Sunday, June 9, 2013

Casting Down Imaginations

This post is where I break away even further from my usual posts and share something God's been doing in my life lately. My purpose is two-fold. First, I feel that sharing provides a little bit of accountability, as in I've declared it so I have to keep doing it. Secondly I know that if I have been struggling in this area, that others are too. I will apologize up front for the length of this post, but I really felt that I needed to get all this out at one time.

Dealing with Anxiety. .  . A few years ago, when Will was about 9-10 months old, I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia. Basically my body does not process sugars correctly, so I have had to change the way I eat. After about 9 months of dealing with that, I actually developed anxiety about what I could and couldn't eat. Since being diagnosed with RH I have had a lot of tension pain, which I feel is related. However, while I feel the physical problem makes it easier for my body to feel stress, I don't believe that is the root. I have always been pretty high-strung, type A, whatever you want to call it. I have an EXTREMELY hard time relaxing. I feel like I should be doing something all the time; there is always work to do & I cannot relax if it is not done or I am not controlling everything. . .There is is. The Control Factor. I have a horrible time with feeling out of control, and it has definitely been a struggle in my marriage to Alex.

It's really hard for me to put into concrete words all the issues. I've been happy, but felt stressed out a lot of the time, and like I said, had an extremely hard time relaxing. . . .and I've been paying for it physically with tension pain and TMJ. I really feel that it's been an anxiety issue. But the funny thing is that it hasn't been anxiety over big things. It's not worry either. I don't sit around and worry about our finances, or death, or getting sick, or some terrible thing happening to us. Yet I've been allowing little every day things to stress me out & CONTROL ME. And I have been suffering physically because of it and not enjoying everyday things.

One thing that has helped me immensely has been the ministry of Kirk Martin of  Celebrate Calm. I got some CDs of sessions he did at a homeschool convention last summer, then was able to hear him in person in March. I also put aside some money to purchase some of his CDs. I am soooo thankful to his son & business partner Casey, for the BOGO deal he gave me so I could get 2 sets of the CDs. (They are not cheap; he wants you to have to invest in them so you'll use them.)

I would love to be able to take some time to share some of the basic principles from his talks, but that will have to wait till another time.  One thing that really stuck with me from one of his sessions was the challenge to identify situations that cause us anxiety and figure out a different way we will react  when those things happen.  Recently, I actually have started to do that & have really gotten control of a lot of the anxiety I was having. But I knew that I couldn't do this in my own power, I had to base what I was doing on the Word of God so I could rely on His power to help me.

The Bible tell us in II Corinthians 10, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

I knew that in order to get control of this anxiety, I needed to identify the causes - can I say the "imaginations" that were stressing me out. The Bible tells us to be controlled by the Holy Spirit; if these thought patterns or situations were controlling me, than those were things that were being "exalted" about what God wanted. Guess what? Something that is taking the place of God is SIN! I had to look at it that seriously to be able to get rid of it. So I prayed & asked God to show me what was controlling me. Here's what I've come up with so far. 

"Imagination #1" - Ideas that my house must look a certain way for me to be a good wife/mother.   It sounds ridiculous, but a lot of us women put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to have our houses look a certain way. I found it extremely hard to relax (Yes, we all need to relax & it is not selfish to have some down time. Our mind & body need it.) if the dishes weren't done, the laundry wasn't done, things were untidy, etc. I was letting those imaginations consume me and control me. God doesn't value my worth as a wife and mother by what my house looks like. What matters to Him? Am I loving? Am I submissive? Am I talking of Him when I walk by the way, when I lie down and rise up? Do I have a good attitude? Am I taking care of myself so I can be a useful vessel? Yes, I need to make healthy food, keep things clean, and take care of my family, but whether there are dirty dishes in my sink or not does not determine what kind of Christian woman I am. 

The first thing I had to do was give this imagination over to God & ask Him to help me put things into proper perspective. That alone helped immensely. Practically I have started making a list of everything I think needs to be done and working on a few of those things a day. And be satisfied with that. Another practical thing I have done is to sure up my systems - like the meal planning system I blogged about, setting side a specific time of day for housework, tackling certain projects certain days. . 

"Imagination #2" - I have to be in control of everything and everyone and I can't be happy if I'm not in control. My happiness should not be in a person or a situation. My happiness comes from God. "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice, and be glad in it." I can have joy daily because I know true peace and forgiveness of my sins through Jesus Christ. My hope, my expectation is supposed to be in Him. Kirk is right; I can only control my own happiness. And I am really only responsible for my reactions. I may have an expectation that is not met, but when I get mad and treat others poorly because of what THEY did, that's sin for me. When I let that circumstance or person's actions control me. . there again, I'm not relying on the Holy Spirit to fill and lead me. This one is hard and something I have to almost daily, if not several times a day ask for help with. But guess what? It's so worth it. My relationship with my husband has improved a lot and less things stress me out. 

"Imagination #3" - My 5 yr old should act like my 8 yr old/My kids should act like me. During the course of this examination, I discovered that shopping trips were extremely stressful. I felt like my kids were horribly behaved in stores, yet in all honesty, they weren't being that bad. So I looked at my expectations. When I did so, I realized that I expected the 5 yr old to act like the 8 yr old, yet when the oldest was 5, he didn't act the way he does now. Also I had a lot of expectations for my kids to not act like kids. So I have had to address that as well. First, I simplified my "rules" for public places down to this - (1) Walk (2) Stay with me (3) Keep your hands to yourself. I also have been spending more time explaining my expectations and praising or correcting based on how they act - in other words, we've been training! Just because my kids are well-behaved, doesn't mean they don't still need training. They are kids, not adults. They don't have it all together. Focusing the expectations has helped them remember what to do and helped me focus on specific things, rather than constantly saying, "Don't do this, don't do that, now you're doing that??" That gets frustrating. 

Again, I apologize for the length of this post, but I had to get it all out there. I've been working on this a few weeks, and I have seen a great reduction in my stress-level. I am enjoying my family more, learning to relax, and my pain levels have been decreasing. But I haven't conquered it. I still mess up and go psycho wife/mommy sometimes. I still have to ask the Lord to help me with such & such. . . and He is still showing me areas of anxiety/control issues I need to work on. 

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