The Battle of Redemption.

…Death wrapped its ropes around me;  The terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of the Lord. “Please Lord, save me!”How kind the Lord is! How good He is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death and He saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, For the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling……..In my anxiety I cried out to You, These people are all liars! You have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving And call on the name of the Lord. 

Psalm 116:3 NLT

            Redemption doesn’t always mean healing: A believer’s battle with mental illness.

The couch was ready and waiting for me, but I wasn’t happy about it. As I sat down with my therapist for our first meeting, my mind was flooded of all the other times I’d been in therapy. I knew the drill. I tell the therapists what’s bothering me, they ask me questions, validate me and I schedule a follow-up appointment. Over the past twenty-five years I’ve seen numerous therapists. My experience with therapy was mostly positive. My journey with therapy began with the suicide of my father, at the young age of twelve.  As I grew both physically and mentally the need for therapy only grew. Not until my twenties did I fully began to process all that I had experienced and how it affected me. I buried five members of my family by the age of eighteen. Not exactly a typical teenage experience. I entered college just desperate to be a normal kid. I realized very quickly I wasn’t. Now in my thirties, on my third diagnosis with depression I was at a loss. I didn’t even know where to begin. I hadn’t seen a therapist since the beginning of my marriage when I struggled with feelings of abandonment.   Because it was this was my first meeting, the therapist asked that I give a timeline of my life; my episodes with depression. I thought to myself buckle up lady, you’re in for a ride. 

            I took her through the twist and turns of my life. Burying two grandfathers, a grandmother, a great grandmother and a father by the age of eighteen. College for the most part was a blur. I engaged in lots of self-destructive coping mechanisms and had a complete lack of structure. This is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, this wasn’t rock bottom.  I barely made it out of college. My mom breaking into my apartment and demanding I come home was definitely a highlight. After I managed to get my depression under control and seemed to be doing well, my best friend was killed in a motorcycle accident. At the same time a coworker took his life, I had a brush with the law and my mom getting married. A recipe for a relapse. It was not an easy story to share even twelve years removed. I explained how I was diagnosed with postpartum after my son, but with medication it was easily resolved. 

            Things were different this round of depression. I was equipped. My gloves were up, ready to battle, but all the routines and practices that had worked before weren’t working this time. As I sat there recounting my story, I was secretly begging for her to impart some words of wisdom that no one else had. More was at stake. I had a family. This affected everyone not just me.  Instead she took a punch to the gut. No warning, no heads up. 

“So, have you seen a psychiatrist before?” the therapist asked. 

“Uh, no.” I said. A psychiatrist is for people with severe mental illnesses. That’s not me.

“You’ve had major depression two other times, so it’s highly likely you’ll get it again.” 

 “You mean currently?” Surely, she was mistaken.  

“No, I mean again, after this time.”  

Clearly, I was at the wrong therapist’s office.  

            Not only was I depressed, but my depression would likely come back. Not just once, but multiple times over the course of my life. Oh, and I should probably be on medication the rest of my life. The rest of my life. Didn’t she know that I’d kicked it before? Didn’t she know that I did all the right things? Didn’t she know that I had fully given my life to Christ after my lowest point? She devastated a depressed person. Doesn’t seem possible, but she did. This is the vicious cycle of depression, anger and sadness. 

            I left that office more defeated than ever, not because of her, but because of the reality of what she had to say. This began a new journey, that I never saw coming. I’d actually have to spend the rest of my life learning how to live well with anxiety and depression.  Now what? 

            The only thing I knew to do was fight. I’ve survived much worse.  If this was going to be the card that I was dealt, then I was going to figure out exactly how to fight. Unfortunately, the Christian community seemed to be lacking. As I perused the Christian bookstore, eagerly searching for a book that would impart a new perspective, nothing appeared. Whether it was a book written by someone who was healed from their depression or a book about mental health from someone who had never experienced it, they were too fluffy. They weren’t realistic. They perpetuated the idea that mental health was a spiritual issue that could be healed with a greater faith. I had faith. Yes, there was plenty for me to work on, but I was a walking believer.  This only feeds the idea that there’s something wrong with me. That I’m different from the rest of the Christian community. This isn’t true. Yes, I believe that God can heal. Yes, I believe that sometimes our lack of faith fuels the flames of anxiety and depression, but that’s not always true. I am not the first nor will I be the last. 

            I thought about King David who struggled with depression. I thought about Paul who was desperately pleading for God to take the thorn taken out of his side. These were esteemed people of the Bible who struggled. Their lives were far from perfect.  Yet there were no books about their struggles, their stories of redemption. 

            One thing I knew for sure. Everything that happened to me was only wasted if I didn’t share my story. I wanted to encourage others. Not everyone would be cured this side of heaven, and that had nothing to do with their faith. Christians don’t get a hall pass from mental illness based upon their level of faith. We all have the thumbprint of Adam; we are all broken in some way.  

            It was time to recognize that truly faithful believers could have these struggles. Since no one was writing from this perspective, God stirred in me a desire to write. To share my story. I read voraciously. Articles, books, secular and faith-based. Everything I could find about anxiety and depression. My walls were filled with facts, stories ideas and questions about mental health. 

            As I began to share my passion for addressing mental health in the church, more and more people told me I should write about it. Everything was pointing me to writing including the nudging in my heart. I listened not just because of what others told me. I listened because they already confirmed what was on heart. God was nudging me in that direction.

            In the beginning it was just for me. I wrote to get it out. I wrote to vent and understand my story better. As time progressed and my writing went from something I did out of obedience to something I did for enjoyment, I began to see a larger picture. This was how God was going to redeem all that I had gone through. Everything wouldn’t be wasted if I could share my story and encourage others. 

            We must trust that God has a bigger, better and far more fulfilling plan.

Five Simple Ways to practically help someone who is grieving.

 Last year over eight million people suffered the loss of someone in their immediate family.  (http://www.griefspeaks.com/id113.html) Let that sink in, their immediate family. That’s a lot of hurting people. Grief is as much a part of life as death and taxes. It’s guaranteed. We all will lose someone we love, and our hearts will break. The question is how we can practically help our neighbors, friends and family through these times? There’s no better time to show the love of Christ. You can show others who Christ is without ever even mentioning His name. 

  1. Cook them a meal. If you aren’t in to cooking (or you aren’t a good cook) pick up food from their favorite restaurant. I’d strongly encourage you to not just send them a meal but take the time to hand deliver it. If you’re on you’re a game, bring them a second meal frozen. This is time as well to splurge on good food, because in the hours of grieving you tend not to eat and when you do it’s been awhile. 
  2. Drop by their house unexpectedly or call them on the phone. As time passes those who are grieving are still in pain, while the funeral is over, and the planning is done those left behind are still in pain. Six months after losing a major family member you are still hurting like it happened yesterday. You still need someone to say I remember that your life has changed, and I still need someone to say I remember. 
  3. Invite them over.One of the hardest things after someone has died is the quiet. I mean quiet like you have never experienced. Quiet because someone is no longer there. Their walk, their smile, their presence, always knowing they’ll be in that same chair. There is great comfort in the consistency of someone you love. There is also great emptiness when they are gone. The loss is felt and noticed. 
  4. Do the daily tasks.For us there were so many things to think about. So many things that other person did you don’t even realize until they’re gone. Offer to mow their lawn, take care of their kids, send them out to do something for themselves. Help with chores around the house. Sometimes the simplest of tasks can be the most daunting because you’re so overwhelmed by all the other big changes. 
  5. Do all of these things even a year later.For the most part 3 months later, most of these things are forgotten and you go back to your life, but theirs is forever altered. Theirs will never look the same. Everything is different, and a new normal is beginning to develop. A new normal with a very large hole. 

Above all else pray for this person. Pray frequently and often. Bring them into your life into your every day. You don’t need to get out your best china, and prepare the fanciest meal, just have them over and fix what you have. My best memories of dinner with families involved the comfort of the chaos. A house full of kids and friends and smack in the middle of their daily routines. Nothing fancy, nothing special, nothing to make me feel set apart. The greatest gift you can give is inviting them in to your every day. 

What are some practical things people have done for you in your hour of grief?

Fellow warrior,

Sara

Above all love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4: 8-9

Lock and Listen: How to respond when someone is grieving.

Grief and social awkwardness.

There I was sitting in my comfortable chair waiting for the speaker to affirm what I already knew to be true about God and my own spiritual journey. You know what I got instead? Job! First thing in the morning I was pummeled with the book of Job. You know the book in the Bible that seems awful, horrendous and a no good very bad day? What I also didn’t realize was this talk about Job was going to rock my world in more ways than one. After hearing the talk, I looked at my friend sitting next to me and verbally vomited all over her.  It ranks up there as one of my most socially awkward moments. I just didn’t see it coming! On the verge of a panic attack next to a friend I’d only known for several months.  I shared my story of losing my father at the age of twelve to suicide. Suicide, grief, and the book of Job all before my first cup of coffee had set in.  Thankfully she listened graciously and was the perfect person to be sitting next to me.

People don’t know what to do when someone is grieving.

Most people get it wrong when it comes to grief. I’m sure the majority of you that have decided to still continue reading this post are nodding your head in affirmation. Someone has said something pretty asinine to you in your most vulnerable and heart-breaking experiences of life. We turn into blubbering idiots. I can say first hand that many people have said some pretty horrendous things to me in the midst of my grief. People have questioned my father’s salvation and immediately shared their feelings on his decision to take his own life. Somehow forgetting that their audience was a daughter who lost her daddy. 

Months after that freight train of a morning I finally got the courage to read Job. I’d always avoided reading that book. It seemed too depressing. For someone who has been in and out of depression, the majority of their life this did not seem like the most uplifting choice. Job from the outside (without reading it), just seemed wrong. (JOB- Satan told God that the reason Job was such a blameless and righteous man was because God had blessed him with so much {wealth, large family, land, servants., etc.}. Satan believed that he if took everything away {he being, Satan} that Job would deny God. God, knowing Job’s heart knew this wasn’t true. God described Job as “blameless, righteous, feared God, and ran from evil.” God told Satan he could do whatever he liked with Job as long as he didn’t kill him. God KNEW that Job wouldn’t deny or forsake Him. Poor Job didn’t know what was coming). 

via GIPHY

 Thought a picture of Job would keep it light with all this talk of grief.

How can we learn from Job’s friends about comforting those who are grieving?

The second chapter in and I was comforted watching Job’s friends respond in his hour of grief. First, they came from great distances to be with him. We all know that real friends will drop everything and come running even if they are half way across the world.  Second, they mourned with him and the Bible says they could see his pain was great. They waited in silence until he was the first to speak. They waited SEVEN days before they spoke to Job. For seven days they sat in silence. While it might seem strange, they respected his grief, and waited until he was ready. They were there from sun up to sun down. Their friendship was displayed in their silence. Their concern was shown by still being there.  When Job was ready they were there. My friends your presence is enough. Your words are usually wrong, your presence is always right. 

Just show up when it comes to comforting those who are grieving.

I say the person who has probably handled my grief the best, is my best friend Brooke. At the time yes, we were as thick as thieves, but our friendship was fairly new and by new I mean less than ten years. I think what Brooke did is really what we all should do. You just show up. I lost one of my best friends in a motorcycle accident when I was 25 years old and Brooke got in her car and drove to pick me up to be with his family. Didn’t ask details, didn’t wait until it was convenient, she just got in her car and drove there. She drove me everywhere I needed to be, let me stay at her parents’ house, took me in, went with me to the funeral, she showed up. Amongst all of that was a lot of laughter, let me tell you friends, you may think laughter is socially inappropriate at a time of grief, but it’s one of the best medicine’s. Brooke’s self-depricating humor was just what the doctor ordered.  

Laughter truly is the best medicine in our hour of grief.

What these friends did was priceless, but what they did was so simple. Was it easy? No. Was it inconvenient? Yes. Did it disrupt their everyday life? Absolutely. These friends stood beside me and allowed me to grieve and didn’t judge my grief, my decisions, my emotions, they just were there. 

I hope this encourages you that the most valuable thing you can when someone is grieving is just be there. Don’t make it complicated.

What are some ways you can show up in your friends’ or families life as they are grieving?

Your fellow warrior,

Sara

In case you are just jumping in, I’ve been writing this month on grief. How to grieve well, what do when friends are grieving and what does grieving really look like. Check out my other posts listed below.

Grief will not be solved in five stages.

What grief is not.

            While there is truth to the five stages of grief, it is not a long term solution or a formula for resolving grief. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that grief is unpredictable. Just like waves crashing on the shore, so are the emotions of grief. Unpredictable in impact, predictable in frequency. Grief can hit you in the midst of the mundane or be triggered by an important event. This past Christmas a friend of mine lost her son tragically. It was heartbreaking. No one should ever bury their child, and as a mom, it shook me to my core. What if this was my child? What if this happened to me? What if my whole world changed in a matter of minutes? You can’t help but play out the scenario’s in your own mind.

The heartbreak of loosing someone you love.

A group of friends and I decided to attend the funeral, to show our support to our friend during this tragic time. I was so thankful that I went, not just for her, but for myself. As odd as it may sound, funerals bring about closure and don’t leave things undone. Closure doesn’t equal lack of grief, but a grasp on the reality of the situation. As my girlfriends and I waited in the car for the funeral procession we shared our own experiences with funerals, tragic deaths and the unexpected. We all had attended our fair share of funerals. Funerals where there was no message of hope and an eternity with Christ.  Funerals where the loved one who was gone was never mentioned. Funerals like this can you leave you broken and battered.  For those who have never attended funeral, they leave more confused, sad or hurt than before. There are good funerals. Funerals, that celebrate the life of the loved one. 

             A couple days after the funeral I had my monthly check in with my therapist and it was one of those check in’s where you leave filling like life is a 10. Just twenty-four hours later the weight of grief was pulling me down like gravity. I could feel it. Grief feels like a fifty-pound weight wrapped around your neck; painful, heavy and burdensome. Grief is more than just an emotion, it’s a force.

via GIPHY

The weight of grief.

Twenty-eight years later, I can still be broadsided by the grief truck. It will run me over and leave me bruised and battered. My whole day can be turned on its head.  Grief is messy, it’s completely out of our control. We carry grief with us the rest of our lives. There is no escaping it. Grief is a process, and I’m not just talking about the five stages of grief. Grief is a lifelong process of mourning the dreams that never came true, the memories that were never made and the impact someone had on your life. 

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3

Fellow warrior,

Sara

***I know I write this through the lens of a believer, and it is not lost at me that someone who is reading this may have lost someone with the certainty of their faith is unsure. There are no words, and my heart breaks for you and those around you.  

Why grieving matters: How our society embraces celebration but ignores grief.

When Grief Comes not if.

Twenty-eight years later I can still remember the day my dad died. Twenty-eight years later I grieved for my dad as though it happened the day before. Twenty-eight years later, grief is different, but it’s still there. I’ve avoided addressing this topic, because it’s heavy. It’s hard, it’s messy, it’s ugly and let’s face it no one wants to talk about it. We avoid it like the plague, but it is tearing us a part. Fortunately, I’m in a season of wellness. Writing about grief just seems counterintuitive, but here I sit sharing this with you.

After losing five members of my family by the age of 17. I’ve buried more than I count.  Burying my best friend, watching my friend bury her child, losing a co-worker to suicide, losing a childhood friend at 18.  By the age of twenty-five, I knew a lot about grief, or so I thought. If I’m honest, I knew a lot about funerals, and the brevity of life, but not grief. Grief is more than an emotion; grief is a process. I used to think that you would age out of grief and eventually it wouldn’t impact you the same way it did in the beginning. I have learned this is false. Grief can with no warning and like a bullet train. It speeds up, and then crashes into you and leaves you shattered into a million pieces. Just when you think you have healed or worse moved on, you get a punch to the gut.

Why grief is necessary and how can we grieve well.

Over the next several weeks I hope to help you understand the necessity of grief. We have become so busy that we don’t even slow down to grieve. We don’t know how to help those who are grieving because we haven’t fully accepted what grief is. We may have mourned in the beginning but stuffed down so deep we no longer realize it’s there. For those rare individuals who have experienced catastrophic grief, I hope you can better understand how life altering it truly is. I want to equip you with ways to help those around you who are suffering. Most importantly what the Bible says about grief and how Christ modeled it for us.

Jesus gets it.

At some point in our life we will all experience an unexpected grief, or an unexpected loss. I pray that when that time comes you will be surrounded by those who can grieve with you, and help you grieve well.

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Hebrews 2:17 NLT

This verse describes so vividly what Jesus did and who He is. We must remember that Jesus gets it. We have come to believe the lie that God doesn’t understand. We are made in God’s image and Jesus was made in every respect to be like us. Of all people Jesus gets it.

Have you experienced a life altering grief?

Why boundaries and saying no can reduce your anxiety.

 Saying yes means more anxiety.

What if saying yes to good things, means saying no to the best things?  Lysa Terkeurst addressed this beautifully in her book “The Best Yes,” but when I read it I could barely get the kids to preschool. This seemed like a far-fetched and unrealistic problem, in fact, a privilege to have a “problem” like this.

All too often we are faced with many wonderful things to say yes to, but at the end of the day, we feel depleted and disappointed. Somehow everything we are doing is great, but it isn’t what the true desire of our heart is. If we’re honest it’s the best thing at the moment. It’s admittedly short-sighted thinking.

A woman with

Why saying no can reduce your anxiety and depression.

Over the last nine months, I have been presented with more opportunities than I can count. Opportunities to grow my faith, grow deeper in my friendships, serve at my church and my sons’ school, the list is endless.  Coming fresh off of a season of depletion and isolation,  a season of too many good things to choose from was a welcomed problem. I felt like a kid in an ice cream shop trying to choose only five toppings. To be able to say yes to these things, to even be asked to be a part of these things, was a reminder to me that I’m in a season of wellness. Dare I even say maybe the longest and strongest season of wellness I can ever remember.

Why being well doesn’t mean fewer boundaries.

Being well has meant my capacity is much larger. I’m able to do more and it no longer causes me anxiety or stress. At the end of this school year, I walked away noticing two very distinct things. One I was busier than I wanted to be and two I wasn’t chasing after my heart’s desire. I was so excited to have a larger capacity that I didn’t know how to discern what exactly I wanted to do.  A privilege more than a problem. If you are going through a similar season of wellness with a large capacity, I ask you to stop and celebrate it. Celebrate your healing, remember how far you have come and thank God for giving you this time of wealth. A wealth of capacity.

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Don’t confuse calling and capacity.

BUT just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Where is the space to pursue the calling God has put on your heart? In order to pursue the desire God has placed on your heart, you just might have to say no to really great things.  This is a hard pill to swallow. I think it’s easy to put boundaries in place when it’s something that is toxic, or hard or you need distance from. It’s not easy to say no, to things that are awesome, wonderful, flattering or for that matter just good old plain fun. ( If you struggle with putting boundaries in place or don’t know when the book “Boundaries” is a great read and full of suggestions.)

Say yes to God and your mental health.

As this school year came to a close, I realized that I didn’t say yes to God as often as I should. I said yes to volunteering, fun dinners, educational seminars and spent countless hours developing friendships at my son’s school.  I didn’t realize that in order to pursue my calling to write, I would have to prioritize my time and say yes to the desires of my heart and no to countless requests along the way.

Can I tell you that on the days I spent at my computer writing my anxiety was lower? Please know I’m not saying that pursuing the calling that God has placed on your heart will quell and cure all of your anxiety, but you will find peace in being obedient to God. Sometimes all our yes’, are preventing us from pursuing our calling which causes angst in our heart. Angst, because something is amiss.  A battle of the flesh and the spirit. When I write I  actually felt that I had accomplished something, and there was a peace in my heart that only God can give.  A peace that I wasn’t experiencing in all the business of yes. Fun, but no peace.  How quickly I had traded fun for peace, just because I could.

You are creating the space to not only pursue your calling but keep your mental health in check along the way

So WHEN  (keyword, WHEN, that means you are going to do it), you have to tell your friends no or turn down a great opportunity remember who you are saying yes to. You are saying yes to Jesus first, and yourself second. You are creating the space to not only pursue your calling but keep your mental health in check along the way.

Your fellow warrior,

Sara

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Romans 8:6 NLT

Anxiety: a misplaced desire for heaven.

 

Time is on my side…….yes it is.

I hate to tell the Rolling Stones but they are just wrong, and they definitely aren’t parents! Time is my enemy and not on my side. Time is tricky isn’t it? Time is one of the biggest stress points in my life.  I don’t have enough time. I need more time. Ugh, time is up. Dangit, I thought we were on time. Late again? Can’t I just stay on top of it? This is the inner dialogue on the daily for me being a stay at home mom. Where is the next place we have to be, how long will it take to get there, do we have everything we need, what’s the traffic like, did we pack snacks? This is why every mom’s car looks like a bomb went off.

 

If you’re reading this chances are time has been your enemy too and at the core of the desire to manage our time is the desire to control our destiny. The belief that we are steering the wheel, and we will determine our path. I think women get a  bad rap for being the one’s that generally suffer from anxiety more. You know why? We’re the ones taking the kids everywhere, we’re the ones keeping track of library days, garden days, homework assignments, Valentine’s, t-shirts, birthday parties, sports schedules, trips, etc., So if we struggle with anxiety more than men, I can see why. Our world has changed so drastically from when we were kids. ( I know I sound really old, but let’s face if you are a child of the 70’s or 80’s then technology has evolved and surpassed what we could even imagine.) We didn’t have emails, GroupMe texts, group texts, Marco Polo, websites, try-outs, play dates, camps, Bible Studies, volunteer hours, church involvement, etc., WE didn’t know we missed something until someone told us.

We walk around as victims of a schedule that we created. Did you get that? We created this schedule so we can control our anxiety around time and our scheduling.  The good news is that we do have control, the bad news is it’s going to require some changes in our day to day life.

 

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Dreams and Schedules seem to be enemies.

Let’s set aside schedules for a minute and focus on dreams. Is there a dream that you thought would be fulfilled by now? Did you think that by this age, you’d have four children, the dream job, and the dream house? Is time slipping away faster than you had hoped or imagined? You know what time is? A man made distraction. Maybe you think you’re too old, or you have passed your prime (by the world’s standard’s) to achieve that dream you always longed for.  Maybe you tell yourself since I’m a mom now it won’t happen. You think  maybe when they’re in college and they’ve moved away and we’re empty nesters. Maybe you’re in a busy season with life and you just don’t’ see how it’ll ever let up and if you’ll ever have the time to achieve your desires.

Spaces

I think a lot of my anxiety comes when I’m trying to control something that I think should’ve already happened. But if God’s Word is true, and we know that it is, there is no time table. We believe It should happen this way, with these people and at this location by this date. I didn’t think I’d be 40 just discovering passion and the calling on my life. I didn’t think at 40 I’d be learning new skills constantly and getting surpassed by twenty year olds. If you would’ve asked me when I was 20 what I thought my life would look like at 40 I would’ve been completely wrong. In many ways what I envisioned as been surpassed, in other ways, I’m still working towards my goals.  At 20 I assumed my life when I was 40 would’ve consisted of the job, the house and, I’d have 4 kids instead of two,  and we’d be traveling all the time, but we all know that life doesn’t go how we planned.

A dream fails to take into account the work and hardship.

Have you ever noticed your dreams never consist of stress? No stress was ever involved in the making of this picture. It’s so delusional when you really think about it. Our dream life or what we think our life should look like is really a life without hardship and pain. If we’re honest that’s what we really want. We want easy street, comfort, rest, no stress and life really full of well no life. Nobody’s life looks like this. You may think someone else’s life looks like this, but it doesn’t. Every person has a story and that story involves, struggle, heartache, unexpected life circumstances and hardship. That’s what life looks like. This dream that we desire if we really unpack it, is the desire for heaven.

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The desire for no more tears, the desire for no heartache, the desire for all of our relationships to be whole and perfect and without judgment. But it just doesn’t happen that way so stop expecting it to.  I know you’re rolling your eyes at me right now, and cursing my name (damn that Sara). You think I don’t have to tell myself this same thing? You think I don’t have the same struggles? Stop dreaming about a world, that doesn’t have obstacles, struggles, disappointments, setbacks, heartaches, marital conflict, financial dips and broken relationships. Change your perspective and acknowledge the God given hole in your heart  desires eternity, heaven, completeness, rest for your soul and your spirit, a life without pain, heartache, death and mourning. Instead of desiring something that won’t happen on this side of heaven ( the stress free life), rest in the fact that God promises heaven in this life. Look for the blessings in the daily because those are the little tastes of heaven.  This world will be full of troubles and your journey won’t be easy, but your journey will be colorful. I’m not saying to stop dreaming, and stop believing that you weren’t created for more.  Jesus said this world will give you trouble, but I have overcome the world. Stop telling yourself the if this than I’d be happy. You know the ones.

If you had their money you wouldn’t be so stressed out.  If you had this job you would be happy.  If you lost all your weight, you’d be happy with yourself. Don’t you see? These are lies from the pit of hell and if I’m honest, the exact lies I struggle with. None of these things will fulfill you. None of these things will complete you, because they aren’t God. God’s desire is always best. God’s timing is always best. You’re unanswered prayers later on in life will be prayers of thanksigiving. That job you thought was the pie in the sky, had you taken it would’ve left your marriage broken  and your children holy terrors. The boyfriend that broke you’re heart, wasn’t anywhere close to the man that you married, not because one is better than the other, but because this wasn’t the right one for you.  The desires of your heart will be fulfilled in God’s time, and not your time. Remember time is something man uses to measure His life, God doesn’t. There’s always time in God’s economy.

“….but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. In that day you will not question Me about anything.”  John 16:22-23 

Your fellow warrior,

Sara

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The one thing no one tells you about anxiety.

Do you choose comfort over abundance?

How often do you sit in your comfort but long for adventure?

How often do you choose staying in versus meeting new friends and getting out? How often do you choose to get through your to-do list instead of going to Bible Study? How often do you choose to watch Netflix versus going on a date with your spouse or helping out your neighbor?

Today as I sat in Bible Study my friend did just that. She did the uncomfortable. When we were discussing our highs and lows for the week, she shared what was REALLY on her heart. Not the fluff of time management, kids’ projects, husbands work, etc., The real raw, the nitty gritty, the ugly, the things we desire to share but are mortified of the judgment (you know those looks of “bless her heart, she’s a hot mess.”). But out of that one person’s courage to do the uncomfortable, everyone else in our group shared the raw and the uncomfortable. No one enjoys the comfort, but without the uncomfortable, we would’ve never really understood or known our friends’ hearts.

Having an abundant life doesn’t mean living in our comfort zone.

This moment brought me back to a sermon I listened to recently about “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see the face of God.” The question is how do we live that out? How do we have a pure heart in our daily lives? He discussed how living with a pure heart means putting aside our worldly idols (things that prevent God from being number one in our life). He said all idols could be broken down into four categories: Comfort, power, control and approval.  Comfort? That can’t be an idol. I mean comfort is just part of who we are, right? That was a punch to the gut, a reality check. It’s not to say that I don’t struggle with the others, but they don’t dominate quite the way comfort does.

The only way to the end result is through the hard, through the uncomfortable. Sara Soenen

Where do you long for comfort most in your life?

I long for a life of financial comfort where Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover isn’t front and center on my bookshelf. I long for comfort in my personal life, where all my relationships are easy, and there is minimal conflict (Dream world, I mean as long as your married, there’s conflict, right?). I long for comfort for my children that they would enjoy the beauty that is childhood. I long for comfort physically, to be naturally thin and to desire working out all the time. I long for my knee to be healed and not dictate my work-outs. I long for comfort in food, things like chocolate, wine, cheese, pasta, or decadent desserts. (there should be a twelve step program for chocolate addiction).  I long for comfort when it comes my blog. If I want my blog to grow, I have to talk about it.  It feels really awkward to talk about myself, or what my vision is for this blog.  I mean really awkward. Who goes around talking about how great they are. LOL! But if I want that there must be discomfort. My life must be in a constant state of pushing forward and through the comfort zone barrier.

Comfort never got you anywhere but exactly where you are.

It boils down to is. Comfort never gets you anywhere, comforts keeps you exactly where you are at. Is that really what we want?  Do we really want to stay exactly where we are at? I think all of us can say that the answer is no. Over the course of my life I have learned that out of the struggle there is so much growth, so much change. I think most of us would say that change that was a result of struggle was worth it. Do we like what brought us to that change? More than likely not. What we do like is the end result, the final product. The only way to the end result is through the hard, through the uncomfortable.

Do you struggle with choosing comfort over doing what is right, or doing what will give you your best life?

Comfort or adventure!

Comfort never gets you anywhere, comforts keeps you exactly where you are at. Is that really what we want?  Do we really want to stay exactly where we are at? I think all of us can say that the answer is no. Over the course of my life I have learned that out of the struggle there is so much growth, so much change.

Two sermons that have taught me a lot about comfort and the power of struggle.

 

 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
 Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

When your story makes others uncomfortable.

Have you ever shared your story and watched people, grimace, or pull away or worse pick up their phone half way through you sharing the toughest parts of your life? Yeah, I swear these people don’t think you see their reactions on their faces, or sense their defensiveness, judgment or complete shock. Somehow they believe they have a giant mask hiding their emotions, and facial expressions. No matter how many times I tell my story, my heart still beats a little faster, and my palms sweat and my anxiety creeps in not because of my story, but because of what the person listening to my story might think.

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Zeke’s first day at his new school

Starting a new school, developing new friendships and sharing your story with others is intimidating and part of new social situations. Most of you don’t dream of sharing your story during lunchtime at Chick-fil-a with screaming toddlers surrounding you, but that’s the latest place that I shared my story. This time the response was much different, but it reminded me of a time when I shared my story and the response was one of judgment and fear.  I’ve come to realize it’s OK to be uncomfortable or awkward when it comes to talking about your struggles with mental illness. It’s never going to be an easy conversation to have and honestly the awkwardness is usually coming from the person listening to the story, not the one telling it.

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I’ve grown comfortable with my story making others uncomfortable. Between years of therapy, struggles with anxiety, and depression, loss of friends, loss of a parent, suicide and postpartum, my story is a hard one. This isn’t to say that others haven’t experienced much worse and I should be applauded, just to say it’s not like everybody else’s.  It’s true that I have experienced far more than the majority of the people my age, but there are plenty  that have endured more hardships and experienced things I will never understand.

For a long time what I’d been through made me uncomfortable and I found it hard to relate to my peers. Their problems either seemed completely trivial or annoyingly immature. Unfortunately, my response to my peers wasn’t always the best. Instead of just owning who I was I either judged them for being so sheltered or was aloof and looked down on them. Neither of  these responses  is something to be proud of, but so goes the journey of growing up and figuring things out on your own. Life skills 101.

 

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to embrace what I have gone through, and now as time has passed  I have come to enjoy  lite conversation and talking about the day to happenings and “struggles.” It feels good to be able to engage in this type of conversation and that my life is currently defined by hardships.   I can navigate my way through social norms much easier than I used to  BUT I  have definitely come to realize the value of being in relationships with people that are raw and a little “colorful.”

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22 years of colorfulness with this one. This was back in the Baylor days.

My life has been colorful, full of so many left turns, more like hairpins if I’m honest, but you get the gist. We need to learn to embrace not just our journey, but how that has shaped our view of life.  You can’t judge people by the hand they have been dealt. If we don’t want the judgment for who we are as a result of what we have been through, we can’t judge others for their lack of understanding about what they haven’t been through. Part of embracing who we are is being OK with not everyone understanding. We all are guilty of ignorance about certain things, and while it isn’t OK to stay there there’s no need to be angry with someone who can’t relate.

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Part of taking away the stigma, is being comfortable with having tough conversations. We need to learn how to sit at the table and just listen to someone’s story. Their worldview has obviously been shaped by what they have endured or experienced. Be open to hearing their story just as you have shared yours. Part of God’s creation is that we are all different, we are unique and we are God’s masterpiece. If we are each a masterpiece than no two masterpiece’s are alike. Enjoy the creativity of God, and know that everything we’ve been through will be used for the benefit His kingdom and the comfort of those we walk through life with.

Have you had similar responses to sharing your story or am I the only one?

Fellow warrior,

Sara

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph. 2:10 NLT

Food Isn’t the Problem. Our Heart Is.

The Fundamental Five: Fuel

For many of us we associate fuel with what we eat, and we have become a society that is obsessed with the “right” foods, the “right” diet and the “right” way to eat. While there is truth that sugar isn’t the best thing for you it doesn’t make vegetables holy and sugar the devil.  [Please know I’m not discussing people with food allergies, autoimmune disease, etc.] Our culture has demonized food, as a way to control our weight, and our health. Let me be clear eating a diet of quarter pounders with cheese, chocolate chip cookies and doughnuts isn’t good for you and what I’m writing about shouldn’t be an excuse to go off the rails, BUT the food isn’t the problem, our heart is.

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Brunch at The Four Seasons

Is He filling you up or food?

I write this to you knowing that I have the exact same struggles and I have to tell myself this daily. How many of you have a skinny friend who seems to be able to eat cheeseburgers, fries and a cookie, but still is a size zero? I truly believe that the heart and the mind are the source of our struggle with our weight and how we fill about ourselves. We must see fueling our body as doing what is best, to honor what God has given us and instead seeking Him to help us with our desire for food and fulfill our needs, wants and desires.

So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:13 (GNT)

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Are you ready to do battle?

What is fuel?

So if we can understand that fuel is not just about  food, but guarding our mind and changing our mindset about what food is then fuel becomes not just about what we eat, but what we watch, what we read, what we listen to, who influences us and how we feed our mind, body and soul.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. Philippians 4:8  (BSB)

Let your brain make your decisions not your feelings.

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The core of who we are and what we believe starts with our brain, not with our feelings. Our feelings are powerful, they should be acknowledged, but they should not determine every decision we make, our mind should. So often our feelings are unreasonable, fleeting and most often regrettable, so why should we trust them to make all of our decisions. In order to make sound decisions, and our life is a series of decisions made every minute of the day, we should guard, and fight for the health of our mind. We should be intentional with everything we ingest, not just our food. For so long we have believed the lie that we can separate what we see, or feel or listen from the decisions that we make.   1 Peter 1:13, Colossians 3:2}

Feed on that which is above and not that which is in The Earth. Col. 3:2 (ABPE)

Fight for your mind, because no one else will.

I say all this to make you aware, to cause you to think, to question what you are watching, reading, listening to. From my perspective the brain of someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, is that we are much more susceptible and we should go to great lengths to protect it, and to give it the best chance of thriving. Don’t we all want to thrive in this life, a life of abundance, no one wants to limp along doing just enough to get by. Not only do we want to leave a legacy for our children, but we want to stand before God at the end of this life, with our head held high, knowing we did everything we could to live our best life, and protecting this body that He gave us.

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.

Proverbs 4:23 (CEV)