“More Like Jesus”

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“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

I’m sure you have read this quote before. We aren’t to judge someone unless we know what they are going through. I seemed to be surrounded these days by people who are going through some type of crisis. Emotional, physical, mental. There are times when I can’t leave myself off of that list either.

I’m not sure where I would have been three years ago without the support of my now husband, my daughter, my family and my God. I’m really not sure where I would be today either without them. But what about those who have no one? What about the millions who suffer from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, depression, feelings of hopelessness or anger? Those with complicated pasts and painful chidlhoods? What if they have nowhere to turn? My heart breaks for these people. My heart aches for those who have been tossed aside simply because they aren’t strong enough to handle the everyday stresses and emotions that seek to tear us down.

The world tends to turn its back on these people. There tends to be a fear of being around someone whose life isn’t wrapped up in a neat little package. I read a quote once that said “don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you do.” I think the same applies to people who handle life differently. Don’t judge someone because they handle life differently or aren’t as strong as you. No one can possibly understand how complex the mind works, and how your emotions or the past can run you over unless you have experienced it yourself.

I am blessed to have wonderful people around me. I am blessed that my mother took me to church as a baby and that I never strayed from there for very long. I am blessed to know love and to be loved and to know God. But to some this is a foreign concept. There are those who were never hugged as a child, never told that it was okay to cry and show emotion. Never comforted in times of sorrow or praised for accomplishments. Never given a bible or told the story of Jesus Christ. Chances are you know someone like this. It may be that person who sits in a cubicle next to you who never has a kind word. It may be that extremely insecure friend who can’t stay in a relationship or constantly picks the abusive, manipulating partner. Or it may be that student or friend of your child’s who acts out for no reason other than the need for attention.

The truth is there are all kinds of kinds of people in this world. Are you accepting of their faults and kinder than necessary or do you judge and walk away?

A few weeks ago, our pastor did a sermon on the characteristics of Jesus. There were 60. I hadn’t intended to use this when I started writing but God led me to it. It seemed appropriate with what I had already written. Here are few to help us understand what others need of us:

  • Patience is showing tolerance and fortitude to others, and even accepting difficult situations from them and God without making demands and conditions. (Matthew 27:14; Romans 12:12; James 1:3,12)
  • Kindness is practicing benevolence and a loving attitude towards others. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Goodness displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others, and allows us to do the right thing. (Matthew 19:16)
  • Gentleness is the character that will show calmness, personal care, and tenderness in meeting the needs of others. (Isa. 40:11; Philippians 4:5; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Thes 2:7)
  • Fairness sees a situation from the viewpoint of each person involved and not just ours. It seeks the best, just, equable solution, even if it hurts us. (Matthew 7:12)
  • Friendship is the companionship and closeness we are to have with one another. It is the commitment to help form the character in others. This is not to be feared but embraced, even when it hurts! (Proverbs 27:17)
  • Dependable is being constantly reliable and trustworthy. It will allow us to continue in our commitments even if it means personal sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 1:10)
  • Generosity allows us to give to others because God has given abundantly to us. It is the wise use of stewardship and the attitude that all I have belongs to God and knowing we are the caretakers for His purpose. (Deut. 16:17; Matthew 10:8)
  • Encouragement will lift, support, and help others up through difficult circumstances, all from God’s perspective. (Psalm 119:28; Psalm 143:3; Matt. 3:17; John 14:1; 1 Thes. 5:11–14)
  • Attentiveness will recognize the value of other people by giving them listening ears, respect, courtesy, and total concentration. This means paying attention to others, not just listening to our own needs and desires, and also giving genuine contemplation to God’s Word. (Hebrews 2:1)
  • Compassion will feel the pain and plight of others. It will enable us to convey a deep feeling of love and concern that moves us to meet their distresses, struggles, and needs. (Job 29:13; Isa. 40:11; Mark 1:41; Luke 19:4; 1 Peter 3:8)
  • Supportive is to come along side others, sharing our strength and courage in their afflictions and troubles. (Galatians 6:2)

And the most important:

  • Love will enable us to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and, of course, our family, and others around us. Love is taking the initiative to build up and meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return. (John 13:1; John 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:3)

Be an unexpected blessing to someone who probably feels as if they don’t deserve it. Be the answer to their prayer. Be the answer to someone who hasn’t even prayed for an answer. All it takes is a few kind words, some time, a shared prayer.

Be more like Jesus today.

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“You Survived”

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What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

 This morning as I was opening a book that I carry with me, a piece of paper fell out. It was a copy of an email from a dear friend of mine. As always, the words were beautiful, inspiring and encouraging. I hadn’t read it in a while and one sentence caught my attention :

“The battle is over but the memories will have to be rearranged to the back of your mind and this is where God’s gift must be fully internalized…………………..YOU SURVIVED.”

This was a while before the full-on panic attacks had started and she was speaking of another time and another battle but I realized that it could easily be used in the terms of that struggle as well. As with any type of situation that causes us grief, pain, disappointment or fear, the lingering thoughts of that time will sometimes resurface and pull you back into a place where it seems as if you are reliving it all over again. This is especially true of anyone who has faced anxiety or panic attacks. We all know that the memories of the way that moment felt are what cause you to stay in a constant state of fear.

You really do have to rearrange those memories to the back of your mind. It takes a lot of will power and a ton of faith but it is do-able. I am proof. I think often of the worst days. I don’t let them linger very long though. I shuffle them back to where they belong and replace them with praise for the One who brought me through the fire, refined and strengthened.

If you are struggling, if your battle is all uphill, I encourage you to simply call out His name. Let Him show you how mighty and powerful He is.

And if your battle seems to be over, yet the memories are haunting you, replace them with thoughts of praise and thanksgiving. Prioritize your thoughts and bring God to the forefront. Remember that with Him, YOU SURVIVED.

“The Drizzle”

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God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms – John Newton

And sometimes God does do his work in a storm but sends the drizzle as a gentle reminder that He doesn’t want us to stray.

I went through the storm. Actually, I would compare it more to a tsunami, hurricane and tornado combined. The waves beating so hard that my feet could not stand on the crumbling ground. The wind so fierce that my eyes couldn’t focus…tears flooding them from the sting. My mind swirling in a vortex of emotions…fear and doubt harassing me from all sides.

But guess what?

 I’m here.

I made it.

I’m okay.

I will always be a little battered but I’m fine.

The drizzle still comes from time to time. Sometimes it comes as a mist, a cue that I need cleansing. Other times, it may come harder, beckoning me to reach out farther for the One who brought me through the storm and to not forget that I need Him.

All day. Every day.

Accept the storms for what they are. A chance to return to God. To be comforted by His healing presence. Our flaws, trials and brokenness allow space for God to fill in the cracks and make us whole.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth – Psalm 121: 1-2

“You WILL Get Through This”

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. – James 1: 2-4 (The Message)

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Being in the “pit” stinks, but the pit does one thing. It forces us to look up and someone from up there must come down and give us a hand. – Max Lucado

I heard this quote today and it resonated with me. I have been in the pit more than once. Going through a tumultuous relationship, then divorce and then to the ultimate pit (which is no secret here) – a complete breakdown of everything I knew to be the norm in my life and into the grips of anxiety and panic attacks.

When you are in any pit or low point in your life, no matter what it may be, the pain and suffering may seem endless. You can wish and hope all you want but you have to do something more, something much bigger to achieve your peace. You have to look up, pray, cry out to God.

He will answer. But one thing I have learned through all of this is that He answers in His own time. I still have many moments when I say to Him “Why am I still battling this on some level?” I have come a long way but I am not yet where He needs me to be so I have to “wait patiently on the Lord”. Now, I am not a patient person by any means. I want things done…NOW. (He must laugh at me when He sees how I try to still be in control.) So what do I do while I am waiting? As one of my favorite songs by John Waller goes:

While I’m waiting….I will serve You

While I’m waiting….I will worship

While I’m waiting….I will not faint

I’ll be running the race even while I wait

Don’t hang your head while you are in the pit. Look up and ask for help. As you are on your way out, be patient. Praise God for helping you. Everything you go through is molding you for what lies ahead. It may not make sense now but there is a reason. Take comfort in that. Continue to worship and remind yourself every day that….

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naïve.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

—Max Lucado

 

 

“Keep the Faith and Get Movin’!”

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I wanted to write a follow-up to yesterday’s post. I was very open and honest about what I go through when my anxiety rears its ugly head. Today was a much better day. After lots of prayers and an evening run, I was even feeling much better last night. I felt the need to say that because if you or anyone you know suffer from this, then I want you (or them) to know that this does not have to be a life-controlling thing. Although at the time it certainly feels like it is.

I have learned a lot about anxiety over the last year and a half. More than I ever thought I would (or would want to). Having said that I thought I would post some things that I have learned and that work for me and they may work for you or someone you know that may have problems with anxiety. But honestly, it could work for anyone who tends to worry or just needs some improvement in different areas of their life.
So here goes:

1 – Obviously, I have made it clear that faith and trust in God is the most important thing. Praying about everything you are feeling is a big help. Even the smallest or silliest things can be brought to God in prayer. I often tell Him that I am freaking out (l really say that!) and I would just like some peace at the moment. Then the calmness washes over me long enough to get my bearings, so to speak. I will then thank Him and praise Him. He likes to hear that : )

2- Exercise. This may seem like the last thing you want to do when anxiety, panic attacks (or even depression that has creeped in) have taken a toll on you physically. But it is important to stay in motion and rid yourself of all the nervous energy that your body is storing for no good reason. Walking, running and biking are awesome ways to get moving. Start slow and build up. It will make you feel so much better. I promise!

3- Caffeine. (The lack of.) I had to completely stop drinking caffeine. This was a hard one. I love sweet tea…McDonald’s sweet tea to be specific. Oh how I love it! But it wasn’t helping my body at all. Caffeine causes rapid heartbeat and restlessness. Not really what an anxiety sufferer needs. It was hard and still is at times. When 3:00 in the afternoon rolls around and I just want to take a nap, a boost of caffeine would help. But I have learned to adjust.

4- Positive thinking. This one seems like a given and it is. But it is also the hardest to achieve. With anxiety comes a lot of scary thoughts. Thoughts about your health and safety and the health and safety of your family. When the “what ifs’ sneak into your mind, you have to learn to shut them down. When you are worried and faced with a dilemma or decision, instead of thinking about what could go wrong say to yourself, “what if I put a different spin on this?”. Takes practice but it can be learned and is a great help.

5- Breathing techniques. Another one that has to be learned and that I have to practice often. I would find myself sighing heavily or constantly trying to take a deep breath. I would feel as if I wasn’t getting enough air. I then learned that I was actually getting too much air and that my body was releasing too much carbon dioxide. When this happens it can cause a lot of different sensations, such as dizziness, headache and tingling in your body. Learning to breathe evenly will make a huge difference.

6- Learn. Read everything you can about anxiety and panic disorders.. Knowing more about the symptoms of anxiety and the many effects that it can have on your body can be comforting. The more you know, the more prepared you are to help yourself overcome it. I would suggest reading success stories about people who have won their battle with these disorders.

These are just a few of the things that I have found helpful. The most important thing is to remember that this is a very common thing. There are probably a lot of people you work with, go to church with, etc. that suffer and you would never know. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Just remember….

Keep the faith and the positive attitude and get movin’!!

“I Will Not Be Hindered By Lies”

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January. This month has been haunting me for quite a while. It was January of last year that my panic attacks hit me hard, completely debilitating me. I never really figured out why but I keep thinking to myself, “If I can make it through January (and then February) I will be okay”. So far, I am trying to simply be more optimistic and smile even when I don’t feel like it, laugh when I’m not sure it’s in me and force myself to do something positive even when it’s hard. And as I go, I find myself feeling better. But this morning I realized that isn’t enough. God made it known to me that in the fear I was facing and associating with this month, I still wasn’t trusting in Him as I should be.

I will be honest, there are a lot of times when I know He wants to walk side by side with me but I act like a toddler with a temper tantrum, wanting things my own way and screaming, “Not right now…I don’t wanna!” No, I don’t really do that but you get the picture.

Then there are the moments I do stroll alongside Him but I’m like a sixteen year-old with an iPhone. Head down, only looking up occasionally to say “Huh? What did you say?” Not fully involved in the conversation or appreciating the friend who is willing to “hang out” with me.

So I prayed about these things this morning and God led me to Ephesians 6: 10-12 (Amplified Bible):

10” In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere”

From this I understand that the enemy wants nothing more than to remind me that January was bad for me last year. He wants me to believe that this month is cursed and that I will not make it through. But with these words from God I know that I can continue on the journey that He has me on. That I will fulfill whatever He has in store for me through the struggles I overcome on a daily basis. I will not be hindered by lies, deceit and strongholds, whose only purpose is to distort or confuse my thinking. Any lie, with our permission, will gain control of our emotions and change our behavior. These things do not come from God.

But these things do:

22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. – Galatians 5: 22-23

What are you facing today? Whatever it is, please let these powerful verses speak to you. Personally I am writing them down and carrying them with me this month : )