A PRISONER OF HOPE

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ARM FLEXED PIC 2

Return to the stronghold [fortress], You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.
Zachariah 9:12 NKJV

Have you ever been a prisoner? Personally, I have not been, in the sense of being incarcerated. Usually that is what we think of when the word is mentioned. I looked up the meaning of “prisoner” in Miriam-Webster Dictionary and these were the definitions: 1. a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody; especially one on trial or in prison 2. someone restrained as if in prison [a prisoner of her own conscience].

Am I reading this wrong or does it imply that someone can be a prisoner, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally or spiritually as well? We all know the answer to that. Have you ever known someone who seemed in bondage to fear, anger, depression, worry, alcohol, drugs or any number of other things we could name. Many people are incarcerated in a prison of their own making. Now, I’m not saying it is deliberate. Oftentimes the bricks are laid by other people who hurt us, even in our childhood. But we supply the mortar by our reactions to those hurts in the form of anger, resentment, low self-esteem, fear, etc. And each time we put on a layer of mortar, someone places another brick until the prison is completed and we are captive to its seemingly impenetrable walls. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why am I acting this way? What is wrong with me? I want to stop doing this…I want to stop reacting this way but it seems beyond my control.” Let’s face it, you’re not just in prison, you are in solitary confinement and it’s very lonely and restricted there! Let me help you find a way out. I say “help YOU” because just like you supplied the mortar for the bricks, it is you who will have to tear down the walls, perhaps one brick at a time. God will help you. God will guide you if you just lean heavily on Him one day at a time. May I give you some guidelines that have worked for me. They say, “Experience is the Best Teacher”… and believe me, I am the voice of experience on this subject!

(1) Don’t lose Hope! You may be thinking, “I lost hope a long time ago. I’m just surviving now.  Well, if that’s the case, go back and find Hope!!! You didn’t lose it. You just misplaced it. You CAN find it again! In my experience, the place to get hope is in the promises in the Bible, the infallible Word of God. Remember what David said, “I would have been without hope if I had not believed that I would see the loving-kindness of the Lord in the land of the living.

(2) Run to God and hold fast to Him!The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Savior; my God is my Rock, in Whom I find protection. He is my Shield, the Power that saves me, and my Place of Safety.” (Psalm 18:2)

(3) Have faith (fully believe) in the promises in God’s Word! There are those who say that Hope has nothing to do with faith and if you’re hoping, you’re really not believing. Well let’s see what the Bible says about it. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) The Lord explained it to me this way…“Hope is the Outstretched Arm of the Hand of Faith.” Hope must first reach out in order for Faith to grasp the desired result. Flex your muscle of Hope until it is strong once again. Then reach out and grasp your dream with the Hand of Faith! You can do it with God’s help! I know you can! I believe in you and so does God!!!

And if you’re going to be a prisoner of anything…be a Prisoner of Hope!!!

INFINITE HOPE

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HOPE 2
I would have been without hope if I had not believed
that I would see
the loving-kindness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13

I know I’ve used this saying before in my devotionals, but it is surely one of my favorites and worth repeating. “I am never down. I am always up or I’m getting up!” This is my confession. This is my mantra so to speak. And this attitude, along with the Word of God and His great promises, is what keeps me from giving up in this fight of depression and the challenges of life.

You may be thinking, “Well you just don’t understand how bad it really is. You don’t understand what I’m going through!  You don’t understand what I’ve been through!”

Oh, I beg to differ with you, My Friend. I do understand…for I have been there, done that and have more than one t-shirt! Twenty years ago, after going through a divorce after twenty years of marriage, I was severely depressed. Not only so, but aside from the clinical depression, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In other words, I had a complete physical and emotional breakdown. I didn’t have the strength to get off the couch except for short periods of time. I had to get on disability because I couldn’t work to support myself. I was about as low as I could get without just laying down and quitting. If it had not been for the help of my precious family and friends, and my belief in the goodness of God, my hope would have been gone.

But I absolutely refused to stay down! Believe me, it was tempting. It’s hard to get up when you’ve fallen so low, but“I am never down! I am always up or I’m getting up!” I started pumping myself full of the Word of God regarding my healing, both physical and emotional. I listened to sermons. I exercised to praise music (for all of five minutes!). I believed as much as my believer was capable and left the rest to God. Although negative thoughts pounded my mind like the fists of a prize fighter in the final round, I refused to tap out! I was still on my knees and God was still on His throne directing my life.

I know you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not over, ’till God says it’s over.” That is a truth, but in my opinion, it is not an absolute truth. If you give up…if you say it’s over…God will not make you get up. He will extend His hand but He will not override your will. So my advice to you is, get in God’s corner and YOU say, “God is on MY side and it’s not over ’til HE says it’s over! I’m never down! I am always up or I’m getting up! End of discussion, Devil! End of discussion negative thoughts! Negative thoughts, I can’t keep you from passing through, but I won’t allow you to move in and rearrange the furniture! I will immediately show you the exit door. Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional! It is my decision to be powerful, rather than pitiful! I will overcome this by the Blood of The Lamb and the word of my testimony!”

And let me tell you, My Friends, I did overcome by His grace! I gradually started getting my physical and emotional strength back. I started working a part-time job for a few hours a day. At first I would come home, go straight to my recliner and fall asleep. But I got up a little bit at a time until I was standing tall once again…self-sufficient and off disability! To God be the glory!!! And if I did it, you can do it too! God and I have confidence in you!

But this is not the end of the story by long shot. The saga continues daily. I wake up every morning and I must decide, “Will I follow Jesus or believe the negative thoughts that pass through my mind?” I emphatically say, “No! I’ll never give up! I am never down, I am always up or I’m getting up!” And though it’s not the end of the story, it IS the end of the discussion!

Be blessed, My Friends! And if you would like me to pray for you in this area or any other area in which you’re struggling, please leave a note in the comments and I promise you, I will pray!

DEPRESSION…THE BATTLE IS REAL

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HOPE
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember You—
Psalm 42:5-6

I have decided, after getting a favorable response from my readers, to continue to provide insight from my personal experience on the subject of clinical depression. It is something with which most people don’t want to readily identify themselves. Therefore, it is rarely discussed in a candid manner by the people who suffer from it most. The majority of the time it is treated like the magician who throws his cloak over a subject and makes it disappear. It is like the masquerade party where the mask keeps the true identity of the subject from being known or at least being easily recognized.

Clinical depression, especially in the past, has been strongly identified with mental illness, which is definitely not the case. Do we associate those with diabetes with a food disorder? No, we know it is the result of an organ that doesn’t function properly. In the case of clinical depression, the brain does not function properly in releasing the chemicals that cause our moods to be stabilized. One may try with all their might, but without medical help, the problem won’t go away on its own, other than a divine miracle, which I am certainly not discounting.

Clinical depression is not to be confused with simple depression which is brought on by unfavorable circumstances or disappointments. That type of depression can easily be corrected as the circumstance changes or the disappointment has abated.

A person who fights clinical depression cannot control its existence. It just exists…in them! They can only control the extent to which they allow it to control them. It is a constant battle that never ceases. The depression is almost like an entity that co-exists in the same body. However, there is one factor that gives a ray of hope. The human body consists of three parts…spirit, soul and body. The soul is made up of the mind, will, and intellect. Depression is manifest and abides in the realm of the soul. Although it does effect the body, it cannot penetrate the spirit! Herein lies the key to victory over this enemy of our soul brought on by “THE enemy of our soul.” When our human spirit is transformed by the Holy Spirit, though the battle continues to rage, there is always hope for victory…one battle at a time!

Sometimes the battle is just a battle and sometimes it’s an all out war! Speaking for myself, I may be able to win the battles on my own by reading my Bible, thinking positively and exerting my faith, but the wars…no way! There is no way I can win the wars without the help of Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior. When the battle is raging and I am losing ground, He will come in like a flood and lift up a standard against the enemy. He will fight for me when I don’t have the strength or courage! He will go before me AND He will be my Rear Guard. He is a very Present Help in time of trouble. He is my Refuge and Fortress…my Strong Tower! He covers me with His Feathers and hides me under the Shadow of His Wings. He upholds me with His Righteous Right Hand so that I don’t stumble or fall. He keeps me as the Apple of His Eye! When I am weak, He is strong! He is my Light and my Salvation…my God!!!

If you don’t have that relationship with Jesus. You can have so easily. “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Just declare, “Jesus, I believe that you are the only Son of God. I believe you died and rose again to pay for my sins and I accept that sacrifice now. I make YOU the Lord of my Life!”

HOLD ON!

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DON'T LET GO GOD'S HAND
I cried out, “I am slipping!” but Your unfailing love,
O Lord , supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalms 94:18‭-‬19 NLT

Have you ever been in a situation where you lost your footing for whatever reason and someone near you grabbed your arm to keep you from falling? Did you welcome the help of that person or did you push them away? How foolish you would be to do such a thing! And yet at times we reject the help that is so readily available to us through our Loving Heavenly Father. Sometimes He extends His hand and we slap it away, choosing rather to fall into our pit of self-pity.

When we already have a tendency toward depression it is more difficult to resist when the trials of life come…especially when they persist like relentless waves pounding one after the other eroding our hopes and washing them out to sea. Let me give you a personal example, lest you think I don’t know what I’m talking about.

In October of last year I was visiting with friends in Florida where I stayed in their basement apartment. The day before I was to leave for home I fell on the stairs and broke my wrist and ended up having surgery where they inserted a permanent plate and nine screws. At the same time I injured my shoulder which caused me constant pain. The day before Christmas Eve I had rotator cuff surgery which resulted in twelve-plus weeks of physical therapy. It is now May and I recently had to go to my orthopedic doctor because my knees were bothering me. I had fluid on my knees and I had to have injections for three weeks in a row to draw off the fluid and insert gel. Now the orthopedic doctor says I need to go to therapy for my knees! Nooooo…not more therapy!!! Lord, what’s going on? Help me…I’m slipping!!!

Friends, I know what it’s like to feel like you’re going under for the third time. I know the feelings of hopelessness and despair. And I know how difficult it is to come up again for another gasping breath. Sometimes you just think it would be so much easier to stay down and experience that lasting peace, morbid as it sounds. Perhaps it would be for you…but not for those who know you and love you! I don’t want to leave that kind of legacy for my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to leave behind that message of defeat for my friends and acquaintances. I want to be a “Rocky Balboa”…a fighter to the end! The only one who can keep me down is me and I refuse to tap out! I want to be like the man who said, “I’m never down! I’m always up…or getting up!”

But I can’t do it by myself! Yes, I am a very strong-willed person, but sometimes my will to “get up and go” has “gotten up and gone”! Sometimes doubts fill the corridors of my mind like floodwaters overflowing river banks. I need the strong arm of the Lord to help me…to keep me from slipping. I need the comfort that only He can give…a comfort that gives me renewed hope and cheer. But how do I get it? I’ve begged, I’ve pleaded, I’ve confessed my sins, I’ve asked for a sign!  Nothing is working!

Have you tried letting it all go and giving it to Him, fully relying on Him to work it out? You may have to do it many times. The enemy of your soul won’t give up easily, but don’t you give up either! Be tenacious! Hold on to the promises in God’s Word like a drowning man with a life raft, and keep holding on until the storm has passed! His unfailing love will support you. And I’m telling you, if you’ll do this…it WILL pass!  Wow!  Look up!  Is that a rainbow I see?!!!

Lord, when doubts fill my mind,
Your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer.

A MOTHER’S REFLECTIONS

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MOTHERS DAY
He gives the childless woman a family,
making her a happy mother.
Praise the Lord! Psalm 113:9 NLT

I entitled this post, “Reflections of a Mother”, because my children are grown and I now have the grand title of “Meme” to my grandchildren. All I have now are memories of their childhood, and sad to say, even those tend to fade as I get older. I still remember looking out the picture window at my son waiting for the school bus when he was in elementary school. He would sign the words, “I love you” and I would sign back the same…precious memories. I remember my daughter singing to me even when she couldn’t pronounce the words correctly. (She still sings and writes music.) Sometimes the mispronunciation was very humorous, but I didn’t laugh…precious memories.

Then came the preteen years when it seemed anything I said or did embarrassed them. I never could figure out why and they never seemed to know definitively. It certainly wasn’t deliberate. But as you know, I’m a little outspoken. They preferred that I keep ALL my opinions to myself. But as a child, I was very bashful and didn’t want them to be that way.

The year my son was entering college, their father and I divorced. It was a hard time for everyone. My son was very angry with me and lashed out verbally on many occasions. I kept asking myself, “Why is he so angry with me and not his father?” Then it came to me…I’m his mother. He knows I love him unconditionally. He knows he can vent his anger on me without serious repercussions. It wasn’t easy, but I did understand. After all, that’s the way my Heavenly Father loves me…unconditionally and with much grace!

However, I must have done something right as a mother. Both of my children are happily married and productive members of society. My daughter has made me a grandmother to four beautiful girls that she home schools. My son works in the corporate office of Virginia College. I am very proud of both of them and give God the glory!

That’s the encapsulated background of my motherhood. Now that I’m pushing sixty (I won’t tell you which way I’m pushing!), I feel that I am experienced enough to give you some advice on the subject if you’re interested. And if you are…please read on, though it may seem a little lengthy. You really don’t expect me to give a lifetime of advice in a few sentences, do you?

(1) LIGHTEN UP!
I can look back now and see so many things that would have made time with my children more enjoyable if I’d just lightened up! One facet of my personality is perfectionism. When my children were small, I didn’t even realize it. Have you ever noticed that things that are blatantly obvious to other people, we often receive with a blind eye. When I was pregnant with my son, my first, I was petrified that I wouldn’t get to the hospital on time. I had hair below my waist and I was so paranoid that it wouldn’t be fresh when I went to the hospital, I washed it every other day. My poor son was probably traumatized before he came out of the womb!

(2) ENJOY EVERY MOMENT
Even in the trying times and mundane tasks that are required of motherhood, make an effort to savor the moment. So they found your scissors and cut off all their beautiful curls…it will grow back! Or maybe they used themselves as a human canvas with permanent marker!!! Don’t blow! Use it as a teaching tool, although it takes every effort not to manifest your horror.

(3) DO YOUR BEST NOT TO STRESS
This was the hardest for me, being a perfectionist. Stop for just a moment before jumping into crisis mode and ask the Lord to give you peace, wisdom and understanding. Most things in life are not worth the pounding stress gives your body. Ask yourself, “Is this permanent? Is it fixable? Will it make an impact on our lives a year from now?” If not, its not worth the stress.

(4) MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
This is something I rarely did when rearing my children. (By the way, I was a stay-at-home mom, so I was with them constantly.) I felt guilty when I made time for myself…a false guilt of course. It doesn’t have to be long periods of time, just little moments to reflect on your own hopes and desires. Spend five or ten minutes in a devotional time each morning. God understands your busy schedule. It doesn’t take Him long to speak peace into your day. Give Him the opportunity and give yourself the pleasure of His blessing.

(5) MAKE TIME FOR YOUR HUSBAND
Many times as mothers, our children become priority and our husband gets left behind in the whirlwind of numerous activities and projects. Don’t let it happen! He needs your love and attention too. If you can’t work out a date night, just put the kids to bed early and enjoy some alone time. It is of utmost importance! Many marriages don’t last after children come because couples grow apart in the wake of increased responsibility.

In short, if I had the whole motherhood thing to do over again with the insight I have now, I would live, laugh, love, breath in life deeply and only exhale after holding it as long as possible!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MY SISTERS AND FRIENDS!

MOTHERS DAY HEARTS

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

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IN TOWEL 2
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them
and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:17‭-‬18 NLT

This verse just came to my remembrance this morning as I was taking care of my little dog, Lucy. If you’ve read many of my devotionals, you know that the Lord often speaks to me through my interactions with my pets. I have written many a devotional about Rosie, my cat who has gone on to kitty heaven now. But…back to Lucy, my little four pound Yorkie, who was a recent gift from friends who thought she would be a perfect companion for me. And they were right! What a blessing she is!

Lucy lost a toenail on her right foot recently and had to be treated for it. I have to give her antibiotics twice a day and soak her paw in Epsom Salt for five minutes three times a day. Now I can say without any exaggeration that Lucy hates taking the antibiotic and from the look and smell of it, it certainly is justified! The only up-side is that she gets a treat afterward. She doesn’t really like the foot soaking, but does tolerate it much better than the antibiotic. I keep telling her that this ritual is going to make her paw much better. (Don’t tell me you don’t talk to your pets!) But I’m certain she thinks that I must be punishing her for some unknown sin, although while the foot is soaking she does gets to cuddle in my lap on a fluffy towel.

It was while this was going on that the Lord brought the verse in Corinthians to my mind. Lucy doesn’t like what’s going on right now. It seems harsh and hard and is very uncomfortable. She doesn’t understand! Why would her master who purports to love her allow such things?! Do you see where I’m going with this?

Many times in our life things happen that we don’t understand…troubles come, depression comes, heartaches come, disappointments come. We don’t understand! We’ve been doing the best we can. We search our heart for some unconfessed sin. Is God punishing us? There must be a reason! But let me tell you, My Friend, sometimes the only reason is that we live in a fallen world full of chaos brought on by the enemy of our soul. Sometimes there is no reason except this…“Life Happens!” Lucy didn’t do anything wrong, nor did you. Lie back in your Master’s lap on the fluffy blanket of His love and just chill for a while.

We have to encourage ourselves with this tried and true phrase…“This too shall pass!” The trials and adverse circumstances that are affecting my life now won’t last forever, although they are quite uncomfortable. I can’t let myself get bogged down in the mire of self-pity and hopelessness. God is ALWAYS for me and never against me! I refuse to look at the present troubles, rather I will “fix my gaze” on Jesus, Whom I know is working behind the scenes to make a way of escape for me! I’ll keep traveling down this bumpy road of life with its potholes and sinkholes and manholes…and I will do it in joyous expectation that my deliverance may be just around the next corner!

FIGHTING CLINICAL DEPRESSION

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LITTLE NANCY
Nancy (3 Years Old)

Because You are my Helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of Your wings,
I cling to You, Your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalms 63:7-8 NLT

I would like to address a subject that is often swept under the rug, not because it’s deviate or inappropriate, but simply because there is a stigma attached to it…a stigma brought on by ignorance. Yes, I said it! I’m talking about clinical depression. Oftentimes people who suffer from this malady try not to let it be known because the condition is associated with mental illness or instability…not so! Are people with other chronic illnesses that are caused by chemical imbalance (for instance diabetics) considered mentally ill? I don’t think so.

Now, I’m not talking about a down day here and there. We all have those. I’m talking about something these people have to deal with every day. Circumstance doesn’t cause it, although it can worsen it. You just wake up with it and you go to bed with it and you just have to deal with it.

And for those of you that would get on your “high horse” regarding divine healing…I am not excluding that possibility. God is certainly able! He has healed me more than once in my lifetime.

You may be thinking, “Well, what makes you an expert on the subject?” I’ll tell you what…the best schooling one can have…experience! I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember, although I didn’t know what to call it. Even as a child I was never happy. All of my pictures from childhood depict a solemn, stoic-faced mini-person. At the same time, I was almost always angry. Only my family knew this side of me and they didn’t really understand.

Now, you may be thinking that I was a spoiled brat, but that really isn’t the case. Most of the time I was a good little girl and a perfectionist about everything…even my behavior. I have come to the conclusion that something in my childhood that I don’t even remember must have triggered this dysfunctional behavior. I’ll probably never know what. My mother used to kid me by singing this nursery rhyme, “Once there was a little girl who had a little curl right down in the middle of her forehead; When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad…she was horrid!”

I grew up in a middle-class home with parents who provided for me and gave me the care and comfort I needed. They showed me love in the only way they, as survivors of the “great depression”, knew how. My father worked incessantly to provide for us a better life than he had experienced as a child. My mother was a homemaker who cooked, sewed and performed her motherly duties without complaint. One fond memory I do have when in grade school is coming home and opening the front door to the wafting aroma of fresh-baked tea cakes! Ummm! My mom could make the best!

Now you may be wondering why I am telling you this…am I just airing my dirty laundry so to speak? Absolutely not! What purpose would I have? I know that many people suffer from depression and many, like me, may not even know the reason. Many feel guilty about it, especially if they are a Christian. If that is true of you, I want you to know that I understand and empathize. You are not alone and it’s not your fault! But I do want to open for you a door of hope. I do want to tell you that there is something that you can do about it. Yes, I said something YOU can do!

I don’t want to write a book on this one blog entry, so if it’s okay with you, I would like to write a series on this subject. I would like to share my experiences and my lessons learned. I will share my pain and my progress, my defeats and my victories, my losses and my gains. If you don’t have a problem with this silent, sinister spawn of Satan called “Depression”, I’ll bet you know someone who does. And if I can share one nugget that will help them to overcome, I will not keep silent. I leave you with this thought, “Don’t judge another until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes!”