Great Happiness!

A group of us were talking about the meaning of names, and I said, “My friends are always asking me what my name means, but in English names don’t have meanings.  They’re just names.”  One girl said that she knew of a website where the meaning of names can be researched.  So she looked up my name, Alisa, and said, “Great happiness!  Your name means great happiness in Hebrew!”  All the other girls said, “Yeah that fits you!”

Now, that blows my mind because all my life I’ve had the opposite spoken over me.  I was born on a Wednesday, so I was told “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”  I believed it!  Depression has been a plague and a curse on my family—one which I recently broke.  I have suffered a couple of bouts of depression so severe that I slept only 1 or 2 hours a night for almost 3 months, and had suicidal thoughts and even suicidal hallucinations.  The longest period of depression lasted about 2 ½ years.

Once during a bout of severe depression I saw a funny clip on America’s Funniest Home Videos.  I laughed so hard that I couldn’t stop.  Then I began crying just as hysterically, thinking that surely this is the last time I will ever laugh.  It really alarmed my family, who had no idea how to help me.

Another time I literally felt something inside of me break at an unkind remark that I would normally have shrugged off.  After that, I passed entire days looking out the window and crying.  The sight of a bird flying by was enough to start me crying.

I don’t like having to depend on medication, but Prozac probably saved my life.  It didn’t make my life less painful, but it cushioned the pain enough to help me keep a grip and not act on those bad thoughts.  To be honest, all that feels like it was another life, a different person.

Nevertheless, despite the depression and the bad stuff in my life, I have always been able to remain mostly upbeat and positive.  Perhaps that is because even without knowing it, whenever anyone said my name, they were proclaiming great happiness to me without even knowing it.  Now that’s a great thought!

And now that I have truly surrendered all to God, I do have great happiness.  I never would have thought it possible—at least not in this life.

And here’s a fun thought, inspired by 6 year old Dave Junior: logic and chocolate do not go together.  Chocolate is not a great anti-depressant (the calories are unfortunate), but it does help some.  God is good!

God’s Favorite Kid

I have a friend that I often joke with, saying, “I’m God’s favorite kid.”  And the banter goes like this:

I’m God’s favorite kid because I’m the most blessed!

Oh, no you’re not!  I’m His favorite because I’m more blessed!

To which I reply: “No, I’m more blessed because He gave me you for a friend!”

And she replies: “You’re right, you are more blessed than me!”

Today was one of those days when I truly feel like I’m God’s favorite.  Of course, He doesn’t have favorites, but today it just felt that way.

After breakfast we met at the church and took a bus up the mountain to pray for Sofia from up there.  About 70 people from the local church joined us.  The participation of local people in these prayers for the capital cities is significant.

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The mountain was covered with snow and there were people skiing and sledding all over the mountain top.  Nevertheless, it was sunny and much warmer on the mountain than back in Sofia.  So from our perch overlooking the city we prayed, proclaimed, and worshiped Jesus, the Lord of Sofia.  And we sealed the prayers with Holy Communion.

When we returned to Sofia we went to the Parliament building to pray for the new government, whoever they turn out to be (as you may recall, the government all resigned three days ago when our team arrived in town).  A policeman came to see what we were doing, and when we explained that we were praying for the government, he shrugged and walked off.  Several minutes later another policeman approached.  Two of our group walked over to meet him so that prayers could continue uninterrupted.  One of them, a pastor, explained what we were doing and asked the policeman if he could pray for him.  The policeman shrugged, but didn’t say no, so my pastor friend and the other man prayed for him.  The policeman remained skeptical.  He probably thought that we were crazy, but harmless, so he walked off.

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Next to Parliament is the university, so we went to pray there.  Our host, Bill, had given some of us Bulgarian New Testaments, so one girl decided to do an important prophetic act and bury the Word of God right there on campus.  The only problem is that we didn’t have a shovel or any other kind of digging implements.  So we had to find ground soft enough to dig up with a stick.  The rest of us laughed about how silly this looked, and cracked jokes about how the Christian bookstores should sell shovels, too.  But once it was buried, we got back to the work of praying, and one topic for prayer at the university was abortion.  Bulgaria has 3 abortions for every live birth—imagine that!  Together with the 3rd highest suicide rate in the world, no wonder the population is shrinking.

After all this, some of us were very hungry, having not had any lunch—me included.  There was a lot of discussion about where to eat, when to eat, and whether to eat together.  In the end, some went back to the hostel, while others went to eat.  Bill offered to take me to a big toy store.  I had told him that I always get my grandson a bear from every new country I visit, but I hadn’t had any luck finding a suitable bear in Bulgaria yet.  All the bears I had seen so far had scary eyes.  I can’t give my grandson a bear with scary eyes!  So we went to the toy store, and I found a great bear right away.

Then Bill asked me what I wanted to do next.  I told him that I hadn’t had lunch, so I wanted some dinner.  He was very pleased when I said that I wanted to have some typical Bulgarian food.  So he called Vasha, his wife, and they discussed where to take me.  She was just getting off work, so she would be joining us.  They took me to a place that was typically Bulgarian in décor, in food, and in music—wonderful!

They asked me a few times what I was hungry for, but I just insisted on typical foods.  Bill was so happy for the opportunity to share some of his favorite dishes from childhood.  He insisted on getting a few dishes to share, knowing that it would be far more food than we could possibly eat.  Vasha told me that later I would probably see people dancing the Horo.  Which I did!  There was a birthday party across the room, and when the band played the Horo music, the women all got up, laced arms, and danced in a circle.

Bill kept asking me what I was smiling about.  I just said, “I’m so happy!”  Today, I’m convinced: I’m God’s favorite!  God is good!