// Ephesians 2:8-9 //
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast;”
Grace. The spectacular promise of favorable attention in spite of unfavorable actions.
Saved. Lifted up from a life of perpetual despair and wrongdoing.
Faith. A mustard seed is all it takes to grab on to the greatest gift of all time.
Gift of God. An offer so compelling we can hardly bear to look away and yet struggle to fully understand.
Works. The well-intentioned striving that often comes from spaces of guilt and shame rather than perfect love.
Anyone. All of us laid bare at the foot of the cross, unable to point to anything we’ve done as proof of our salvation.
Thank you Father God for your plan which includes me, allows me to be human, yet beckons me to a new way of living which floods my every moment with the promise of perpetual beginning. Your plan for my life is all I need and all I want to long for. Guide me in knowing and understanding the heavenly process which excites my heart and captivates my mind.
#verse #devotional #musings #writing #writer #blog #day #january7
Image via: Fuu J
// Enough //
I am enough.
Not in the shallow “yay me…I’m perfect” sense of the phrase. Rather, in the “I am enough because I’m learning every second I’m alive and who I am in the moment is what it is. “
It’s not as if we can suddenly jump to as good as an eighty year old when we are half that age. With time comes experience, wisdom and a kind of acceptance that can only come from a lot of life lived. Of course not everyone who reaches a ripe old age is wise and endearing. In fact, some senior citizens are grumpy and bitter, with a great big chip on their shoulder. And yet, in the season that they are, they are enough.
You may have heard that most people are doing the best they can. I have come to believe that is a generally accurate statement. Even if someone is further on in years, perhaps they haven’t had the opportunity for growth yet. Maybe they weren’t raised with an understanding of teachability. It’s important to come to every relationship with a great deal of empathy for what a person may have lived through.
This is true when it comes to ourselves. It’s easy to discount the things I have gone through without another thought. But that’s not really realistic. When others hear your story, they recognize it for what it is— a difficult journey that has ups and downs, deep dives and turns more times than you can count.
We should be easier and kinder with our hearts when it comes to the what, when, how and why of our earthly existence. And then, sometimes we raise ourselves to godlike status, both in what we think we deserve and in how we assume we should be thinking. As a Christ follower, I do believe that he makes me into a new creation, different from who I was and who I would become without his grace. But, at the same time, I can’t ever assume that I am on equal footing with the creator of the universe. We say we don’t believe that, but our actions and even our thoughts prove otherwise.
I think we know instinctively that we were created for more, so we strive for it continually. Maybe not everyone of us, but certainly the vast majority. While we might not be gods, we want to be like one. We want absolute authority and say over our lives and we want to direct what happens to us and through us. Even though it’s not realistic, and a part of us knows this, we will fight for our piece of earthly status every single day.
I’m not asking myself or those I advise to live as if everything of importance isn’t important. We certainly should live as though what we think, say or do is impactful on our society. If we say life matters, then we should make it matter. But, there are times when we go a little too far with our self-reliance and search for significance. You are enough because you are a beautiful human with unlimited potential. The measure of our worth is not bound up in how much of that potential we live out. Our worth is simply there, no matter if we end up becoming a entrepreneur who donates millions to charity, or a paraplegic who encourages people with notes and phone calls.
The fact that you have a brain, a heart and cells that work together in some manner of equilibrium is fascinating and important enough. Add on to those features the idea that you embody an eternal soul which has a capacity for more than we can imagine. You are uniquely wonderful no matter who you are, what age you’ve reached and how much you’ve done.
Why is it hard to sit in that truth and accept it? At least it can be for me. I have a lot of “but, I need to…” statements that come to mind whenever someone reminds me of my worth as a created being. It’s a worn out analogy, but I think of how much worth we place on a baby when they are born. They literally can’t do anything except be cute, cry and sleep. And yet we can’t get enough of them! We practically bow to their every whim and want nothing more than to invest in their flourishing.
And yet, we look at humans who have added years to their life, or even at ourselves and assume we aren’t deserving of the same kind of affection. Perhaps it’s because of the baggage which inevitably comes with life itself. We learn to think of ourselves as less than favorable. These thoughts are kind of engraved into our psyche from a young age, even if we have the most thoughtful, caring people surrounding us. There’s always something we feel we are lacking in.
And the truth is, we are lacking. We truly are. It’s part of the human existence to be reaching for another level in some area. If it weren’t, we wouldn't live very long. We would just let whatever was going to come our way come and we wouldn’t think it important to try something different for our survival.
So how do we navigate the tension between good enough and not good enough? You know…the inward understanding that we are beautiful no matter what and the intuition that we have so much more to learn about and a great deal to do on this earth. I suppose it comes down to the idea that we work and grow from a place of satisfied acceptance that who we are in this very moment is okay and also not okay.
And that’s truly okay.
Image via: Unsplash
#enough #perfection #life #age #growth #growing #maturity #acceptance
// The Kitchen //
There’s a spectacular place where dreams come true and hearts are tended by calming sustenance. Hard work and holy love combine to make beautiful masterpieces of nourishing perfection. Even feeble attempts are counted as worthy, whether they are palatable or not. This space has long been the cornerstone of home and habitat. The environmental impact of a place where lives intersect is keenly felt by all who enter. This beautiful, purposeful dwelling wraps the soul of desire up with its warmth and support. There is a deep emotional bond which seeks personhood, not worthiness—a hallowed sphere where the lowly mingles with lavish. There are few things more captivating than the sacred space where we live and mingle as hungry hearts and eager spirits, yearning for a place to belong and finding it in the comfort offered there.”
Image via: Monika Grabkowska
#kitchen #poetry #musings #writing #love #dailybread
just the way you are
Imagine a little girl, about twelve years old. She peers at her swimsuit clad body in the mirror and grimaces. She shifts her weight from side to side, trying to find an angle that makes her look skinnier. She critiques every little part of her body, begging it to become the version she sees in her mind.
I was a fat kid. If I'm honest, I still struggle with being the fat kid. I've gone through seasons of weight loss and weight gain, complicated by hormones, genetics and medication. I try to eat healthy, and then sometimes I don't. I tell myself I'm beautiful in the eyes of God I recite the verse from the Bible that says I'm fearfully and wonderfully made. And yet, there are still times I feel like the twelve year old girl who looks in the mirror and wills herself to just get out there and stop worrying about how she looks.
I know some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. The circumstances might look different, but you are familiar with the same horrific feelings. You might have looked in the mirror just this morning and cried. You might feel ugly and worthless.
I know it feels hard to measure up to the world's standard of beauty. You wish you looked like those gorgeous instagram models with their perfectly posed, airbrushed legs. I get it. The contrast is very real in our minds.
We have to get to root of our quest for perfection. We have to come to grips with the fact that we will never measure up. Will you join me today in giving our imperfections to the God who made us and ask for His perspective as we navigate the seemingly endless expectations of those around us?
I want you to know you are not alone.
Every person has believed a lie about their self-worth at one time or another.
Name the lie.
Contrast it with the truth in God's Word.
There is more to you than the frame that holds your beautiful soul. Tend the beauty on the inside and it will shine to everyone around you.
You are a beautiful masterpiece, just the way you are.
The first step
I see you.
The one who smiles, but hides tremendous pain beneath the clever facade. You may have struggled to get out of bed today... Maybe you didn't get out of bed. "It's too much work," you thought to yourself as you buried yourself beneath the covers.
You are not alone in this struggle. Every human will face times of pain, moments of fear and seasons of emotional ups and downs. That's a normal part of life. What isn't okay is when we spiral into preoccupation with worry, fear and distress. When we push life away instead of pushing into life.
I'm not pretending it's easy. I won't sugarcoat how hard your journey will be.
Would you take the first step today?
If you're tempted to hide from life, don't.
If it helps, drop the smile, let someone look deep into your fear-filled eyes and connect to the place inside of you that writhes in pain. Say the words you are terrified to say. You think you're being brave by not asking for help, but you are only delaying the inevitable. You will continue to be crushed by emotions you don't fully understand. Take a chance. Push back the covers and step into the day, regardless of the lie that says "you can't."
Every next step is a milestone. Each little victory will turn into something greater as you keep moving. As you embrace the awkward feeling of vulnerability, you will emerge stronger.
I know from experience.
Take the first step today... with or without a smile.
7 MYTHS about mental health
UNHELPFUL MYTHS/ADVICE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
We've all been there. The moment someone comes into your life with some thoughts about your life, which they know nothing about. It's hard. I've been the one on the receiving end as well as the one dishing out the free advice.
It's no secret that I deal with anxiety and depression on a regular basis. I wrote about it extensively in my book, "Finding Brave." You can purchase it here, if you'd like to read about my journey.
I've noticed something fascinating while dealing with mental health issues these past thirteen years. People have all kinds of ideas about why you might be having that problem, and they also have lots of solutions for you.
I'm all for solutions. I believe there are some practical solutions to the problems of anxiety and depression. I really do. I am free from the chains of anxiety because I used some well researched solutions. I'm all about it!
However, I thought I'd share a list of "what not to do or say" when encountering a friend or family member who is struggling emotionally.
Are you ready?
Beware, the snark might be a little strong at times.
1. YOU WILL BE FINE
Have you ever struggled to breathe? I mean, the type of breathlessness that comes after a hard fall, where all your air has been quite literally knocked out of you? You know the way your mind races as you attempt to draw sweet air into your lungs? Your eyes dart from side to side as if to find someone to help you with what seems impossible at the moment. You just want to breathe.
That is how so many of the people around you feel on a daily basis. Their mind races, their eyes dart, their breath catches in their throat. Add on top of that, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, and you have the definition of a panic attack. Death feels close and yet you can’t understand what will finally take you, an actual adverse event, or your own fear.
Imagine you have just had the breath knocked out of you and it’s been a full thirty seconds of waiting for a good breath. Now imagine someone walking up to you, putting their hand on your arm and saying “You will be fine.”
“I will be fine?” your mind races in a sarcastic retort.”I might be fine later, but I’m not in this moment! I just need to breathe and that part of my body isn’t working right!” You might roll your eyes at the absurdity of the comment being made to you. It didn’t help you in any way, except maybe remind you that someone was there just in case you needed an ambulance.
People who live their lives from one mental health challenge to the next face this quandary more often than not. It is the tendency of humans to want to speak to a person in pain or anguish with a reassuring comment rather than do nothing. I completely understand this tendency. I have done it many times myself. I admit that I’ve said the same thing to my children a hundred times. “You will be fine.” I say it when they get a minor cut. I say it when they are stressed out about a test. I say it whenever I don’t know exactly what to say.
When someone is having a mental crisis, they don’t feel fine, they can’t imagine feeling fine and they don’t even know what to do in the next moment. In those terrifying seconds, all they see is an insurmountable challenge staring them in the face and they don’t see a way around or over it.
They don’t need a step by step instructional manual in that moment. They don’t need platitudes. They aren’t looking to you to solve everything that’s going wrong. They need one thing. They need your presence.
You may think I’m talking about the type of presence where you just stand there with them, or hold them while they struggle. That might be helpful, and you can certainly ask them.
However, I’m talking about being a true presence in their lives. Ask them what they need...right then, right there. Don’t ask a million questions right in succession, but get to the root of what you can do to be helpful.
Say, “I’m here. Whatever you need, I’m here.” Sometimes just knowing that they don’t have to figure out how to survive on their own is enough. There’s plenty of time for doctor’s visits, long, healing sessions with a counselor, and a discussion about what practical steps to take next. But, more than likely, during a crisis, they don’t need a run down of their next assignment. They need your presence.
Walking with someone who doesn’t know how to function is tough. I won’t sugarcoat it. They can frustrate and annoy you...especially if you have no way to empathize with their pain. Add on top of those frustrations the fact that many times they won’t do what’s needed to get better, and it can be a recipe for disaster. No one is perfect. But, may I remind you, when I say no one is perfect...neither are you. You have shortcomings in your life that you aren’t tackling. And yet you would enjoy having empathy from another when you hit roadblocks.
I believe it’s important to remember that people who have depression or anxiety want to get well, and often don’t know how to make that happen. They go through ebbs and flows of commanding emotions which try to dictate their reality. They might have extreme mountains and valleys within one week’s time and deal with incredibly frustrating voices in their heads telling them they can’t do it. They aren’t able to ever be normal again. It doesn’t matter that no one is normal. It doesn’t matter that the person sitting beside them walks through other types of pain and suffering. All they see is that they can’t even get out of bed or walk out the door without a reminder that they aren’t enough.
Tell them you are there for them. Mean it. Do what’s needed to remind them they can do harder things than they thought they could. Hold their hand and walk out the door. Rub their back. Draw their bath and light their candles. Make some hot tea. Entertain the kids with a quiet game in a separate room.
Whatever you do, don’t just pat them on the shoulder with a patronizing smile and say, “You will be fine.”
2. ANXIETY ISN'T REAL. IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Well, yeah. That’s the problem. There is something wrong in their head, namely their brain, and their nervous system, and possibly their entire body. But, saying it isn’t real is like telling a diabetic that the coma they just entered into isn’t real. Even though the diabetic’s pancreas isn’t producing insulin to keep them from entering that coma, you could tell them that their coma is imagined. Because that would be so helpful and wise. I would advise you to not say something so unsubstantiated. Anxiety is just as real as Diabetes. It’s not made up. It’s not pretend. It’s not people being over dramatic.
I realize that mental health challenges are multi-faceted. There are times when people could be doing more to get well. There are so many resources out there to help people live their best life...literally. However, to act like the actual disease process of depression isn’t real is just ignorant at best. Do you suppose brain scans and years of scientific research are just fabricated out of thin air? Do you really think that hundreds of thousands of people are making up a problem so they can “get out of things?”
Oh, I wish I could tell you how it feels...I mean how it really feels to be going out of your mind with an anxiety attack and the next moment read a post on social media which declares you are imagining your panic. It’s not real, it’s all in your head. You should be able to just buckle down and figure it out.
I’m all for hard work and self improvement, believe me. I would love to be able to snap my fingers and declare, “I am well! It’s not real! This depression is a figment of my imagination!” Wouldn’t that be lovely.
Yes, it would be lovely. Just as it would be wonderful to snap your fingers and get rid of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, sciatic nerve problems. What needs to happen for those diseases to be healed? Sometimes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, heart medications, exercise, change of diet, insulin, chiropractic care. The list goes on.
In each of the aforementioned diseases, a prescription of some time is warranted and will only work if the patient agrees to do what’s required. Even then, sometimes the cancer returns, the heart stops beating, the insulin isn’t enough, the sciatic nerve pain comes back with a vengeance.
We are human beings with fragile and finite bodies that don’t work correctly. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, it’s not ideal. But, let’s stop pretending that one type of health challenge is legitimate and the other isn’t.
Can you imagine if two friends sat down for a drink and a pastry at a coffee shop. They haven’t seen each other for a while and they are there to catch up with one another. After the obligatory hello and small talk, they finally get down to the fine details of their lives. “I just found out I have a cancerous mass in my brain,” one says to the other. The person sitting across the table looks quizzically at the cancer patient and shakes their head. “You know, that’s not real. It’s all in your head,” she says, giving a look of shame for emphasis. “If you would just snap out of it and shake it off, it wouldn’t even bother you anymore.”
Yeah, you can’t imagine that, and it’s a very good thing you can’t, my friend. That conversation has no business taking place. And neither does a conversation like that around the topic of mental health. We’ve got to stop saying ignorant things that contribute nothing to the world but condemnation and shame.
People who are anxious or depressed already feel behind, cast down, embarrassed, and afraid of what people think. The last thing they need is someone talking to them directly or behind their back about how they are imagining all of it.
So what do they need?
They need you to do a little research and find out what so many know to be the truth. Depression and anxiety are as real as any other disease process. The brain doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. The body doesn’t always run perfectly. Things misfire and levels go wacky and cells don’t behave the way they were created to. Just as the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the body doesn’t always produce enough serotonin.
Now, I admit this is a superficial and over simplified explanation. There are so many things we could say on this topic. People don’t have to be as sick as they are. There are many times that people get lazy and don’t do what’s required to get better. I get that. Or, they try to get better and the cancer or heart disease leads them to their death. It’s a hard reality of life. Even the best patients, following the best advice, doing all the right things, face a repeat diagnosis. In the same way, imagining that people with mental health problems should be able to magically make their problems go away is simply wrong.
So the next time you hear someone discuss a person with anxiety or depression and say those ignorant words, “It’s all in their head,” kindly respond with, “I know, I feel so bad for them. Their brain isn’t functioning the way it should and that has to be so hard for them to keep going every day. Why don’t we see if they need anything?” That’s a much better way to look at the situation.
3. IF YOU WOULD EXERCISE AND CHANGE YOUR DIET, YOUR ANXIETY/DEPRESSION WOULD GO AWAY
How many of you have been on the receiving end of a message from a person you barely know, telling you about the latest supplement guaranteed to make all your dreams come true? It happens quite often to me. I don’t know if it’s because people know I struggle with anxiety or if it’s because I have a few pounds to lose, but I seem to be the target of their helpfulness more often than not.
Healthy eating and exercise are essential for everyone. Does everyone live that way? No.
If we all ate perfectly every single day and exercised faithfully from the time we were born, we wouldn’t get sick or die, would we?
Wait...maybe we would. Maybe we would still get diseases and have problems and die, actually. Do health freaks not get sick? Do supplement pushers never face cancer diagnosis’? Do marathon runners never die from heart attacks?
We all know the answers to those questions. Even the healthiest people face health challenges. I remember when someone suggested that I change my diet to help with my anxiety. I figured they might know something I didn’t. So I tried it...for a very long time. Did my anxiety go away? I’m afraid not. And, I’m not the only one who has had similar results. I’ve known several people with mental health problems who have tried special diets, exercise plans and supplements to try and erase their anxiety and depression, and while it may have lessened the severity of it, the tendency to mental breakdowns was still very much alive.
I wish there was a magic pill, a perfect diet plan, a life-changing exercise routine that would erase the effects of mental health problems. I don’t think it exists. That’s not to say those things aren’t helpful...indeed they are! When people lessen their sugar intake, it makes a huge difference not only on the way their body functions, but on their mood as well. Irritability lessens, the mind thinks better and productivity increases. When people exercise, the uptake of serotonin increases, which makes the whole world look better. And there are deficiencies in our bodies that are often remedied by a supplement. All of these methods should be adopted for anyone, and most definitely for those of us who struggle with mood disorders.
However, acting as if those methods will cure someone’s depression or anxiety is foolish and unhelpful. It is actually quite discouraging. In the mind of the person dealing with anxiety, they begin to blame themselves for their problems without any proof of that. They just begin to assume that they must be doing something wrong.
My advice to the advice givers? Don’t make it sound like whatever you’re selling is going to answer every problem they’ve ever had. It won’t. Human beings haven’t found the fountain of youth, and they will continue to search for it until the end of time.
4. ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION ARE SINFUL
If clinical anxiety and depression are sinful, then so are ulcers and asthma.
I often wonder where people get their definition of sin. If you aren’t a Christian and you are reading this, please indulge me for a moment, or skip over this part altogether. One of the most unhelpful myths about anxiety and depression disorders is that they are a sin you can be delivered from.
Now, to be fair, the Bible does say “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phillippians 4:6-7 ESV). If the Bible tells us not to be anxious, and we are anxious anyway, doesn’t that mean we are sinning?
Well, first of all, that verse is specifically dealing with not obsessing over our problems, but instead remembering to give our cares to God and allowing Him to take care of them. There is a peace that comes from giving our cares over to the One who can ultimately fix what needs fixing.
I personally believe that the sinful part comes in to play when we worry needlessly over things that we know better about. We know we should stop obsessing about how everything is going to turn out and yet we continue to stew in it. If God convicts us of that and we ignore His kind reprimand, then we might be entering into the sin zone (did I just make up a phrase?)
Let’s be honest about something though. We know that Jesus lived on this earth as a human, without sin. Jesus also had intense anxiety in the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion on the cross. He had such intense anxiety that the Bible says He “sweat drops of blood.” That’s some intense fear! We can all acknowledge that Christ was without sin, and yet we can all acknowledge that Christ dealt with human anxiety.
There are times when the feeling of dread someone is dealing with is simply physical. We don’t need to over spiritualize their issues and say they just need to give it to God. Of course they need to give it to God, much like you need to give things you are dealing with to God. We all would live better lives if we operated from a place of perfection where we always surrendered every negative emotion to God.
For people with mental health challenges, the sin is not in having the disease, the sin is when it controls every aspect of their lives. After they have done all they can, surrendered all they can, they have to accept that they will need to once again get out of bed in the morning and give their worries to God.
Referring to anxiety and depression as sin does nothing to help your friends who suffer. It alienates them and makes their struggle even more disheartening. If you are in a relationship with someone who deals with this, remember to address specific issues as sin, not their mental health status. (And only if you are in a discipleship or mentoring relationship with them...otherwise, it’s just weird).
5. EVERYONE HAS PTSD THESE DAYS. THEY ARE MAKING IT UP.
Oh that’s right...because there’s nothing that makes you more popular than struggling with trauma. It’s a real conversation starter and makes life special.
It makes no sense that people would make that up. There are only a very few people that would find that entertaining. The truth is, most of us have grown up with misconceptions regarding trauma. We imagine trauma to be what soldiers or policemen deal with. We nod our heads in sympathy when we hear someone’s story about their experience with PTSD...unless we think that person doesn’t deserve to be pitied. If their traumatic experience doesn’t strike us as difficult enough, then we are tempted to label them as dramatic.
Here’s the truth about trauma. Trauma is anything unexpected that your body/mind doesn’t know how to handle. The degrees of trauma vary, but what doesn’t change is that it does affect your body and mind. I understand that some people appear able to handle the unexpected better than others, but they even the most stoic have to process what has happened to them. What is unfortunate is that a lot of people don’t understand what even “minor” traumatic events are doing to them until it’s too late. A mental health crisis happens and suddenly they find themselves in a Counselor’s office trying to figure out why the world is upside down.
In my case, I was able to eventually look back over my life and see several traumatic events in my childhood differently. Alone, they were difficult. But, because I never processed them correctly, they piled on top of each other and buried latent fear and anxiety deep within my conscience. I didn’t know I had a problem because I had always figured out a way to deal with what was creeping at the door.
When changes in my life upset my equilibrium, I couldn’t keep it down any longer, and I began having serious symptoms of anxiety, but not just any type of panic, the type that most often accompanies PTSD.
My counselor began to see that I was dealing with more than just a “little bit of anxiety,” and that we needed to get to the root of the problem. Through extensive counseling and therapy, I was able to address the trigger than lived deep inside my brain. It was as if my brain needed to be healed and rewired.
I still have to prioritize my mental health and see a professional counselor regularly. I’m so much better at dealing with the unexpected, but I do still struggle with it.
I find it ironic that people can’t be understanding to the way people deal with traumatic events differently than them. I’ve heard it all, I think. People witness someone being overdramatic (in their mind) and can’t understand what would make them think they could be dealing with PTSD. They might point to people in other countries who go through horrific experiences and are seemingly fine. But, do you realize that our definitions of “fine” are extremely subjective? We don’t know what people who are seemingly fine might go through day after day, night after night. Perhaps those of us in the western world are more pampered and struggle with difficulty adjusting when things go wrong. But, maybe that’s just a myth.
The point is, it’s none of your business whether someone deserves to have PTSD or not. Professionals who study this field for a living are finding out fascinating discoveries about the brain. We know more about how it responds to trauma. We better understand appropriate ways to heal the effects of the trauma.
It doesn’t help people who deal with the ramifications of traumatic events to hear that they should be able to better handle what happened to them. It doesn’t help at all.
6. IF YOU IGNORE IT AND JUST KEEP GOING, IT WILL GO AWAY
Think about that statement.
Really think about it.
Does it translate to anything else in your life? Would that make sense if we were talking about literally anything else we were dealing with?
If you are a runner and have a broken ankle, and continue to run...to keep going, will that broken ankle stop being broken? No, of course not. You would need to see a Doctor, have him set it and then submit yourself to the healing process. You would run again, but you would have to take some time off to heal. You couldn't ignore it and imagine it would suddenly disappear.
Have you ever had a different kind of situation in your life that you just kept ignoring, thinking after some time, surely it would disappear? Maybe you are dealing with deep seated anger of what someone in your past did or said to you. You've pushed it down over and over again thinking that eventually it would disappear. And yet, something reminds you of it, and you feel those familiar responses creeping back up. Things don't just disappear because we ignore them.
Some of us are more inclined to that kind of coping mechanism and others deal with things as they come. No matter what our tendency is, I understand the inclination to put our emotional health on the back burner. Self care is commonly the first thing to go. We think we need to hit our deadlines, or on the flipside, continue in our lazy, bad habits. I get it. It’s not easy to face the fact that we aren’t doing very well. It’s also easier to place convenience over healing. Diving into our emotional issues is difficult and typically a longer path than we think we have time for.
In my case, I had to let inconvenience have it's place in my life so I could take the time to heal. I needed to spend the money for counseling. I needed to carve out time in my schedule. I needed to take medication when I couldn't leave my house to drive anywhere. I couldn't pretend like my mental health would just magically improve. I had to do something.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression and think you can ignore it...you can't.
If someone you love is struggling, don't tell them to distract themself until it goes away. It won't work. It will come back. It won't be quiet until it's dealt with. Help them deal with it.
7. IF YOU HAD ENOUGH FAITH, YOU WOULDN'T FEAR
I think a lot about heroes. The people we look up to in life...in history. As a Christ follower, I think often about the people mentioned in the Scriptures. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Ruth, Esther, Joshua, Joseph. The list could go on and on, but you get the point. When it comes to fear, we don’t put those people in the fearful category, and yet they had moments of anxiety. Sometimes we read about it implicitly, and other times we infer those emotions from a place behind the text. Even though Joseph seems like this great leader who had anointed abilities, I’m sure he was terrified when he was sold as a slave, when he was thrown into prison, and when he was brought before Pharaoh.
When Abraham left his people to head into unknown territory, you have to know he was afraid. And yet, he is known as a man of great, great faith. Fear does not infer a lack of faith. It’s what we do with our fear that matters. Because he chose to do great things while afraid, we don't think of Abraham as a man of fear...rather we know him as a man of faith, who, understandably, had moments of fear.
In the case of anxiety, it can be tricky because it seems as though Jesus is inviting us into a place where we don’t have to struggle with fear because He asks us to give up our control. He invites us to lay our cares at His feet. He says His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He has plans to give us a future and a hope. We know all the ways we are supposed to think about our struggles, about our lives. And yet, while we are on this planet, we will continue to fear, in spite of our faith.
Don't buy into the lie that you are discounted from the title "Christ follower" or "man/woman of faith" because you struggle with anxiety and/or depression.
I'd like to encourage you to try this. Next time your heart is full of fear, and your mind is determined to act like a human, pray like the psalmist, David,
“Hear my cry, O God; from the ends of the earth I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you are a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy…” Psalm 61:1-3
There’s a whole lot of noise in the world today. That’s part of the reason I haven’t been writing very much recently. I can’t stand the thought of adding to an already overwhelming amount of information. People can’t digest all that is at their fingertips. It’s too much.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that sometimes a message starts burning within me until I just have to sit down and get it out. When I can’t shake it, I know it’s time to say it. So, here I am, adding to the noise and hoping that it’s worth someone’s precious time. Maybe someone needs to hear it right now!
Purpose is of utmost importance to me. If something doesn’t have a purpose, I have a very difficult time getting on the bandwagon of whatever it may be. You can ask the women’s ministry team I led for several years… I was annoyingly hypervigilant against “fluff,” as I called it. I had to learn to take a chill pill and realize that a little superficial fun never hurt anyone, in fact it can be downright therapeutic.
But for the majority of my life, I want to be found participating in things that matter for years beyond the doing. I am enamored by the idea of changing realities that haven’t even happened yet. I have witnessed how purposeful sacrifices can lead to generational modifications. I am inspired by the revolution that happens when one person takes a stand and says “no more.”
There are a lot of ways in which a person can say “no more.” We are all faced with little choices every day which will lead to one outcome or another. We know this instinctively, we just don’t always take the time to analyze this practice.
Most of us know what we should be doing. An overweight person is typically aware that they should lessen their food intake. The diabetic knows they should probably pass on the chocolate cake. The smoker is aware that each drag of the cigarette is leading to a potential death. The alcoholic doesn’t drink because he thinks it’s a good idea. Deep down they know they should say no. The chronically negative person hates that they cannot find the good in anything and yet feels powerless to change. The parent that resorts to screaming instead of balanced reason with their children doesn’t feel better when they go over the edge.
What are we to do? Here’s a start:
- Decide you are going to make the change.
- Start small.
- Get back up and try again if you fail.
- Keep trying, even when it gets hard.
These are all steps we’ve heard before. Maybe we’ve even tried them before.
I want to talk to those of you who have talked about making better choices and continually find yourself slipping right back into the behavior. I consider myself something of an expert on the subject, because I’ve had the experience of consistently failing at something.
Thankfully, I’ve come to understand that there are lasting ways to make changes in our lives. I know that growth and change are possible. It doesn’t mean perfection is ever reached; I don’t believe that perfection exists...in anyone. Do you hear what I’m saying? If someone tries to sell you some kind of fake perfectionism, run away. More than likely, they aren’t being honest about something in their life.
I do believe with all my heart, however, that real, lasting change is absolutely possible. When I was tempted to quit counseling because it was too expensive or too painful, I didn’t because I was amazed at how much it was contributing to the change I saw in my circumstances. I processed memories and perspectives that needed to be discussed, received tools to help heal my mind, and started using those tools in order to create a new normal.
Once you discover that something needs changed, the only responsible thing to do is to work towards changing it! Now that you know...it’s time to grow. We were designed to learn new things every day. We are stunning creations who have the capacity to reset and form new identities. We don’t have to stay stuck.
If you struggle with a toxic thought life, start today at changing those thought patterns (speaking to the choir on this one… this tendency is huge in my life). You don’t have to believe every negative thought that happens to saunter through your brain. Make it stop. And if you find yourself unable to, get some professional help. Don’t take it. Boss your brain around and tell it what to do. Change the conversation happening in your head.
If you find yourself continually going back to the same type of toxic friendships, make a conscious effort to separate yourself from the negative relationships you have created with them. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s necessary. Sometimes it takes an honest conversation with a friend. Maybe they aren’t so bad that you need to make a separation. But, perhaps you need to discuss some of the negative patterns you know are present in the relationship.
Maybe you know you should discontinue a habit. It’s something that is only mildly destructive now, but you have a sick feeling in your gut that it could be the death of you if it got out of control. Why wait until you have damaged health, a crumbling marriage or a crisis of some kind before you make the change you know is vital right now?
Decide to change.
Get back up and try again if you fail.
Keep trying, even when it gets hard.
I want to challenge you (and myself) to think about the possible ramifications of just one choice. What could change in your family if you stopped toxic thinking? What patterns could you put to an end if you chose to think before you spoke? How might you inspire the generations coming up behind you if you were to put an end to unhealthy habits? What might your decision change for those who are watching?
I get it. It’s not often that we think about our great-grandchildren while we are going through a typical day. But, maybe it’s time to start thinking toward the future. What can we change today that will have a lasting impact on our family tomorrow?
If it feels overwhelming, break it down in bite-sized chunks.
Smoke one less cigarette today. Use one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee instead of two. Take two bites of dessert instead of ten. Replace “I’m so ugly” when you look in the mirror with “I am thankful I have eyes to see,” or with a compliment you know to be true about yourself. Count to ten before you respond to your kids with the typical red faced retort. Ask for help. Breathe. Have grace for yourself. And, start small.
Over time, add more to your small goals. Do more as you can do more. Don’t give up!
The important thing is that we recognize when something is a potential long-term problem and we begin the process of correcting it in our lives.
It’s good for us.
It’s good for those who are watching us.
What is it in your life that you know needs to change?
I’m cheering for you. I know it’s tough to look at those areas we know are holding us back.
But, let me lovingly tell you, now that you know...it’s time to grow.
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash
Finding Brave | Book signing
We had such a wonderful time at the very first "Finding Brave" book signing the other evening!
My friend Debbie was able to capture a few photos for us.
Thank you to everyone who came out to purchase the book and chat for awhile. What a great evening!
It will be okay
I’m somewhat sure I’m doing a few things wrong in my life. That is, wrong according to my own ridiculous expectations of myself.
I don't work for a high-earning company. I haven’t made the New York Times Best Seller’s list. I have dirty dishes on my kitchen counter, currently, as we speak.
I feel like a failure most days as a wife, mom and friend. I don’t call or write my Mom enough, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t sent out a Holiday card in like, five years. Oh, did I mention I’m pretty sure I’m failing as a mom?
Who makes the rules around here? Why do we feel so inadequate in today's culture? Do any of you ever want to go back to churning butter and running through fields of wildflowers with your perfectly content, technology-free children?
Much of my writing is reflective. I’m typically either thinking through a situation, or have recently come through a life lesson. This essay on life is still in process, so forgive the informal tone.
I might possibly be using you as a sounding board.
I guess I’m wondering who decides what constitutes a perfect life? Where do we get this idea that someone else’s version of living--someone’s unique existence is the one we should be copying?
Sure, there will be some overlapping. There will be people whose experiences sound very much the same. There will be statistics and data which explain preferred outcomes and point to choices which brought about that result. I get it that there are certain absolutes. That’s not what I’m thinking about here.
Current status check:
Roof over my head. (check)
Food. Clothes. Education. (check, check, check).
Technically, if those things are a part of mine and my offspring’s experience (and they are), then we have the formula for a pretty fab lifestyle. And yet, I sit here today, reflecting on all the ways I must be messing the whole thing up.
Perhaps it’s due to my fascination with perfectionism. I’m trying to give it up, honestly I am. It just creeps back into my subconscious every once in a while and begs for me to take another look at it’s many charms. If I was perfect then surely the outcomes of my life would be perfect too.
I know what I need. You need it too, if you are wandering around in “What if” land like I have been this week.
Most of the time we just need a reminder about what is truly important. We don't usually need someone telling us what we are doing wrong. Most often we need an affirming voice telling us to keep going in the areas where we are doing our best.
My husband and I had an interesting discussion this week. Every once in awhile we (and by we I mostly mean I) start worrying about whether or not our kids have all the opportunities they should have. Will they grow up in the right way, with the correct influences and will they have all the chances they could have to make it in life? I’m not sure why I’m even worried about it. But, it seems like the thing to do as a “barely millennial.” It feels like I should be very concerned about the way in which my kids are growing up.
I’m all for intentional parenting. All for it.
I’ve read a few parenting books and I think they are fabulous. We have to raise these whipper-snappers into functioning adults. It’s a big job.
But, if you need a reality check like I do, I’m going to share one with you.
It’s going to be okay.
I need to hear it and I’m guessing someone else needs to hear it too.
If you can’t afford the highly competitive, private school with all the opportunities for success, it will be okay.
If you can’t make that awesome vacation work because, well, bills, it will be okay.
If you have to eat rice and beans for the next fourteen days because the transmission went out, it will be okay.
If you can't manage putting all of your kids in extra-curricular activities, it will be okay.
If your kids decided to try out that swear word they overheard and you are still dying from embarrassment, it will be okay. (Life lesson!)
If you are loving each other and making this crazy life work to the best of your ability, it will be okay.
People who came from what seems like the back of the pack have been making it fine for years…
Thomas Edison was told he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
Michael Jordan was once rejected from his high school basketball team.
The founder of Starbucks grew up in a low-income housing complex.
Perhaps you dream of creating the perfect life with as few complexities as possible. But, could it be that the complexities are what help create courage and determination?
I’m making it my goal to do as much as I can, with what I have. And then, I’m going to choose to accept the inevitable.
I don’t want to be lazy. I don’t want to say it’s good enough when it really isn’t.
However, I do want to stop allowing my perception of the perfect life to get in the way of enjoying the beautiful blessings I have right in front of my clueless face.
Today I will choose to give my family an extra dose of loving, even if they scrunch up their face and act like they don't like it.
Today I will choose to have an attitude of gratitude, knowing that I have all I need to make successful children.
Today I will remember that nothing good comes out of comparison. Instead, l will do the best with what I've been given and forget about whether or not the person next to me is doing better or worse than me.
UPDATE: Thank you for the great response. Sign ups are now closed!
As many of you know, I have been working on a project near and dear to my heart for the past year. I've written a book and have partnered with WestBow Press to publish it. I'm so excited to report that it's almost finished!
I feel so strongly that this book could help people who were once like me. I've often wondered how differently my story would have played out if I would have had access to a story like mine. If I could have read an honest story and known that I was not alone. If I could have known that healing was possible, even if it didn't look like perfection.
My book will also help those who are supporting people with challenges. I believe it will help them be more empathetic and understanding.
I want to get the word out about this book, but I'm going to need some help to do it!
I'm looking for volunteers to be part of my launch team. We begin right away, so if you think you might be interested, please head on over there.
I can't wait to get started!
Hi! I'm Jamie.