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As women, we fill many roles: spouse, mother, caregiver, friend, and employee. Sometimes our day begins at 5:30 am and ends with a slow crawl to the bed around 11:00 pm. Downtime is only during our five or six hours of sleep, and that too is sometimes disturbed by the needs of others. This lifestyle can cause long-term stress that eventually may cause problems both physically and mentally.

It is hard for us to admit that we are stressed out. As Spirit-filled women, we are supposed to stay calm, relaxed—and oh yes, smile. Long-term stress can affect our health. Some warning signs may appear such as sleeping problems, headaches, upset stomach, difficulty concentrating, and feeling tired most of the time. We may also feel irritated with others for little or no reason, have feelings of depression, anxiety, tension in the neck and back, in addition to changes in our normal weight.

During stressful times, God has provided a very unique way for our bodies to handle pressure. Our brain produces a chemical called oxytocin which has a calming effect on the body. This chemical is released in higher levels during childbirth, breastfeeding, and when we seek support from female friends.

I am reminded of a story in Luke chapter one where Mary was informed by an angel that she, an unmarried young woman, was going to have a baby. There would be no announcement in the local paper regarding her marriage to Joseph, no planning for the big wedding of her dreams, no choosing her wedding party, no showers or walking down the church aisle—yet a baby would be born to her.

I can just imagine that Mary was stressed to the max! So what did she do? First of all, she probably had moments of anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches, a little tension in her neck, along with worry and irritation like she had never experienced before. What in the world was she to do about all this stress in her life? Well, she just packed her little ’ole suitcase, got on Cleo, her donkey, and headed for a town in the hill country of Judea to visit her relative, Elizabeth.

Much like us today, these two women, whose stress levels probably hit number ten on the one-ten scale, begin to talk. As Mary poured out her feelings to Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and began to encourage Mary. Mary in turn began to sing a new song: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” You talk about oxytocin levels on the rise. I can just imagine there was an abundance of it flowing!

Oh how great is our Creator, to create within our brains a chemical that calms our stressed minds with just the simple act of talking with a friend. God knows exactly what we need; how marvelous is God’s plan for each of us. So get on Cleo your donkey—or better yet, get in your car—head out to the home of your best friend, and talk. Let the oxytocin start flowing. Move from stressed to blessed!

 

Doris Dollins has been in the nursing profession almost twenty years. She has been a hospice RN for the past twelve years. Doris is the mother of four children and thirteen grandchildren. She is a member of the UPC of Paris, Texas, pastored by Robert Myre.

Reprinted with permission from Reflections Magazine.

I love the sunshine!  I love spring, and I love summer seasons.  If it could be spring and summer year round, I would be content.  At least I think I would.

I complained as I sat looking at the rain come down so forcefully one day while at work.  It was so gloomy outside.  The day prior, another light shower had fallen, but that day I could see the sun and white clouds in the distance.

We NEED the rain.  Without it, everything would wither up and die.  It is the same way in the seasons of life.  We need those ‘storms’ that blow into our life.  It may seem like we’re going to be blown away by the force of the wind as the pelting rain stings our skin, but it is causing us to dig our roots deeper into Christ.  It is in those times we find our shelter under the shadow of His wings and learn to trust in Him more fully.   At other times, He sends a light shower that refreshes our soul as we see light and hope peeking out beyond the rain clouds.

We also need the autumn seasons when things are changing.  Old things are dying off, but then the cold begins to come as winter moves in.  It feels like everything is dead and barren.  The icy sting of the bitter cold cuts straight through to the bone as snow begins to cover the ground.   Everything becomes ice-covered, and, at times, we can’t feel anything, because the cold has caused us to become numb.  The longer winter seems to linger, the more we wonder if we’ll survive.  We feel forsaken, desolate, and alone at times.

We need that season of dying off to self, to old ways, things that shouldn’t be in our life.  It’s in that time that we realize we are hopeless without Christ.  It’s in that season that we realize how much we need HIM.  Don’t give up in that season – spring is coming!  Just when you think everything within you is dead, hope and life will begin to bud and spring forth as God creates a NEW thing in you.

God gave us each season for a reason.  Each season does have a purpose.  Just as changing seasons are necessary in life, so are they necessary to keep balance, health, and well-being in our spiritual life.   I’m not ready for fall, because I know winter will soon follow.   I’d prefer the warmth of sunshine and to see the flowers continue to bloom, but I know I also need the season for things to die off that shouldn’t be in my life.  It’s painful, sometimes brutal, but what follows makes it all worth it as we once again begin to see the things God is cultivating within us bloom and blossom as spring returns.

No matter what season you may be in right now, hold on and endure with patience.   A new season is coming!  God is working in you, and when He is finished you will trade beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that you may be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord!  (Isaiah 61:3)

Cancer. At first we thought it was a temporary problem, perhaps a herniated disc. My husband had been playing “Mr. Fix-it” under a kitchen sink, and he was experiencing pain in his lower back.

The unexpected collapse of his spinal column occurred one evening when he was alone with our two children. Charles was still in diapers, only ten months old. Pete reached into the baby’s crib to lift him out and fell to the ground with the baby in his arms. Charles was unharmed, but our lives were never the same again.

Pete was in agonizing pain and could not get off the floor. My five-year-old Noelle saw to the baby and attended her daddy as well as a five-year-old could. This was before we had cell phones, and it was hours before I returned from my meeting to discover what had happened to my family.

Pete was like most men. He thought he would just “tough it out.” There was no reason to go to the doctor—right? This pain would go away and he would get better on his own. Bodies heal themselves. God made them that way.

Sometimes, but not so for Pete. It took three weeks before I could convince him to go to the doctor. During that time, he was on the floor. I dragged a mattress into the living room for him to lie on because he could not stand or even make it to the bathroom. The world turned upside down.

Tenacious Pete. That he was. It was the reason he had been so successful in his career designing automotive interiors for General Motors, but it was not helping this situation. He said he would not eat because he did not want to have to go to the bathroom, but the days wore on.

Finally I convinced him to at least go to a chiropractor. He was in such pain that it took a half an hour and all the tenacity he could muster to get from the house to the car, only a few feet away.

X-rays indicated spinal degeneration. We did not know exactly what that meant, but it did not sound good.

Upon receiving the diagnosis, Pete opted for a program of physical therapy treatment. A visiting nurse came to our home for a preliminary evaluation. Part of the enrollment included a blood sample, which resulted in a call early the next morning advising us to proceed immediately to the hospital. There was something seriously wrong with his blood count and platelets.

The diagnosis was made: cancer. The prognosis was harsh: two weeks.

I am so thankful God intervened and gave us an entire year. Many challenges presented themselves throughout that time. Physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual rollercoaster rides ensued. But God saw us through every step of the way.

In the beginning, just four days prior to the spinal collapse, God gave me a vivid dream that woke me from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. I sat up in bed startled and shaken as I remembered the details.

Pete and I were traveling up a steep mountain on a one-way road. It was an abstract, treacherous thing with no side rails, and along the way Pete began having pain. It increased to the point that I switched places with him while we continued driving upwards. There was no place to stop or turn around so I drove on as his pain increased.

Oh, God, You have to get us off this mountain, I prayed and then I saw a wall of greenery in front of me. There was no way to know what was on the other side, but the Lord wanted me to trust Him and drive through it. There was no cliff. There was no boulder. It was the pathway down the mountain, and I took it safely to the bottom where I stopped the van and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

But as the tension released and my heart rate slowed, I looked to the passenger seat to see my Petey was gone. God had seen me safely down the mountain, but my husband was no longer with me.

Through the dream, the Lord prepared me for what was to come then He faithfully walked beside us on our journey. All the way, He told me to trust Him.

As the pieces of my life swirled about me, not knowing where they would land, I learned to trust God in a newer dimension. It was like living in the eye of a hurricane—a place of calm in the midst of a devastating storm.

Pete was “inpatient” for over one hundred days that year, and the drive to the hospital took almost an hour. As I drove back and forth, the Lord gave me a song to sing that prepared me on the way there and kept me on the return trip home.

There is peace in the middle of the storm
Though the wind blows hard and long
In the dark of the night
Your Word’s my guiding light
And I’ll have peace in the middle of my storm.

You know it’s a divine strength that sustains you when you walk through this kind of valley. I never imagined being a widow at thirty-two with two small children to care for on my own but through it all, I “laid my head upon His chest,” and the Lord sustained me.

At the funeral, our church choir sang “Trust in the Lord with all of thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path.” The choir director selected the song. I had not requested anything in particular, and it was the perfect choice. My trust in God saw me through that difficult year, and continued to do so in the days to come.

The backing of a quilt is solid. It doesn’t change. It’s not pieced together, but strong. The backing of our life’s quilt is our foundational trust in God. No matter what the top design looks like, it’s the backing—our trust in God—that gives stability and strength.

As you face the unique challenges of your life, place your trust in God’s hands. There is no safer place, and He can keep your heart at peace even as the storms of life swirl about you.

Lori Wagner is a gifted communicator and teacher.  You may visit her Web site at www.affirmingfaith.com.

Reprinted with persmission from Reflections Magazine.