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You Felt Alone…

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You felt alone. You were a shattered mess on the bathroom floor. The weight of the world on your shoulders and the stresses of life pinning you down. You didn’t cry out, but He was there.  He was there holding up the walls so they wouldn’t crumble down around you.

You felt alone. Head in your hands and tears seeping through your fingers to the floor. Your heart was breaking and your chest ached. You didn’t cry out, but He was there. He was there pouring His love into the brokenness and filling the cracks.

You felt alone. You were numb. Your body shook from the anxiety and fear, and the depression was holding you prisoner in your own mind. You didn’t cry out, but He was there. He was there breaking the chains, setting you free, releasing you.

You felt alone. You stumbled from all you had to carry. The sins and guilt were heavy, and your body was weak from the weight and the struggle. You didn’t cry out but He was there….He was there carrying the cross.

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Feed Your Focus

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I stood in my kitchen tonight, preparing part of tomorrow’s dinner and listening to some old time bluegrass on the radio (okay, the radio app on my phone). I felt like I should be wearing an apron and sitting down at an old yellow formica table with matching vinyl chairs. I considered how simple life used to be in a time when people had more patience, when they weren’t so easily offended and just as easily angered; a time when respect was common and arguments on social media were not.

It seems we were given a brief space in time the last few months to take ourselves back to a slower pace, back to more family dinners around the table, back to more time outdoors and to a sense of oneness with our neighbors, our family, even the entire world. It truly was just a brief space in time though, as I knew it would be. The oneness has been divided into so many directions that it makes my head spin. The more I considered this the sadder I became; sad for my daughter who is becoming a young adult in a world that doesn’t look anything like the world I grew up in.

But as I gave more thought to this, a verse came to mind…or maybe was given to me by a still small voice.

“Do not be conformed to this world…”

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be [a]transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]. Romans 12:2

The rest of Romans chapter 12 goes on to say we should be devoted to one another in love, live in harmony and peace with one another and to overcome evil with good. It also encourages us to use the gifts given to each of us. If your gift is to serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

It comes down to your focus, and your thinking and how you feed both. It is so easy to become bogged down by the opinions of others and by the state of our world in general. Fortunately, we have God as our hope and the bible as our guide. And written words that can feed our focus.

Once your heart and mind is aligned with the will of God, not only is it easier to discern right from wrong but it will  renew your mind in such a way that the goal is to encourage, not tear down, to live your life as God intended and to have a heart like Jesus. You can attain that “peace that surpasses all understanding” and this world in it’s topsy-turvy state will look like a different place, because ultimately being led and accepting of God’s will for your life not only gives you hope here in your temporary home, but for eternity.

I found so much promise in that tonight.

And as I cleaned up my kitchen, I let the negativity of this world wash down the drain with the dishwater.

 

 

 

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God Wants to Remind You

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When your heart and mind feel weighted; when your soul is weary and your body is drained, God wants to remind you that He can give you rest.

When your days feel purposeless and unfulfilled, God wants to remind you that He alone can satisfy.

When your nights are filled with worry, when you are restless and sleep just won’t come, God wants to remind you that His mercies are new each morning and each sunrise brings hope.

When the world speaks of uncertainties and the future seems vague, God wants to remind you that He constant and steadfast; He never changes or moves.

When you are scared and anxiety rules your thoughts, God wants to remind you that His perfect love casts out all fear.

When your questions seemed unanswered and nothing makes sense, God wants to remind you that He directs your path, lean on Him and not your own understanding.

When you look around and suddenly you see things working together for good; when your heart finds a moment in the day to be happy, to rest, to simply trust…then God want to remind you that…

He is here.

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It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

 

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My Mom requested a blog post today and I told her I’d have to see if I had one in me. I haven’t felt much like writing since last week because I feel like this space is for me to offer encouragement and I’m not sure I’ve been worthy of that lately.

But then I remembered the phrase so often heard in association with mental health.

“It’s okay to not be okay.”

I have cried a lot over the past week. I have cried at videos of elderly men singing to their wives outside of nursing homes. I have cried through worship songs because I have felt God’s presence and sometimes because I haven’t. I had an absolutely ugly cry over a little girl talking about Jesus’ heart bursting at the sight of how people have come together. I have cried over how much is different right now. I have cried out of fear. I have even broken down looking at the clothes in my closet and the jewelry hanging on my wall. Yes, you read that right. I haven’t had the need to wear the clothes I normally wear to work. I haven’t “dressed up” in weeks. Leggings and workout clothes are just more sensible when you are working at home and working out at home.

But I have also had good days where I’ve relaxed, laughed and joked, and just let God take over. My husband and I have worked outside clearing trees in the sunshine. Hard work does a body good. I have played basketball and baseball in my parents’ yard, and swung from a tree swing with my nephew. I’ve laughed with family, friends and co-workers through text messages. And I’ve driven the back roads listening to music, and danced in my living room.

My point here is that it’s perfectly okay (and normal) to not be okay right now. We are living during a time in history that we have never known. Obviously we aren’t going to navigate this at the same rate and same level of sanity all day, every day.

But keep a healthy balance. If you need a good cry, have a good cry. Let it all out. But don’t dwell there. Let yourself feel all the emotions and then find a way to turn it around. Maybe it’s music, or a favorite TV show. Yesterday was a a very anxious day for me so I watched bloopers of Friends last night on YouTube because I knew it would 100% make me laugh.

Also, don’t be ashamed of how you are feeling. If someone says “how are you?” then be honest. If you’re struggling, say it. Maybe that person can relate in that moment. If not, maybe they can offer encouragement.

Hang in there. We are all in the same boat. Remember that. This is hard for all of us but together we are all helping to end this. Take pride in doing your part. Simply staying at home is doing your part. Pray for those who are being exposed every day. Count your blessings. And pray.

It’s okay to not be okay, but I keep telling myself, it’s all gonna be…okay.

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Do You See It?

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I see you, families…outside in your yard playing chase, kickball, drawing on the sidewalk.

I see you, Pastors…learning new ways to reach your congregations and encourage them.

I see you, doctors and nurses…working extra long shifts, not eating, barely sleeping.

I see you, people outside hospitals…encouraging and thanking those doctors and nurses.

I see you, musicians, singers, entertainers…going live and giving your fans free shows because concerts have been cancelled.

I see you, Dads…posting videos of yourself being silly with your daughters in choreographed dances.

I see you, teachers…missing your students and still helping them any way you can from a distance.

I see you, parents…becoming home school teachers and making it work.

I see you, restaurant owners….offering delivery and curb side service so we can still
“eat out.”

I see you, truck drivers…making sure deliveries get made when a lot of odds are against you.

I see you, employees…bonding with your coworkers over teleworking and adjusting the best you can.

I see you, neighbors…checking in on each other.

I see you…you there online…making sure people in need are not going without.

I see you, friends…noticing a little more of this world God has made and the beauty of it.

I see you all slowing down. I see God coming into focus. I see hearts opening. I see blessings. I see goodness. I see it all. Do you see it?

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I Got You

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I feel like I earned my Ph.D in anxiety when I suffered through it all those years ago. Seeing everyone around me and our entire world in a heightened sense of fear makes me just want to say, “Hey, I’ve been there. It’s okay. I got you!”

I understand that my anxiety was an internal force and not the result of a global pandemic but the fear is the same, the feelings are the same and the will to trust God is still the best source of peace, but not always an easy thing to do.

Not living in fear is waking up every day with the mindset of faith. It’s stepping out in the midst of uncertainty and trusting. It’s deciding that we are going to believe what God has said.

I remember reading a quote once that said the present we live in is the line we are walking. Imagine each day that you are standing on a line. Anything to the left of the line is your past. Regret, times of sorrow, or maybe a longing for how things used to be, for happier times. Anything to the right of the line is your future. Worries about what may happen or fear of what is to come. Uncertainty.

But today, in this very moment, is where you stand in the middle of the line. It is where the past and present meet. Our goal is to stay balanced on that line, not to step left or right of it. This is a truth I had to learn to get past the worst of my anxiety. I would sit and think about how my life was before I truly knew what a mental illness was, and I’d miss that girl I used to be. I was constantly stepping left of the line. Then I’d worry about how I would get through the tomorrows to come, and if I would ever get better. I spent a whole lot of time to the right of that line. But then I realized that I only needed to take one day at a time. To stand dead center of that line and to let God show me how to balance.

So today as you look left to a time when the word “virus” wasn’t meshed into our vocabulary so often and you felt safe, or when you look right and wonder how all of this will play out and when, simply stop and ground yourself on that line. God’s word says to not be anxious for tomorrow. So decide today to believe what God has said.

I got you… and He’s got you.

 

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From Here…to There

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Me again. Two posts in a week. I have a lot in my head. It has to go somewhere and it’s usually here or in a journal. I’ve decided to share more this week than keep it to myself.

*SIGH*

Have you done as much sighing as I have lately? Ya’ll know I have anxiety issues. If you’ve followed me along this journey, then you know that’s why it began.

A couple weeks ago as the COVID-19 virus began to invade our personal space more and more, I remained relatively calm. I had no idea why. I even saw posts online about how people similar to me, with anxiety, weren’t freaking out. Maybe because we live our lives in a constant state of worst case scenarios.  I really don’t know.

Then last weekend I came down with a terrible headache. I treated it with meds and assumed it would be gone the next day. No go. It continued all through the week. I had a headache in some form every day for seven days.

When I did a few minutes of yoga this morning, I realized my body was completely tense. Every single muscle felt like a tight rubber band, especially my neck. No surprise my head was hurting so badly. I realized that I most likely hadn’t been immune to the anxiety that has come with this virus and quarantining. I think it was most likely running silently in the background, much like an app on your phone that runs and slowly drains your battery. My anxiety has been slowly draining me and affecting my body.

Tonight I came across a post by Kirk Cameron. He spoke about the fear and uncertainty we all are facing right now. If you’ve ever had an anxiety disorder, you know that uncertainty is a nasty little word. We don’t like not knowing what is going to happen. We like schedules, and set dates and times. We like to know outcomes when possible. But this situation isn’t something we can get a definitive answer on. The timeline is sketchy at best.

But as Kirk spoke, he talked about how God is using this time to reset our hearts and refocus our minds. I immediately thought about how God had used my anxiety to do the same thing for me seven years ago. I went through an uncertain time. It was completely new to me and each day was like stepping into the unknown. I had no choice at the time but to fully put my trust in God. To draw nearer to Him. To lean fully on Him and not my own understanding. In the process He reset me and helped me point my focus in His direction.

Where else can we go today but to God? Yes, there is fear and uncertainty. Joshua 1:9 says to not be afraid or dismayed for God is with us wherever we go. Put your trust there. As someone who has walked through the unknown and came out on the other side, I encourage you to let God get you from here…to there.

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Don’t Get Lost in the Dark, Be the Light

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I met Mr. Connor in the Walmart parking lot this morning. It was no mistake. I intended to go to Walmart early today, but God gave us a beautiful spring morning, with birds chirping and a sunrise that distracted me and kept me on the front porch taking pictures. I finally made it to the store, got what I needed and headed out the door through the parking lot. That’s when I saw him. This fragile looking man wearing a mask, gripping a cart with one hand, his other hand severely crippled and held close to his chest. He shuffled his feet slowly as he made his way toward the store and I knew what I needed to do.

I stopped him and asked if he would like help getting his things in the store. He seemed a bit surprised but said yes, if I didn’t mind, he’d like some help. I ran my things to the truck, unloaded them and met him at the front of the store. We made our way to the produce section for some blueberries, then on to frozen foods for some biscuits. He pointed out that he loved blueberries with sugar on them and a hot biscuit. We dropped off his medicine at the pharmacy and he said he’d like to see if there were any birdhouses for the bluebirds in his yard. We chatted along the way and it turned out that he knew my Grandpa and my Daddy’s side of the family. He kept saying I was a “real nice lady” and I reminded him these are hard times for everyone and we have to help each other when we can.

The last items he needed were in the back of the store and I got them while he waited so he wouldn’t have to walk more than necessary. I scanned his items and bagged them, then asked him if he would mind if I paid for them. He handed me his debit card and said “no, I can’t let you do that.” I told him I’d love to bless him today and pay for them. He finally accepted and we made our way to his car. I loaded his things and he just stood there looking at me when I was done. He asked then if he could give me a hug. I told him I wouldn’t want to make him sick and I hesitated, but then wondered when was the last time he may have had a hug. So I leaned in, away from his face and gave him a hug. He said I was the sweetest person he’d ever met and he appreciated me so much.

I got in my truck and cried. Because that’s what I do. I’m a crier. I don’t pretend to be a perfect person. I have many flaws and oftentimes I have selfish thoughts and become easily frustrated. But God put this man in my path today and I was able to bless him and in return be blessed myself.

We are living in unprecedented times right now. I am currently working from home, which is totally new for me. Every day something new closes, more people contract this virus and more people die. It is easy to become bored and agitated right now.

I feel unsettled at times myself, wondering what will happen in our country and our world. It feels similar to how I felt after 9/11. Unsure of what the future held and sad at how much our country had changed. But we all came together and helped each other. It was us against the enemy, not us against each other. So I remind you of the same in this situation. It is us against this pandemic, not us against each other.

Yes this is new to us all. But look around you and see what needs to be done. See who needs help and find ways to come together instead of being further divided. Look for the helpers, BE the helpers. God calls us to be His disciples. It doesn’t matter where you are, who you are or what the situation is. You may be the answer to someone’s prayer. Maybe I was the answer to Mr. Connor’s prayer today. Don’t get lost in the dark. Instead, be the light.

 

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Forever Changed

Born…

Softened clay, molded by the Potter’s hand into a perfect image.

Broken…

Hardened clay. Falling from the Potter’s hand. Jagged edges scattered on the ground.

Forever changed.

Saved…

Picked up by the Potter’s hand. Edges smoothed, fused together in red. Made perfect by grace.

Forever changed.

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Scars and Broken Hearts

I had to remind myself of this today.

Life is hard.

I’ve been to the edge of hell and back with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, been abused by someone who said he loved me, given birth to a child naturally with no drugs and wear an 8 inch scar on my side, with 18 marks from the staples that held it together. I’ve been a single Mom, fought with the devil, and had my heart broken more times than a girl should.

I’ve cried a lot of tears. Felt defeated. Felt insecure. Felt worthless, broken and alone. And felt “not good enough”.

But I’ve survived all that and lived to tell about it. Sometimes stubbornly doing it alone and sometimes finally giving God control.

None of these things, or the residual effects of these things, are battles that are won and then forgotten. They are day to day struggles.

But they don’t have to control you. Let your weakness grow your strength. Let the hard times give you a lesson.

Never doubt your fierceness.

Never doubt God’s power.

And never, ever give up.

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Messy Heart

 

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I logged on here to comment on a post from one of my favorite bloggers…Hi Bill!

And then I noticed that the button at the top that says “write”, was staring at me. Like a little hand up there, waving. “hey, remember me?”

No I haven’t been here for a little while and I definitely don’t post as often as I used to. Maybe you miss me, maybe you don’t but either way I felt like I needed to fill this space. I’ve had a thought rolling around in my mind for a few months and even planned to make this subject my topic at our women’s meeting when I was scheduled to lead it in March, but inclement weather kept us from having our meeting. So the thought sat in my head and the notes sat on my flash drive and now they are landing here. And how they will come out are as much as mystery to me right now as you. I’ll keep writing. You keep reading. And let’s see what happens.

A song. (Surprise!…If you know my writing, then not really.) A song got me thinking. A song about Jesus loving a heart like mine. Not the pretty, shiny heart that sparkles in the sunlight and beams radiant light for all the world to see.

But the messy heart. Oh, that messy heart…the one that gets tangled and torn and falls short of what God intends, expects and desires for me. Do you understand the one I’m talking about? There have been so many times I’ve veered away from the place God intends me to go. Like driving down the road and trying to keep your tires between those yellow lines. Sometimes I’ll veer to the left or slightly to the right and yes, sometimes even go far enough that my tires hit those rumble strips, making that awful noise and giving me a wake up call. Heaven help me on those days!

I’ve said so many times, “God just please be patient with me while I figure out this messy heart.” And I believe He hears that and He understands, and will straighten out that mess as soon as I get out of my own way and let Him guide me.

After all He is the only one who truly knows our hearts. No other human can understand what lies within us or what we struggle with or feel. And the best part is that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more or less than He does right now in this very moment. He just simply loves us. Unconditionally. Forever. All He’s ever wanted is our hearts.

Even the messy ones.

 

 

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Broken Vases

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We’re all just broken vases trying to keep flowers alive.

I read this quote a few weeks ago and I reread it several times wondering exactly what the author was trying to convey. I suppose it can be interpreted many different ways but if I put my own spin on it, I see it as a perfect quote for someone who has dealt with any type of mental health issue like myself.

We are all broken vases in some way. We have all been cracked or damaged by some type of struggle. Most of us more than once. Or twice.  And sometimes it feels like we are trying desperately, so desperately to keep those flowers alive. To keep some sense of normalcy. To keep from completely breaking down and letting those flowers die.

To me the vase is my shell, my body. The flowers are my spirit, my soul, my mind, my hope, my faith. The thing that threatens those flowers are my anxieties, my hurts, my doubts, my fears, my sadness, my exhaustion.

Some days the flowers prosper, they bud and bloom and light up a room. Some days they wilt, the leaves turn brown and some fall lifelessly to the ground.

Those are the days I need God to step in and breathe new life into those flowers. To breathe new life into ME. Into my spirt, my soul, my mind. To fill me with hope and faith.

No one expects those flowers to constantly stay beautiful. We are all going to struggle. But when you’ve come to the point where the flowers have faded and you just don’t see how you can reawaken them, simply put some new ones in there and start again.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month…..Speak it. Share it.

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“Dear Daughter”

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Dear Daughter,

I promise this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. This is not what your high school days should be about. They should be about getting an education without fear, making memories with friends, thriving, learning who you are and who you want to become, and the heaviest things on your mind should be your chemistry test or history project. This definitely isn’t the world that I grew up in and it breaks my heart that fire drills aren’t the only thing you are instructed to prepare for anymore, but that active shooter drills and lockdowns have now become a part of your routine. I thought when you turned 16 that my biggest worry would be your safety driving to school, not your safety while you are there.

It makes me angry and it makes me sad. I don’t have the answers for why this happens or why so much hate has taken over our world, but I know that we can’t let it win. Hate is loud and ugly and gets the most attention, but love is the cure. It is the constant flow within us. The thing that gives us hope. We have to fight back with LOVE. So reach out to those who seem lost, lonely and have no one. Pray for them. Be a friend to everyone and let God shine through you every day. Be the light. Be that city on a hill that we sing about. Don’t fear the future, but be a driving force to change it. One little stone thrown in the water may not seem like much, but it has a ripple effect…and it can make a difference

 

Faith

Hate Has Not Won

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We all woke to the horrific and heartbreaking news Monday morning of yet another mass shooting. Our hearts cracked a little more as we saw the numbers rising and the realization that this time, those numbers would surpass all of the other incidents that were already unimaginable.

As a fan of country music, this one hit a little closer to home. I’ve been one of those concert-goers, in cowboy boots, in outdoor settings, just simply enjoying the music that I love. Even in the uncertainty of the world we live in, it’s still hard to imagine why anyone would rein terror down on an unsuspecting, innocent crowd. We can’t understand it because it is not normal. It is not how this world is supposed to be.

But I have hope…

Hate has not won. We look around us and sometimes it seems as if it has. As if hate has a throat hold on love, compassion and humanity. But no, hate has not won and here is why.

I have read and watched a lot of the stories that have been pouring out since Monday morning. Some things I wish I hadn’t seen. It’s hard as someone with anxiety to not be overcome by the sadness and fear that is related in these stories. But I search out the ones that always prevail in these situations. The heroes and heroines. The selfless acts of kindness and humanity that rise above the nonsense of hate fired from a heart of pure evil.

The people who stopped in the midst of the spray of gunfire to carry someone to safety who had been shot.The girl who picked up a five year old who had been separated from his family as the crowd rushed past and spent hours trying to locate his family. (He was eventually reunited with his Mom and was unharmed.) The men who covered their wives, girlfriends, even people they didn’t know and died protecting them. The nurses, doctors, EMTs and police officers who stepped up as their job calls them to do and went into action without a second’s hesitation. And the thousands who stood in lines, some for five hours or more, to donate blood to the Red Cross.

These are the moments when hate hangs its ugly head and cowers away, because there are still good and kind people in the world whose hearts remain full of what has God instilled in us. LOVE. Love allows the bravery and mercy and self-sacrificial acts to prevail in tragedy.

We cling to HOPE, and TRUST that God continues to be in control and that His design for the human heart is fully intact in the outpouring of love we see when hate attacks.

What Satan means for evil, God will use for good.

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He Prepared Me

God never asks anything of us that He doesn’t first equip us to do.
Read that again….

God never asks anything of us that He doesn’t first equip us to do.

When I read this today it jumped out at me as if it were in bold type, italicized and underlined. I can’t say that God gave me anxiety but I do think He tests us in order to refine us into someone more like Him. 

That being said, I found a sense of braveness in this quote. He knew that this was coming. He knew what my struggles would be.

AND….

He prepared me.

He literally prepared me for this. How do I know? Because I am typing this right now. Because I have been winning this battle for the past five years, even on days when it doesn’t feel like it. Because I got up and went to work today. Because I am not sitting at home scared and worried and afraid to face the day. I can say anxiety has fought me but God equipped me to fight back. He gave me tools. He gave me a patient family, a wonderful church, friends, books, prayers, love, kindness of strangers, music…and strength, hope and a desire to press on.

Wherever you are…you are equipped. You are prepared. I guarantee that you wouldn’t be in this battle, this decision, this season of life, whatever it may be, if you weren’t. Look around you and use what God has given you to persevere. Don’t raise that white flag to the enemy that seeks to destroy you.

God has your back.