Twice last week I woke up about 3 am with a terrible pain on the left side of my face, including my jaw and ear, right up to my temples. It was weird because once the painkillers wore off, I was just fine: no evidence of an ear infection, or maybe an aggravated tooth... just a vague achiness in my jaw. After the 2nd incidient, I went to see a doctor, and she decided the most likely cause was I have started grinding my teeth and/or clenching my jaw at night while I sleep, thus aggravating the bundle of facial nerves that radiates out from back behind the ear. Her suggestion was to take a painkiller before bed to maybe prevent clenching up, which seems to be working okay. Except my jaw still aches, just a little. So of course now I think I have bone cancer in my jaw. Ha!
But I think the main cause is stress. We continue to be in financial straits - B.'s business is picking up, but the increased physical work also means his old shoulder injury is flaring up and causing him a lot pain, too, and worry (our healthcare "insurance" won't cover it because its a pre-existng condition).
You would think with all the stress of the past few months, I would be praying more, because when I do take the time to pray, to give my burdens over to God, I am so refreshed and strengthened and hopeful. But that's one of the self-defeating things about stress: the stress itself keeps you to preoccupied to take time for the best cure.
More on prayer here shortly, but first, I haven't had a progress update in over a month, so here goes.
Two progress updates: 1) writing 2) Bible read-through and scripture memory
Every couple weeks I have an intense two or three days of working on my novel, and I've gotten a lot done since my last progress report. Currently I am working on chp. 32, but I've skipped around a lot. Actually, I've really been tearing things apart and doing a lot of restructuring. By now I've pretty much given up hope that this would be a fairly straightforward process of just "polishing up" my novel, adding some voice and tightening things up by cutting out some unnecessary scenes. Sure, I'm cutting all right, but I'm discovering in the process of cutting it's requiring a lot more work and new writing to connect things back together again. But it sure gets my imagination into overdrive. How many other jobs/hobbies out there can one say that you genuinely enjoy making more work for yourself?
The hardest part is trying to carve time out here and there to keep working at it. If more than a couple days pass when I don't get time to work on it, then imagination stalls and I lose motivation... which is why my writing has been in fits and spurts instead of a steady daily process.
ALL the writing books I've ever read (lately I re-read one my favorites, Anne Lammott's "Bird by Bird") have recommended that you set aside the same time every day to write, and I just never seem to be able to do that. I've tried at night after the kids are in bed, but sometimes I'm just too exhausted to keep going. Once or twice I've tried early in the morning before kids wake up, but that is time I need to reserve for devotions, to start my day out right. The twins' nap-time is another option, though getting Blaze and Dreamer to have a "quiet time" at the same time the twins are napping isn't always easy, and then there are other temptations like sometimes I'd really like a nap myself! - or read a good book. Or ride a horse. Ah, what discipline is required! - and I've just never been good about keeping to a regular discipline (which is probably another contributor to stress!)
2) Ah, but setting yourself challenges and goals does help: I am, as of this morning, caught-up and on schedule with my Bible read-through. I am almost half-way through (though I continue to skip around a lot).
Thanks to my voice recorder which I listen to on my morning walks, I am keeping up with my scripture memory challenge too. I have been reviewing Galations 2:20, Matthew 9:12-13, Romans 11:33-36, Hebrews 10:35-36, Isaiah 61:1, and Psalm 34:1-6. These are the verses I am currently working on:
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Now, back to prayer. Last night I was reading Luke 12, and it really made me stop and sigh, these verses in particular: 31-34
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else! Store up treasure in heaven! Yet I am mostly satisfied with myself that I am keeping up with a Bible read-through, occasional prayers, memorizing a few scriptures, and talking about how I need to witness more to my parents and co-workers, but never actually doing it.
A couple weeks ago my church's mom's group arranged for swapping child care so we could each spend several hours in uninterrupted prayer. At first I was doubtful, can I really concentrate in prayer for such a length of time? But once I got started, it was wonderful. I went through a list of requests all of us moms had compiled and shared with each other, and in between I sang a few songs as worship. I prayed through a Psalm. At the time my daily reading was in Isaiah, and the Lord gave me these verses, Isaiah 43:10-13, that moved me to tears. I could have continued: I could have gone for another couple hours, at least. It is so wonderful to spend such time with God! I didn't realize how empty I was, until God filled me up. I felt like I could never get stressed again!
Yet here I am back as as I was before, barely giving God attention at all. Everything else has crowded back: rushing through my Bible reading, worrying about bills, juggling work and time with family and trying to squeeze in some writing and reading and riding in between it all. Seek the Kingdom above all else! Ah, that I had more of a heart for God instead of just outward appearance of it.