Nothing can separate us from God’s love!

The thursday before easter we heard that my mother has cancer and that there was no cure for her. Hearing something as horrible as this made me feel as if the floor underneath my feet disappeared and I fell into this huge hole. Unfair is a word I have used often. I just didn’t understand why this had to happen (I still don’t). In my prayers I negotiated, asked questions, pleaded, tried to make deals, anything that would turn this situation around. The moment I realized that it didn’t work, I simply got angry.

I know that it is unfair to blame God that things like this happen. They happen to everybody so why not to someone in my family? (I got this response a lot!) Even though I know that it is true, it didn’t satisfy my soul. In my opinion God could heal my mom, He still can. What made me angry is that He just didn’t do it. My life never turned out the way it was planned and after everything that had already happened, God allowed this to happen also. After all the rejections, bullying, disappointments, loneliness and hurt, I am losing my mother to this horrible disease. It was the final straw. I never complained about my situation, always tried to do the best to my abilities and I always followed God in everything He asked of me. We didn’t deserve this!

At some point my anger intensified so much that I stopped talking to God all together. I did pray but I only spoke the absolute necessary words. “Lord bless this food and forgive my sins, amen”. Or I simply prayed the ‘Our Father’ prayer. But talking personally was out of the question. If God didn’t listen to a word I was saying anyway, if He didn’t answer my prayers, then why would I even bother?

I kept this up for a week. Then one morning, right before I wanted to say a short prayer for breakfast, I audibly heard God’s voice. He said, “Gineke, please talk to me”! He was listening after all. Just because He didn’t answer, didn’t mean that He didn’t listen. God heard every word. Initially I thought, fine, if you want me to talk, I can talk. My first prayers after that week of silence consisted of yelling. All my anger was thrown at God’s feet. My feelings of unjust, disappointment and down right rage where fired straight at God’s heart. But the funny thing is that the more I screamed at God, the calmer I became. Until the screaming became talking, and the words became tears. I admit to saying things to God that I now regret. As my anger slipped away, a feeling of remorse slowly trickled into my heart. God didn’t deserve my anger. He didn’t deserve the blame. Still He listened to every single word.

Last saturday, again before breakfast, I was sitting in the living room. Suddenly I felt the presence of God the Father, as clear as the light of day, in the room. The Father walked over to me, laid His hand on the crown of my head and kissed my head. I whispered, “I love you, I really do”. And the Father answered, “I know”. Where I doubted God’s love for me, He never doubted mine. Where I thought that God wasn’t even listening, God was doing much more. He didn’t just listen. He also looked straight into my heart. God observed every single part of me so intently because He knew exactly what I was going through.

All of this opened my eyes. Often Christians say that we have to praise God and we are not allowed to get angry at Him. We have to obey Him, honor Him and keep our mouth shut about pathetic little things. Only worship! But God wants much more than worship. He wants a personal relationship with us. This means that we have to open ourselves up completely before Him. We can praise and worship God all we like but if we still hold a grudge against Him, our praise is worthless! God rather wanted me to yell at Him than that I kept my feeling to myself. God wanted to hear how I felt because He understood, and still understands, my pain. God knows how difficult my life is. How much I long for my mother to be healed. How much I long for a future and a hope, for a life of joy and worship. He knows that I am still waiting for Him to make His promises to me come true. He knows the tears of my heart. But keeping silent is not making anything better. We have to learn to open ourselves up completely, dirt and all.

If you are angry at God, disappointed, hurt, sad and you haven’t said it to Him yet. If you feel that God is to Holy, to Almighty, to receive you anger and hurt, and therefore you remain silent. If you are hiding your real feeling towards God by a mask of praise then please hear me out. God wants to know how you really feel! God is strong enough to take your anger and your pain! God understands so much more than you think! And His love is so astoundingly big that nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, can make it go away! Not even your greatest anger. And after the anger, you find that the praise and worship is deeper than it ever was before. Open your heart up for God, yell, scream cry or laugh. Don´t hold anything back. God completely understands you! He loves you!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 38-39

Hannah’s courage

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Ever since I was a child, I had this affinity with Hannah – a certain connection. She is without a doubt one of my favorite biblical women. The reason I love her so much is her courage and dedication to God.

Hannah did not have an easy life, I believe. She had to share her husband with another woman who bullied her constantly because she was childless. In those days, being childless, was more or less a curse from God. People seriously believed that you had sinned against God, so God punished you by not giving you children. Besides children were your wealth. When people looked at your riches, they didn’t look at how much money you had or the size of your house you owned. They looked at your children. If you had many children, especially a son, you were rich and blessed.

So Hannah is in a difficult spot. Hannah’s situation is continuing for years. The bullying from Peninnah is hurting Hannah so much that she stops eating.  Even the love of her husband cannot cheer her up anymore. But instead of letting her problems defeat her, Hannah gets up and goes to the Lord’s House. She takes her problems to the only place where she can get true help. She takes it to God. The most inspiring part of this story to me is Hannah’s request. She could have asked for a child and left it at that. But she does not. Hannah promises God that if He gives her a son, she will give him back. I am not a mother but I can imagine the sacrifice Hannah makes here. All she ever wanted was a child. In fact she wants it so much that she is willing to give him up. It seems to me that all Hannah wanted was to know what it feels like to be a mother. Her heartache rises high above Penninah’s bullying. Hannah truly misses something in her heart, in her life, and she is willing to go the extra mile to make it happen. Her faith in God is astonishing. Her courage inspiring.

Would I be willing to give up what I wanted most? Would I be able to say, “God if you give me this, I will give it all back to you”? Hannah’s strength is extraordinary to me. In the world where we live in today, I don’t know if I could. But Hannah can. Her heartache becomes her greatest testimony.

What is inspiring about this story also, is Hannah’s courage to ignore other people’s opinion about her. As she is praying in the Lord’s House, the priest Eli thinks that Hannah is drunk. In those days people prayed aloud. When one prayed, he prayed so everybody could hear it. But not Hannah. Hannah does not hang her dirty laundry outside so to say. She prays silently. Only God is allowed to hear her grieve. Only God is allowed inside her heart, inside her deepest sorrow. When Eli wants to send her away, she remains calm and explains him why she prayed the way she did. Hannah was not afraid to do things her way. I see her as a strong woman. Her difficult situation definitely did not define who Hannah truly was. She was a smart, strong woman, who knew God and loved Him. And because of her faith, God gave Hannah what she asked for.

This story to me is incredible. Samuel is born and as soon as he is old enough, Hannah brings him to Silo, where the Lord’s House is situated. Samuel becomes a great prophet because of his mother’s courage and sacrifice. Hannah wrote history by her courageous act of faith and love. And in my opinion she does not get enough credit for it. Most people look at Mary the mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalene, Ruth or Esther, but not many look at Hannah the mother of Samuel. Would you be able to ask God for something only to give it back? How difficult must it have been for Hannah to bring young Samuel to Silo that day. To give her own child up. In Hannah’s prayer we can read that it actually brings her joy. God gave her what she asked for and that was enough. Hannah didn’t mind about the way how God gave it.

When I compare myself to Hannah, I can clearly see the flaws within myself. If I ask for something, I often want it my way. I am not open enough to God’s way of doing things. Besides when I have to give something up, I get sad and frustrated. I honestly cannot imagine asking God for a child and giving him back to God with a happy heart. I would probably be devastated. Imagine it yourself for a moment. Maybe you just become a mother or father after a series of IVF or after a long journey of adoption. Imagine taking your child to church and leaving him or her behind, so they can serve the Lord. You have to understand that Hannah only saw her son ones a year! It was not like she brought him there, he did what he had to do, and she brought him back home. No! She gave him up. Samuel stayed in Silo and Hannah went back home. Could you do that? I believe we can all learn so much from Hannah. From her courage and her sacrifice, but mostly, from her gratitude and joy.

You can read Hannah’s story in the bible, in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.
One last thing. God, in His love and goodness, gave Hannah three sons and two daughters after Samuel. Hannah’s reward for her willingness to give Samuel back to God. It teaches me personally that through all the sorrow in our own life, God will give us so much more in return, if only we are willing to have faith in Him!

 

When the world turns upside down

At the moment the ground behind our house is a construction sight where new houses are being build. Somehow this is exactly how I feel my life is at the moment. A construction sight where someone is working very hard to establish something and I  don´t know whether or not I am happy with it. Somehow I feel like my whole life comes together at this particular moment. Things are about to change and I am not happy with it.

Thursday before Easter we heard that my mother has cancer. A week later we heard that it had already spread throughout her body and she only has a couple more months to live. It felt as if the ground underneath me opened up and I was swallowed into the deep earth. As if a massive earthquake turned my entire life upside down. Even today I find it difficult to deal with. My mother is the sweetest soul that ever lived (according to my humble opinion), and that this had to happen to her seemed unfair to me. I know that a lot of people are in similar situations, so why would my mother be an exception to the rule? When it is your own family, I believe that we are all biased in some ways.
But it’s not just my mother’s good heart. She is also my best friend. Since making friends was never an easy for me, I spend a lot of my time with my mother. We made trips together to Vienna and London, we always go shopping together or drink coffee/tea at a cafe. She is the first person I go to when I am struggling with something. I tell her literally everything. She is my greatest support and always encourages me to keep pursuing my dreams. She was the first to believe in my dreams/visions and my conversations with God. She was the first to accept and support my calling. As you can see, my mother means so much to me and sooner or later, it will all be gone.

Maybe I should feel happy that she is going to Jesus, to Heaven. But right now I just feel selfish and I want to keep her close to me. I am simply not ready to lose her. I am not ready to go through this change. In the last weeks I have yelled at God, screamed at Him, cried out to Him. My emotions are twirling like a wild tornado and I feel, like I will never be joyful again. Anger has slipped into my heart, a feeling of unfairness. God can heal her and He is not doing it. People say that God has His reasons but if you see others being healed over and over again, it feels slightly unfair that your loved one has to pay the price.

Looking back at photos from a year back, I see that the tumor we noticed last December, has been there for a long time. It made me wonder why God didn’t open our eyes sooner? Why didn’t we get a chance to save her? I talk to God on a daily basis in many literal ways (which is unique I know) but this makes no sense to me.  So many questions went through my mind. When the bible tells us to pray, believe that you have received it and it will be given to you, why doesn’t God answer the prayer when we do exactly that? I prayed, I believed and it was not given to me. Why doesn’t God intervene, when He clearly has the power to do so?

The only answer that comes up inside my heart, right at this moment, is because He loves us! God will not let us be tested above our abilities. Maybe, just maybe, God loves my mother so much that He wants to prevent her from getting hurt. Maybe bringing my mother Home (to Heaven) is the only right answer. And maybe, even though I do not feel it right now, God will help me through this. I will get through this. One day I will get up and smile again.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God loves me. And it is that love that will guide me through this. The interesting thing is that as I was angry at God, I refused to talk to Him for a while. But God talked to me and said, “Gineke, talk to me”! You see, God rather wants us to yell at Him in anger as we tell Him exactly what is inside our hearts than hide and ignore Him. God the Father once told me, “When you cry, I cry. When you are angry, I am angry. When you laugh, I laugh”. God is one with our emotions. He feels what is inside our hearts. He understands all the emotions that are within us. When someone hurts us, God gets hurt too. So if there is one who we can confide in, it is God. And that is what I ended up doing. I told God exactly how I feel and it made me feel a whole lot better. I cannot grow by my own strength, I need the light of God to lift me up. Only with God I can get through this. Only with God there is hope even when I don’t see it yet.

Fight or Flight

When life gets chaotic, fear sets in and we lose sight of the horizon. Tears blur our vision and we sometimes lose all clarity. Our fearful thoughts start to take over and for a moment we lose all control. We lose control over our emotions, feelings, thoughts, hopes and dreams. In those moments we often feel miles away from God, even though God is still standing right next to us. When life becomes negative, we fight to keep our positive. Yet sometimes we lose ourselves in our grieve.

Last thursday I heard that my mom has cancer. She has a big lump in her neckline. We don´t know whether it is benign or malicious. Last thursday she had a large number of tests and upcoming thursday she hears the results. The doctor still hopes that he is wrong and quite frankly, so do I. When my dad called me with the news, it felt as if the earth opened underneath me. As if someone sucked all the air out of my lungs and I cried for at least three hours. After losing my grandmother a couple of weeks ago, this news was absolutely devastating. So many thoughts cross your mind. And like I said, it took control over my mine. It still does by the way. The thought of my mother dying is one I do not want to have and yet the possibility comes fearfully close to me. I still need her you know. I may be a 31 year old woman but I still need my mom. Her love, support and guidance. Our time together drinking coffee-tea at the mall (I am a tea drinker, no coffee for me), our conversations, our joy. At a moment when you hear that someone has cancer, the thought of death strikes like a dagger through your heart. You just can’t help it. For hours I felt lost, sad and frightened. Thoughts raced through my mind and I have never felt more out of control, as I have felt at that particular moment. Until one thought came to the surface and I had a choice. The thought was; she isn’t dead yet! And at that moment I had a choice. Am I going to fight? Or am I going to flight?

According to my brother, and I agree, we can do two things in a time when life creates a major earthquake underneath our feet. We can fight or we can flight. When we flight we crawl into a corner and cry. We let life pass us by and we lose all hope. When we do this, hope is indeed lost because when we give up, we also give up on hope. And when we give up on hope, we lose everything including our life.
Or we can fight. When we fight, we fight for hope. Hope keeps us on our feet when we cannot stand. Hope keeps the air in our lungs when we cannot breath. Hope gives life when we feel we already lost it. The most victorious moments all have hope incommon. The people who survive are the people who keep their hope alive.
So what do you do? What do you do when life stumbles and all hope seems lost?

I chose to fight. That one thought was the trigger for me to chose to fight. The thought, she isn’t dead yet! The fact that she is still alive gives hope. But their is also someone else that gives me hope. His name is Jesus and He is the Son of God. If you read the bible, you can read all about His healing powers. When life creates earthquakes I pray because when I pray, Jesus gives me the strength to keep going, the hope to keep hoping and the love to pull me through the moment. I pray for healing, for strength, for guidance and I know that He hears me. Jesus is my hope. God the Father is my hope. The Holy Spirit is my hope. God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the ones that keep me going in moments like this. They keep me on my feet and they keep my feet moving, one step at the time. They whisper hope into my heart and love into my soul.

What will happen next is still unknown. We still have to wait for the results of the tests but my mom is going to need surgery regardless of the outcome. This is an uncertain time in our lives. I keep on praying for complete healing. I will keep on fighting for the ones I love. When Jesus died for us on that cross, He was fighting for us. And in His memory I fight for those around me. Jesus was the best example to show what to do in times of trial. He showed that you fight. You fight with love as your greatest weapon. Love will lead us to victory, regardless of the outcome. Love will always be the answer! Love will always be the greatest medicine to all our needs. And with Jesus by our side, we (my mom) will win this battle! Love if the greatest answer, even if it is the hardest choice we ever made.

Broken

We are just two weeks before Easter and next week the Passion week starts. The Passion week is the week where Christians remember Jesus suffering. I felt it in my heart. Today is the day to share this poem with you.
I wrote this poem when I was 25 years old. It was one of the first poems that I wrote, after God called me to start writing again after a seven year break. I was still in that period of my life where I wanted to write down everything I had been through in the past. And this poem started out the same way.
However as I started writing, a particular image formed in my mind. It was the very first time I felt as if God put me in someone else’s shoes. I felt so broken. Laying on the floor almost. The tears were heartfelt. I felt like reaching out to Jesus but at the same time feeling unable to. I wrote down everything I felt and witnessed. When I was done, I reread the poem and was blown away. Instantly the name of the person, that this poem was about, found itself a way up in my mind.

This poem is about the Apostle Peter, right after He denied Jesus. There is a particular bible verse about this poem. Matthew 26:75 which says, “Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly”. This is the moment described in my poem.

Maybe you feel overwhelmed by life yourself. Maybe you did something and you feel as if God will never forgive you. Let me tell you that Peter knows exactly how you feel. When He denied Jesus, He cried bitterly. Peter must have felt that Jesus would definitely not forgive him. But guess what? Jesus did forgive Peter. In fact Jesus reinstalled Peter as one of His disciples. Isn’t that a hopeful message. If you feel that God could never forgive you for your missteps, then let me tell you that He can and He will! God is love! And in His great love, He wants you to know that you are forgiven. He loves you and cares about you and all He wants is for you to be His beloved child!

I hope this poem may be a blessing to you and a reminder of God’s love and forgiveness in your brokenness. And I hope that when you read this poem, you will know; you are not alone! Peter knows how you feel and besides Peter there are so many more. You are not alone in your hurt and brokenness!

May the love of God be wrapped around you like a warm blanket!

Broken

I feel the rain
falling down on me
tears of pain
that I didn’t see.

I want to hide
when I look at you
It’s what I denied
that I put you through

I can’t turn back
go back in time
a weak attack
I see my crime

My tears are falling
And Yours do too
I can’t stop calling
Out to you

Now I recall
The words You had spoken
Lord, you knew it all
My heart is broken.

Incomparably Beautiful! That’s you!

We all have our heroes. Whether it is a parent, a brother or sister, a friend, a coach or someone like Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa, we all have someone we look up to. Several people at times because as we grow, our heroes can change with us. As a little child you can look up to your father but as grown up it can be someone entirely different! Whoever it is, it is someone we want to be like. We see someone and think, if only I could be more like him/her.

When I was a little girl, my family were my role models. My dad, my mom, my three brothers. I thought that if I would just be a little more like them, I would be a better, nicer or a more loved person. As I grew up, it changed into musicians in my teens to someone like Mother Theresa, Akiane Kramarik, and several Christian writers as an adult. If only I could be more like them, maybe then I would be better. How the mind can make up such lies is, at times, somewhat admirable. But the greatest lesson I have learned over the past few years is;

‘Do not compare yourself to other people
  &
Do not compare other people to yourself’

God has created everything in a unique way. When He created you, He did compare you to all the other humans that He had already created. On the contrary, He looked at you with new eyes. You are a unique masterpiece. And God didn’t stop creating, until you were absolutely perfect! And when He was done, He looked at you and saw that you were good…and He blessed you!

A couple of blogs ago I shared with you the poem ‘The Sunflower’. This poem is a message that God gave me at a time when I was wondering why the grass seemed a whole lot greener on all the other lawns. I was downcast. God had promised me things that hadn’t happen yet. In my eyes, others seemed to get blessing after blessing, while my life seemed like one big curse. Not only was I frustrated with myself, I was also a bit disappointed with God. Why wasn’t I prettier? Why wasn’t I a better writer? Why did nobody seemed to notice me? Why was my life so hard? Every day I fired a million questions to God’s throne because I was disappointed with myself and my life. At that time I started painting. First God gave me a vision of a sunflower to let me know what my first painting had to become. After I painted ‘The Sunflower’, He gave me the poem. And the last sentence has nestled itself in my heart ever since. Where it is stored for times I need it.

My child, I see the sunflower in you,
and all I ask is for you to see it too.

God has the same message for you today! Look at a sunflower. Look at how it always grows towards the light of the sun, with it’s radiant yellow petals. That beautiful flower is you! You are beautiful and uniquely made. You may grow towards the light of God, knowing that you are so loved, every single day of your life. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Whether it are people at work, school, church or TV, magazines and the internet. Focus on yourself. Who do you want to be? Rest in God’s love and light. God sees you as His perfectly beautiful child! But more important is, how do you see yourself?
Choose to see yourself through God’s eyes and focus on that only. You are a wonderful person just as you are! You are beautiful and uniquely made, a masterpiece created by the Almighty God Himself! And God loves you so much that He was willing to give up His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, so He could have a personal relationship with you! That is how much you are worth! That is who you are! You are God’s beloved child! Don’t you ever forget that!

May Love guide your steps to eternal life!

In times of grieve

Exactly a week ago my grandmother (the last one I had on earth) passed away. Last thursday was her funeral. She reached the blessed age of 92. I loved my grandmother and I am so blessed to have some good memories of her. I know she is in a better place now. A place that she longed to go to. A place where my grandfather and my uncle were waiting for her.

In times of grieve we can be more sensitive towards words than at other times. So am I!  When Billy Graham passed away (also this week), people all over the internet were praising him for everything he has done. And he did do great things! But what stung me, was when I read in some responses that Heaven was throwing a big party right now and that Heaven was blessed to have him. No offense towards anyone but why do we think that Heaven will be happier with someone who had the opportunity to do more for Jesus? I am only being honest. It bothers me. Not everyone gets the opportunity to work in such a big way for Jesus. God has a personal plan with everyone. But when I lost my grandmother and I read these praises, I found it hard to take in. Was Billy Graham better than my grandmother? Was Heaven throwing a party when Mister Graham entered but with my grandmother, no one cared that much? I was struggling with this last week!

Believe me, this is not about Mister Graham or my grandmother. It happens with many famous or well-known people. When someone who was well-known passes away, Heaven is so blessed to have him/her. But we don’t say these things about a homeless person on the street or our nextdoor neighbor! And I get this deep sense of standing up for these people. Jesus always said, “The first will be the last and the last will be the first in the Kingdom of God”. And with this in mind I get the deep feeling to defend the unknown. Maybe it is my grieve speaking right now. But in the eyes of God everyone is exactly the same.

As I was struggling with these thoughts, a certain bible verse came to my mind that gave me a sense of peace. It is Matthew 11:11 which says, Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Jesus said these words shortly before John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod. Jesus loved John. They were even related in a sense. Jesus’s Mother Mary and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, were cousins. But Jesus has in mind that in Heaven, everything is different than here on earth. God the Father does not treat one better than the other. For the Father, everybody is equal. Here on earth we establish a certain hierarchy. The one who does the most for God is somehow also the best. But to me it was such a great comfort to know that God does not look at people this way? My grandmother was not an evangelist. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. She was loved by many but did not have many conversations about Jesus. She was a believer, a sinner saved by grace, but not a well-known evangelist. And still God is as happy to have her in Heaven as He is with someone like Billy Graham (or Henri Nouwen, Thomas A. Kempis or anybody else). This thought gave me peace and understanding. Maybe I have always known this but I was grateful that God pointed it out to me anyway.

Like I said, we get very sensitive in times of grieve. Things that normally don’t get to us, do now! Normally I would have ignored the whole thing but now I couldn’t. And in this struggle, God was right there with me. He was comforting me and helping me to see things in a different way. Grieve can throw a blanket over our eyes and make our sight foggy. It can prevent us from thinking with a clear mind. In these moments of grieve, we may know that Jesus wants to comfort us and help us. We do not face this alone. We are never alone. Jesus love will always be with us. Even when nobody sees us.

 

How I deal with anxiety and stress.

This time of year is a busy one. We hardly have any time to relax because we are simply too occupied with too many things. Work, Christmas preparations, children (if you have them) and more. There is no time to breath. I don’t know about you but this is my reality. For the record, I do not have children but I do feel very busy. So busy in fact that I feel something, or rather someone, inside of me plea for a break. A moment to relax. Some peaceful time. And I would truly love to give myself a minute but too many things are asking for my attention. But do they really? Or is it my own desire to show the world a perfect picture of myself?

This is the question that has been going through my mind in the last couple of weeks. The reason why I started pondering about this subject is because a month ago I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to cancel something from church. I felt miserable, especially since I do go very often. I hardly ever skip. It bothered me so much that I felt anxiety attacks coming up. Something inside of me was whispering that I had to go. What if I miss something important? What if they will stop liking me because I didn’t go? Seriously the craziest ideas came to mind. Ideas that forced me to stop myself and think very carefully!

In my early twenties I was diagnosed with a General Anxiety Disorder. Even though I haven’t noticed it for at least five years, I gradually recognised that it is back. A year ago I had to have a wisdom tooth pulled out and it was such a traumatizing experience that my anxiety disorder came back in full force. My mistake was that I ignored it for too long. I know the signs and symptoms but I stuck my head in the sand. Until I was in it so deep that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. A stupid act on my part, especially since I have the skills to deal with it. (skills I learned in therapy) If I would have applied these skills early on, it would not have gone this far.

The skills I learned are easy. Whenever I become afraid I ask myself questions. Why am I afraid? What happens when my fair becomes a reality? And what is so bad about that? After asking myself these questions, I search for ways to turn my thinking around. By slowly changing the thoughts in my mind, I change my perception also. For example; I am afraid to cancel a get-together from church because I am afraid that people will stop liking me. The first question I ask myself is, what will happen if people indeed stop liking me? Well I would feel pretty bad about myself. I would also feel very alone.
Okay, next question. What happens if you feel bad about yourself? What happens if you feel alone? Nothing. Nothing would happen.
Another question. Is it rational to be feeling these feelings? No because in reality I am not alone. If some people won’t like me, I still have plenty of other people left who will. People like my mom and dad, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, grandmother, my good friend. On top of that I will always have God. God will never stop liking me. So my feelings aren’t rational.
By repeating these questions, I can slowly change my perception. In the end, the fear will become smaller and smaller, and often even disappear.

What also helps me is to reduce stress by planning moments of rest. It can be tricky at times but it is so valuable. Our bodies and minds need rest from time to time in order to recharge. Without rest, we would be developing a burn-out in seconds rather than minutes. I am learning therefore that it is good to say, “No” at times. In this case, I said no to church, to give my mind a moment of rest. You know what the point is? Our bodies may be able to handle a lot of stress but that doesn’t mean that our minds are the same! Sometimes we can physically deal with a lot of work, while we mentally feel tired and weak. We have to try and find a balance in our life, where we can be meaningful and stress-free at the same time. A balance between duties (work, activities, family etc.) and rest.

I started my blog with a question. Am I really so busy or is it my own desire to show a perfect picture? I say yes. I am trying to show a perfect picture. I am trying to prove myself to everyone. I am trying to prove that I am worth it. But is this a rational thought? No because I am worthful for God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I do not need to prove myself in order to be loved. God the Father said it Himself two months ago, “I love you regardless of what you do”. I do not have to earn His love. I receive it for free.
And you know what! My parents also love me. And so do my brothers, even if they forget to show me sometimes. I have God (three-in-one) and a loving family. What more do I need? The only person I need to convince that I am worthy is myself. It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. What is most important, is what I think about myself! If I keep on finding my own inner happiness, I will be just fine.

“I see the sunflower in you. And all I ask, is for you to see it to”. (From the poem ‘The Sunflower, spoken to me by God the Father)

A work in progress!

The other day I was visiting a friend of mine to meet her newborn baby. It is her fourth child and the sweetest little thing, as most babies are! I showed her my blog and she asked me a question. “Do you do all of the things you write about yourself”? “Yes I do”, I told her, “but I am still a work in progress though”. It is good to have a friend like her! A friend that is honest with you and not afraid to ask the right questions. I try to do everything I write about, however I am only human. Sometimes I am better at it, then other times. Especially when my fear is getting in the way.

When I was in my early twenties, I was diagnosed, by a psychologist, with a general anxiety disorder. After I had therapy, it died down until a year and a half ago. I had a traumatizing experience at the dentist and ever since it is back in full force. Again I am fighting a high dosis of fear every day. A fear that was almost gone. I know, with the help of God, that I can overcome this fear but it takes a lot of patience. And patience is one of my weak spots. Often I want to rush things when I should actually take it easy. I want things to happen right away, when God asks me to wait.

Fear will always be a part of my life…unfortunately. However often I have prayed for healing, it is something that I have come to terms with. After all, Jesus was afraid too when He was praying in Gethsemane garden! Right before Jesus was taken captive, He prayed to His Father if the cup could be taken from Him. Or in modern day language, if He could please be spared from what was awaiting Him. You know, many people say that Jesus was not afraid anymore after that. That after that prayer, He knew what to do and He did it without fear because He knew His journey. But you know what, I believe that He was still afraid. I don’t think the fear left Him. I believe that He simply decided to go through with it, regardless of His fear. And with the fear in His hands, He climbed on that cross. His love was bigger than His fear.

His love being bigger than His fear is something that I recognize. When I like what I have to do, it is easier than when I have to do something I don’t like. When your heart is passionate for something, fear reduces to a tiny flame, making it easier to do it. But the tiny flame becomes a huge fire when your heart is not fully in on it. Of course there is a difference between a healthy fear, like before a speaking engagement, or a fear that goes through the roof. Sometimes I can control my fear but there are also moments that I cannot.

For example, after the traumatizing experience at the dentist, I tried to ignore my fear for a long time. I went to the dentist again and even though I had a much better experience, the fear was so big that I could not control it anymore. The trick that God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit taught me is; with patience and relaxation you can overcome it. The fear never goes away overnight. This is a fact that I have to be fully aware of, but it will go away in the end. This thought gives me a lot of peace already. The second step I take is becoming rational. I tell myself to calm down. Jesus loves me and there is nothing on earth more important than that. I also skip things from my agenda when I feel in my heart that I need time for myself. To plan moments of calmth is very important. I am not superwoman. I cannot do everything and that is okay. My life is not easy and God is keeping a lot of things away from me, like a family. Just because I am not married and I don’t have children, does not mean that my life is easier. I have not been requested to do it all, but to do what I can. I focus on my talents and gifts and not on what I am not good at. But the biggest of all remains patience! With a lot of patience, and a lot of faith I overcome my fear. I cannot let it go away but I can make it smaller and that gives me room to breath.

Life remains a battle. Yet in this battle it is good to remind ourselves of one very important thing. Jesus love for us is everything! It is more important than our fear. And with that in mind we can overcome anything. Jesus’s love makes me get up every morning. Just the thought that, besides Jesus, I have a Father in Heaven who loves me so much, makes me want to try again. Of course I am not capable of doing everything. Like I said, I am not superwoman. There are some things that I am, and never will be, good at. But that is okay. God accepts me for who I am. And if I do the same; if I work hard and focus on the gifts and talents that the Father, in all His goodness, gave me, it will all work itself out in the end. Fear may be an ever present companion but at least I can shut him up whenever he talks to much!

A little more gratitude

As I was walking my dog this afternoon a Dutch children’s song came to my mind. I just couldn’t stop singing it. The song is about a helicopter. It is a request to the helicopter if you could please fly along with him because all you want is to be up in the sky. On and on I kept singing this song until it really drove me crazy. But when I really looked at the lyrics, I started thinking. In life we are all exactly like this song. All we want in life is to fly higher and higher. The highest place isn’t high enough. We want to be more successful. We want a bigger house. We want more money. We want more recognition. We want more friends. We want more fun. We want more adventure and so on. It is never really enough. When are we finally going to be grateful for what we have?

Think about it! Are you really grateful? Or are there things that would make your life just a little bit better? If I may answer this question for myself, I am not grateful enough! For the past month I have been complaining to God about my life. When God the Father audibly told me that He loved me, all I could think of was the things that aren’t going well in my life. Things that I hadn’t accomplished yet. Things that were still missing in my life. In reality I didn’t really listen.

Even when Jesus said, again audible, that He loved me, I started complaining about the fact that I haven’t gotten my book published yet. As if the publication of my book is more important than Jesus’s love for me. Of course, looking back, I can hit my head into a brick wall with piles of shame piled up on my shoulders but that is not going to help me now! Jesus taught me once, “An apology is merely a collection of words, only a change of heart can redeem the soul”. So I know that, especially with Jesus, an apology doesn’t really work. What Jesus rather sees is that I change my actions into the right ones. However that isn’t easy!

It is so difficult to not want more. In our own minds we simply need it. We need a roof over our head, food on the table, clothes to wear and, preferably, a stress-free life. And how we get it appears to be as important as what we get. We don’t settle for less. It has to be new. It has to be big, it has to be enough to our own standards. And in a way we do need all these things. We do! But God already knows that. God knows our needs long before we do! The point is that sometimes we just aren’t grateful enough. Instead of enjoying the moment, we are looking for our next problem. We keep searching for requests that we can lay down before God’s throne until we start making them up. But when are we going to stop and say, “Thank you”. When do we stop our lives and realize what we already have? When are we going to let the helicopter go without us because we have enough already?

A few years ago I made a rule for myself. During prayer I would thank God for at least one thing. In the evening for example, I would go through my day and thank God for as many things I could come up with. As time went by it became easier and easier to come up with things. In moments of difficulty it is extremely helpful. It allowed me to consciously think about that what God has given me. It made me see that God gives me more than I am often aware off. Maybe it can help you to? Another thing you could do to become more grateful is writing a prayer journal. You write down each prayer that you pray. Looking back on the prayers you can see what God has done for you. And so there are many more ideas to be more grateful.

Once a year we celebrate thanksgiving. It is a different date in most countries in the world. And each country celebrates it differently. In the United States for example it is highly celebrated with family diners. It is a public holiday that everyone celebrates. In Holland however, it is only celebrated in churches. Only Christians have a thanksgiving day. We don’t get a day off to celebrate and we have a church services in the evening. And I am pretty sure that some other countries don’t even have a thanksgiving day! But do we need a thanksgiving day? Do we need one day a year to be grateful? Maybe we do. However I think it is very important to be grateful every single day of your life.
Stop looking at what you don’t have and start realizing what God did give you. A little bit more positivity can brighten your soul more than you are aware of.

For me it remains a work in progress. When I feel down and alone it is a lot harder for me to be thankful for what I have. Those are the moments when I complain to God and I get frustrated with myself and my life. In those moments I will have to remind myself to look at what I do have, even if it is only one thing that I can come up with. Because I still believe that God is good and that He knows our needs! Besides, Philippians 4 verse 19 tells us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” He is with us, taking care of us every day, to the very end of the age! And that alone is something to be grateful for!

Psalm 100

A psalm for giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.