Knowing God When I’m at a Fork in the Road

Yesterday, I finished the First steps with Jesus Bible plan on YouVersion and I immediately wanted to start a new Bible reading plan. I looked through the most recently added plans and found one called: Hey God, Can We Talk? I’m at a Fork in the Road. I clicked on it and apparently loved its description, although I can’t remember it right now. So I decided to start the plan.

The plan walks us through Jacob’s story. For the first day, we were asked to read the verses in Genesis 28 where Jacob leaves for Bethel after Esau plans to kill him. I had no idea about this. I mean, I thought the idea that Jacob would receive Isaac’s blessing rather than Esau had been mutually agreed upon. That’s how my father explained it once when we ate lentils for dinner: that Esau voluntarily swapped his firstborn’s right for a bowl of lentils. He then personalized the story to my younger sister and me. I probably thought to myself that my sister could keep her yucky lentils and eat mine as well.

Anyway, apparently not. Rebekah had urged Jacob to escape the family home and go to her brother. This, the plan author compares to us leaving home to go off to college. Except, she says, Jacob didn’t have his family to support him should catastrophe strike. This hit home to me.

When I lived independently in Nijmegen in 2007, I didn’t have my parents’ support either. That is, when I wasn’t coping, they made it very clear that I wasn’t to rely on them. I had my community support staff, of course, but they too had their conditions for supporting me.

At one point while resting in Bethel, Jacob has a very important dream. In it, the Lord speaks to him and promises him the land on which he lay. Okay, fine by me. I don’t need land. but I do need comfort.

The plan then goes on to highlight verse 16: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'” (Genesis 28:16 NIV)

This, then, was comforting but also slightly scary to Jacob. This is so relatable! In 2007, I had no idea there was even a God, let alone that He cares about my life. Now I do know, but it’s sometimes scary too. Maybe because I am not used, with the exception of my husband (and I doubt that all the time), to being loved unconditionally.

Of course, Jacob’s story takes place long before Christ. However, the God of the Old Testament, unlike what some atheists told me when I first learned about religion, isn’t a horrible dictator. He is still the same and He was with Jacob. I love this. Do you, too?

Linking up with Grace and Truth.

Five Christian Songs to Lift Your Mood

Hello again readers! I’m still kicking, but feeling rather uninspired where #Write28Days is concerned. Besides, today I could use a little pick-me-up. I’m feeling a little vague and uncomfortable. The snow and my inability to go outside because of it don’t help. My husband said I still need to move about, but due to my feeling a little dizzy he advised against the elliptical. So I’m dancing.

Today, I decided to dance to some Christian songs. As most of you know, I’m a new believer, but I’ve loved Christian music for many years. However, I didn’t listen to it for a while when I wasn’t really invested in faith. Now I’m back to loving it. Here are five Christian songs to lift your mood.

1. Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective.

I only discovered this song a few months ago, but I love love love it. It’s the song I dance to most often now, it’s so upbeat.

2. You Say by Lauren Daigle.

I discovered this song about a year ago. At the time, it was one of my husband’s favorite Christian songs (before he’d become a Christian himself). Indeed, Lauren Daigle’s voice is truly beautiful and so is her message.

3. Beautiful by Bethany Dillon.

This was one of the first contemporary Christian songs I listened to, when I had just become a sort-of progressive Christian in like 2012.

4. Even If by MercyMe.

I’d heard of MercyMe already in like 2012 and was a great fan. This is a relatively new song.

5. We Believe by Newsboys.

When I used to want to exercise to the beat of Christian music, I’d often listen to a Christian workout playlist. That one features Newsboys prominently. This version of the song may not be as fast-paced, but it is a great reminder to turn to what matters, ie. Jesus, when you’re feeling down.

Now that I’ve listed these songs, I’m pretty sure I forgot some great ones, so if you listen to Christian music, please share your favorites in the comments. If you’re not a Christian, I’d also love to know about your favorite mood boosting songs.

As a side note, I almost forgot to mention that this post was not just inspired by my dancing this evening, but also by this post by Rachel Poli. Check out her upbeat playlist.

Song Lyric Sunday: Black

Hi lovely people on this snowy Sunday. Today I initially wanted to continue with the #Write28Days prompts, but I guess I’ll try that back again tomorrow. The point is I’m still writing. Today, I’m joining Song Lyric Sunday, for which the theme this week is “Colors”. Now despite my attempts at changing it, black for sure still has to be my favorite color. Therefore, I’m choosing a song with “black” in the title. Now that I think of it, I of course could go with The Man in Black by Johnny Cash, as it’s far more meaningful than this one, but oh well, this one came to mind first.

I first heard the song Black Is the Colour a few months ago when I was listening to Cara Dillon songs. Turns out Cara Dillon’s is a cover. The song most likely originated in Scotland and was first known in the U.S. as an Appallachian traditional. Cara Dillon first recorded it in 2001. As you can see, she addresses it to a female. I originally thought this odd for a traditional, but it turns out both male and female artists have recorded this song in various ways, addressing both men and women.

Title: Black Is the Colour
Singer: Cara Dillon
Release Date: 2001

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair
Her lips are like a rose so fair
She’s got the sweetest face and the gentlest hands
I love the ground whereon she stands

I love my love and well she knows
I love the ground whereon she goes
And how I whish the day would come
When she and I can be as one

I go to the Clyde and mourn and weep
Satisfied I never will sleep
I’ll write her a letter, just a few short lines
And suffer death ten thousand times

#WeekendCoffeeShare (February 6, 2021)

Hi everyone on this windy Saturday! Welcome to my contribution to the #WeekendCoffeeShare. It’s past 8:30PM, so I’ve long had my last cup of coffee for the day. However, I still have cold water in the fridge, as well as several flavors of soft drinks. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week went by relatively smoothly. I did struggle a bit early in the week because I felt guilty that the one-on-one support I’ve been getting lately isn’t helping me as much as I’d like. The staff reassured me that things have just settled down and I shouldn’t expect an instant great improvement. Besides, in a way, I am doing better than I was.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I got some wonderful new essential oils. I got lavandin (which is like lavender but milder), lemongrass, ginger, clary sage and white fir. I am so happy about being able to make some new diffuser blends. I’d totally expected to sleep like a log because of the clary sage, but I didn’t. That’s okay though.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I also finally purchased a talking scale. That way, I can weigh myself each week at the same time rather than relying on when I remember to ask a staff to weigh me. The scale wasn’t too kind to me when I first stepped onto it.

If we were having coffee, I’d announce that I got my first shot of the COVID vaccine on Thursday. It hurt a little more than the flu shot had, but the pain was over within the hour.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my husband didn’t visit me today. We already established on Thursday that I wouldn’t be going to Lobith this week, because of the heavy snow and wind that’s been forecasted for tonight. We’re supposed to get up to 30cm of snow with a possibility of snow dunes. I originally thought snow dunes were the ones that would be 30cm high, but my husband said they might be up to a meter or even two. I can’t really imagine we’ll get this much snow, but I know how quickly it can come down indeed. Looking back, my husband could’ve come by for a quick visit this afternoon.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I made banana bread with my one-on-one staff this evening. We used just eggs, bananas and oatmeal for the batter and then added nuts, cranberries, dates and raisins. The other staff didn’t like the nuts in it, but I loved it.

Banana Bread

What’s been going on in your life lately?

Waiting for Sunrise #Write28Days

Welcome to day five in #Write28Days. Today’s prompt is “Sunrise”. It is also this week’s prompt for Five Minute Friday. I’ll try to freewrite for this post, although I won’t set a timer.

At first, the prompt didn’t speak to me. I have rarely in my life ever seen the sunrise, as I don’t usually get up before dawn. Besides, I am almost completely blind, so I am not able to appreciate its visual effects as much as others. To me, sunrise looks pretty much exactly like sunset. I know there’s a difference, but I can’t see it.

Then I saw that some fellow Five Minute Friday writers have used the sunrise prompt as a way to symbolize the coming of something good. According to Genesis, God created the sun to mark the day and the moon to mark the night. Indeed, a new morning is often appreciated as something positive. It symbolizes a new chance to make positive changes to our life or world.

Why, though, should we wait for that new dawn? We shouldn’t wait for Jesus to come back to make everything right. With God’s help, we can make positive changes to our life and world right now, even though it’s 8:30PM on a Friday in February and the sun has long set.

There are so many things I want to change about my life and world. Personally, I want to develop my distress tolerance. I want to lose weight. I want to deepen my faith. Politically, I want to educate myself on areas in which I experience privilege, such as race.

I don’t need to and shouldn’t be procrastinating on these things. I may not be able to accomplish them all at once. However, with God’s help, each and every second of every single day, I get to make a choice between love and judgment, ignorance and education, health and sickness, faith and despair. Right now, I am making a choice to trust God. Thanks to His grace, I trust I can make these other positive choices.

Five Years Ago #Write28Days

Welcome to day four in #Write28Days. Today, I am not going with the word prompt. It is “Make” and maybe I can make the prompt fit into my post somehow (pun intended). Not sure though. Instead, I picked one of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts. It asks us what, if we could give ourself a snapshot five years ago of what our life would be like now, it would look like and how we would’ve felt.

Five years ago, I still resided in the psychiatric hospital with the intention of leaving for my and my husband’s then home by my 30th birthday on June 27, 2016. I still trusted my mental health professionals to a degree and had at least some trust in my ability to live with my husband. The whole saga of my changing diagnosis, or diagnonsense as I called it, hadn’t happened yet.

I just checked my old blog for what I’d written in February of 2016. I admitted, in some posts, that I still struggled with the reality that I hadn’t fulfilled most of my childhood dreams and yet wasn’t a total failure, in that I’d be living with my husband. I didn’t use the word “failure”, but my writing certainly connotes that I should feel like a failure if I need residential care for the rest of my life. Which possiblity I held open to an extent, and which indeed came true.

I mean, I got kicked out of the psych hospital not by the summer of 2016, but by May of 2017. Then lived with my husband for nearly 2 1/2 years, until I was accepted into the care facility.

If I could give myself a snapshot of my life right now, it’d likely be of my room here at the care facility with my one-on-one staff in it. I might give myself an additional snapshot of my and my husband’s house in Lobith to convey that we’re still together.

Honestly, I have no idea how I’d have felt about these snapshots back then. I mean, four years ago is easier. Then I’d certainly have been elated at knowing I’d eventually end up in long-term care despite all the attempts my psych hospital staff took to prevent me getting the care I need. But in early 2016, I may not have seen this need.

Probably, the most likely emotion I’d have felt is mistrust. I mean, how could I possibly ever get the level of care I never even openly admitted I needed? I mean, I never asked for one-on-one, but got it anyway. How is it possible that people truly saw this? I can hardly believe it now, let alone five years ago.

Looking back at my life five years ago, however, makes me so intensely appreciative of the life I have now! I thank the Lord for sending my former support coordinator, the Center for Consultation and Expertise consultant and my current staff into my life, as well as the funding authority people in charge. Without these people, I honestly don’t know where I’d be right now.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Learning Never Stops #Write28Days

Okay, here’s my post for #Write28Days for today. I know I already wrote a post today and at first I wasn’t inspired to write another. The prompt word for today is “Learn”. This at first didn’t inspire me, until I read Carrie Ann’s response. It completely resonates with me!

As regular readers of my blog will know, I did college for one year in 2006-2007, doing an orientation in psychological and social studies. I only passed the year because the communication skills instructor had given me a passing grade on the condition that I never continue into this field. I was diagnosed with autism a few weeks before the dreaded communication skills exam. Now I did poorly on the exam and don’t really want to use autism as an excuse. Other autistics, in fact, can become social workers or psychologists or work in other such fields the program would be training me for. But I cannot.

Then I transferred to university to become a linguistics major, only to drop out two months in. I took a few psychology classes at Open University in 2009, of course skipping the practice ones and doing only theoretical ones. I think that instructor back in 2007 was right, after all.

Despite the fact that I haven’t been in formal education in over eleven years, I however still learn. At times, it feels like I don’t. I mean, I am not in any type of training or education.

The last time I was in formal training, was to learn to use the iPhone in 2017. I fully expected I would no longer be capable, but thankfully I was.

And now, having become a Christian within the last two months, I am trying to learn all about the faith and memorize scripture. It’s hard, but I trust that with God’s help, it is possible.

Carrie Ann truly motivates me to keep trying to learn. I really want to learn to write better. I also still want to take some free classes. I mean, ideally I’d sign up for some university courses in education or psychology, but these usually require a prior college degree. Maybe I can use FutureLearn or the like. In any case, I really hope that, like Carrie Ann says, learning never grows old even when I do.

#IWSG: Bloggy Friendships

IWSG

Hi everyone again. It’s the first Wednesday of the month and this means it’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. I must say I did pretty well with respect to my writing over the month of January. I wrote a blog post almost everyday. Of course, at the beginning of the month, I planned to do even better. That’s usual for me. I hope with #Write28Days in February, it doesn’t go in the same direction.

For those visiting from the IWSG who don’t know what #Write28Days is, it’s a kind of restart of the original #Write31Days October challenge, in which you pick a topic and write about it for the entire month. Thankfully, randomness is a topic too and we aren’t currently required to even have a topic. The idea is just to write everyday. Hence, this post really counts for #Write28Days too. I may or may not write another one this evening.

In addition to writing pretty consistently over the past month, I also took some steps outside of my comfort zone. I wrote two pieces of flash fiction. Both were extremely short, under 100 words each. I’m not sure they count as actual pieces and not just exerpts. In that case, there is no broader story as of yet.

Now on to this month’s optional question. Today, the IWSG crowd talk friendships and relationships developed because of blogging. I don’t honestly think I have any though. That is, I consider carol anne from Therapy Bits and Emilia from My Inner MishMash my friends, but I can’t remember whether I first “met” them through blogging or through E-mail lists.

Maybe though, I can count my husband. After all, though we met via a message board, one of the reasons he contacted me to meet up was that he’d read my blog. This blog, I’ve since made private because of the spammy visitors.

Other than this, I don’t think I’ve developed any bloggy friendships. I also must admit I’m horrible with reciprocating visits. I just realized, in fact, that, in general, I’m not that good at keeping in touch with friends, be it through my blog, the rest of the Internet or in real life. I really need to improve on that.

Enthusiasm for Jesus #Write28Days

Welcome to day 2 in #Write28Days. Today I’m not feeling well and struggling with my faith a lot. I try to remember Jesus is there for me no matter what, and even if I don’t feel better now, I might in the future. I don’t know what plan God has for me.

Today, for this reason, I want to write about the parable of the sower. The prompt word for today in #Write28Days is “enthusiasm”. This is the perfect word for me right now.

For those not familiar with the parable, in Mark 4, Jesus teaches that God is like a sower. He sows the Word. Some of his seeds fall on the road, while others fall on rocky ground, still others fall inbetween thorny bushes, and yet some fall into rich soil, where they sprout and multiply and carry fruit. These places the seeds fall on, are a metaphor for people hearing the Word of God. Those who don’t hear or are evil, resemble the road. Those who at once rejoice in the Word, resemble the rocks. After all, the seeds spring up quickly, but they lack a root and wither easily. The people who are like rocks, are enthusiastic to hear the Word, but can’t withstand the negative aspects of it, such as persecution.

I must admit, when I first truly converted to Christianity, I was like the rocks. I was elated to hear my husband had recently become a believer again after years of being an atheist. I felt ready to dive into faith once again, after years of being a sort-of believer. Then though, I wasn’t feeling so well and learned about the negative aspects of faith. I began to struggle.

I also have had times when I was like the thorny place. Jesus says that these are the people who are eager to receive the Word but don’t want to or can’t give up on the pleasures of life. As an example, I have often laughed at blasphemous jokes. Even letting go of this low and simple pleasure is a struggle. Don’t even get me started on the more insidious temptations of life.

I really pray that God’s grace will transform me from the rocky, thorny place I may now still be into rich, fruitful soil. I trust that this will happen. After all, during my years of sort-of belief, I wasn’t even aware of my perpetual use of blasphemous interjections. Now, on the rare occasion that a blasphemous word slips out, I am instantly aware and correct myself. I am so glad that God has at least opened my awareness to this.

What If I Disappoint God? #Write28Days

Welcome to my first post in the #Write28Days blogging challenge. This challenge is an offshoot from the original #Write31Days challenge that used to be done every October until 2018. I only found out about #Write28Days a few weeks ago. Thankfully, you’re not required to pick a topic. The goal is just to write everyday during February. And this is my first post. I don’t have a landing page, as I used to forget to update those. However, if you click on the #Write28Days tag, you should be taken to my other posts.

I originally intended to write my challenge posts on faith, then realized I, being a new Christian, may not be able to devote 28 posts to this topic. But for today, something definitely came to mind: the feeling that I’ll disappoint God.

I was converted to Christianity in early December of 2020. Before that, I’d sort of believed in God, but never understood the essence of the Christian faith. I felt incredibly alone, thinking I was a very wicked person on the inside. The thing is, I thought I was the only one.

Then my husband showed me the book You Are Beloved by Bobby Schuller. I started reading and thought that, oh yes, God loves people, but not me. I still felt I was somehow more sinful than other human beings. And at the same time, I wanted to combat this feeling by believing I am good enough without Jesus. Well, I’m not. And that’s okay, because neither is anyone else.

The question, then, becomes not what if I disappoint God? I already do. Yet I’m not alone. Everyone has their imperfections, after all. The Bible calls them sin. Yet through Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven.

Yesterday, through a Bible reading plan on the YouVersion Bible app, I read Mark 10 and 11. In Mark 10, Jesus tells a rich man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor and then to follow him. He may or may not have literally meant for the rich man to sell everything, but he did mean we need to let go of something in order to follow Jesus and gain eternal life. After all, the Ten Commandments tell us not to have idols. That doesn’t just mean other gods, but other things we pursue in life besides God. The author of the plan, in fact, had to let go of his pride. And in a way, so do I.

God, thank you for showing me your presence in life. Thank you for loving me despite my imperfections. Help me overcome my self-righteous sense of pride. Help me realize that, like every human being, I am powerless over my sin. Help me draw closer to You through your only begottn Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.