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:
- 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:
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!
We were up late last night dealing with a crisis AND a one year old that was extremely constipated and unhappy. On top of that, I haven’t been feeling well and have the looming stress of a busy weekend weighing on me. I’ve also been a bit discouraged by the fact that a few of our holiday traditions have been canceled. And I have a cold.
So. When our alarm went off this morning, I was like NOT TODAY SATAN. Bryant whispered, “Let’s just sleep in and take the kids to school later.” Amen and Amen.
Well, I wish I was that easy going. I had to have a come to Jesus moment where I reminded myself that no one was going to get behind. No deadline was going to go unmet. I wasn’t failing. The house may not be spotless and the laundry may not be caught up and my work may not get done as fast as I want it to, but what’s most important, my and my family’s mental health, was being taken care of. The kids got extra time together. We decided to get donuts for breakfast. It felt so nice to get ready for the day without the pressure of being on time (the only day where we don’t have to worry about time constraints is Saturday…that’s it…so an extra day here and there is so nice).
When I got home, I had to remind myself that I could let certain things slide. Yes, today is the day I usually clean my bathrooms. So what if they don’t get clean? The dishes may need to pile up in the sink and there may be a few extra crumbs for my already fat dog to find. But that is okay. Because by saying no or just not now to some of those things, I’m saying yes to what’s so important: The Right Now.
The past few weeks, I’ve just been stopping throughout my day to really soak in my kids. They are growing at such a rapid pace and I know if I’m not intentional, I’m going to miss it. So I have been disciplining myself to just slow down and take them in. I’ve tried to plan a few fun things for us to do together throughout the week and weekend: Watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, reading Christmas books (see a theme haha), writing letters to great-grandparents, making ornaments, decorating. And yes, some things on my to-do list have to be readjusted so I can make time for these important moments. But what will I regret more…something on my to-do list that didn’t get done or a wasted opportunity with my kids? I think we all know the answer to that question.
I try (try being the key word) to cut off with all work (homework, ministry, housework) by the time the kids are in bed so I have several hours to unwind before I go to sleep. One of the things that helps me the most is to delete Socials in the evenings. Yes, it’s annoying cause i have to reinstall them in the morning. But I will tell you, removing the temptation to be sucked into the vortex of the social world is so refreshing. I honestly can sense a difference when I don’t. But you will need to replace that with something practical you can do to unwind: A book, a movie, music, whatever. For me right now, it’s Hallmark Christmas Movies. Here’s why getting rest at night is so important: I want to be fresh for my kids in the morning and send them off on their days in a good mood and not frustrated with them. It sets me up to be more present and productive.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is what every other blogger is saying during this season: Embrace the moment. Be present. Figure out what you can let slide. Remind yourself that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. Messy bedrooms, piles of laundry, dishes in the sink, dirty floors: They all mean you’ve made time in your day for what’s most important – people. You aren’t a failure for not getting everything done. But you will fail if you miss this season with your family. So decide now – What can go? What has to stay? And how are you going to invest in those people who are most important to you?
Sometimes I just feel like I’m owed. You know what I mean? Like everyone should see just how hard and long I’m working without any complaining (at least no “outward” complaining – but that’s good enough sometimes, right?). I am craving being noticed. Complimented. Praised. Loved. Needed. Seen. Sometimes we just pour out everything we have and if we got the kind of reactions we are working for and think we deserve, it wouldn’t be so hard. But when we don’t, it sucks.
And it sucks even more when we realize that this reveals something about our hearts: That it’s not about Jesus. It’s all about us. Me. Ugh. Smh (it took me FOREVER to figure out what that stood for -“Shaking my head” for those of you who are like me).
The holidays seem to accentuate the ugliness. We decorate, bake, buy, dress, wrap, clean, perform, entertain – we do it all. So much of it is for those we love, absolutely. But how much of it, honestly, is to prove something to ourselves, our families, our parents, our exes, our ______________?
The problem is, when people don’t appreciate all of our hard work, we tend to get resentful and bitter. I mean, not hardcore. But like passive aggressive. Oof. When God graciously lets us have “out of body” experiences and see just how badly we are treating people, we have a choice…We can continue to act like people are our pawns sent here to serve us. Or, we can practice the truth in this verse from Scripture:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”
Life was NEVER about Jesus. It was NEVER about being noticed or seen. It was ALL about GOD the FATHER and saving me. The me who would try to make life all about her – especially when things aren’t going her way. Ouch.
Jesus, help me. I don’t want to live for myself. I want YOU to live through me. Change my heart. Give me Yours. I want to love and serve others the way You love and serve me. Help me to be in the moment and to enjoy those around me by serving them.
We live in such a hurried culture. I think the Pandemic slowed us down a bit, but as the holidays approach, it is so easy to overbook and overextend. I just thought I would take a few minutes to share some practical things we do as a family to practice rest…and yes, it is a “practice”. We don’t come by rest naturally. We are constantly striving and proving, and trying. Hence our addiction to busyness and caffeine.
Disclaimer: I am not tooting my own horn here, nor are we perfect at this all of the time. It takes communication. Compromise. Tweaking. It also depends on the season of life you are in. So take a deep breath and realize your life does not need to look like my life. But your life does require rest…so here’s a few ideas:
- Bryant and I both remove social media from our phones in the evenings and on Fridays or Saturdays and anytime we are on an extended vacation. And wow. The difference that has made. You have to know yourself. And speaking for myself here, I know that I am much too nosy and too easily carry other people’s burdens that access to Facebook 24/7 just doesn’t work for me. Instagram makes me feel like I’m falling behind sometimes. Social media can consume my life. We have seriously noticed a difference in our own peaceful existences since we cut back and cut it off in the evenings. I hope this is a safe place cause I’ve also noticed I stay on budget when I cut back on Social Media (mind blown emoji here).
- We say no. A lot. We are a family of six. And we determined before we ever started having children that our marriage and our kids would be our two greatest investments. We do our best not to have any commitments in the evenings. If we have to, we limit it to two a week. Other than that, Bryant is home every evening by dinner time at the latest. We also made the commitment that I would be a stay-at-home mom. So, we have learned to live on less. And it works! Bryant keeps a tight budget where we give, save, and live off of the rest and I am so appreciative (and yes, believe it or not, a budget does contribute to rest)!!! Bryant and I do make time for friends, but we probably wouldn’t be considered social butterflies. We realize this season with our kids is one of the most crucial and so our social lives are mainly consumed with our family and a few close friends. That hasn’t always been the most popular decision, but it has paid off for our marriage and our family.
- We have designated “Rest Days”. Bryant decided a few years ago to start taking Friday off. He feels much more alive and relaxed come Friday than he did taking Monday off. So Friday we just hang. I turn my phone off. Bryant puts his on silent and keeps it in the bedroom the majority of the day. And it is awesome! I am going to tell you, for us, in the beginning, taking a day off was sometimes hard work and a major trust issue. But we know that God mandated this and we have so experienced the benefits of it that we make rest an HUGE priority. And now, it’s second nature! We know that God calls us to work hard and to do our best. Then He comes in and fills the gaps as we rest. It’s awesome! Our family, church, and personal lives benefit and are the proof of what God does when we follow in obedience to this command to rest. It is a chance for us to declare our dependence on God and to remind ourselves that He is ultimately in charge and responsible for whatever He has called us to. It is our way to surrender.\
- We go away together, just the two of us, at least four times a year. This practice has been INCREDIBLE for our marriage! It takes budgeting, saving, and planning. But it is one hundred percent worth it. I hear so many couples bemoan the fact that they have lost themselves and don’t even feel like they friends anymore. That’s because you can get so distracted with kids and busyness that you forget who you were before all of it. We make sure when we go away, we stay away long enough to unwind, have fun, and then miss the kids…so usually 4-5 days. The more often you go, the less amount of time you need to be away. But this has been so fun and healthy for us! We also try to have regular date nights. And if we don’t get out, we spend every evening together just relaxing after the kids go to bed. It is delightful!!! The kids go to bed early so that we can have to unwind and rest.
- Bryant has already scheduled time off for this year. He does this in advance so it happens on purpose and doesn’t get overlooked. He also makes sure he communicates with his assistants his openings for the week. He doesn’t counsel everyone (notice I didn’t say anyone). He doesn’t answer every phone call, text and email he gets at night after he gets home. In fact, he doesn’t even get work emails to his phone. He guards his days off. And that is why he is such a good husband, father, and Pastor. He is not a frazzled, drained mess. He is rested both physically and spiritually so he can care for the family and Church God has entrusted him with. And I know a couple thousand people who are extremely grateful. Something he does do that I just think is awesome is after he preaches on Sunday, he hangs in the worship center so he can meet and talk with people. He also sits in the back during worship before he preaches. I have seen so many grown men walk past him and give him the biggest bear hug ever.
- We make time to get spiritually refreshed. We both spend time reading and try to keep each other accountable with that. We also love attending conferences together and sharing podcasts. Yes, we are nerds. But we realize the importance of staying above the waters spiritually. And so we make that a priority. For me personally, it’s tricky finding the time and the energy, if I’m being honest. But I know my soul craves time with Jesus so whether that’s a prayer time while I’m running or a quick chapter read before bed, I am working on making this a priority.
- We limit our schedules. I am a wife and a mom. Whatever time I have left, I schedule wisely remembering my best has to go to my family. I have said no to other engagements, outings, and hobbies (I mean, that’s extreme – I workout, I write…I just mean I’m not out painting the town). It’s not always easy, but I know it’s best. And I know it’s just a season. I remember that my kids are my greatest contributions to Eternity. I realize that by caring for my husband and making home a safe place, I energize him to reach others with the Gospel. And that is enough for me.
So, those are just a few things. I could add more to the list: Like we both have certain routines at night to help us unplug and unwind, we make everyday errands an adventure, and we constantly try to stay thankful. But the biggest thing I think you need to come away with is this is a lifestyle that will enable you to worship God more consistently and effectively. By saying yes to the right things and no to the excess things, you are actually going to further your influence. So take some time to figure out what your priorities are. If you are a parent, remember your kids are watching. Their lives are being shaped by the decisions you are making. That’s sobering.
Remember, Rest is a trust issue. Are you brave enough to do something about it?
When we were working on this website, I told the designers that I wanted to make sure that this was not only a safe place for women, but also for men.
Did you know that according to Psychology Today, 75% of suicide victims are men? A man will kill himself every 20 minutes. Did you also know that men abuse substances at a rate of 3 to 1? These facts are incredibly personal to me because my brother was addicted to pain pills and committed suicide. He was often times too embarrassed to get the help he needed and then too angry to hear the help he was offered. I wonder how many of you are in that same boat?
I’ve had several conversations with men in the past few weeks regarding mental health. Each of these guys is hurting, but feels helpless and alone for various reasons:
- They are afraid to be vulnerable.
- Society tells them they can’t be weak.
- Culture says they have to be the main breadwinners.
- Mental health is an emotional issue and men aren’t emotional.
- Men can compartmentalize so they don’t struggle with anxiety and depression.
- They can’t keep leaning on their spouses or they will leave.
The harrowing fact of the matter is each of the above reasons are contributing factors as to why men are not seeking and/or getting help. They are suffering in silence. Mental Health has been stigmatized for so long – and woman started to break through the stigma – but I feel like we’ve left the men high and dry.
Men, I am writing this to you. I think the first step in you getting help is “Acceptance“. Society and culture have taught that you are responsible to fix everything while still remaining in control of all of your emotions. Emotional men are weak. Unstable. Insecure. Unable to lead. We’ve told you to stuff all of your feelings deep inside and refused you the time and space to process. Then we wonder why you withdraw, check out, leave, drink, get addicted, have affairs, get angry.
I know some of you are suffering. You are hurting so badly and you are so confused. Why would a good God allow this? Why can’t He fix it? Why can’t you fix it? Have you done enough to try? Is there something else to try? Some of you feel so numb, you aren’t even sure you believe in God anymore. You are angry at yourself and that anger is getting taken out on everyone close to you. You don’t know how to talk to your loved ones about any of this because you feel like all you’ve done is take advantage of them. You wonder how much longer they will put up with you.
Acceptance. You are broken. There is not a blasted thing you can do about it. We are all broken: We live in a broken world. We won’t be fixed this side of Heaven. Jesus never promised that…so you thinking you will pray, read, attend or work this away is just not true. God is not withholding healing from you because He doesn’t think you deserve it. He believes you deserve LIFE, that’s why He sent His Son to die on the cross for your brokenness, so you could have Jesus’s life! But you have to stop fighting against your brokenness and learn to lean into it. Lean into your weakness. Don’t you remember what Paul said in the Scriptures? When he was at his weakest, he was at his strongest. How can that be? Because there is freedom in letting down the façade. You spend so much energy fighting your brokenness, hiding your brokenness, ignoring your brokenness. When you finally accept your brokenness, you can begin to use your energy to get healthy…to process the past, to understand the present and to anticipate the future. You can begin to discover your triggers and what landmines to avoid with your friends, spouses, and families. You can begin to fight against the generational baggage and offer your marriage and your children something that was never offered to you: Forgiveness, Grace, Freedom.
You know you aren’t the only man battling mental illness. Statistics say thousands upon thousands of men are suffering in silence. What if we came around you and supported you and cheered you on as you began to accept your past and who you are today and then you fight for the health of your future? What if you stopped living as a victim to your past and started pursuing the health of your future?
What does this look like?
- It looks like reaching out.
- It looks like communicating.
- It looks like community.
- It looks like counseling.
- It looks like vulnerability.
And I know for most of you, that doesn’t look fun. But what is your alternative? In an effort to look strong, are you going to lose your family? Your sanity? Your finances? Your job? Your friends? Your life? We are here and we are cheering you on, men! Real strength is found in admitting weakness. In owning weakness. And then in healing that weakness. So, are you ready? Let’s get after it together!
So we’ve been talking all about forgiveness (go back and read Forgiveness Part 1 if you haven’t already). Let’s dive back in and continue…
Once I claim Jesus’ death and resurrection as my only hope for Salvation, I receive Christ’s life: His past, present, future all become mine. When God sees me, He sees Jesus. I have nothing to prove to Him. I don’t have to earn His approval. I have it. That’s why Paul says in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…or Christ will be of no advantage to you.”
So how does Christ become an “advantage” for us? He frees us up! We don’t need to walk around tied up in knots by anger, bitterness, and hatred of ourselves or of others! We realize that Christ gave up His rights and laid down His life to redeem us. He nailed our offenses to His cross. And not only did He nail our offenses, He nailed the offenses of those who have hurt us to His cross. We have no right to refuse forgiveness to people God has already forgiven, whether or not they ask for it. Oof.
If I do not believe I am forgiven and loved by God, I will not be able to forgive and love other people. If I only have head knowledge of the forgiveness and grace (I know the verses) and don’t actually believe and experience them (live them), then I am just as screwed (I sat and tried to think of another way to put that, but I couldn’t. Sorry).
When I accepted Jesus as my Savior at four years old, I really didn’t grasp His forgiveness and grace. I mean, c’mon…I was four and the worst thing I had done is lie about my ruffle underwear (my mom had this thing about me wearing ruffle underwear on Sundays and I HATED it). I knew I was going to Hell and instead wanted to spend eternity with Jesus (just a word here to all of my fundamental legalists: Those who say “If someone’s main concern at his/her time of Salvation is just to escape Hell may not truly be saved”, get over yourselves and read the Bible. Jesus spoke four times more about Hell then Heaven and so obviously wanted people to realize the severity of it in hopes that they would not want to go there. It is people like you who made me terrified for years that I may not be saved when I most certainly am. Thanks). Anyways… 🙂
While I am thankful that I accepted Jesus as my Savior at a young age, I had a head knowledge of God’s grace, but not the experimental knowledge. I grew up thinking that I was “okay” because I had not committed any of the “really bad sins”. However, when I got into college and my young adult years, I began to realize that when I failed, and failed miserably, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I truly was forgiven and already had God’s favor and so didn’t need to live defeated and/or in fear. But isn’t that the Gospel? It wasn’t until that first year of marriage when I had utterly destroyed my reputation and who I thought I was completely disintegrated that I realized I had nothing to offer Jesus for His forgiveness. I could only receive it. And it’s that same forgiveness that I can extend to those who hurt me.
Chuck Swindoll says, “Truth be told, it’s God’s forgiveness of us that makes possible our forgiving others…It’s important to understand that we can never forgive others, horizontally, if not for what Christ has already done for us, vertically. Not until we fully accept and appropriate God’s infinite and complete forgiveness on our behalf can we carry out the tough assignment of forgiving others…To refuse to forgive is hypocritical. Because we have been the recipients of maximum mercy, who are we to suddenly demand justice from others? The compassion that God demonstrates on our behalf calls for us to do the same toward others. Anything less is downright hypocritical.”
This is tough stuff. Please know, I am wrestling through this stuff (let’s be honest, this crap) with you. It sucks. But, we have to get our hands dirty and “Get ‘er done!” So, let’s talk through some steps to take if we want to get down and dirty and forgive others. Once again, Swindoll gives us some guidance based on God’s Word.
- “Focus fully on God’s forgiveness of you (Psalm 103; Psalm 116).”
Swindoll says, “The extent to which you can envision God’s forgiveness of you, to that same measure you will be given the capacity to forgive others.” If I am spending all of my energy praising God and basking in the freedom of His forgiveness and grace for me, I am not going to have any time and emotion left over to be bitter. You are going to get sick and tired of me saying this, but I don’t care: You have to preach the Gospel to yourself! Forgiveness seems so unfair until you realize what God did for you through Christ was infinitely unfair.
- “Deal directly and honestly with any resentment you currently hold against anyone.” Oh no.
“That is one of the most regrettable mistakes a Christian can make. Limited forgiveness is like conditional love – a poor substitute for the genuine item. It’s no forgiveness at all.” Chuck went there. God takes my sin from me…I am not defined by it. How can I not do this for someone else or, more importantly, believe it for myself???
When you are dealing with forgiving someone else, you don’t have to think about his/her offense and then pretend like it never happened. Nope. Name his/her offense. Realize this person stole something from you. Determine what that is (a childhood, marriage, job, relationship, memory, innocence, virginity, etc). Come on…go there. Now, brace yourself: Can he/she ever pay you back fully as though it never happened? Can they ever give you a proper explanation as to why they did what they did? Can they? You have to honestly answer these questions. Why? Because it ultimately is going to help you. You hang on to the pain because you think it is going to somehow justify what happened. And, you are going to make the other person pay by withholding the relationship. Or you are afraid if you let it all go completely, the other person is going to get away with whatever he/she did. But none of those thoughts are true. You can never be paid back and that person’s suffering isn’t going to do it for you. And you have no control over consequences or what happens to that person anyways. That doesn’t mean you convince yourself that it never happened. No, it did. But you aren’t going to hold it against the person anymore and make them pay for it because they never can and it will only torment you. Do you want to live tormented? I never said this was going to be easy. Christ’s death on the cross certainly wasn’t.
Remember, forgiveness is always for you, not for the other person. Forgiveness allows us to heal and then to live in freedom. But it’s a choice to really believe that the Gospel is true and then to live it. It takes courage. So, how brave are you?
Chip Ingram says Forgiveness is made up of three parts: Forgive, Forgiving, and Forgiven.
You make the initial decision to forgive. Then every time you get angry or bitter, you forgive again and again (“forgiving” is the “momentary forgiveness” we talked about before). Then, at some point down the road, you will realize that you have forgiven…that person’s name gets brought up and you don’t experience the torment anymore. Realize though, sometimes this take years and years.
I want to say one more thing before we end this series on forgiveness: I am not speaking here to abuse victims of any kind. You will need to work through forgiveness in therapy and counseling because you will need to be wise about setting up boundaries and protection. It is absolutely possible to heal from abuse, but you will need to walk through that abuse with a community.