Struggling Grace

StFrancis_part

No one can acquire any virtue unless he begins by dying to himself  ~ St. Francis of Assisi

…regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self… and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].

~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (AMP)

I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God…

~ Galatians 2:20

PTSD? Depression? Grief? PMT? Who knows? All I know for sure is that I have been struggling lately. I know the death of my mother-in-law shook me up (actually, not her death – because she was a woman of faith – so much as the suffering that preceded it) and I know that the flashbacks have returned (PTSD: such fun!) but in a different form, and I know that hormones are a right bugger at certain times of the month (‘scuse me, gentlemen), but I don’t think I’m depressed. Just floundering a bit. Feeling a bit overwhelmed. Even though it’s mostly my own brain that’s doing the whelming. Mind you, Prince is poorly again and that breaks my heart because he is in pain and there’s nothing I can do and I can’t explain it to him – it’s difficult enough to explain to a neuro-typical child, let alone a young man with autism :-/ Then there’s my dear husband who is struggling with grief at the loss of his mother. I am quite inadequate at offering comfort. He hurts so I hurt. That’s what having a strong sense of empathy does. You feel other people’s feelings, especially the bad feelings. It’s good because it begets a deep compassion, but it can have a down side. I feel too much, sometimes. Other times I feel nothing at all.

So I go back to the bible, back to the words of people who followed Jesus with their whole being. The death of self that St. Francis is talking about in that first quote, above, is not just dying to the old selfish, sinful ways, it’s also about dying to the old negative thinking patterns – that I am useless, unworthy, a waste of space. These are all the feelings that have been floating around my head and the worst bit is that they stop me from being able to think straight. I have the desire to be caring for my family and looking after the house, but my head gets stuck and I can’t figure out what to do and then all I want to do (all I feel able to do) is to curl up in bed and do nothing. But then I feel bad because really I do want to be caring for my family and curating a loving, organised, fruitful family home.

Oh, sweet Jesus! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Bring me once again to my knees as I wholly and completely put my trust in You to accomplish even the smallest of small things for Your dear name’s sake. I am quite useless without You, yet quite marvellous with You. Use me. Give me the awareness of grace – five minutes at a time if need be – and help me to share Your grace with everyone I meet. Help my poor boy to feel better. Show me what I can do for him and to encourage him. Help me to be whatever my husband needs as he comes to terms with his loss.

In Your name I pray. Thank you for this gift of prayer.

Amen.

I write all this here not as a way of seeking attention. I don’t want attention, although kindly thoughts and prayer would be an encouragement. I hope that this might help someone else going through the same sort of thing to not feel so alone, but the main reason I write this is because true testimony begins with honesty – and that includes the bad… all the while knowing that God is always good.

Comfort Box

My very lovely doctor psychologist lady gave me some ‘tools’ to use before I began EMDR. One of these is a ‘comfort box’. The idea is that you have a box full of things that help you to feel ‘safe’, so that when you’re in the middle of a panic attack or feeling like you’re a slug, basically when you’re overwhelmed you can just go to your box and find something ‘comforting’. This might sound like common sense, but when you’re overwhelmed you can’t think straight so you need to be able to go to a single place to find ‘safety’. I have a playlist on Amazon also called ‘Comfort Box’. It features music from artists both secular and Christian. I just listened to the wonderful Laura Story singing I Think of You:

‘…it was You who paid the highest price
For broken jars of clay
And You still choose to use my life
For Your glory displayed.
And I think of You who shines with endless light
Through broken jars of clay
And I think of You redeeming every part of each day
That You’ve made…’

In honour of ‘Time to Talk Day’ (see reblog below), here’s a song from my comfort box which always makes me smile:

He Holds Us When We Fall

When we fall he holds us lovingly, and graciously and swiftly raises us.

In all this work he takes the part of a kind nurse who has no other care but the welfare of her child. It is his responsibility to save us, it is his glory to do it, and it is his will we should know it.

Utterly at home, he lives in us forever.

From Enfolded in Love, Daily Readings with Julian of Norwich

I will not forget you… I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…

Isaiah 49:16 (NRSVA)

Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… [teach] them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 28:18-20

A Room without a House

Yesterday was a day spent with a strong, persistent flashback, accompanied by ‘smells’. It made me feel sick. Worst of all was that I kept associating this memory with my dear husband, though he had nothing to do with it! That is painful. I wonder if Abba Anthony experienced similar things in his twenty years in the desert? When I finally slept there came a night of vivid dreams. I woke up so discouraged and disheartened that it has taken three hours to get going. Three hours is better than it used to be, though and for that I am grateful.

These dark thoughts, the looming, lingering, negative thinking – it’s like being confined to a dark, cold room, naked, shivering, chained and bound. You somehow forget that you can unlock the chains. You forget that you can turn on the light. You forget that you can open the wardrobe and pull on your clothes. You forget that you can draw back the curtains.  You forget that you can light the fire. You forget that beyond the door lies a whole house. This is depression.

Then [Jesus] came to Nazareth where he had been brought up and, according to his custom, went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read the scriptures and the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book and found the place where these words are written—‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’.

Then he shut the book, handed it back to the attendant and resumed his seat. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed upon him and he began to tell them, “This very day this scripture has been fulfilled, while you were listening to it!”

Luke 4:16-21 (Phillips)

Thank you, Jesus. May it all be for your glory.