Saying No is Uncomfortable but Necessary

I sit this morning in the coffee shop welcoming just a few more minutes of lingered time before I leave to conquer my day…. caffeinated. Today, I chose the largest size of coffee because well, it’s just that kind of day.

This morning began early with a phone call. This phone call presented me with the opportunity to be anxious or to trust. I am continuing to learn to trust.

Last night, I experienced the tug of war within myself. It is so easy to slip back into anxiety. There is something oddly comforting about anxiety because it has been a familiar companion much of my life. It is a battle within to  tell myself I am not doing anxiety, that I am surrendering it all to God to trust Him. 

When anxiety wants to strike, I remember all the times God has protected me and walked with me through this journey. I listen to music, I pray, and I breathe calmly. I cling to the belief that my God is greater than anxiety. 

Still, saying “no” to anxiety is uncomfortable. It should be freeing, but it is a struggle of retraining my mind to think and respond differently. I am making progress, but it is a journey. It is uncomfortable but necessary.

Growth is painful but exciting. One breath at a time.

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. In one of my favorite Casting Crowns songs Oh My Soul… there’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.  I find that encouraging.

God is greater than anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety, what encourages you?

A Quieted Spirit

Aww…much needed time away. I am spending my birthday weekend with my husband on a little getaway from home. I am presently enjoying this view from my window seat in our hotel. 

As I listen to the water flowing, rather rapidly due to all the recent rainfall here, I am appreciating this time to quiet my soul. I have shared with you about my struggle with fear and anxiety. Last weekend, my friend made me this beautiful photo book filled with Scripture to calm my anxious thoughts. On the cover, was this verse Zephaniah 3:17….the Lord will quiet you with His love.

My mind is often not quiet. I attended a marriage retreat with my husband a few months ago where the speaker talked about a female’s mind running as though there are multiple apps going at the same time. Yup, that’s me. There is the work app, the fear app, the things I need to do for my kids app, the did a tornado hit this house while I was at work app, my dog needs more insulin from the vet app, did I really forget toilet paper from the grocery store app…you get the picture. My mind is seldom calm.

The past several months, my mind has been and continues to be opened to truths about myself. Things like worry, fear, and anxiety…I am beginning to understand where they come from and the depth of their control in my life. God is placing people in my life and situations to allow me to work through these. Thankfully, He is a patient and loving Father. 

I believe that once you open your heart to God and are willing to be vulnerable to Him, He will work in your life. Growth takes time and involves your willingness to be vulnerable, transparent, and open to what He is trying to say to you through situations and others.

As a co-worker apologized to me this week for something, she said this… truly being sorry requires a change in behavior. I am going to change my behavior.  Such truth rests in her words. A change in behavior also includes a change in thinking.

When I feel my mind begin to race with the “what ifs” and the “should haves,” then I need to quiet my mind.

One way I am trying to change my thinking is this….growth is not painful but rather exciting. Growth over time increases our faith and brings us one step closer to who we desire to be as disciples of Christ. Instead of me working so hard to change me, I am realizing I need to pray, listen, and trust God for His guidance in this…one step at a time, one thought at a time. I am learning to believe a quieted mind despite life’s craziness is possible. 

What Scriptures help quiet your mind?

Bridges

I like crossing bridges. Usually. I have this one memory of crossing a very narrow wire bridge at a mountain area with my husband shaking the bridge. The height combined with the shaking…not my favorite moment. He realized quickly how much I hate heights and feeling unsteady!!

For the most part, though, I love bridges. When we hike, we know if we cross a bridge, something awaits us on the other side. Sometimes, it is a beautiful waterfall. Other times, it is simply crossing to the other side to continue our journey into the woods. Usually driving over bridges involves passing over a body of water.

Bridges also have symbolic meaning to me. Right now, I feel like I am experiencing a bridge in my life. I am growing spiritually, professionally, and personally. I am reflecting and evaluating what I desire from life.
Bridges are ….

  • The only way to reach the other side. Literally, if you are crossing a bridge over the ocean to an island, you must drive your car over the bridge. Figuratively, if you have a goal or dream, you must be willing to take steps of faith to cross the bridge between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Bridges are transitions in life. I am not the same person I was a year ago. Where I am right now in life is opening my eyes and heart to where I want to journey and that looks very different than what it did a year ago. 
  • Bridges are hopeful places. I am learning a lot about myself. I am stronger than I thought I was. I am learning to trust God deeper. If I can get over this bridge, no matter how long it is, I can persevere to my dreams. The crossing over the uncertain waters can be scary, but if I keep my eyes on God, I feel hopeful.

If you aren’t exactly where you had hoped to be at this point in life, maybe where you are is the bridge to where you desire to be. You may need time to stop and reflect, but don’t get stuck in disappointment. Keep moving forward.

I encourage you to read Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson. It is a 40 day prayer challenge. This book is helping me to see prayer in a renewed, powerful sense and giving me courage to pray myself forward on this bridge trusting God to lead me.
May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4 NKJV

I’m a Mess…

“I’m a mess.”

She uttered those words as though something was wrong with her. I looked at the woman standing beside me and reassured her that in someway or another, we are all a mess.

Everyone is fighting a battle of some sort.

There is a song by Citizen Way called When I’m With You….  
These are the things that I need to pray cause I can’t find peace any other way. I’m a mess underneath and I’m just too scared to show it. Everything’s not fine and I’m not okay.. 

The song goes on to say that when he is with Christ, then his real person can break through .

This song has been a huge source of comfort for me. The truth is, we are all fighting our own battles. 

The other night while playing games, my son was beating his dad and me in an intense game of Spot It. He was laughing and then said, “I need a day to feel okay and today ain’t that day.” Granted, this was in the context of losing his winning streak, but his quote has been on my mind a lot.

A lot of days, we don’t always feel okay. Whether it is worry, stress, illness, or anything that threatens to steal our joy, we certainly have a lot of reasons to not feel okay.

Thankfully, God’s love and peace and joy in our life is not dependent upon our circumstances. It takes trust to say, Okay, God, I don’t feel okay, this doesn’t feel okay, but I am going to trust You

This is where I am.. learning day by day, moment by moment, to let go of my desire to control and try to fix everything and just be okay with not being okay and trusting God instead of allowing worry and anxiety to take over in my mind.

It is a work in progress. I am a work in progress.

We are all fighting battles of some sort. We all have days when don’t feel okay. We all have days when we feel like a mess.

Trust God. Be kind to others. Listen to them for you may be the person God uses to shine some joy in his/her life. And, likewise, there are people God places in our paths to brighten our days when we don’t feel okay.

Those “Almost”Moments

Ever thought about the “almosts”in your life? I am referring to those moments where you almost didn’t do something and realized later what a huge blessing you would have missed out on if you had listened to those voices of doubt.

I wrote a few days ago about being brave. I am embracing that phrase for this year.

 I listened to Joel Osteen via my temporary free subscription to Sirius radio yesterday morning. He was talking about the favor of God. One of the things he said really resonated with me. So many have this image of God where they are afraid of God being mad at them if they mess up. I have lived with that image for a long time, but God has been revealing to me His love is just because He loves me. It’s not about my performance, my attempt at perfectionism, or anything I do. If I am living in integrity seeking to serve God, He will bless me. It’s all about taking those little steps of faith.

Blessings come in various ways. For me, it is in a friendship, a stronger marriage, moments with my son and daughter, quiet mornings, a supportive work environment, and the growing confidence to be brave.

I am growing professionally, personally, and spiritually at my job…A job I almost didn’t apply for because I thought it would be too far to drive and maybe I wasn’t qualified.

Yesterday, I received word that something I submitted for possible publication was selected… Something I almost didn’t submit because I wasn’t sure if it fit what they were looking for.

When you hear those voices of doubt, those voices that tell you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, creative enough, pretty enough, confident enough…Those voices that threaten to make you second guess your worth and your purpose…Silence them. Pray. Trust. Almost moments are telling you something. They are asking you to be brave. To trust. To believe. 

You are enough in Christ. Embrace that.

Hope for a Silent Night

I love the Christmas carol Silent  Night. I love the peaceful significant serenity of being surrounded by candlelight as those around me sing the words.
As Christmas approaches, I find myself thinking a lot of Mary  that night in the stable.  Was it a silent night? Mary trusted God and willingly surrendered herself as His servant. She believed in God’s word and promises to her. Yet, I ponder, what was going through Mary’s mind as they approached Bethlehem? She had to be exhausted. She had to be feeling pain.  Was she worried at all or completely resting in the peace of God despite her exhaustation and pain?  Did she look at Joseph trusting he would take care of her and this baby? Did the animals surrounding her in the stable sense the significance of this event, this birth of the baby? Was the smell unbearable?
We enjoy children’s Christmas plays this time of year. There is nothing cuter than seeing a young boy and young girl dressed up as Mary and Joseph surrounding a wooden manger with a baby, usually a lifelike doll, inside. These plays help children understand the meaning of Christmas. A few years ago, I played the part of Mary in a play at church. It opened my heart to wondering…wondering about Mary on that night.
We sing Christmas carols about silent night, all is calm. Childbirth is a time of great anticipation. It certainly is not a time of calmness. Then, the baby is born…coming into the world screaming…the mother snuggles the baby close and the baby’s screams hush. All becomes calm.
Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…
I reflect. I think about how so far away that sense of calm feels in my own life  which instead feels so busy and chaotic. It’s not that I am out shopping for the perfect gifts or baking dozens of cut out cookies. It’s a restlessness. It’s a longing for some stillness.
Someone nailed it yesterday in a conversation I was having at work. She expressed the modern day hype of Christmas and  all the expectations that we place on Christmas. Then, we can’t live up to those expectations. Because it’s Christmas, it just seems that much more magnified when the disappointment sets in.
This year as Christmas approaches, I want to choose to focus on expectant Hope. I believe that even though Mary didn’t understand everything going on in her world, she trusted and she hoped in God. Trust and Hope can birth a silent night despite the chaotic circumstances surrounding us. I long for stillness and peace. I long for a silent night where my expectations are in His peace and His hope.
silent-night
I will not let the world define Christmas for me. Instead, I will rest in the expectations of Christmas in His Hope and His Joy. Just as those who witnessed the star guiding them to the Christ child were overjoyed, this joy can consume our Christmas celebrations and our lives every single day.  Just as Mary placed her trust in God despite her circumstances, we can place our trust in Him.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! May your expectations of Christmas be in Him…He who is faithful.
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A melting soul…

Anxiety is a tricky thing.

A simple thought can quickly escalate into a full blown fear. The what  ifs  grow into a vast array of irrational fears and our minds believe that something horrible is on the horizon.

I spend a lot of time in the Psalms. I came across a passage in Psalm 107 in the NKJV that describes for me the power anxiety tries to have over me.

…their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. Psalm 107:26-27 

When something is melting, unless someone intervenes, it will continue to melt. An ice cube on a sidewalk on a hot August day does not stand a chance.

When I am experiencing an anxiety attack, that is how I feel…like my soul is melting. Everything feels out of control. 

What am I learning?

Most of life is out of my control. And, that’s a good thing. It takes a lot of pressure off of me and reminds me to focus on letting God be in control.

Psalm 107 is all about giving thanks. It goes on to read…

Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:28-31

I love this passage. They realize they are in trouble so they cry out to God. He listens and calms the storm. He quiets their melting soul and brings them to a place of rest and safety.

Although my circumstances may not change, I trust that when I cry out to God, He will calm and quiet my anxious, melting soul. He provides. He protects. He quiets the storms within us with His peace.

Focusing on His goodness and mercy and thanking Him for taking care of me helps me focus on who is in control. 
Four times in Psalm 107 it shares that the people cried out to the Lord in their troubles and He delivered them out of their distresses. He delivered his people and He is still in the business of delivering us from our distresses. Sometimes, not as quickly as we would like and often not in ways we anticipated, but He listens and He delivers. 

Our response should be praise… replace a melting, anxious soul with a soul spilling over in gratitude.

This advent season as we prepare for Christmas, remember that God can calm an anxious, melting soul. 

Quiet yourself before Him.