Forced to Slow Down

I am always going 90 to nothing.

My day doesn’t start as early as most people but I also work a lot later than most people.

I teach piano and voice  privately and currently I have 43 students. In the hours that I am not actually conducting lessons, I am preparing for lessons, studying, and doing my own piano practice and then just normal book work that comes from running your own business.

I love what I do, but I have to tell you, I load a lot of pressure on myself to do and be the best I can be–with this comes a certain amount of fatigue and anxiety. I am sure you gathered from my last post that I am a perfectionist.

As I write to you now I have been forced to slow down and take it easy. I have come down with some kind of upper respiratory infection. I had to cancel students yesterday and today, and I had to just take a break and lay on the couch. This is really hard for me to do. I think about all that I need to do and all the make-up lessons I have to give. I have a really hard time just resting. In the  middle of my attempts to rest today, you know really quiet my mind,  I remembered “OH!! ITS THURSDAY! I have to write my blog! I committed to Thursdays!!”

Well folks I don’t have a great blog for you this week, all I know is these are the moments that I realize I am not invincible. So with this sickness I was forced to lay it low and not keep pressing through. I literally couldn’t. Why is it so hard for me to just rest? My busy mind gets me in trouble sometimes. I wrote a blog not that long ago about “being still.” This is one of the hardest things for me to do. I have such an overactive mind. I do believe I am learning through these experiences. God is working it all of it for His good, even in the midst of my neurosis.

A verse I always rely on is, Mathew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We need rest, but I think it’s not just physical rest, it’s mental and spiritual rest too. The mental rest is what I am trying to learn.

I know this– I know who my savior is. My soul rests in that truth! There’s no question or denying that one.

Blessings and rest to you all!

Now I am going to go eat some soup and curl up on the couch.

Johanna

 

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Two Things We Can Boast in: Weakness and the Cross

It’s been quite a week since last Thursday. I have had several sleepless nights, I have had a mental war. I have worried. I have fretted. My digestive system has suffered. Why you ask? Fear!

I am going to crack open my heart and soul with you. I struggle with worrying too much about what other people think. I also simply take myself too seriously much of the time. I struggle with anxiety. I worry I am going to appear a failure.

My story this last week began when me and my students performed at a retirement home last Thursday. I got up to perform and well I basically fell flat on my face. I lost where I was in the music, got distracted by my thoughts and was overwhelmed with anxiety. You would have thought in my mind that the world came to an end. I did not externalize my feelings. I acted as if nothing happened, but the inner war was tremendous and for a week straight I worried and fretted over that. I assumed people’s thoughts. I was not thinking rational, and I even told myself that, but I was still tortured by it.

In my Psalm study I have been reading through Psalm 64, the first couple of times I read it, it didn’t resonate with me in any particular way, and then I felt compelled to read it again last night, and it jumped off the page and into my heart! The Psalmist in the beginning says, “deliver me from my fear” He didn’t say deliver me from the situation. This is what I was pleading with God, deliver me from this dread! The Psalmist sounded just like me tortured in his mind. He continues on to say “hide me from the secret plots of the wicked.” Now for him it was external enemy, but for me, I resonated with wanting to be hidden. I wanted to go hide. I felt humiliated. Then the Psalmist says, “they hold fast to their evil purpose” I just thought about how our enemy, satan, can use this as an opportunity to try to overcome us, discourage us, condemn us, ensnare us. This is a perfect opportunity for him to get a foothold on us. In verse 7, the Psalmist says, BUT GOD! I just stopped here, because really we needn’t go any further. Everything that preceded this is not the final analysis. GOD is the one who has the final say. God is my deliverer. It says in verse 10, “let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him. Let all the upright in heart exult.”

I was humbled by this situation. God allowed my to fall. God knows my struggle with perfection and people pleasing, and the only way for me to overcome it is through the fire. How can I expect to be refined and to grow to be more like Him if I don’t go through some discomfort. It really has been a thorn in my flesh. I have to learn that it isn’t about me and there is noting like going through something like this, to humble me.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

Being a Christian does not mean perfection, or no struggles, and I think of the verse “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The word fear here is not anxiety but a reverence and respect for God’s authority, and trembling is admitting our weakness, and submitting to our dependence solely on God. This is an ongoing sanctification process to bring us into more of HIs likeness. To do this, God has to test and try our hearts. We have to be humbled, and this is not comfortable, but it must be done.

I have hanging in my hallway as a huge reminder from 2 Corinthians 12:9……..

“My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER is made perfect in weakness.”

We have nothing to boast in except our weakness and the cross. It is a truth that I am still learning every day. The layers of of my own self focus are being pulled back. God is gracious with me and he is gentle. I am being refined. I don’t want to remain the same. I want to be more like Him, but I have to be willing to go in the fire, be uncomfortable. I have to deny myself and take up my cross. I have to also remember this is a daily process. Every morning his mercies are new, and I have to come to the feet of Jesus to be renewed every day. Like the old hymn says…….

“Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord. Come and quench this thirsting  of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Here’s my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”

A final thought — You might have heard that joke/story about the kid who was in church listening to the sermon. The minister prayed, “Dear Lord without you we are but dust.” When the child heard this she leaned over  to mom and said, “Mommy, what is butt dust?”  haha!

I  was sent this joke by my childhood piano teacher and friend before she passed away this past February. We laughed so much about that.  She texted about a month before she died, and the text read simply, “We are SO butt dust!” 😛

Don’t take myself so seriously. Depend on him. Boast in my weakness. Boast in the Cross. I have to beware that just when I think I am something, I will find out pretty soon that I am nothing.

He’s still working on me! He began a good work in me, and he is for sure going to see it though to completion!

God gets the glory!

Blessings,

Johanna

Priorities.

I was with my cousin Lindsey a few days ago hanging out at the mall, we were ooh-ing and ah-ing as we were looking in all these expensive stores that we would in no way be able to afford. My cousin and I love to shop!  Every year on New Years Day we meet up and go to the huge Dillard’s sale. We wait outside in the line with all the crazed shopaholics, just waiting to score that great deal! Anyway, we are walking around the mall and I am saying how I want this and want that, and then my cousin started to tell me a story. She said, “well I was just humbled recently.” My ears perked up, “Really? What happened?” She began to tell me about this young family that she knew through her husband. The parents were in their 30’s and they had two young children. The wife’s father had died several years earlier from a rare form of colon cancer. Lindsey went on to say that they found this rare cancer in the daughter. She was diagnosed and only lived a few more months. She died leaving behind her husband and young children. Lindsey said this family was active in their church and faith and just all around a family to admire. Here’s the clincher!  Lindsey then went on to say that on her death-bed, the last thing she told her husband was,

“Run to Jesus, cause that’s all that matters.”

She didn’t say walk, she said, “run!” There was urgency. I stood there in the mall feeling humbled myself. Priorities.

I thought about my good friend Donna who just died of ovarian cancer. Her last words to everyone, that I was honored to sing at her memorial service at her request was,

“Give me Jesus, you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”

Priorities.

Not long ago my brother was at home and he witnessed a fatal car accident right outside his house. He told us the story, he heard the terrible crash. Emergency crews were on their way, but the young driver didn’t make it. My brother told us he bent down over the body and said,

“Look to Jesus.”

This tears me up just thinking about it. Priorities.

A couple of weeks ago I was at Goodwill, a local resale shop. As I was browsing one of the clerks and I started chatting, just small talk, but the small talk soon turned into something more. Robyn, the clerk started opening up to me and telling me of her anxiety and how paralyzing it was, she worried about something catastrophic happening all the time. As she was telling me this, her eyes started to well up with tears. I started to feel my eyes tearing up. I reached out and gave her a hug. I really did understand, because I deal with anxiety too. I shared my own sufferings with her, and how I could empathize. I told her I would be praying for her and I walked off. I prayed silently, “Lord, Oh Lord, what do I say to her? What should I do?”  I went up to the cash register to check out and she was standing there. I told her,

“Look to the Lord. Nothing else will fill that space but Him.”

I gave her another hug and left. Priorities.

It’s easy to get our priorities out of whack, but here recently I have had several incidents that keep shouting, “JESUS!”  I know when you put him first everything else falls into its rightful place.

Blessings,

Johanna

 

The Door

I was walking down an unfamiliar old outdated hallway, it was like an old run down hotel. Down the hallway, there were doors on all sides one right after the other. I opened a door and there was another door. I kept walking down the hallway, and opened another door, there was a staircase this time. I was just trying to find an outlet that would lead somewhere. I kept opening door after door. I was trapped. I started panicking. Have you ever been lost before and gotten that horrible sinking feeling? It is the most unsettling feeling. I started screaming for someone to help me. “Help! Help me!” There was not a soul around. I finally opened a door at the end that led me outdoors. “Finally an outlet!” For a moment I was relieved, until I realized that these surroundings where unfamiliar too. It was freezing cold outside and there was snow on the ground. There were rows and rows of houses, but they seemed empty. The whole area appeared desolate. The anxiety started pouring in again. Finally out of the corner of my eye I saw this older lady walking down the street coming towards me. I ran towards her and asked anxiously, ” Can you help me?” She said nothing and walked away like she didn’t even see me. I cried out loud again, “Can you help me?” And then I woke up.

I’m sure as you were reading that you suspected it was a dream or some scene from the twilight zone.(I love that old show) When I had this dream, it was so real and I wrote it down and of course as I do about almost everything, I started my theological reflection.

The first thing I thought of was this idea of being in a maze searching for the thing that will give us peace and finally ultimate fulfillment. Each one of the doors appeared like an outlet, I mean they were doors and doors when opened are supposed to lead somewhere, but when opened they didn’t lead anywhere, except to another door. Like a dog chasing its tail. If you read my previous blogs, I talked a lot about chasing after that longing and when we chase after anything but Jesus it won’t lead us anywhere. Jesus said, “I am the door.” I also saw the symbolism of the freezing cold outside and the desolate houses. The one door that I came to where I found somewhat of an outlet, was still no outlet. It was cold, empty and lonely, and even the one soul that appeared to be there wasn’t there for me either. The enemy tempts us with other doors and by his way of doing things, but he is a liar and a deceiver. The lady in my dream I saw as the enemy, not caring one thing about me, ignoring me definitely not helping.

Jesus is our only way. He is the only door. If you try any other door to bring you fulfillment if will lead to emptiness, loneliness, and death.

Take heart! Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by ME, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:9-10

I am so glad I woke up from that dream. Thank you Jesus that you saved me! You are my refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Which door will you open?

Blessings to you all!

Johanna

 

What Garment do You Wear?

I wear a garment of perfectionism. Why do I wear it? I know that no one is perfect. Why would I put myself through that torture? What do I believe about myself? What do I simply believe?

I am my worst judge, I put myself in the courtroom everyday, “You didn’t do this right!” “Did you see so and so do it better!” “Why can’t you add up to that!” “Get it together or they are going to find you out sooner or later!” “Do you really think you can do that!” “B+ is not good enough!” The thoughts scream at me no matter what I do. This garment does me no good. It is really a very heavy garment that weighs me down. Its extremely difficult to wear. No wonder I have anxiety. I continue to wear it and then someone says “oh wow! You did that very well!” And the judge shuts up for just a minute, long enough for me to take another step forward, and then the judge is at it again.

The Lord had another wardrobe in mind that is lighter, and cooler. A garment that may not be the fanciest by man’s standards but is the richest. My wardrobe of guilt and shame and perfection and anxiety and frustration have been replaced with love, compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline. God had this wardrobe picked out for me all along and I chose another wardrobe. I have shed the old heavy garment, but I admit it still hangs in the closet. It is not gone for good, but I am working on at least keeping that door shut. He who began a good work in me will see it through until the day of completion. Philippians 1:6
Until then, I press on. It’s not what I think, it’s not what anyone thinks, it’s what God thinks. I am His and He is mine. I am in the Beloved. Its not about what I can do, it’s about what He can do through me.

Thank you Lord! Put the judge in me at rest and take my garment of perfectionism and cast it into the furthest sea. Open up the blinds so that that the real me in You will be seen. Clothe me with your righteousness.

Colossians 3:12 (The Msg)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.