One thing in the Moment: imprOve

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer– open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing– Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation– No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMPROVE: ONE THING IN THE MOMENT:

From my list: When I focus on God I:

  • Live in the light of His Presence.

God wants us to be happy and to have fulfilling lives and He wants to be a part of it! If we are all consumed with what we are going through, we miss the wonder around us, and even when God touches us to look away from our problems we find it hard to do so.

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This coping step is all about enjoying the moment, right now, this thing that I am now doing! Don’t give in to the run-on thoughts of all your problems. Even as your thoughts are firing one after another you are physically doing something. Even if that thing is lying in bed with your head under the covers! Let your mind focus on the feel of the sheets, the softness of the pillow. Thank God that you have a bed and just “be” in the moment. Hear your breath and relax your muscles.

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Focusing on the physical takes your mind out of your head. I know some people who choose an exercise in which they look for and name one item of furniture, one item of a certain color and one item that they can hear or smell. They may repeat this process a few times. By pinpointing these items, they leave the thoughts they were thinking and think about something new.

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I recently posted a Mindfulness exercise Mindfulness Anywhere in which I recount my feelings and emotions about going to a meeting. I am semi-agoraphobic (Is that a thing?) so going places is always hard for me. I was volunteering to design and build a float for an upcoming local parade. In order to do this, I have to leave the house! Ugh.

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I was nervous about the meeting-even though I knew everyone that would be there. It was a safe place. But I still didn’t want to go, but I had to. No calling in sick or making excuses. Earlier that morning I tried to run excuses through my mind that would be plausible; nada.

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I prayed that I would find the meeting fulfilling. I prayed that God would give me courage to get out there.

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I got in my car, a sick feeling inside. I turned the car on and put it in drive. As I was driving, my leg was shaking up and down like a moth’s wings. I could not get rid of the dread. I told my leg to stop and it occurred to me that I could practice Mindfulness even in the car. Mindfulness Anywhere! I called it in my brain.
As usual, I started with my breath, breathing deeply from my tummy. I recalled that the DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) skill called One-Mindfulness was part of the IMPROVE skill I was currently writing about on my blog. The skill is to focus on one thing in the moment.

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So I focused on my driving. I focused on the road in front of me, the car in front of me, the sights on the sides of the road. When I leg started shaking, I willed it to stop and went back to my breathing.

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Believe me, this worked like magic! (It doesn’t always, so don’t be discouraged if you try and it isn’t “magic”) When I got to my meeting I was the first one there and I felt centered, able to complete this task. So I spent a few minutes jotting down my experience in the Notes section of my phone. Then later, I posted One-Mindfulness Anywhere on my blog.

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One-mindfulness by first focusing on your breath pull your attention to your center. I feel the nervousness and agitation usually starts in my center, so it makes sense that to calm that area would help to alleviate the symptoms. I am able to feel the light of God’s presence and I feel faith take wing in my being.

A Vacation from the Hamster Wheel

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer– open your heart and/or turn things over to God
RelaxingBreathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
VacationNo phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMPROVE: R is for RELAX, V is for VACATION

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
Will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 NLT

It’s okay to feel the sadness, grief, anger, etc. Bring it to God. Acknowledge the emotions you feel, for they are real. But remember, YOU can be good to yourself! You can be gentle with your sadness and grief. . and give myself some relaxation!

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I used to relax in front of the TV all the time, in fairness I have to say that I still veg out in front of the TV, I just don’t do it all the time. I missed out on some things that I love, like reading and crafting because I was spellbound by the television. And not just any station, I’m talking the political ones. I found that I was not relaxing! Instead, I was getting all shook up by the reporting in the news.

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I had to make a change, give myself a vacation from my own head! A hot bath with lotions and potions that smell good, along with candles and music works for me, but I can’t do that when I’m ruminating. If my mind is on the bloody hamster wheel I need to do something with all that action going on in my head, so I bought a jigsaw puzzle and set it up on the kitchen table. That was relaxing to me. And during a time when I thought all my smarts had vanished from my brain, I realized that I’m really good at crossword puzzles! I enjoy puzzles because they relax me, but also, I feel confident in my abilities, which gets me to lay-off the negative self-talk.

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So take a vacation from your negative thoughts and from the constant chatter in your brain. Try some mindfulness activities. One of the goals of Mindfulness is to reduce suffering and increase happiness. That sounds good to me!

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Don’t judge yourself for your negative thoughts and don’t hold onto them either. Instead, focus your mind on the exercise you choose. You can even be mindful when hiking, or singing or any activity, just by paying attention to this moment.

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There’s a good exercise in the DBT manual (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). It’s called Stone Flake on a Lake and it goes like this:

Imagine that you are by a clear blue lake on a beautiful sunny day. Then imagine that you are a small flake of stone, flat and light. Imagine that you have been tossed out onto the lake and are now gently, slowly, floating through the calm, clear blue water to the lake’s smooth sandy bottom.
• Notice what you see, what you feel as you float down, perhaps in slow circles, floating toward the bottom. As you reach the bottom of the lake, settle your attention there within yourself.
• Notice the serenity of the lake; become aware of the calmness and quiet deep within.
• As you reach the center of yourself, settle your attention there.

I’ve found that one to be very centering. A relaxing vacation from my ever moving mind.

Read more on Mindfulness in my previous posts:
What is Mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness and Where is God in it?
Mindful Techniques: Centering Prayer
Spiritual Mindfulness Exercises

improve: P is for PRAYER

This post is a continuation of the DBT IMPROVE skill. Imagery, Imagery and God and M is for Meaning have been previously posted.

Imagery- Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning- Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer- open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing- Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment- Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation- No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMProve: P is for PRAYER
My husband thanks God every night for even the small blessings. On the other hand, I was the habitual “forgive me for my sins and watch over me” kind of prayer, by this I mean the same lines in a rote fashion every night before I fell asleep. When bad stuff happened, or I really needed something, I always asked God, and I can pinpoint many times in my life where God has stepped in and something has turned out better than expected.

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One such story occurred when we first moved to Ohio. We were not sure what city we would eventually end up living in, so we decided to rent a house, rather than buy one. After a few years, our girls were in third and fifth grades and had established a good group of friends and extracurricular activities. We liked where we were, so we started house hunting. We found the perfect house! Modest and pretty with a big deck on the back all set up with outdoor speakers from a big stereo in the garage.

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A young couple were selling it themselves without a realtor and they proudly showed us beautiful flower beds thoughtfully planted with butterfly attracting flowers. She had a book with all of the plant descriptions highlighted so the new owner would know how to care for the garden. He had built the deck himself in order to make the most of the public park that backed up to the property.

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I was most interested in the hand-painted wall treatments especially dining room wall, upon which she had painted a scripture in beautiful gold cursive from Isaiah:

“I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the path you should follow”
-Isaiah 48:17

This is it! This is the house! We all agreed, but when I looked for mortgages, I found our low credit rating might keep us from this dream house. Settling in a new state causes some upheaval and we had gone through our share of money battles. I began to worry, and worry increased to despair. I felt like this was the house for us, but now I would never be able to make it work!
One Saturday night, about two weeks after the open house, and completely unrelated to our house problem, we decided to try out a big church in our neighborhood. We had never been to a Saturday night service before, always preferring the Sunday morning services at the churches we attended. The parking lot was packed with cars and we finally found a spot to park on the side of the church. As we walked in that side door amidst a sea of congregants, I noticed the owner of the house was right in front of me! “I think we went to your open house,” I touched her arm, “We love your house!”
Long story short, she called me a few days later and gave me the name of their lender, who we ended up using for our mortgage when we bought the house!! It was our very favorite home and we have such fond memories of the girls growing up there.

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God did that!

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Today, God is showing me that I don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get him to care about me. I saved my prayers for the “big stuff” even though with smaller things, I heard a little voice saying, “Pray about this.” My mind answered like a broken record, “Well, okay, I’ll pray about it, but not until I’ve…” He meets us where we are- not after we have tried everything else within our human capacity. God doesn’t say, “I’ll help you when you’ve suffered enough to hit your bottom.”

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”  Psalm 8:28

By learning how to cope in my grief, by using prayer all day long, instead of only bedtime prayers, I have found some meaning in how my life has taken this deep turn. While maybe before I would tell myself that my problems are so small. “You should be able to solve small problems yourself!” Maybe I “brought it on myself” by causing the problem to happen in the first place? Like when we sold that favorite house and bought a different one wrought with problems. It was greed that made me buy that house with a pool, and shortly after, my husband lost his job. The house became a victim of the housing crash. Why would God help me when I had made this giant mistake? Do I really deserve the time and effort of the Lord God to help solve my own issues that were caused by me?

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The answer is in the scriptures and it is a resounding YES! Not only do I deserve it, but God wants me to call on Him! He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth! Now, instead, I’m asking myself, “What is stopping me from asking God first?” My response should be “Thank you, Lord! Here is what is really perplexing me today!”

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But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Luke 18:27

M is for Meaning

This post is a continuation of the DBT IMPROVE skill. Parts one and two have been previously posted.

IMPROVE is an acronym as follows:

Imagery- Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer- open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing- Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation- No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

M is for MEANING
My son’s death is not about me, but about him. He is with Jesus in Heaven. That happened. It was a catalyst for a turn pin curve in my life.

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I don’t know why he died so young, when his life was just starting to come together, but I have found purpose in the experience of this grief. God is teaching me how to stay close to Him. He is taking my hamster wheel mind and slowing it down. That is how I started looking deeper into the Spiritual side of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). I would read my Bible and be amazed at how clearly God’s Word partnered with the coping skills I was learning in my DBT class.

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I’ve always known there are countless scriptures that express that God is our strength and our shield; that we only need to open the door to Jesus and He will renew our hearts and souls. I have always believed this but have never really felt confident about God being next to me everywhere and every day. I just don’t think I’ve ever taken this literally before now, and I realize that I have missed out by not acting on His promises of always being by my side, no matter what.

So often, I find myself trying everything I can think of to solve my problems, that it’s almost as if I can only accept help from God if and until I have exhausted my powers, my skills, my talents, my brains.

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Improving the Moment with Meaning in DBT is to find purpose in a painful situation and focus on whatever positive aspects can be found. The hugely positive thing now is that I have a better relationship with Jesus.

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I have found purpose in writing this book. God tells us in 2 Corinthians that as we are comforted in our dark hour we get the Lord’s mercies, so we can comfort others in a similar situation. Right now, God is helping me learn that nothing can separate me from Him and the more I read scripture and pray throughout each day’s trials, I am learning to cope. He wants me to share my experiences, to help others who are suffering with mental illness or have lost their way due to a series of bad breaks or trauma; to witness to those who are held hostage by their past, their emotions, their negativity.

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I know from his Word that we are meant to go through struggles, not sit in them and ruminate. Go through the tough emotions so you can get to the good emotions! I can’t ever remember using a term like “the beauty of my life is astonishing.” Maybe that’s because I have walked too many paths alone without my Lord.

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I have my purpose which gives meaning to the struggle. This relationship with God is deeper than any other time in my life. I want to be close to the Lord, and I feel Him leading me to what He wants me to become. I want to pray and spend time reading the Bible. I want to go to the bookstore and peruse the different versions of the Word. I want to keep meaning in my life.

One-Mindfulness Anywhere

 

road with trees

I have to go to a meeting. I don’t want to go.
I’m agitated. I need to ground myself.

These are the things I am thinking:
Don’t close your eyes while driving.
Breathe from the abdomen.
Stop the shaking of your legs.
Deep breaths
Focus on driving. Do it “one mindfully” only living the drive- the now.
Look at the road up ahead flanked with trees.
Deep breaths.
A tenseness in my shoulders- relax them, let them drop down.
Don’t look at the phone.

Deep breaths
Read the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me. Smile.
Watch the road, read the signs.

There are things on this road that I didn’t know were there.
Breathe.
I am relaxed. No more leg shaking, no more tense muscles.
I finish my drive and as I wait for my meeting to begin, I jot down this exercise.
It worked well for me.
I am ready.

 

Imagery and God

Getting back to Imagery (See Imagery Part One), and my awesome imagination, I really paid attention to what I was thinking about as I read my devotions and how the Scriptures were speaking to me in this way.

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Do you remember Vacation Bible School when you were little? It was so cool because there were coloring papers and cut outs of a certain theme like “God’s Love in SPACE” or “Rest in the Lord at the BEACH!” I loved that stuff! You could go hear a story from the Bible and the teacher would place lively felt figures on a felt background, and then you would get an ice cream cone on your way home. What fun!

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But as an adult, there is no VBS (hmm sounds like fun though- I’ll have to google it!) but not unlike VBS, I embrace the way the Scripture unfolds in my mind as a storyboard. It’s like the passages are meant for me, alone. It’s kind of like when we listen to music, we might visualize the story of the song as we sing. When our emotions are engaged in praise songs we are in the moment with the Holy Spirit. We know God is with us.

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Most recently I have been ruminating and worrying about the future. Will I ever be able to work again? Will I get sicker and need to have chemotherapy? Will I have enough money to live? What does God want from me and who does He want me to be, and how will I ever be that? On top of this, the verses I was reading in my daily scriptures were all about NOT worrying and how blessings come wrapped in trials, but even as I knew in my heart and soul that this was true, I couldn’t shake the fear. The description I gave when I texted my sister that I was “Tragically Pessimistic!”

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One day when I was wrapped up in that negative commentary about my future, I took some time to listen to the soft voice of God, and started a list titled:
When I focus on God, these things happen:
The first item I wrote was
1. I allow Him to unfold my given life using the talents He gave me.

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And this inspired the following Imagery in the small cozy room that we call the library/music room. I sit comfortably on soft pillows, hands at my side, legs crossed. I must shut the door because whenever I am on the floor the wieners think I want to play and pile on top of me with kisses. It’s hard to practice mindfulness when they are around! You should see it when I am trying to exercise! Nothing like noses and tongues on your face when you’re planking!

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I start by defining my emotions in an effort to get to the facts of how I feel in this moment. I am in an emotional state where logic has taken a back seat to emotion or fear. Wherever I “am” in my own miserable mind, I try to name it- give it a label: Despair, Fear, a feeling of impending doom-and as I do, I look to my right and there is Jesus. He has come to meet ME, right where I am, in this awful messy place. I can’t stop myself from being in awe! I smile, even in my misery, both in my imagery and physically in my room and open my hands at my side in praise. Jesus’ hand envelops my child-like one as we begin to walk side-by-side along a path of soft dirt.
The sky above us is azure blue, a color I have never seen my sky to be. Directly in front of me is a beautiful dense forest filled with deep green and dark wooded trees and bright flowers. I can hear bird song and animal sounds from deep within, and the smell is mossy and earthy and sweet. The forest is so close to me, right in front of my face. I cannot take one step forward without running smack into a tree.
I’m puzzled. If I go forward I can see the thistles and burrs that threaten to mangle my arms and legs, but yet, I can hear the wonder that is up ahead, and I am not afraid. Holding Jesus’ hand fills me with love and joy and I feel Fear, Despair and Doom melt away. Jesus smiles and laughs as He watches me realize that I don’t care about the blocked path, I could stand here with Him forever. Here, in what was two seconds ago my messy, awful miserable mind.
I look into the eyes of the Lord, deep pools of love and calm. He takes my elbow and gently moves me forward a step or two as the forest melts away in sync with our feet. It’s clear that the forest wouldn’t budge without Jesus at my side. My only way forward is with Jesus, but frankly, unlike my real life, I would be perfectly content standing right where I am—forever! Nonetheless, Jesus and I continue to walk my path together, and the beauty of my life is astonishing!

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As I open my eyes, I feel better. I feel lighter and more positive. I know the Truth and I make a commitment to believe God’s promise that I will never be alone in my life. I really need to trust Him. With the realization that He is always with me I can be perfectly comfortable with where I am.

“Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside
I was so foolish and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet, I still belong to you;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel’
Leading me to a glorious destiny.”
Psalm 73:21-24 NLT

I hope you can see how IMAGERY can help you to get out of “yourself” and challenge some of the untruths we tell ourselves. Don’t give in to wallowing in self-pity. Your IMAGERY doesn’t have to be about Jesus or Heaven, one of my favorite Mindfulness exercises is that image of being by a tinkling spring of cool water. In the heat of the sun, the water travels across and around rocks as I send each of my negative thoughts down the river on a leaf. You may want to try it, or any one of the following skills of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) IMPROVE.

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation (Next Post)
Prayer- open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing- Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation– No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

Imagery: Imagine Hurtful Emotions Draining from You

I have always had this insane imagination! Seriously, I could play by myself when I was little for hours, just me and my inventiveness. I wrote my first book when I was about 10 years old, called it “Mouse Party” and bound it with cardboard and thread. I was disappointed when The Whitman Publishing Company sent it back to me with a very kind rejection letter, but that didn’t stop me from making up more stories, although it did stop me from further binding them and sending them off!

Mouse Party Cover

So, when I learned of the technique of Imagery in DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy), I embraced it like a lifeline.

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I first used imagery when I was deep within my grief and I prayed that I would have some relief from the sadness. I was just so broken and sorrowful that nothing seemed to help me. My family wanted to be supportive, but honestly, they were all going through their own grief. I started practicing mindfulness and my niece, Angela Fenn Marino, taught me Yoga Nidra, a practice of wakeful relaxation.
That led to one day when I couldn’t get out of bed, I just lay there and stilled my mind. I focused on how much I loved Tyler. Slowly thoughts immerged of truths that I knew. I knew that Tyler was saved as he had chosen to be baptized at age 11 or so. I knew that Heaven is real and that he would be there. I knew based on my readings of Heaven and Near-Death Experiences based on the Bible (Imagine Heaven by John Burke and Don Piper) that a lot of people see family members in Heaven and that sometimes they even greet us as we reach the Kingdom.

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“So, if I know and believe this, why am I so sad?” was a constant question I asked of myself. My logic mind made no impact on the sadness. Along with the sadness I felt a lot of shame for not spending more time with my son. Not only did he live 750 miles away from me, but we were opposites, he more like his father than me and there were fleeting thoughts that someday he would grow out of that and we could have a better relationship. But as Creedence Clearwater Revival says,” Someday never comes.”

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It wasn’t that I decided to put Imagery to the test, it just organically came to be as I lay still in my bed and listened to my breath. How might that whole thing have happened? What was it like for Tyler when Jesus called him home? It would have occurred IMMEDIATELY as his head hit the ground. The coroner said he died instantly from the one car accident on an icy road.

From there I pictured my Mom and Dad greeting him and how they all would be happy to see each other again! They would walk him to Jesus who would hug Tyler tightly and tell him that there would be no more pain or worry for him because he was here now and for eternity. All of this played out upon the backdrop of the beautiful scenery that I think Heaven looks like.
I don’t think it was a vision or a prophecy or anything like that- it was my way of imagining, really feeling the things that I know. Think about how beautifully the Psalms are written. I can barely stop my mind from painting the picture as I read them! Who hasn’t dreamed up their own version of resting in the green meadows and peaceful stream of Psalm 23 or the “Tree replanted in Eden” and “always in blossom” of Psalm 1?
The Imagery was so wonderful and powerful that it really changed my thought pattern!

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But I was still sad.

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When I said that first imagery started organically, I mean to say that I didn’t follow a step by step procedure or even really intend to imagine. But when I learned the Imagery skill in DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy), I believe the Lord opened my mind to the fact that Tyler was saved, in order to show me that there is meaning to my sadness.

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I recalled a story Tyler’s wife told me about a hand-written note that Tyler found on his windshield one day as he came out of Home Depot to his car. According to my daughter-in-law, the note said that God loved him and went on to reassure him that God would never let him down. From what I understand it was quite lengthy, at least a few paragraphs, and Tyler took a look around at the nearby cars to see that no one else had been given this note.
It would be a couple months later that Tyler would visit that same Home Depot to purchase a sheet of plexiglass and on his way home he would run off the road and get thrown from his car to be immediately taken up to Heaven.

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Often, I have found that as I battle through my grief, by working through behavior therapy I might drill down by checking the facts and looking more closely at my emotions to find that what I feel is not necessarily what “is.” When I started counting the truths about Tyler’s death I found that I had no reason to be sad for him. I was actually sad for myself. The fact is that Tyler is absolutely more than fine in the Father’s arms, but I miss him! And I have no way to tell him that I regret not spending more time with him.
Ahh, there it is- sadness and regret. I felt like NOW I had something to work on- something tangible that I could battle- my feelings of regret and you can see that I am working through DBT to help me deal with that.

Imagery is part of the DBT IMPROVE skill. The next few posts will focus on this, including my own first Imagery exercise next post.

Radical Acceptance: Under the Veil

Accepting is hard.
“It is God’s privilege to conceal things, and [our] privilege to discover them.“ -Proverbs 25:2

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Recently I found out that I have Leukemia. Yes, the minute I got the first abnormal blood test I started pursuing my own diagnosis by looking up everything I could possibly find about my “numbers.”

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Before my first appointment with the Hematologist, I called my siblings to inform them of my cancer. My brother has the same cancer and has been treated successfully twice since his diagnosis. He and I sent several text messages back and forth as I asked him all kinds of questions about his blood tests and treatments. But my sister, Shandeen had the most encouraging thought. “I see you enveloped by God. I am not worried, I am calm.”

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In fact, I am okay right now. I don’t need treatment and I am on a “Wait and Watch” plan. Once my numbers double within a twelve-month period I will need treatment. But I am enveloped by God, so I am less worried about it than I was at first!

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The remarkable thing I learned at the Hematologist is that, I had a blood test in 2014 that showed I had Leukemia. This, I did not know! The crazy thing about this is that my son died in 2014.

I was torn apart by his death, as I’m sure every mother might understand, but I was off the rails torn apart. Thanks to God that this blood test was kept covered, behind the scenes that my doctor couldn’t see. God protected my heart. My blood count stayed under the veil until God chose to disclose it to me.

 

Now I look at this revelation with clear eyes. If God hadn’t shielded me from this cancer knowledge before now, I would have simply been overloaded in 2014.

“And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear…” 1 Corinthians 10:13

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I am more stable now. Not that I am unworried about the cancer, but God has chosen for me to stay in the “no treatment zone”. Praise Him! God was protecting me from a worse situation. At the time, I wouldn’t have believed that there would be anything worse than Tyler’s death-but God knew different. He knew that having a cancer diagnosis at the same time as my son’s death would have been worse. I’m afraid to think of what might have happened had I known back then that I had Leukemia.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
-John 16:12

So when I think I want to solve it all right now- when I feel that I can’t wait for an answer from God- I try to remember that I don’t know what is going on under the veil. `I don’t know what pieces of my life are being moved into place, or what is being rearranged. Whose steps are being lined up with mine in order to be at the exact place and time that God my Father has chosen? God is working for my good right now!

I saw a cool thing on Pinterest (you know you love Pinterest, too!) I am not sure who is the Author:
“God is working for you tonight.
Heaven is holding conversations about you.
Angels have been assigned to you.
Be at Peace.” -Daystar

One of my favorite passages has always been Psalm 91:11-12.

“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” -Psalm 91:11-12

I also like the way it is written in the VOICE:

“He will command His heavenly messengers to guard you,
to keep you safe in every way.
They will hold you up in their hands so that you will not crash, or fall, or even graze your foot on a stone.”

DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) skills, when applied, can help when the emotion is escalating from the problem or thought, and some these skills may stop the emotion before it causes suffering. In my case, suffering starts when I am incapable of thinking of anything but the terrible things that are going to happen to me. I can be consumed within myself and my mind a prison of “what ifs”.
And my family suffers too because I am unaware of what they are feeling as I am all consumed within myself. But I don’t have to go through this alone! Isaiah 58:11 tells us the Lord will guide us continually. He will guide me as I walk through the Worry Decision Tree (See previous post explaining the tree) giving me wisdom and truth. He will change my destructive emotions when I decide to choose a distraction instead of grief, anger, fear.

CBT Worry Tree

The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever flowing spring.
-Isaiah 58:11

I can’t stress enough that He promises to guide us continually. Ask for Him to be your Wise Mind and be like a lush garden rather than a dry tree stripped from leaves and choked by vines.

 

 

It is Well with My Soul Mindfulness Exercise #3

It is Well with my Soul
(Based on Psalm 145:5)
“I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.”

Find a PDF version of this exercise: Spiritual Mindfulness Exercise 2 It is Well With my Soul.

❖ Sit comfortably, hands loose with palm open (Willing Hands)

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❖ Start with your breath. Feel the fresh inhale and the cleanliness of
the exhale. Breathe in an easy rhythm, trusting in God’s strength.

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❖ If problems or thoughts arrive in your mind, acknowledge them,
then send them away as if a bird lighting for a moment and moving
on.

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❖ Say aloud or in your mind, “I am with you,” while you continue
your easy breath. Stay here as long as you like.

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❖ As our Bible verse states, meditate on our majestic God, who is a
limitless resource.

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❖ Connect with Him. Listen for His voice. Stay here, just listening.

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❖ When you feel ready to move on, say “It is well with my soul.”
Over and over, like a mantra, breathing and relaxing in His
presence.

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❖ When you are ready, begin to move slowly as you “awaken” from
your connection. You have come close to God, and He in turn has
come close to you as he promised.

Acceptance, but First Distraction

I took a day off from blogging yesterday. My last blog left me in my blue funk. Writing about accepting Tyler’s death was difficult. I wrote my blog in the morning and the rest of the day was filled with sadness, depression and panic attacks.

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I tried to be gentle with my body and give it rest, but invariable I awoke in a panic each and every time I lay down. I don’t have any really good medicine for this because I have taken too many benzos once or twice and ended up in the hospital. This means that I have to use good old coping skills to get through days like this.

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I felt like I was taking on too much, what with volunteering and researching for this blog- and really wanting Blue Funk Faith to “take off.” Add to that the emotional last blog article and I haven’t mentioned this before, but I also have leukemia and while I don’t need treatment yet, I have a lot of “If’s” and “When’s” rolling around in my mind.

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So, I was in a full-fledged episode.

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It’s hard for others to understand when that funk hits. “Did something cause it? Are you worrying about something? How can I help?” are common questions from my family. I can’t explain it to them. They don’t get it. And at the time, I wasn’t sure what was causing it.  It took a session with my therapist to really think about what was happening inside me.

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When I have days like this, I don’t feel like even trying coping skills. I know I need to accept the changes in my life. It’s more difficult for me now to handle obligations. But, there really was no other way around it. I needed to be able to have a “life worth living even with the painful events” that have and will occur, as DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) describes it. That is one of the tenets of Reality Acceptance in DBT. Specifically, Radical Acceptance, which is a skill used when emotional pain is overwhelming you.
I think there is a conduit between Radical Acceptance and faith. God calls on us to accept the path we are on, right now, as the path where he wants us to be.

“And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” Romans 8:28

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It’s times like these that DBT asks us to use Pros and Cons for either using coping skills or acting on urges to blot it all out. So yesterday, after the previous day being filled with blah, I knew I needed to consult my pre-written pros and cons and try to make an effort to cope. I did not want another day like that.

Here is My own Pros and Cons of acting on Crises Urges

 

(Pros and Cons Distress Tolerance worksheet for you)

 

Acting on Urges

Pros of acting on impulsive urges, giving in, giving up, or avoiding what needs to be done:
1. It is easier to stay depressed in bed
2. Drinking to avoid is temporary and I wake up feeling more depressed from the alcohol
3. Give up on my responsibilities

Cons of acting on impulsive urges, giving in, giving up, or avoiding what needs to be done:
1. Pushing things down doesn’t make them go away
2. I still feel depressed
3. I’m too tired to think up coping skills.
4. I have nothing for panic attacks

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Resisting Crisis Urges

Pros of resisting acting on impulsive urges, giving in, giving up, or avoiding what needs to be done:
1. God knows exactly where I am and He cares
2. I may be able to move my mind onto more positive things
3. Sticking to facts counters distorted thinking
4. I have a self-sooth list I can go to that might move me out of it.

Cons of resisting acting on impulsive urges, giving in, giving up, or avoiding what needs to be done:
1. It’s not easy to do- face up to reality
2. I still feel bad
3. Things are hard to think about

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So, yesterday, I did nothing strenuous like volunteer and I chose to spend my day working on a new jigsaw puzzle, something I haven’t done for a while. No blog writing meant I didn’t have to conjure up sad details or spend time thinking about DBT. I just consulted my list of distractions and went at it.

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I’m glad I used this outlet to take care of myself and I actually enjoyed doing the puzzle, moving around the pieces and obtaining small victories when pieces fit together. Today, I fell back to myself. I still have that jigsaw on the table—it’s a toughie. But I’m able to write and I don’t have the dark gloom of the funk.

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Had I read Jesus Calling for that dark day, I would have read, “When you start feeling anxious about something, relinquish the situation to me… I will either take care of the problem myself or show you how to handle it.”

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“In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear: I have triumphed over this corrupt world order.” John 16:33

I am exactly where God wants me to be, and I am never alone.