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Christmas Love

Have you ever been in love?  You know, that obsessive feeling where you just can’t get your love out of your head.  You think of your love often and wonder what your love is doing.  You want to share the joys of a wonderful day with your love.  Or, maybe, you’ve heard some bad news and you just need your love to share the burden.  No matter what you do or think about, your consciousness relentlessly wanders to thoughts of your love.

Many of us are familiar with this kind of love and the inescapable obsession that comes with it.  Experts refer to this as infatuation and have sought to understand the way it makes us feel.  Often, it can lead to a feeling of exhaustion as our body’s adrenaline is drained to fuel it.  It’s been discovered that the same areas of our brain that ignite from obsessive compulsive disorder are active during feelings of infatuation.  But, that’s also why this feeling tends to subside over time.  It has to; our body can’t sustain the intense love energy.  This is a shortcoming that God does not share.  His infatuation for us never dies.  It has been and continues to go on and on and on.

Even though we falter and walk away from him, God is still is obsessed with us.  We see him tirelessly reaching out to us time and time again in the Bible.  He is always trying to reconnect and bring us back to him even though we seem to always let him down.  So, almost 2000 years ago, he upped the game.  If humanity refused to go to him, he would to come to us.   John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

He loves us so much that he came to be with us – to be one with us, one of us.  He was and is still here.   “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20.

My prayer for you is that you not only remember how much you are loved but also that you may become obsessed with your ultimate lover.   Take in his love, experience his love and share his love with everyone you meet.

Prayer

Heavenly and gracious Father, help us to be obsessed with you and your grace.  May we always and forever be filled with infatuation for you, wondering what you think and feel and trying to figure out new ways to tell you just how much we love you.  Let it not recede nor subside.  Help us break down the walls of business, frustration, fear, loneliness and whatever else gets in the way of our hearts being able to experience your love.  Help us always remember that no height or depth, nor any other barrier in existence will be able to separate us from the love that is Christ Jesus our Lord.  Help us be so filled with your love that it bubbles up inside of us and spills over into the world around us.  And may we all remember to tell you each and every day, “I love you!”

In your precious son, Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Posted in Meditations/Devotions.

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Avoiding Holiday Stress

The stress-filled time of the holidays is officially creeping up on us.  Just last week while I was checking out the post-Halloween candy sale isle in the local discount store, I overheard two women lamenting on the length of their Christmas shopping lists.  I was saddened that these two women were already consumed with thoughts of Christmas shopping even though it was only the first week of November.

As I turned the corner and went to the next ‘seasonal’ isle, I became very aware of why they had been lamenting.  The Christmas tree display was up and twinkling and the isles that once were full of costumes and candy were now full of ornaments, lights, wreaths, wrapping paper, garland, stockings, etc.  And to think that I was planning on buying an autumn mum that day!  No such luck!  Where the mums had been displayed a week before, there were now wonderful red poinsettias.  How did I miss the autumn mums on November 2nd!?  Could I find any holiday napkins and plates for Thanksgiving Dinner?  No!  I couldn’t find them anywhere.  They were replaced by napkins with snowmen, trees, poinsettias, etc.  I was too late for Thanksgiving?!  (Don’t even get me started on the television ads and mail order industries!)

It really is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

The holidays, under the best of circumstances, start triggering excessive stress.  It is undeniable.  When we start thinking of ‘family time’ and holiday schedules blood pressures usually begin to rise, almost immediately.  (Can you feel the tension tighten in your neck just as you read this?)

Holiday stress is much more common than people realize.  As a matter of fact, November 1st brings about the busiest time of year for most mental health professionals.  Our calendars will be pretty full from now through the end of February.  The primary request is almost always the same, “Jackie, please help me mentally prepare for the agony of family time/holiday schedules/dwindling money.  I just don’t know how to handle _____!”  (You fill in the name of the family members, party, friends, obligations, etc.)

I anticipate that the stress of the holidays will seem a little more overwhelming this year.  With the election, the economy, the possible (or realized) lack of job security…our Stress Platter is pretty full already and we’ve only just begun.  Add to the above the historical “button pushing” that our family members are famous for and our cup will runneth over with the stress experience.  We, as a society and individually, are on overload.  It is too much stress for any one person to handle.

I have come up with a list of 10 simple stress management techniques that (if you practice them) will help you manage what otherwise may seem like too much.  Remember (and this is important)…you have to use these tips in order for them to work.

1)         Stay focused on the reason for the season.  Between now and New Year’s Eve, focus on why we are celebrating at all this time of year.

   Thanksgiving was first designed as a celebratory way to give thanks to God for the gifts experienced in the new land of freedom.  It wasn’t an easy life.  Actually, it was a difficult and hard life, but the pilgrims gathered to give thanks to God for all they had been given.  “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:20)

  Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of our Savior who paid the price of our sins.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)  God brought salvation and peace through the birth of Christ.  WOW!  A time that was originally given to us to celebrate our salvation turned into a high-stress season?!  We added the pressure of gifts, holiday gatherings and parties, and disappointed expectations – that was never part of the original package.  We sure messed up a good thing there!

  New Year is the final in the celebration trio.  To many people, the new year represents the gift of new opportunities or a time to start living true to how God directs them to live.  This gift is not designed to add more stress into the new year, but rather to bring hope and a reminder that God is still here.   Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”  (Hebrews 10:36)

2)         Simplify!  How many trees do you need to put up and how many decorations do you really need to display?  Take a look at your calendar, prioritize and then erase EVERYTHING that you can cut out from the obligations of the season.  Take time to smell the turkey and the evergreen!

3)         Under-spend!  Take a look at your shopping/wish lists.  How much do you really need to buy and/or get as gifts?  Maybe you and your peeps can get together and adopt a less fortunate family…feed or clothe the homeless…give to those more in need.  Then, your family celebration can consist of a genuine thanksgiving of all that you enjoy and have surrounding you and you won’t have to worry about how you will pay for everything when January rolls around.

4)        Send out E-Cards and go green!   A subscription to a good greeting card website will not only save you time and money, but it will also save the world a lot of trees and energy.

5)        Remember it is ‘just another day.’  There is a lot of stress experienced by families, blended families and in families with adult children juggling their in-law family activities.  Lighten up and spread out the good cheer.  Who says that Thanksgiving can only be celebrated on a Thursday in November and that a Christmas dinner is less wonderful on December 18th?!   Be flexible in your celebration planning and who knows…you may have a longer, more fulfilling, less stressful season.

6)        Be proactive against loneliness.   For many people, the holidays serve as a painful reminder that they are not in a significant relationship and loneliness can seem overwhelming.  If this happens to be you, then you need to step up to the plate of self care and fill your time with other people.  Volunteer at a shelter, your church, call some other single friends, host a holiday potluck, etc.

7)        Take care of yourself!  Get enough sleep, exercise and eat a healthy – balanced diet.  The more healthy and rested you are, the more stress you will be able to comfortably handle.

8)        Let go of your expectations.  To many, the holidays represent a time to mourn the loss of unmet expectations – either of ourselves or others.  Examine those expectations and then evaluate how important it is to keep holding on to them.  Sometimes, by letting go, we free ourselves to enjoy the people we do have in our lives and the happiness we can experience with them.  Don’t let unmet expectations get in the way of you enjoying all of the wonderfulness you do have to celebrate.

9)        Guard your buttons.  It is important to remember they are your buttons.  Friends and family can only push them if you let them.  Know from where your buttons originate and then keep them in perspective.  Most of the time, we allow our buttons to be pushed based on memories from the past  rather than how things need to be today.  You are an adult now, so don’t let people get to your buttons!

10)    Live Love.  I Corinthians 13 paints a beautiful portrait of what living love looks like.  Make sure you are bringing your loving self to every relationship (even with strangers) this holiday season.  Start everyday with the following prayer…

Heavenly Father, please help me begin and live each day with love.  My prayer today and throughout this holiday season is that I may approach all of my relationships (even with strangers) as you would want me to, with love.  Please help me be more patient, kind, humble, polite, compromising, tolerant, even-tempered, forgiving, justice seeking, honest, perseverant, faithful, hopeful and tolerant.  With these love skills, I know that the gift of love that you have shared with all through your grace will bubble up inside of me and spill out towards all the world.  Help me free my heart of all previous hurts and pains so that I may share with all my friends and family the love that will create a sense of joy in this holiday season and prayerfully throughout the New Year.  In your loving son’s name I pray…Amen!

Posted in Holidays, Relationships.

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Abuse as told by Survivor #8

A Note from Jackie

As with all the survivor’s stories, I am always humbled and moved at the story of courage and perseverance that is shared.  When I think of little children going through such trauma, I am so touched at how strong these children were…and how amazing these adults are now!   I think we sometimes neglect honoring the amazing inner strength these survivors have displayed in their lives – especially when they do not always feel strong.

This story is no different!  Here is a survivor’s story that once again illustrates the pain of abuse.  What moves me so about this story is how this survivor found God – in spite of the pain and trauma of the abuse which was endured.  Here, the survivor shares what touches me as “The Peace that passes all understanding.”  A peace that this survivor tries to hold on to even when life gets heavy once again in adulthood.  What a glorious testimony of God’s love.  Please join me in praising God for his gift of strength during a young child’s life and the willingness of this survivor to share the story of bravery, perseverance , survival and God’s grace.

MY STORY

I come from a large family with 5 siblings.  My father was in the Air Force and my mother worked as a waitress.  I had a very hard childhood.  My father was an alcoholic and abuser.  My mother was abusive verbally, physically and emotionally.

My childhood memories are few as my mind has blocked a lot of  bad memories. One that I do remember is a night when my father came home drunk and asked each one of us girls if we wanted to go with him into the bedroom.  All of us said no.  However, since I was the oldest, I had to go with my dad to his bedroom.  Little did I know, that my father would sexually assault me.  I was only eight years old.

I don’t remember much of the assault but I do remember after the assault being placed in a tub of water to clean me up. My dad had me put my sister’s pajamas on.  The next day my mother asked me why I was wearing my sister’s pajamas and not my own.  I told her that it was because there was blood on my pajamas.  I have always felt that my mother covered up the sexual assault.  I was never taken to a doctor to make sure I was okay.

It was a short time later that my father locked all of us children out of the house.  While we were outside, he shot and killed himself.  My mother had a nervous breakdown shortly after his death and had to be hospitalized.  We all had to stay with neighbors until my mother was released from the hospital.  I don’t remember that much about my dad’s funeral for it was a blur.

We moved a short time later.  My mother soon remarried.  My stepfather was just like my father – an alcoholic.  I remember being locked in our room and my sister and I had to sit on our hands all day. My mother would put us in our room and keep us there even when she took the other children out somewhere.  She would put tape on the door to make sure that we did not leave the bedroom.   It was a very depressing time for us to be locked up in a room for so long.

My mother did not allow me enough time to get to school and get home from school.  We had a time limit on how long it should take us to get there and get home again.  And we were constantly running home and running to school to make it in time.  If we didn’t make it in time, we would get in trouble.

My mother was a rejecting and neglectful mother.  She did not care about my sister or me.  When I was about 10 years old I remember being so hungry I stole from my teacher’s purse.  I thought they were M & M’s and I ate them.  Come to find out they were vitamins or some kind of medicine. My mother did not take me to the hospital. She just called the doctors office to find out want she needed to do to take care of the problem. I almost died from the accidental overdose.  When my mother would leave the house on errands my brothers would make us perform sexual acts on them and they would molest us.  This activity went on for a few years.

When I was eleven and half years old my mother put me in a state mental hospital.  Most children of this age would be homesick and wanting to go home.  Not me! I was so happy to be there to work on “my problems.”  This was the reality about how rejecting my home was.

It was while I was in the state hospital that I found out just how far behind in school I was.  I was at a 4th grade level in reading, math and science.  During my year at the state hospital, I grew as a girl should grow and I was able to catch up to where I should have been in school – 7th grade.  During my stay there I tried on several occasions to either talk to or go home to visit my mother.  My mother would continue to reject me by not talking to me on the phone.  The only way I got to go home was if the staff members took me home.

After a year in the mental state hospital, all of sudden my mother withdrew me from the hospital.  This was done against medical advice.  Things at first went fine.  Then after a while we again would be locked in our bedroom for days on end with nothing to do.  By now we had grown older and I decided at the age of fourteen that I had enough.  So I ran away from home.

When I ran away, it was the first time I felt free.  Free from all abuse and rejection.  After I ran away, my sister and I were placed in foster homes.  The foster home did not work out for me as I needed more structure.  So I was placed in a group home for girls.  When I was 15 or 16 I transferred to another group home.  This home was where I began to go to church and hear about God.  This did some wonders for me.  Knowing that God would care for a soul like me was amazing.  As I got older, I had to be placed with another group home.  It was at this home that I was able to be on my own and still live at the group home.

I finally made it to High School graduation and God was leading me to Bible College.  So I went to Bible College to search what He would have me to do.   In December of my sophomore year of college I accepted Christ as my personal Savior … Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  God did change my life.  He blessed me with a wonderful husband and three wonderful daughters.  I wish I could say it was a happily after story but I cannot.  I would face even more challenges.

In her teens, my youngest daughter began to self-harm.  She would cut on her arms and hide them from us by wearing long sleeve shirts.  We finally did find out that she was cutting herself.  One time she had cut herself so badly that it required over 40 stitches. Then she tried committing suicide on two different occasions.  This would turn into a two-year battle to keep her safe.

During this time I began to struggle with depression and question why my daughter was experiencing these problems. Even through my worry and concern for her safety, I managed to keep things together while my daughter was going through the cutting and the suicide attempts.   It was when my daughter moved out of the house and on her own that I crashed.   I went into a deep depression and tried to commit suicide on five different occasions.  I was hospitalized on several occasions in addition to these attempts.  It was during one of those hospital visits that it was discovered that I had Graves Disease, a thyroid disease.  It took about a year for the doctors to get medicine in correct doses to manage the disease.  Now my body is responding to the medicine and my thyroid is now normal and my depression is getting better.  I know that I will struggle with depression the rest of my life.  But, I fight for the hope that my struggle will continue to get easier.

To this day I do not have a relationship with my mother.  It is not because of my choice, the ball is in her court.  She will have to make the decision to be in a relationship.

I am in therapy and this is helping me understand my past and to get a hold of not letting it control me.  I know that God is not finished with me.  My life verse is “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3: 5 – 6.   I know that God will be with me every step of the way – even if He is carrying me some of the time.

Posted in Survivors Stories.

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