Friday, April 26, 2013

Time for A Little R and R: Rest and Review

Ok, so even though I'm not usually one to shake things up, I'm going to give it a shot during this much awaited blog hop for week three of my Stressed-Less Living online Bible study.  This week, instead of only going through the blog hop topics I'm going to go through the review questions at the end of Chapter 3 as well.  Here we go...
(By the way...have I mentioned how incredible awesome and fulfilling these online Bible studies are?  They have absolutely changed my life and made my relationship with God bloom and grow!  Thank you, God for opening up this door and leading me down your awesome path for my life!)

Stressed-Less Review and Blog Hop Combo:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. ~ Isaiah 30:15b (NIV)
I love this verse.  Sitting outside in the sunlight on a breezy day

My life does tend to get pretty stressful, especially when I lose control of my overall perception of the way things are going.  One of my biggest flaws is constantly putting myself under a mental ticking time-clock and making to-do list after to-do list.  Actually, the time-clock and the lists aren't the true problem.  The problem lies in my negative thoughts that scream "you failed again!" when I don't meet my own personal deadlines.  Like many others, I am my own worst critic. 
There are a few things I like to do that bring me peace.  Spending personal time with God and with His word through Bible study or devotional reading is a big stress buster for me because I'm usually don't allow myself to think about any other outside distractions, and God is a big helper with this because He knows how I easily I get distracted.  I also like to listen to music and sing my heart out like there is no tomorrow.  I'm a registered nurse by trade, so at the end of a long and sometimes frustrating work day, singing out loud with my favorite Christian bands really takes that layer of stress off so that when I get home, frustration and negativity are generally left down the road.  I have a new found stress-reliever in my life that I've picked up within the last few months.  It is probably difficult to believe, especially if you've ever seen any of the related television shows, but I love couponing.  It is so relaxing to me to organize my truckloads of coupons, make my lists, and then go to the chosen stores by myself to get my bargains.  I just walk up and down the isles, taking my time, and finding my deals.  Since I've gotten my family pretty well stocked with 6 or so months of supplies, I recently have started couponing for toiletry and cleaning items to be donated to our church for our monthly give-away to the communities in our very rural county.  At the end of the month, I gather up all my expired coupons and ship them to "Troop-ons", a program that distributes expired coupons to American troops and their families to be used for 6 more months.  I love it!  It is such a stress relief to do something I love to help people I don't even really know.  Chillin' out with my girlfriends, my husband, or with my Caroline (daughter) minus any sort of agenda are also fantastic stress-busters, not to mention awesome blessings. 
The above mentioned stress-relief practices are just a few that I do, and will continue to do until they don't seem to work anymore.  Hopefully, that won't happen!  However, as we all know, with the good often comes the bad.  I do have a few bad, unhealthy ways that I relieve my stress.  As a mom, a nurse, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and an "Aunt G", I am surrounded by people all day long.  My life's work, personally and professionally, revolves around helping others, which is not just a tremendous blessing, but also what I feel is the reason God created me.  I get joy out of helping others.  But it is also necessary to spend time by myself daily in order to maintain my sanity.  In order to do this, like many women I'm sure, I have to be the first one up and the last one down meaning I have to wake up early and go to bed late.  This is not my most healthy decision because I only get about 5 or 6 hours of sleep when I know my body has always required more.  When it gets really bad, my lack of rest often leads to bad moods, bad words, and making poor diet and exercise choices.  Not good, I know.  All of those combined make very poor choices that accumulate the stress instead of busting it. 
I've been working with my healthy lifestyles coach and friend at work, and I set a goal for myself.  The goal is that even though my head may not be hitting the pillow at 10pm, the to-do part of today needs to be bookmarked until tomorrow.  At this time, I turn things off, grab my book, and head to bed.  I haven't been doing well with that this week, but today is a brand new day, and I'm asking God to help me keep working on this goal so that I can take care of myself and continue taking care of others.  Achieving this goal only becomes possible when I ask my husband for help, whether it be by doing the dishes, making the coffee, putting clothes away, or packing the baby-sitter bag for the next day, he does whatever I ask him to do.  I just have to remember to ask!  He also makes my lunch occasionally, and tucks in little love note surprises.  Love him!

Hope From Upstream  If you don't already have some stress heaped onto you, this is a way to get it.  Parenting is the greatest blessing I've ever known, but it is also something I greatly underestimated.  My daughter is only 3 years old, and since she hasn't learned the famous phrase, "But my friends all get to do it!  Why can't I?" we haven't had too much of an issue.  Together, my husband and I started instilling a strong Christian influence in her from the start.  Literally.  I always read to her when I was pregnant, and many times, children's Bible stories were what I read.  We pray together as a family, and have taught her that God takes care of us and makes us all better.  She is now getting to the age where she is starting to understand it when she sees a sick loved one become well.  We've also taught her that attending church regularly is a priority, but that hasn't been difficult.  She loves her church family.  Some of her best friends are eighty year old men.  As my husband and I learned as a young couple in church, and are teaching Caroline, is that there is much to be learned from the older population in your church. 
The few challenges we've run into as parents of toddler are teaching her that while church can be a place for laughter and fun, there is also a time when reverence should be practiced, as in services, lessons, and prayers.  We rarely take her to the nursery because we want her to learn the type of behavior that is expected during a Sunday service, and we figured she can only learn that when she actually sits through the services.  Does she sit attentively and take notes on the sermons?  Of course not.  But she does quiet activities, such as coloring or reading, and knows she isn't supposed to be noisy.  Our family and friends support us, but sometimes it can be difficult when Caroline sees her friends conversing and playing loudly with one another, as they are allowed.  I've watched her stare at them, wanting to play as well.  But quickly turns her attention back to her book or coloring page because she knows what she is allowed to do and what she is not.  Now she is not perfect, and neither are we.  She does occasionally misbehave and we occasionally get frazzled and frustrated because of it.  Expecting a three year old to be quiet and well behaved through an entire church service can be unrealistic.  But we are consistent in what we teach her, and sometimes, I feel like other parents look at us like we are rigid and snotty.  It doesn't make us smile, but it doesn't change our minds either.  The same goes with the type of entertainment we allow her to be influenced by.  She isn't allowed to watch movies or tv shows that are scary, violent, etc.  Over a year ago, we decided what we allow her to listen to is just as important.  She listens to Christian and children's music, and she loves it!  One of her favorite songs is "Amazing Grace."  She sings it around the house all the time.  There will reach a point, not too far from now, when we can't control the positive and negative influences she is exposed to, but she will.  Hopefully, because of the foundation God has helped us to instill in her, she will make the right ones.  Sitting back and watching it will undoubtedly lead to yet another stressful milestone in the lives of her loving, yet anxious parents!  May God be with us!

Stay Tuned...
I've decided to create a blessings blog since God has taken this year to teach me what His true blessings really are.  The site is under construction, but will be up and running soon and I hope you enjoy it and will share some of your own blessings!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Peace from Stress

"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress."
                                                 Psalm 107:19

This has been our inspirational verse this second week of the Stressed-Less Living online Bible study, and is means so many things to me.  I really felt its meaning during the first exercise we were encouraged to do, in which we put our own names in the actual verse itself. Below, I actually did this with verses 19-21 using the Good News Translation. 

"Then, in her trouble, Jenny called to the Lord, and He saved her from her distress.  He healed Jenny with His command and saved her from the grave.  Jenny must thank the Lord for His constant love, for the wonderful things He did for her."  Psalm 107: 19-21 GNT

After doing this exercise, and reading it over and over for several minutes, my heart melted.  I was so inspired and touched spiritually by these verses.  The first two sentences are comforting and provide so much security knowing that I have a God who will rescue me from anything--even from myself.  The verse serves as a reminder that God is always with me and will never leave me.  He's not even a phone call away.  He's right beside me all the time.  Because of this, I need to thank Him for the protection and comfort He provides--thank Him not only with my words in prayer, but in my daily walk with Him.  Also, I have to set aside my negative feelings of stress and anxiety so I don't miss out or take for granted the awesome blessings He has for me--open my hands and say, "Thank  you."

On our knees
When I let stress crown my mind and my heart, there's not as much room left for God.  Succumbing to stressful situations definitely puts my mind, my body, and my heart at risk.  The biggest heartbreak in these situations is that I've completely abandoned the truth that God is with me wherever I go.  God will never leave or forsake me.  When I cry to Him, God will save me.  Forgetting this really puts a damper on my relationship with the Lord because my confidence in His abilities as Lord of my life is not what it should be.  In other words, I suffer a faith failure.  Through this study, I want to learn to retrain my brain and my heart to not be phased negatively by the stress I face because of the faith I have in God to keep His promises, and to know that He always has His arms opens ready to surround me in His love and protection.  Once I remember to automatically stay in this place during times of stress instead of letting my faith waver, I won't be shaken.

Mirror Mirror
Dear Lord,
My reactions to stress are so harmful, yet so automatic that I don't even realize how much trouble I am in until I'm knee deep in anger, sadness, and anxiety.  Lord, I know that you are my Savior.  I know that you, and only you, can save me from myself and my reactions to any situation I am faced with.  I pray Lord that you give me the strength to not just come to you for peace in times of stress, but to carry that peace with me constantly--the peace that can only be given by you.  Please help me to unclench my fists so that I may receive your beautiful gift of peace that you have waiting for me, and help me to not be so blinded by stress that I miss all of the wonderful blessings you give me everyday.  Lord, thank you always for your love, your strength, and most of all, your patience with me.  Amen.
The Lord blesses me in so many ways, most of which I take for granted.  Everyday things like the health of myself and my family, smiling and laughing with my family, the joy of helping someone in need, the embrace of a child--especially my own.  He gives me so many blessings everyday, yet I still doubt His goodness and His ability to just take care of everything. 
This week, a work committment was scheduled for the following month on what I thought was the same day as my daughters last appointment with her pulmonologist before the doctor leaves her practice.  Instantly, I went into panic mode.  I thought to myself this work committment is something I and many others have been working so hard for, and what example will I be setting if I don't see it through.  At the same time, I am beating myself up for even considering the notion of not being at my daughter's appointmentWhen it comes to something important, and this was, I never but work ahead of my family.  Period.  My bosses know this too.  True, my husband would be there and he is more than able to handle it, especially since the situation isn't quite as scary and serious as it was over a year ago when we started taking her to the pulmonologist.  But what if he doesn't ask the right questions?  What if he doesn't remember all of the things the pulmonologist tells him?  What if the professional goal that I and many others have worked so hard to achieve is squashed simply because of my lack of presence, causing many children to be deprived of a much needed health care service?  What do I do? 
By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted, my appetite was gone, and I couldn't even think about things I needed to do with my family and my home.  I was in my bathroom drying my hair when these words burst through my crazy, stressful thoughts:  I will take care of it.  Done.  As soon as I left my bathroom, I checked the calendar and realized I had been give the wrong day of the week for my work committment, which would actually be taking place on a Tuesday.  My daughter's appointment was on the following Thursday.  Once again, God saved me from myself as He always does.  I said outloud, "Well He told me not to worry about it."  My husband looked at me and said, "Who are you talking about?"  I shook my head at myself and my temporary lack of faith, and responded, "God."  My husband have me one of those looks he gives me when he's trying really hard to get through my confusion so he can be supportive...he had no idea what I was talking about...but he just said, "Oh, ok."  The way the situation should've gone was when I was presented with the potential conflict, I should've hit my knees and prayed for the Lord to fix it and steady my heart to be at peace with the results.  No doubting.  No worrying.  No stressing.  Just praying and waiting for God to do His best.  Hopefully, this will serve as yet another learning experience that will lead me down God's path, not my own. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stressed-less Living Blog Hop #1

Well, let me just say that this first week of Bible study has been fantastic, and it isn't even over yet.  I really enjoy having the entire week to go through the first chapter because it is intense.  I've been reading the chapter on my Kindle, highlighting the parts that really jump out at me, then writing those parts in my journal.  Yesterday morning, before we went to work, my husband and I sat on the couch and I shared with him about six phrases from the book.  Though I love a good book written specifically for women, this book is a wonderful resource for men and women both.  Love it!
Ok...onto the blog-hop topics for this week:

The Great I Am

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT

This was our inspirational verse for the first week, and what a verse.  As part of this assignment, we were challenged to meditate on the above versed, and it was suggested we try something called "verse mapping."  I had never heard of this, but I researched it and gave it a try.  It is a pretty intense way of really internalizing the scripture by disecting it word for word.  Since this verse was many words, I did sentence for sentence. 
The first sentence really pulled at my heart strings as a mother.  My daughter is three and already I've said to her countless times, "don't be afraid.  Mommy's here."  It may take a few seconds, but these words along with singing "Jesus Loves Me" softly in her ear always calms her down and seems to bring her peace.  The first sentence in this ever powerful verse brings the same peace and comfort to me.  I close my eyes and can see my Father holding me in His arms and whispering these words to me.  Really, this entire verse makes me feel the security and love that I offer to my own child when she is afraid.  When she is frustrated or discouraged, I usually say "don't get frustrated.  Problem solve.  You can do this."  These words are not near as strong as God's when he encourages me to not be discouraged and assures me that He is my God. 
"I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with My victorious right hand."  These words are strong, and I feel like God is saying "step aside.  I've got this.  Not you.  Me.  I'll take it from here."  These words are so confident, and honestly, make me feel so silly for trying to deal with everyday stress and worry on my own, as if I have a chance next to the best that God has waiting for me if I will just step aside.

My goal for this study is to grow in my relationship with God and to truly get away from my prideful thoughts that I can fix everything and I can do everything.  My goal is to unclench my fists, let go of worry, anger, frustration, and all the negative things that way heavy on my heart.  My goal is to open my hand and let God's blessing of peace come into my life to stay.  God lead my to participate in the last online Bible study, which brought such joy to my life.  I feel He has done the same this time, and I feel I am even more open to the experiences I will gain from participating.  God has opened all the doors to get me here, and I am certainly blessed for having walked through them.

Real Problem
This book is so in-your-face, which I love and genuinely need.  Every section in this first chapter had certain passages that really spoke to my heart and my mind.  The last two sections, however, had some passages that really resonated with me and were filled with these huge "ah-ha" moments that have been complete blessings. 
The Search for Serenity was probably the section I appreciated most.  I love the Serenity Prayer.  Anytime I read it or hear it read I feel like I'm no a beach and my problems are going out with the tides.  I loved the different renditions of the prayer as well.  All three of them will most likely be posted around my desk at work.  Actually, those prayers in addition to the following passages will most likely be posted around my desk so that at every angle, I will have a reminder of how to keep things in perspective. 
"If we have no power to change a circumstance or person, then every effort to force a change to occur will be futile." 
Hello.  I mean how true is that?  My 87 year-old grandmother suffers with several ailments, and continues eat things she shouldn't and do things she shouldn't.  She's an adult.  She's not an idiot, in fact, she spent many years practicing as a nurse.  I used to get really angry with her when I would see her eating things that were in direct contrast to what the doctor ordered, but then I realized something.  She's an adult.  She is in her later years, and has been living the same way for just about all of them.  Therefore, how exactly do I think I can make her suddenly change at this point in her life?  It is simple.  I can't.  Once I realized this, I came to peace with it and decided that how she decides to live her life is up to her.  But how I decide to react to it and how I choose to spend my time with her is up to me.  Though other areas of my life are in desperate need of some fine tuning, life with Mawmaw is much easier these days.

And Oh, the Blessings.  
...and how they just keep coming.  Though I haven't completed it yet due to wanting my primary focus to be on the Bible study, I have been reading a book that is specifically about being grateful for the blessings God gives me, and to realize a blessing when I receive one.  
A blessing I received just yesterday was while driving myself and my daughter to her babysitter.  I played some songs from my favority Christian artists, and apparently, they are my daughter's favorites too because that sweet little angel was singing like no one was around...just jammin' away in the comfort of her carseat.  A few times I joined her, but most of the time I Just listened to her thinking, "My God.  You do love me to give me such a blessing as this."  
I was blessed yesterday morning as I sat on the couch with my journal, my coffee, and my husband, who sat down just so I could share some of the wonderful passages from Stressed-less living.  And another blessing I received today when I asked my husband if he would please participate in the upcoming MS walk I'm doing with a few of my girlfriends.  My heart melted and I immediately felt the blessing as he said, "well, I mean, what else did you think I would be doing?"  The blessing of a husband who understands that because it matters to me it matters to doesn't matter what it is.  It's moments like those that I am reminded without a doubt that God brought us together.  We had nothing to do with it.
I've had the blessing of being able to go on a handful of walks with my wonderful family this week in our beautiful little country town with no fears of walking down the street...just the enjoyment of being together and basking in God's sun-filled world. 
There was a day this week when my husband, along with his fellow volunteer firefighters, was out literally all day long either putting out brush fires or helping victims of traumatic car wrecks.  As I listened to the scanner, which I never do, I heard it announced that the fire my husband was fighting was on property that housed multiple gas wells.  The blessing, many of them actually, was that my husband made it home safely and could tell me about it. 
So many blessings I receive everyday, but only a handful that I probably realize.  This is also something I want to gain from this study.  I want to replace the stress of worrying with the gratitude and cognisance of my daily blessings from God.  Praise the Lord.  Have a great week everyone! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ready, Steady, Study!

Blogging My Way To A Stressed-Less Life!

Here we go again!  Another online Bible study starts today, and I am stoked because I feel like this study couldn't be coming at a better time.  I love my life.  I love my family.  I love my job.  I love my Lord.  But none of this changes the fact that I am stressed.  Ulcer stressed?  I don't think so.  At least not yet.  But I don't want to get there either!  As mothers, wives, and just as a woman in general, we are expected to have it all together.  We are expected to juggle at least fifty different balls in the air at one time, and do it with grace.  We are expected to raise perfect children, maintain a marriage free from conflict and unhappiness, and all while keeping our house spotless and shining!  Now these expectations, that may be placed on us by society or just myself, don't constantly hang over my head.  My gracious, I would go nuts.  But I won't deny they occasionally get under my skin, probably more than they should.  This usually 
happens when I have created a to-do list that has no end or when I've said "yes.  sure.  I'd be happy to do that." one too many times.  No one's fault but my own.  Nonetheless, it leads a stress snowball the size of Texas that rests in my mind, my heart, and my gut...and it's got to go.  I'm excited to dive right into this book and learn some tools and scriptures to help me gain God's peace in a stressful life.  My first step is writing this week's scripture on 3 notecards and posting them in places I frequent throughout the day.  Ironically enough, that will be both of my bathrooms and my coffee pot.      So here's to day one of stressed-less living and a growing relationship with God.