The Fruit of Tribulation

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I had a rough week. I think it was a spin-off from Thanksgiving… or maybe it was just a bad week. My husband and I fought ALL. WEEK. LONG. My son struggled with listening. My daughter was refusing food and waking up more than once in the night (she later cut two teeth). My house was turned upside-down with chores left undone and take-out bags overflowing the trash can. My self-harm picked up a notch. I was refusing to pray and refusing to read my Bible, which are often the very things that pull me out of a spiral like this. I realized that I am still dissociating and losing time, I am just not recognizing it, and it spiraled me further still. And then, all of a sudden, the storm cleared and I was at peace.

That is often what I go through. I feel I have no control over my emotions. I can have a really good day or a really bad day, and I have no say in the matter. I was previously seeing a trauma therapist who was helping me recognize the very early signs of dissociation and spiraling, and helping me develop the skills to pull out of it before it becomes an issue. She was helping… I think. I had to stop seeing her because of finances and lack of time. One thing she taught me was that when I am doing well, I need to build up my resources so I have them at hand when I start to spiral.

A trusted friend is taking me through a discipleship book, where I read, pray, and apply, while simultaneously communicating with her regarding my thoughts on the material. Shortly after I quit therapy, I reached out to her for something trivial and she saw beyond it, and offered the discipleship. That’s how she became my trusted friend. The discipleship book (link here) explains that there are two ways to face emotional pain: 1. Avoidance and self-protection (using our own unhealthy coping techniques), which turns the issue right back to yourself, often exacerbating the issue; and 2. Accepting the circumstance and passing through it with Christ. This would include prayer, building yourself up in the Bible, and reaching out to others for godly support.

The better we are able to be built up before the spiral hits, I believe the better off we will be during the spiral, as my previous therapist explained. According to the discipleship book (and the Bible), the best resources are from the Bible.

Here are some of my best resources that I’ll share with you:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, maybe found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6,7

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. -2 Corinthians 4:8,9

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you… Fear not, for I am with you. -Isaiah 43:1-5

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? -Isaiah 43:18,19

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials -James 1:2

After I read these treasures, I am able to be sincerely thankful for this past week.

-My son began reading easy readers fluently, where he had previously been reading only phonics books.

-My daughter cut two new teeth and is saying new words (including “amen” at the end of any conversation or song).

-My husband and I are reading the Bible together in the morning and at night, where previously we had not (except for brief stints); we do not get a lot of non-stress time together, as we run two businesses together. Progress. That’s godly progress.

-I have made progress in learning about the unconditional love of my Savior; nothing I do will make my Savior walk away. Also, when others are also walking in the unconditional love of the Savior, nothing I do will cause them to walk away from me either. Progress. That’s major progress. Towards healing and secure attachment.

Doesn’t the Bible say that trials cause us to make progress? I already quoted 1 Peter above, but what about this one:

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3,4

While it is difficult to take joy in my tribulation, I am thankful for the fruit that has come from it. I’ll take that little nugget into the next series of spirals, knowing that when I come out I will have an even greater understanding of my Savior, and I know I have a husband who will not walk away despite the trials of having a wife with PTSD and a lifetime of baggage. I also know that I have a trusted friend who will help me to lift my arms in prayer when I am too weak (as Moses did in Exodus 17:12).

May you also see the fruit of your tribulation as you look to your Savior.

Image credit: http://www.daydaypaint.com/blog/tag/fruit-paintings-by-famous-artists

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A Gentle And Quiet Spirit

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When I was first married, an older man in our church used to tell me all the time to make sure I was praying for my husband, and that praying for him was the most important thing I could do for our marriage. I always assured him that I was praying for my husband, and I was. About a year into our marriage, we moved to a new state. Unfortunately, I promptly forgot about praying for my husband. Actually, my faith kind of fell apart around that time, as so many waves of trial washed over me; the trials were too much for my fairly new faith. I was raised in a very female dominant and verging on anti-male environment, so my faith is all I have ever had to guide me in my marriage. Therefore, my marriage took a hard hit as my faith crumbled.

This past Sunday evening, I was at a Bible study and was listening to the women interacting with each other. My mind floated off the subject, and I remembered the man who had exhorted me to pray for my husband. My prayer life has been very nearly nonexistent for 3.5 years. I thought to myself that I am finally at a point in my faith where I am ready to seek God with my whole heart again. I have reached the bottom of my pride and struggles and am ready to accept where He has me. So, I re-entered the world of prayer by praying for my husband. It felt natural to me to be conversing with God again as I prayed for my husband’s emotional strength, peace regarding finances, and natural leadership in our home. I also prayed for my children and for my friends.

There has been an incredible peace surrounding my house over the past 2.5 days, perhaps a peace that passes all understanding. My husband and I are resolving conflicts; my son is calm and readily responds to correction; I am cooking; my husband and I are communicating on our goals for homeschool and dinner ideas; and we are having time together after the kids are in bed. We are also managing my PTSD and triggers more effectively, and I am finding myself feel a gentle and quiet spirit within me. What a change from the pattern we had established for so long of me going to bed hurt or in a spiral of PTSD symptoms!!!

I have prayed these verses off and on regarding my marriage, but I wanted to re-write them here as a re-commitment to pray them for my marriage. This is where I desire to grow as a wife. This is also what I am praying for my children’s marriages to stand upon.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward- arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel- rather let it bet the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. -1 Peter 3:3-4

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. -Proverbs 31:26

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. -Colossians 3:12-15

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1

A Brief Homeostasis

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I surprised myself today when I opened the file containing my novel (so surprised that I promptly minimized the document and started a blog post!). I have not worked on my novel in at least a year… partially due to lack of time and exhaustion, but mostly because I feel I need to make a conscious effort to only write when I am doing well emotionally. I do not want my elaborate fictional world to become a sanctuary for me, because I have seen fictional sanctuaries become prisons to the hurting person. I want to be able to make the choice to walk into my fictional world and write, and I want the choice to step out of it when I need to.

The fact that I even opened the file means I am reaching a sort of homeostasis. Thank God. It has been a while since I have felt stable for several days in a row! My house is cleaner than it has been since I was nesting and eagerly awaiting the arrival of my daughter. My son is well-groomed with a fresh haircut done by yours truly (with help of clippers and four different number settings), no wax in his ears, and clipped nails. His 4T winter clothes have been replaced by his size 5 (this boy is tall and skinny) summer wardrobe. I have done schoolwork with my son every day this week. I was even considering dusting because I’m caught up on the clutter!! Strange… I have also been doing regular devotions, and am doing this: http://31dayswithgod.wordpress.com/

I don’t know why I have had the energy or sound mind to complete these tasks, but it almost feels as if my family is normal. I feel slightly uneasy because I don’t know how long it will last, and I know that a single trigger could send me into deep despair. But I am enjoying feeling normal. I am thinking about how I want to enhance my already completed novel, and pondering whether I will have the courage to attempt publication this time. I am brainstorming my afternoon with my kids and writing a grocery list. I have also topically applied the essential oil “Balance”… we’ll see how it goes.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, of power, and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7

Photo credit: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/21/1057124/-We-re-going-to-write-a-novel-Part-4

A Lot Like Jonah

The following story is taken from this book, with a few changes.

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God had a job for me. But I didn’t want it. “Go to Nineveh,” God said, “and tell your worst enemies that I love them.”

“NO” I said. “Those are bad people doing bad things!”

“Exactly,” said God. “They have run far away from me. But I can’t stop loving them. I will give them a new start. I will forgive them.”

“NO!” I said. “They don’t deserve it!”

I’ll run away! I said to myself. Far away- so far away that God won’t be able to find me. Then I won’t have to do what God says! It’s a good plan! I said, because, as far as I knew, it was a good plan.

But, of course, it wasn’t a good plan at all. It was a silly plan. (Because you can run away from God, but he will always come and find you.)

I went ahead with my not-very-good plan. “One ticket to NOT Nineveh, please!” I said and boarded a plane flying in the very opposite direction to Nineveh.

Well, it wasn’t long before a fierce wind blew, and my home started to lurch and pitch and roll – and everyone started turning green. I sat bolt upright in my bed. You see, the first thing that went wrong with my not-very-good plan was that God had sent a big storm after me.

My family couldn’t function properly. “We’re sinking!” they screamed, and started trying everything they could to calm the storm.

By now I knew that the storm was my doing. “Throw me in, instead!” I shouted to my family (for it seemed we were now on a feeble boat in a tumultuous storm). “And the storm will stop!” My family wasn’t sure. It’s the only way you can be saved!” I cried.

And so, one… two… three… SPLASH! No sooner had I hit the water than the waves grew calm, the wind died down, and the storm stopped.

Just then, when I thought it was all over, when I was sure I was going to drown, God sent a big fish to rescue me. The fish swallowed me whole- with one big gulp.

I must have thought I’d died, it was so dark in there, like a tomb. But then I smelled the rotting food and felt the slimy seaweed and knew I wasn’t dead. I was in the belly of the fish!

And here I sit, waiting to watch God’s plan unfold. Tonight, I have my first session with my new therapist, a Christian who will openly bring faith into the counseling room. We will see where the fish spits me out.

Desperate For Change

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Perhaps your typical pattern is that, when you start to think about what happened, you wallow in despair for two hours and cap that off with wolfing down a whole bag of potato chips and drinking a two-liter cola. A small step… might be that in half an hour… maybe you decide to say “hello” to someone instead of avoiding them; or you snap out of your self-preoccupation, and give your child a hug and ask how her day went. These little things are huge, radical steps…

I am desperate for change. I read this from a ‘Recovering From Child Abuse’ pamphlet written by the CCEF in Philadelphia. This small steps concept is what I’m desperately trying to do. This morning, instead of going back to bed after my daughter went down for her morning nap, I got up and made my husband breakfast and took a shower. Instead of going back to bed after my shower, I read this pamphlet that has remained unread on my dresser for at least a year. I read my Bible. I’m not saying I sought God, because that’s not my style. My style is to run from Him as fast as my legs will carry me. But I found comfort in Isaiah 43. I found answers. I found, “You are Mine.” If I can learn to trust God, I have found a new identity in Him. I am His daughter. I am His. Other portions of this passage say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine,” “I have loved you,” and….

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” I believe God’s promises for myself, yet I also believe I am being overflowed by the rivers and I feel the fire is scorching my skin and soul. This passage does not say God will rescue me from trial, but He will be with me in it and He will not leave me. If I can bring myself to trust God, it sounds like I have found a potential best friend. I know He is my Savior. I desire a best friend.

Double-Minded

Here is the first poem I ever wrote on 9-17-12, and it also happens to be my favorite. This was when my anxiety was first really climaxing and then I had my first flashback on 10-5-12. My faith was still strong at this point, but around this time I began to struggle greatly with my relationship with God. In order to understand the poem, you have to read the non-italics together (all Bible verses), and then read the italics together (my own thoughts). It’s two poems.

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Your Word says toward me, how precious are Your thoughts

My soul will not be comforted day or night

While I was a sinner, Christ died on the cross

And my aching flesh puts up an endless fight

The desire of my soul is for Your name

We are commanded to not quench the Spirit

It was for Your love for me that Jesus came

But Lord, I feel so deaf and cannot hear it

You promised to help just at the break of dawn

The still small voice I am told to listen for

So I will sing to You, I sing a new song

But the waves crash too loud on the distant shore

I love You, my Rock, my Fortress, and my Strength

If my tears are in Your bottle and Your book

So I will stand and take up my shield of faith

Why do I feel You don’t take a second look?

I must wait patiently and trust in You, Lord

One who doubts is an uncontrollable wave

Your comforting Word is sharper than a sword

I’m double-minded, unstable in my ways

I fear not, I am Yours and You call my name

Lord, I do believe; please help my unbelief

You promised to wipe tears and relieve my pain

Comfort my soul, I am begging for relief

I trust that You will forever be the same.