Rescued, part 2

continued…

I made a feeble excuse to my husband, assured him I would be fine and bolted out before the trailers were through.

I desperately sought out the quietest place I could find and sat there with my hands cupping my face to hide everything around me and focused on breathing. I wondered if I was going to have to call an ambulance. My breathing was shallow and quick. After several minutes of trying to regain control, my heart finally began to slow down and my breathing less shallow. When I felt calm enough to begin peeking past my hands, I looked around sheepishly. I was so embarrassed.

At that point, I wasn’t even sure what had just happened, but, clearly, I wasn’t handling it well.

I never did go back in and watch the rest of the movie. I snuck into a different theater and watched something animated. To this day I haven’t watched the movie we originally went to see.

One day I will.

That was probably the worst panic attack I suffered. I had several more in the weeks to come, mostly smaller ones that I could control by escaping my situation. I learned to avoid certain places because I had experienced an attack there and I was afraid the same environment would trigger another one. This was new to me because I am a person who likes to be out and about, I love people and suddenly I found myself avoiding crowds or places that felt confining. I began to notice that my life was being controlled more and more by fear and now panic attacks. What was happening to me? I stayed terrified in the hidden places of my heart.

It’s amazing how much you can hide if you want too.

You may be able to hide it from others and some of it from yourself,

but God sees it all.

It’s really hard to admit to yourself there are things going on you have no control over.   I’m sure it’s debatable whether or not you actually have control, but when you’re experiencing something like this, it feels like it is all beyond you. And if you admit it or talk about it to too many people it starts to feel like there is no escaping it, it all becomes real and not just like a bad dream. And I didn’t want to be defined by my emotional outbursts, so I kept it in the dark.

I stuffed it down in hopes to “overcome” by denial. I know, that makes no sense. Nothing about my life made much sense. I hadn’t thought any of this through, mind you. I was just living day by day on the rations of what was left of my soul. There was nothing in me that wanted to face any more pain or uncertainty. I didn’t think I could take much more.

I was after one thing…survival.

During this time I was reading a lot about being the light of Jesus. (I John is where I was planted for a while.) For such a long time I thought we were called to be His light. And, in many ways that’s true. But, what I’ve learned while experiencing such darkness is HE IS THE LIGHT. It isn’t really about allowing Christ to shine THROUGH me, it’s about Christ shining INTO me. So subtle, but the difference between THROUGH and INTO has become critical in my growth. It takes the pressure off of me to live up to a standard of my own making and frees me to open my arms wide for my Savior, my LIGHT, to shine into my soul, my heart, and my mind to illuminate the dark places. His energy flowing into me will inevitably show through the cracks and crevices of all my imperfections. And, that will cause me…us to glow like nothing else.

I don’t ever need to hide.

Well, I’ve learned it doesn’t take long when you’re in an emotional state like this for the doctor’s office to become a familiar place. This day I had gone for an issue I figured would have another reasonable explanation, but after telling the physician my ailment she began to show genuine concern. She immediately ordered some tests and I froze in fear.

It just so happened that the week these tests were run was the week before Christmas. Although the doctor mentioned it, it didn’t sink into my foggy brain that their office would be closed the next week and not open until after the holiday passed. I was too stunned with her urgency to perform the tests to think about anything else but, you guessed it, a difficult diagnosis.

Over the next two days some important tests were completed and I began the painful wait for the results. I remember waking up each morning only to have my mind bombarded with so many thoughts of sickness, hospitals, diagnoses, and ultimately dying. I had honestly already rehearsed in my mind how I would ask my family to take care of my kids. My kids are in the budding years of adulthood and I knew they would need advice and mentoring through the struggles of the realities of life. I thought about writing letters for important dates, like weddings, college graduations, grandchildren etc.

It all felt so sad, and so real.

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I did not expect what happened next.

Over the next two, that’s right I said TWO weeks, while I waited for my results some amazing things took place that I feel compelled to share with you, these happenings are the reason I feel so drawn to tell you my story.

Someone needs to hear it, I’m sure of it.

I journaled during the time I waited and I just read back over it, it reminded me how faithful the Lord was and IS. And it also brought me to tears remembering how HARD it was to wait; so much hanging in the balance.

Here is a little of what I wrote…

“I feel so weak like I have so little to give and yet I keep trying to lead a normal life. I bottle all these fears and stuff them way down deep in my heart. I’ve been praying so hard lately asking God to ‘penetrate the fear’ that wants to take me down into a deep dark hole.   I find myself trying to bargain with the Lord. Needing so badly for Him to say everything is going to be okay. But, it seems all I get are reassurances that He will be with me. And, He really has. I’ve been listening a lot to Psalms, in one particular verse David says, ‘Lord, you have more years than you know what to do with, please let me have some.’ And that is my standing prayer, I want to get good results and live a while longer. But, no matter what, Lord, help me to be free of this horrible fear. I am so tired of being afraid, but I am afraid of not being afraid too. I really want to be free and to feel like myself again. Lord, I love you.”

During the first week of waiting the Lord sent so many passages of scripture and devotionals that directly spoke to fear and overcoming. The devotional I remember especially was about remembering all that God has done. Basically, God’s faithfulness. The passage of scripture that went along with it has been my mantra since I read it. I have quoted it and meditated on it, claimed it and declared it one of my verses for this year.

Psalm 91:14-16 MSG

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,     

“I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care     

if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;     

I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life,     

give you a long drink of salvation!”

I remember so clearly reading this and immediately having tears flood my eyes. It was the life ring I had been praying for. Oh how fragile my heart felt and these verses washed over me like healing waters. I sat and cried while reading and rereading the beautiful words.

“Hold on to me for dear life” it said, and I planned on doing just that.

To be continued…

 

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Rescued, part I

While driving to the coffee shop the other day I heard a powerful mini sermon on my devotional CD about rooftops. Not just any rooftops, but the ones that you find in scripture, or at least you would find in the culture when scripture was written. Apparently they were flat, not pitched like you see so often in modern day suburbs. I learned that in Biblical times the fastest way to get information to a large audience quickly was to have someone go onto a rooftop and yell the news from every corner. Pretty much yelling it across the city. Then the sermon went on to describe closets. Not the ones where we hang our clothes and store our shoes, but the place we go in our heart while the Lord is teaching us a powerful, and usually painful truth. It’s a place of privacy, quietness, prayer and surrender.

We spend our lifetime either on the rooftop or in the closet, spiritually speaking.

The gist of the message was that after God takes us through the fire and we have learned whatever it is He intended to teach us, He calls us to the rooftop to share our story. So, our life simply summed up might sound something like this…closet, rooftop, closet, closet, rooftop, closet, rooftop, rooftop, etc. Everything that we learn and experience is meant to be used.   Nothing the Lord allows in our lives is ever wasted; whatever we face is needed for ourselves and for others or He wouldn’t make us endure it.

And endure is exactly what I feel like I’ve been doing lately.

What a journey I’ve been on the last few weeks.   From the highs of Christmas to the lows of waiting for test results, it has been a difficult ride. Tonight, I am sitting here staring at this computer screen as I have so many recent nights wondering how in the world I am going to put on paper all that has happened to me of late.

I’m going to try and start at the beginning and hope it all makes sense.

Since I was a little girl I’ve been afraid.

I’ve shared this with you before, it’s not a new subject for me. I’ve prayed about it, written about it, tried to ignore it, and especially tried to hide it. But never has my fear been more exposed than over the last few weeks. Never have I felt more vulnerable or unsure of why my life was suddenly being turned upside down than in the recent passing days.

Since my mom died, I have been especially nervous about my own health. Honestly, I’ve had no reason to be; I am as healthy as the next person. But watching someone suffer and eventually die is a very traumatic, life altering affair. If you’ve been through this you understand what I mean, if not, be thankful.

But, like it or not, one day you’ll be able to relate.

When I said goodbye to mom, I was so emotionally spent and at a very low place. My mind was clouded with sorrow and fear. Fear doesn’t come to us when we’re expecting it, when we’re feeling strong and ready for the fight. No, it is no gentlemen, it begins its subtle takeover when you are already down and powerless. Or in my case, it was while I was overwhelmed with grief and despair.

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It started about nine months after the day mom went to heaven.

I woke up in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night. I remember thinking, “this is odd, what’s the matter with me?” And, of course, it scared me. A little seed of fear took root that night. I had a fertile heart for it; tired, broken, off guard and with a history of being afraid. After that I began to wake up nightly in a pool of sweat, and every time I would feel more afraid. My mind began to create scenarios that always included me being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, just like my mom.

After a few weeks of this, I began to have some other health issues. Nothing serious, but I kept imagining that the sum total of all of these symptoms was going to mean something horrible and fatal.

I was going to die, just like mom.

There are no words to help you understand how desperate I was during this time in my life. I went to the doctor, all the while shivering in fear that the results would be a difficult diagnosis. Fear began to be my companion; like a dark cloud that only occasionally parted for me to feel the sunshine of peace. Time after time, there would be a reasonable explanation for my symptoms, and I would feel temporary relief, until something else began to be a problem and I would start the whole cycle again. And when my fear heightened, my symptoms worsened.

I was in what felt like a hopeless cycle.

I’ve said to my husband so many times over the last months and year, “when am I ever going to feel good again?”   I was starting to feel like debilitating fear was to be my new normal.

It was in the middle of this dark place that I had my first panic attack.

Writing those words feels so surreal to me. I never, ever expected my life to go this direction.  I always pictured myself getting stronger in the faith and soaring past the fears and worries of this life, flying high above every day troubles.   I was so disappointed in what I determined to be a lack of faith, I mean why else would I be having a panic attack? I must not believe enough or this wouldn’t be happening, that’s what was going through my mind. And where was the Lord anyway, He had asked so much of our family over the past few years and we had endured the greatest sorrow of all, death.

Why was I having all these emotional problems? Hadn’t I suffered enough?

I remember the first attack like it was yesterday, even though it’s been well over a year ago.

My husband and I had gone to the theater to see a popular movie, it was debuting that weekend so there were a lot of people milling around. He was excited and I was going to do my best to enjoy it. Not much was fun for quite a while after mom died. But, I wanted to put my best foot forward, so I put on my boots and cute jeans and we headed to a nearby town and bought our tickets. After standing in line for popcorn and a soda, we found our way back to the auditorium showing the flick.

I remember it was cold and I was snuggled against my man to stay warm. Looking back now, I wonder if it was really cold or if I just FELT cold, my frozen heart made me feel rigid. The lights began to dim and eventually it was dark when suddenly the movie screen lit up and the music boomed all at the same time, I felt like I might throw up. I sat there struggling to breathe, praying I wouldn’t jump up and flee the room causing a scene. It was when my heart started to race that I knew I had to get up and move, to escape my surroundings.

 

To Be Continued….

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The Revelation of a Calling

Anxiety. I think at some point in our lives we all deal with it, some of us more than others.
Recently I heard a short devotional that left me in tears because I could so relate to the message. I knew then the Lord was going to use the struggles of my life to help someone else.

He never wastes a single lesson we learn…if we let Him use it.

The speaker defined “calling” in a way that made such complete sense to me…”Calling is when our gifts meet or collide with our burdens.” BOOM.

God has put words in my heart since I can remember and is now compelling me to use them.

As I look back over my life I can see where the troubles and hard times I’ve been through have proved to be a catalyst for personal growth. It has been SO HARD at times, but I can see now that it has ALL been for my good.

Satan fights us hard, but God will ALWAYS have His way.

I told you guys a few weeks ago that I felt the Lord was taking my blog to a deeper lever, hence the name change “Deeper Waters.”

Well, starting tomorrow, Wednesday, January 18th, I will begin to share a deeper journey that I feel is the beginning of the calling God has put in my heart. It makes me very emotional to think or talk about it because I am so unworthy. (Want to hear my flaws? I can name multiple to you in seconds flat, well rehearsed.) But, the Lord does not call the perfect, or I would certainly be OUT, He brings us to a point where we see before our very eyes “our gifts meet our burdens.”

And then we have no choice but to proclaim all that He has done and is still doing.

I am so thankful for all of you who follow Deeper Waters, I don’t know what I would do without this outlet to share, it has become a place of healing and fellowship for me.

Hope you’ll join me tomorrow as part one unfolds the beginning of what has proven to be the real beginning of a greater work God wants to do in me and in each of us.

See you tomorrow. He loves us so much.

 

 

Saying Goodbye…Again

I’ve said this so many times before, but it begs repeating.

Nobody warns you when you have these precious children that one day they’re going to grow up and become big people and then they’re going to leave.

And when they go, they’re going to take a portion of your heart with them. There’s a little bit of agony involved when that portion of your heart leaves. I know this from first-hand experience.

Today, yet again, I packed up and waved farewell to my college-aged son as he drove off to meet his friends and return to school. These Christmas holidays have been wonderful and full of life. My house, which stays relatively empty these days, was bursting at the seams with people.

My daughter came home and we made cookies and shopped; my heart was so full just spending time with her. She brought along a significant other and it was great to get to know him a little better. My oldest son, the middle child, was home and he fills any room with his big personality. When he’s around there’s always lots of laughter and plenty of banter. And, of course, my youngest son, who still lives at home, quietly observed all of the chaos, adding his two cents when possible. My husband was home on extended vacation so our whole family plus one was together for more than just a short time; it was such a blessing!

Well, as all good things, it came to an end to soon.

My daughter had to return to school to sign up for classes and get back to work. My son is driving back to school at this moment. And I am standing in the kitchen wiping my tears trying to work through the emotional knots that I have in my stomach.

Of course before this middle child of mine left he had to pause and pose for a picture, it’s my tradition. One thing you should know about me is I feel the need to capture every moment I can on film. Or in today’s terms, “cyberspace.”

I don’t know why I’ve become so obsessed with capturing moments; maybe it’s because there are so few pictures of my mom, or that I don’t want to forget the story of our lives. Whichever, it drives me to make sure that our special and ordinary moments are documented as much as possible.

My children have learned to just smile and say cheese, no use arguing with me. Seriously, they can stop and pose at any given time and in most any situation, they are well trained.

There are many of you who can relate to me this holiday season as you’re also waving goodbye to your adult children, whether college-aged or not. They load up their cars and back out of the driveway and leave us to pick up the pieces of our heart and move on with our day-to-day lives.

It’s just the way it goes.

As I was waving goodbye to my son, following him on foot as he backed his car out of the driveway, a picture formed in my mind of my own parents waving goodbye when I was his age as I drove away happy and excited to return to my home away from home.

The thought left me with an even bigger lump in my throat.

When I reached the end of the driveway,  I stood and watched his car become smaller and smaller as the distance separated us. I was waving occasionally, not knowing if he was looking back in his rear-view mirror or not; again I had such a clear picture of my own mom and dad standing, waving goodbye.

I want to take a minute to thank my dad, who is reading this I’m sure, and to remember my mom as I now understand how it must have felt watching my car get smaller and smaller as it sped down the road away from them.

Thank you, daddy, you’re the best. Wish I could thank mom, but I suspect already she knows.

Letting go isn’t easy but it’s so necessary.

I want to give my children permission to fly. Not that they need it, but I think they long for it. I think it makes them happier and well-adjusted to know that their parents believe in them and want them to pursue their hopes and dreams.

It’s a beautiful gift.

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I stood there in the cold, as it is freezing in this part of the country today, smiling with tears rolling down my cheeks. I know he knows that I cry, but I try hard not to let him see it. So I kept the smile glued on my face until he was out of sight. And then I turned to walk back up the long driveway, it was then I allowed the tears to flow freely and I let myself live in that moment of heartbreak. I’ve learned not to stay there, but I needed to allow it for a moment.

We have to let ourselves grieve.

It’s funny though, at that very emotional moment, I found myself picking up a few pieces of garbage that had blown into the drive; and it made me laugh out loud at the lunacy of it all. There I was, an emotional wreck, crying the ugly cry, snubbing, runny nose the whole bit picking up trash while walking back to the house.   I guess that’s just what we do, we keep pressing on through our tears; we keep living life, keep making the walk from the end of the driveway and keep picking up trash.

We live on through our tears.

Once I made my way through the back door and into the kitchen, I stood crying and looking for something to eat. I don’t know why, I wasn’t hungry. Why do I do that? Look for food or start cooking something? Maybe it’s because moms everywhere spend a lot of time feeding people. And cookies could make even the biggest boo-boo feel better when the kids were little. And, honestly, right then I had a boo-boo the size of my heart.

I think I may need a cookie right now.

As I stood there trying to compose myself by the kitchen counter, I began to realize how very alone I was physically at that moment. My youngest son was off with a friend, my daughter was in another town at work, my sister who lives down the street wasn’t home, and my husband was out of town and unavailable to me on the phone. My daddy was busy and my mama is in heaven. I thought to myself, how perfectly appropriate.

The Lord knows what we need to cause us to turn to Him.

Just this morning I read in my devotional that God longs to be our friend; not just our Savior, as wonderful as that is, he wants to be our friend, our companion.

So I cried out to Him and He did not disappoint.

Scripture tells me He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

That is a balm to this mother’s heart.

If you’ve lived any time at all you’ve probably already noticed that life happens so quickly and in a moment it’s done. I want to remember all of these days, the beauty, the sorrow, the love, laughter, the tears, I live for it all.

All of these things make up my beautiful life, and I’m blessed.

And I bet you are too.

Take a minute to thank the Lord for all the good in your life today. Even if things are really hard right now, there is still something to thank God for. I don’t say that lightly, I know what it feels like to wonder if there will ever be good days again. But, looking for reasons to be thankful will only help you to lift your eyes to heaven and remember that someone other than you is in control and HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING.

Find hope in that truth today.

And, if your parents are living, thank them for all the times they said goodbye so you could say hello to your future.

It was a gift they gave to you.

Well, I guess I’m going to figure out what to do with myself now. I could dust or vacuum or any number of things…probably not.

I will probably go back in the kitchen and fix some food, I don’t know why, I guess it’s just what moms do.

Proverbs 18:24

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”

 Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.