Stop the Car!

stop signAs soon as I promised to write about real help for anxiety in my next blog post, I had a panic attack because I was afraid I couldn’t deliver. I thought to myself, what on earth was I thinking??? I don’t have any answers! I have no idea what helps me, let alone what would help others, with real anxiety issues. As I’ve just let the idea simmer in my mind for the past few weeks (oops), a few thoughts have come to me. Like all thoughts worthy of being captured in writing, these elusive impressions flit through my head while I’m driving, teaching, in the shower, or in the middle of church, which leaves me anxious that I’ll forget to say something really important. You see my dilemma?

First things first. If you’re having a full-blown panic attack, and you’re driving a car, stop driving! Seriously. Just pull off the side of the road or into a parking lot and let the panic attack finish its torrent. Don’t endanger yourself, your passengers, or other drivers. The panic will eventually subside enough for you to continue your journey. I promise.

Next, if you’ve suffered from overwhelming, debilitating anxious thoughts for more than several months in a row, consult a professional. I’m pretty sure I had a panic attack while I was dialing the phone the first time I made an appointment to talk to my doctor about my anxiety. But to my great surprise, I did not die. Actually, while I had suffered from mild, generalized anxiety pretty much my entire life, I didn’t even recognize these newer, more severe symptoms as anxiety.

We’re all guilty of self-diagnosing ourselves (WebMD anyone?), but sometimes we’re just too close to the problem to know what’s wrong. And besides, most diagnoses are best left to the professionals. Just attaching a name to my feelings, however, gave me a measure of calmness that maybe I could be treated, healed, or at least helped now that I knew what it was.

If you’ve never talked to a professional about your anxiety, start thinking about it. Ask for physician referrals from friends. Pick up the phone and make an appointment. There, don’t you feel a sense of relief now? If you want to talk to someone who’s been there—and is still there to a degree—let me know.

After I got going on writing about real help for anxiety, I wrote over 1,800 words in an hour on that topic. I guess I had more ideas than I realized. So, I decided to break them up and dole them out over a few weeks.

Next up, the Christian answer. My thoughts may surprise you.

I Was Worth It

This morning during church, I heard yet another story of a guy who met a girl and gave up, on the spot, his drug addiction in order to be with her. Another guy gave up a 20-year pornography addiction–overnight–when God convicted him to do so to stay with his loving and forgiving wife. Other guys give up jobs that would take them away from home, alcohol, wild parties, bad habits, and codependent parents.

I’m thrilled for those marriages; really, I am. I rejoice with my friends whose marriages have been rescued. I pray blessings and continued peace over their families.

But I cry for myself. I’ve wondered every day for the past (nearly) two years why I wasn’t enough. Why he couldn’t/wouldn’t give up his pornography addiction. Why he had to scream and yell at me in order to relieve his stress. Why I had to feel bad so he could feel good. Why I wasn’t worth standing up for against outsiders. Why he wouldn’t ever let go of any little (let alone big) offense. Why leadership twisted into control.

In the middle of my pity party this morning, the worship team sang “Jesus Paid It All,” and I realized that I really was worth dying for. This guy named Jesus gave up his home and his life for me. Jesus made me free! I don’t have to be under anyone’s control; that’s not part of God’s plan for me. I have been rescued; it just didn’t look like I thought it would.

Stand fast therefore in liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. ~ Galatians 5:1, NKJV

 

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The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4

Death seems to be everywhere this week. I have heard of several friends of friends whose too-short time on earth came to an end recently. Does it really matter if death was expected? I don’t think so. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that you’ve said your goodbyes and that you let him/her know how you felt.

Comfort also comes in knowing that this earthly goodbye is only temporary. As believers, we can count on eternal life.

“Jesus said to her ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'” ~ John 11:25

But we who remain are left to grieve for the empty places our loved ones leave in their passing. It’s only natural to miss a parent, a friend, a family member. Tears are nothing to be ashamed of; even Jesus wept (John 11:33).

What comfort can we give those who are mourning the loss of a loved one? Cry with them. Sit with them without spouting platitudes. Give hugs–liberally. Bring coffee. And above all, let those you love know–out loud, before it’s too late.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4

And remember, this is just a season–one of many that make up the circle of life. This season of weeping and mourning shall pass. How do I know? I’ve been in my own valley of the shadow of death. I’ll share about it some other time, but just know for now that you are not alone in your grieving.

Who Do I Want To Be?

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Last night, I began my first official week alone in my new townhouse. First thought: panic! Second thought: I can do whatever I want! Third thought: Wait, what do I want?

Of course, I had to mention it on my favorite social media site, Facebook. I got quite a few supportive comments, but my friend Alice summed it up best: “You will always be mom, but this week you are YOU….now it’s time to find you.”

That got me thinking. Who am I really?

My mother’s comment was along the same lines: “Decide who you want to be and start aiming in that direction.” Ok, but who do I want to be?

A whole list of what and who I don’t want to be sprang to mind immediately, but as I started writing in my journal, a list to aim for appeared.

I want to be ~

  • strong
  • confident
  • independent
  • dependent on God
  • peaceful
  • happy
  • friendly
  • healthy
  • purposeful

The last one on the list was the hard one, though, because I’m not really sure what my purpose should be yet.

As I was talking to a friend today, I realized one thing that’s not on that list is rich or anything that has to do with money. And that’s ok! Other things in life are much more important.

So, what do y’all think? What am I missing? Am I headed in the right direction?

Why Not? The Better Question

dad's bookEver asked God why bad things happen? To you? To your loved ones? To a whole country? Me too. All the time. But sometimes I wonder if the better question would be, “Why not me?” 

God never promises us that we’ll be exempt from life’s hardships. In fact, he pretty much says the opposite. Many reasons exist, but let’s go with this for now:

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. . . . Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:11-12, 16

In our suffering, part of what God wants is for us to learn lessons about trusting him and living through pain. He also intends for us to use those lessons to help others who follow along behind us. What good is learning lessons about godliness if we keep them to ourselves?

In a country where more than half of marriages end in divorce, why should my family be exempt? I thought I did everything right, but maybe that’s not what I should be asking myself. The only thing that God has promised to me through this is that he will somehow, sometime, someway work this mess out to be a message for his glory and for my good.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18

Maybe instead of asking, “Why me?” we should instead be asking ourselves, “Why not me? How can God’s light shine through me during this time?” 

What do you think?

If you want to read more in depth about the whys of suffering and ugliness in our world, I highly recommend the book The Beauty of God for a Broken World: Reflections on the Goodness of the Bod of the Bible by Dr. John K. LaShell.

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The Power of the Journal

journal and penWords have power. Sometimes when we can’t speak the words out loud, we can still harness their power by writing them. Sometimes just reading the words of Scripture can speak their power into our souls.

Words reveal truth. My writer-daughter says she often doesn’t know what her characters will say or do until the words are already written. Me? I like to plan out every word. I start with an idea, then move to an outline, and then begin the actual drafting.

My journal, however, is a different story (pun intended!). I sit down with a cup of hot tea, my Bible, a pen, and my well-worn journal. Occasionally I know that I need to vent my feelings about a particular event or conversation, but often I just know that I need to release my bound emotions. And out come all sorts of emotions and thoughts that I didn’t even realize I had. Writing–and then reading over my own writing–enables me to process my emotions more effectively.

My journal also has the power to reveal wrong thinking patterns. When brought to light, I can pray more specifically for healing from these damaging emotions. I’m currently participating in an online Bible study utilizing a new book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, by JoAnn Fore.  JoAnn leads by example and encourages readers to release their emotions appropriately in order to find healing.

For so long, I’ve kept so many emotions and details of my life hidden because of shame and fear. I’ve been told, in fact, that it was difficult to be my friend in the past because I seemed too perfect. I wasn’t trying to be perfect; I was just trying to be liked. I was hurt by that comment, but I needed to hear it. It validates my longing for a like-minded community where I can safely, without judgment, unburden my soul to find healing.

I’m tired of being perfect. I’m ready to journey toward emotional freedom. What about you? Are you ready to join me in unbinding my emotional mess? Are you ready to release your own emotional baggage?

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Reinventing Myself

This past year has been the year from you-know-where. Yes, I know everyone goes through hard times. In fact, a friend told me a some time ago that while her hard stuff was not like my hard stuff, hard times and still hard times. If it could go wrong this past year, it did. And I’m not talking about the roach and flea infestations we’ve had in the past month. I’m talking about the REALLY. BIG. STUFF. The stuff that changes your life forever. The stuff that makes you want to bury your head in the sand. Or run away. Or both.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to process stuff best by writing about it. I’ll spare you the gory details (you’re welcome), but I hope to discover a new me. If I can help you along your journey, let me know. Just know that whatever you’re going through, I’ve probably been through it this past year, and you’re not alone!