Hope and Faith

Today, Sadje’s Sunday Poser is about your rock in the storm. Who or what keeps you going when the times are tough?

For now, I could – should, maybe – easily say it’s my faith. I became a Christian last year and feel very much comforted knowing that, in the end, it’ll be okay. Not in this life, mind you. Jesus never promised us that there would not be any obstacles in this earthly life for us. Quite the opposite, in fact. We will still physically die and the Bible doesn’t promise Christians any easier end to their earthly life than non-believers. But in the end, in the Kingdom of God, it will be okay.

However, like I said, I didn’t become a believer until last year. I did kind of believe in “something” for many years, but that didn’t quite amount to much. So what kept me going until I started following Christ?

I guess the answer is as simple as the one above, and somewhat related too: hope. I always kept hope alive that, in the end, things would be okay. Even in the darkest depths of my suicidal crisis in 2007, there must’ve been a reason I in fact called my support worker to say goodbye rather than just killing myself without informing anyone. I felt, deep down, that there was still a way out of my darkness, even if I didn’t know what it was right at that moment.

At the time, my rescuers were the crisis service people in my parents’ city, who proposed I get admitted to the mental hospital.

That being said, I’ve never really felt that specific people are my rock in the storm. I mean, of course I appreciate my husband supporting me through everything. However, as unlikely as it is, I always have at the back of my mind the possibility that I’ll lose him at some point. That’s a residual effect of my having had very little stability in my life.

However, hope has always kept me going. It is interesting in this respect that most people who superficially know me, see me as a pessimist. I might look at things from a negative angle most of the time, but when it ultimately comes to it, I always have hope.

Grateful For the Right Care

Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday (#FMF) is “Care”. Most writers, I’m assuming, are writing about how God takes care of them, how they should not be distracted by the cares of this world, how important it is to care for others and other spiritual meanings of the word “care”. I do find these important too, of course, but was particularly impressed with the timing of this prompt. After all, yesterday marked my two years being in the long-term care facility.

I cannot keep from thinking that God put the people and circumstances in my life that led to me being here now. He did, as He has a plan for all of us. However, since I didn’t become a Christian till late last year, before then it was easy to consider these circumstances, these people, all working together to get me the right care, just chance.

I want to use this space to give thanks for the blessing that is my being in long-term care, with my current support team and my current care plan. I also want to give thanks to all the people God put into my life who worked and in many cases continue to work so tirelessly to keep it this way. My support coordinator and support workers from when I lived with my husband. My psychiatric nurse practitioner at the time. The Center for Consultation and Expertise coordinator and the consultant she hired to help get me the right care. My staff at my old day center. My staff, the manager and behavior specialist here at the long-term care facility. The people in authority who decided whether to grant me long-term care funding at all and eventually decided to grant me the one-on-one I get now. Last but not least, my husband, who sticks by me through it all.

Looking back at all the time I’ve been busy fighting for the care I get now, I realize some of the events are nothing short of miraculous. I am so intensely grateful for this!

Gratitude List (September 17, 2021) #TToT

Hi everyone! I’m struggling with grief a bit today. I thought at first that I wanted to write about it, but I’ve made up my mind. Rather, I want to distract myself and, for this reason, am doing a gratitude list. As usual, I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. I am grateful for my husband. We’ll celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary this weekend and I’m so glad he’s put up with me through all these years.

2. I am grateful to be pain-free right now. I woke up in some pain a few mornings this week, but right now, it’s evening and I’m not in pain.

3. I am grateful I am doing relatively well sticking to a healthier lifestyle. I started two weeks ago and, in my first week, lost 800 grams. I’m going to weigh myself tomorrow morning again.

4. I am grateful for relatively good weather still. It’s still pretty warm, with temps rising to about 20°C each day. We’ve had some rain, but not too bad.

5. I am grateful for quick replies from the developer of Diarium, the app I reviewed on Tuesday. He’ll hopefully be able to figure out why the app isn’t showing up on the App Store for at least some people.

6. I am grateful for Diarium’s built-in “My Day” template. I am also grateful that Diarium is pretty much completely translated into Dutch, including the template, so that I can now easily journal in my native language. That helps me get out of “writing for an audience” mode. I am grateful I am on a four-day streak in Diarium (not that the app keeps track) now.

7. I am grateful for good books to lose myself into.

8. I am grateful for Pringles. My day activities staff, the one who had her 25th anniversary of working for this agency in August, celebrated the occasion officially yesterday. She gave us all chips, in my case Pringles, because I like those the best.

9. I am grateful to have been relatively creative despite feeling a bit meh over the past week.

10. I am grateful to be a child of God. I have been increasingly inspired to not just proclaim Jesus as my savior, but to allow Him to be Lord over my life.

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.

Mid-Year Reflections

Hi all. How can it be the middle of July already? It’s amazing how time flies. This week, one of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop writing prompts is to look back at your new year’s resolutions for 2021. As I do each year, this year I called them hopes rather than resolutions as a way of lessening the pressure. As I look back though, I seem to be doing pretty well.

My first hope was to eat a somewhat healthier diet. Indeed, I am making sure to eat enough fruit and veg each day, unlike apparently during the last few months of 2020. I however still struggle to make healthier breakfast and lunch choices.

In the exercise department, I’ve not been as inventive as I’d hoped. I blame COVID, as, even though gyms reopened to the public a while back, I haven’t felt comfortable to go.

With respect to getting stable mentally, this is a work in progress. I’ve only actually noticed some seemingly significant improvement over the past month or so, after first falling deep into crisis in mid-June. I cannot say for sure the one-on-one support is helping me get mentally stable, but I do know for sure that I certainly don’t want to go back to the situation before the extra care hours were approved.

Faith-wise, I am still on my journey with God. I pray everyday, read the Bible everyday and am learning to put Jesus first. I am however still struggling. I really want to get baptized, but have no idea where to start, as I don’t currently even go to a physical church. More importantly though, I am still regularly tempted to think that, since God is in charge, I shouldn’t even bother with wanting to be saved.

On the leisurely side of things, I’m doing pretty amazing if I can say so myself. I have kept up a pretty good blogging routine and actually love jewelry-making and bath and body product making again. I am glad I didn’t resolve to be able to do these activities independently, as that’d be an unrealistic goal.

The only area I’m not that satisfied with myself about, is my reading. I did a separate post on bookish resolutions for 2021. I guess I should have called those hopes too, as to be honest, I haven’t really met a single of my goals as of yet.

How did you do on your new year’s resolutions so far?

Mama’s Losin’ It

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.

Disagree

Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday (#FMF) is “disagree”. Initially, I was going to write a post about how (lack of) open disagreement with others was used against me. When my then psychologist diagnosed me with dependent personality disorder in 2016, she thought that my lack of open disagreement with many of her controversial opinions, proved I had this condition. It honestly to me proved that she was in authority even though she had no clue what she was doing.

I eventually deleted that draft and started over, but I still want to write along those lines.

In Christianity, we are often taught to not just respect, but obey authority. Children are expected to obey their parents in everything. Wives are expected to submit to their husbands.

As a survivor of childhood trauma as well as many abuses of power, I struggle with these commands.

That being said, the command to be obedient as a child and submissive as a wife, does come with its respective obligations on the part of the parents and husband. In Colossians 3:21, Paul writes for example: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” In other words, the Bible is not a reason for harsh treatment and abuses of power. Besides, of course the Bible does not say anything about people in modern-day, informal authority positions, such as the aforementioned psychologist.

Now, five years on, I am very happy that I eventually did stick up for myself and sought an independent second opinion on that diagnosis. Then I applied for long-term care. Now that I have the right people (loving, respectful people) around me, I no longer need to fear authority. I can respectfully disagree with people, whether Biblically I’m supposed to submit to them or not. I am still working on feeling confident in my role as a grown-up woman. God and His Word help me on this journey.

Okay, this post took me much longer than five minutes to write, as I had to look up what the Bible actually said and also because I got distracted several times. I hope that’s okay.

Accomplishments for the Day (June 6, 2021)

Hi everyone! I was feeling a little low this morning after a restless sleep. This afternoon, I felt even lower after I misinterpreted a comment from my husband about my (lack of) Bible knowledge as criticism. It thankfully wasn’t meant that way. Right now though, I am feeling quite accomplished. Let me share what things I achieved today.

1. Got showered and brushed my teeth and hair. Personal hygiene is a struggle of late, so I am very proud that I got these things accomplished.

2. Got weighed in. I had gained a little over a pound over the past few weeks, but I’m okay with that. After all, my diet hasn’t been too healthy lately. It could also still be the fact that I literally stuffed myself full of fries yesterday.

3. Made relatively healthy food choices. I mean, I had three meals that weren’t too unhealthy. For lunch, I had a grilled cheese sandwich at a sandwich place, but I don’t think it was very unhealthy. I had mini rolls for breakfast and my care facility’s meal service’s meal for dinner. I did have chips this evening, but I kept to one serving.

4. Broke my daily step record. This is the one thing that helped me move from feeling low to feeling accomplished. My old record was 20.2K steps. Now, I have walked 20.5K steps today. Only 200 more to go and I’ll have reached 100K steps in the past week.

5. Read my Bible. I signed up for the Bible in a Year E-mail service earlier this week. Because I had selected the start-to-finish reading plan, I’m now only at Genesis 21-23. Discussing my progress with my husband got me a bit discouraged. He recommended I, being a Christian, read the New Testament first, then got to recommend that if I read the Old Testament now anyway, I could start with Daniel. So I decided to read Daniel.

To get myself acquainted with the story, I got the Immersion Bible Studies book for Daniel, because I like Immersion. That study though combined Ezekiel with Daniel and I’m not intending on reading Ezekiel anytime soon. So I got a little confused and this further discouraged me.

Then I texted my husband in a bit of frustration. He thankfully replied that he had just meant that Daniel might be a more interesting story than most of the rest of the Old Testament. He wasn’t meaning to question my faith.! That lifted my mood again and encouraged me to study the Bible some more.

What have you accomplished today?

Misunderstood

I am currently reading Forty Days on Being a Four, a book of reflections by Christine Yi Suh, who identifies as an enneagram type Four. In the day one reflection, she discusses the story in Luke 7:36-50 in which an unnamed, sinful woman enters the house in which Jesus is eating with a Pharisee. The woman’s dramatic display of emotion makes Christine Yi Suh think she’s a Four. Indeed, she is greatly misunderstood by the Pharisees, who see just her sinful lifestyle and don’t understand that she is in fact displaying her faith, love and devotion towards Jesus.

The reflection ends with the question in which ways I, being a Four, have been misunderstood. Well, for one thing, I’m often not even seen as a Four. Others would most likely describe me as a Five, because I’m such a thinker.

In fact, one of the main ways in which I feel misunderstood, is that my intellect is overrated and my emotional life underrated. As a child, I was described as self-centered, selfish even. I often got the feeling that I was seen as unfeeling. I am not and never was unemotional at all.

Indeed, I do feel that the depth of my emotional life is often misunderstood. I used to joke that I should give my parents the table of contents of the DSM-IV (we were still in IV era at the time), so that they could pick a random disorder to label me with when I wasn’t being my desirable, intellectual self. I mean, they often labeled me as dramatic, psychotic even. I wasn’t.

People who really know me, know that deep down, I’m definitely sensitive. I may not show it on the outside as much as the unnamed woman in the story does.

Another way in which I am often misunderstood, is in terms of my behavior. Too often, my challenging behavior has been seen as a willful act of defiance. In this sense, I do relate to the woman in the story, who lived a sinful lifestyle up till the point she met Jesus. Like Jesus saw beyond her acts, so He hopefully sees beyond mine. Like this woman was saved by her faith, so hopefully am I.

I also see that other people who know me, look beyond my distant, intellectual façade and also beyond my dramatic emotionality. They don’t see my intellectual and distant appearance as a sign of lack of emotion. They also don’t see my dramatic displays of emotion as mere manipulativeness, like my family used to. They, in fact, see me as a sensitive but also caring woman.

Like the woman in the story, I am sinful. I mean, my challenging behavior was there when I was a child and in some ways still is there. However, I recognize that I am not just my behavior. Like Bobby Schuller says, I am not what I have, I am not what I do, I am not what people say about me. I am the beloved of God.

Finding God in the Middle

Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday (#FMF) is “Middle”. I sat thinking about what I want to write for a bit. The prompt really resonates with me, but I wasn’t too sure why. Then I realized that, in all of my life, I struggle to find the middle.

In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I learned to practise finding the middle. The middle between emotional mind and rational mind, for example, is called Wise Mind. But there are other things that require the skill of dialectics.

For example, I struggle to reconcile my relatively high (sometimes even seen as very high) IQ with my low emotional level of functioning. I know rationally that, when staff leave the room, they aren’t on the North Pole, but emotionally it feels that way.

Then again, there is somehow a middle. I still am both highly intelligent and emotionally vulnerable, after all. If they were mutually exclusive, I wouldn’t be me. And I am me. And that’s okay.

DBT is partly based on Buddhist thinking. However, I do believe that God does call us Christians to find the middle ground too. Like Kate writes in her own contribution, God is there always: He was there in the past, He will be there in the future, but He is definitely also there in the middle, that is, the present.

This is also what DBT calls us to do: be present in the here and now. Mindfulness is one of the core skills of DBT and it doesn’t matter that the idea of it originated with Buddhist thinkers. In fact, when we as Christians pray and especially when we are still, we are present. God calls us to be present, to receive his grace in the Holy Spirit. DBT fans can call that Wise Mind all they want. I call it God’s speaking to me.