Shine it on Me Jesus!

DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) tells us we can regulate our emotions (the unwanted ones) by accumulating positive experiences and be unmindful of worries. I have also heard this called Emotion Management, but I like to call this Emotion Leveling. This can be done by regularly participating in pleasant events. By doing this, you can build up a bank of happy things. It helps you to get out there and enjoy something. But you don’t even have to leave your house! Do fun things at home, by yourself or with others. Just do things you like to do or be creative with new things!

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I wonder if, when we are at our lowest, that is when God shines us with realization of creativity or potential. He shines up the spirit we have inside of us to do new things, new talents. My Dad was ill for a few years with emphysema, he was later healed, which I will tell you about later. His name was Marvin, a self-employed accountant, and in his late sixties his disease hit him like a ton of bricks. He couldn’t breathe without oxygen tied to his back and he was so exhausted he didn’t work much.

My Mom was a stay at home so she had no money coming in to supplement the household. I am the youngest and I was out of the house, so they didn’t have any children to support, but it was very difficult for them. Their church and their friends were amazing! Often times my Mom would find anonymous cards with money inside in their mailbox. Looking back, I don’t know how they did it!

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When my Dad was sick, he began to putter around the garage and started to make wooden plaques from scraps of board. He would find these odd shapes and somehow, like a puzzle, put them together to become a picture. Then he would stain them. He didn’t sell them, but gave them away, so this didn’t increase their income at all, but it gave my Dad a sense of accomplishment and the realization of a talent he never knew he had!

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God did that!

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Later, we found my dad’s typewritten testimony in his Bible. It was all about being positive and focusing on the good. God healed him, and he felt that the grace God gave him to have a positive outlook and a sense of gratitude was instrumental in his healing. He later died of an unrelated illness- Diverticulosis.

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My brother Robb started wood working and making lamps from pipes when he was coping with his Leukemia treatments. He now has a huge workshop with all kinds of fancy equipment! He created a beautiful memory plaque inscribed with my Dad, Mom and son’s epitaph together engraved on wood. Having this outlet, this woodworking, allowed my brother to do something other than focus on his disease and treatment.

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God did that!

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I am writing. Something that has always been my passion. I feel like God is guiding me, inspiring me and, yes, pushing me, to create this memoir that could possibly help others who are grieving, depressed and lost, to find Him again, like I did. And I am so excited about writing! Somedays I can hardly wait to open up the laptop and pluck away at the keys!

Gratitude’s for Emotion Levelling

DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls it “Emotion Regulation” but that sounds harsh to me- so I like to call it Emotion Levelling. I hate the thought of regulating emotions and it seems to me that it would be softer, gentler, to level out or balance our emotions. I like the thought of unwanted emotions drifting away from me and the word “regulation” doesn’t really fit with that soft drift. It’s the same concept though, I just changed the title.

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The Bible tells us to be grateful and full of thanks even in times of distress. A few years ago, I attended a DBT class every day, all day for two weeks. The requirement was to write out 20 gratitude’s every morning and every evening. This morning I took out my notebook from that class and looked over all of the gratitude’s I had written twice a day.

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I was surprised and thoughtful as I looked through them. My dog must have been having problems with her paw and each day I noted that I was thankful she was getting better and better. I also wrote some funny things like, “Bandit went outside effectively” ha-ha! We were potty-training him! Every day I catalogued the things I was thankful for and it came to me as I read them that my mood lifted significantly as I pored over them.

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“Give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourselves in.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

I remember some days trying hard to get to 20 but reading back I don’t see any gratitude’s that were insignificant or stupid. They all made sense. Put in perspective of time, this class was shortly after my son’s death, the darkest part of my life- but every day I had 40 things to be grateful for. It was Winter, so I regularly wrote that I was grateful I had a car with heat.

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You can take any notebook or even scrap paper to write your gratitude’s, but I have provided a simple template Gratitude’s Printable PDF that you can use if you like. I find it helpful to write the date on the sheets. It’s interesting to go back and look at them with a date providing context.

Making Gratitude’s work for you:

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When you are complaining: Complaining makes your mood worse. You’re being willful when you refuse to stop complaining. Gratitude’s shift our mind from what’s wrong to what’s right.
When you’re depressed: Depression causes us to focus on ourselves and our problems. Gratitude’s help us to focus on satisfying and good things in our lives.
Gratitude’s are Bible Based: God wants us to be happy. The word JOY is mentioned 102 times in the Bible, PRAISE 222 and depending on what version you read LOVE appears between 310 and 538 times. PLUS, there are about 35 verses in the Bible about gratitude and thanksgiving.

“Come face-to-face with God, and give thanks; with loud and joyful voices, praise Him in songs.” Psalm 95:2

Gratitude’s can change our minds: Regularly writing out our gratitude’s can plant seeds of content in our daily lives. We switch our thoughts from those negative clingy ones to the positive. We even begin to recognize, in the moment, things to be grateful for so we can add them to todays’ list.
Gratitude’s help us sleep: Writing out our Gratitude’s in the evening can lower our stress levels and give us calm sleep according to research done by the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida.
I’m sure that if you give it a try, you’ll come up with a lot of personal benefits of being grateful and keeping a journal about it.

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“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” ―A.A. Milne

Gratitude’s Printable PDF

Half-smiling and Willing Hands

Half-smiling is a kind of a trick for your mind, like it’s harder to be angry when you’re smiling. And Half smiling gives me a posture of joy when my inner being is feeling despair. An open posture, chest out and hands open, is often used in Yoga and meditation. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls this Wiling Hands.

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It’s an attitude adjustment. Gratitude. Grace + Attitude = Gratitude

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When my parents were middle aged they began to frequent a Pentecostal church. At the time, I was newly married and pregnant with my son, Tyler, so I really didn’t have anything better to do on Sunday nights, what with my friends being partiers and all, so I joined them at the worship service.

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Wow! People were holding up their hands in praise during worship songs that seemed to go on forever. At this church there was new music that would compel you to just “be” in the presence of God. Some people just bent their elbows at their sides and cupped their hands up to receive and give blessings and praise.

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I connected this memory to the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of “Half-smiling with Willing Hands.” The process is to relax your face, let both corners of your mouth go slightly upward, and adopt a serene facial expression. Drop your arms to your sides, bent slightly at the elbows and unclench your hands turning your palms up with your fingers relaxed. This posture is very close to the congregants at my mom’s church, heads bent upward smiling with open hands at sides, facing Heaven.

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I’m not able to lay on the ground next to the physical being of Jesus like Mack did (see last post), but I can raise my tulip face to heaven and let Him light it up! I would smile if that happened, so it comes easily to think of that and get my face in the Half-smiling position. The willing hands comes so easily to me in this pose. I want His hands in mine and I readily make mine available. Then, I just bask in it. In His Glory.

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In DBT this practice is used when you realize and accept that you are in a situation that you cannot change, like my feelings of regret. In my daily life, as God brings me closer to him, I often read something in His Word that makes me break out into a smile. I call these thoughts up as I get into my Half-smiling posture.

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“Have faith in Him in all circumstances
Dear people.
Open up your heart to Him;
The true God shelters us in His arms.” -Psalm 62:8 VOICE

Regret is an emotion that I don’t want to keep around but it’s tough to eradicate. I’m reminded of my Mom’s own battle with regret. Before she passed, I got a very small peek into her heart when she was in Hospice. One day a Psychologist came to see her and knowing how important this was in the dying process, I tried to offer her some privacy by excusing myself into her bedroom as they spoke. I wasn’t listening in, but my Mom’s apartment was small, and I heard the doctor ask my Mom if she had any regrets. My Mom answered that she regretted she could never please her dad.

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I was astounded! My Mom was 82 years old and her dad passed decades before. Could she really still have regrets about that? It was quite a learning for me to realize there are some things that stick. Negative things can stay a part of our inner monologue for a very long time, even for our whole lives. These are things that may not be able to be changed. Certainly, in my Mom’s case, those events from her childhood could not be re-lived. Oh, how I wish I could have taken that feeling away from her!

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I guess right now what I am doing to help me with my regrets is to focus on Tyler in Heaven knowing how much I loved him. The facts are clear, I made certain decisions and I can’t go back and change them. Refusing to accept that will only keep the guilt fresh. And by re-reading what I’ve written I see a lot of “what ifs” and “If only’s.

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This clues me into the idea that I may be making a lot of assumptions about how Tyler saw everything.

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If I had changed the timing of my move, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now. The girls’ lives would be different, I would be different, my husband’s life would be different and I won’t assume to believe that means better. God tell us that we are where we should be. He attends to our pain and he walks it with us. I need to be willing to allow him to heal my regret. I wonder if a part of me really doesn’t want to let it go? I can see that a long term project for me might be digging into that with my therapist.

“I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:17 NLT

The Great Sadness

This Spring, I bought this tulip plant at the grocery store. It was one of those type of plants that have a root ball and you are supposed to rip off the cardboard surrounding the root and plant it. The problem was that we hadn’t passed the intermittent frosts, yet, so I was afraid to plant it.

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Tulips are my favorite flower and it always bugs me that they have such a short life as a flower! Sure, it’s a bulb so wherever you plant it, you know it continuously comes back every year, but you have to wait a whole year to see it again! Who has that kind of patience?

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But when it flowers again the following year, it revives with even more blooms and deeper greener leaves- a better version of itself. So I put it in a crock and some water in the pure sunlight of my kitchen window.

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In this fashion, God plants us here on Earth and loves us, talks to us, gives us lots of His light and waits to see what we’ll become. I imagine we are similar to the tulip in that we are one way for a time and then we change our course and turn out to be a bigger better version as the seasons of our lives pass.
I choose to look at my set of circumstances this way. I am going to become a better person now, than I was last season.

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Jesus responded, “Beloved daughter, your faith in me has released your healing.
You may go with my peace.” –Luke 8:48

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To me, becoming a better person means coming out of my “Me! Me! Me!” state and helping others. It means living each day excited to see what God has in store for me and making the most of it. It also means taking some old clinging feelings and digging into them, so they can leave me. I can say with assurance that Grief is one of those feelings, but the worst one, which in my case is always paired with the grief is Regret.

In the book “The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, Mack is struggling with the loss of his daughter and he is filled with regret for not being there to save her from her horrendous suffering then death. Mack calls his emotion “The Great Sadness.” I can relate to this. Although the circumstances of Tyler’s death are very different from Mack’s Missy, I have “The Great Sadness” just as well.

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Although I worked a lot, I took time to meet with Tyler’s teachers frequently, sometimes once a week to see what I could do to help him succeed. And I prayed. I prayed and prayed for him. I wanted to get out of the marriage, but I didn’t know how, and I thought I should be yoked for life. I remember reading about being un-equally yoked which I understood to be a Christian woman married to an Agnostic man. So, I prayed for my husband to find God, to come with us to church as Tyler and I went every week. But that didn’t happen, and instead of finding my way out of the marriage, God blessed me with two more children, Hillary and Kendall. With the girls around things changed a little bit and my husband was less antagonistic.

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Finally, when Kendall was four, Hillary six and Tyler fifteen, I asked my husband to leave, and he did. I didn’t realize that fifteen was a horrible age to have such a life changing event in a young man’s life! So, you can see my regrets popping up in this story: Regrets for not leaving my marriage sooner, my regret for not standing up for myself and Tyler at home, and even though I don’t regret sending my husband packing, I regret the timing. Timing is everything.

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Regret is a “Guilt” word. It’s being reminded of something wrong you did in the past, and I can’t help thinking “if only.” Oh, I had always made resolutions to change during my marriage, to be more forceful and insert my own parenting skills into the equation, and once I was on my own with the kids I did that. I can’t help thinking that in Tyler’s case it was too late.

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When Tyler died, I was understandably inconsolable I can pray for release of my suffering, I can continue my therapy and find the DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) skills that work.
Now, I like to think that Jesus has bestowed upon my son a clear picture of my love for him. And He has bestowed upon me that we are always right where we need to be. I know this, but this is my burden, “The Great Sadness” in my life and I am working everyday to relieve the suffering. But I am planted, not buried, and God is opening me up like a flower to show me the good times like sunshine on my little tulip face.

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In one of my favorite passages from The Shack, Jesus is lying next to Mack and they are looking up into the deep night sky. Mack is happy and he is laughing with Jesus:

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“Mack lay there realizing that he was now feeling guilty about enjoying himself, about laughing, and even in the darkness he could feel The Great Sadness roll in and over him.
     ‘Jesus?’ he whispered as his voice choked. ‘I feel so lost.’
A hand reached out and squeezed his and didn’t let go. ‘I know, Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I am not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly, you are not lost.

IMPROVE: SELF ENCOURAGEMENT

Robert Schuller said, “It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.”

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Do you love yourself? When you look in the mirror or examine your heart, do you appreciate yourself? I have a hard time with this because I think I’m hard-wired to find flaws in everything, most of all myself. Have you heard the statement that you’re “harder on yourself than you are on others?” That’s me. Lots of self-judgment going on in my world.

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I was in a class once during which we were asked to look at the alphabet and choose one positive trait about ourselves, one word for each letter. After writing 26 different words, we were then instructed to cut out each word separately and place the words in an empty jar. We got arts and crafty decorating the jar, so it would look pretty on a shelf. Sometimes, when I’m being self-deprecating, I pull out a couple traits that I wrote about myself just to remind me that I love myself. Frequently this works for me and other times I think the jar is dumb and it’s just full of a bunch of words.

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I’ve also used my prayer / meditation time to contemplate a particular trait that I want to emulate right now. Using Yoga Nidra, we are asked to make an “intention” and state it three times before mentally completing a body scan. My intentions are positive affirmations of who I want to be today, in this moment, such as “I am smart” when I am feeling the opposite. If you are interested, you can access some guided Yoga Nidra audio on You Tube.
I once drew a colorful calendar in my journal and every morning I wrote down the answer to I am…. “I am Relaxed, Grateful, Blessed, Honest, etc.” The only rule was that it had to be a positive thing. Subsequently I would try to make sure my actions throughout the day illustrated that word I had decided on.

“This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I use the skills for IMPROVE the Moment when I am deeply sad and depressed, tied up with anxiety over things that I cannot control. There are times that I don’t feel like using the coping skills. It’s so much easier just to give in to the negative. In DBT, (Dialectic Behavior Therapy,) this is called being “Willful.” I think this is one of the reasons why I didn’t consult God in daily prayer, as well.
I know that God is in control of what is happening next in my life, what is happening now and what has already happened. When things are really bad, it’s just so hard to believe that. I thought it was easier to stay in bed- to mindlessly watch tv- rather than drudge all that up to God. I also think I was afraid that He wouldn’t answer me. Isn’t it easier to act out instead of confessing?
I thank God that He provided these strategies to help me out of the gloom, as well as the experts who work with me every week.

 

 

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.

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

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.

Wise Mind ACCEPTS (Part Two)

 

In my last post I shared with you the first few skills in Wise Mind ACCEPTS and I shared my self-made Distracting. You can make your own chart. I’m not saying it works 100% of the time, but these things have helped me get through some tough times and it’s another tool for your tool belt! As Romans 12:2 states transform the way you think.

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I shared the first three skills (Activities, Contributing and Comparisons). In this post I will cover the last four distracting skills: Emotions, Pushing a thought away, Thoughts and Sensations.

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Emotions: Do something that will create a compelling Emotion. On my list I have “watch a scary movie, a comedy show or look at cute dog Tweets.” This is a form of opposite action. Find something that may cause you to feel the opposite of what you are feeling.
Sometimes if I’m blue and lethargic I watch The Big Bang Theory which always gives me a laugh. Now, I won’t lie, sometimes I watch it in bed in the middle of the day. I just can’t get out of bed, but I can watch something there that might elevate my mood so I want to get out of bed!

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Sometimes I don’t even want to read my devotions I’m so depressed. But I read 1 John 1:5 which tells me that “God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” I feel that it is my duty to read my devotions everyday. I think, “it is the least I can do for God when He does so much for me.” But God doesn’t want me to read His Word for Him, He wants me to read it for ME. Darkness can’t exist in the light. There is always a tidbit of inspiration or just a verse that makes me smile or one that lights up my mind about something I didn’t know before.

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So for me, opposite action might be as easy as reading the Bible, to turn my dark to light.
Pushing the thought away: My therapist suggested I make a box and put my worries in it to think about at another time. I picked a date and said “I’m not going to worry about this until November 29th.” When the negative thoughts came around I just wrote it down and put it in the box. Once I solved the problem, I burnt each of the papers in the box and then threw the box away.

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Here is where giving the problem to God can be a boundless coping skill. Pray fiercely as you lay your burden at His feet. Then, cast it away! You’ve heard people say, “It’s in God’s hands.” Well, your burden really is! You’ve just given it to Him, now let it go. When it comes back (and it will, it’s just human nature) remind yourself that “God ‘s taking care of that.” That not only releases it from you, but also shows God that you have complete faith in him!

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“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” 1Peter 5:7

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God doesn’t want us to worry. He would rather that we have faith that He will provide as He wraps us in His arms of protection. He knows our tomorrows and promises to prepare us for them. Instead, He would rather we spend time with Him in praise and thanksgiving.

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“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
And then all these things will be given to you too.
So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself
Living faithfully is a large enough task for today!”
Matthew 6:33-34 VOICE

I found the Compass Study Bible VOICE at a second hand bookstore and I LOVE this translation. It is written in story language and yet is filled with background information within the verses that is interesting, uplifting and informative.  I love reading the backstories associated with my verses! (had to share).

Thoughts: When emotions take over focus on your thoughts. Recite song lyrics out loud. Count things or repeat a prayer over and over. I like The Lord’s Prayer for this because it’s one I know by heart. And of course, my tried and true: Breathe in “Praise” Breathe out “Jesus.”

The idea here is to bring down the emotion, so you can resist action urges. If you are angry you might say things that will hurt others. If you are crying hysterically you may hyperventilate. If you are sad, you may want to blur the feeling by using substances. This coping skill is simply to make you feel better so you don’t hurt yourself or others.

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Lastly, in Wise Mind ACCEPTS is Sensation: Find safe physical sensations to combat strong negative emotions. A bubble bath with lovely scent like lavender. Cold water or ice on your wrists or forehead can bring down anxiety or intense tears. The cold actually slow your heart-rate bringing down panic. If your uptight, listen to very loud music.

Yesterday, my daughter was going through a big problem.  She phoned me and was hysterical!  She was afraid of something that might happen in response to something she did.  No matter how much I talked to her I couldn’t get her to stop crying.  I could barely understand her words through the sobs.  Nothing I said was getting through to her.

She had an iced coffee with her and I asked her to take the ice and put it on her forehead  or wrists.  I knew by experience that this DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) technique called TIP (The “T” being for change temperature) can physiologically take down her heartbeat and help calm her.  It worked within a minute and her sobs lessened.  She paired this with deep breaths (she had learned this through meditating).

Soon she was able to think more clearly and plan out what to do.  God made our bodies so intricately!

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Going through hard times doesn’t just affect our mood and physiology, it can affect us spiritually. So stay close to the Lord and all in all, just try to do something to feel better that is safe and positive.