Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Christ Walk: Four in the Morning

Christ Walk: Four in the Morning: 0400 or 4 a.m. is not my normal waking hour.  It's truly a time for the birds.  At this time a year it is still dark.  I am up regularly...

Four in the Morning

0400 or 4 a.m. is not my normal waking hour.  It's truly a time for the birds.  At this time a year it is still dark.  I am up regularly by six and hard at work on a normal day.  5:30 isn't difficult, but 4?  Four in the morning is hard.  I am not used to it, I value my sleep and the only reason I am up at 4 a.m. is because I am sick, or my brain goes into overdrive.

This particular morning, 4 a.m. had my brain in overdrive.  There wasn't a moment that my brain did not having me worrying about my parenting skills, my job, my move, my life, my health.  At four in the morning, small issues become big issues. At four in the morning, there is no one to talk to, and nothing to do but get up.

On the upside, at four in the morning, my brain is fully alert by this point.  I blew through some work that I needed to do and was able to knock out my run before anyone in my house was up.  I felt accomplished early and this helps me get through the day.  My run was vitally important with so many worries going through my brain. My run was my outlet for my anxiety.  As this particular
Internet meme reflects, my run "keeps my crazy at bay."

And I find it so easy to pray when I run.  I'm not really sure why but physical activity brings me closer to God.  I can hand over those concerns and wrestle with God on my run to see me through to solutions or peace.  At four in the morning, this lets me face my family with a normal set of emotions that prevent me from flying off the handle when my emotional state is already high.

It's not so much that I think four in the morning is the magical time, because I know I would have preferred to be asleep, but I am struck how nice it is to get up, and take care of myself, my prayer, my exercise and my work before anyone else is stirring.  It's nice because I don't feel conflicted about my time and it seems to allow me to feel less rushed throughout the day.  Scheduling and making things a priority in your life can pay off in a big way.  Give it a try for several days and see if you notice a change in your attitude and your energy.

And at four in the morning, when I've gotten up when it's dark and quiet, I'm able to see the sun rise.  It's like having my own personal "Good morning" from God and the message is clear:  Even with the anxieties of my night, God says to me, "You've got this."

Monday, September 22, 2014

When 2 or 3 are Gathered in His Name, the Holy Spirit is Fierce: The dotMOM Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the #dotmom14 conference this year.  The dotMOM Conference is a gathering of Christian woman around the US seeking ways to deepen our approaches to life, motherhood, parenting, teaching and learning in concert with Christian teachings.  It was an awesome event filled with laughter, tears, smiles, friendships, song, dance, learning and Chick fil A!  We were graced by the presence of some awesome speakers.  Each day we were lifted up by the guidance of some true greats such as Angie Smith, Jeannie Allen, David Thomas, Rebekah Lyons, Steve and Debbie Wilson and many others.

I came back with my prayer to be filled.  It was answered.  I have been filled with joy, love and the knowledge that I am not alone in my belief that I have been saved.  My life is not ordinary because God fills me with the extraordinary.  My life was irrevocably changed once I committed to my relationship with God.  It was a turning point.

I digress.  The mountain top will do that to you.  To breakdown the mountain top to the people in the valley below (thank you Amy Grant), these were my takeaways for sharing from the conference:

On Parenting:
When we parent out of fear; kids get the worst of us.  When we parent out of love, our kids get the best of us.  David Thomas.

Matthew 11: 28-30: Come to me all you who are wear and burdened, and I will give you rest.....God will rest us from the storms of parenthood.

Children, especially boys are wild things.  Parent in tandem with the way God made your children.  Give them freedom where they need it, love them greatly, praise them, let them make mistakes.  Talk with them. Make time for children to be active and move.  Especially after school.  Let them explore.  Don't be a hover parent. Give them opportunities to be creative, read, take on responsibilities, take risks and feel adventure.  Give them opportunities to find their purpose.

Use Media Contracts with children.

Use Signs in Rooms on what you expect your children to do to remind them of chores, behaviors and responsibilities.

If you are driven by fear and a false belief that your children will be messed up by anything you do, you are not giving credit to God for the hand God has in your children's lives. You are doing a disservice to God, not to acknowledge that you are not in control of your children, God is. Trust God with the life of your child.

Don't sterilize God for your children.  Let your kids see every day what God is to you and what God does for your life.  It's ok to let your kids see you at your worst moments.  Even those moments when you are crying in the arms of God.    Success with your children is when they grow up to love God and serve God.  Why would kids think they need Jesus, if you have have made them the center of the universe?  Make Jesus the center of the universe and they will know where they need to gravitate.  Angie Smith.

On Marriage:
Unspoken expectations will lead to discouragement.  Put your pride down; hints don't work--speak up for what you want, need, or believe that will make your marriage stronger.  Be specific.  Remember the qualities you fell in love with in your spouse.  They are still there.  There is NEVER an excuse to have an affair.  Give "wins" to your spouse.  Sometimes, it's more important to make things right that to be right all the time. Unrealistic expectations will lead to defeat in your marriage.  We are here to be what God created us to be, not what society tells to be.

Temper People: It's time to grow up.  irritability and temper do not work or help a relationship.  Your temper is the result of something else.  Get to the root of it and deal with it.  Irritability comes from constantly trying to be perfect.

Your earthly marriage relationship is a reflection of your relationship with God. Be Jesus to one another in a marriage.  When someone hands you their heart, handle it well. God puts you in a marriage to be better together.

The most intimate thing that you and your spouse will do together is not sex.  It is to pray for each other by name, out loud together. Steve and Debbie Wilson.

On Life:
God called you by your name.
It's not funny when you try to control faith. Control is the action of fear.  Fear not.  Stand firm, the Lord will fight for you.
Be obedient to God's word.  Even when it makes you nervous. 
Live out acts of scripture everyday.  Each day you act out scripture you have read, you remember the scripture.
Mend fences quickly.  The gospel is a gospel of forgiveness.
Touch is healing.
Give your gracious heart to others.
Our job every day is to build our faith for our children to see it.  Show them that faith holds you together through every storm.

The only thing that was missing from dotMom14 was a discussion on Fitness for Moms and developing Health and Spiritual Fitness.  Call me, I'll take this breakout session for you with a
discussion on Christ Walk for 2015.  :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 9-11 Memory

Where was I on 9-11-01?  I was at work.  I was a nurse on the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, NC.  I was doing my morning vitals on my patient when I looked up at the TV in the room to see first plane hit the towers.  My first thought was, "Oh My Lord, those people!  What idiot would make such a stupid mistake?" My first reaction was disbelief and scorn.  I really thought someone had made just a stupid mistake.  As I continued to watch the news and the second plane crashed, I quickly came to realize this was no accident.  This was no coincidence.  We were being attacked. My disbelief remained, but an urgency and fear began to grown in place of scorn.  All of a sudden, the world was not a comfortable place in which we lived.

We were all shocked and scared.  I think back with thanks that none of our patients were too unstable  because we were all distracted by the events of the day.  As a hospital, we were preparing for overflow from New York and DC, our call charts were being updated, and we were identifying staff to fly to the sites to assist with caring for the injured.  It was an Emergency Preparedness Plan that no one ever thought they would have to engage.  At home, my husband had just signed his commission into the Army.  We wondered if his basic training requirements would be fast tracked and we were heading into a future of unknowns.  We were ensured the future we had chosen would be one with conflict, deployments, changes and challenges.  We were really walking into a future we could not predict.

Each year when 9-11 rolls through, I, and I am sure many others, want to hold their breath a little.   As an individual, I worry that we will be attacked again.  Fear creeps into my heart that this will be the year that many more will die senselessly.  I find myself trying to avoid the news, or worse, glued to it for news of a new attack.  I find myself looking over my shoulder wondering, are we really safe in the heartland of America? I find myself listening more closely than ever for a sound I might not recognize.  I find myself hyper-vigilant on this day each year. I find myself really confused about what to pray for. 

As a military spouse and daughter, I wonder if America's sons and daughters will again be called up to lay down their lives in defense of freedom.  Would this be the year that my husband would leave again?  Would my friends be facing similar questions?  Would my friends that are currently deployed be safe?  Will today be another 9-11?  I wonder secretly, if the sacrifice will ever be worth it?  Is it possible to spread freedom and peace to nations and sects that seem so adamantly against getting along with their neighbors?

As a Christian, I am mind-boggled that a group of people could hate America so much.  We are a country that believes more or less in "live and let live."  Modern Christianity doesn't go around killing people to convert them or because of their beliefs. We believe that sacrifice has already been given in Christ.  All Christ has asked us to do in return for his sacrifice, is to love one another.  To find the best in each other and share God's love.  In general, most Christians I know are happy to tell you about their faith if you would like to hear about it, but we have also been brought up that the most important commandment is to love one another, no matter your religion, gender, sexual orientation, race or whatever.  Seriously, between being American and Christian, we are at heart a people that like peace.  We want to work hard and play hard.  We want to enjoy the world that God has given us. We want to take care of it, defend it and share it.  We really don't want to be at war, but we will defend peoples' right to believe as they will and defend ourselves from acts of terrorism. Although war may be what we must do in order to protect the most people, it isn't at heart what we really WANT to do. We just want people to get along.  How bad can that be?  I am really confused why this cannot be good for the world at large, nor why this would be such a bone of contention from a group of people who are solely being asked to just love one another.  It's like my mama used to tell me, "If you cannot say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

No one is going to be happy or free in a world controlled by terrorists.

As 9-11 rolls around, I run.  I run for those that lost their lives in New York, In Pennsylvania, in DC.  I run for those that have continued to lose their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan in defense of freedom and a call to stabilize the world at large.  I run for those civilians that have lost their lives around the world from acts of terrorism.  I run for those that have served, who are serving both military and civilian, as firefighters and health care providers to take care of our people, to defend them and to nurture the world into a better place.  And as 9-11 rolls around, I try to pray.  I am not sure what to pray for, but I pray that I have faith in God, and in the big-picture scope of 9-11 that God's love will triumph.

On 9-11, I remember.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Christ Walk: Are you 1 in 4?

Christ Walk: Are you 1 in 4?: September 8-12 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week.  In my professional life, organizations are addressing suicide, depression, anxiety, po...

Are you 1 in 4?

September 8-12 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week.  In my professional life, organizations are addressing suicide, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and other mental health issues.  With 1 in 4 Americans dealing with mental health issues we need to mount a war against stigma.  Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health.  You can die from mental illnesses, just as you can from physical disease.  When I see statistics like "1 in 4," I look around at the closest four people around me at that time, or on social media and realize that 1 of any 4 individuals I deal with on a daily basis is struggling mentally.  This is a sobering thought.  If I put myself in their shoes, I begin to understand that each day is struggle...a fight with dealing with what their brain tries to tell them, and what their heart believes.  When the chemicals in the brain get mixed up, it is very difficult to tell right from wrong, feel joy, hear salvation, or be in the moment.  Mental illness has a very physical pain from which it is difficult to escape.

Hence suicide.  Sometimes suicide for people seems like the only answer.
It isn't.

With the recent suicide of Robin Williams, a slew of pundits waded in to the discussion on depression, suicide and mental health.  Some actually knew what they were talking about, others spoke from personal experience, and others spoke from ignorance. I am not a behavior health professional, but I am someone who has had suicide touch my life on multiple occaisions.  And I am a caring, Christian person who would like to reach out to any of the 1 in 4 and say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  There is HELP and SUPPORT and HANDS for any of the 1 in 4.  DO NOT GIVE UP THAT SOMEONE WANTS AND NEEDS YOU IN YOUR LIFE.  When there is 1 in 4, there are 3 other people to help.

My children do not have a grandfather because of suicide.  My husband and his sister miss their father because of suicide.  I watched my own father flirt with suicide in the midst of a rapidly, unraveling, unstable bout with depression.  I remember watching my father drive off one day and wonder if he would come home.  My family lost a dear Catholic priest/friend succumb to depression and mental illness and kill himself.  I have had nursing colleagues kill themselves.  Soldiers are killing themselves from the mental anguish of war. Teenagers are killing themselves because they do not see any other options.

My father was a priest.  This was not supposed to happen to spiritual people, but it does.  It's not supposed to happen to professional people, but it does.  It is not supposed to happen to "strong, heroic" people,  but it does.  Mental Illness happens to 1 in 4. Mental illness touches all religions, all denominations, all races, all sexes, ALL PEOPLE.  If 1 in 4 suffer from mental illness, are you one of them?

A lot of people refer to suicide as the rock bottom of their depression and mental illness.  When I reached rock bottom with my own health, it remember it was really difficult to see the purpose of my life.  Thank God for God.  For me, God was the life-line for getting my life back on track and seeing purpose, even when my body wasn't doing what I wanted it to do.

As Christian's, we can show God's love to people with mental illness by being their life-line when their minds are not functioning the way they are supposed to function.  We can be the other 3 that reach out a hand to the 1 in 4.  Mental illness happens.  It happens to a lot of people.

If you are of the 1 in 4, read this and know that you are NEEDED, WANTED, and have PURPOSE in this world.  I believe fiercely that human life is sacred and special.  You are a LIFE worth being in this world and God put you here for a reason.  Don't throw that away with suicide.  You may be the missing grandparent, parent, brother, sister, or friend in someone's life if you commit suicide.  It's a hole that never goes away.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK.  Pick up the line.  Call them, call a friend, call your pastor, call a family member, but don't leave us.  We need you here.