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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Choices and Consequences


Have you ever had a "why me?" moment? Have you ever raised your fist to God and decried the unfair way that you have been treated? And after that, have you been shown, in a gentle and loving way, that your trouble came about as consequences of the choices that you've made? Yeah, me too.
I have to admit, it was my self-neglect that led to my lung problems. I knew that there was something wrong with my knee, but I chose not to go to the doctor for help until over a year after it had started exhibiting signs. After the doctor diagnosed me, he wanted to do surgery immediately due to the serious nature of the tear, but I chose to make an 18-hour trip to see my children before that surgery. He told me to be sure and rest and exercise my leg every two hours to avoid blood clots, but i chose to save time by driving for hours on end instead. The list goes on and on--things I knew but chose not to think about, treatments that I was supposed to take and didn't, and all of it combined to keep me ill long after many people with this same disease.
But see, that's life. Choices and consequences. You always have a choice, and every choice leads to a consequence. There are good consequences and bad consequences. Childhood consequences can often be the result of choices made by others in life. So what can we do about this?
I think that there are three basic things we need to hold on to:
Most of our consequences result from choices we have made.
We really need to stop blaming God for things that we did. If you had a breakdown on a dark road late at night that resulted in inconvenience or worse for you, you have to be honest with yourself. Was God to blame, or could it possibly have been the fact that you haven't checked the water, gas, or what have you for such a long time that a breakdown was sure to occur? You are in immense credit card debt. Is that because God chooses not to take care of you, or is it because you choose to ignore impulse control and buy what you want the minute you decide that you want it. And so on. God has big shoulders, but we need to realize that sometimes our attitude of blame toward God can keep us from the benefits of repentance and the forgiveness that comes from that.
Consequences are results of our decisions, but we can sometimes correct a decision, which will lead to a better consequence.
In my case, my choices regarding my health led to its decline. I am now on oxygen and have kidney failure. But I recently decided that my choices were stupid and needed to be changed, even late in the day. To that end, I have begun once again to do my breathing treatments and my inhalation therapy. I also am taking water aerobics three times a week. I do this in the hopes that my renewed choices will bring me to a better outcome-an improved consequence. I have lost time, but I have lots of time left as well.
Others' choices in our youth have serious consequences, but we can deal with that through prayer and forgiveness.
I was bullied as a child. I was teased, abused, hurt. Were you? It left me ashamed and embarrassed to be seen, sure that what everyone said was true, what everyone did was deserved. These were consequences of what others said and did to me. But as an adult, I choose to understand that the words those people said, the actions they performed, had nothing to do with me. I didn't deserve the treatment I got. I choose to believe that I am a well-loved child of God, and I choose to live that way. I have forgiven many of the people that wounded me, and I continue to forgive as God brings them to my memory. I find that the consequence of the original abuse made me a sensitive person who feels deeply. While I am making the choice to forgive my past, I thank God for that particular outcome. I wouldn't change who I am for the world.
So if you are reading this and know that you are suffering due to your or someone else's choice, please take it to God. Ask him to reveal that choice to you. Understand what put you there, and ask where he was in it. Be available for his answer. Then do what you need to do in order to have an outcome that would fill you with hope rather than fear or despair.
Need help? Email me at meggiev7777@gmail.com.  I'm here for you.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bullying and its aftereffects


I have been overweight ever since the second grade. I have been teased since kindergarten. I remember the first encounter-not so much what I was teased for, but the fact that someone thought that it was all right to make fun of me. I was shocked. I said nothing, just felt a little bit smaller.
As I continued in school, the teasing grew and so did the teasers. The childish stuff in Kinder grew and developed barbs and claws, so that by the time I was 10, it tore at my very soul.
I'm sure that many of you share my story, and some of you might be wondering 'Why is she still talking about it? Why didn't she put on her big girl panties and walk away from it? We were just kids doing stupid stuff, after all.'
True. And if I was a normal kid, that would have happened. But I was anything but normal. My family was going through upheaval. There were issues at home just like at school. Without going into specific examples, I can truthfully say that I was walking wounded before I ever made through the doors of junior high. The teasing I endured in school just justified (in my mind) the self-concept I was developing at home.
More than anything else, though, I couldn't get over the teasing because it echoed in the shame that was already permeating my mind. Whenever anyone made fun of my hair, my complexion, my weight, my inability to play sports-even things that I knew I COULD do--things like singing and acting-I fully believed them. By the time I was in high school, I didn't just think I was hideous-I KNEW I was. I was embarrassed to be seen in public, and having to go to school day after day to be subjected to still more abuse just made it worse.
Thankfully, I moved to a larger town for college and became part of a group of friends that really liked me. I was able to begin to think that I might one day have worth-if I was talented enough, good enough, and Christian enough for others to overlook my many flaws.
Even today, I still carry the scars of the schoolyard abuse. Recently at a retreat, I was complemented over and over-on how nice I was, how interesting my views were, what a nice voice I had...all of it was beyond my comprehension. They were nice words, but not words that had anything to do with me. I am working on this, but it's slow going.
Why am I bringing all of you into my personal darkness? For two reasons, actually. First of all, I want you to know that the only way to really get over the shame caused by bullying is to forgive your bullies. You don't have to forgive what they did to you, but you have to realize that holding them in your soul-holding the memory of what they did hostage-is not hurting them a bit. It is, however, destroying you. You think destroying is a harsh word? Try thinking about letting go and see what your first reaction is. If you feel as I used to, that they are NEVER going to get away with it, that they deserve your hatred, that they maybe don't deserve to live, you are enslaved by your feelings to them. Let it go. Give it to God. Share with Him the full extent of your anger and hurt, then let him take it and bring it to the Cross.
Secondly, if you were really hurt by your persecutors, you need to ask God for healing. One way of doing this is to ask him to come into your soul, take each and every wound made by the bullying away and bring it to the cross, and then accept that you are a child of God and should always have been treated as such. After that, every time you hear the negative voice of the enemy saying that you are ugly, stupid, lazy, or whatever the trigger words are for you, simply speak God's truth--I am a not. I am a child of God. Saying it really does help you believe it.
I want to tell you that I am still on the healing journey with this as well. I walk every day, hoping that I remember. Most days I do, some I don't. But every day, I know that God loves me. You should have that understanding, too.
God bless you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My journey with Physical Illness

I haven't written a blog for a long time. Anywhere. Not here, not in my other blog sites, not in English, not in Spanish. Why? Good question!

Two years ago, I was busy getting ready for healing ministry. I had a website in the works, a platform, a book in the final stages of preparation, and I felt that God had a new calling for me-one that would change my life. He did, just not in the way I'd imagined.

Then I started having trouble breathing. It had probably been going on a lot longer than I'd realized, but by October 2015, I knew that there was something wrong. I went to my doctor, and she said not to worry. I went to Urgent Care, and they said that I had asthma that was acting up. They gave me an inhaler, showed me how to use it, and sent me home. It did nothing. I went back to my doctor, and she acknowledged that there must be a problem and referred me to a pulmonologist, one who couldn't see me till January at the earliest. In the meantime, it was getting harder and harder to breathe. 

In December, I had surgery on a torn ligament. I told them about the "asthma" and they had me use the inhaler before the surgery. I was given a clean bill of health and flew to LA to see my son. After i came back, the breathing seemed to get worse day by day. I began to wonder if I was dying. I went to a different pulmonologist, and he took an x-ray and saw spots on my lungs. I was told to get a C-scan. I didn't have time. That weekend my breathing was so bad that I ended up in the emergency room. The needed C-scan was done there, and it was discovered that I had multiple blood clots in my lungs. 

The short version of what happened next is that I was placed on oxygen 24/7, I could not go back to work, I felt that I needed to be closer to family and so moved in with my daughter, and I gave up on everything-my plans for ministry, my writing, any hope of a future job--simply everything. I played on my phone and followed Facebook, and I began to learn how to be an invalid. And my faith journey stalled out--stalled out in a way I feared would be permanent.

A year has passed, and this summer I have changed. I believe that God has healed my lungs, although I'm still on oxygen right now. I live at a high altitude and know that it will take time to breathe independently here, but I have faith. I already have experienced needing little to no oxygen at sea level. What caused the change? I think part of it is simply the lungs healing themselves with no help from me. But this summer I went to Virginia to see my son, and I began to think like a healthy person who happens to have to use oxygen. I used the Metro and visited all kinds of museums and monuments in Washington DC. Four days after I got back, I went to Redwood Christian Ashram, a beautiful camp in the Santa Cruz mountains where I always find God in a special way. This year, however, I was not excited to go. That in itself was unusual. Once there, though, I found myself becoming unstuck. I took a hard look at why I wasn't excited, and I realized that I didn't want healing-spiritual or otherwise. I dealt with that and by the end of the week was ready for a miracle.

And it happened in a way that reminds me that God truly does have a great sense of humor. We have a healing service on Thursday nights, and after the service I walked to my cabin and tried to plug in my oxygen machine. The plug had broken. I called my son, and he was able to attach it, but during the night it came apart again. I slept the whole night without oxygen. That has happened before-the cannula (the part that goes in your nose) has come out during the night, and the next day the oxygen content in my blood (the pulse ox) has been very low. That day, however, it was normal. It stayed normal as I readied the cabin to leave, went to communion, went to breakfast, and went to the closing service. By that time I was ready to declare that God had worked a miracle. Of course, that is a scary thing in itself. What if he hadn't?

On the ride home, I began to hear God's still small voice. I was healed, yes, but my healing was something I would have to walk in to. He said that I would need oxygen on the trip up, but not to worry about it-it was because of the altitude. Later, he reminded me that I had stopped two essential parts of the healing process: inhalation therapy and breathing treatments. 

So here I am today, sitting at home,  breathing treatment going as I write. I am still on oxygen, but I am a different woman than I was. I am determined that I will continue to walk into God's healing. I am faithful to do my treatments each day and to exercise at least 3 times a week, more when I can. I have also taken up writing again. I know that God is not finished with me yet, so I've decided not to be finished either.

Last week I rediscovered a verse that I'd like to share with you. "He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) It gives me hope and makes me realize that I will be healed. It's already been done-I just have to walk into it.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Peeling the Onion--What they don't tell you

I have struggled with mental disease most my life. I have received therapy, worked with friends, counseled with ministers, and used self-help in order to peel the layers that I built to protect myself from pain.  They call it peeling the onion.

Thing is, there is something that nobody ever told me; something that I think it is essential to know in order to heal.  Sometimes when you peel the onion, you find the core is rotten. I think that it is more often than not, in fact, although some people may not find it so. But this was definitely true for me. And sometimes it takes a truly traumatizing event to bring that core into the light.

For me, it was something as simple as a misunderstanding that blew up out of all proportion. It caused me grief, and it hurt me. That's normal. What wasn't normal was the immediate jump to feelings of worthlessness and the impression that life would be better off without me. That was totally out of all relationship to this issue, and it made no sense. Obviously, something was wrong.

What was wrong was the fact that I had reached the core. What was wrong was that life lessons had taught me that I am worthless and am only as good as what I have to offer. If that offering is rejected, no matter why, then I am rejected, too. That understanding was a revelation to me--an epiphany. Even though it happened in such a way that my world was rocked, I'm happy that it did, because now I can work on getting past it.

There are so many things that go into who we are. Thirty-seven trillion molecules make up our physical selves and a thousand million times and feelings make up our mental selves. Each of us goes through the same kind of experiences, but some are able to cope much better than others. Those of us who can't cope well can become diseased--way down deep inside where nobody can reach. We cover our disease with layer upon layer of bandages to hide the defect and seal away the pain. Kind of like a pearl. We have to do this in order to live. But the difference between onions and pearls is that the pearl's shell seems to be impervious to the piece of sand that caused it to form, while an onion's layers don't do a great job of keeping the disease at bay. If the core is rotten, it infects the layers, inside out, one layer after another, until the whole onion is damaged.

Thank God that we are not onions. Thank God that layers can be peeled away, the disease at the core can be excised, and a new core can form. That's where I am right now. I can honestly say that I'm thankful for the events that caused the underlying issues to come to light. God is good, and he knew exactly the time for this to happen. I'm taking steps to try and make sure that it won't happen again. Even if it does--even if I am wounded by thoughtlessness and misunderstandings--I now have a new awareness that my circumstances don't have to influence my life. With or without my talents and abilities, I AM VALUABLE. And so are you.

So, if you find yourself peeling onions, whether actual or metaphorical, God bless you. Remember that peeling may bring tears, but they don't last forever. And keep in mind that there are people around you who care about you and pray for your healing.




Saturday, March 8, 2014

I've moved!!

If you are still following me on this page, you didn't get the message.  I've moved!  My new address is megvillanuevaauthor.wordpress.com

I hope to see you there soon!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

All-Consuming Fear -- The Surprising Truth

     As I write this, I am waiting for events to unfold within my family.  I'm not in charge of these events, and I am concerned.  A few years ago, I would have to say that I would have been terrified.  Life is happening, a bad outcome is possible, and I can do nothing to stop it except pray.

    But I am not terrified.  Deep within my soul I know that God is in control, and so I wait for him to do what he's going to do.  Whatever he does, it's going to be exactly what is needed.

    Some people might call this fatalism.  It isn't.  It's trust:  deep-down, all-encompassing, totally dependent trust.  This trust did not come overnight; it came through a surge down through fear, out through to the other side.  It came through living and breathing God's mercy, and the result is that I know that God's ways are not my ways, but they're the best ways.

    I've spoken about fear--ways to stop it from destroying your life. But there are times in our lives when our fear seems very valid and threatens to overwhelm us for good reason. When your loved one is in the hospital and nothing is helping, that can be terrifying.  When you are facing layoffs and cutbacks and are not prepared, you can become frozen with fear.  When you are faced with something that you have been concerned about all your life, it can come over you like a tidal wave.

    I've faced many things in my life:  abuse, death of a child, both parents, and a spouse, job loss, and most lately solitude.  All of these things at some point horrified me.  But all of them no longer do so.  Why?  Because I have walked through them.  I wish I could say that I walked through them fearlessly, but I did not.  However, I have learned secrets that might possibly allow you to walk through them more easily than I did.

    First of all, we are talking about enormous things here.  These are not fears that can easily be put aside.  Nobody wants to think of loved ones dying. Nobody wants to imagine themselves alone.  But some things can and should be worked through before the fear comes.  For example, loss.  When my father died, he was 81.  I knew that the death was coming.  I had time to prepare.  Yes, I still grieved and it was still hard, but it wasn't as overwhelming as were the other losses.  If you and your spouse are blessed with good health, wonderful!  You should still go through end-of-life planning together.  The fact that you did will make the ending easier. Everything is easier if you have walked through it before it happens.

     Next, don't collapse in on yourself.  That's what I did and it is absolutely useless.  If someone offers help, TAKE IT.  If you know that you need it and nobody is offering, MAKE YOURSELF ASK.  A real problem with friends of the grieving is that they don't know what to do.

    I could go on in this fashion, but I want to continue with the major idea.  We are overwhelmed by fear because we don't trust God to know and complete his plan.  When we see ourselves in the process, we imagine that it will be like this forever, or we think that it will never get better, or we are afraid that we will never recover.  In other words, we trust God's word.  "I know the plans I have for you--plans for GOOD and not for EVIL, plans to give you a HOPE and a PURPOSE.

    I hear you thinking--surely you don't mean that God PLANNED these things?  Surely you don't believe that God allows evil--or worse, brings it himself!  I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that we don't know the end from the beginning.  Only God does that.  We don't see the path in its entirety.  Only God does that.  Sometimes we can get a glimmer, and sometimes that glimmer can put things into perspective.

Example:
    My son was born at 24 weeks.  Because we were part of the Kaiser HMO, we were forced to transfer him to a Kaiser hospital as soon as he was considered "stable".  He died after 11 days of struggling, and he broke our hearts.  Our family shattered.  That was our reality.  But there was another part of our reality that we didn't know--only God knew.  The clock was ticking on my husband.  Up to the moment my son died, God was distant and unimportant to him.  But when Tommy died, Val spoke of needing to get right with God so that he could see his son again.  That was real and necessary, and I believe he took it seriously.  

    When Tommy died, I wondered over and over again why God didn't save him.  My question was answered in 1993, when he took my husband.  I had a 6-month-old baby and 3 older kids.  There was no doubt that had Tommy survived, he would have been severely mentally disabled.  I simply could not have managed.

    I know--these examples raise every bit as many questions as they answer.  But at some point you have to stop blasting heaven's doors with "Why" and begin to realize that He knows what is best and you don't.

    The other thing I've learned about fear is that the very thing you're afraid of is that very thing that you need the most.  More on that next time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fear and worry: Subdue and Conquer

My last post dealt with fear and Philippians.  This time, I'm going to share with you how I've learned to deal with fear.  Please remember, though, that I'm not claiming to have overcome it.  I don't know if anyone absolutely overcomes fear.  I walk through it and have learned not to let it torment me.

First of all, name it.  You have this heavy feeling pressing down on you and making you feel anxious.  Why?  What is causing it?  Sometimes you know; sometimes you don't.  If you don't, ask the Lord to help you see.

I'm a big proponent of naming.  I think that if you are fighting something that doesn't have a name, you are giving all power over to your opponent and have already lost.  For example, as I sit here typing, I have a weight in my heart.  I could choose to ignore it, hoping it will go away on its own--bad idea.  I would go through my whole day anxious and depressed, wondering about that weight.  Instead, I did a little reflection and realized that there are several things weighing me down this morning.  First, I woke up early today and have a long day ahead of me.  Second, I have a rehearsal tonight that I haven't adequately prepared for.  Third, I am going to report on a concert tomorrow and feel woefully unprepared (I'm a perfectionist and as such have problems with my first time of doing anything.)

Having realized the issues that are weighing me down, I can now name them:  dread of the upcoming day, lack of preparation, and fear of failure.  As I write these words down, I already feel lighter.  There is a solution for each of these problems.

First of all, the dread of the day.  Go straight to the Bible, since only God can help there.
Isaiah 41:10  fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 40:28-31  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,   the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint,   and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary,and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;   they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary;   they shall walk and not faint.

Having understood this truth, I can now go to the physical aspect.  My eyes are sore, and even if I'm not tired, sore eyes make me feel so.  Since I have glaucoma, I take eye drops that dry out my eyes and make them sore.  So I remind myself to take my drops with me and use them when I feel tired during the day.  I did this just now, and I'm already feeling better!

Next, lack of preparation.  That one is easy.  I always worry about this before a rehearsal, and it's really not true.  I have prepared, I just haven't done so in the past week.  So today while I work, I will find my solos on Youtube and play them as I grade papers.  Hearing the soloist will cement my own part, and I will feel more confident tonight.

Finally, fear of failure.  Back to the same verse as before: 
Isaiah 41:10  fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Next, I remind myself that I have a meeting today with my supervisor, who will work with me to strengthen my article questions and help me be successful.  I don't have to do this alone.  Finally, I need to realize that I'm not in an adversarial relationship with my subject.  They want the article to succeed as much as I do.  So if I have questions or further research that I need to do, I can call them and they will help me. 

Franklin Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  That is so true.  If we name the fear, we have already gone far towards winning our battle.  Nebulous anxiety is able to overcome and overwhelm; fear that is named becomes a problem to be solved.

But what about fears that don't have easy fixes? I will look at that in the next post.