nikkisperspective

A life worth living.

Reflections on Anxiety

“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Around October of this year I began to struggle with severe anxiety.  I knew God was calling Paul and I to take a big risk and I was really freaking out about it.  I wouldn’t describe it as a crisis of faith.  I know by now that Christ always delivers.  I just wasn’t too sure I was on board with His game plan.

This verse was my anthem.  I remember in college journaling about stress.  I had decided in those young years that stress was a symptom of not trusting God and I wanted no part of it.  I think most who know me would agree I live a pretty stress free lifestyle.  I just don’t buy into it.

So the anxiety I experienced in the fall was a real shock to my system.  Almost a necessary reset.  A spiritual alarm.  God knew it would get my attention.  “Be anxious about nothing” rang over and over again in my ears.

“I’m trying!” I would shout to myself like a loon.  I really was trying not to be anxious.  But try as I might, it just wasn’t good enough.  I couldn’t “will” myself to peace, I had to surrender to it.

You see there’s a catch to that verse.  It doesn’t just say “be anxious about nothing”.  It says “Be anxious about nothing but by prayer…”  Ah, there it is.  There’s the catch.  Prayer.

And let me be real with you, when you’re anxious, it’s kind of a round the clock thing.  It might come in waves, but those waves tend to be fairly consistent.  A constant crash of feelings and questions.  So if you’re truly honest with yourself, anxiety should lead to A LOT of time in prayer.  It’s your life vest, your key to keep from drowning in the sea of what if’s and why’s.

And peace WILL come.  It will transcend all understanding, but it will be there.  A surreal oasis in the storm of life.

It has for me.  It occasionally creeps back in.  But I can truly say that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, is guarding my heart and mind.  It’s miraculous and it feels great.

It took months.  That’s a long time for this carefree individual.  It might take longer for you.  I really can’t say, I don’t think it’s a quick fix.  It’s more like an enduring healing.  A healing from my will and my way.  I’m learning to surrender and like any lesson it takes time.

And like the great instructor He is, His patience leads me gently to great peace.  May the alarm bell of anxiety not drown your soul, but cause it to persevere to new heights of prayer and thanksgiving.

Hanging out in the desert

1 Corinthians 2:12

“12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,”

I’ve been reading through Exodus the last week.  I can’t help but see the parallels between the story and myself.  I’d really like to relate to Moses, but in reality I’m finding myself more in line with the Israelites. 

In the past I would laugh at these stories.  How could these people be so foolish?  They saw miracle after miracle, but as soon as they were in the desert they wanted to go back to slavery.  They heard God speak and promised to devote themselves to them, but Moses was gone for a couple weeks and they built an idol.  Foolish Israelites, can you not handle the silence?  Does God have to speak every day to confirm His plans to you? 

And then I feel the fast stab of conviction.  God confirmed over and over again that Paul and I should start this business.  I complained.  I didn’t want to go out on faith alone.  I wanted a little security.  So in His mercy He gave it.  He gave us enough to live on and some faithful supporters to help us start this journey. 

I thanked the Lord and “packed my bags”.  We began the journey like the Israelites shortly after Egypt.  They danced and sang; we felt full of joy.

And then the silence hit.  And like the Israelites my eyes began to dart.  Where am I?  How did we get to this place?  Maybe we weren’t supposed to go!

 It’s embarrassing really.  But it’s reality and I don’t want to pretend it’s not there, I just want to do better.  

Sometimes God says “Go” and sometimes He says, “Wait”.  How do you know?  You just do.  There’s no magical way to articulate it.  The questions is, when he says wait, will you wait?  Can you stand still Christian?  Can you stay confident?  Can you stay faithful? 

We need each other for that.  We need the Word of God for that.  We need prayer for that.  It takes great faith to go, but don’t be deceived, it takes great faith to wait too. 

And we can do better.  Unlike the Israelites, we have the Holy Spirit.  A constant communion and connection to our God.  And He is so faithful.  When God says to go, go.  And when He says wait, wait. 

 

It’s all about that village

I read this article about Arizona dropping a foster-care grant.  Honestly, I know nothing about politics and in reality the government isn’t going to fix this problem.  Programs are great, but its the people that make them work.  But this quote from the article really struck me,

“More than 30,000 U.S. teens each year reach adulthood and leave state custody without a permanent home, including about 700 in Arizona. Research shows that kids who age out of foster care are more likely than their peers to be unemployed, homeless or convicted of a crime or become teen parents, and they are less likely to graduate from high school or attend college.”

The other day one of my children went to Starbucks with a friend.  While in the coffee shop she saw a woman who took care of her before she was adopted.  The woman was ecstatic to see her.  Having worked with teens I can imagine why.

She was probably excited to see a healthy, well dressed, young woman.  Just your average teen, stopping in for a coffee.  No baby on her hip or in her belly.  No older man hanging on her.  Clothes that fit, hair that gets washed, and  a smile on her face.

It’s not often we get to see foster teens blossom into womanhood with grace.

It’s also a two-way street.  The teens need to want it.  They need to reject the lifestyle they are accustom too and accept that they deserve more. That they can have more than what they’ve known.

This takes more than just loving, adoptive parents.  This takes a community.  It takes a village.

It takes the woman in the coffee shop who watched over my daughter before I knew she existed.  It takes my co-workers at the group home who invested in my daughter before she became mine.  It takes the owners of that group home who made that home possible.  It takes the mentor who poured into her life and helped her to want more.  It takes the family who welcomed our daughters without objection and took them as their own.  It takes the church that prayed and loved them through the whole process.  It takes all of us.

And when we all invest, we all get to see the product.  A healthy, beautiful teen, blossoming into womanhood with grace.

It’s a little bit ironic, don’t you think?

I’m looking at a 20,000+ word document.  The font must be size ten with the tiniest possible margins because the words are crammed onto this document.  A document containing all the rules, regulations, and standards for licensing foster parents.  I literally look up to the heavens and ask God what He’s thinking.  

Anyone who knows me, knows I hate rules.  I’m more of a guidelines person.  I don’t like things to be black and white, I prefer gray.  I feel suffocated by structure, and I’m not one for continuity.  

So you can understand my confusion as the job description for my new calling begins to unfold.  I don’t get to just go to churches and public speak.  My job isn’t just to get people excited and on board to foster parent.  The real nitty-gritty of this new job is that 30 pages of rules.  Knowing it.  Explaining it.  Enforcing it.   

I might have freaked out a little.

Then God reminded me of those who came before me.   

David, a shepherd who was bound for something bigger.  

Rahab, a prostitute with an important role to play.  

Esther, a woman with no rights but incredible power.  

Peter, a fisherman and something a little more.

Paul, persecutor of Christ, who became something just a little different.  

The list could go on and on.  It’s the whole Bible actually.  I’m sure they all had the opportunity to look to the heavens and wonder out loud what God was thinking.  

I might fight it, but I know what He’s thinking.  He’s thinking His grace is sufficient for me and His power is perfected in weakness.  He’s thinking with faith I will move mountains.  He’s thinking this is for his glory, definitely not mine.  

And I’m confident.  I’m confident that His power is sufficient enough to take a reject-or of regulation and turn her into an executive director of a company charged with regulating.  I’m confident with faith we will see families restored or created.  And I’m confident this will all be for His glory.  

I’m certainly not the right candidate for this job.  There’s no doubt about that.  And I guess that’s the irony of our faith.  He takes what’s not there and transforms it into something it could never be….and that’s to His glory.  

 

Scientists accidently finding God

I was channel surfing when I caught about ten minutes of this video. I watched from the 25 minute mark to about the 35 minute mark before changing the channel. I was fascinated by the content, but the interpretation is very faulty. Not wanting to confuse my kids I changed the channel and hoped I could watch the whole documentary on the internet.

I was very excited to find this clip.  What fascinated me so much was to hear these scientists describe God, prove His existence through radical math, and still deny His deity.  They call Him the universe, but we know Him as the alpha and omega, the creator God.

In this video, one scientist said if his math calculations are correct, “the universe” is a being that is all-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  Capable of creating and sustaining life.  Fascinating and sad.  It reminded me of the verse in Acts 28:26 “Go to the people and say you will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”  and in Luke when the pharisees are trying to rebuke the apostles for worshiping Jesus, “I tell you” he replied, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.”

Math is crying out.  Science is crying out.  And yet, the very men discovering these beautiful truths are denying the message they bring.

Credit Cards vs Prayer

It’s a big day today.  I had to look through my prayer journals to get a good timeline.  I found an entry in 12/2007.  Just one word, finances.  

When Paul and I married in 2006, I had no debt.  I prayed my way through college and the wedding.  God always provided.  I firmly believed then and still believe now that God knows our needs and all we have to do is ask.  We never need to depend on a credit card.  I had four faithful years of testimony to that from 2002 to 2006.  Miracle after miracle to show that God will take care of business.

Things changed when Paul and I hastily purchased a home in March 2008, before we had any children.  After we adopted our girls and had two boys, I needed to become a stay at home mom.  After being reduced to one income, there were several months when we were not making enough to pay for the lifestyle that we desired.  Instead of relying solely on God’s provision and adjusting our lifestyle, we began to turn to credit cards.

Next thing we knew, we had a home that we could not afford and about $20,000 in credit card debt.  A good portion of that was tuition from Paul’s expensive school, but instead of relying on God’s timeline for that education and our livelihood, we took our own path and found ourselves drowning.

We prayed and asked God to grant us faith in finances, but it took some time to fully turn from our old habits.  Sometimes we would get really close to being debt free (at one point down to about $4,000), but before I knew it we had racked up more.  It was a slow fade. Simple excuses would arise, like, “I’ll pay this off once the check comes…”  Funny how once that check comes we suddenly had other more pressing expenses.  That’s how it works when you try to do it yourself.  There will always be another bill, an unplanned expense, or an urgent need.

So in September of this year we finally had enough.  Paul and I agreed that we would no longer wait to be debt free to live by faith.  We would put away the credit card and trust God for all our bills, even if it meant eviction or an empty fridge.  

This was not an easy choice, or a carefree lifestyle.  Some months God really tested that commitment.  There were months when some bills got paid late, the kids ate a lot of spaghetti, and we learned to do a few things for ourselves (like cut hair).  

But you know what?  We really saw God move.  Once again I was living a lifestyle where I saw miracle after miracle.  That check in the mail at just the right time, a random refund with an unplanned bill, unexpected groceries from someone who “felt” they should drop a few things off.  It never failed.  Life didn’t feel easy, but it did feel right.    

And as of today, we are debt free.  By the grace and mercy of God, we are debt free.  DEBT FREE, I just want to scream it!  God is so good.  He never fails.  And yet, it is so hard to trust Him.  Hard when I think I know what’s best.  Hard when the world tells me I better pay up.  Hard when I don’t see a way out.  Hard when I don’t understand.  

Basically it’s hard when I’m focused on me.  I’m getting an amazing opportunity and I don’t want to screw it up.  To trust God and not Visa.  To trust God and not myself.  Christian, we don’t belong in the world of credit scores and low interest.  This is not our home, this is not the final stop.

God is so faithful.  Live a life characterized by prayer and faith and you will truly start to see miracles.

This is easier said than done.  Sometimes things feel very imminent and we rush to swipe the credit card.  It’s ironic almost.  We claim to worship a God who is all powerful and outside of time, but then we panic and try to answer our financial woes ourselves.  My credit card statement from last month condemns me guilty of that.  

It’s time to start living different.  Because when it comes down to it, I want to be a person who turns to prayer, turns to faith, turns to God.  And in the end, my life may not be easy, it may not be pretty, it won’t be perfect, but I firmly believe it’s “achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)    

jose

Two years ago this little boy came to my mother’s home with a note for his new school. The note was a warning for his new teacher. A warning that her new student was an unruly child who might be destructive to property. She could expect a young boy who would not listen to authority […]