What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thoughts on Gratitude

In a recent Quiet Time (morning devotion) I read in Micah 7:18 that God delights in showing mercy. I was able to thank God for that truth, but it also made me question myself about the things that bring me delight. So I started to assemble a gratitude list. It was easy at first but then got harder once I was past the obvious things. Some of what I came up with are listed below (along with a few new thoughts as I wrote this article).
God’s gift of salvation for me
God’s gift of salvation for my husband
God’s gift of one daughter’s recent prayer to accept Christ as her Savior
God’s gift that our other daughter has accepted Christ as her Savior
God’s gift of His Word
God’s Holy Spirit’s workings in my life
The peace we can have through Christ
The hope we have because of Christ
God’s forgiveness of my transgressions
God’s mercy toward me
Having the husband that I do
Having the children that I do
Having a specific friend for over 35 years
Having a God-believing church in my own neighborhood to attend
Having income to support us
Having children who are or will be college graduates
For my AA friends
For my AA sponsor
For my therapist who happens to be a Christian
For the adventures that come from trusting God
God’s sustenance when I’m feeling low
For the promise given to Abraham that also applies to us
For answered prayer
For the talents and skills He’s given me
That my God is an all-powerful God
That my God is an all-knowing God
That my God is an ever-present God
For the vehicles we have to drive
For the house we live in
For the computers I use to write this blog (and other things)
For Christian friends near and far
For the woman who originally shared the gospel with me
For my college degrees and education
For my illnesses that keep me humble
For wise doctors that aid in my care
For successful surgeries (hands, back, C-section, eyes)
There are many more but right now I’m done writing them down. Maybe some of the things I’m grateful for sparked some gratitude of your own. Remember to thank God each day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

No Spiritual Vacations

Going on vacation doesn’t mean we can take a vacation from our spiritual lives. We must, in order to stay sober, sane, and have right thinking, continue to observe the routines that encourage our spiritual growth. That takes some planning. It won’t happen if we don’t plan for it. I was reminded recently of a few things that will help me stay on course in my spiritual life while on vacation.
I was reminded that there are AA meetings everywhere I could possibly plan a vacation destination. I was encouraged to look up meetings in advance for the locations I will be visiting and take that information with me. Sometimes meetings are exactly what I need to get my mindset back on the things that are most important in my life. I need to be prepared to go to a meeting if it seems things are getting out of control. It will be a one-hour reprieve and probably (it usually does) get my thinking back to what God wants and desires for my life. So, I looked up meetings and I’m prepared, if I need or want them.
I was also reminded that I can’t afford to take a break from my spiritual disciplines of literature reading, Bible reading, praising God, praying for my kids, and journaling. Those items in my daily routine keep me on a spiritually level path. They can prevent me from having an unhealthy view of myself, of God, of other people. They also help me keep out of my own head – a neighborhood that I shouldn’t go into alone. I must, at the very least, take God with me when I start to think. The only way I know to do that is by doing my reading in the morning. I can’t forget my materials at home and expect to have a spiritually level and emotionally regulated vacation.
I was reminded that in this day and age of technology, I never have to be alone on my vacation. Cell phones generally operate with free long distance calling so I can call someone if I need to talk and clear my head. I can call my therapist, my sponsor, my husband, a friend in the program, or another friend. I was also reminded that there’s a feature on the cell phone called texting. I can pretty much do that anytime and in anyplace to anyone who has a cell phone.
With all these plans in place, I can go on vacation and be reasonably assured that I will not need or want a drink, have a mental meltdown, or spiral into an emotional blow up. I can and must take all my spiritual disciplines with me wherever and whenever I go. This summer is not any different. A happy vacation, with good memories, starts with planning to maintain my spiritual fitness.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Identifying Emotions

Who understands their feelings all the time? I can’t even identify my emotions more than half the time. However, I’m told that being able to do so is a good thing. So I’m trying every day to “check in” with my emotions and get a sense of how I’m feeling. I’m not sure this activity is doing me any good, but my therapist, my sponsor, and other friends tell me otherwise.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking “What’s so hard about identifying and feeling emotions?” Maybe it’s something you’ve been able to do, even encouraged to do throughout your life starting when you were a child. Some may have been taught that it’s okay to have and feel and even express your emotions. I don’t understand that. I wasn’t raised in such a home. In my childhood I was told to keep my feelings to myself. As I was growing up, I learned to avoid feeling because they usually got me in trouble. And learning ways to avoid the feelings, meant not identifying them. It also meant developing techniques for avoiding the emotions that I did have.
That led me to sneaking liquor from my parents’ cabinet. I learned that when I drank alcohol, I could escape the emotions for a time – and avoiding them for even an hour was a relief to me. That led to other “coping” mechanisms such as keeping people at arm’s length and being stoic and just sticking to the facts. Those coping mechanisms, I’ve come to learn, are not healthy. They also don’t work very well because the feelings always come back and I have to come up with another way to avoid them.
So now, as a middle-aged adult, I have to learn to accept and recognize my feelings. I’ve been told this for at least 15 years and I’ve had varying success at recognizing the emotions and being able to label them. I’ve also learned that it’s quite possible to have several emotions at the same time.
This spring I’ve been putting in extra effort (but still not consistent effort) into allowing myself to acknowledge the emotions I am experiencing. I’m trying not to ignore the many aspects of emotions I might be feeling at given points throughout each day. I use a format for doing so that I learned at the hospital during my visit there in February and March this year. It’s really basic but very hard for me to do. If my therapist wasn’t holding me accountable, I might choose to not record the emotions and even revert to avoiding the emotions.
The basic format involves finishing three statements.
I feel ___________________________
I need __________________________
I want __________________________
The hard part is coming up with the name of an actual emotion. For instance, I’m not allowed to say “I feel tired,” because “tired” is a state of being, not an emotion. The therapists in the hospital would respond with “How does being tired make you feel?” Identifying the underlying emotions is a real struggle that sometimes has me trying to identify the emotions using some general words: sad, mad, glad, or afraid. Sometimes that’s the closest I can come to identifying how I’m actually feeling.
How well do you do at identifying your emotions? Maybe this technique would help you, too. I will keep trying to use it and hopefully come to peaceful terms with my emotions.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

God's Will

I’ve been looking at various promises of God listed on something I found on the internet. There’s a promise for each day of the year and a Scripture reference that goes with it. One day this week the promise read, “The world and its passions will disappear, but those who do My will shall live forever.” This promise is based on 1 John 2:17 which says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
So God’s promised eternal life to those who do His will. That made me question what does Scripture say His will is, so I looked up the phrase “will of God” on the internet to find as many references to the will of God as I could. Mostly I was questioning whether or not I was doing the will of God as that could directly effect my eternal status according to this passage. That’s something I worry about from time to time and right now in my life is one of those times.
I was surprised to find only four passages that directly say, “the will of God.” I figured that was a good thing for me, for surely I can do four things right and be doing the will of God. These four verses demonstrate three doable things for me to be doing and one marvelous thing that God has already done as part of His will. See if you can tell which is which.
John 6:40 recaps something Jesus said about the will of His Father (i.e. God): “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” In this verse and the preceding passage, Jesus tells us that God’s will is for Jesus to do God’s will and that He should lose none of all that He has given to Jesus and raise up those He’s been given on the last day. The will of God is that everyone be saved through Jesus. That has nothing to do with me other than I need to “look to the Son and believe in Him,” and thus earn eternal life. That’s pretty easy. It’s something I did once a long time ago (37 years ago) and that I renew on a daily basis just to remind myself of this truth.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality;” For those who have done the first step (John 6:40), the sanctification issue is already settled. We have been set apart by God to follow Him. The second part is one of only two direct “commands” I can follow to make sure I am doing the will of God. I can avoid sexual immorality. Granted this is easier now that I am married, but it still means paying attention to what I allow into my mind through television, dirty jokes, conversation and so forth. I can do that bit of the will of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 gives another example of something I can directly do: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So if I want to do the will of God, I will practice giving thanks in every situation I am in. I can do that, although I need a lot of practice to become regular at doing this. I also need reminders from other people in my life.
1 Peter 2:15 gives another way we can do God’s will: “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” Do good. That seems like a reasonable request on God’s part, a request we should stringently adhere to because it silences those who speak against us and who are foolish in general. I try to do good. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times, but my intent is to always be doing good for God’s sake (and because it’s His will for me).
To summarize, God’s will is that everyone have eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we be sanctified and avoid sexual immorality, that we give thanks in every circumstance, and that we do good. All these things are things I can do, because the Holy Spirit is within me and gives me God’s power to do them.