Monthly Archives: June 2014

Is it “just stress” or am I losing my mind?

Photo on 2011-01-24 at 21.25I’m going to be really vulnerable here — sometimes I’m really scared I’m losing it, my mind.

Whether it’s from multiple concussions, early alzheimers, menopause, stress or toxins in the environment … I don’t have the mental capacity I once did. I forget — a lot.

Just today, I was sitting in an 8:30 meeting at work, when my friend arrived for our breakfast date. I had totally forgotten. On the way home this afternoon, Rob and I stopped for gas. The station wasn’t open, so I said that I’d get gas later. About 30 minutes later, I called to tell him the fuel guage must be broken; it was registering “E” despite the fact that we… only his confusion stopped me from resetting the odometer so we could guestimate  the fuel consumption on our trip tomorrow. I thought a solution to the problem out really thoroughly — in my insanity! I felt the tears. Tears of fear and frustration. I stifled them and finished my to do list.

Soon I leave for Europe.  God in his goodness, wisdom and gracious love has seen fit to send me away! We are headed to Greece and Italy — countries known to be laid back. Chill. Slow. I need this vacation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am amazed at the Italian’s lack of preoccupation with productivity and worry, and their vibrant attentiveness to LIFE — even as they work! So much life: beauty, emotion, sharing… love.

My prayer is that the stress I feel throughout my body and mind will melt away from me, as I relax and enjoy this wonderful opportunity. Exhale…

What’s my part  while I’m on vacation?

I’ll relax and trust my husband, who is amazingly organized, calm, fun and wonderful to travel with. On our first trip together, I accidentally dropped my boarding pass in the toilet… I frantically rinsed it and tried to dry it in the  hand drying blower — but I didn’t need to. Rob had an extra for me! The guy is amazing in his care and foresight — and a gift from God.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI won’t take a cell phone, and we’ll only check email enough to be prudent. As much I like to feel needed, I’ll trust our team at work to do things well in our absence. I’ll trust that our wonderful, competent children will cope with all that comes down the pike.  And while I have a tear and a catch in my stomach at going so far away, I’ll trust  that Mom and Dad are well loved and cared for by so many; they will do well despite my absence.

I’ve been excessively stressed — almost under water — these last few weeks. I think I’ve lived in chronic stress for so long, that I am immune to my warning symptoms. I’ve never fully let God heal me of “stressed out” as my status quo. I’ve lived with the feeling that I am in a tank, water (representative of stress) is about to my neck — all the time. That is my stress plumb line, so to speak. Where I live. A stressful event, or even an accumulation of little stresses, can leave me struggling to breathe with my nose almost under.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 2:25)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been blessed not to need to worry a lot about the basics:  food, clothing and shelter — but I am little consumed with a “materialism” of sorts. I worry about my children navigating their careers and relationships. I want them to flourish and be happy without big troubles and anxiety. I want my parents to have some sense of enjoyment in their golden years. I have a picture of what  I think is best for Rob and me. Basically, I want a comfy, cozy, happy, do-good life for everyone — and it takes a lot of energy to strive for and maintain it all.

Believing the promises of this world and the “goods” it offers will not bring me happiness and it is a certain path to a stressed-out lifestyle — no matter what my socio-ecomomic status. A “wealth” of education, financial success, status, usefulness, good works, giving,  leisure, family time, success of children, or whatever else I might idolize, will not bring me joy, contentment, happiness  or life. Much of what the natural world offers is truly beautiful (like the Greek Isles, Italian sunsets and especially wonderful people), but my appetite for the world’s treasures is insatiable — and thus stressful if not kept in perspective.

IMG_3824The answer to stress begins and ends in Jesus. Jesus offers us great encouragement in John 14: 1: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” We desperately need Him in our lives.  He is the only one who can give us the strength to cope with the inevitable troubles in our lives.

Believing leads to the most important trusting of all I must do. I will trust God. Proverbs tells us to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Leaning on “our own understanding” often means adopting the world’s ways of relieving stress— Instead, we are to trust Jesus and His Word as our guide. Only He can calm my stress and give abundant life here on earth.

Phillipians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Then in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

IMG_4720Stress of all kinds is a natural part of life. But how we deal with it is up to us. Will I create more stress in my life by following the world’s ways and listening to the world’s answers for my life? Will I try to make life work on my own terms?  Will I covet happiness and a care-free life for myself and especially those I love? Or will I bow to God’s Sovereignty and Wisdom?

The only way we can effectively deal with stress is through Jesus Christ, first by believing in Him.  Secondly, we have to trust Him and obey Him. God is always good. All the time.  Doing things my way and wanting what I want when I want it (even good things) is sin. It separates me from God and His Joy and Peace.  Obeying God is the path of true contentment. Finally, I need time with Him daily: to be filled with His Word. to give Him my burdens in prayer. It is only by His grace, mercy and love that the stress in our lives can be managed.

IMG_2324Where do Italy and Greece fit in? I’m not sure, but I do know this trip, like all of life, is a gift from God — from Him, about Him and for Him. I’ll praise Him and be thankful in all things!  If I keep my eyes open and look for Him in all I see, I feel sure He will show me how my surrender — my trusting, believing, praying and obeying Him  will heal my “stressed out” condition in these laid back cultures. I’m hoping stress  will melt away on vacation. I’m excited and expectant — for the adventure and for what God will do in it!

And when He takes my stress away, I hope my mind can return to it’s rightful place.





How’s your vision?

I have several pairs of reading glasses — one for my purse, one at the office, one at the beach, one in my car, one by my bed… you get the picture. I can no longer see to read without them.  🙁   It happened so suddenly. At age 45 — I felt sort of smug about my vision. Then literally, all in a day, I couldn’t see up close!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes I get along ok without readers… I type with the font set on 16 (and try to remember to reset the font size before sending my letters — otherwise they look like the first chapter books I ever read). I bought a large print Bible. In the ambient light of restaurants I can usually make out enough to at least choose my entree, and a little adventure and surprise in life is good, right?

But there are many times that no matter how much I squint, stretch and retract my arm to varying lengths, concentrate — no matter how hard I try all within my power, I just cannot see what is right in front of me without my readers. It’s frustrating! I put them on and magically the smudges becomes legible!

Two packages from Amazon arrived last night. Two books I want to read and a new pocket camera for my upcoming trip… woo hoo! I got in bed last night excited to check out my purchases, and found no readers. I’m not sure where the bedroom pair went, but they were not within reach as they should have been. I had already gone downstairs once to get my phone charger out of my car (I had to take it to work because I forgot to charge my phone the night before…), and I just didn’t want to exert the effort to find the glasses. Surely, I could do manage on my own.

photo-106I nestled in and began looking at the new camera. I carefully unloaded each piece of equipment. I could read the large print on all the boxes — but all I really accomplished was unloading and reloading the box. I couldn’t see any instructions, and didn’t want to miss a step or lose a part. It was futile effort.

I decided to read. One of the books I got was written in the 1800s by Andrew Murray. The other is a more modern book, The Pharisee Within Me. The print in this one seemed large enough to read without my glasses! (The middle-aged author must have clued in his publisher to the needs of his target audience.) I began to read with moderate squinting and adjusting of position and light.

photo-105Oddly the preface was by Andrew Murray! What a coincidence… a God-thing! The theologians from earlier centuries are some of my favorites. They are very instructive and inspiring, but a little tougher reads with all the thous and whatsoevers, etc.. I made it through the preface to the first chapter. The author was very formal and archaic for 2009. I looked for the copyright page to see exactly what year it was published — and looked at the back cover to read a little more about the author. The book was very different than I had anticipated.

Have you guessed yet? I was reading the “wrong” book. I was reading With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray, all the while thinking I was reading a book described  this way: “easy-to-read, practical teaching style, the author examines the passages where Jesus confronted the Pharisees and makes thought-provoking observations regarding our Christian faith and churches today.” Both books are good and worthy, but not nearly as effective if you are searching for something entirely different from the contents you hold.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStruggling to put a square peg in a round hole, and trying to make what I was reading fit what I believed was true about the author… I even saw a wonderful cool “coincidence.” I didn’t  recognize my folly for a good 15 minutes. I stubbornly forged ahead, just knowing I could do this without my glasses. The distraction of not being able to see well, kept me from noting I was in the wrong text! I went to bed.

This morning as I tried squinting to read the camera directions, I quickly grabbed my purse readers — handy just a few feet away on the same counter. Suddenly the previously Asian looking print became clear, and I was on my way!

Because I didn’t charge the battery last night, I am delayed in moving forward with the camera set up. I sat down to write. Aren’t the reading glasses so many of us find essential at midlife very much like our Bibles?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProverbs 12:15 puts it this way, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” God guides us in three major ways: through the Holy Spirit, Godly counsel of friends and leaders, and The Bible. The first two should always be tested by scripture, because “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)

Why do we try to live life in our own knowledge and power — as we see fit? So often, we do what feels right, looks good, and what we want to do — rather than slowing down and giving God our first fruits of time — in prayer and reading His Word (living and personal to us) for the day. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” We need the Bible to see clearly what God’s will is for us — each day.

South Ga
South Ga

God had been plastering this verse in my life — even on 3 different church marquees over the last few months (in case I didn’t have my readers)… “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

I keep my readers scattered about so they are in easy reach, because without them, what’s close to me is blurry. I’m not there yet, but a lot of people even hang reading glasses around their necks.  I learned last night, that I need to get up and get them when they are misplaced! My efforts were folly without them.

Pink Reflections FB page
Pink Reflections FB page

We keep our cell phones, ipads and laptops at our fingertips. I check facebook, linkedIn and Pinterest regularly — often multiple times a day. We are in danger of losing real relationship because of our electronic obsessions! We can do a quick self-test any day, by asking what we have “opened” today… 48% of users 18-35 check facebook as soon as they wake up.

However, in a 2012 survey regarding Bible engagement, “LifeWay Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent ‘desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,’ only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day. ”

Why don’t we read our Bibles? Do we really believe Jesus and His Word? Do we think we are saved through faith by grace, but live all on our own? Is our faith a life altering commitment? I have a favorite Bible, but I also have numerous Bibles scattered in many of the same places I keep my readers… but I don’t pick it up as often as I want to. My belief does not match what I know about God’s word and the world’s ways. (That’s why I’m reading to discover the Pharisee that lives in ME.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI get busy with all that seems so urgent in life. I forget to pray and neglect God’s Word to me. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to kill and steal and destroy. I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”  I want the abundant life God Promises.

Through my poor vision (which began just a month or two after the ophthalmologist told me it would probably never happen)… God gave me another reminder to keep Him near, pray, pick up my Bible and make Him my first priority — any other life, any other way is as futile as trying to read the tiny instructions for  my camera without my reading glasses.



What to BELIEVE when I’m blue

IMG_4714Sometimes I feel a little blue — ok, more of a dark purple. Oftentimes, I can’t  attribute my first depressed feelings to anything in particular. I usually just tell myself, “I’m in a funk.” I try to ignore the down feeling, the apathy, lethargy and mild defeat, but with it all comes the incessant voices (self talk, not the crazies) in my head — reminiscent of Job’s friends.

I accuse myself, and I feel guilty. Condemnation. Like something is wrong with me, and the rest of the world would be disappointed, disgusted if they knew. “Why do you feel this way? You have no right! You have a great husband, loving family, your health… you’re about to go on a Mediterranean vacation, for heaven’s sake! Why do you feel anything close to depression? What is wrong with you?”

IMG_2034I am confused, because I  agree in theory with the voices, but I can’t just shake off the dark cloud. Fake it til you make it just isn’t working, and I start having negative thoughts: about myself, my loved ones, the condition of the world, our nation and even the church…  It all seems so overwhelming and hopeless. I find myself holding back critical thoughts and harsh words.  I tend to withdraw from others and escape in things that ultimately make me feel worse.

I keep my struggle hidden, as if it’s a private, dirty little secret. To tell anyone  I feel  depressed would be to say I am weak and have little faith. (But  2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”)  Christians don’t get depressed, right? This belief is commonly held in many church circles, but it rings of a lie — I know many good faithful followers who have struggled at times with depressive seasons. Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther just to name a few.

**I quickly want to insert a disclaimer. I am obviously not a doctor or a counselor. Severe depression can come from psychological, spiritual, physiological and/ or physical causes. I haven’t experienced severe, chronic depression, and my heart breaks for those who have. I am speaking only to my current and seasonal dark days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFighting seasonal blues is not the problem… giving into it can be. Psalm 42:5-6 implies I can expect some cloudy days. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? I choose to put my hope in You, God, for I will praise You, my Savior, and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You!” This psalm also suggests where I should turn for Light!

Maybe you can relate… sometimes we feel down, depressed, agitated, frustrated, for no apparent reason. Not so pretty or pleasant, but real emotions.

I was agitated last night and didn’t really know just why. I struggled with prayer in my journal. God said to be still, and wait for Him. I’m usually a sound sleeper. This morning I awoke at 4:15 am. Finally at 4:45, I acknowledged Him — got up and began praying and writing again. Nothing profound — mostly pouring out my heart and prayers against my feelings of oppression (what I’m calling darkness). Then this morning — despite a busy calendar — I sat to write this post.

All the words above in bold clue me in that there is someone behind it all, leaving his calling card and finger prints all over my life — Satan. I read something by Beth Moore this morning, that made me start thinking about what it means to believe. She said, “Just in case anyone is clinging to a few doubts, let me assure you, the devil is real. You may be tempted to say, ‘Oh, I’ve always known that.’  … We live our lives not simply according to what we know, but what we really believeGenuine belief is life altering conviction.” (bold emphasis mine)

Two times the power of believing must be life altering come to mind —

  1. When we believe Jesus for our salvation
  2. When we accept the devil is real and we believe we must fight him. But it’s easier, because we are assured that Jesus has already claimed the victory! John 10:10 says, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

IMG_4720This word believe is powerful. It’s active, not passive. John 3:16 says all we must do to gain eternal salvation is to “believe in Him.” It doesn’t say whosoever agrees with the events of the birth, life and death of Jesus shall not perish… Satan knows it’s all true history! That’s not enough. We need to believe — in a life altering way — that we are sinners deserving of hell. We have to make it personal — Jesus thought of me (personally and individually), when He paid the price for my sins on the cross.

When we truly see ourselves as we are — sinners with no hope of being good enough — and we accept by faith (that Jesus gives us) His undeserved gift of taking all our punishment on the cross, so that through Jesus, God sees us as pure… and not only gives us the assurance of eternity in heaven, but a NEW and abundant life while we are here on earth. The Holy Spirit comes to live in us! To guide us and walk with us. When we truly believe as the New Testament lays out, how can it not be life altering?

IMG_25632 Corinthians 5: 17 says, “”Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ” (2 Corinthians 5: 17) We are given a NEW LIFE. When we truly believe, we are saved, and the Holy Spirit changes us. It’s not always an immediate transformation, in fact, it’s usually gradual (I remember almost wishing I had a dramatic addiction, so I would know it worked…) I prayed “the prayer” many unnecessary times after the first time, just to be sure.

I grew up going to church whenever the doors were open! I memorized John 3:16 and was confirmed in the church in 6th grade. But, I was not a believer or follower. When I was 14, I attended a youth rally at a Baptist Church. For the first time I understood I wasn’t good enough for God or HIs heaven — no matter how hard I tried. I, Louise, personally needed Jesus. I understood my depravity and accepted His work on the cross in a personal way. I believe I was saved in that moment.

IMG_4900I went home and said nothing. I didn’t feel all that differently, but I was drawn to the Bible and my prayer journals. The Holy Spirit was and is at work in this very imperfect woman. He’s been teaching me about His Lordship and my responsive surrender ever since! I haven’t  been a quick study — rather a self reliant, stubborn child. He is patient and loving.

Recently, I had one of the greatest and most humbling experiences of my life. God used me to lead a precious friend to salvation. It was abundantly clear I was simply a pawn in His hands, and He was working in her heart. She had been to church her whole life, and prayed more fervently and more often than most — but she had not accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. What a joy and privilege to be present when Jesus saved her!

I am sad to say, I haven’t had this close-up experience before, but it gave me courage to speak about Jesus and all he’s done in my life more frequently and more boldly. I could get addicted to the high that followed that day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn struts Satan. I know the basics, sort of, but do I really believe I must put on the armor of God everyday. That I am a warrior in a battle? It’s ironic that I struggle to believe that I must be alert to the devil’s schemes, because despite my pollyanna tendencies, I am deeply scarred and battle-weary!

And He knew that I ‘m a linguist — and would see significance in a name. Whether I like it or not, I’m a warrior. I have an enemy. And of course he would attack me in any ways he can after God gave me the miraculous gift of being present when he saved my friend. Of course.IMG_3189

I was named after my Daddy’s favorite aunt, Louise Slater. But God had more in store for  me through my name. He knew I would have tendencies towards wanting to make life all happy and comfortable. That I would want to ignore the ugly and trust the guilty. That as a little girl I would learn to use my imagination to create the world as I thought it should be — a beautiful glass castle where I was a princess and everyone and everything was good.

IMG_0617As I have tried to finish this post, Bandit escaped for the 7th or 8th time this week… a dog who  has been successfully contained for almost 14 years by an electric fence.  The infamous bricklayer was supposed to be finished with the wall last week — he is not. I’m reminded of two things I forgot at the office, and I need to go shopping because overpacking is not going to be a problem if I don’t… nothing fits comfortably!  I was almost too distracted — too crazy busy  — for God, for prayer, for sharing my faith and the wonderful things God is doing all around me.

Satan may be the ruler of this earth — and wreak some havoc in his role. But he is defeated! While we must be alert and fight, we know Who is the victor! We need to focus on God and be aware of the devils schemes (especially when the darkness comes)… but not obsess about Satan.

** It’s now later the same day, and I had to add… my blue mood lifted right after prayer and writing this post… it’s been a great day! 🙂 God is good!

John 12:31    “”Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARomans 8:38-39      “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Galatians 1:4     “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”

1 John 3:8      “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

Hebrews 2:14-15      “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

IMG_1353Colossians 1:13    “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son”

Titus 2:14    “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

Romans 16:20     “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. “