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

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

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

Five daily practices to live well with anxiety and depression.

  Awareness is good, but solutions are what we need.

More people are committing suicide every day, and more young adults are on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds than ever before. Awareness is all the buzz, but no real change has come from it. We are being educated on how to identify mental illness, famous people are openly discussing their mental health battles (Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato), doctors and therapists teaching are us about the disease and while all of these things are necessary and good they aren’t affecting real change.

Concrete solutions to mental health lead to concrete change.

One of the reasons I started writing and researching depression and anxiety was because what was out there left me feeling empty and more hopeless. I couldn’t be the only one frustrated with what the world was offering. Nothing I read left me encouraged, in fact most of what I found left me hopeless. Books and articles that say things like “this is your new normal, this is your life.”   Out of this frustration came the passion and drive to find real solutions. Solutions, for how to live every day well whether I’m depressed or not. Even if I never get depression again or I don’t struggle with these issues, we ALL want to live our best life, a life of abundance. So how do we actually do that? How do we make lasting change, and take control of our disease instead of letting it control us.

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More self-help books than you know what to do with……but do they really help and can they be implemented?

 1. Faith

Faith is number one for a reason; because there is no hope without faith. Scrolling through Twitter, watching the news, or spending more than ten minutes on social media you’ll realize that what the world has to offer empty. There are so many people, that are hurting, crying for help, hopeless, and feel lost. There have been seasons where I have been far away from God, sought out other things to either numb the pain or run away from it, and it never works, and in the end, I always came back to my faith. The only way to truly combat the demons that we face is to be grounded in God’s Word. Hope and Laughter was born out of Romans 12:2 “do not be conformed to the pattern of the world but instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I loved this verse because there was so much hope that my brain could change, could be renewed and now there is science to prove it.

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Spending time in God’s Word changes the way we think and the way we perceive our life. Couldn’t we all use a change in perspective?

2. Fitness

This one took me awhile to be honest. I never really enjoyed working out and the only time I did was when I was paying someone to hold me accountable. After I had Priscilla that was no longer feasible, not just the financial aspect, but honestly the time. Time was always an issue, finding someone to watch the kids, my husband’s work schedule. It just never seemed to line up. When I finally got in a groove and found what worked for me, it became a habit. A habit that I saw not only changed me physically but changed my attitude and decreased my anxiety. I started researching the benefits of exercise and couldn’t believe how beneficial it was.  Exercise alters your mood by increasing endorphins, helps decrease your anxiety, and decreases your risk for depression. I soon realized that fitness was a must not a maybe.

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If you would’ve asked me even 5 years ago if I would’ve attempted to do a triathlon I would’ve said that’s reserved for real athletes, not me.

How do we make lasting change, and take control of our disease instead of letting it control us? 

 3. Fuel

For the longest time I thought that fuel was only about what you ate. Fueling your body, with healthy foods, would keep your body in tip top shape, but that wasn’t motivation enough for me. At the time I found most healthy foods to be boring, and fueling my body the right way just sounded like a daunting task. Once I realized that Fuel was not just about what you ate, but about what you read, what you watched, what you listened to my perspective changed. These were all things that were fueling your body, mind, soul and spirit. It mattered how you were fueling your body because it affected your mind. The mind was my motivation.

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Fuel isn’t just about what we eat…….but what we read, watch, listen to and fill our hearts and minds with. Adults are just as impressionable as children……

  4. Fellowship

Fellowship may seem like a stretch or for a daunting task if you’re in the throes of depression. Certain seasons fellowship is really hard, but fellowship is much more than just texting friends or scrolling through social media and commenting on someone’s post. Fellowship is about developing real relationships with  real people. People that will meet you where you’re at with what you are able to give.  Face to face conversations. The world says do everything independently, and God says we are one body with many parts, but all the parts are necessary to make the body. We are called to be in community. True success both relationally and mentally require community. There are different levels of community and different seasons of fellowship, either way it is necessary.

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Real community will change your life, your heart, broaden your perspective and force you outside of yourself. How much more do we learn from relationships versus a book. The Bible is a book filled with relationships that are broken, messy and redemptive. Real people with real problems and real redemption.

5. Freedom

Freedom is the one we need most and the one we make the least amount of time for. Proverbs says where there is no vision the people perish. God has put a purpose and a dream in our hearts and we must find time to pursue that. Whatever it is, wherever you are, with what you have. For me my freedom was found in writing. It was an outlet for me that left me renewed after I spent time writing, not depleted. Whatever your passion is  whether cooking, writing code (that’s my husband’s), photography, or anything that leaves you fueled instead of depleted take the time every day to pursue it. You don’t need to cook a gourmet meal for twenty people or develop your own software. It can be as simple as looking through a cookbook, buying a magazine about home decor whatever it is it will renew your mind, replenish your soul and fuel your day. We were created for a purpose and our purpose is more than getting by but living abundantly.

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My happy place. One of the best presents I’ve ever gotten…….A place where I can pursue my passion.

Sara

 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:1

In spite of all the awareness why is suicide more prevelant?

The confusion of suicide.

Because today is World Suicide Awareness Day, I thought it only fitting to address the subject. This topic is never easy to discuss, is a hard thing to understand, and is always painful. I’m sure I don’t articulate well enough the darkness that was around me for so long trying to understand and wrap my brain around why my father chose to leave. I have reconciled to the fact that I will never know the answers.

Just this past month a pastor in California committed suicide and left behind a wife and three children. This just shocked me, but in some ways gave me hope that this gentleman’s story would be used to shed light on a topic so often ignored by the church.  Now people would understand that this isn’t exclusive to members of the church, or as some believe exclusive to non-believers. Depression which can often lead to suicide or thoughts of suicide can even happen to a pastor. Being a Christian doesn’t make you immune.

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Image credit: @kaylasteck/Instagram

The added grief of suicide.

There is added heartbreak that comes when you lose someone to suicide. The confusion, the shock. There is an added layer of emotions, on top of the natural grief of death. You can’t reconcile it. It doesn’t make sense, and those left behind are consumed with guilt. It falls out of the natural order of life. It’s something we can’t wrap our brain around, and honestly, I hope I never do.

You aren’t the only one.

Over the last several years as I’ve shared my story and sometimes with unbridled transparency and I have come to realize that so many people have lost someone to suicide, way more than I ever thought. The most startling aspect is that it seems to be happening more and more, not less and less. This should raise an alarm in all of us.

With all the technology, education, research, awareness, meds, virtual community and social media shouldn’t this problem be decreasing?

One thing, that I know many will disagree with is that we have spent so much energy teaching our children and ourselves independence that we have forgotten the power of community. We were created to live with others. The burdens the world puts on us were never meant to be carried alone.  The burden is too heavy, it is against the core of who we are created to be.

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When I look back at the early church and how they helped one another out I realize it’s such an example of how things should be, helping one another coming alongside one another to share in their burdens as well as work together to fill in the gaps, where you are weak I am strong.

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Real friendships, real community and real intimacy. 

And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Somehow we have lost this, we text, we Facebook message, we Insta message, we watch stories, we scroll the feed and think we know what’s really going on with one another, and yet we couldn’t be more disengaged, more lonely and more isolated than ever before. Real love, the love that Christ shows us and that we are supposed to emulate is the kind of love where you call someone, you bring them coffee, you offer to help them with their kids, you make time out of your schedule to meet them, you ask them about what’s going on with them, and listen, even if you don’t understand, even if it makes no sense to you, you listen.

           We are called to listen, to love and love without judgment, where someone is at, exactly as they are.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

We are called to love with every once of our being. So if you see someone hurting, even if you feel like you can’t relate, you don’t know what to say, lean in to God, lean on the Holy Spirit for understanding and let go of your own insecurities and show someone else the power of Christ’s love.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19.

I stand with you,

Sara

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, contemplating suicide, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.