Empty my Hands, Tenth Avenue North

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Look Forward; and a Look Back

"Let us make war, not with other people, but with our own unbelief. It is the root of anxiety, which, in turn, is the root of so many other sins." Pastor John Piper

On Friday we are having our septic system inspected and cleaned....having received a word of caution about the ground being mushy by the turkey mound.  The potential for cost is between $300 (if there is no problem) to $15,000 if we need a new tank.  Needless to say, we do not have money like that and have no idea where to get it.  Years ago I would have been a basket case of anxiety when faced with a problem of this magnitude but I am so grateful to tell you that God has taken me through some moments of anxiety and reassured my heart that all will be well.  Maybe that does not mean that we do not need a new tank.  Maybe we do but God will meet our need somehow and good will come from it.  I have to trust this because I implicitly trust my Lord.

If  you search through this blog for the topic "anxiety"(using the search feature in the side bar) you will find a number of articles discussing my battle with this temptation. (and "temptation" is what it is.  It is a temptation to get our minds off of God's love and provision and to mistrust him, either doubting his strength or his motives toward me which really means to question his character.)  I would recommend you read through those articles if  you are struggling with this torment.  

The following is a reworking of one of those prior articles, this one taken from November of 2014:

 I have been exercising and eating healthfully for several weeks now.  And as I strive to make this weak, painful, overweight body strong and healthy and thin, I find myself asking the question, " do I really want to live longer?"  Partly the answer to that question depends on how healthy I am able to get.  If  I am still in terrible pain and facing joints which become deformed and unable to move properly without horrible pain....then no.  I really do not wish to reach a "ripe old age."  

When I look into my future I can become quite anxious.  Years ago I fought against horrific attacks of anxiety which usually occurred just as I got into bed for the night.  Visions of disasters --financial, medical and catastrophic would float through my head and I responded with terror.  I read everything I could find on anxiety and fear and had a whole file of articles and booklets on the topic.  Yet nothing I read helped me to overcome it.

Finally one day the Spirit of the Lord put it into my mind to make a list of all the miraculous things God had done in my life up to that point.  The list was impressive. I was shocked to see how active God had been in his provision and protection of me--meeting needs and keeping me safe.   I decided that whenever those fears come in the future, I would re-read that notebook..  And I would remind myself that God never changes.  If he could deal with the needs in my past; then he can deal with the needs in my future.  And I've found in all these years that what God does not keep me from, he brings me through.

In the time since I've conquered those fears with the help of God....I've been through 2 hurricanes and flooded basements, a medical diagnosis that led to crippling pain and lack of function of many of my joints. I was told I would never walk again and I spent some years in a wheelchair. I was to have almost died from major infections.  I narrowly escaped being institutionalized in a horrible psychiatric institution for the remainder of my life.  We have had major financial needs....and always, always God has been faithful.

So regarding my fears of growing old and more disabled and more isolated and in dire financial straits as we are without a retirement income or savings, what of those?  Here is a verse I've found that has comforted me incredibly.

 “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4). 

The promises in this verse are powerful.  Whether I am healthy or crippled; whether my marriage recovers or remains difficult....whether the house falls down around our ears or whether God provides the funds to care for it.....God is here.  He is faithful. and he has promised to care for my needs. 

So why am I exercising and eating well?  Because it is my responsibility to do so. God can bring me home to be with him at any time...healthy or weak.  I cannot sway that predetermined time when my life on this earth is over.  And that is  a comfort to me.  I would hate to get so healthy that I was to live on to an old age fraught with horrible difficulty if that was not God's plan.  And I needn't worry about that because it is impossible for me to do that.  God has the final word.  And  until that time, he will meet my needs and provide strength for the day.

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  Lamentations 2:22,23

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fighting Fear

I have a problem and it's one that I think I share with a lot of people:  when bad things happen or potentially might happen, I worry and I am afraid.  Sometimes the things I worry about are not really based in reality.  That happened to me recently when I was convinced that we had bedbugs. (We do not have bedbugs; I know that now).  And sometimes the things I worry about are a good cause for worry (like being in the path of  a hurricane with a basement, full of stuff, that will flood if the power goes out and our sump won't work.)  And when fear seizes me by the throat so tightly that I cannot breathe, I am learning  that the only place for me to go is to my knees before the Lord and plead for his mercy.

At first (the first thousand times or so), I still worried...in fact I "worried" God like a dog worries a bone....and my nugget of fear remained molten in my stomach.  I prayed "Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief!"  And slowly ....sllllllloooowwwwwlllyy...I can see progress.  Today when the man mowing my lawn commented on the mushiness of the ground by our turkey hill--fears of a septic failure knocked at the gate in my heart--and resolutely I turned them away.  How?  Well God has lately given me some "affirmations" which have really helped me to keep my eyes on Him and not on the possibilities of disaster that are so much a part of our lives.  

I am going to share with you my list of promises that God has spoken to my heart in moments of fear.  I pray they will help you like they have helped me.

God has given me some affirmations. Here they are:

Isaiah 46:4 (NLT)
I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
    until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
    I will carry you along and save you.

"You do not go into a dark future, alone and without Provision" (there's a story behind that one)

"What I do not take you out of, I will certainly carry you through"

"The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God cannot sustain you."

"I have an endless supply of whatever it is that you need."

and my response "Give me the Grace to live in the reality of your Mercy"

“Take those worries---take those fears, and drown them in the rivers of My provision.”

Faith is when Disaster knocks and Trust puts its pants on and answers the door.

 I would challenge you to meditate on these and to pay attention to the promises God brings to you in times of need.  Write them down.  Memorize them.  And when the next fear comes along, wield that sword and cut it down to size!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Meeting the Challenge

So the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  I had a couple of busy days...and then  a couple of days where I was sidelined by a bad flareup of PsA.  So I missed several days of sketching.  In discussing this on that Facebook page I mentioned, the advice I got was wise. Stress is good for no one. And art is not about stress, it's about beauty and meaning.  It was suggested that I aim for 100 sketches but not in 100 days.  And this sounds very good to me.  And in talking with one of the members of the Fountain Pen Sketchers...she mentioned to me that she is working her way through a painting class on Craftsy.com.  I was intrigued and before you know it, I was signed up for a class called Sketching the Person in Motion.

I'm now on class number 4 and have done a number of little sketches for the class.  I'm not happy with the work I'm doing and that is why I won't be showing it to anyone.  But the important thing, and the thing that keeps me from being overly critical of myself is: I am learning.  I am progressing on a path and essential to that path is failure and renewed effort.  I understand and accept that.  It's a challenge and one day one step at a time, I am meeting that challenge with commitment and yes, joy.  I am joyous at the fact that I'm learning something that will change my art for the better and it will make me a better person as well.  

People need goals.  They need to grow.  Finding a place of growth is hard anytime but for someone who is middle aged, it is especially hard to break out of your shell and your routine and to accept new challenges and to open yourself up to the instruction of teachers who are further along the path than you are.  

My health has kept me stagnant for too long.  Yes, my hands being crippled and painful and having shaking from an undefined movement disorder; all of that increases the level of challenge.  But I accept the challenge and I will do my best to successfully meet it and to excel in this area of art.