Devotion: 3 Things That We Can Learn from Strongholds

The Soap Opera

I loved watching the Brady Bunch as a kid.  I think every kid in the 70s and 80s watched The Brady Bunch.  There was always some drama going on.  I also used to watch soap operas starting in my teens.  It was one of the many ways my grandmother, Mudear, and I connected.  Some of the stories had you so caught up, that you couldn’t wait till the next day to see what happened.  Praise God that in my 30s, God delivered me from watching those soap operas.  The scenes got to be a little too much at times, and I was totally convicted about needing to give them up.  It’s funny because when one of the scenes came on, my grandmother would say, “Oh shoot!  I wish they would get to the other scene so that I can find out what happened.”  Some of the scenes in the bible play out like a soap opera.  The story that we are going to discuss today, should be sang to the tune of “The Brady Bunch” theme song:  “Here’s the story of a sin called deception……”Strongholds are hard to break and they run through like cancer in our families.  Let’s take a closer look at how the stronghold of deception took place in this particular family.

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ACT 1:

Isaac and Rebekah had twins: Esau and Jacob.  Esau was Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite.  Rebekah decided to pull Jacob into the game of deception so that he could steal Esau’s birthright.  Scene 1 plays out with Rebekah helping Jacob setting up the stew and clothing to trick Isaac.  Scene 2 shows us a distraught Esau, who has missed his blessing.

Scene 1:

Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish. 10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.”

11 “But look,” Jacob replied to Rebekah, “my brother, Esau, is a hairy man, and my skin is smooth. 12 What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”

13 But his mother replied, “Then let the curse fall on me, my son! Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats for me!”

14 So Jacob went out and got the young goats for his mother. Rebekah took them and prepared a delicious meal, just the way Isaac liked it.15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob. 16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats. 17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.  Genesis 27:9-17

Scene 2:

As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt. 31 Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.”

32 But Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

Esau replied, “It’s your son, your firstborn son, Esau.”

33 Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably and said, “Then who just served me wild game? I have already eaten it, and I blessed him just before you came. And yes, that blessing must stand!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he let out a loud and bitter cry. “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged.

35 But Isaac said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.”

36 Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” Genesis 27:30-36

ACT 2:

Act 2 plays out in that Jacob leaves his homeland, never to see mommie dearest again.  Instead, he is heading towards her brother’s home, Good, Old, Uncle Laban.  Uncle Laban isn’t as nice as he seems because Jacob makes a deal with him to work seven years for his daughter Rachel.  However, like his sister, Laban is filled with deception.  At the end of the seven years, Laban gives Jacob Leah instead of Rachel.  Leah gets to appear as the passive one, although she fully participated in the scheme, as Jacob did with Rebekah in tricking Isaac.  Scene 1 showed the end result of how this played out.

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Scene 1:

Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”

19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.

21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”

22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)

25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”

26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. 27 “But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”

28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. 29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.) 30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years. Genesis 29: 18-30

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ACT 3:

Act 3 plays out in that Jacob’s boys are out and about, and Joseph comes in his coat of colors to tell them about his dream.  They decide to do something about daddy’s favorite, but not without deceiving their dad into thinking Joseph is dead.

Scene 1:

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

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21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty piecesd]”>[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

29 Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief. 30 Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What will I do now?”

31 Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. 32 They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”

33 Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. 35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep. Genesis 37: 18-35, NLT

Scene 2:

Scene 2 plays out in that after Joseph is sold as a slave, he is put into high command in Pharaoh’s house.  Pharaoh’s wife falsely accuses him of assault, and Joseph is placed in prison.  Joseph is released from prison after being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  He is promoted just in time to save Egypt from a famine, and wouldn’t you know, his brothers have to come to his town to get food.  Instead of Joseph deceiving and punishing his brothers, he chooses to forgive, and redeem the stronghold of deception.

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Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.  Genesis 45: 1-8, NLT

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What does this crazy soap opera of events teach us?

  1.  Strongholds are sin.

Sometimes as Christians we feel that calling something a stronghold makes the sin sound better.  Once we are able to handle the truth that our strongholds are indeed sin, then we are able to start doing something about the sin before it gets out out control.  I struggle with the sin of perfectionism.

     2. Strongholds become coping mechanisms.

I was born with an imprint of trauma on my brain due to slavery from my ancestors, a slavery-style caste system in the South that my family had to endure, and the continuing oppression of slavery “wrapped with a bow” in the city of Chicago.  Trauma has by-products of criticism and perfectionism.  Perfectionism became my coping mechanism.  It has been a part of me since I was a little girl.  However, it is still sin.

    3.  Strongholds are passed down when they are not resolved.

The hardest thing for us to realize is that our sin gets passed down when it isn’t addressed.  God has spoken gently to my heart recently to deal with the sin head on so that my kids can see me walk in this freedom.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  Romans 8: 1, KJV

 

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Healing: Lisa Allen’s Weight Journey

Today is the debut of our new weekly series entitled “Healing”.  This is Lisa Allen’s Weight Journey.

My name is Lisa Allen. I live in Lake Villa, IL, and have been a single mother for the past 16 years. I have two kids: my daughter is 17, and my son is 21.  Just to let you know, I am a pastor’s kid too! My dad was a Methodist pastor.  He passed away in 2015, due to a myriad of health issues such as diabetes, heart issues, high blood pressure, and gout.  I have struggled with my weight since as long as I can remember.  If I had to think back, 9 years old is what comes to my mind.  My parents were divorced when I was 9 years old.  This was really painful since my dad was a pastor. They had been married 23 years.  My mom, brothers, and me moved to a new town and started over. My oldest brother hated apartment living, so he moved back with my Dad. We had a two bedroom apartment, and my brother and I could not share a room, so I had to share my mom’s king size bed. It was awful not having my own room.  This even went on in my middle and high school years.  I watched my mom emotionally eat after her divorce, and gain 100 plus pounds, and so my brother and I picked up her poor eating habits. I was always trying to lose weight and very insecure.  Another thing that was difficult is that I was bullied over my weight.

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Fast forward to the time I got married, I had worked hard to lose weight for my wedding day.  I gained a lot of weight with both pregnancies.  Then after I had both of my kids, I struggled to lose the weight. My ex-husband made me feel bad about the weight I had gained. I did find out it was related to my thyroid.  It did not matter.  He still did not like that I had become overweight.  He eventually cheated on me and asked me for a divorce. Then I repeated the cycle that my mom showed me.  I emotionally ate with the stress of becoming a single mom.  My daughter was 22 months old and my son was 5 when their dad left.  I felt worthless.

I was so overwhelmed and so depressed.  I just ate and ate, till one day I reached my all time high of 354 pounds. The weight on my knees was so horrible that it hurt to walk and get up off the couch. I felt so old and wondered if this was how I was going to live out my life.  I had no energy, and was exhausted all the time.  I was on high blood pressure and anti-depression medication.  I prayed so hard.  I begged God for a solution, so I could get the weight off, and get healthy for my kids and myself.  My kids are also overweight.  I just felt like I was a failure as a mom.  I had started Weight Watchers and lost 10 pounds, but I still had no energy, and I felt so bad.  I was up 4-5 times per night.  Filled with exhaustion, I was falling asleep behind the wheel on the highway on my way to work . I needed something, but I just did not know the answer.  I just kept praying.

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One day, a friend of mine posted information on a weight transformation program.  I liked her post.  She reached out to me, and asked if I wanted to learn more about this health and wellness system she and her husband were using.  I agreed to listen and learn more.  I had tried so many things in my life and failed them all.  I was not confident in myself.  I kept thinking to myself, “If I tried something else, would I fail again?”

I listened to my friend, and then I understood how the system worked. I told her I was headed out of town to my father’s house in Wisconsin for our 4th of July family reunion.  I needed to pray about this and get back to her after my trip.  While I was at my dad’s home in Wisconsin, I prayed about it.  What is so sad is that my dad would have lived so much longer had he taken care of his health.  I miss him so very much, and just wished he had led a healthy life so he could still be here with me today.

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I was so worried about failing again. I just asked God, if this program is right for me, then let me know, and I will trust in you and go ahead and do it.  I woke up in the morning with this incredible peace that came over me.  I knew I needed to move forward, and get my body healthy again.  So I called my friend and told her yes, and I asked her what my next steps were for getting started.  I began this journey on July 14, 2017, about 6 weeks before my BIG 50th birthday! I was headed to Vegas at the end of August to celebrate my birthday with a high school friend who had moved out there.  I was feeling amazing just after 5 days of this system!  I had energy again!! For the first time in my life, I felt really alive!

When it came time to leave for vacation, I packed a suitcase with all my healthy products! I did not want to blow this on vacation.  On my past vacations, I ate poorly, and I would cheat, cheat, cheat!  I was determined to stay on course.  I even taught my friend and her daughter how to healthy food prep while I was there.  We had a couple evenings where we did eat a meal out, but I kept it to moderation and made good choices.    We went out on my birthday, and I even enjoyed two glasses of wine and a nice seafood dinner.  All the other days, I stuck right to my program. I  returned home from my vacation maintaining my weight.  It was the first time in my whole life that I succeeded on a vacation! So I just kept going when I returned  home.

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When wintertime came, I think my body was hitting a plateau. I was not losing pounds, but I was still losing inches. So I just kept pressing on.  In the past, I would have given up if the scale was not moving.  I knew that the system was still working because the inches were still coming off!

At this point, I was taking high blood pressure, anti-depressants, and thyroid medications.  My health insurance was awful.  In January, I needed to refill my prescriptions, and I could not afford to go to the doctor.  I went off of them cold turkey.  I knew this could be dangerous, but I did not have a choice. I decided to start exercising in January with a friend.  It began with three days a week, riding the bike for thirty minutes.  I wanted to make the exercise into a habit, so I made the small goal of three times a week.

Once I made that a habit, then I would increase my goal.  I was doing 3 x a week, 30 minutes in the evening after work.  It was a struggle because I worked 10 hour days.  After working out for two months, I decided to ask my friend if we could change our workout time to 5 am, before I started work.  Honestly, I could not imagine working out this early, but I knew it was the best time to get the workout done!  This now meant that three days a week I need to get up at 4:20 AM.  I was really stretching myself!! So I started working out three times a week at 5 am! Then one day my friend could not work out with me.  I panicked, and I had anxiety walking into the gym by myself.  I knew I did not want to miss my workout, so I prayed.  I asked God to give me the courage to walk through the doors by myself.  I need to do this for myself! After all, it was up to me to succeed in my new lifestyle.  So I walked in with my head held high, and went into the gym and did my workout.  When I was riding the bike 🚲, I listened to “Overcomer” by Mandisa(Christian song). I felt God’s presence with me as I did that workout alone that morning.  Little by little, my confidence in myself was coming back! Praise God! I would say I kept this three times a week going for 3-4 months, and then my body was asking me for more! Now my friend could only do the three days. So I started working out 5 days a week at 5 am,and two of the days were by myself!  Again I was stretching myself! I listened to upbeat music and got those workouts done! This was a huge accomplishment for me! I know God was walking along side of me through this whole journey.

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Meanwhile, the scale was still not moving, so I knew that being off my thyroid medication was most likely messing with my metabolism.  I called Lake County Health Department and scheduled them to do blood work on me so I could get back on my medications. They took my blood pressure, and I was nervous because I had been off the medication 3-4 months cold turkey.

The whole time that I was off the medications, I just kept praying to God.  I said to him, “God protect me while I am off these medications. Please protect me from any health complications over being off the high blood pressure medication.  It would be devastating if I landed in the hospital with any complications being off these medications, because I don’t have good health insurance.”  I said “God, I will continue doing my part with this great nutrition. I am using and continuing my exercise routine.” So I just kept saying,” God’s will, my effort! I will be healthy, and no health complications will come from being off these medications.”  I was sitting in the doctor’s office, and the nurse said, “Wow, your blood pressure reading is really good”! I was so over the moon happy! I told her I was so concerned being off the medications, but I also told her that I had been on a health journey since last year, and I had lost 50 pounds and 69 inches! She said,” WOW, that is so awesome!! Keep that going, that is awesome!!  The doctor came in and said, “Lisa we don’t have to put you back on the blood pressure medication anymore.  Your healthy lifestyle is paying off.” I seriously did a happy dance in her office.  She also asked me if  it was safe to say that I didn’t need my antidepressant anymore.  I said, “No I have felt great and happy”!  So the only medication I have to take now is my thyroid.  This was HUGE news for me!

The lesson here for the ladies is that it’s NOT all about the scale.  There are so many victories over my one year journey! 50 pounds gone off my aching knees, and 69 inches lost.  Getting off my blood pressure and antidepressants were HUGE victories!! So I continue with my journey of my healthy living.  My goal this year is to lose 60 pounds by August 2019, which will give me a grand total of 100 pounds lost! Then, I can cross the stage at the company’s Celebration Convention, and enter into their 100 pound club!

It’s a HUGE  goal which I know I will do!! God’s will, my effort! I am a work in progress. I remind myself to love myself right where I am! God made me in HIS image! I am beautifully and wonderfully made! I pray that God will use me to help others who might me in a dark place praying for a solution to get themselves healthy.  I hope and pray I could inspire someone else to make the decision to get healthy, and live in the body God intended you to live in! I thank God everyday for this journey! It is never too late to re-write your story! I am living proof at 50 years old.  I made a decision to get healthy! God is so good! He answered my prayer! My journey is still going and I now have the confidence and belief in myself to see this through! I am so blessed and grateful!

 

Praise God for Lisa’s story! Every week we will feature a new story, a new woman who overcame struggles, and exemplified God’s faithfulness.  If you would like to share your story, please email us your story at thorton479@gmail.com.  Have a blessed weekend!

The Triggers Aspect: Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis

Triggers

The “Triggers” aspect of living with and healing from trauma on a daily basis can be daunting at times.  There are days when my brain, emotions, and intuition are right on target.  It is almost like nothing ever happened.  Reality check!  However, there are other days when I am going back and forth trying to decide whether my intuition and the Holy Spirit are trying to tell me something, or if I am just being triggered.  In the beginning, almost everything was a trigger.  Now, I am more evened out where most days are decent, but then other days my symptoms are running rampant, and I have to remind myself that my identity is in Christ, and it is the trauma talking and trying to take over, and to just ride it out.  What I noticed is that with trauma triggers, the more you feed into it, the more your anxiety gets worked up, and thus, the more intense are the triggers.  It can become a vicious cycle.

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Dissecting the Trigger Cycle

One of the hardest things about previously being in a relationship with someone emotionally abusive, and having that person gaslight you almost every day, is that initially it makes you think that every person you talk to who is lying is trying to gaslight you.  Because of the fact that our brains have been through so much,  and is trained to react to certain patterns, it takes a while to get out of this mode.  Full disclosure to help people out  who have teenagers, and live with trauma on a daily basis:   This can be some of the hardest times for you, as it has been for me, because teens take words and change them around from what it is that you are actually saying.  This is part of their development.  However, again, for someone who was in a relationship where they dealt with emotional abuse, and you were gaslight, and everything got turned around and twisted to make it seem like you were the problem, this can be rough.  Reminding yourself that this is a trigger, part of their development, and will get better was essential for me.  My therapist even reminded me, with these words:  “This is going to be a hard time  for you.”  She wasn’t joking.  Initially,  I was discouraged.  However, after time, things got better with this particular trigger.  I pray that it will for you as well.

I hope that this series is helping someone who is needing encouragement as they live with PTSD and trauma on a daily basis.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3, NKJV

Blessings,

 

Katina

The Inner Critic Aspect: Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis

The First Part of the Critic

Today we are discussing another part in the series:  Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis.  It took me a while on this healing journey that I have been on to realize that there is what is called an inner critic of trauma.  The first part of the inner critic aspect of trauma is the critic that is someone else’s voice.  This someone else may have been a parent, a friend, a relative, stranger, or someone else who said something in your childhood that rocked you to the core of your being.  Their comments of criticism and negativity caused you to internalize what they said, and then live out what they said as if it was the truth coming from the bible.  As a child, I was abandoned by my father, and because of this abandonment, I felt rejected.  In a child’s mind, there has to be some reason for this, and oftentimes fault themselves for the situation.  In my mind, since my father was no longer with my mom, and I felt rejected, then I concluded that my mom had rejected me as well.  This set the stage.  I was standing outside of my childhood church, when I overheard a comment said by one teenager to another: “Oh, her mom is so beautiful.  I wonder what happened to her?”  This became the first part of my ruling critic.  It “sealed the deal”  on my already low self-worth and insecurities about my appearance.  The second “other voice” of my inner critic was that of my ex-husband in his brokenness, who used my low self-worth to keep me under his thumb.  He would purposefully say and do things that would reinforce my low self-worth and insecurities.  I had to begin the process of deprogramming my brain from everything that was said and done, and look to the truth of who God says that I am in order to regain my identity and self-worth in him.  This process is one that is tedious, because you have to keep asking, “Are these words really reflecting who I am as a person, or is the “Other person inner critic”, and then telling yourself, ” I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.

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The Second Part of the Critic

The second part of the inner critic is yourself.  Yes, yourself.  This is a hard pill to swallow.  After being able to distinguish whether the critic voices are true to your sense of self or not, then comes the hard part of dealing with the lies that you have formed about yourself that the enemy convinced you of from day one.  There are no fingers to point at this stage because the mirror is only reflecting us.  These lies force us to deal with things by using coping mechanisms to get through life.  The coping mechanisms are byproducts of trauma.  Mine is perfectionism.  This perfectionism starting off as overachievement in school, but by the time my brokenness met up with my ex-husband’s it went into every area of my life.  However, there gets to a point on life, when God says, ” Enough! I freed you, and I want you to walk in it.”  Our coping mechanisms only work so long before we are faced with walking the path of freedom from them, or having them to stunt our growth in certain areas.  When we get rid of anything, it has to be replaced with something else.  I have found that if I am not striving/perfecting/overachieving/then I need to be resting in God.  I am not sure what your coping mechanisms are, but God can handle them all, one day at a time.

Blessings,

Katina

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.  Psalms 139:14

 

The Fear Aspect: Living with and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis

For the next two weeks, I am going to do a quick series on the ins and outs of living with trauma on a daily basis.  I am not sure how many of you have dealt with trauma in the past or present, however, it is something that is more prevalent than one may think, and a lot of fears have trauma at the root of it. 

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Women at 10.4 %, are twice as likely as men to experience PTSD.  About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.  I have been living with trauma all my life, unbeknownst to me. 

What I didn’t realize is that a lot of my trauma manifested itself as fear during my younger years.  After having compounded trauma within the last six and a half years, this fear effect gets multiplied.  Unfortunately, when this happens, we can definitely pray, and start to take deep breaths to help ourselves calm down.  However, the fear is so strong, that you would think that you are in an all out fight for your life.  The fear gets multiplied by fifty.

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About three years ago, my kids were at youth group at church, and a tornado swept through parts of the town where I lived, along with some of the other nearby towns.  I was at home by myself.  Praise God for community!  My friends and I texted and called one another to make sure that everyone was okay.  This discussion took place as I stood in the bathroom with the door closed, begging God for the weather to pass over.  

My mother called to check on me since she heard that the tornado was headed our way.  I could tell by the sound of her voice that she was nervous.  I called the kids at church, and they stated that one of the youth leaders, who was a fireman, told them where to go, and what to do.  I knew that they would be fine, but I kept wondering if I would be okay.  The townhome that I was living in was surrounded by large evergreens on all sides.  I kept thinking to myself, if they were just here, then I would be okay.

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Deep down, I knew that my kids couldn’t control God’s weather.  However, I knew that it would make the out of control fear that trauma had placed on me to loosen up.  I shifted between being okay, and feeling like my whole entire body had been tied up because my muscles were so tense.

Thank God that the weather did let up.  The tornado didn’t hit my side of town, but it did hit all around the church.  God protected the church.  All the while, as I stood there in that bathroom, God had praise music going in my head.  I knew that it was his sign that everything would be okay.  However, because of the fear from trauma, I must be honest, my body was saying a different story.  My kids made it home safely that night, and it was just another testament to God’s faithfulness, as trees had been knocked down everywhere from the tornado.

Have a blessed night!

Katina

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23, NLT

Devotion: Got One up on You

The story of Leah and Rachel is one that we can all relate to in life: the comparison trap.  Their trap probably started at a young age, and unfortunately went into adulthood.  Sometimes as parents we have to be extra careful not to be the catalyst for this type of thing happening.  The sad reality of their family dysfunction showed that they were filled with constant thoughts of “let me see how I can one up you.” Round one began with “I’ll take your man”.  Round two began with, ” I can have more kids than you”.  This trap affects both men and women alike, and it ruins families, friendships, and work relationships.  The comparison trap has several things that lie at the root.  The three that God has spoken to me about are rejection, self-worth, and contentment. 

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When we read the story of Leah and Rachel, there are several things that we can directly and indirectly perceive.  The first thing perceived is that beauty and popularity won hearts.  People often shy away from us when we don’t fit into their standard for beauty, dress, hairstyle, etc.   If this is our area of brokenness, not fitting into someone else’s standards could lead to insecurity and internalization as rejection.  There are two sections of verses that tell us that one of Leah’s issues was rejection.  Here is the first:

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.  Genesis 29:16-17, NIV

The second section of scripture tells us about why Leah became fruitful right away:

30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:30-31, NIV

We see that self-worth comes into play because Leah mentions on more than one occasion that her husband would love her now that God had opened her womb.  We see how the phrase, “Oh, but he will love me since I’m pregnant with his child” worked out even then.  She said nothing about God loving her, and his love for her being enough.  

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32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

Genesis 29: 32, 34, KJV

In verse 35 of Genesis, it seems as though Leah has finally resolved to be content in the state that she was in:

35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.  Genesis 29: 35, KJV

So we thought.  Unfortunately this was Leah’s and Rachel’s stronghold.  Right after Leah’s place of contentment, her sister Rachel can’t stand the fact that insists that Jacob sleeps with her handmaid so that she could have children, and since Leah had left child bearing, she followed suit in doing the same:

Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won!” So she named him Naphtali [My Struggle].

When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her slave Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as his wife.

Genesis 30: 8-9, GW

The vicious cycle of rejection, no self-worth, and discontentment started up again:

13 Leah said, “I’ve been blessed! Women will call me blessed.” So she named him Asher [Blessing]. Genesis 30:13, KJV

20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun. Genesis 30:20, KJV

Strongholds are hard to get rid of.  Like Leah, I was born with a weak eye.  I had to wear a patch over my other eye in order for my brain to train my weak eye to use itself, and prevent blindness.  I remember the whole process as being quite traumatic:  siting in doctor’s offices for 5 to 6 hours, eye exams, a patch, more eye exams, and then eye dilation, and leaving the doctor’s office.  I felt helpless as I was walking across the street with my mom, while holding her hand to wait for the bus.

Fast forward some years later, like Leah, I dealt with the feelings of rejection due to abandonment by my father, and then feelings of rejection due to the comment that another teenage girl made in response to my physical appearance.  I internalized this comment, and it was used as a tool to produce no self-worth, leading to seeking approval through high achievement in school, through others, and my ex-husband.  It also led to years of being in an emotionally abusive marriage, where I sought him for a good portion of my self-worth.  

Getting caught up in shopping and other things in order to improve my appearance, and feel like I could qualify to compete, only kept the cycle going.  There will always be someone who’s prettier, smarter, and dresses better.  We have to be safe and secure in who we are in Christ, knowing that this brings true contentment and self-worth, no matter what other people are saying or thinking.  We are all broken individuals in need of a Savior, and God loves us much more than anyone else ever could.

Dear God,

We thank you in advance for rescuing us from the comparison trap.  We also thank you that only in you, are we enough.  Otherwise, we might become filled with self-pride, criticism, and judgment.  Please help us to break free of this stronghold.

In the mighty name of Jesus,

Amen

 

Dealing with a Bad Day

Every now and then, we tend to have those bad days.  When I say bad days, I am speaking of bad emotional days where you know that the only thing that you can do is to ride them out.  Last week was one of those weeks.  Praise God that this week is starting off better.  Along with praying and reading God’s word, I took a walk to the beach, and let the sand and water run through my feet. I notice that for me, it tends to happen when I already have a few issues that I am dealing with, and then unfortunately, a few to several more are taking place.   These are those days when I thank God for Lamentations 3: 22-24, which says:

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Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” NKJV

This verse gives us hope in knowing that every morning we get a new set of mercies, and that although we feel like our state is going to last forever, it isn’t.  God is gracious, and joy does come in the morning.  Praise the Lord!

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There are several things that I have found works for me when I am having a bad day:

  • Saturating myself in God’s word.  Sometimes we have a favorite book of the bible, or a favorite verse that we can recite over and over.
  • Praying to God for relief and provision during this time.  Sometimes I’ve literally laid my hands on myself, or laid out prostrate for God to break through, reciting his word back to him, and reminding him that he promises that his word would not return unto him void.  I also pray and ask God to help me to get to the root of what is causing this if I am not 100% sure of the cause.
  • Getting outside for fresh air.  It’s good for the adrenal glands, and an overall good feeling. If the sun is out, we get free Vitamin D.
  • Going for a walk.  When we walk, our blood is flowing, oxygen is running through, and it gives our bodies an overall good feeling.
  • Taking an additional Vitamin D if needed.
  • Going out with friends and having a discussion about some of the issues that are going on, along with talking about things that you like to do that will help to lift your mood.  Remember, we weren’t made to bear all of our burdens on our own.
  • If you live close to a beach or pond, watching the water gives a calming effect.  
  • Journaling:  Writing down a list of the things that you are dealing with, and going to God in your writing can also help release some of the weight.
  • Creativity:  This could include painting, upcycling, poetry, scrapbooking, etc.

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But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

Isaiah 43: 1-7, NKJV

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