Prayer Warrior

It’s a typical Hospital Gift shop, although more beautiful than most. I’ve been in gift shops where things are crammed into a small space and you have to dig around for what you’re looking for. Not so, at the hospital that I volunteer. It’s bright, with wide aisles that accommodate wheel chairs and walkers.

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Most of our customers are either hospital personnel or family members choosing a gift for a new baby or flowers for a loved one, but many of them are just killing time while a loved one gets a test of some kind.

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The most amazing thing about this gift shop, to me, is that it is a battleground for prayer. Every single day there is at least one story that I am told that prompts praise to God for a cancer that’s gone, or a test gone well. There are also people filled with fear and anxiety over crucial physical problems.

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My job entails stocking shelves and cashing people out at the register with their purchases, but my main job- not written in the list of duties, but one given to me by God, is to talk to every person, hear their story and pray- hard.

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When I ask customers how they are doing, or what they have going on today, they are open with the truth. “I am stressed because…” “We are joyous because…” I ask questions and they open up more, they look me in the eyes, and I see their need for human and divine contact. I have never been rebuffed and am always thanked for asking- for caring-for praying. I think that lots of people need an outlet for this emotional tidal wave that has hit them.

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The other day, a family of women of various age walked in. They were looking for a cap for their mother who had lost her hair from chemotherapy in her fight against breast cancer. As we spoke, their story came out about the rough three weeks they had lived through- not with their mother’s cancer, but with their father who was in a room in the hospital.

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The father had come into Emergency, been sent home, and then came back because he was desperately ill. One daughter told me that they had been planning his funeral as the doctors had exhausted all tests and he had not improved. Then, one doctor thought to try just one last test, a thyroid test. And as miracles happen, this doctor found the problem and the man was healed, ready to go home in a day or two! We praised God together! He lined up the steps of that doctor with this man’s needs.

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On the same day, some customers were looking for a gift for their grandmother who had just had surgery and had been pronounced cancer free! I praised God with both of these groups. It was so joyous! And these types of stories happen daily.

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Earlier, a woman came in, disoriented, just browsing, picking up this and that and putting it back down. As is my norm, I asked how her day was going. She told me she just found out her husband’s cancer was back after he had been in remission. She could barely think; she was so distracted. “I don’t even know what I’m doing,” she told me. I touched her arm and told her I would pray for her and her husband. She readily gave me his name- a believer who wanted God’s healing power on her loved one.

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I only work once per week as a volunteer in the shop, but every day I work there is prayer to be done. Sometimes I write down the names of people to pray for and sometimes, I just remember them. I am still praying for “Margaret” who was in cardiac arrest and was going to be taken off her respirator. That was a few weeks ago. I don’t know what happened with Margaret, but the Lord continues to urge me to pray for her regularly.

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I do not work, because of health problems, and that situation has given me a great deal of anxiety. I often ruminate about what I will do with my life, day in and day out. But recently I read a scripture in The Message (my favorite Bible version).

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“So be content with who you are and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God. He is most careful with you.” Peter 5: 6-7

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Miraculously, in me, when I spend time with these folks, I can’t ruminate about my own problems. Jesus replaces the focus from myself to others and ultimately to Him.
The Holy Spirit has given me this Prayer Warrior position. Is this my promotion?

The Potter- A Poem

The Potter
~A Poem by Melanie Moscicki
Mending the Soul 2014

Another year,
a million tears,
so many times she’s tried
To fix the broken little girl,
she buried deep inside.

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He says to her,
“Come follow me,
I’ll make you new again”
but the walls she built are far too strong
to ever let Him in.

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She hears the sounds of laughter,
of joy she’s never known
Could it be? A girl like SHE
should live on LOVE-alone?

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So many scars from trusting
cracks from being dropped,
cast aside as nothing
but an empty, broken pot.

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But He says He’s a potter…
The best there ever was,
and He says I’m HIS daughter…
and His work has just begun.

At the Bottom

Here I am at the bottom again. Depression moves in swirls and waves most of the time and each day I dodge the waves and try to ride the swirls. If I could learn to recognize when I’m caught in a wave, I might be able to see more swirls. But in the wave, the swirls seem unreal. The good things that are swirls seem small and insignificant- fake even.

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First comes that pleading to God to help me- straighten me out- get me back on track. Then comes the self-loathing. “I used to be better than this.” And the worry. “How do I get out of this?” All the while the riptide is shredding and shredding each piece of me.

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Finally, I am at the bottom, the muck and the weeds surrounding me, and it’s an odd place. At the bottom, I can’t see the swirls or the waves. It’s just me stuck in the quicksand and having to deal with it.

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At the bottom I am like a lump. There is nothing redeeming about me. I have accomplished nothing. That being- that person -I used to be with the self confidence and nice clothes and polished up social skills isn’t me at the bottom. She is just a figment – a has-been. Some would call this a crisis, but it’s bigger than that. It’s a nothingness.

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As a lump I should have no feelings of inadequacy- no regret- no falseness, because I am only clay. I don’t look like anything, I have no expectations, because at the bottom you can only see the bottom.

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Yes, ripped up in those waves that came before, there were mistakes that put me on the bottom, a wrong decision, a bad medicine combo, a relentless negative narrative that tells me I don’t deserve anything. A heartless barrage of should and musts that are never met.

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After days, hours, minutes at the bottom I spot a tiny little swirl. Is it an opportunity? Because I am this lump, could I be formed into something different- maybe not even something better which is what the world would expect from one on the bottom, but something different? Surely that would take a lot of work, because I am at the bottom. And how does that work even begin?

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“So I went down to the potter’s shop and found him making something on his wheel. And as I watched, the clay vessel in his hands became flawed and unusable. So, the potter started again with the same clay. He crushed and squeezed and shaped it into another vessel that was to his liking. In that moment again I heard God’s word for his rebellious people. Oh, people of Israel can I not do the same to you as this potter has done? You are like clay in my hands- I will mold you as I see fit.” Jeremiah 3-6

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The potter started “with the same clay.” He didn’t throw it away and get some good fresh stuff, some brand-new baby straight from the womb to start a life free from regret and shame and mistakes.

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Is the work to turn the clay into something “Of his liking” the job of the clay? Is the clay expected to fashion itself into a beautiful vase or statue of magnificence? No, the work begins with the potter and the clay just has to allow itself to be transformed.

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I see the swirl- the opportunity- to allow God to do something with me to His liking. I could take my lumpy arms and start to etch out a nice big long “To Do” list of what it will take for me to be that woman I was- or to be different from her. But I won’t. Not today, sitting at the bottom, I trust the Potter. I trust God to make me to his liking- what could be better than to be admired by God?

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So, my prayer is for Him to take full control of my life. I will again ride the swirls, but in a way that God sees me riding them. I will still be crashed by waves, but God will use them to shape me to His liking.

My job is to be the clay.

Angst

I know what it’s like to wait on important news. Haven’t we all been in that spot, waiting for the phone to ring about a new job, or waiting to hear about a loved one in turmoil? Recently I had to have a bunch of medical tests. I had gone to a cardiologist about my incredibly high cholesterol and chest pains. The doctor called my cholesterol “horrendous” and “disastrous.” It devastated me.

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I have been working on coming to terms with my leukemia and now this, another medical problem! I was scheduled for a nuclear stress test a week later. It was a very long week to wait for this test. My husband and I prayed a lot. I became anxious, panicky and even more nauseous than normal.

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During this week of angst, I was grateful for the volunteer job I have once a week at a local hospital- grateful for the busyness of it to get my mind off my worries and this horrible week of waiting. I work in the Women’s Clinic that performs mammograms and Dexa scans and my job is to be always cheerful, friendly and soothing as I show patients to the dressing rooms, and make sure they feel comfortable while waiting in the small room for the tech to arrive.

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Another part of my job is to mail letters of follow up to patients. Most of these letters are to remind patients to get their annual mammogram or to let them know the test was normal, but there are these letters in the stack that inform patients that an abnormal result occurred. The findings were inconclusive, abnormal or need additional follow up.
As I sat folding the letters and placing them in envelopes, when I came across one of the “bad” letters, it dawned on me that the person receiving this news will be worried, maybe even panicked and devastated. They would have to wait for an additional test to find out if something terrible may be wrong with them. I knew what that was like- I was feeling it that day about my own foreboding test.

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I began to pray over each letter as I folded it and stuffed it in its envelope. From the moment that letter was opened, these women would need God’s strength. I prayed they would be blessed with calm as they waited. I prayed they would get an appointment quickly to lessen the sleepless nights. I prayed that even though their minds would turn to the worst-case scenario, God would be there no matter what.

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My tests came out good. I still have this very high cholesterol but it’s being treated with medicine and I have to keep monitoring it. So, very similar to my leukemia blood tests, I have to have lipid tests regularly as well, but the prognosis isn’t as dire as I had originally thought, and I don’t need to be on pins and needles every day. Thank you, Lord!

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But I’ll never know how the follow up tests go with the women I pray for. I truly believe God is working with each of them during their journey. Through my own angst I’m called as a prayer warrior, stuffing envelopes and providing warmth and God’s love to every soul who comes through the clinic. One or two of them will get bad news and God will be there for them.

“The righteous will have no fear of bad new; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

My Mom, the Volunteer

When I was little my mom volunteered at the school. She did those ears and eyes tests they used to have back then. “You won’t believe how dirty some of the kids’ ears are!”

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Her being at my school always embarrassed me. I’m not sure why, but I remember being lined up and walking through the halls to go to the library or lunch or something and my friend ribbing me. “Cammie, there’s your mom!”

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I ignored her, turned my head the opposite way while looking out of the corner of my eye at my mom in her dress and high heels frantically waving to get my attention.

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She was always up for helping whether it be Brownies when I was a kid or in her later years whenever there was something going on at her senior apartment. She didn’t let an opportunity to provide service as well as commune with others.

In her Bible I found the following verse underlined:
“Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble and prayerful always. When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out.” Romans 12:12-13

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I recently started volunteering in the spirit of my mom. I work at the Women’s Center of my local hospital greeting patients and showing them to the dressing room where they will shed their clothes for a thin hospital gown. I make sure they’re warm enough as they wait for their tests by providing a nice warm robe.

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After my first training day, the volunteer I was working with led me down to the cafeteria where a group of volunteers were eating lunch. (Free food to volunteers, Yay!) I got my sandwich and hesitantly sat with the group. This was out of my comfort zone, sitting with a bunch of strangers.

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I was introduced to everyone, knowing I would never remember their names. “I like the community of being with others,” my trainer told me.

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That comment was so like my mom! I forced myself to sit there listening to the banter and discussing things like one woman’s new InstaPot. Even though my whole career had been in customer service and acting as a liaison between my company and clients required me to banter about things with folks, I just lost that skill somehow during my time of depression and illness.

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I was the first to leave with my bag of Sunchips, “Don’t run off now,” my trainer pleaded. So I sat for awhile longer then made my exit. Next time I will stay longer.

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My new schedule has me working till 4pm and the dining room is closed when I get off. Part of the reason I am volunteering is to have communication with others, so I am not so alone during the day. Yes, I communicate for a short time with patients, but comradery is so important to a person as isolated as me.

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My mom was a mall walker. After she completed her rounds she would sit in the food court with a soda and talk with people. She got to know them. They became a part of her life.  So I am thinking that I could go early to my 12:30 volunteer shift and have my lunch with the group. I will push through this thing that is out of my comfort zone and talk to these strangers until they become my friends.
That’s what my mom would do.

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“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

The Year of Mom

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I have had a tough couple years after losing my son in 2014. I wrote about my trials and how I learned to cope with things by employing Dialectic Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Then, suddenly, I felt like I didn’t have anything left to write. I had covered all the coping skills I learned and I talked about how I used the Bible along with therapy to find my way. It’s taken me a few months to figure out my next steps. What to do with my life and how to get through each day. Enter: Mom.

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My mom passed away several years ago and there is honestly not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. She shaped my life as I was growing up, gave me the idea that I could do anything and I attribute both she and my dad to my professional and personal success.

She comes back to me in the most unusual circumstances, like when I use a public restroom, I remember her telling me how she always used the first stall because it’s the cleanest one. Why? Because when the janitor starts cleaning, she starts with the first one and she will most likely be called away to do another task before she is finished with the rest, so therefore; the first stall will always be clean.

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It has been sitting on my brain to be more like her -my mom. She was close to the Lord, reading her devotions every day. I’ve got her Bible now and it is filled with her highlights and underlining from her daily studies. I’ve decided to go to her Bible first, when reading my own devotions to see if she had any insight into a particular passage on some day long ago.

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Today, my devotions led me to one of my favorite verses:

“Yes, I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.” John 15:5

The chapter goes on to talk about how Jesus’ “true disciples” produce bountiful harvests and when we obey Him, we are living in His love. That is the part my mom underlined in her Bible, and she went further underlining:

“I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

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My mom did this.  She laid down her life, cast everything aside to leave her home in Minnesota to take care of my niece, her grand-daughter, in Florida. She had no life there but to be a role model to an eight-year old girl whose mother had lost custody. She gave up her routine, her friends, her family -really her life- to go to an unknown state a thousand miles away and love a little girl. Talk about strong!

My family in Ohio eventually took in my niece and she lived with us for years until her mother, my sister, was ready to get her back. But it was the unselfish love of my mom that saved that little girl.

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And love people? My mom did! She never met a stranger and spoke to every one she met, no matter who they were.

So, in this month of January, the month of resolutions, I am going to start blogging about how I am modeling my life after my mom, Doris. Something simple for today:

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My mom put on her makeup every day, no matter what. Even when she was sick with cancer, she put that make up on and read her devotions, first thing in the morning. In fact, my sister Shan who was her care giver in the end, told me that one day Mom had accidentally used her blue eye liner on her eyebrows! As she was really sick by then, Shan decided to let it go and not tell her. It put a smile on Shan’s face, and no one saw her that day!

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I will put my makeup on and read my devotions every day. I know that sounds easy, but for someone like me who has a hard time making sure I take a shower every day, it’s a good goal- an action step. It’s a beginning.
There is one thing, though, that I won’t do like Mom; I won’t carry my lipstick in my bra when I don’t take my purse somewhere!
I don’t wear lipstick.

Joy

I was trying to read this really good book when the wiener dogs decided it was time to play. Bandit, the younger, flipped the book up from my lap and started licking my face. Daisy, the alpha, began to whine to be pet. I was disgruntled, that book was really good.

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Then Bandit crawled under the blanket I had wrapped around me to “surprise” Daisy and Daisy got up on her hind legs to crash down on him. They began this dance of up on hind legs and down on the bed. Roll over and jump up as fast as you can. I put the book aside.

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Bandit lovingingly placed his paw on Daisy nose and began licking her face. They continued romping for some time and I realized that this was the moment! This was the one I should be a part of. Such joy those dogs bring me! They are always on my list of gratitudes, but I don’t always mindfully spend time in the moment with them.

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“So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life.” Isaiah 55:12

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What else goes on that I miss? Why does life have to be a bunch a goals, and “to do” lists to keep me occupied all day?

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The verse goes on to say:
“The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause.”

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Being mindful about all that goes on around us as we plug through the day helps us to see the glory of God. The mountains are bursting with song! And we don’t even know it!

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Daisy is in her spot on the bed and Bandit lays on the floor in a sprig of sunlight that comes through the window. The sun is winter bright in my backyard. There are squirrels playing too, on the fence posts and hopping into the trees.

I still haven’t picked up my book again. There is too much to see! I feel like clapping my hands in applause.

My Soul will be Satisfied

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 63. It is a testament of love to God. It is an example of praise that sings a love song to the Lord. In fact, it has been sung in a love song by Shane and Shane.

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You may read the Bible every day as part of your devotions or you may read it like it’s a “can’t put down” novel. I would encourage you to step into the story and let it entrance you like that Number One Bestseller. I can’t help but step into Psalm 63 because it’s so lovely.

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“Oh God my God how I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you! How I wish I could go into your sanctuary and see you strength and glory, for your love and kindness are better to me than life itself. How I praise you” Psalm 63:1-3

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Aren’t there days when you feel you are empty? Parched from the weariness of life? Or maybe you just don’t know what’s ahead of you. This Psalm can be used as a mindfulness exercise. When we move into purposeful mindfulness with God, we seek Him, search for Him to fill our spirit.

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As we find Him, we lift our hands in prayer, bless Him, and just be with Him.

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“I will bless you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. At last I shall be satisfied; I will praise you with great joy.” Psalm 63:4-5
Oh, to be satisfied right where we are! That is the end result of Mindfulness. What could be better than being satisfied and living in the now as God has created for us?

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“Often at night I lie in bed and remember you, meditating on your greatness till morning smiles through my window. You have been my constant helper; therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand reaches down and holds me up.” Psalm 63:6-8

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There are plenty of nights that I can’t sleep and I lay there just ruminating about the things I have to do or the things I did, or sometimes just in hopelessness and grief. I focus on God with my breathing: Breathe in “Praise” breathe out “God.” I count my blessings and gratitude’s until I finally fall asleep under His gentle wings.

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The chapter ends with typical Psalm fashion about how our enemies will go down because of the strength of God. Don’t skip over this. You may not have enemies at your door with arrows, but you may, like me, have thoughts that are self-deprecating or self-destructive. This Psalm tells us that there is no room for that when you’re praising God. In the last verse the Psalm states that the cheaters and deceivers will be silenced.

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Believe me when I tell you that I am my own worst enemy, but this promise from Psalm 63 is like a balm on my negative thoughts. God has me in the palm of His hand. I am under His wings and His hand is at my back. Who am I to tell myself any different?

Values

I have this re-occurring dream that I cannot find my car. I think it is in a certain parking lot, but there are barriers to me getting to that area. I walk around trying to find a way to get in and when I do, my car isn’t there. In these dreams there are lots of obstacles that I find in my way. I just want to get home.

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I think the interpretation is that I don’t have a way to get where I want to. I am feeling trapped. Now that I’m not working, I have had a feeling of being untethered and have aimlessly been going through my days deciding what to do when I feel like doing it. I realized that I wasn’t feeling productive and I was lonely.

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“True to your Word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.” Psalm 23:3

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What I need are values to live by. Tenets that help me to determine the things I should and want to do in my life. Value are ideals or principles that are important to us. It’s not like you choose your values and set up an action plan and do it and it’s over. It’s setting up the ideals that you want to live by and creating actions that exemplify them. It’s living the good life with some self-direction!

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God should be a part of this exercise because who knows you better than he does? His guidance and direction can lead you to see things that you can’t see for yourself. I started me values list with a mindfulness exercise asking God to show me areas in my life that need to be fulfilled. Values are our guiding compass and those of us who love God know that He is in charge of that compass. If we live like Jesus we will be fulfilled.

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I referred to the DBT section on Values and created some of my own in order to have a life worth living:
• Choose to be Spiritual
• Attend to family relationships
• Reconnect with friends
• Contribute
• Take care of myself physically

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Carnegie Mellon has a PDF about determining your values, It starts with a very long list of core values from which you choose the ones that apply to you. The thought is to write it down or highlight without thinking too hard about it. Next you group together similar values to make a list of no more than five categories. Than choose one work from each list that best identifies the value you want in your life.

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I used the Carnegie Mellon PDF along with the DBT list to come up with my core values. Now it’s up to me to make sure the things I do each day match up with these values. I wrote out some beginning steps for each of the values and saved the list in my phone Notes app so I can refer to it easily and I shared it with my therapist.

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Being spiritual to me is going to church, doing daily devotionals and reading uplifting and positive books. Prayer also plays a big part in leading a spiritual life. I know God has purpose for me and by praying and communing with Him I can find that purpose. Meanwhile I can take steps to improve my day to day living.

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I can attend to my family relationships by being a support to my husband and providing direction and friendship with my children. I can keep contact with family far away by phone. One of the things I decided to do was make a budget for my daughter to help her navigate her financial life. I am going out to lunch with my daughter Hillary this week. I also decided to meet my husband for lunch regularly and do at least one fun thing every weekend like going to a movie.

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I called up an old friend and set up a lunch date and scheduled myself to work the local food pantry. I’ve been baking more which is something I enjoy, and my family appreciates.

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When I was at church I saw a notice on the bulletin board for volunteering at a local hospital. I took down the number, called it and am now working on my application packet. I went to my doctor to have her fill out her section, I contacted friend and asked them to fill out the references section and soon I will have a complete packet to bring to the hospital for an interview.

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Contribution is a big part of my values. I think if I can give back, have purpose, that a lot of my depression can be thwarted. I also believe that God is leading me this way. My therapist tells me that volunteering is key. That I could find fulfillment as well as create a commitment to which I am depended on.

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I’ll keep you posted!

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“So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. Al the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause.” Isaiah 55:12

Build a Life Worth Living

The true goal of DBT is to build a “Life worth living.” You begin by simply avoid “avoiding.” How many times have we avoided doing what we know needs to be done? Some people call it procrastinating, but for some of us, it is avoidance. We purposely avoid the things we don’t want to do but need to do. There are changes we might need to make in order to build the life we want.

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To begin, we choose our values. I choose to be close to God. I value my relationship with Him so I make room for Him in my life. I want to be productive, so I make a schedule of things that need to be done at home such as organizing, cleaning, doing laundry. I want a good relationship with my family, so I plan time to focus on each of them like going out to eat and baking for them. I want to be part of a group doing good so I go to church and sign up at the local food pantry.

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The idea is to pick just one thing to start in order to avoid “avoiding.” If you don’t know where to start, ask God to gently show you where to make changes in your life. Spend some time in mindful communion with Him. You may be avoiding working on your finances for instance. You need a budget, but you have been putting it off. You may need to do something even harder than that, like working on a broken relationship.

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DBT has a list of values. Here are some examples:
• Attend to relationships by repairing old relationships or reaching out for new ones. Work on new ones or end destructive ones.
• Be part of a group. This could be to help you have a sense of belonging and having close and satisfying relationships with others.
• Achieve things in life by working through your goals and the steps needed to keep the goals part of your life.
• Live a life of pleasure and satisfaction. What’s important to you? Make it a part of your life. Enjoy your work and seek out events that make you happy.
• Be a spiritual person. Discern and do the will of God and find lasting meaning in your life.
• Be secure by living in safe surroundings and be physically healthy and fit.
• Have integrity by being honest and standing up for your beliefs. Pay your debts to others and repair damages you’ve caused.
• Contribute to the larger community by helping those in need and committing to a cause that shares your beliefs and values.

Once you’ve identified your values, select one thing, set some small goals to start working on it. You want this value to become a part of your life, but have been struggling, so it may not be easy to start. Choose a step that you can do right now and a couple more that you can do tomorrow and the next day, or next week.

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Working to live by your values can be hard, but the results can be a meaningful life and build a sense of accomplishment. Plan to be successful at it. In order to do that your initial goals may be very small steps, but you can increase the difficulty over time. You don’t need to berate yourself when things don’t work out as you’ve planned but rather encourage yourself to adjust your goals as needed to reach your end result.

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Meet difficult situations head on by thinking through them as a cope ahead strategy. What will be difficult about doing something? Write it down without judgement and name your emotions that you will feel. Determine which coping skills might work by writing down in detail how you will handle the situation, then imagine yourself in the situation and rehearse how you will cope with it.

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I haven’t written about all of the coping skills in DBT, just the ones that have helped me so far. If you want to practice DBT, I suggest you join a group with a facilitator. There is so much to learn from other’s experiences. Choose a group that meets once a week, you don’t want to speed through this, you want to have time to work on the skills in between sessions.

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The DBT manual is available online from many sources. Just type in DBT or Dialectic Behavior Therapy into the search bar of your favorite book seller.