Learning new lessons – the daily battle of stress

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It’s been a while, I realize that and without getting deep into the reasons, I’d like to simply continue this blog… Though not with the battle against stressors, but from the point of where I am today. The past blog entries was written to describe my journey from completely beaten down by satan to crawling and walking and learning to fight the stress battles.

Despite what the general public seem to believe a stress disorder is not something you recover from. Maybe eventually one day I’ll be able to say “Yes Lord – we did it!” – but it wasn’t me who did it, it was Him.

In my daily battle against stress I face the temptations satan lays out for me. It takes very little to shake my world and my weak point is my daughter. I know it, God knows it and unfortunately satan is fully aware of it as well. I try my best… to not let it get to me, but I try on my own effort and that fails. All the time. I end up crying for little or no reason – not even the feeling of sadness – it’s just my body saying “I’m tired of fighting this for you”. It’s my cue to lay it in the hands of God.

I recently read the book by Lysa TerKeurst called “Unglued” and though it’s not a stress book at all actually, it’s the best one I have read so far. It gives step-by-step instructions on how to handle yourself when you become unglued – or like me, feel the stress and tension sneaking in. One of those steps includes the reminder of “Don’t forget who you are”!

Who am I? I’m a child of God and dearly loved! Since reading that book, I have reminded myself of that many times and it makes the difference: For there is power in His Name! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus… There is power in HIS name. Not mine and certainly no healing in satan’s name! I received a true sword to fight with. And I also learned to remind myself that I can’t and shouldn’t be fighting this battle on my own. I’m HIS child and I am protected by HIS power.

Today, in my ever so busy schedule, the Lord is working. Last week as I exited a Bible study, I went and signed myself off next weeks class without even noticing it myself. This week, I have a “day off” and this morning I read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” together with a devotional that asked me to put my own name in instead of “love” (and where appropriate) and so I did… The Lord is teaching me new lessons!!

Am I – patient and kind? Do I envy, boast and am I proud? Do I rejoice with the truth, Do I always protect, trust, hope, persevere? As I began to pray I asked the Lord “Who do You want me to love today”? and He clearly answered “Yourself” for that is a part of the greatest commandment. I shook my head…. wait a minute – “Lord, myself??” Are we not supposed to love others and let them come first etc? Once again, the Lord spoke to my heart and said “You must learn to love yourself before you can love others”. After pondering that thought for a bit, I decided to lay down my to-do list for today (housework) and become Mary instead of Martha.

How do I love myself? And is it really so, that we can’t love others until we love ourselves? Again, the Lord came and eased my mind – Sure, anyone can love anyone on the outside. The difference is to love others from your heart. Can you do that? I sheepishly had to admit that I oftentimes pretend and smile (which is of course better than outwardly show signs of dislike toward anyone) but my heart isn’t in it. And why not… are they not deserving of my love as well as the love from the Master?? Of course, but if I myself do not feel deserving of my own love for myself, then how on earth would I love others – from the heart. Don’t miss that last bit: It has to be from the heart!! There will be people I can’t love no matter how hard I try, and that’s where His spirit will be strongest in me and I will find – that I can’t not love them! Or I will find that the Lord is leading me away from that particular person! Either way, His spirit will do the job.

But I must work on how to love myself. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. I love the Lord and I know He loves me… but I still need to remind myself that I’m His child and dearly loved. I still can’t understand why on earth He loves me with all these faults and failures I come with, not to mention my ever present nasty stress battles. I have come to understand this much:

I must accept He loves me unconditionally (which basically makes me weep). I must accept that I love Him and though I want to show my love by obeying His commandments I will always fall short (and stop beating myself up about it). I must love myself before I can love others. Until I can do that, the parts of another person I wish to admire or love, can too easily turn into envy. My to-do list for this day went from housework to heart work!

My list for today will have to be: What parts of me can I love about myself…

 

Big God – Revealing how to let stressors go

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One Sunday morning I stood in my church, the lights were dimmed as usual, worship time was an uninterrupted half hour of praise and worship music. It was the time when each heart in the church searched for the Lord and as He promises “Seek and you shall find”, I have no doubt that each heart earnestly seeking Him found Him. It was not an unusual Sunday. This is how my church at the time, had their worship. No interruptions, just praise music, hearts yearning, Spirit answering. As I stood there with my arms lifted, tears streaming down my face, heart crying out “help me Lord, help” the promise of unfailing love was flowing through the loud speakers and calming my heart. After the worship ended the Pastor took the microphone and gave a talk I will never forget. He spoke about “Big God”.

We serve a big God. He is so big that we can’t measure Him. We humans want to put everything into boxes so we have everything penciled down, sized compared, tagged with little words to describe the thing etc. But there is One that we can’t describe, measure or put tags on and that’s God and His mercy, His Grace, His Power, His being. He IS! If God was not, then we wouldn’t be either. As the Pastor spoke God used the words to reveal to me how to let go. God is so big that nothing we battle and no giant we face (but likely is hiding from) can beat Him. Just like David hit Goliath with nothing but the faith that God would use the stone and the sling to hit the right place so Goliath would fall, so can we face our giants, go into a battlefield with no strength of our own and let God use us to fight the giant. For only God’s power can beat anything. Even the devil himself will stick the tail between his legs and run off and hide in the darkness when God enters the scene. God can and will fight my battles if I allow Him to. But I have to let Him because He is not forcing my heart. What really convicted me in this talk however, was “the coin”. Pastor J took out a tiny coin, held it up in front of his eyes and said “when we focus on the little coin, our vision of what is around and behind it vanishes”. If we can only see a giant, we fail to see God. If we focus on the obstacles in our path, we fail to see God working. If we fail to see God, satan takes a foothold in our hearts and he doesn’t stop beating us down until we loose faith… with the risk of repeating myself, let me just say: Been there, done that! Here is the best news: God NEVER lets go! He is waiting the in wing for us to ask Him to come into our lives and boot satan out.

God is fully aware of everything that happens in our lives. In the world at large, even the little hard working ants in the backyard, He knows. How big is God? He is bigger than any obstacle, giant or demon you will ever face!

The “Big God” talk has remained with me since. I needed it to get the courage to walk out into the battleground and stand up. We may feel like we are facing something as impossible like letting go of a stressor, be it guilt, discouragement, an angry boss, a teen or whatever else, but nothing is impossible for our big God and that’s a truth we need to meditate on. If we battle stress then I think it should be a daily meditation. Nothing and nobody can be bigger than the Creator Himself.

 

Learning to seek – learning to let go

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I went from taking a serious dive into satan’s grip, falling gradually for about a year, only to find myself in a situation where I had little or no strength to cope at all. So I fell flat at my Saviors feet and felt His presence surround me. I gave up and I gave it all up – to Him. After that it was a slow but safe gradual recovery. I had to find out what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus and though I didn’t know it at the time, God was taking me by the hand and showing me His love by giving me what I needed. In small doses. I would focus all the energy I had in me on what I couldn’t see, and was in returned Blessed with the sensation of feeling His presence. I began to take baby steps climbing up from the pit of stress.

I have been asked “how do you focus on what you can’t see” and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I believe Jesus gives each person the experience He knows we need and can understand and relate to. For me that is the feeling of His presence. Not in a physical way, but sensing Him with my heart.

I don’t know why it did not take long for me to learn how to seek Him, but I’m guessing He taught me. However, learning to let go of the stress – or rather learning to identify and let go of my stressors – was an entirely different chapter.

I had no idea what was stressing me because everything was “just normal” but felt like a huge burden. The daily radiation news, keeping up on food issues, checking air radiation etc was a burden, but one which was needed at that time. But instead of sorting the news, I opted on reading all the news which was forcing me to sort the sensationalism from the truth. Gradually I began to understand that the time I spent on that took time away from other things – such as relaxing with my daughter! Being a mom is stressful at times, but for me it was all the time… guilt came with it and that – He revealed to me – was probably the biggest stressor of them all. The guilt I kept feeling for not spending enough time with my daughter, not talking with her enough and the guilt from not seeing the condition the led us to pull her out of her kindergarten sooner. Huge stressor. I also then realized that I had to forgive the kindergarten teacher. Though my heart had a lot of trouble dealing with my guilt, it also carried a heavy burden called unforgiveness. Forgiving a person who has hurt your child is likely the hardest thing a mom can ever do… Over time my stressors became obvious to me and because it wasn’t poured on me like a waterfall, I was able to deal with each one, one at a time. Praise the Lord that He knew just how little I could take at a time. But I still had to learn to let go… let go of my stressors and let God handle my life. I suppose once you have been all the way down and then turns to face the sun again, you learn the valuable lesson of letting go. Through the understanding that nothing belongs to me anyway, I also understood that letting go and giving everything up to Him, was the only way for me to let go of my stressors. When doing that, satan had to let his grip on me go too… I learned to rely on God alone. The Bible tells us that over and over again, but just what will it take to truly rely on Him alone. It took a stress disorder for me… and a lot of hurt and pain, tears and sleepless nights, a lot of prayers, doctors visits and a lot of time spent in His presence.

I had learned to seek Him and now I was learning to let go of it all, to truly and fully heal.

Slow motion baby steps

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After 3.11.2011 when it all began, I gradually and slowly became more and more worried and concerned about all the little details as well as the big issues of life. It happened at a speed so slow I never realized just how bad it had gotten. During this time I took care of my daughter’s physical needs but ever so often neglected her emotional needs. The last 6 months in her kindergarten things weren’t good, but it didn’t get really bad until we pulled her out of the kindergarten. After that things went down hill fast. Looking back, I feel guilty. My daughter had taken far too many emotional punches in her kindergarten, so many that she resisted and gave up learning the language. She needed me, but I didn’t realize it. Because – I was so stressed and worried about everything else. Somehow in my mind I thought that pulling her out of the kindergarten would magically bring her back to normal state of mind. I was wrong, but I didn’t realize this until I got the help I needed. Then I took some baby steps back to being a mom.

My first cry to the Lord was also the first step into a whole new spiritual world and way of life. My first morning coffee with Jesus was the first step into the spiritual realm. A world I had never been in before (see previous posts).

On the first many mornings of my coffee with Jesus, I emptied my heart in every sense of the word. I spoke anything that came to mind – in silence. Gave up everything that was left in me – in silence. I didn’t see that there was very little of my old self left in me. I was filled with fear, worry and concern. Those very things that had forced me down the spiral of evil. One of Satan’s favorite ways of getting us down is just that: Fear. A year had passed since 3.11. 2011 – and not until then did I get help. A whole year with gradual fears and worries getting worse daily and me not noticing at all. But now that I was standing up again, feeling more like a human as well as more like a mom again, I thought it was all done. But no… I was very wrong. My muscle relaxing medicine was working and gave a false sense of being “normal”. Still – I was able to be a mom again, though at times I withdrew to give myself time away from everything.

Despite knowing that something had to change, I had no clue what. Yes, my circumstances had to change, but what circumstances and to what? The road seemed blocked at that point. My daughter didn’t want to speak the japanese language, the aftershocks of the big earthquake was still happening, the food issues were never ending, the air radiation was a daily online check – and I had grown weary and tired. On top of everything else, my stress obviously was also affecting my marriage. Blessed me, my husband had been very kind and accepting during the past year. He was still accepting of me needing my “personal space” but  being aware of my stress disorder was likely a relief at this point for him.

During my morning coffee’s with Jesus, I gradually learned to give up control. Sounds easy… it’s not! My circumstances were out of my control, which left me feeling helpless and hopeless. When fear and worries presses down on you, helplessness is right down that same alley. I had no choice but to give up fighting and give up myself to His care. Still it took a long time for me to be able to give up my worries and just trust Him. The better part of a full year actually. I didn’t want to be afraid, but I couldn’t help it. It was like a bad habit. Now that I am on the other side of the stress disorder, suddenly things look more clear. Obviously, we are not in control of calamities and obviously, if you are a believer, control belongs to God, not us. Without knowing it, I was slowly letting go of fear and worries and was on my way to allow God to control my life. But Satan is vicious and he had every intention of not allowing me, to allow God. The closer I came to Jesus during my coffee morning, the more I was able to let go. You see, Satan is powerless if Jesus is around. And He was with me. I felt His presence so often during this time and I was filled up spiritually. I put on the armor of God through the power of Jesus, and when that happens, Satan hides. As soon as my daily routine began though, satan was right back on my shoulder poking me in every way he could. I was an easy target… and most days I gave in and fell over. Crying my heart out. Climbing back up from a pit of stress which satan has painted with glue is not something you can do on your own.

I slowly but safely began to take my first baby steps in slow motion.

You must crawl before you can walk…

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And I was crawling. By the time I realized I needed help desperately, my body, soul, mind and spirit was about as low as it could get. My body was tense and aching. Massages had no impact on my muscles at all. My eye was twitching. My soul was wandering in a desert with no aim, my mind couldn’t stay focused on one thing and my spirit was just – down. Broken. All energy, and I do mean all the energy I could master, was directed at my daughter, trying desperately to get her back on track. Little did I realize at the time, that unless I got back on my feet, she wouldn’t either. But after my doctor’s visit I had an aim, I had a purpose and I had a tool. But perhaps most importantly; I chose my counselor. Instead of relying on human efforts and research and well documented science, I already had my counselor ready at hand; Jesus. He never sleeps, he is on call 24/7 and He always knows what is best.

After that first night of good sleep I had enough energy to decide on a plan that would structure my day. The plan had to fit into my life as it was at the time and the only time I had alone were the early mornings. The morning after, I woke up at 4 am (naturally as I couldn’t sleep anyway), got up and brewed myself a cup of coffee. The home was quiet and it was still dark outside. Such peace. I grabbed the “Jesus Calling” book and read the page for the day. That took me about 20 minutes to get through. I had trouble reading because everything in my body was tired and barely working. I laid the book down, fell over and had no words to speak a prayer. My mind had no clue what to say, so my heart whispered in silence “Jesus”. If you are a believer then you know that Jesus hears every word your heart whispers and He heard my cry… I have no idea what happened, honestly, but at that point the floodgates opened and I cried. That was about it. I didn’t say “heavenly Father”. I didn’t say “amen”. The coffee that morning got cold before I came back to my senses, but I had heard a silent reply to my call.

I repeated the early morning time with Jesus the following morning and after a 3rd day on sleeping pill, I no longer had trouble reading the devotional. I swear that book spoke the exact words I needed to hear on that particular day. Without realizing it, I chose to pray in silence. My heart was speaking to Jesus and He was right there listening. I sometimes could feel His presence surrounding me and I always felt peace during this time with my chosen counselor. My stress began to decrease, but my stressors were very much still around me. I had a long way to go and I was still just crawling. After 3 days on sleeping pills I stopped and the muscle relaxing medicine should begin to help me sleep. It took some time before they truly began to have an effect, but once they did, I got about 4 to 6 hours of sleep at night which was a huge improvement from before. Even though it was not optimal. I continued my prayer mornings and some mornings I just cried on the sofa. Some mornings I asked questions, got angry, letting it all out in a matter of speaking. Then there were other mornings, when I was sipping my coffee and watching the sun rise while talking to my best friend. Despite having been Christian for quite some time at this point, I don’t think I really understood the true meaning of “a relationship with Jesus” until then. Jesus did not lay words on my heart at this time. He was just there. Like the perfect friend who never runs out of energy.

I finally began to walk and I named my morning prayer time “coffee mornings with Jesus”. Quite a few friends has found it amusing that I call it that. But it is my private personal intimate time with my best friend and counselor. Time wise it fits us both and speaking with Jesus while watching His sun rise is about as wonderful and awe struck you can get.

I had a stress disorder and my coffee mornings with Jesus had only just begun. I had no idea just how much it would take to get me up and past the disorder. But the only way forward was changing the circumstances and my worries were still controlling me. But I could stand up. I could walk. I even had energy to play with my daughter again. I wasn’t just “there, napping on the sofa” anymore. I was around her and with her. At that point, my heart went from asking questions beginning with “why” – to having a true gratefulness in my heart for every little tiny blessing.

I had no idea where the road forward would lead me and my family, but I knew I wasn’t walking it alone.

Stress – first signs…

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First signs of stress can be a variety of little things you simply choose to ignore, because after all – we just live in stressful world and that’s just the way it is. Get used to it.

Don’t bet on it. Stress begins small and grows over time without you even noticing the changes. Or it can be triggered by something big happening in your life; calamities, life events or even just a friend’s tough times that will make you “think”.

I’m no expert, don’t have a degree in psychology, never worked with stressed people – but believe me, I’ve been all the way down. And back up. But if it weren’t for my Emmanuel, then I’m not sure I would have made it out of the woods.

My stress began on 3.11.2011 in Japan when the world beneath began to shake and it seemed like an endless quake. The cupboards, closets and bookcases contents was as shaken up as I was.  I kept the cool head… Silly me, trying to stay calm but that’s what I have always been told; Stay calm and get a look at what is really going on. Well, getting a look at what was really going on only made my head spin; Tsunami… seeing the people, cars, houses, boats just floating on and on and on. I thought – surely it must be stopped by that next wall – but the water just crushed and moved everything. As did my emotions. I remember praising my Lord that I was with my daughter at the time and grandpa. But my heart was aching for all those families who suffered way more than I ever did. After that, then came the nuclear disaster… Keeping up with information, learning about radiation in foods, air and what comes after that was more than what my brain capacity wanted to deal with. Seriously… But I had no choice. I had a 4 year old girl who needed food not contaminated and most Japanese people around me simply chose not to learn for themselves but simply trust the Japanese media. Okay, each person makes their own choices, but I chose the hard one. I don’t regret that. Not one bit. But 3.11.2011 Eastern Japan Earthquake was the onset of my stress, emotional imbalance, lower immune system etc.

What came next I didn’t anticipate at all. My daughter began gradually getting more and more sad to go to her kindergarten. One of the biggest stressors in life is the life as a parent. And a sad child makes a sad mom. I tried everything I could to get to the source of her sadness and spoke to her teacher multiple times. One evening my daughter broke down in tears and begged me never to take her back to her kindergarten and then I learned how her teacher had been shaking her arm while asking her questions she couldn’t answer. My husband and I then decided to pull her out. Dealing with the food safety and sorting through all the many various informations out there during that first time after the earthquake was time consuming in itself and now having a, at that time, 4 year old around 24/7 was adding to the stress. I was gradually going down without actually noticing it. I kept on telling myself, like a scratched old vinyl record “I just have to make it through to the Christmas party”… and I did. Barely. By that time I was sleeping max. 2 to 3 hours pr. night. My body was aching, I was snapping at everyone and found myself not being able to keep up with the information flow about the radiation. I was napping on the sofa during daytime, and my daughter would cover me with a blanket. She took better care of me during that time, than I did of her. I love my daughter and look back on that time with a nasty feeling of guilt. I knew something was wrong and I began asking myself “what is happening to me” over and over again. I didn’t understand that the sleep deprivation, motherhood (I did actually feed my daughter and talked to her too during that time) and the guilt of leaving her to a kindergarten teacher without realizing something was terribly wrong before it was too late, the hunt for real information on foods as well as keeping up appearance to friends and family, was sending me straight down the evil spiral of – stress! At that time I was unable to even read a book because the letters floated together on the pages and my mind couldn’t grasp the meaning of the sentences. At this time, almost a year had passed since 3.11.2011.

Finally, my husband spoke up and sent me to see my doctor to get some sleeping pills. Now I am not a fan of those but I knew I needed help. My doctor knew me and my history and family life and once I was there, we had a good long talk. He didn’t have any doubt about the diagnosis: Stress disorder. He prescribed me some muscle relaxing medicines as well as a few sleeping pills to get me back on track. He also, knowing that I have faith in Jesus, gave me a book called “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. That book became my counsel and my breath of life for a period of time. The first night I slept for a full 6 hours and I felt like a whole new person. That was my onset to the road of recovery.