Taking Back Your Peace of Mind

prayerpower-640x469Bent over my work computer yesterday afternoon, I glanced up occasionally through the eight-foot plate glass window in my office to study the enormous black storm clouds boiling up from the southwest. I’d like to get home before that hits, I thought.

Only it didn’t.

Umbrella in hand, I gathered my things just past 5 pm only to note with astonishment the brilliant light now pouring through my office window. That storm I wanted to beat home?

Never arrived.

Sometimes the things we fear never do.

A hand-wringer by nature, I have spent a lifetime trying to distinguish Worry from its sibling Concern. They share a family resemblance, after all. Both are kin to Care. Each has its ancestry in the state of Apprehension.

So how do you separate these two conjoined twins?

When I reentered the corporate workforce full-time at age 53, I recall sitting at my desk that first morning staring at my computer, wondering whether I would ever learn enough to truly be useful. Worrying about failure? Futile. But caring enough to work hard to reward the confidence of those who hired me? Totally appropriate.

So I printed out a simple sign in big block letters to remind myself that every day I learned something new would be a good day at work.

Over eight years later, I’ve never had a bad one.

Has there been plenty to worry about in other corners of life? You betcha.

A “routine” knee surgery for my husband last month that produced unexpected complications. A second hospitalization and invasive procedure to deal with infection only five weeks later.

A young friend recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma who has been given only a 50% survival rate.

A troubled marriage or two in our extended family.

I care deeply about these situations. I am profoundly concerned. So how do I disentangle these legitimate emotions from their bastard brother, Worry?

You’ve read this far because Worry has waggled his fingers in your face too. He’s the playground bully who pokes and prods and steals your peace of mind as if he could spend it for lunch.

So if you’re as sick of being bullied as I am, here are a few strategies to kick Worry to the curb.

  • Talk it out.  

Verbally processing concerns can help. Seeking information, digesting it and talking it through with trusted advisors goes a long way towards alleviating anxiety. Talk to medical personnel, your pastor or a counselor. Take notes, seek second opinions. Take your dark thoughts on long walks to expose them to the light. Talk to God.

  • Resist the rut. 

Someone once defined persistent worry as carving a rut into which all other thoughts drain. Once you have processed your concerns and taken them to those who are in a position to help, switch lanes. What you fear most might well run off into the ditch before it ever reaches you.

  • Pay attention to the positive.  

It’s there, you know. That half-full glass. The beloved who is recovering. That friend with Stage Four cancer who has an amazing 50% survival rate. The marriages that might improve or dissolve, but in either case will not leave the suffering spouse in limbo.

I have an awful habit of inquiring anxiously, “Is everything alright?” when one of my kids calls unexpectedly. They know me well enough to laugh and say, “Yeah Mom, everything’s fine.”

But you know what? The next time a call comes, I’m gonna say, “Hey, what’s new and good today?”

The storm may never arrive.

But even if it does, you can still kick Worry to the curb. Let him go bully someone else. Or better yet, come alongside them and link your arm through theirs. Then link both arms through God’s.

Worry loses his power when you face the bully together.

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Guest Post: Smushed in the Middle of the Sandwich Generation?

Have you ever felt stretched between competing needs in your family? Smushed like the filling spread too thin between two slices of bread?

Dr. Pam SanderlinToday I’ve invited a friend who’s living in that precarious place right now to sit with me to think it through. Dr. Pam Sanderlin is a career missionary, educator, editor and gifted artist (who happens to speak fluent Turkish.)  Post reprinted with permission from http://betweencontinents.blogspot.com/.

Welcome, Pam!

—————————————————————————————————————–

I’m in the middle of trying to working out my theology on the problem of pain and difficulties.

Mind you, this is not an intellectual activity: I’m trying to work this out because life is so complicated and, at times, difficult, being part of the “traditional sandwich generation.” Think about it: What is it like, being the peanut-butter-and-jelly smushed between two pieces of bread? You’re stuck to the bread no matter what, holding it all together. You’re in it for the long haul. Will you be consumed? (We could do a lot with this metaphor.)

Wood carving by Ruth Geneslaw

Wood carving by Ruth Geneslaw

For a long time I consoled myself with the unbiblical belief that God would never give us more than we can handle. I even believed, for a time, that being a Christian meant I should be immune from difficulties.

But both of those perspectives are wrong. Life has proven them to be incorrect perspectives.

How do we come up with these sorts of ideas when even the news headlines show the opposite? Think of Christians in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria who have endured torture, rape, slavery, and death precisely because they are Christians. Closer to home, think of people from amongst our friends or family who are overwhelmed and crushed by circumstances.

So, here is my current thinking: Problems and difficulties are a given in this life. At times, it will be more than we can take, but it’s okay, because we are not alone. Good thing, because we can’t do this alone! I don’t know about you, but I need my husband, my sister, my extended family, my counselor, and my church and small group.

More than these support networks, we desperately need God in the midst of hard things. Admitting our weakness and inability — and our need for Him — allows us to let go of the controls and let God work. And He does. He is working even when we don’t see it. Even when we don’t think He cares about us and our circumstances.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul writes in Romans 8:35-37. “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.“(bold, mine)

Here’s the rub: I don’t feel like a conqueror; I feel like a loser most days.

Why is that? Certainly, things are hard, but it goes beyond that. Our adversary Satan purposely puts discouraging, defeating, joy-stealing thoughts and feelings in our way to shake our faith and well-being. We can respond to these thoughts–and even the circumstances we’re in–in a variety of ways: anger, frustration, defeat, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing, or we can run to God, refusing to believe the lie that “He has abandoned us.”

We can throw ourselves on God, knowing that no one can separate us from His love. Fact (not fickle feelings). We can ask for His perspective, His thoughts, His guidance, His help, His power to persevere. He is the conqueror for us. He is our vanguard and our protection.

As it says in Psalm 91:1-7:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”

But, but….buthow do we know that God’s love and presence are with us despite our feelings, the circumstances, our fallen state? He’s promised His presence in Psalm 91.

And Paul answers this earlier in the Romans 8 passage:

(1) Our sins cannot keep us from God’s presence because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

(2) We are promised eternal life with God in Heaven.

(3) Satan can’t block us from receiving God’s love.

(4) God is with us through the difficult situations.

It’s very hard, but we are not alone. Even we “sandwiches” are conquerors because God is with us.

Not our effort, but His.

———-

“Sandwich Generation” wood carving by Ruth Geneslaw: http://www.ruthgeneslaw.com/gallery/pages/sandwichGeneration_jpg.htm

The Power of Encouragement

 So you really don’t think you made a difference in anyone’s life today?

Darkness fell hours ago, and you’re only reading these words because sleep is eluding you again. You’ve given up chasing it because rest hides in corners you haven’t located yet.

Or maybe the workday has begun and your fingers are hovering over the mouse, reading, deleting, leaving that one for later.

But the question hovers, flickers, makes you wonder.

And the answer is simple, soft as an exhaled breath.

YES, YOU DID.

You were the church friend who dropped off homemade banana bread at the door this morning, healing properties baked right in.

You are the swim buddy who noticed a limping preacher and showed up unannounced to mow the lawn this afternoon.

You are the old friend a thousand miles away who reached out this evening: Are you still blogging? I’ve lost contact with you…

To a home where no one has had time to bake, bread was brought.

To a yard which no one has had the stamina to keep up, help was given.

To a writer who didn’t think anyone noticed the silence, assurance was offered.

You saw the need. You wrote the card and pulled the weeds and delivered the meal. You took the time to call across the miles: Are you okay? Are you still there?

Yes, oh yes. You did make a difference in someone’s life today.

Needed: Prayer Pit Crew

Somewhere around 45 AD, the apostle James wrote the following words: “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT).

As I travel to various locations in December to present the story of salvation in Jesus Christ through the lips of Jesus’ and James’ mother, Mary, would you pray with me for lives to be touched through the transforming power of the gospel? Hundreds of presentations over the past 21 years have demonstrated the necessity of having a “Pit Crew” whose fervent prayers fuel this ministry.

Gratefully,

Maggiemary-mother_of_jesus_1

Tuesday, Dec. 2 6 PM Community Fellowship Christmas Dinner The Woman Jesus Called Mother: The Rest of the Story West Chicago, IL
Saturday, Dec. 6 6 PM Wheaton Evangelical Free Church A Night of Noel Wheaton, IL
Monday, Dec. 8 6:30 PM Grace Baptist Christmas Dinner The Woman Jesus Called Mother Kankakee, IL
Friday, Dec. 12 7:00 PM Free Christian Church Advent Evening The Woman Jesus Called Mother: The Rest of the Story Andover, MA
Saturday, Dec. 13 9:30 AM Trinity Baptist Advent Breakfast The Woman Jesus Called Mother: The Rest of the Story Nashua, NH
Saturday, Dec. 20 9:30 AM Daughters of Destiny Christmas Tea The Woman Jesus Called Mother Chicago, IL

Fabulous Fall Retreat Weekend

maggierowe:

Thanks to the technical and artistic gifts of Mary Whitmer, here’s a visual glimpse at last weekend’s 2014 retreat for the women of First Baptist of Wheaton!

Originally posted on Women's News and Events at First Baptist, Wheaton:

Under the leadership of Natalie Lederhouse, the women of FBC had a wonderful weekend retreat event. “Our amazing God blessed the Women’s Retreat with wonderful teaching from His Word by Maggie Rowe and friendship with each other in a beautiful location, Covenant Harbor”, commented Cindy Heslinga, our women’s ministry coordinator at FBC.  Click on the collage below (or here) for the wonderful gallery of over 150 photos.

Collage for retreat

View original

Restless No More

I have never written a blogpost like this one. But then I’ve never been witness to a medical miracle like this one either.

A member of my immediate family who has suffered silently with a syndrome that has robbed her of consistent rest and the ability to travel without extreme discomfort for– ready for this? – nearly 65 years has found incredible relief, and we are rejoicing! The miracle? Her primary care physician prescribed a pain medication that interacted with another medication to produce near total cessation of her symptoms for the first time since they began during her first pregnancy in 1951.

The problem? Restless Leg Syndrome, which Mayo Clinic describes this way: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable, typically in the evenings while you’re sitting or lying down. It makes you feel like getting up and moving around. When you do so, the unpleasant feeling of restless legs syndrome temporarily goes away.

“Restless legs syndrome can begin at any age and generally worsens as you age. Restless legs syndrome can disrupt sleep — leading to daytime drowsiness — and make traveling difficult.”

Anyone who suffers from RLS will tell you that this is putting it mildly.

My loved one has taken 1 mg of Mirapex (generic Pramipexole) for a number of years with only limited relief. But five months ago, her doctor prescribed a pain medication called Tramadol, and to her astonishment 50 mg of Tramadol combined with the 1 mg of Pramipexole brought instant relief that seems to be permanent. At nearly 90, can you imagine her joy?

After knowing she has agonized my entire life only to finally find relief, I want to tell the world but only know how to do so through this blogpost in hopes that someone else who suffers from RLS will find it on the ‘net. (And in case this sounds too much like an advertisement: I work in book publishing, NOT for the drug companies!) Message me if you don’t know me personally and want to make sure this is legit, and then check with your physician.

How to Live a Sacred Romance

FOUND IT.

Tiny things can brighten dark days. A shiny piece of red foil buried in an office drawer she rarely opens.

It wasn’t the dark chocolate that did it, though she’d gone looking for it. Flipping open file folders, skimming shelves, picking up piles of printouts.

It was the memory of how the candy came to be there, hidden by her husband every Valentine’s Day since she took the job nearly eight years back. How he beat her into the office before the sun rose and hid candy so well she was still finding it into the fall.

Dove on files

She had gone seeking sweet consolation after a microwave lunch that stayed frozen in her belly. She found a message instead. Strange, a whole bag of chocolates had been consumed but she’d never seen those particular six words before.

Ever since calls came cradling a profound loss three days ago, she has struggled to find words.

How to capture the life of a sister from another mother, now gone to the Father.

Catherine in 2001

A kindred spirit who heard a call years back to follow Jesus and dropped her nets right where they lay. Left the corporate life to serve those on the margins who didn’t make it onto the pages of Executive Daytimers. Knitted scarves for the homeless when her body was so wracked with cancer she could barely stand.

Business acumen, keen intelligence, a 35-year marriage to her best friend, Doug – Catherine had all that. But her kinship with God ran swifter and deeper still – the spiritual current bubbling beneath the surface of a blessed life.

And then grim winter words from her Boston physicians – the disease was advancing, aggressive, bullying.

In response to grief at the news, an unusually long text message came of reassurance.

     “I am doing great. Right now I’m in living room with fireplace roaring reading the book of John. Doug will be back tonight and will work from home for the foreseeable future.

     “I take joy in getting things organized for Doug, visiting, praying, reading my Bible and yes Regency era romances. They always have a happy ending.

     “I am enjoying having no stress and being able to nap a lot, watch the water, wildlife and weather.

     “I find joy just being in God’s House and presence. I have such peace. It’s amazing.”

From one whose life was lived for others, the message was rare in its inclusion of personal pronouns. Catherine’s life was never about herself but others. Never here-I-am but there-you-are.

She had the extraordinary generosity of spirit to share in the happiness of others.

Sisters who had the children she had not been able to bear.

Members of her church family having weddings she could help host, job prospects to applaud or parties to plan.

So the message in that Dove chocolate her grieving sister in Christ unwrapped at lunch today? It was so Catherine.

Dove chocolate

A winged wink from glory maybe.

Thanks sis. And that sacred romance you lived?

It always has a happy ending.

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