peace)?

How do you find logic (soundness of mind, an ability to see a situation sensibly and rationally)?

Above all how do you have faith (confidence and assurance that everything is going to turn out okay or at least in a way used for good)?

How do you find light, logic,and faith while you are in that season of darkness, or questioning, or your doubts seem taller than your faith? Feelings and emotions seem to trump all. Logic seems like a first sweetheart that dumped you decades ago. Faith sometimes feels like the imaginary friend you had in childhood, but gave up years ago as you slowly grew up.

I’m no expert. I have no degrees in psychology or theology.   Unless you count all the pedigrees I’ve earned from the School of Hard Knocks.

So how do you drive out those pesky demons? Those dark thoughts that threaten your peace, and sometimes your sanity? Especially when you have too many situations brewing? Or one or two that is just really more than you can bear?

I suppose the simple answer is YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE IT.   For me, I have to remember to believe:

  • Things are not always as they appear and unconditional acceptance of what is: My take on the situation may not be accurate. And even if it is, I have to accept that I do not have the power to control or change it. The only thing I have the power to control or change are: My perspective and my decisions on how I act.
  • There is a God and He is good. Because if not, then life is just a bunch of random events, chaos essentially, and then there is nothing to assign meaning or significance to. Then I am reduced to explaining the pain, cause, and results of these things beyond my control by the limitations of my own thinking, or even more mind-confusing: the expertise of others. This option has never worked in my life; I feel like a rat in a maze, forever frustrated while trying to find a way out. The key is to find the way UP in order to GET OUT.
  • God is in control. I choose to believe that God is not unaware of injustice, cruelty, tragedy, hardship, and the evils of humanity. Nor is He unaware of goodness, giving, kindness, faithfulness, and a love for others. And though I can’t explain the whys of situations on earth, God can. I believe God’s word in Isaiah 55:9: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. I’m not delusional and tell myself God enjoys giving us hard unfair things to deal with because it’s for the best. No! Rather I choose to look at life’s hard trials and dark emotions as something God will use for my best and His glory. Romans 8:28 All things work together for the good, for those that love him and are called according to His purposes.
  • I can freely choose to love and have faith in God. I’m not forced to submit to a rule-enforcing, legalistic, dictator-type God. No! I get to freely choose to obey and serve and LOVE a grace-giving God that says His love for me is unending, that I’m even worth dying for. I can read His promises knowing His hand is actively involved in my life.   Hebrews 11:1 says that Faith is the CONFIDENCE in what we hope for, and the ASSURANCE of what we do not see.

I guess it comes down to this: As I wrestle, I wrestle WITH FAITH, not against it. I fight my inner demons (negative, hopeless, or unsure thoughts) in partnership with God. I know He does battle on my behalf where I am weak. I do not go onto the battlefield alone. He equips me with confidence because I know and believe in His trustworthiness even when I can’t see God. Even when I can’t feel God’s presence.

So I eat, run, work, sleep, think, parent, write, love, and do WHILE I wrestle and pray, strive and hope, all the while: believing.

So I read God’s word. I question Him. I cry alone with Him sometimes.  I tell Him my doubts and my hopes and my fears and my dreams. I read some more. I pray. I think on it. I STOP thinking on it (that helps a lot!) I wait. All the while,I persevere in my choice to believe and trust.   A funny thing happens:

My faith grows. Slowly, sometimes erratically, but still it grows.

Belief (faith in God) is like running a marathon. You simply take a step. And then one more. You just keep going. It is this endless HOPE that propels you towards the finish line.  And with every step, the demons grow smaller and less powerful and the light and love of God and for God grows closer, and bigger. And on some days the whole sky is not big enough to contain it all.

The Crave and The Fix

One of my dearest friends in the world sent me King and Country’s  CD recently called “The Crave.”  If every other song wasn’t spectacularly amazing, this one brought it home—

It broke me

        If you’ve ever struggled with addiction or loved someone who has, then listen to this I beg you.  You’ll get it.

See I’m a strong girl.   These are the things I used to CRAVE:

  • Control
  • Stability
  • A Plan (see Control)
  • Having “it” together (family, work, my house, appearance, finances….the list goes on)

And then The Beast came to our home.  To my heart—an uninvited stranger who moved in without warning or permission—and foreclosed on my heart, and mercilessly tried to wreck my life, and that of my family.

We’re still processing and mending.  But above all I’m still believing and I’m still loving.  I’m living through something that nearly took away someone I love so much more than my own life and who all I wanted to do was :

FIX

      Surely, if I craved fixing my addict just a bit more than this person craved a fix, I’d be able to:

  • Convince them
  • Change them
  • Fix them
  • Make it all better

But I failed.  Or at least I thought I did.  Because sometimes human love isn’t enough I was so busy taking on the roles of detective, nurse, lawyer, and defensive lineman often simultaneously,   that it took me a while for me to learn it isn’t all my fault.  And it isn’t all theirs.

Addiction is two things:  A genetic predisposition and a choice.  The choice is the first time.  The addiction is all the times that come after.

I know now it won’t be me that can fix this.  Because THE FIX may be my goal, but it’s not my role.  This is something only God can do as my loved one decides to get extremely intellectually honest or in street lingo: Keepin’ it real y’all! 

“The others”–the ones what have walked this journey of one day at a time for some time now,  through shared experience, accountability, and unconditional love, will have to help my loved one pick up the pieces that I could not.

      This is what it’s like for the addict and the family:  Excruciatingly painful.  Isolating.  Really scary.  Exhausting.  Sometimes you feel judged or are misunderstood by those who haven’t ever been exposed to this.

But the suffering is also something more.  It’s redemptive.  Beauty shines brighter thru wet tears.  Appreciation for now comes when you lose so much and almost lose—well, everything.   Every other problem becomes so small.

And now I know people, too many, that have lost this battle.  People that suffer silently.  And I won’t be doing that any more.  My battlefield is becoming my mission field.

For I am not ashamed of the one I love who is getting the help they need.  I will forever be their:

  • Advocate, but not their enabler.  I will speak the truth, but in love.
  • Cheerleader, because encouragement is the seed that can blossom into confidence.
  • Prayer warrior, because the biggest battles are won on our knees, and the biggest war is fought for our hearts and mind.  If you think you don’t have an enemy bent to destroy both or either, you deceive yourself.

So devil take warning:

  • I am unmoved by you.
  • I am undeterred.
  • Above all I am not defeated—not now, not ever.

Because I have the King of kings on my side.  You have already lost.  For I have tasted The Cure .  His name is Jesus.  He is not just our Saviour, He is also our Saver and Redeemer.  He really does save the lost.  He really does comfort those who mourn and are crushed in spirit.   He does this not only because we first believed, but more importantly because He first loved us. 

Without faith, it’s not only impossible to understand this; I think it’s impossible to see the everyday miracles that God decides to bless us with.  Life is a mystery. It’s full of both joy and suffering, sometimes simultaneously.  Deserving neither, we experience both as a gift of opportunity to question everything until finally we reach the end of our limited human understanding.  That’s where we end, and God can finally begin.

       And to the families touched by addiction?  You are not alone.  You do not have to walk this journey alone.   May you find the courage to find a support group and attend meetings, find a supportive and empathetic church, and/or a close circle of true friends who get it, and may you come to believe and trust in a loving God who already has the power to heal all that ails you.    After all, we could all stand to take a hit of a drop of grace. 

Hope.  Love.   Believe.  And you shall live.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Support possibilities for you or a loved one who suffers from addiction:

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

http://al-anon.alateen.org/?gclid=CImZo7jw5LsCFa9lOgod2kcAkw

http://www.aa.org/

http://www.narconon.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm

 

       

Finishing Well

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PROOF:  Good runners finish well!  My wonderful sister in law Bren crosses the finish line at Boston in 2012!

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    Here we are again.  America is in mourning yet again after another terrorist attack.  We all watched in horror yesterday as the runners from the 2013 Boston Marathon were crossing or about to cross the finish line, only to suddenly realize a bomb, and then another, had detonated very closely to one another.

    Evil planned it this way.  Evil always plans it this way.  Destroy the innocent.  Destroy the maximum for maximum impact. 

But here’s the thing.  LOVE WINS!  I’ll say it again.  Love wins.

Just like the runners who trained by racing for months and months, the choice to love trains over the course of a life time.  See love is not easily entangled.  It does not falter.   It does not bail because it gets angry or doesn’t get its way.  It doesn’t boast.  It doesn’t quit.  And above all, it never fails.

The runner trains for months and years increasing their strength by going the distance each day.  Two miles today.  Two point four tomorrow.  Twenty six point two a year from now.  A runner increases his or her efficiency by perservering.  A four minute mile when starting out.  Then four point two.  And so on.  Until one is almost running with cheetahs and raking in times like a seven minute mile and beyond!  Runners are a special breed.  They run through pain.  They run through rain.  They run past the point where most people quit.  They run past the point they dropped of exhaustion only yesterday.

For a runner has one goal:  To finish well.  Though trophies and recognition is bestowed upon the one that crosses first, all know the real glory is to run with endurance and to finish well.  One must cross the finish line, and receive the real prize:  The honor and glory of a family who is so proud of you, a photo op of crossing the finish line, and the prize of satisfaction knowing you gave it your all, and you finished.   All your hard training has paid off.

My heart hurts so bad for all those who trained yesterday and never got to cross the finish line because someone or a group decided to ruin something beautiful with a moment of terror.  Here’s how it ends though.  The same way it always ends:

Good rushes in.  Good rushes in to assist the injured and comfort the dying.  Good tries to maintain order in sheer pandemonium.  Good has no fear.  Good seeks the security and comfort of others before one’s self.  Good always outnumbers evil.   Good happens because it first knows how to accept and give love.  And when someone knows that they are loved, it is easier to help or even sacrifice one’s own life to help another—even a perfect stranger.

So many runners trained so hard for yesterday.  They did not get to cross the finish line.  Instead they were learned through shock and surprise to exit the race and to run to shelter. The chance to cross the finish line was stolen.

But the chance to finish well is something no act of terror or thought of evil can claim.  In that respect, all the runners triumphed.  As did the families and friends who awaited with cheer and anticipation and joy to congratulate their loved one.

And the ones who perished?  God is in control.  I can’t claim to make sense of it.  I only know this.  God is just and God is in control.  Always.

I pray for each of these runners the opportunity to renew their strength and nourish their hurting hearts.  I pray each of us can learn to pass by the circumstances and destructive emotions that entangle us and seek a higher power that allow each of us the opportunity to finish well.   For then we gain the good life here and the perfect life for eternity.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:30-31

 

Are We There Yet?

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PHOTO:  DISNEY     

Are we there yet?  Would anyone like to place wagers on how many times I will hear this question when our family leaves for Orlando’s Disney World tomorrow after school?   My seven year old son has been counting the days to our Disney Trip when the countdown was still over 100.

And then there was one.  One day left until we leave. Knowing how fast the last hundred days has gone is a bit troublesome because I don’t want our vacation to fly by.  I want each magical moment to linger.    I want each one of our family of five to forget about work, school, obligations, commitments, bills, responsibilities, and challenges.  Basically, I look forward to our reprieve from reality and really hope to drop anchor for a while in the new and improved Fantasyland (among other lands), that just re-opened up six days ago, on anticipation of our arrival no doubt.

This is our fifth trip in nearly thirty years of marriage and family.  It is the first real time for my youngest since he was in utero his first trip, and ten months old the second time.  He is beyond stoked for this trip.

  Personally speaking, it will be a homecoming of sorts.  A family reunion if you will.  Why there’s Uncle Mick with his big ears and chubby fingers and his sunny optimism about everything.  He is the family patriarch full of wisdom and sage advice and a voice that never matured when puberty came, if in fact it ever did.  There’s Aunt Minnie with her oversized furniture, her red and white polk-a-dotted dress, and she always wears a smile and looks as if she’s just baked a warm plate of cookies to greet whoever comes into her quirky and humble abode.  There’s Uncle Donald and his rambunctious nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, whose mischief and energy rival my son’s.  There’s the family dog Pluto, and of course Goofy.  Everyone has at least one Goofy in their family, do they not?

There’s beautiful Snow White and Prince Charming who always has his arm out to escort me and he pulls out my chair before I’m seated in front of a table lined with luxurious food.   There will be white and glass carriages escorted by perfectly groomed white horses for the ball later in the evening.

There are no arguments amongst our extended family members.  Everyone is well physically, mentally, and spiritually.  There is only endless exquisite happiness, laughter, joy,  and incredible talent on display be it singing, dancing, acting, juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, tricks with birds and animals, feats of wonder, or acts of comedy.   This is the family millions of people run to and attach specifically to because it is such a great antidote to life’s often harsh realities.

This is the model familyThis is the World’s Family.   It’s a family where good food and drink, laughter, and smiles are always flowing and adventures abound.  Whether it’s being delightfully scared by holographic ghosts in the Haunted Mansion,  exploring all the real cool rooms of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house,  eating your way around the world in EPCOT, or watching the Spectro Magic parade at night with all the floats and characters lit up, you know you’re going to have fun.

    This is why we work in life.  This is why we struggle.  This is why we deny ourselves from having everything we want the moment we see it, because there are greater moments to behold later.

As for me and my household?  The next best thing to Jesus and the promise of heaven is most likely Disney World.  And you don’t have to go there to know it exists and that it’s great!  Kind of like heaven.  We sense it.  We know there is more than this life and its struggles.  There is a grand design, a purpose if you will, for our sufferings, our trials, our brevity here.  It’s because God has something better planned for us over there.

Of all the things God gave us in life to use, the most amazing thing he gave us in this life is our incredible mind.  A mind filled to the brim with infinite possibilities of what we could imagine and create, if we dare.  If we take that faith step and risk putting our dreams out there for the world to see.

It’s what good old Uncle Walt did.  He had a dream in his mind and a sketch pad in his hand and BOOM!  His soul connected his vision for animation and he drew what is now the world’s most famous mouse based on a pet mouse he once adopted at his first Kansas City studio.   Isn’t good he made a pet out of what most people would have so easily killed?

     Nothing in life is a coincidence.  I see things in life not with rose-colored glasses (okay, sometimes I do) but thru a lens of divine providence.    I try to connect the dots relating people and events in life as something God wants to use for good in my life and others.  I believe there is something good awaiting us at the end of our journey of toil and peril.   Disney World is man’s gift, a foreshadowing, to remind us of an even greater gift that God gave to us.  He just used vision to accomplish it in Walt.  He can use vision to accomplish it in us as well.  Open your eyes.  See!

Merry Christmas everyone!   We’re off to be a family, amidst all the other beautiful and diverse families of the world, as we watch and experience the magical family of Disney, keeping in mind that Jesus is not just the reason for the season, but a great reason to live life in awe and wonder every day because of what He has done for us.   Life.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Disney here on earth.    Heaven later.

I guess there are only four words left to say!

Are!  We!  There!  Yet!!

Diving into an Empty Pool

PHOTO CREDIT:  JOSEPH HANCOCK

       There’s a lot of talk these days that at the end of next month America is going to go off the end of the fiscal cliff. Yeah?  So what.   As for me and my household:  I’m tired of fearing:

  • The beginning of the end
  • Calamity and destruction
  • Everything is beyond our control
  • There is no solution here
  • We’re not going to make it

At least that’s how I am feeling about things these days.

The thing is this:  What percentage of your life do you think you actually have control?  The longer I live, the more I realize the decisions of others greatly affect my own from political to professional to personal.  But I am learning the gift of unplugging.

Unplugging doesn’t mean checking out.  It means you unplug from the source of stress that frequently drives you. 

It’s really a challenge to unplug.  It requires some heavy lifting, sometimes more arduous than turning OFF the power to the remote.   It takes more strength than to be able to single-handedly not check your email, Facebook status and comments, and news of the world via your smart device every hour.

I’m not advocating an “ignorance is bliss” attitude, but more of an ignorance is blessed attitude.  Another words, if you are unable to control much of what is going on around you, then perhaps it’s time to dive into a different pool.

We can’t continue to wade in the waters of a cesspool and expect that we will be able to swim capably, much less see clearly.   When we look at our circumstances or even the choices of others that certainly affect us, it’s easier to drown in a pool of pity or the sea of sorrow than it is to look past the horizon of hell that seemingly threatens to consume us.

There’s only way to survive that which you cannot control.   You have to release the limitations of your human understanding.  You have to embrace the sovereignty of a higher power.  You have to trust God.

Simultaneously letting go while hanging on—it’s hard sometimes.

It can be done.

But only if you dive into a different well.   Dive into a wellspring of life by trusting God when you don’t have the answers to why and are tired of trying to find them. 

We see the experiences of our lives and state of our world and usually look to friends or other people or the knowledge of the various media to explain it to us and make sense of it.   Often there is an element of truth to what we learn.  But much of it is agenda, even propaganda.

In the end, it feels like we are diving into an empty pool:   Unsafe.  Fear.  Vast emptiness.  You’re rapidly about to hit bottom!   Knowledge and news can’t answer questions such as:

Why?

What now?

What is my role, if any, in this?

Before diving off the cliff of sanity, change pools.  Dive into a pool of water where your spirit is nourished and your spirit is refreshed.    Dive into a pool where trust is your life preserver in a world of tribulation.    Dive deep in faith and know that God is good and in control and can give you the necessary healing, wisdom, clarity, or compassion called for any confusion or circumstance you have.   Don’t delay.  Dive today!

 VERSES TO HELP YOU UNPLUG FROM CIRCUMSTANCES AND DIVE A BIT DEEPER INTO FAITH:

I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things He did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in Him. Psalms 40:1-3 (The Living Bible)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ. Philippians 4:6-7 (The Living Bible)

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid of them! For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out.  Proverbs 20:5