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!”

On the Path to Acceptance

This little boy was meant to be a red-haired girl. I saw it in a dream about halfway through the pregnancy. I believed in dreams and was really surprised when my baby boy was born with brown hair just like mine!

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I didn’t really believe in dreams, so much, but I believed in God. A lot.

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So, I sat by my baby boy’s bed night after night and prayed over him. It was okay- him not being a girl, and I saw my own brown eyes looking back at me. He looked like me. And, only as God can plan, my granddaughter, Tyler’s firstborn, is a little red-haired girl!

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We ended up getting baptized together- sort of. I was very pregnant when I decided to take the plunge (pun intended.) No, I really didn’t believe he was baptized because he was in my uterus when I was immersed, but you have to admit, it’s an interesting story though. I had been baptized as a baby but my parents started going to this Pentecostal church and the sermons compelled me to want to make the decision for myself. It wasn’t like I didn’t believe I was saved by the baby baptism- because I did believe. It was more like I wanted Jesus to know that I consciously made the decision on my own.

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Tyler was eventually baptized in his own ceremony when he was about 11 or 12. Tyler had gone to church with me every Sunday since he was a baby. He sat with me in adult church until I found a church that had a great children’s service. In that act he declared Jesus as his Savior.

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Tyler’s dad was an agnostic. “God can come down here and show me a miracle. Then I’ll believe.” I have a vague recollection of him being in church for Tyler’s baptism and complaining about it. I can’t think of any other reason his dad would be in a church so…

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So often now I think back and thank God I suggested the baptism. It one thing that helps me to accept. I know that my son is in Heaven and while that doesn’t make me regret a lot of our relationship, I know that he is with God and that he knows how much I love him.

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Tyler was in God’s hands all of his life. God gave him, as He gives us all, a temporary assignment in life in this world. A short time with his family, a short time with his mother. I am blessed with the knowledge that I spent more time on this Earth with Tyler than any other human being, praying with him, teaching him about God.
But I am only human and accepting is hard.

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God cared for him all of his life. Tyler carried the truths of the Lord in his heart all his life. God reminded him of this the day an unknown stranger placed a note on his windshield reminding him of God’s love for him. And at the very Home Depot that would be Tyler’s last stop months later! Tyler kept that note on his kitchen counter for who knows how long!

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Accepting is hard. He is no longer here. I don’t get to talk to him and say all those things I want to say.

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But I see “how God cared for (him) all along the way, just as a father cares for his child.” Deuteronomy 1:31

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We played “I can only Imagine” by Mercy Me at his funeral. I can imagine Tyler in front of God when he went to Heaven. And he went immediately when his head hit that rock as his car tumbled and threw his body.

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And in accepting comes “what if’s” as we explore the story we try to accept. In this case my “what if’s” include what if he hadn’t died but was severely impaired and lived now in constant pain and agony? Maybe even paralyzed?

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Instead, he danced for Jesus in heaven and is now living in eternity of love and constant joy.

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Accepting is hard, but I’m clear on my facts. I’ve checked them in the Bible every day since he died. He is free.

How EMDR and God Helped Me Endure

My son Tyler was 32 when he passed away. His car slid off the road and rolled over. He was thrown from the car and the hit to his head killed him immediately. I don’t know how long he lay in the snowy ditch until someone (who?) came along and found him. I don’t know this but I have imagined it over and over. In fact, I imagined it until I thought what I imagined was real.

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Afterwards, I spent session after session with a Psychologist that specializes in PTSD and treats this malady with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Week after week, I watched a light move right to left, left to right in front of my eyes and told the story over and over – the ditch, the car, the snow, the hit on the head- until I convinced myself that I had never seen this and really am not aware of what exactly happened.
PTSD can develop after a major traumatic event, either emotional or physical. About 10% of the US population has symptoms of PSTD. It is mostly a female event, in fact, my stepdaughter had it after finding her stepfather dead on his bed. She also went through EMDR therapy.

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She, like I, came to hate going through it- the scene in our minds, time after time- but it really helped. My therapist used a penlight in front of my eyes which caused my eyes to find a right/left eye movement. I have also heard that a therapist can use sound. My therapist explained that the movement repeatedly activates the opposite sides of the brain releasing emotional experiences that are “trapped” in the nervous system. Can you believe it? It’s so amazing to me how just retelling the story with this penlight helps the neurophysiological system to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself!

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Sometimes I still do think about how my son died- you can understand how that would be, but I feel like if I do some investigating and obtain the documents from the highway patrol and coroner and local police then I would worry over the story and ultimately have a whole new scenario in my head.

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It is enough; right now, I think it is enough, to know that my son died and lives in Heaven with Jesus and my Mom and Dad, as well as his father’s Mom and Dad and the two babies I miscarried. I am a believer. I also believe that our dogs are there too. Even our precious dachshund puppy who died too young.

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EMDR helped me to realize that my imagination had built that scene of his death. Afterward, plenty of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) classes helped me to look at his death as a FACT. He is dead. And all the things I had meant to say to him are left unsaid. That is true. But it is my faith in God that has helped me to understand my feelings. It is DBT that has given me the coping skills to move forward.

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Moving forward is HUGE for me because I just couldn’t get past this strategy. One of the things I hope to do in this blog is to help others who can’t move forward- and to show how God plays the BIGGEST part in getting us to move forward.

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If you are like me you know the verse that says that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear. I believed that whole-heartedly until Tyler died. How could I possible bear this? This verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13. The rest of the verse says that God will provide a way for us to handle it. I believe my way to handle it is with my doctors and therapists and through DBT counseling.

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“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

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No. God did not make it all go away. And he used men and women of great knowledge to show me how to handle it. He showed me that I can endure.  I hope that through these posts you can apply this therapy to your life to help you endure.

I am not sure what your burden is today but I am living proof that our God is faithful. That He will indeed show us a way to handle it- If we simply believe that He will.