Joy in July

Hi everyone. It’s nearly the end of the month and this means it’s time for me to update you all on my word of the year. As usual, I’m joining the #WOTY linky, as well as Lisa’s One Word linky. My word of the year, as I’ve said before, is “JOY”.

Early in the month, I had a horrible setback, as I got the news that my now former assigned staff would be quitting her job at my care facility. This caused some major sadness and emotional turmoil in me, but after a while, I was able to channel it into something good by creating something for her – a polymer clay hedgehog. I enjoyed the creative process and the smile I brought to her face when I gave her the gift.

Overall, I did find that my joy or lack thereof was more than in the previous months tied to my material success, in the sense that, if I felt I was failing at a crafty endeavor, I didn’t enjoy it either. The same goes for my blog: I was ecstatic when reading all the positive comments to the poem I wrote last week, but didn’t enjoy writing when I had the idea that I wasn’t “successful” in my blogging.

Similarly, my joy is also more tied to material possessions than it used to be. For example, the day my former assigned staff left, I ordered a stuffed dolphin for comfort. While this did help me, maybe at other times I would’ve been able to seek joy without having to spend money. I am not saying spending money on comfort items is necessarily bad, but ultimately, they aren’t material things that will bring me joy.

Joyful experiences included a visit to the trampoline on the last day my now former assigned staff worked my one-on-one shift, eating out with my husband and a visit from my sister and her family. While they involved material things too, in the sense that we spent money on the dinner and my sister gave me some beautiful belated birthday gifts, the experiences themselves were truly great.

In some good news, I did do some Bible reading everyday again this week, while I’d hardly done any over the rest of the month. It is causing me a lot of emotions.

Overall, the month of July was filled with some high peaks but a lot of deep lows too. I must say though that, considering the impact of my staff leaving, I was expecting much worse. I really hope the month of August will be better.

No Unwholesome Talk

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

I had a very bad anger outburst this afternoon. For a very minor reason, I yelled at and insulted a staff member quite majorly. I told her to leave, which she did, but not just because I told her to. In fact, I’d caused her to get a little teary.

Obviously, I regret my outburst, though initially I didn’t fully see that it was all my responsibility. I mean, I did feel as though this staff member had triggered me. I see now that my anger was extreme and way out of proportion to the situation.

Then, in a collection of journaling prompts, I was pointed to this Bible verse. I didn’t know what it said, so went and looked it up because I find that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians usually appeals to me. There it was. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. Wow!

This does not refer just to no swear words. If it had, I could’ve said I don’t use those. Instead, looking at the second part of the verse, we’re supposed to only use words that build others up. In other words, calling someone names is the exact opposite of what Paul asks us to do here.

I did eventually apologize. Initially, this was a kind of half-hearted apology. Not because I had meant my insult, but because I struggle to prevent this happening again and because, at the time, I didn’t fully see that I alone was responsible for my behavior. I see now. I am praying that, with God’s help, I will learn better anger management strategies.

God, I want to confess that I am a very sinful person. You know this already, but I need to realize that my behavior is wrong. I had a horrible anger outburst and I didn’t even fully acknowledge that it was my fault. Please help me take responsibility for my anger. Please also help me come to You in future situations where I get triggered rather than react in anger. I pray for forgiveness and hope that You will still accept me even though I am not living up to even human expectations, let alone Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Share Four Somethings (January 2022)

Hi everyone. Can you believe it’s almost the end of January already? I can’t wait for this month to be over with, honestly. February can be depressing too, but not as depressing as January. At least then the weather may start to warm up a little. Let’s hope! Anyway, today I’m joining Share Four Somethings. I think I joined this link-up once before, but am hoping to make it a regular habit now that it’s a new format. Here goes.

Something Loved

Essential oils. Yay, my three new oils arrived today! Though I haven’t tried them out yet, I will certainly be doing so soon. One, lemon, isn’t really new, but I’d had to throw out the old bottle because it’d gone past its shelf life. This really should be a motivator to use my essential oils more often. The other two, spearmint and sweet marjoram, I haven’t used before.

Something Gleaned

Honestly, I had to Google the definition of “glean”, so I could say I gleaned the meaning of the word. I guess my English isn’t as good as I’d like to say it is.

Seriously though, I have been reading the Bible everyday since January 1. While 24 days isn’t my longest streak ever by far, I do find that the more I study God’s Word, the more I learn. My most recent realization came from the story about the Bible passage I mentioned yesterday. The pastor sharing the story about the passage said that “favor” in Psalms 30:5 could also be translated as “grace”. This, until then, I’d always seen as a decidedly New Testamental term. Then again, I now am beginning to see that the Bible isn’t really strictly divided between OT and NT, but it’s all one story leading to Jesus. To those of my readers who’ve been believers for longer than I have been, this may seem obvious. To me, it’s a big eye-opener.

Something Braved

Well, as regular readers of my blog will know, this month was quite hard. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and PTSD symptoms. Even though one of my medications, topiramate, which specifically works to combat trauma-related symptoms, was upped earlier this month, I’m not yet noticing the change. On the contrary, in fact, it looks like I’m doing a little worse. That is, I might be noticing a slight positive change over the past few days, but it’s so early on that it’s hard to know for sure and I’m not sure whether the change is positive compared to how I did on my old dosage too. I thankfully will have an extra appointment with my nurse practitioner on Thursday to discuss how things are going.

Something Achieved

Two somethings here, is that okay? First, I have been writing more frequently and more widely than I did before. I am really proud of myself for this, as it is actually one of only a few ways in which I’m still staying active lately. Due to my anxiety, after all, I’m struggling to try new things such as crafting or even to go for a walk. However, I do try out new writing techniques and that’s something at least.

The other achievement is my diet. I started on a healthier eating plan with the help of a dietitian early in the month. Not with the aim of losing weight, although it would be great if I could lose the 1.5kg I need to lose to no longer be obese. My main goal is to experience less inner conflict about eating, as I have a history of eating disorder symptoms. So far, I’m sticking to it pretty well. More importantly, the one day when I couldn’t fully stick to the plan, because we had Chinese takeout, I didn’t resort to eating disorder behaviors. That’s quite an accomplishment!

Joy Comes in the Morning?

Today’s verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app really speaks to me in a kind of interesting way. It reads: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5 NIV) I particularly loved this verse because certain translations use “joy” instead of “rejoicing”.

Obviously, it is easy for me as a Christian to draw the comparison between the short-lived anger mentioned here and our life on Earth, and the rejoicing to our eternal life in Christ. After all, we all know our life on Earth is temporary. No-one, until the time of Jesus’ return, will live forever.

God also doesn’t promise us a hardship-free life. No, not even if we are as faithful as we can be. Ultimately, suffering is part of our life on Earth. God never promised us a rose garden, so to speak. That is, not yet. However, He does promise us that, ultimately, in Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life.

In addition, however, the verse shows us that God is quick to forgive us. In the story accompanying this verse on YouVersion, the pastor compared God’s attitude towards us to her own attitude towards her children: when they misbehave, she may get angry, but nothing can prevent her from loving her children exactly as they are. This is so touching! Similarly, God may show anger towards us in a moment, but His love will always shine through.

Lastly, the last part of the verse may also refer to Jesus’ resurrection. For me, this is hard to grasp, as this psalm was written by David, centuries before Jesus’ time on Earth. However, believing that all of Scripture is God-breathed, it is very possible that David was, at least on some subconscious level, aware of what would be coming.

During the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was intense weeping, but in the morning three days later, Mary shouted with joy when she met Jesus again.

When originally reading this verse on its own, I was like, I can see where this is coming from, but this is an Old Testament passage, so…? Now that I’ve dug a little deeper into its meaning and listened to the YouVersion story, my takeway is not just that life may be hard, but that ultimately everything will be okay. It is also that God’s love is, will always be and has always been, even in the time of David, far greater than His anger.

Linking up with Sunday Scripture Blessings.

Abstinence

I bought yet another collection of journaling prompts, this one faith-based. It is called Journal-a-Day the Titus 2 Way and is about growing in Godly womanhood. Not all prompts apply to me. For instance, the ones that center on life as a wife or mother, for the most part, don’t. I mean, of course I am married, but I don’t live with my husband. However, Paul also instructs Titus to teach the women to stay away from addictive substances or practices. As such, one of the prompts in the book is a one-word prompt: sober.

I don’t drink alcohol. In this sense, the prompt does not apply to me either. However, sobriety can refer to other addictions too. In Overeaters Anonymous, it is called abstinence.

I have never liked abstinence-based eating disorder recovery programs like OA. I like to blame the fact that I struggle not just with overeating, but with purging and occasional restricting too. The real reason is though that I don’t want to give up foods I’m addicted to altogether. And, taking Paul’s letter to Titus literally, I don’t have to. After all, the Bible verse states: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” (Titus 2:3 NIV)

For this reason, I wonder, is it really God’s plan, as OA seems to think, that we abstain from addictive foods altogether? Doesn’t Paul write “much wine” for a reason?

I have a problem with the idea that, if you just admit that you’re powerless over your substance, you will – no, should – become sober through submitting to God. Not with the submitting to God part, but with the requirement of complete sobriety, which is human-made. Jesus as far as I’m concerned didn’t abstain completely from alcohol and if refined sugar had existed in His time, He’d probably consumed it too. Shouldn’t the goal be self-control instead?

I pray that God provides me with direction as I navigate my journey towards recovery from disordered eating. I pray that He will help me submit to His will, whatever this may be. Yes, even if this is complete abstinence from sugar, snacks inbetween meals and all other things OA says we need to abstain from. Amen!

I’m linking up with Let’s Have Coffee.

Gratitude List (January 8, 2022) #TToT

Hi everyone. It’s Saturday again and I’m trying to get into the habit of writing a gratitude list then. At least today I’m doing one. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful or #TToT. Here are some things I’m thankful for.

1. A productive appointment with my nurse practitioner on Monday. We are going to discuss my crisis signaling plan together. This is used by the staff to help guide them on how to support me depending on how I’m doing. My assigned staff should have E-mailed it to him by now.

2. Sunshine! I am so grateful that the sun’s shining at least some of the time. It’s near freezing cold, but at least from indoors I can look out the window and see the sunlight.

3. Reading. I am so grateful I feel motivated to read again. I’ve picked up several books again. I’m currently reading the latest Maggie Hartley foster care memoir, but have several other books I want to get into soon.

4. The Word of God. I am so grateful I am still going strong with my Bible reading. I am also grateful I discovered an interesting Biblical podcast yesterday. It’s called Spoken Gospel. Yesterday, I listened to the episode on Jonah 1.

5. Weekend treats. Like I mentioned yesterday, I started on a food plan/healthy diet this week. I am grateful I am allowed to have a cinnamon star cookie in my diet today.

6. Getting my money back from the broken Fitbit charging cable I’d returned. I am so grateful about that, since I was fully expecting Bol.com (which is a site similar to Amazon here) objecting. After all, when trying the thing, my staff had removed some plastic thingy that kept the cable rolled together. Thankfully, I got my money back without any fuss.

7. Phone conversations with my husband. I am grateful to have him. I am also grateful he’s coming for a visit tomorrow, since I haven’t seen him since Christmas.

8. My staff, the one who had COVID, being recovered and back on the job.

9. My still getting up at 8AM consistently to do my Morning Pages. I am grateful I still find something to write about each morning even if it isn’t something related to my creative endeavors.

10. My computer. A few days ago, I thought for some reason that it’d broken down, but it’s still working. I also managed to clean its keyboard (it was very necessary) and, since I don’t have the type of alcohol or whatever you need for that, I wasn’t sure I’d do it properly without causing it damage. I am so grateful everything still works as it should!

This week, it was harder to come up with ten things of thankful than last week. I think I might do a daily gratitude list in the diary app Day One, now that I’ve revived it for my Morning Pages anyway, so that I have something to refer back to when I’m doing this list.

What are you grateful for?

Grateful for a Life of Abundance

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

The above Bible verse was the verse of the day for today on YouVersion. It immediately spoke to me. Today also, the prompt word for #JusJoJan is “Abundance”.

a thing I realized when I read up on abundance, was how fortunate I am. I don’t have to worry about not having something to eat tomorrow. I don’t have to worry about not having clothes on my back. I have a roof over my head – two, in fact, in a way, in that I have both my room in the care facility and my and my husband’s house. Though I do worry slightly about my financial security now that it’s time for my new long-term care copay to be determined, I really don’t have to worry. I have enough money to afford my necessities and most non-necessities I want too. Even if (most likely) I do get a higher copay, I still don’t have to worry about going into debt. All this means I am far more well off than the vast majority of people.

I also live a life of abundance because I am in reasonably good health both physically and mentally. Though I endured trauma in both childhood and my adult life, I am currently safe – even though PTSD sometimes tells me otherwise. I know there are a lot of people who feel happier or more stable mentally than me, but I have been in psychiatric hospitals long enough to know there are also many people who are a lot sicker than me.

I know that comparisons don’t always work. Telling yourself others have it worse isn’t a magical cure for misery or depression. However, gratitude definitely helps cultivate happiness.

I have an abundance of reasons to be grateful. Last Saturday, I listed ten gratefuls for the past 24 hours alone. Today, I could list a number of things too. I am grateful for my favorite Christmas cookies, called cinnamon stars. I finished the first packet out of four I got for Christmas. I am grateful for Senseo coffee. I am grateful the web store accepted my returned Fitbit charger (it wasn’t working). I am grateful elementary and secondary schools are reopening next week. Although I don’t have kids, this does feel like a small glimmer of hope for a way out of lockdown.

I trust that I will be able to live a life of abundance in spite of the hardships I may endure. I cannot do it alone, but through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I will get there. He does not always give me what I want. I mean, I may actually have to pay a much higher long-term care copay than I expect now (I won’t find out until the 12th or so). Then again, He will take care of me as long as I put my trust in Him. Isn’t that awesome?

Linking up with InstaEncouragements.

Gratitude List (January 1, 2022) #TToT

And here I am with another post. I am determined to start the year off on a positive note even though I’m in a pretty foul mood right now. For this reason, I’m doing a gratitude post. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful. Here goes.

1. I am grateful for Psalms 100. This is a psalm of gratitude which was the focus of study in the first day of the YouVersion New Year’s Bible reading plan I started today. It inspired me to do a gratitude list today.

2. I am grateful I could see the fireworks last night. I only saw brief flashes of light, no colors. Officially, real fireworks were banned this year due to COVID-related restrictions, but no-one apparently cared.

3. I am grateful I slept relatively well last night despite the fireworks. I went to bed at 10PM yesterday evening, woke up at midnight and went back to sleep at around 1AM. I got up at 8AM to start the writing ritual I mentioned earlier this afternoon.

4. I am grateful the festivities are over with for a while now. I don’t like the lack of structure. I am also grateful that, this year, it wasn’t too bad, as both Christmas and New Year’s are on weekends.

5. I am grateful we had French fries for dinner yesterday as a New Year’s Eve treat.

6. I am grateful I don’t have any symptoms suggestive of COVID as of yet, after one of my staff tested positive earlier in the week. I decided not to get a lateral flow test yesterday after all.

7. I am grateful the dietitian said I already eat pretty healthily. At least that’s what my assigned staff told me when she’d E-mailed her my current list of things I eat. There are some things I’m not likely willing to change, like my crunchy muesli for breakfast, but some things I definitely am open to suggestions and alternatives about.

8. I am grateful I was able to take a few walks again today. They were short walks, but at least I was able to get outside.

9. I am grateful for all the great blogs I’ve been reading today. I do feel a little disappointed that my posts are getting fewer comments lately than they used to get, but this may be a phase. I do still find joy in writing my blog posts.

10. I am grateful for a ton of blogging-related inspiration. Seriously, how will I find the time to type up all the posts for which I have ideas floating around in my head? I’m so glad though that my creativity is flowing. It isn’t coming out in my polymer clay as much, but it is showing up in the form of writing.

These are seriously all gratefuls from the last 24 hours, with the exception of the French fries, as it’s now 6:30PM and we eat dinner at 5PM. I feel a lot better having jotted down these things I’m thankful for.

What are you grateful for?

I Am Not a Calculation Mistake

Like I mentioned last week, I have been doing a Bible study plan on YouVersion called Hope Heals in the Midst of Suffering. I finished it yesterday and it was awesome. It was written by Katherine, a woman who survived a severe stroke shortly after becoming a mother, as well as her husband.

The plan follows Joseph’s story, the part of Genesis I had gotten stuck on in my Bible in a Year plan. I was glad to read it now.

At one point, Katherine shares that, about a year after her stroke, she is still unable to perform many basic functions. She is still in adult diapers, unable to eat, unable to even lift up her head. Her family is having Thanksgiving dinner with her son, then a toddler. As the family are playing with her son, she wonders if there was a mistake. Should she have died from her stroke?

It was at this point that a lightbulb went off in my head. I, too, have often wondered whether my life is a mistake. A calculation mistake, to be exact.

You see, I was born over three months premature. Officially, I was born at 26 weeks 4 days gestation. However, it is quite probable given the circumstances of my conception that my mother really wasn’t yet 26 weeks along. At the time, 26 weeks gestation was the cutoff for active, life-saving treatment in the NICU.

My parents weren’t even sure I should be treated actively. At one point, when I’d suffered a brain bleed, my father asked the neonatologist what he was doing with regards to my treatment. “We’re just keeping her alive,” he said. He (or his nurse) added that my father shouldn’t interfere in my treatment or he’d lose custody of me.

In 2004, when I was eighteen, this same doctor was quoted in a newspaper as saying that he sometimes meets preemies he’s kept alive back in his early days as a doctor, about whom he wonders: “What have we done?!” I at the time tried to reassure myself that he wouldn’t have meant me. Or would he? I, after all, am multiply-disabled and in long-term care.

The devotional in the Bible plan I was reading continued. Katherine at this point heard God clearly speak: “I am God. I do not make mistakes.”

This was what I needed to hear! I have tried to find my neonatologist on Google several times since that newspaper article. However, I don’t need his opinion. I have talked to my father about his views on my quality of life several times, but it hasn’t helped. I don’t need my father’s opinion either. God chose for me to be kept alive and that’s what matters.

Grace and Truth

Also joining Friendship Friday this week.

No Shame in Hope

I have been wanting to share more faith-based posts for a while, but didn’t quite know where to start. Today, I read the second weekly meditation in Hearing God Speak, an enneagram-based book of devotionals by Eve Annunziato. It is a meditation on suffering and the everlasting presence of God through it all.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

I have known this passage for several years, even before I became a Christian. I have probably written about it before. After all, the fact that suffering produces perseverance, really resonates with me. As Annunziato points out, enneagram type fours like me feel most alive when we dwell on our feelings of pain and suffering.

As such, Annunziato challenges us to move towards praising God and seeing His presence in a new way. As such, the line about character and hope is more important to us Fours than the line about suffering producing perseverance.

I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Romans 5:5 and that verse in particular speaks to me now. I, after all, often fear joy and, by extension, hope. I am not yet sure what it is about joy I fear, but it might be a feeling of being less alive if I’m not suffering.

God’s love, however, has been poured out into my heart through the Holy Spirit. This is something to rejoice over, not to be ashamed of.

Indeed, it is interesting that Paul uses the word “shame” in this verse. I had no idea it is this emotion I often feel when I’m hopeful or optimistic, but it is.

I mean, even when I’m doing pretty well, I still say I’m doing “okay”. I remember a fellow patient in the mental hospital did the same and he did this so the staff wouldn’t think he was well enough to be discharged. I didn’t consciously do this, but on a subconscious level, I probably did. And still do, despite the fact that there’s no reason I’ll ever be kicked out of long-term care.

Honestly, there is nothing wrong with feeling hopeful, joyful and optimistic. In fact, it is what God is wanting for us in His honor. For this reason, Annunziato encourages us to praise Him even in the midst of our suffering! Because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope is nothing to be ashamed of, because through the Holy Spirit, God’s love has been poured out over us.

Linking up with Scripture Blessing, Let’s Have Coffee and Recharge Wednesday.