10.01.2014

One Thousand Gifts

Living in Fear:

I have been living in fear. For the last year, I have been afraid.  Afraid of dying, afraid of hurting, afraid of getting sick.  And as time has passed and I have moved beyond the depression and through the anxiety, I have found that living in fear isn't living.

Moving on past my emotional disturbances hasn't been easy.  But it also hasn't been that hard.  What I mean is that once I was able to start changing my thinking, my emotions followed suit quickly.  When I begin to ask myself "what if" (ie "What if I have cancer?") I simply tell myself, "We're not going to worry about that." Over and over and over, I tell myself, "We're not going to worry about that."  Sometimes this is accompanied by a prayer or some kind of physical distraction (going outside, doing the dishes, making a phone call) and sometimes it's just a thought bubble released.  "We're not going to worry about that."  Like there's a committee in my head that has deemed that worry un-credible.  

I also cling to the quote, "Hope is the only thing stronger than fear", which is from Hunger Games and may sound silly, but is oh-so-true.  My HOPE that the future can hold good things is stronger than my FEAR that it won't.

I also tell myself on a daily basis, "I can do hard things," which is to say, if something bad does happen (I get cancer, the boys get sick, Josh isn't home to help at bedtime) I will get through it.  I have strength in me that will help me get through anything life throws my way.

**

One Thousand Gifts:

In last week's post I wrote about two of the books that helped me in overcoming my anxiety & depression, and getting past those dark fears.  There was one more book that had a huge impact.

by Ann Voskamp

The book is written like poetry.  It's beautiful, like reading art.  She starts out talking about how "everywhere we look we only see all that isn't: holes, lack, deficiency."  The losses we suffer make us wonder, Does God love us?

She uses the rest of the book to show that, yes, God does love us.  She explains that we don't have to know why things happen the way they happen.  What?!? Well, that's a freeing thought!  There are things that we don't understand, but He does.  And what we see as holes, according to Ann, are just rips in the curtain, allowing us to see God.

The basic gist of the book (other than God loves us) is that gratitude is the way from an empty life to a full one.  She encourages us to change our thinking from "I have to live" to "I get to live" and to keep in mind that the end will come.  All we can do is live fully in the meantime.

And find beauty.
-- In imperfection.
-- In striving.
-- In trying...
to be better, to do better.

The Dare:

This is where the title comes in.  One Thousand Gifts.  The dare is to write down 1000 blessings in your life.  Writing down the beauty & joy we find is, Ann says, like unwrapping love.  It's proof positive that God loves us, that He's watching out for us. And in addition to that, the gratitude itself leads to happiness.

 "There are eyes in pencils & pens."
-John Piper

The goal, she says, is "to learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty."  If you try hard enough you can find the silver lining to any cloud.  For instance, I find I am sick? At least I don't have to call in sick to work.  She reminds us that you can only feel one feeling.  So you should choose joy.  Always choose joy. Which comes through gratitude.

Worry:

When it comes to worrying, which Ann herself is pretty good at, she encourages us to pray instead of worry.  There is something about handing your worries over to God that makes you feel like you can finally breathe again.  She insists, "It is safe to trust," which is exactly what I needed to hear at the height of my anxiety.  The fear and worry is so pervasive, we forget that God wants us to have good, full lives.
Choosing to pray instead of worry isn't easy, it means you have to give up control and discipline yourself to trust, but as Ann puts it, "The fear is suffocating, terrorizing and I want the remedy and it is trust." 

Once you begin trusting (and praying) instead of worrying, you will find that everything feels different.  The truth is though that, "Nothing has changed, but I have."  I am still living in the middle of nowhere with three children & very few breaks.  But my attitude this year is completely different than it was last year.

According to Ann, the dark (last fall & winter) was God passing by.  When He is about to do something amazing, we often first experience a trial. We must release the fear these challenges induce and fall into peace, trusting that God is about to show up.

It is safe to trust.  
It is safe to trust. 
It is safe to trust.

**

Choosing Joy:

8. Empty journals
9. New, unread books in a stack
10. Love notes from my boys

36.  A warm bubble bath
37.  The twins with fresh haircuts
38. My body that grew three beautiful boys

71. Watching Logan & Jack sound out words
72. Bedtime prayers
73. Bare feet

114. A fresh Coke, cold in the can
115. Burgerville cheeseburgers
116. Sunsets

243.  Candy corn
244. Down comforters
245. Big boys riding bikes

593.  Getting blog posts made everyday
594. Reading new books to my boys
595. Bedtime snuggles & I love you's

Working on this list over the last eleven months has allowed me to let go of perfection & control; allowed me to be open to God; and has allowed me to see the ugly beautiful.

470. Baskets of dirty boy laundry
471. Sinks full of toothpaste
472. Toilets to clean

This list has made me a searcher. A searcher for beauty and for joy.
I have joy now.
I can be the joy.

I am the heartbeat of this house. I set the tone.  My life can be a song of gratitude.
And I think that's just how He wants it.

**

3 comments:

Kasey said...

I finally started my list in August. It's really helping with my anger - which is how depression tends to manifest for me. I never though much about how big 1,000 really is.
I'm glad you have a list.

Anonymous said...

A friend told me a helpful way of looking at anxiety, and that is: you can die once, or you can die a thousand times. So just choose the once and don't worry about all the potential what-ifs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shelly

Have you ever thought of starting a community support group in Marshall? Somewhere people could meet weekly for an hour or two, to discuss their anxiety issues and support each other?

Here's a link to an organisation that can provide a framework http://www.growinamerica.org

I'm sure you've heard of this organisation.

All the best

Donna