Sunday, July 3, 2016

Perception Problems

I've been going through old photos while listening to old music. Sounds funny, I know, but it's what I have been up to lately.

I've been in a season for the last 8-12 months or so. I can't really remember exactly when I entered this valley I've been in, but it's been at least that long. Maybe a little longer. It's not been a comfortable place to be, which is the case with most valley experiences.

A sadness started to develop in me from dwelling on the fact that all 3 of my children live away from this area. The closest is 3 1/2 hours, and thankfully that is the one who has the grandchildren. The other 2 are nine hours and twelve (or so) hours away by car. I could get there faster by flying, but it's too expensive.

Consequently, I don't see my children often.

So, I was feeling really down, and I sought the Lord for answers. He is the only one who knows why He moved them so far away, after all. So I had questions, and I know He had answers. He just didn't choose to reveal those answers right away. All communication seemed to be one-way--me to Him--although I knew He was right there.

He was just so silent.

I prayed and talked to God every day, and did what I know to do. I prayed for my family and for those He put on my heart. I read my daily Bible reading. I went to church. I had praise and worship music on a good bit of the time.

Meanwhile, I had stopped working on pictures back at the start of this valley when it got too painful, back when I was only working with pictures of my early childhood. Off and on in the last couple of years I have worked on them, more out of a sense of obligation than joy. I am, after all, the family historian by default. My mom, dad, and brother passed away many years ago, so it's up to me. My children are going to inherit all these pictures from our heritage someday, and I want them to know who these people are. Since my parents were terrible at writing on the backs of photos, I had to organize them and write captions to identify people and times.

Slowly, over the course of the last couple of months, I began to have a longing to go through the old pictures again. Simultaneously, I was drawn to Southern Gospel music from my childhood and teen years.


It made no sense to me, because I never liked that type of music, even when it was all there was in the Christian music world. I was the rebel that, once I discovered her, listened to Reba Rambo in the 70s in spite of my brother's protests that I would go to hell for listening to Christian rock. He was halfway kidding. I think.

So, I walked away from all that type of music 25 years ago and never looked back. I discovered contemporary Christian and Vineyard worship music in the 90s. It is still my preference, I might add.

But I digress. Back to the longing to work on pictures and listen to old music. I listened to my Pandora playlists and looked up music on YouTube to access the music I wanted to find, all while working on the pictures.  The two seemed to go together.

It was like the train wreck that you can't stop looking at. I didn't want to listen to that old music, but at the same time, I was drawn to it. I didn't think I could handle seeing all those old pictures of my childhood, because it was just a reminder to me of how alone I was. However, day after day when I came in from work, I would drift into the spare room where I had the boxes of pictures and scrap-booking supplies. An hour here and there, and before I knew it I was into the grade school pictures of my childhood.

A funny thing happened as I listened to old music and looked at old pictures. God was healing me from the inside out. There were wounds from childhood and teen years that I didn't even know about. I had buried them so deeply that I seemed to forget, until I saw a picture or heard a song that triggered a bad or painful memory. This has gone on for weeks now, and as of today, I'm working on pictures from my senior year in high school.

God has redeemed my past -- pictures and music -- in the marvelous fashion that He manages to do while we are tempted to think He isn't paying attention. The music I thought I hated has grown on me. It's still not my favorite, but I can endure it now because as I looked at those pictures with that music playing, He restored my soul in that area. He has attached new memories for the music and the pictures in place of the bad ones by causing me to remember something happy about each section of my life.

I still don't understand how He did it, but it all came into focus a few nights ago. I found I was listening to a mixture of gospel, contemporary Christian, and Vineyard/Hillsong worship music and singing along as I journaled captions about the pictures I am putting in a scrapbook.

I have my joy back! I realized tonight that I am no longer doing this out of obligation; I can't wait to get back to work on these albums! God has downloaded the skill into me to do this and given me a passion for it.

So, nothing has really changed in my life, but now I see it through a different lens. God has miraculously altered my perception in several areas:

Instead of feeling alone and abandoned, I now choose to remember that I have many ways to keep in touch with my kids. The internet is a fabulous tool. I am thankful that I have children and grandchildren, and I proud that they are fulfilling God's purpose for their lives. I still don't know why they all live so far away, but God has a purpose for it, and He has given me grace to bear it. I am blessed.

Instead of feeling slighted by God because I grew up like an only child, since my brother was grown and out of the house by the time I was old enough to begin to know I even had a brother, I choose to remember that He has given me very dear friends who have become sisters and brothers, and as a bonus, I now have nieces and nephews. I am blessed.

Instead of feeling obligated to be family historian, I now choose to see it as a privilege that God allows me to record all the facts and history and I get to journal about the pictures so there is a story told through them! We all know how much I love to write!  I am blessed.

If you're struggling with sadness or feeling alone and abandoned, take heart. God can and will fix that. You just have to give it to Him. He will take it from there. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV