The Monster Under My Bed

DSC_2192.JPG“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:20

Don’t laugh at me. And don’t tell me you’ve never gotten down on your hands and knees to triple check that there isn’t anything or anyone lurking in the shadows of your bedskirt. Ok, maybe you haven’t lately. But I have. Yep. Very recently in fact. Before you close the screen because this doesn’t apply to you, hear me out.

I had been looking forward to this weekend for months. A whole weekend focusing solely on my writing and my spiritual growth. I was ready to relax, refresh my soul, and spend a calm, peaceful weekend with God and my computer, while fellowshipping with other Christian authors. After all, the conference was called “Renew.”

Well, I showed up just in time for my critique appointment, and in order to make it I left my luggage in the car. After the appointment I had a half hour before they were doing a celebration panel of authors who published in the last year. Perfect! Time for me to get my things, find my room, use the facilities, freshen up, etc. Well when I finally managed to ask the front table where the celebration would take place, I was told all the authors on the panel were currently meeting in the front room. How did I miss that email? I stepped into the doorway just in time to basically hear, “Ok, and that’s how it’s going to work. Let’s just have fun!” Not to mention when they saw me there they asked if I had my 5 books I needed, and I said, yes, in my room. Oops.

So I had to run up to my room, throw the books onto the table, and settle myself into my seat, just in time for the interview panel to begin. I felt like I was in a whirlwind. I wanted to cry. I tried to compose myself. I took deep breaths. I prayed. I smiled. And I prayed some more as they called up the first panel of 7 authors, myself being one of them, but for some reason I missed my name the first time.

Long story shorter, after sitting in the wrong seat (how could I miss that each seat had the author’s book on it!), blindly finding my way to the dining room down the stairs and pretty sure located in another state, I managing to keep myself composed through dinner with one of my most favorite authors. After dinner I scrambled back upstairs to get the rest of my books into the “store” and priced. Then I found myself alone in my room.

I was tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and most significantly, spiritually. Where was God? Here I am at a spiritual writer’s retreat, surrounded by people who love two of the same things I do, and yet I struggled. Where was God? I prayed for peace. I sure didn’t feel it. I prayed for it to be a great weekend. So far we were off to a not so great start. Surely He didn’t set all this up for me just to waste the entire weekend in misery and despair.

I talked to my husband on the phone, and had some time to sort through all the books I purchased, as well as my freebies. I told him if I could just get myself organized, I’d feel better. So, I did that. Then the next wave came. I felt like I was almost being suffocated. I felt fear, anxiety, and confusion. And then the monsters showed up. You know what I’m talking about. The sense that someone is standing behind you. You know they’re there, even though you haven’t turned around yet.

How many years has it been since I’ve even thought about a monster under my bed? But that was the next thought. What if someone was lurking under my bed, waiting for me? And not even what if. It was more like, who or what am I going to find when I lift up the skirt? Then I did what every sane forty-year old does. I went to the foot of the bed, moved back a bit (just in case they lashed out at me with a knife), and put my head to the floor. Surprise!! Nothing. Of course not. But that wasn’t good enough. I got down and looked again. Then I went to the side of the bed and looked again. And when I left the room that night, I looked again when I returned. Each time I saw nothing. But what I felt was so real, I knew I had an enemy in the room with me.

You see, God set this weekend up for me. And often, when God has great plans for us, the enemy will try to fight it. In this case it was through fear, because that’s one area that is a struggle for me, and Satan knows that. So I had a choice to make. Was I going to stay up all night in fear, that someone was going to come in or that someone was hiding under the bed I checked fifty times? Or was I going to lie down in peace? David said in Psalm 4 verse 8, “I will both like down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” It was more clear than ever that this weekend was divinely appointed, so I was not going to let my peace be stolen. I hit the floor and prayed until God showed Himself and the peace I was craving wrapped itself around me.

By now I should end my story, with all of you saying, “Praise God! Ya, He is real!” But it doesn’t end here. Literally within ten minutes after that, the mental attack struck again. I was standing at the desk in my room and knocked over a very full cup of water. I had no idea how much water fit into that cup. Big deal, you say. Well, it is when you’re struggling to keep peace in your mind. All my toiletries were on that desk, my computer, Bible, books, notes, etc. Once I clumsily cleaned it up and mopped the floor, I still refused to let my peace be stolen. I climbed into bed and gratefully thanked God for the day and looked forward to a new day.

The next morning, yes, after checking for monsters twice during the night, I woke feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day! Upon looking at my phone, and realizing I had a half hour till breakfast (I never sleep that late, so I didn’t see any need to set an alarm), I hurried up and went to the showers. Ok, little frazzled, not a big deal. Ready in plenty of time, just missing the prayer time but that was ok because I would have my own time with God. Finishing up getting dressed, I felt good about things and bent down to pick up my conditioner bottle off the floor. Standing up, I banged the front of my head onto the towel bar. Ok, dumb move. Just clumsy. We all bang our heads. Yes we do, but this hurt so badly and all I could think about was the concussion I received from hitting my head against a cabinet. So here we go again.  A little nauseous, I finished up and went to breakfast, smiling all the way as I greeted others. With a throbbing head I asked the dining room manager for a bag of ice.

In the bathroom, as I squatted against a wall with a large plastic bag of ice against my head, I had another decision to make. It was almost more than I could bear. Ok God, did you really not want me to come here this weekend? I finally asked. But then I pushed that aside and knew in my heart that once again, the enemy was finding every single device he could use against me to get me to give up. To go home and miss out on all the blessings that were prepared for me. I told him that he’d have to do better than that to get me to leave. I wasn’t giving up. Then and there I made the decision. I stood, iced for a few more seconds, and walked out of there resolved to stay here until the bitter end.

Why did I tell you all this? Did you really need to hear a play by play of all the things that went wrong with my weekend? Of course not. But let me tell you, the weekend was beyond even my own imagination, and in more than one way. I met several amazing women who encouraged me and loved me. I reconnected with an acquaintance. I heard real women speak about real life and I learned so much from each of them. And I had a chance to write some more and read it to a group of people who offered advice and suggestions. Not to mention I learned a lot about the next step in this journey, public speaking.

So was it worth it? Absolutely. The times we go through the fire are the times when we are being made perfect. If I gave in to my fears and anxiety and left the conference, I would’ve missed out on the great reward. Remember, what the devil has planned for our harm, God means it for our good!

 

Photo by LP

What If?

“’For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

DSC_2016What if all the “what ifs” we thought came true? Let’s be honest for a second because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. And in fact, lately it’s been a fear so suffocating I’ve let the sun set on some pretty great days without noticing. If every time you asked the question “what if”, would you have a great life or a life of despair? Are you believing the promise above, or bringing on more harm by your what if’s?

Recently, within one week I’ve had this conversation three different times. The “what if’s” of my thoughts were all focused on the wrong things. Not too long ago two very special people were almost involved in a head-on collision. My world might’ve been changed drastically in a flashing moment. Does that mean I should worry every time I or someone I love gets in a car because “what if” they crash and die? I know it might sound extreme, but often times in our thoughts it’s a reality that can become all-consuming.

Often the little “what ifs”, if they’re not dealt with, spiral into bigger “what ifs” that could become too big for us to handle on our own. Think about this for a second. Let’s say you’re not married and would really like to be. I’m sure the “what if” for you would be, “what if I never find someone to marry?” Ok. If we don’t deal with that, soon it might become, “what if nobody ever wants to marry me because I’m too… (you fill in the blank…too ugly, too skinny, too fat, too insecure, too many freckles, my hair is too frizzy, etc.). Soon, our problem is much bigger and way more complicated than just finding a spouse. This kind of thinking would eventually lead into a whirlwind of insecurity and self-loathing that is so much more serious than our concern of finding that special person. And while it may seem silly to outsiders, these fears are as real to the person as if they were all true.

The “what ifs” that I’ve struggled with have left me broken and in despair, curled up in a ball crying out to God, “why”, and asking Him to take these fears away. I want you to see, however, that none of my “what ifs” were real! They were all in my head. I allowed my thoughts to settle on the negative effects of the question instead of turning it around to the positive.

But now, let’s look at the other side of this. What if the “what ifs” were great expectations? What if the sun rose tomorrow on a new day of hope? “What if I get that raise I’ve been hoping for?” Or “what if my kids don’t blow up the house while I’m gone?” “What if my spouse really does love me for who I am?” Think about how differently you’d live your life if these were the types of thoughts that dominated, not the negative! I challenge you to try it. Start with just one day, or one hour even. And it’s ok if you don’t get it the first time. Start again. Say to yourself, “what if I say hi to that group of people at lunch when I walk by” instead of, “what if that group of people is talking about me?”

I know it hard. Trust me, I know it. I’m not encouraging you to do anything that I haven’t already had to do. Sometimes it’s almost impossibly hard. But not impossible. And I’m telling you, if you start thinking like that, you’ll be amazed at how better you feel inside! If you can’t do it on your own, you’re not alone. That’s why God says He will never leave us nor forsake us! (Deuteronomy 31:6) But you have to make the decision to stop asking yourself all the wrong “what if” questions and start believing God has a great plan for your life.

What if today is a new beginning to our “what ifs”? Let’s find out!

 

Does It REALLY Matter What I Think?

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

blog 2I love the book of Proverbs. Just think about it for a second. Most of this book was written by a dad who just wanted to teach his son how to live a successful life in the world. Good, clear, solid words of wisdom. No grey areas. Sound familiar? Don’t we all want that for someone we love? Solomon was known to be the wisest king who ever ruled. Why? Because He asked God for help. He asked Him for an understanding heart to rule the people. For wisdom, to know good versus evil. So my thinking is, if Proverbs was written by the wisest king ever it probably has some good advice.

Let’s look again at what he says in the verse above. He means that what we think eventually flows into our heart and changes us. Therefore, the answer to the question above is, yes, for sure it matters what we think. Because if I think unhealthy, unholy, dirty thoughts, that’s the kind of person I will become. But if I think about good, positive thoughts, that’s the kind of person I become.

I know many of you probably aren’t totally buying into this yet. What with all the “great” TV shows and movies out there, not to mention top Billboard songs that carry a great beat, we have to be careful that what we watch and listen to don’t conflict with what we really should be watching and listening to.

Let’s look at one example. If you’re a female over the age of, I’ll say 20 (although most likely younger that that), you’ve probably seen “10 Things I Hate About You”. Sorry guys, but I know your memories of this will be very different from the females here. So, we just finished watching the part of the movie where a good-looking Australian actor named Heath Ledger steals a microphone and sings to a not-so-happy Julia Stiles, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” And if you’re like me, you’ll smile and think happy thoughts as you remember that unforgettable scene.

Now, right after that thought, your emotions will probably shift and you might get very sad, thinking about what happened to him.

According to experts, he didn’t overdose on any of his several medications. What I believe really killed him was the effect of his then current role, The Joker, in “The Dark Knight” and how dark his role needed to be. According to one article, he told Empire Magazine that he, “’feared’ the role but wanted to make it different.” Here’s what he said:

“I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices – it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown.”

“While Heath’s death was ruled accidental, the diary does reveal he was struggling with the deeply twisted role and his own emotions.” (Dailymail.co.uk)

I think we could learn a lot from this one example. Do you know I can’t even watch “The Dark Knight”? I can’t explain how it makes me feel inside, but it’s like I physically feel the demons descending on me, trying to suffocate me with their darkness. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch this movie or any others like it. But what I am saying is, in your daily life, think about what you let come into your eyes and ears. Because it will settle in our hearts, and eventually become who we are. “Keep your heart (some versions say mind) with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Another great Proverb (4:23).

Does It Matter What We Think? How could one immerse themselves in such a role as described above and not be affected by it? Our mind is a delicate thing that we have to take care of. We are warned in Romans 12, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Why is this so important? So that we, “may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (verse 2) Even doctors are now admitting that the best cure for diseases, including cancer, is a positive attitude, which begins with positive thoughts. Think good things this week and just see if you don’t begin to feel differently!

 

 

Photo by LP

Fight or Flight

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I’m finding the more people I talk to, the more we all struggle with essentially the same problems. And no, it’s not our spouse. Nope, not our parents. It’s not even our job. It’s our thoughts. The enemy-the devil-Satan- whatever you want to call him, can actually have an effect on our thoughts, believe it or not. And most of the problems we face today are a result of allowing him to gain a foothold in our mind, permitting our thoughts to rest, even if just for a moment, on thinking about his lies. My pastor explained it in a great way one Sunday morning. He said that while we have the weapons and the power to make the first move and attack against the enemy (the devil), often what we do instead is position our weary bodies behind our defenses, struggling to hold the gate closed while he tries to knock it down and force his way inside.

Have you ever had a dream so real that it wakes you and you need to gather your senses for a second to make sure it was only a dream? Well, within a night or two of hearing that Sunday message, I had this vivid dream. Boldly flashing across my view was a title clear as day and I knew God was speaking to me. I didn’t hear Him audibly, but I had a sense inside of me. Upon awakening, I knew what the dream was about. So I got up, thudded downstairs, and scribbled blindly on a sticky note exactly what I saw. Oddly enough, the dream wasn’t any THING, as much as it was the WORDS that got me. “Fight or Flight.” Yep, we’ve all heard of this saying, but typically we think of it as the natural response our bodies make when we’re faced with something frightening. So this is what I was given. Just those words, along with the idea of “spiritual warfare”. You see, I’ve been toying with blogging for years but I keep chickening out for one reason or another. I’m afraid I won’t have the time to do it. I’m afraid of putting myself out there (more than writing books already does-I know, really?). What topic do I write on? I once started a blog probably at least 12 years ago or more. It was on parenting and tips for parents, since this was a large part of my job at the time. Don’t ask me how long it lasted. I don’t even remember the name of it.

So here I was again, on this particular night when I had “the dream.” And you know, it was like God could’ve been saying to me, “Tracy, what are you waiting for?” Ok, well, Lord, I guess I really don’t have an excuse anymore. Except technically I did. Two nights before this, I got a concussion. A pretty good one. One that really limited my screen time, aka my precious writing time. But you see, this is how the enemy works. He will use anything he can to prevent us from stepping out onto the path God is calling us to. “Fight or flight” showed me that God is asking all of us, when our minds and our thoughts are attacked, are we going to fight with the weapons we have been given, or are we going to run away and hide behind our gate, frantically finding any way to hold it up as the devil tries to push it in?

At this point you might be thinking, “what are you talking about? The enemy? The devil is just some being who lives in hell and as long as I help people and do good things for others, I’m ok.” I’m here to tell you while that sounds nice, it’s false. The Bible, which is just as real and applicable for us today as it was a thousand years ago, says, “Be sober (self-controlled), be vigilant (watchful); because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV)

Did you know that eagles have super vision? It helps them to watch any dangerous prey that might come searching for their nest. They perch themselves high above and watch vigilantly, to protect their young. This is a perfect example of how we need to watch for the negative thoughts that prey on our minds, stalking, waiting to attack.

Did you know, many of the thoughts in our minds and problems we face due to our thinking are caused by the devil? “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

But don’t worry! Because we are told that we have what we need to overcome that! “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

So listen, before you think that thought about yourself, or you want to criticize your spouse, or think that you’ll never like your job, before you think those things, stop and find one GOOD thing about yourself, or about your spouse, or your job. If you can begin to do that, I guarantee you will begin to notice a change inside you!

This is just the beginning. There is so much more to learn about the devil and how he can attack our minds and completely change the way we live. Through my struggles each day, I will provide the tips I’m learning to overcome the devil and change my life for the better. And while I’m not there yet, I’m definitely on my way!

 

All the credit for the amazing picture goes to Bob Doyle, taken in Alaska. Thanks for the pic, Bob!