Category Archives: Stress

Stress got you down?

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If I asked you to close your eyes and envision yourself in a serene and relaxing environment, where would your thoughts take you? Do your picture yourself nestled in the soft sand at a beach? Are you surrounded by majestic mountains or resting by a serene lake? Most of us imagine ourselves in a scenic natural setting. Stressful environments are man-made—but in nature, we see evidence of our Creator and it fills us with awe and gives us peace.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Our Maker formed us from the earth and created a lush garden setting to live in. That was the life we were designed for. It’s who we really are. Only our disobedience or denial of truth takes us away from the beauty of what we were meant to be.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. Genesis 2:7-8

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? Job 12:7-9

Playing outdoors takes us back to the innocence of our childhood and from that perspective we can see our beautiful world with all the wonder of a small child. When we grow world-weary, when our faith grows stale and our patience wears thin we have only to seek out the beauty of our natural surroundings to find peace and get in touch with our loving God.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

You have taught the little children to praise you perfectly. May their example shame and silence your enemies! Psalm 8:2 (TLB)

How can you enjoy the beauty and peace of nature today?

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Change

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The older I get, the more I struggle with change. In my twenties, I craved it. In my thirties, it was still new and exciting. But now, pushing fifty … not so much. And it happens faster than ever these days.

I had a great-aunt who was born in 1880s and lived into the 1980s. The child of pioneers, my Aunt Ora traveled across the prairie in a wagon. She also witnessed the advent of television, computers and space travel. Although from my perspective, she always looked the same—with neatly-coifed silver hair, a pillbox hat, a prim dress and no-nonsense shoes—she had experienced amazing change in her lifetime.

Two generations behind her, I have still seen substantial change. My childhood was spent largely playing outdoors, unencumbered by any electronic devices. My first boyfriend did have an Atari Pong game, but it wasn’t enough to distract him for long. I watched my first VHS video at a high school party. My world was rocked when I got my hands on the brand new Macintosh SE my last year of college. I even managed to finish college without once having a conversation interrupted by a cell phone call.

Now, in a career that has spanned more than 25 years, I’ve owned more computers and software upgrades than I can count. At first, I latched onto each new innovation with anticipation. At any given moment, I could take advantage of a smart phone, my beloved Kindle, my laptop or my desktop computer—or a combination simultaneously. Now, I’m over it. I admit it. I’m tired. I just want to get off the ride. This city girl has moved to the country. We live in a cellular dead zone. And I love it. I crave a simpler life.

In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, it’s comforting to know that our God never changes. We can count on him no matter what. Amid the swirling sands of change, we have a foothold.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

In this imperfect world, change isn’t always for the better—but Bible scholar, Arthur Pink, nailed it for me when he wrote: “God cannot change for the better, for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.” Unlike the shifting environment our lives are tossed by, there is One we can count on—a constant, soothing source of peace we can rely on.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:6

Where you do find comfort when constant change starts to wear you down?

I'll admit it. These days, I'd often rather just stay in my safe, little cocoon.

I’ll admit it. These days, I’d often rather just stay in my safe, little cocoon.


The Joys of Positive Thinking

Like a thief, leukemia is claiming my father’s body.  The surprise is that it has also been an unexpected gift.

When my father’s oncologist recommended discontinuing treatment, he told us that Dad could have anywhere from a week to three months left with us. Big sigh. We’re Christians, and in our hearts we know that my father will be able to leave his ravaged body behind and go on to an existence free of pain and disease. In his heavenly father’s presence, he will experience a bliss that we on earth cannot begin to imagine. Still … it is hard to let him go.

Home hospice has allowed my father to stay where he is most comfortable. His bed was placed in the living room facing large wall of windows that overlooks the back yard. Squirrels and birds entertain him as they visit the bird bath or the many bird feeders. He reads and listens to soothing music.

Nearly four months later, my father is still enjoying life. Friends and family have made many visits and lavished him in prayer. My father has always been a homebody, so he is completely in his comfort zone.  He also enjoys getting out once in a while.  We load him into the car with his wheel chair and a portable oxygen tank and he enjoys every minute of the adventure. He has gone for “walks” in the park and attended my niece’s birthday picnic.

A joyful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22

In an odd way, this ravaging disease has almost been a gift.  He treasures every moment with his family and has connected with us on a deeper level. He has experienced little pain and tolerated the side effects cheerfully. I have never seen my dad more positive. He seems to be enjoying life more than ever as this one slips away from him.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

When I wasn’t able to make the trip to North Carolina on Father’s Day, my Dad was a bit disappointed, but suggested that we could be together next year to celebrate. My stomach fluttered, not wanting to hope, not wanting to let go of hope.  My parents have amazed me with their cheerfulness throughout this process.  In the end, it is all still good—better even. Instead of finding fear in the face of death, we are finding only peace and a greater enjoyment of the time that is left.  An unexpected gift, but one of great value.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Dad enjoys a picnic in the park to celebrate his granddaughter's birthday. This photo shows Mom, Dad and nieces, Nicole and Bethany.


No Worries, No Fear

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Under is such an appropriate word to go before stress. It is like being buried alive (but I’m the one with a shovel in the dirt). It is shouldering an unnecessary weight and trying to carry it with my own limited strength. Every aspect of my life screams for attention. Or so I think. I allow myself to be so driven by the squeaky wheels, perfectionism, my workaholic tendencies and self-imposed timeline.  How easily I fall into this trap time and time again. And then I read:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, it’s builders labor in vain … In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat.” (Psalm 127:1-2)

Ouch. That’s me. That’s a workaholic. Toil and trouble. I can brew up a bubbling cauldron of it, operating on my will instead of God’s. Only the call of Jesus will make walking on water possible. But like da Vinci, I am trying to construct floating shoes. Toil isn’t just working hard—it’s long, strenuous, fatiguing labor. What is the appeal? I ask myself repeatedly. 

Living in faith instead of fear is a daily challenge for me. In my heart I know that I am a lily of the field (Matthew 6:25-34)—loved and cared for without the need to toil, but in practice I can find myself wilting. In bouts of stubborness, I’ll allow myself get to the point of utter desperation before I confess that I am not in control.

Will my husband survive another round of layoffs? Will my anxious son pass the test?  How long can my father survive leukemia? How will I survive the change coming my way? All I have to do is let go. I can cast all my anxieties on my heavenly father because he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). The plan is not mine. I do not need to try to operate on my own strength. When at last I let go, I feel his presence. He was there all along. The struggle wasn’t necessary. I find rest. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6) 

I pause to listen, and hear anew—the innocence in my son’s incessant chatter, the music of my life, the still small voice, my inspiration.