Monday, June 1, 2009

Staying Mentally Fit: #10 Have Faith

For some of you, this one is obvious. For others, it will be a surprise. Why is faith in a list of rules for staying mentally strong?

In my post on rule #7 (Take the Long View), I give an example of how God helped me through a time that was hard. His help was what enabled me to wait and keep trying. I believe that God is communicating with us a lot of the time -- through books and articles that we read, through songs we hear, through the kind and uplifting words of a friend, through the love of family, through the beauty of the earth, even through an occasional radio talk show. He also sometimes speaks to us by placing a thought in our minds -- one that we would not have considered otherwise or that reminds us of something important. It has happened to me on many occasions. God is reaching out to us with truth, with beauty, with encouragement, even with loving discipline in the areas where we are stubborn.

When I have talked about this with other moms, they usually tell me that they believe it could happen, but they haven't experienced it. The longer we talk, the more evident it becomes, from what they tell me, that He has, in fact, been showing them things all along. They didn't recognize that these things were from God. They didn't pay much attention to most of it. They are surprised to learn that God is reaching out to them. They are shocked when later, as we continue our discussions, they realize how available He is to them whenever they truly need Him.

What could be better than help from God?

In almost every case, we homeschool because God has drawn us to it. We have a conviction that we must make sacrifices so that we can offer this unusual experience, this different way of learning, to our children. Whether we know it or not, the fact that we are compelled by our convictions to do this is a movement of God in our lives. He is also interested in helping us succeed. I think He cares very much about it.

How can we receive more help from Him?

I am going to make three simple, practical suggestions. On the surface, they don't look particularly impressive. You may even roll your eyes. Go ahead. I don't mind. I know what you might be thinking. At one point, I thought the same thing. But now that I have the perspective that comes with having finished the race, I can guarantee you that this is far more important that it appears to be in the midst of all that you are trying to get done.

1. Read the Bible. Any way you want to do it. Read a Psalm a day. Get a chronological Bible and read it like a novel. Listen to a recording of it. Read a single verse. You need to be in the habit of living with these words and stories of God with His people as the backdrop to your thoughts. In this way, you will be building an inner library of wisdom that you can draw upon when you need it. God can also use that memory bank to remind you of important truths and insights. Find a habit that works for you -- in the morning, over lunch, at night after brushing your teeth. Keep in mind that the best Bible reading program for you is the one that you will actually do.

2. Talk to God. You need to be telling Him about what is happening in your life and asking for His help. He often simply waits to be asked. Why? Because He wants a relationship, and that means He wants you to know He did something for you, and that means you need to ask first. If you are like most of us, you will need to experiment a little to find a way that is vibrant and enjoyable for you. You can talk with Him while you take a walk, while you garden, while you clean, while you are in the shower. You can write in a journal and write down your prayers. You can go to a special place, like a park or a sanctuary, or to no special place at all. I know one friend who talks to God while taking a bubble bath. This brings me to a final, rather unsettling idea, which is that perhaps you should consider how to make it enjoyable. We tend to continue doing the things we enjoy. You are more likely to develop a habit that is rewarding. How can you make it fun? I don't think, by the way, that God will mind. He will just be glad you are spending time with Him.

3. Listen. If we have the expectation that God will be present and involved, and we watch for Him, we will begin to see Him in more places. There are several ways to help ourselves become more receptive and attentive. One of the best ways I have found is to sit still after talking with Him and pay attention to the thoughts that come to mind. I jot those down and ponder them for a while. Usually, it's pretty obvious that they are from God by their content -- they focus on how to love and serve others better. Occasionally, there is an insight that I need to pray about and talk over with my husband before acting on it. The women I have helped are always able to hear from God in this way, but they are suprised that this is actually God communicating with them. "You mean, that's it? That's God?" Yes!

There are also unexpected events in the development of a deeper relationship with God. As we become more open to communication from Him, He begins to communicate with us more. Sometimes, He will interrupt our thoughts or something we are doing, always with the goal of helping us or helping others. We should pay attention to these promptings and heed them. This has happened to me many times, and I don't think I'm unusual. I think this is one of the ways that God works on our behalf.

The essential thing about these three suggestions I have made is that you do them nearly every day. If they become a habit, you will make room for God so that He can fill your life with truth and encouragement and insight. That will help you stay mentally strong. You will have a perspective that is sound and the personal strength to transcend the daily struggles with a larger vision.


Author's Note: For our "10 Rules for Staying Mentally Strong," I am indebteded to Dr. Bob Rotella for the original idea of presenting these concepts. I realized that these important guidelines for homeschoolers could be packaged in this way when I was recently reading his article, 10 Rules for How to Win Your Major, in the June 2009 issue of Golf Digest. Basically, this is my take on keeping the homeschool mom mentally fit for her best game.

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