Afraid to Change

Afraid to Change

Full disclosure: I wrote this blog sitting in car line (the longest line you will ever sit in – where your soul dies). I came home and read it to my husband, Bryant, and then he read me his message for that week (surprise – he’s a pastor) and gosh were we so in sync. So, after you read this, I’d encourage you to listen to this podcast.

But without further ado, here is my car line blog.

We are afraid of our own brokenness.

Admitting we are broken would be to admit that we have a past that we don’t know what to do with. What do we do about all of those things we regret? All those seasons and situations and circumstances that we wish with all of our might we could go back and change – for ourselves, for our marriages, for our families, for our relationships.

We already know the answer and that’s what scares us to death: We will be able to do absolutely nothing.

We cannot change the past. We can only own the past. And gosh almighty that is so painful. Embracing the fact that there are things we could have done differently and therefore our life wouldn’t look like it does now is nothing short of daunting. This is why we tend to rewrite history. It’s the best form of self-defense. Your brain cannot face the fact that certain relationships, seasons, opportunities are lost or broken because of your choices. Living with that grief is too overwhelming. So we lie to ourselves and others, not out of spite, malice, or ill-will, but out of self-protection. Our pride becomes our saving grace and that leaves no room for God’s grace.

Here’s what I think we all too often forget…

If we don’t deal with our pasts and failures, then we will live enslaved to them. That kind of bondage looks like living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, a lack of empathy, an obsession with control, ignorance, manipulation, rejection, passive aggressiveness, arrogance, and abandonment.

That sounds like an awful way to live.

So you have a choice: You can decide not to deal with your past and remain enslaved to it…or you can go back, with the help of a therapist/counselor, and do the hard work of getting healthy.

Yes, it will be grueling at first. But you will be guided by someone who’s been trained to take you where you need to go and not to leave you there. If you choose not to do this, you will constantly sabotage the relationships that are most important to you…not to mention your own life.

Once you’ve dealt with your past, you may still have some pain, regret, and emotion around certain people, situations and circumstances. But you won’t be controlled by those triggers. You will live free and be able to embrace a healthy future with a healthy you fostering healthy relationships.

So the choice is yours. But so many people’s well-beings depends on your choice.

Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends…YOURSELF.

Jesus wants you to escape from the prison that is your past. He will guide you and He will never leave you. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. You have to do what only you can do and then trust God for what only He can do – and that’s wash grace, forgiveness, and love over your past so you don’t have to live any more of your life behind it’s bars.

So go ahead. Call that friend. Attend that community group. Make that appointment. The future you is begging the current you to take the steps you need to get healthy.

See you on the other side.️

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt.

There is nothing quite like it. Parent Guilt guts you out and weighs you down. It is the absolute worst feeling when you hurt the ones you gave life. Nothing compares to seeing the pain in their eyes and hearing the sadness in their voices. Then fear rushes in claiming the lies that you’ve forever ruined them and your relationship to them. Panic is quick to follow. The deadly cycle picks up speed, expending so much time and energy that you are even more depleted than when you started. And so who do you take it out on? The kids. And here we are: Back where we started with Parent Guilt.

When I’ve spent myself emotionally and then have to deal with needy kids (this is not negative – all kids are needy in the best ways), I lose it. I’ve got nothing left to give and yet here are four littles who need just about everything. The amount of emotion it will take to love them well feels overwhelming. And so I give into the frustration, the anger, and instead of retreating, I go looking for a fight.

When I take a step back and survey the damage, I fall apart. How could I have just treated my babies that way? What is wrong with me? Why am I such a monster?

I’m broken. That’s how. I’m depleted emotionally from distracting myself from my hurt. Nothing will drain you faster than ignoring your pain. Your trauma. The real source of your anxiety and depression. What seems the fastest way to refill is to dump all of the negative out on those closest to me and who will still need me and want me after: My kids.

But this is so counterintuitive. If we are empty, why do we think an emotional dump – will fill us? The dumping will only deplete us more.

Someone explained it this way: If you have a bucket of dirty water, instead of dumping the water out and now having an empty bucket, stick a hose at the bottom of the bucket and flush out the contaminated water with clean, fresh water.

Emptiness is lonely. It’s scary. It’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous. Instead of further emptying yourself only to discover you’ve filled your heart with more contaminated emotions, flush out the negative with the positive.

Here are the ways I go about regaining a healthy equilibrium:

Circle the wagons.

My therapist taught me this. Back in the covered wagon days, when settlers would travel across country, they would circle their wagons around their camp at night for safety. The wagons became a source of security from the outside world. If we are determined to create safe homes, then when we are in the midst of emotional turmoil we should be able to take time to withdraw from the world around us and to retreat to the people who love us the best: Our families.

That may require us to cancel, say no, rearrange, rest, turn off media, sleep, eat better, drink water, exercise, self care. The best thing we can do is to listen to our bodies – they are crying out for us to pay attention, slow down, and circle our wagons. We live in an unsafe world – we have to learn when it’s time to create some additional margin in order to feel secure again.

Communicate.

When I am struggling the most, I let my husband and children know. I get the most honest with Bryant so that he isn’t caught off guard by my reactions and responses. We make a plan as to how we will intentionally circle our wagons. Then I talk to the kids and explain that mommy is struggling and so sorry for her behavior. She is going to really work to make sure she doesn’t treat them badly.

Commit.

I commit to whatever I need to commit to get healthy. I slow down – my anxiety and pain want me to keep moving to stay distracted. I commit to hugging, holding, sitting, listening, being present. When I am present with my kids, I am grounded to the moment. It is such a relief to get my mind off the downward spiral of my anxiety and depression. And their love and attention in return is so healing to my heart. It reminds me I am safe. I am okay. It gives my soul the deep breath it has been searching for.

I do the same with my husband. Sometimes we just need to get dressed up and go out. Sometimes we need a few nights away. Sometimes we just need to sit on the couch and watch Downton Abbey. Whatever it is, we need to be together.

Our families should be a source of safety. Replenishment. Reprieve.

I find my Courage.

Some of our homes aren’t safe because we’ve never been brave enough to break the cycles. Maybe your home wasn’t safe growing up. Maybe you’ve been hurt along the way. Maybe you know something’s wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it.

It takes courage to say, “I’m not okay, but I’m ready to know why!” We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. But with knowledge comes accountability. It’s not enough to discover the problem, we have to do the work of changing. Talk is cheap and repeated apologies without any signs of growth will only drain our families. Our getting healthy proves to our families that they are worth our best selves. 

It takes counseling.

Hurt people hurt people. We know this. So if I am not actively dealing with my hurt, then I am going to hurt my family. 

I have been dealing with low-grade anxiety. It started to come to a head the past few days, and one of the tall-tale signs is I have been incredibly impatient with my kids. I am rushing through my day (so I stay distracted and don’t have to deal with the pain), and running over them emotionally. IT BREAKS MY HEART. So it’s time to reach out to my therapist, communicate, commit, get courageous, and circle those wagons.

What do you need to do TODAY to fight against the parent guilt? I’d love to hear what steps you will take to communicate to yourself that you are safe and to your families that they are special.

Seasons Change

Seasons Change

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1

Just a season. This too shall pass.

I am going to tell you, some days I cling to those seven powerful words, don’t you? Some seasons in our lives just suck. There’s no other way to put it.

  • You are struggling with grades, friends, identity, you name it – in high school. Yeah. Those four years are rough. Awful sometimes. It’s a season. Hang in there. I promise, the best is yet to come. Dig your roots down deep in your youth group. If you don’t have one, find one. Probably some of the most influential people in my life were my mentors in high school. They don’t know it, but I think of them often and remember that during that time, they were my lifelines.
  • You are 21 and still single. Seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Been there. In fact, I was 23 when I met Bryant (or 24…I can’t remember and I am terrible at simple math). When I graduated from college, I had only had one official boyfriend (a few “going steadies” in between) and most of my friends were already married with a child and number two on the way. No lie. I felt like the Apostle Paul: I had the gift of celibacy. When I moved to Florida, I was so lonely at times. I second guessed my personality, looks, you name it. And what’s funny? I was only 23. If you are in this boat, I am not patronizing you. I get it. But it’s a season. Just a season. Fill your single years with as much as you can. Start pursuing your dreams. Take a chance. I moved down to Florida from New York and took a job at a respectable school when I was only 22 and after a pretty severe breakup. I was scared to death. Best decision I made. Cause then I met Bryant…on a blind date…and the rest is history!
  • You are recently married and facing marital trouble. Been there. Our first year was no picnic. It was awful. But it was a season. We sought counselling, experienced real healing, and I’m going to be honest, I understood the ramifications of the Gospel during that season more than any other time in my life. It was the most sanctifying, healing, horrifying, exhilarating time in our lives. And our marriage is strong and healthy now as a result. A season.
  • You were diagnosed with clinical depression or some sort of personality disorder and/or anxiety disorder. Been there. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder shortly after we got married (hence some of our difficulties). That’s when I jumped head first into counselling. Yes, I was embarrassed by the label. I hated it. But it forced me – I mean absolutely demanded – into the grace, love, and unconditional forgiveness of Christ. My mental illness still beats me up at times. But it’s just a season. I know during those times to reach out to my closest friends for prayer. I speak honestly with Bryant. And I schedule a counseling appointment. Yes, even after ten years, I still see my counselor. It’s a season.
  • You have a newborn. Need I say more? Listen, it’s a season. Now he/she is a toddler. It’s a season. I so appreciate Instagram right now. You know why? I have some honest mommy friends who share their real stories of frustration, pain, exhaustion, excitement, and happiness through pictures. I don’t feel so alone. And we can be praying for each other and encouraging each other that this is just a season. One day, when we are 50 and empty-nesters, we are going to miss these days. Sometimes I don’t believe that, but I take the word of my more “seasoned” friends. Hang in there mommy and daddy. Soak in those precious moments. Laugh at the aggravating ones. It’s a season.
  • You are divorced or have faced (are facing) some sort of loss. My dear, dear brother or sister…It’s a season. Please do not think for a moment that God has abandoned you. That’s what Satan wants you to think. He wants to destroy your life and the fastest way to do that is to isolate you from your Heavenly Father who probably doesn’t seem that loving right now. This is cliché, but grasp a hold of His promises from the Word of God: His mercies are new every morning. He’s never going to leave or forsake you. He wants to give you abundant life. Find some friends who can have faith for you during this time. Hurt. Bleed. But then cling. Cling to Him. It’s just a season.
You were diagnosed with cancer. You’ve just moved for the hundredth time. You have trouble making and keeping friends. You have to pull away from a person who is doing you and your family some harm. You lost your job. You quit your job. You can’t make ends meet. You are making more than you ever have. Seasons. These are all seasons. I have friends in almost every one of these categories. Dear friends. Friends that I hate seeing hurt. Friends that feel so alone. And all I can say is that God is WITH you. He knows.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Exodus 2:25. The Israelites were experiencing brutal slavery and felt like God was no where to be found. But this verse says so eloquently:

God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood.

So I leave you with this…not a theological argument for God’s presence, not a ton of Scriptures for you to memorize, not another Bible study or list of things to do. Just this: God sees. God knows. God understands. God’s with you. It’s just a season. Hang in there dear friend.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity
under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, 
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a t time to search and a a time to give up,
at time to keep and time to throw away,
at time to tear and time to mend,
at time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a t time to war and a a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Life Sucks Sometimes

Life Sucks Sometimes

So I have been rubbing shoulders with a number of people who just feel overwhelmed and bogged down with life. Life is hard. It hurts. It’s exhausting. It’s stressful. It’s lonely. It sucks.

Bottom line: Life beats us down and wears us out. The good news is that life is broken down into seasons…some are good and some are bad. Some seasons are short and others are long. If we don’t have a remind ourselves of the Gospel every day, it’s easy to give into the lie that God doesn’t love us, is punishing us for something, or just took off

My friend, nothing could be further from the Truth. The Gospel tells us that when we were at our worst, God sent His Son Jesus to die for us (Romans 5:8). He loves us as much as He loves Jesus. That blows my mind! When God looks at us, He sees Jesus. And since He can never be upset, disappointed or just over Jesus, He will never be upset, disappointed or over you.

Just this morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians 1. Here are some of the verses:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows…[comfort] produces in you patient endurance.”

I love the line that says, “Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” We are going to face hard times. God tells you that straight up (got to appreciate His honesty, am I right?). But, He also promises His comfort. His presence. His peace.

Some of you may be thinking, “Hold the phone. I am in the middle of my own personal hell right now and I ain’t experiencing no peace.” (Disclaimer: I am sure you practice better grammar than that). Well, let me ask you this: Do you believe that God loves you…and even likes you?

That’s a simple question…with a really difficult answer for some. I was just talking with a friend who is going through a tough time right now and she was absolutely convinced God didn’t like her and was out to get her for past mistakes. Oh how that broke my heart. We will have to face the consequences for our decisions…and sometimes those aren’t pleasant. But there are also times when we are in the middle of a “crapstorm” that we didn’t create. Either way, God is WITH US and FOR US. He never leaves us, and He surrounds us with HIS GRACE and all the chances we need.

Paul says in the Scriptures:
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, Who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver usOn Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Paul (if you aren’t familiar with the Scriptures, Paul is a big deal in there) was suicidal at times! Isn’t that crazy? I mean, check out the verses above…”we despaired even of life.” Hello. He didn’t want to live because life got so bad at times. But, he gives the answer: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, Who raises the dead.”Tough, terrible, horrible times often reveal the “dead” parts in us: Those things we are still hanging on to to give us meaning, identity, and worth apart from Jesus. Those things that when we lose them, we feel like we can’t go on. The good news is God wants to raise those dead parts to life by giving us His abundant life through Jesus. We have to “set our hope” on Him (see above). We have to believe that He truly does love us more than anything and will finish the good work He’s started (Philippians 1:6). We are worth Jesus Christ to God! We have to accept Jesus as our Personal Savior (apart from anything good we can or will do) and believe that only through Jesus can we have a personal relationship with God. Then, we have to remind ourselves everyday that the same love God showed by trading in Jesus for us, He offers everyday. We just have to accept it. You may not feel it at times. But you have to choose to believe it. And when we are living grounded in God’s unfailing love for us, we can face anything knowing that God will give us what we need to face it.

God will give you more than you can handle, because He wants to handle it for you.

I love the last few verses in 2 Corinthians 1:
God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting His yes within us. By His Spirit, He has stamped us with His eternal pledge – a sure beginning of what He is destined to complete.

God affirms you…not your circumstances. He defines you. Not the difficulties you are facing now. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, God has stamped you with His “Yes!” And He promises to complete what He has started in you for your good and His glory (Romans 3:23).

Hang in there dear friend. Keep reminding yourself of the incredible love of God that He demonstrated for you when He had Jesus Christ die in your place on the cross for your sins (past, present, and future). Trust in Him, and not in your own works. Believe that He is your only hope for Heaven and that He loves you no matter what you do, what other people say, what circumstances you face, or how you feel.

Self-Medication

Self-Medication

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago…just in case you are like, “Oh hot dang…I need to send her a text or a coffee or chocolate!” I mean, you can still do that, but my yesterday-yesterday was good! My couple-weeks-ago-yesterday, not so much…

Yesterday was not a good one, ya’ll. It was a tough go. I was angry. I was yelling at ERRRRRRRone. My anxiety was through the roof. 

Today, as I was on my morning run, I realized something: I was using the three things that were stressing me the most to self-medicate. 

What does it mean to self-medicate, you ask? Self-medication is when you attempt to feel better by addressing the symptoms and not the actual issues. In other words, when you feel worthless, sad, anxious, stressed, angry, or hurt, you try to eradicate those feelings instead of uncovering why you are reacting these ways

Self medicating is lazy, temporal. You will feel better for a minute, sure. But self-medication creates an incredibly unhealthy cycle. I will use myself as an example, but you have to promise not to judge. Here are my three main stressors from the other day:

  • Money
  • Chocolate
  • Social Media/TV

You said you wouldn’t judge. I realize mine look benign. Maybe yours are pills, alcohol, pornography, sex, whatever. Our vices are our vices. If it’s keeping us from truly getting healthy, if it’s distracting us from the main issues, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s deadly. But back to me. 

I have been so obsessed with money. I’ve been obsessed because I haven’t been disciplined and living on a budget. Spending money has always given me a high…I’ve learned this over the years and specifically when I was diagnosed with Borderline (reckless spending is a symptom). So when I’m feeling down, I buy an outfit or something for the house or for the kids and I feel better…for the moment. But then I get upset because I’ve overspent on a budget category and now I’m stressed. So what do I do? You probably guessed it…Hello Amazon!

I really work hard to stay fit and healthy. Chocolate, as you know, does not keep you fit and healthy. On a hard day, I attempt to cheer myself up with something sweet. I’m an all or nothing gal. I can’t just have two or three M&Ms. I have to eat dozens, which doesn’t make me feel well physically and then that affects me mentally and emotionally. So I’m down again and so are the chocolate morsels…down my throat that is (insert hand on head emoji).

When I’m feeling hurt, ignored, or rejected, then I turn to social media, cause like, duh, this seems like a really wise idea. People there will like me. Or I’ll make them like me by producing content that they will enjoy. I fall down the rabbit hole of comparison and jealousy and I end up only feeling worse and empty. So back to shopping on Amazon with a bag of chocolates.

You see, we are all looking for love, acceptance, worth and security. But we are looking to everyone and everything other than Jesus. And this creates unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs that we are trying to heal, resolve and meet…on our own. 

Some of you know exactly what your unhealed hurts, unresolved issues and unmet needs are…but some of you have no idea because you’ve been white knuckling your life and self-medicating for so long, you don’t even see it anymore!

You may have to go back…waaaaay back…to figure out what unhealed hurt, unresolved issue and/or unmet need is making you get angry with your spouse over stupid things, or why you push your kids too hard, or why you work too much, or why you have to have everything just so, or why you are always afraid, or you have no friends, or none of your marriages have worked. You have been looking to other people for love, acceptance, worth and security – and people were never created to give you these things. Only Jesus can.

So you are self-medicating in order to cope…

Through counselling, I’ve been able to recognize my triggers and my coping strategies and I’ve been able to work to rewire my mind to think healthily and to then respond to these fight or flight situations appropriately. Did you know that anxiety and depression are basically adrenaline rushes? You sense danger and you fight or have an anxiety attack, or you take flight and hunker down in depression. 

This is why my Three C’s for Healing (corny, I know), are:

  1. Christ
  2. Community
  3. Counselling

Jesus is the only One Who can truly heal you and put your life back together. He wants to enter into the pain with you (the unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs) and He wants to offer you the love, acceptance, worth and security you need to live a WHOLE, HEALTHY life. 

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic, we open the door for others to speak into our lives and help us to see our blind spots that have the potential to derail our lives. Scripture says in Proverbs 18:1 that people who isolate themselves are not wise. Let people in…it makes life so much easier and worthwhile.

And finally, some of you just need to get into counseling so that you can get past whatever is holding your life hostage. We were created to live FULL, ABUNDANT lives. If this isn’t characterizing your life right now, then what are you waiting for? Why wouldn’t you want to do whatever it takes to be FREE and FULL?

Be on the lookout with your kids…when we don’t do the hard work of healing and getting healthy, they inherent these wonderful vices and find their own! Healing starts with us, the parents…and then it trickles down! 

So let’s do this! Let’s stop self-medicating and let’s allow Christ, community and counseling do their thing in our lives!

Christmas: Broken, Lost, Forgotten.

Christmas: Broken, Lost, Forgotten.

Broken. Lost. Forgotten. Do any of these words resonate in the deepest parts of you? Is your heart tearing in two? Have you been walking in darkness for so long, you don’t even remember what light looks and feels like? Does anyone even know the real you?

Christmas has a way of underscoring these emotions. In the midst of the lights and songs and presents and food and company, Our brokenness turns into despair. Our searching turns into desperation. Our worthlessness turns into despondency. 

Broken. Lost. Forgotten. See, it’s funny, because in two thousand years, not a whole lot has changed.

The shepherds were broken. Cue 5 They were the outcasts of the society. Because they cared for the sheep that would later be used as sacrifices for the people’s sins, the shepherds were considered the lowest of the low. How did they get here? Could they rewind time and rewrite their stories? Was it too late for them? They were Broken.

The wise men were lost. They were constantly probing the heavens for meaning. Signs. Direction. The funny thing was, they had power. They had wealth. They had it all. And yet, they couldn’t escape this nagging feeling that they were missing something. What was life all about? Why were they here? Is there more? They were Lost.

And Mary, Mary was forgotten. A fourteen year old girl, engaged to Joseph. When she couldn’t hide her pregnancy anymore, no one believed her story. Not even her betrothed. She was going to be discarded. What did she do to deserve this? Was all of this her fault? Why would God allow this? She was Forgotten. 

But their stories don’t end there.

You see, while the shepherds were sitting in their brokenness overlooking the small, quiet town of Bethlehem, a host of Angels’ light PIERCED the darkness. They were announcing the King of Heaven’s birth and the shepherds, THE SHEPHERDS, were the first to hear. Their brokenness enabled them to hear the sound of hope so loudly, they couldn’t help but go and worship. A King born in a manger? HE was Someone they could relate with. He met them right where they were and Their brokenness was overtaken by hope.

One dark night, a star shone brighter than the others. What was this celestial being? As the wise men searched for the significance of this star, they discovered a prophecy about a King Who would be born in Bethlehem. Intrigued, they set out to find this King. They weren’t incredibly sure of what or whom they would find, but they knew one thing: They were no longer lost. This star signified the fact that there was more: There was a King of Heaven Who finds us in our searching and leads us to Himself.

And as for our sweet Mary, after traveling on a donkey for days, she and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem. Once again, she feels forgotten. God couldn’t even make sure she had a safe place to deliver HIS Son? But as Jesus’s cry rang through the silent night, an eerie peace and awe overtook Mary. As she raises her weary, tear stained face, she locks eyes with random shepherds and hears the echoes of Angel choirs. Who was this child? All she knew was that She was now a part of an unforgettable story.

Jesus changed their lives. He turned brokenness into wholeness. He takes those who are lost and gives them purpose. He makes the forgotten unforgettable.

Our Immanuel. God with US.