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.

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.

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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.

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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)

When life hits do you fight or flee?

No more fluff.

The past month has been a punch to the gut. Between my knee injury, finding my new normal for working-out,  my diet has slipped  and my discipline has suffered because I got out of a routine. I’ve realized that because I’ve slipped my whole family has slipped. Our diet has been haphazard, and what I do sets the tone for my family. No pressure right?

On top of all this there have been personal battles behind the scenes that have taken the wind out of my sails so to speak.  Mark loosing his job in 2017 has taken much longer to recover from then I ever dreamed of. We laughed the other day because our tolerance for bullshit is pretty much at a 1 on a scale of 10. We feel depleted and with not much to give in a season where we desperately need to be poured into. By the way it’s OK to admit that you need to be served, loved and poured into. Not all seasons can we pour heavily into others.   Between raising children, a husband who travels, guarding our time as a family,  developing community and keeping up with the busy school schedule there’s just not much room for fluff.  People that are always in competition, people that care more about what others think, or people that just aren’t willing to be raw and honest, what you see is what you get from us.

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A night on the town.

Fellowship decreases depression.

Our dear friends invited us to the Spurs/Lakers games with unbelievable seats, and we moved mountains because these are our people. They know us well, the laugh with us, they make fun of us (because we all need to take ourselves less seriously), they are honest, they encourage us and we leave filled up and not depleted. We were so honored that they asked us. They are in the thick of it, three week old twins, a two year old, moving houses, and they chose us. Doesn’t it feel great to be chosen? Our response was a hell yes! In the words of Jen Hatmaker if it’s not a Hell yes than it’s a no. That quote has stuck with me. Lysa Teurkerst’s book The Best Yes follows this same line of thinking, but taking it a step further and realizing that saying yes means you say no to others and you could be saying no to things you enjoy in order to pursue with wholeheartedness the things that you love.

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I think we had a pretty good time, don’t you think?

         When depression knocks you down.

I’ve realized one thing over these last several weeks that when life kicks me down, I can’t retreat, I can’t pretend that I don’t get knocked down too. That’s not authentic, if I expect so much of myself and of others in my day to day life, then the same expectation goes for my presence on my blog and social media.

I apologize that when life knocked me down, I retreated, I licked my wounds and desired to shut down, But you know what? It made it worse. Writing is my passion, writing is never a chore, writing leaves me energized, and I knew I was making a bad decision when I stopped writing. I let the devil steal my joy and allowed him to prevent me from using my gift. Through all of this I thought of all the things that I could write about, but I never did it. I never sat down and expressed what was on my heart. Part of sharing my journey is sharing all of my journey, the good, the bad and the ugly. So I hope in light of my withdrawal, you’ll still hang with me, you’ll still fight this battle with me because I’m not stopping. When we get knocked down we gotta get right back up again!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24

The Fundamental Five: Fitness.

Why exercise is a must.

A year ago I was in a complete standstill when it came to my work-out. I just couldn’t get in a rhythm, and nothing was sticking. I’d work-out for several weeks in a row, and then I’d go weeks without working out. On top of all this I was struggling with serious depression. My capacity to do very much was low and my anxiety was high.
In the midst of my third major depressive disorder I knew I had to find some solutions, some ways of living well with anxiety and depression. I knew my faith was priority number one, after seeing all that God had gotten me through over the years, but I needed more. I needed some practical things I could do to change my brain, my mood and my body.

Exercise changes your brain.

I was shocked at the statistics regarding the effects of exercise on our mental health. I was baffled. Why hadn’t someone explained to me the connection between exercise and your brain. Had I known then what I know now I would’ve made fitness a much bigger priority. Not only did exercise improve your mood by producing endorphins, but things like weight lifting decreased your risk for depression, exercise helped alleviate anxiety and for me losing weight helped me feel better which also helped keep my depression at bay. I knew that I had to find a way to make exercise a priority, and a part of my daily life. It was no longer about my weight or appearance, it was about my brain.

 

“There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.

THE SOLUTION.

For me at home work-outs allowed me to do all the things I wanted without compromising the things that were important to me. I joined a virtual accountability groups where I got daily support, motivation and recipes/tips. It’s honestly been the best, easiest, and most effective way for me to work-out. I have been working out for 15 months consistently, which has never happened. I love the variety of the workouts, how well laid out and practical the healthy eating is as well as the LONG-TERM approach to getting healthy. Even with my injury I can still incorporate the work-outs between my walks and my swimming.

Exercise may boost a depressed person’s outlook by helping him return to meaningful activity and providing a sense of accomplishment. Then there’s the fact that a person’s responsiveness to stress is moderated by activity. “Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain so stress has less of a central impact,” Otto says.

MAKING FITNESS A WAY OF LIFE.

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I’d love to help you reach your goals and commit to working out, seeing your depression and anxiety decrease and get in shape along the way. I can help you do this by customizing support, keeping you motivated, accountable, and sharing what is working for me! I truly believe in order to live well with anxiety and depression, exercise is a must. Even if what I do isn’t right for you, I hope you understand the value of making fitness a priority for your overall mental health.

Fellow warrior,

Sara

She is energetic and STRONG, a hard worker. Proverbs 31:17 NLT

Sara’s Coach Website

Interested in changing things up? I’m starting another group on October 29th to help us get ready for the holidays. Wouldn’t it be awesome to feel great for the holidays both mentally and physically? Fill out one of my accountability applications  or Email me I’d love to help you!

The Exercise Effect

The Fundamental Five. Faith

Finding God in the every day.

God is never mentioned in the book of Esther but if you take a step back you can see His hand over the entire book. You see Him guiding, orchestrating and ultimately redeeming the Jewish people. Esther is one of the greatest women in the Bible. She risked her life to save her people, all while being married to the one that wanted to destroy them. A risk that took a great amount of faith and a great amount of courage. Stories like this inspire me and remind that without hope there is no purpose. Developing a faith in God is the cornerstone of our success. Often, it’s not our unbelief that prevents our faith from growing but creating space for God in our daily routine.

Find time to spend with God on a daily basis.

Schedule your time with God. Yes, you read that right, schedule it. You schedule when you’ll go to the gym, your hair appointment, and your grocery store runs, so it makes perfect sense to schedule your time with God. No two days are the same therefore it will require you to find the time in your daily routine.

I used to roll my eyes when people told me to get up early to meet with God. My response was God doesn’t care if talk to Him at 5am or 9pm which is true, but what I have learned is that when I do get up and make Him a priority, my whole day is better. Even more importantly when I start my day with Him my mood is upbeat and joyful.  It all goes back to making choices versus what you FEEL like doing. You will more than likely never FEEL like waking up at 5am, but you can CHOSE to do it anyway. All five aspects of The Fundamental Five require choices to be made regardless of how you feel. Choices followed by actions.

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What do I do during my quiet time?

Now that I’ve scheduled my quiet time what do I do? First everyone’s is different, but there are a few things that you should always try to do.

  1. First read your Bible. A great place to start is reading Psalms. You can read a chapter a day and turn your psalms into a prayer. A devotional is a good alternative or in addition to reading  God’s Word. A devotional will help you stay focused and pull more out of God’s Word then sometimes you can see on the surface.

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    Make the Bible personal. 

2. Prayer and a time of silence. Yeah, you read that right, silence. How often do we just vomit on God with all of our problems, and then hope we figure out where He is leading us? A very one-sided relationship don’t you think? If we spend time in silence, we have the ability to hear God’s voice and what He is longing to communicate with us. Remember this relationship requires both parties. No, you don’t necessarily hear an audible voice (even though sometimes I pray that God would just put a burning bush in my front yard and tell me exactly what His plan is), but you will be able to discern what God is telling you through Scripture, what He calls to your mind with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you have been a Christian for any amount of time than you know His plans don’t always make sense, aren’t revealed to you all at once and generally don’t happen on your time table.

All five aspects of The Fundamental Five require choices to be made regardless of how you feel. Choices followed by actions.

3. Praying for His will to be done and not your own. This one has never been easy for me. I like to think I know what I’m doing, that I have it all figured out, but let’s be honest it’s never worked out very well for me when I try to be in control.   When Jesus was pleading for His life asking for God to find any other way to redeem our souls other than the cross,  He still ended His prayer with Your will be done, and not mine. Wow, right? Even Christ struggled up to the very end submitting to God’s will, praying for any other way for God to carry out His plan. Jesus set the example of what our relationship with God should look like and while we remember the miracles and the time spent with His disciples we seem to forget much of His time was spent alone praying and listening for God’s voice.

We can’t truly know God, His Son and hear the Holy Spirit, if we don’t spend time in His Word, and time in prayer seeking His guidance. If we really want to transform our minds and follow His path we must take the time to listen to Him. Only through listening wil our perspective on our lives change.

Your fellow warrior,

Sara

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19