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

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. 

 

Anxiety, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Anxiety comes at the worst time.

So often our anxiety completely wrecks us, and whatever we are anxious about hasn’t even happened, or for that matter doesn’t EVER happen. Yesterday I had one of my first official “mom coffee’s” at my son’s new school. First not only is my son starting a new school, but I am. For the last 3 years Zeke has been at a wonderful preschool, that has become home. I have made friends there that I absolutely love and adore. Women who have encouraged me and who have seen me struggle over the past several years.

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Zeke at his preschool graduation with his teacher’s. 

New school, new relationships an anxious person’s perfect storm.

Now, I’m embarking on a whole new journey in a whole new world. Mark and I spent a decade in prayer about where we wanted our children to go to school and what we thought was important. I loved my public school experience and my husband loved his Catholic school experience. We knew each had it’s flaws, but we both felt they were good choices. Ultimately we came to the decision to send our child to private school a couple miles from our home. We felt God leading us here and it was the best fit for our family. Every time we meet a family from the school it affirms our decision even more.  Unfortunately sometimes even divine affirmation doesn’t dispel discomfort.

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Zeke and Priscilla at the school garden. 

Having FOMO as an adult.

This past week was one of our first school events. A kindergarten mom coffee. This little public school girl from a small town was completely out of her element. This coffee was so important to me, that I was going to move mountains to get there. Not only did I not want to miss out on any and all information, but these are the women I will be spending my days with and raising my children with, not just for kinder but hopefully for the thirteen years. (No pressure right? These ladies better be AWESOME!) I’m sure you can see how I was sort of setting myself up for a high anxiety situation. Did I mention that basically forty eight hours before the coffee I realized I had no childcare?

Sometimes even divine affirmation doesn’t dispel discomfort.

Yeah, I asked everyone I could think of, I mean EVERYONE. The irony was my husband was going to actually be home, but Murphy’s law he had a demo from 2-4, smack dab in the middle of my coffee. Not only did he have to be on the call, but was leading it. So there was no way he could watch my kids. They fight too much, it’s summer, so the wheels have come off and my patience is thin. If you saw my Instagram on Monday you would know why I wasn’t having high hopes.

The night before I emailed the admissions office and let them know that I wasn’t going to make it to the coffee because I couldn’t find any childcare. To my surprise they said that my children were more than welcome to come to the tea and they could color or play with some toys during the coffee. I had visions of my children, kicking, screaming and fighting and right as I’m about to remove my children from the premesis they quietly tell me that my child is no longer a good fit for the school and we would need to find Zeke other arrangements for kindergarten.  (Catastrophic much?) I just knew that everything that could go wrong would go wrong.

So to lower the odds of Zeke getting kicked out of his school that technically he hasn’t even started we decided to leave him at home.  Unlike Zeke; Master P as we like to call Priscilla, needed to be “managed.” So off I went to a situation that already was pushing me out of my comfort zone, with a ticking time bomb three year old girl.

I just knew that everything that could go wrong would go wrong.

To my surprise Priscilla couldn’t have been more PERFECT, and I mean perfect. It was scary, how perfect she was. She was quiet, played with a small box of dolls and entertained herself for an entire two hours. She was actually sooooo perfect, I began to worry she was up to something she shouldn’t be. Us mom’s know when a child is quiet, you better see what they are up too. I was constantly checking to make sure she wasn’t climbing the grand piano, or pulling down candelabra’s from the fireplace. So even though things were going well, I was still on edge because I just kept waiting for an outburst.  All this anxiety, frustration, anger, exhaustion, fear and worry for nothing. My anxiety was wasted energy, wasted frustration, wasted anger, wasted time and for what? Absolutely nothing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s experienced this? Anyone else had social anxiety?

Your fellow warrior,

Sara

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 The Message. 

 

 

Summer Pea Salad.

Ahh what to eat in the summer. Anyone else struggle with this? I realize in the summer I just try to avoid cooking at all costs. It’s not really because of the busyness, but mainly it’s so HOT! The thought of the oven or the stove causes me to sweat. I mean I can feel it dripping down my back. But, as I’ve made lifestyle changes over to healthier eating, I needed to find recipes and things to eat. Learning to eat healthy and clean met reinventing the wheel in the kitchen. Starting from scratch and cleaning out my pantry from top to bottom.

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One of the best tips I ever learned was have a bowl for all your trash. (Thank you Rachel Ray!)

So in my quest to learn to eat more veggies, I needed to find something I knew I’d eat. My problem with healthy food in the beginning was I felt like it was all so bland, and blah. I wanted a meal with a kick, with some punch, some FLAVOR! Healthy doesn’t have to mean flavorless. I have learned this over time especially living in the great city of Austin where it’s easy to eat healthy and it tastes amazing.

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Use the left over celery for snacks and celery is always great with hummus.
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So many veggies. Veggies most ladies!

Here is my go to summer salad!

Ingredients:

  1. juice of 1 lemon
  2. 2 Tbsp olive oil
  3. 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  4. 2 cups of green peas, cooked and cooled
  5. 1/4 cup red onions, diced
  6. 1/2 cup celery, diced
  7. 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  8. 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese (or feta, I prefer goat)
  9. 2 Tbsp of fresh cilantro (or parsley or mint)

Place the first three ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the rest of the ingredients and combine. Serve!

Recipe found on Weelicious.

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Enjoy! I hope you love it as much as I do.

Its’ really that simple and your kids will love it!

Sara

Interested in joining one of my accountability groups? I’d love to have you join me!

 


 

 

How we speak to ourselves matters.

Is your life going how you planned? Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones that has always knew what you wanted to do, graduated college with a degree where you could step into a job, met your spouse soon after, have 2.5 children and live in the suburbs. Well my life hasn’t worked out that way even if it might appear that way on the outside.

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Here’s our 2.5 kids in the suburbs. 

How we think determines how we act and how we act determines the course of our life, so shouldn’t we focus more on our thoughts than our actions?

I had to learn the hard way this summer, that routine and consistency is a must for me. Summer is kind of a love/hate for me. I love the freedom of not having to be somewhere at a certain time, but I hate how I lose my time to myself. I tend to get out of a routine and I end up going off the rails with my diet.

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Working on mommy’s office. 

Summer is supposed to be a time of relaxation and enjoyment of the simple things and hopefully some time to disconnect. This summer has been a little different for our family. Things didn’t go the way we planned, vacation plans were changed, and still recovering a financially crippling 2017. With that, I’ve fallen out of my routine. This past school year, I was so good about getting my work-outs in, reading my Bible, and working on my blog. After my sinus surgery in March it just seemed like an uphill battle, and unfortunately I eventually threw caution to the wind. Let me tell you, it hasn’t worked out well. I’ve put on a few pounds, I’m not getting up as early and therefore I’m always behind, and my time to myself seems to be dwindling. I had a lot of grand plans for this summer. A summer filled with projects being accomplished, my house in tip top shape, and my blog skyrocketing into success. Well it doesn’t look like that, and I’m partially to blame.

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The one thing I have been consistent about. 

One I’m not realistic with my goals, as my husband says I “boil the ocean.” I focus on 20 different things instead of 1 or 2. I tend to think big, but then crash and burn. Ironically the only place that didn’t suffer was my exercising. I have been able to maintain my exercise almost daily the entire summer. I injured my knee and took a week off to recuperate, but was able to jump right back in stronger than ever and realized I had to spend more time foam rolling, stretching, and decreasing my weights. I realized the reason I was successful with my exercising wasn’t because if I had a bad day or didn’t feel like it I just didn’t work-out and figured I’d eventually do it and still maintain my strength. Instead I didn’t let the small setback, kill me and destroy myself mentally. I actually spoke to myself with common sense, compassion and encouragement. I reminded myself how far I had come, how far I still wanted to go, and better to take a week of rest and come back ready to win, than just give up and lose all the hard work I put in. Why can’t I speak to myself like this in all aspects of my life? What I did realize was the importance of a routine, and not letting my emotions dictate my actions. My emotions didn’t necessarily change.  Most days after I worked out my mood changed, but some days it didn’t.

” Regardless my mood I exercised.” 

I knew I couldn’t afford to get out of a routine because I had future goals. Spa girl triathlon is in September(which I still think I might be delusional) and I had to focus on my goal. I realized I should apply the same principles with my exercise in every aspect of my life. My emotions are fleeting, and so is my mood. To allow them to dictate my choices seems irresponsible and infantile. Besides if we are a new creation in Christ then we are equipped with power, love and self-discpline and I should put those into practice. We must celebrate the small victories, the day to day choices, because in the end they will compound into life changing realities.

Do you struggle with the thoughts in your head? Connecting our thoughts with our actions well change our lives.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. II Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

The heartbreak and confusion of suicide.

The heartbreak of suicide.

I spoke with two friends this week who had a lost someone to suicide. The heartbreak of their loss brought back a lot of memories for me.  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.

Suicide is always a shock.

I remember all the emotions that I had when I lost my dad. I was in complete and total shock. I never saw it coming, not once.  I knew he was depressed, but not to that level.  My father was doing everything he could; meds, therapy, meeting with deacons, pastors, and he still felt this desperation that I couldn’t understand as a twelve-year-old, and still don’t fully understand today.  Before he died he seemed to be doing better, and my mom and I were encouraged, even hopeful. There were things that my mom saw, that I wasn’t privy to until I was older and ready to understand those things. I spent years trying to understand it, and to be honest I still don’t have all the answers, but I have resigned to the fact, that there will be things that I never will understand.

Why suicide isn’t like other deaths.

Like all death, your life is changed in an instant, but now you have to explain something to others, that even you yourself don’t understand. I remember people asking me when I told them my father had passed away. Once I told them how he passed;  what they thought  of his choice was written all over their face. Most people didn’t know what to say, or how to respond, which in turn made me all the more uncomfortable and I had to relive it over and over again. The horror, the confusion, the shock and all the questions that will never be answered, questions I didn’t have the answers to either.

Suicide doesn’t always happen the way people describe it. Sometimes it comes as a complete and total shock to those around them. They seem happy, good, life is good, but unfortunately there are things going on in their mind that we don’t see or understand.

Suicide and salvation.

I think the hardest thing was the confusion I felt about my dad’s salvation and was it lost; was he with God in Heaven? I didn’t even begin to know who to ask. I began reading some books, but none of them made sense to me, they were just disheartening and depressing. I needed encouragement and hope. I felt such judgment for my dad’s choices, that I kept quiet for so long. I had to learn for myself. Ultimately, I came to rest in this verse:

 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from, Me.” John 10:28

God is not turning away from them. Their salvation isn’t lost. While I know that suicide is not what God wants for their lives, that He knows there is more, their salvation is not lost and I will forever hold on to this. I know my father and I will spend eternity together and will rejoice in the fact that God has not only healed our souls, but healed our minds. “Rejoice, again I say rejoice!”

Praying for my friends, and praying for those who are hurt. Please reach out, you are not alone my friend, you are not alone.

Sara  

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Are you stuck in guilt or growing in grace?

Bad decisions not a bad person.

I don’t know about you, but I never associated guilt with anxiety. Have you? I always associated guilt with depression. You had so much guilt that you began to believe that a bad decision was somehow who you are, not just a bad choice. You know spending too much money on a dress, meant that you at your core were just completely irresponsible with money. Instead of a bad decision you ARE bad. I struggle with this a lot myself. Sometimes I look back to my twenties and would like a do-over. Most days I’m grateful I survived my 20’s, and know the bad choices led me to who I am today and without those bad decisions I wouldn’t be where I am at now. But other times I kind of wish I’d made good decisions and wonder what my life would be like if I did. You know if I had studied harder, (realizing later that the majority of my struggle in college was due to my depression, not because I believed that I just wasn’t smart), partied less, managed money better, or been more involved.

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College days where I played more than I studied.

 Guilt leads to anxiety.

Because of our guilt we bury these frustrations and pretend these things didn’t happen we cover it up, deny it, or numb it, but the longer we do that the more we wage war on our soul. Maybe your guilt isn’t about things like mine, but maybe it’s how you treated someone when you were tired, yelling at your kids, or taking digs at someone who you really love. Guilt weighs you down and robs you of your joy. Don’t confuse guilt with conviction.

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Post college when I was just beginning to process all the things that had happened to me over the years. Too many deaths, struggles and heartaches to process.

Guilt causes you to stay there, build a camp and somehow never leave.

Conviction acknowledges the mess up but remembers that grace outweighs guilt. Grace allows you to move on. Are you stuck in guilt or growing in grace? We all will mess up it’s inevitable, and the more I study the Bible the more I realize that everyone falls short. Somehow when we remember the stories of “famous” individuals in the Bible we forget their pasts and focus on their strengths.

Conviction acknowledges the mess up but remembers that grace outweighs guilt.

Somehow we’ve forgotten that grace applies to us too.

But really shouldn’t we be doing the same for ourselves? We don’t focus on Paul condemning Christians and being one of the worst offenders of the church. No, we remember how he wrote the majority of the Bible, how he spent most of his time in prison for his faith, how he spent the majority of his life pursing Christ. We remember him as one of the greats. The list goes on and sometimes those who were living lies completely outside of God’s best, seem to understand grace even more. Rahab is another one of those great stories, a prostitute who took in two spies sent by Joshua to check out the Promised Land. She saved them from death, asked for their protection, and trusted that God would keep His promises. In the end not only was Rahab spared, but her family was spared and she became a part of the lineage of Christ. I’d say she fared pretty well.

God’s got a plan, and His plan isn’t derailed by your mess ups.

Let’s live like we’re forgiven instead of chained to our failures.

Let’s stop missing out on what’s before us because we’re too focused on what’s behind us. We’ve all messed up and will continue to miss the mark. Let’s recognize we are flawed but, continue to pursue God’s best and trust that He’s got it figured out.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

And I believe my old worship pastor said it best.

If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking….. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets When I think about the way… That He Loves us, Oh, how He love us Oh, how He loves us Oh, how He loves. (Dave Crowder).

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Why organizing lowers your anxiety.

The Stress of clutter.

Yeah, I know you probably think I’m a little bit crazy, because I believe that organization and lack of clutter lead to less stress and anxiety in your life, but it’s true. The more organized things are, when everything has its place, when you get rid of the things you don’t need and you have margin in your home, your heart is content and you can breathe deeply and calmly.

This may sound delusional to you, or slightly dramatic, but how many times have you become irritable, or anxious because you are stressed about the mess, the mess that never goes away or closets or maybe rooms where you put everything that you don’t know what to do with. For me I know it took a long time to realize that mess, clutter, and disorganization created irritability and undue stress and anxiety in life. I know all anxiety can’t be eliminated nor can all messes be eliminated, but they can be managed, they can be reduced and therefore your anxiety can be managed and reduced.

 

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My husband’s nightstand. Clutter makes it hard to find things you are looking for. 

Organizing doesn’t have to be expensive.

I used to laugh every time I watched Friends because I could totally relate to Monica’s obsession with organization, remember when she made all those file folders for Chandler to help in find a job and then he only got to the first one and he decided that he wanted to do advertising. She didn’t care because she was just excited to use her label maker. JI’m a little bit like that, I love to organize because not only does clutter bring me stress, but organization brings calmness to my mind. Sometimes I’ve avoided organizing because it can be pretty pricey, and it seems you could spend $100’s at Etsy on cute labels, or fancy storage from The Container Store (I will say nothing beats their Elfa shelving), but my friend turned me on to a really inexpensive way to organize that’s made my life so much easier. The Home Depot carries Sterilite clear containers that are wait for it………, $.99!!! Yeah, you read that right $.99!!!!!!   ( for $30.00 I organized, my desk, nightstands, bathrooms, laundry room and a couple of closets). I went nuts with these containers and they are everywhere.

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The after. Books, watches, work-out items, and sunglasses. Who knew?

Organize what you have before you spend on what you think you need.

Not only do they reduce some of your clutter, but they organize what you decide to keep. I of course found out that we have multiples of pretty much everything. Apparently, I’ve been stealing black pens from my church for about a decade. Anyways, you’ll be amazed at what you find, what you didn’t know you had and what you didn’t know you needed.  I cleaned out nightstands, desks, craft tables, my husband’s office (that’s still a work in progress), my bathroom and the kid’s bathroom. You wouldn’t believe how much those things came in handy.

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The pantry is one of my favorite places to organize, because I can see the results immediately since we use it multiple times a day. Put cupcake liners in mason jars. (Valentines and Christmas)

Organizing takes time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your house be organized in a day. Take things one day at a time, one draw at a time. Get your kids to help you sort through drawers, their bookcases. Sometimes just going through one drawer might be enough for the day, while other days you can attack an entire nightstand, or dresser. I know my kids LOVE cleaning the pantry, throwing away old food, labeling items, and organizing their snacks. As the saying goes, when mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

 

What’s your favorite way to organize in your home?

Sara

But be sure that everything is done properly and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40 

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The 5 Most Common Lies of Mental Health.

  1. Christians don’t struggle with mental health.

Mental health is exclusive to non-believers and if you are a believer you will never struggle with mental health. This is setting people up for failure and an abandonment of their faith. If you believe this lie then what happens when you do struggle, you will view your struggle as an indictment on your faith and it’s just not, period.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

This Bible verse does not say IF, it says WHEN so let’s acknowledge that on this side of heaven you WILL have trouble.

  1. You can pray your way to healing.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Christ died on the cross and paid for our sins and sent us the Holy Spirit so that we could have a relationship with God. Christ is our high priest who intervens for us before the Lord and therefore enables this direct relationship. Because we have a direct relationship we can bring anything before God. All this said, it isn’t the sole solution to the problem. It’s a tool in our toolbelt that goes unused and is seen as inferior. Throughout the Bible people prayed to God in order to set their heart and to discern God’s will, but prayer was always followed by action. God is a God of action. God worked, and He expects the same from us. Jesus didn’t sit in the temple and pray everyday. He fed people, He healed people, He served people and relayed God’s truth. Jesus worked hard and so should you.

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39

  1. Medicine will fix all your problems.

We’ve encountered a culture where a pill is the solution for everything. You can’t sleep, take a pill, your back hurts, take a pill, your nauseous take a pill, you have anxiety, take a pill. Medicine in of itself is not a solution, just like prayer medicine is part of the solution. Medicine isn’t for everyone either and there should be no judgment for those who seek alternative ways of dealing with depression/anxiety, especially those who struggle with addiction. On the flipside there should be no judgment for those who take medicine. Sometimes medicine is the push you need to get out of the pit and start taking the right steps, for others it is a life long supplement needed to correct something your brain is lacking. So if you take medicine, ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS pair it with therapy.

4. You have mental health issues because you have a weak faith.

This one unfortunately has been perpuated by the church, and not all churchs, but the “church” as a whole. I have always appreciated my pastors candor and honesty about the realities of mental health issues. They can happen to anyone and they are not the result of a weak faith, but the realities of living in a fallen world. Our world isn’t perfect so we all will encounter troubles whether our faith is new or decades old. We all go through seasons and some seasons our faith is stronger than others.  King David, who was called a “man after god’s own heart,” struggled with depression. Depression isn’t a litmus test of our faith.

   “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11

  1. Mental health is punishment from God for the choices you’ve made.

God doesn’t hand out punishments for the choices we’ve made. It just doesn’t work that way. He’s not sitting in heaven sending lightning bolts from the sky to strike us down whenever He sees fit. If that were the case we’d all be dead, and this would negate all that Christ did for us on the cross.

He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. Psalm 103:10.

So all this to say, the next time someone, something, some ideology states that any of the lies above are truth, remember God’s Word, and don’t believe the lies. The scariest thing about a lie is that it sounds like the truth. It’s the truth twisted, twisted to the point that we can deceive ourselves into believing it is God’s truth.

Sara

He  (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 

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Trader Joe’s staples for healthy eating.

Why I love shopping at Trader Joe’s.

Growing up in California my parents loved Trader Joe’s and talked about it all the time. Great food, for a cheap price. In the land of Whole Foods, that seemed impossible. Needless to say when Austin finally got Trader Joe’s I was shocked and excited. I heard about it this place forever and when I would visit my best friend in Venice Beach, we’d always manage to make a trip there. What I didn’t realize was how many healthy options they have, great foods for strict diets like paleo, GF, or Whole 30.

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Their turkey and chicken burgers are a hit and have no sugar.

Sometimes we need quick fixes, not time intensive meals.

So often I feel like when we think of healthy we think we have to make something, and it’s usually elaborate. For me since I never really knew how to cook healthy every time I’d find a recipe it was so labor intensive, and time consuming that I’d end up throwing in the towel, or just not cooking again for several days because it took everything out of me. To me it’s just not always relastic to cook every night and I need frozen options that taste good. These turkey and chicken burgers are seasoned so well, and they only  take a matter of minutes on the stove. A win, win especially on those nights that I’m single mommin’ it.

 

I use to find pre-cut things to be such a waste of money. I’d think how hard is it to cut cup mushrooms, well some days it just is. Kids have activities, or you’ve had activities all day long. Trader Joe’s has so many things that are pre-cut for reasonable prices. I love their sliced mushrooms, cut up butternut squash,  and sweet potato noodles. Their fruit is always great too. My kids love the three in 1 grapes with red, black and green. Variety is the spice of life.

Kids eat your veggies!

We all know how hard it is to get your kids to eat vegetables. My kids used to be much healthier eaters, but as they have gotten older it has been more of a struggle. They don’t always want them, or they’d rather eat their body weight in fruit. Trader Joe’s Spinach and Kale bites are a MUST. Not only do my kids love them, but Mark and I love them too. Yes there is a little flour in them which isn’t ideal, but getting your kids to eat their greens is worth it.  There are other great options for snacks too. They’re pretzel slims are great if you’re child is younger because they don’t present a choking hazard. Cranberries, raspberries, nuts, slivered almonds, you name it every healthy snack out there.

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Spinach and Kale Bites are always a hit. Mark and I love them too.

Special Diet Options.

I know there are plenty of people that have chosen to do a special diet, whether for health reasons, to stay lean or food allergies. You’d be amazed how many options Trader Joe’s has. From vegan cream cheese to gluten free buttercream cupcakes (not exactly healthy, but they are good), there are options for everyone. One of my favorites is the pasta options. There are so many to choose from.

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Black bean, red lentil, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Options galore.
Trader Joe’s for the win.

I definitely give Trader Joe’s a thumbs up, not just for their amazing options of healthy foods, but their customer service and pride in what they do. You can pretty much ask anyone about any product and they can tell you when they’ll get it, if it’s been discontinued or they’ll order it for you. We couldn’t live without our weekly Trader Joe’s runs between the great choices for my kids and lots of healthy options for us, the whole family is happy and it didn’t cost us a fortune. (And no this is not a sponsored ad, I truly just love Trader Joe’s.)

What are some of your favorite foods at Trader Joe’s? I’m always looking for more ideas.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, you were bought with a price; therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19

Sara 

 


 

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The one thing no one tells you about anxiety.

What happens when our fears are based in truth.

Something that has happened in the past, (a loss), something that we know will happen (a presentation at work), or something we see on the news. These are legitimate fears grounded in real things that have actually happened or going to happen.  Sometimes we have rational fears; yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron but it’s true. I realized today as I was leaving for a trip to Vegas to meet my husband and I left my kids behind, that a lot of triggers were happening. I kept thinking of what if my kids lose their mom and their dad or what if they lose their mom and their dad is out of town, or worse what if I lose them?

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My pride and joy.

Sometimes our fears are rational.

At first, I was annoyed with myself and stressed about my anxiety, I mean I’ve left the kids before and not felt this way, or at least this intensely. What I realized is that the perfect storm was brewing. March 21st was the twenty seventh anniversary of my father’s death, and it just so happened that two days before my trip a bomb with a trip wire had exploded only a couple of miles from my home. Any normal person would have fears after a bomb has exploded a few miles from their home, while two kids were leisurely out riding their bikes, but this instance triggered something more. It was a reminder of that feeling when I lost my father, that your life can change in the blink of an eye. It’s a reminder I’d like to leave behind.

 In some way fear is a good thing, it’s a reality check for your priorities, a push for your prayer life and a heightened level of gratitude for what you have.

All this said, the fear is still there, and the fear is still real. This one is harder to talk myself through, this one makes sense, this one is rational. Sometimes the rational fears are the hardest ones to conquer.

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This was taken a couple miles from our house, after the trip wire bomb exploded. Image courtesy of HPM digital team.

The juxtaposition of free will and God’s love.

I spent Monday morning at Bible study and I realized how much I needed it. Sometimes you don’t leave Bible Study with all the answers, sometimes in fact you leave with even more questions, but knowing that you aren’t alone in your fears, is sometimes the best medicine. Reconciling Scripture which talks about God being our protector, our shade, our fortress, just doesn’t ring true when people are dying from opening packages on their front door step. Those verses are comforting when we have irrational fears, and we are reminded of who God is, but when tragedy strikes or the idea that tragedy could come at any second, I need more than those verses. They don’t make sense to me in these moments. The juxtaposition of free will and God’s love is one of the many theological paradigms that is hard to understand. Our desire for justice is so great, but yet if that justice was turned on us, the fear alone might kill us. No one wants to be told who to love and yet we forget that God is the same way.

      He longs for us to run towards Him the same way we long for our children to run towards us.

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We live in a world that is not how God intended it.

Still we have to remind ourselves that we live in a fallen world, a world that is not how God had planned, with free will comes real consequences. This only fuels our desire for restoration and heaven. Our longing to go home where we are no longer wrestling with these juxtapositions but where everything is made complete, and whole. Justice has been served and we are on the right side of justice. So, in these moments when our fears are rational and real, we must hold on to the hope of the future. The hope of heaven, the desire to go home is real, God has placed that desire in our heart, don’t run from it, hold on to it. The fear will pass, day to day life will distract, but God is longing for you to come home as much as you are.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelations 21:4

What are some fears you have encountered that are hard to conquer?

Sara

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It works for you, but not for me.

Don’t put your faith on me.

My best friend and I were talking the other day about my blog. She expressed how some of her friends who have gone through depression or anxiety, were turned off by my faith.  I know there are people who read my blog that don’t share my beliefs, or they may avoid reading it all together. I get it. Sometimes I think my healing has misled people and they believe that I can’t identify, or that I haven’t really been there. While others think I was probably never that depressed to begin with. For me, I realize that where I’m at shows how much I have healed. I pray that while you may disagree with me and you may find my faith annoying, you will still listen to my story, and do your best to keep an open mind.

 

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A picture of my childhood church, unfortunately was burned down by arsonists, but will always hold a special place my heart. Love First Baptist Church Temple.

Remember church is just a hospital full of sinners.

You may see pictures of me and I may look as though I have it “all together,” but we all know that NO ONE has it all together. In high school I still hadn’t even begun to deal with everything that happened to me, I just compartmentalized my grief and did my best to fit in with my piers even though I didn’t relate.

I was on a mission trip with our church and my friend Amy asked how I was doing and what was going on with our family. Just a friend taking the time to check in and see where I was at. Looking back, I realize how detached I was emotionally from what had happened to me. Grief was just a drawer I pulled out and looked through when someone asked about my dad.  What I didn’t recognize at the time was everything I was sharing with her affirmed how God had protected and provided for my mom and me. I would’ve never seen it had my friend Amy not pointed it out. I didn’t really think much of it, I heard her, but I just cataloged it for a later date. A date when I actually might deal with my grief.

You may not see the impact  the church has now, but you will feel the change later. 

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Just like people, the church may look good on the outside, but is messy on the inside. We aren’t meant to do life alone and God has called us to community. 

Decades later that conversation has left a lasting impression on my heart. She pointed out, how our neighbors gave us a car until we could buy one, with no return date, no questions asked.  How people showed up and mowed our yard, not for the first couple of weeks after my dad’s death, but months, maybe longer. My grandparents bought my mom a car, our friend took all my mom’s taxes and did them for her. Even my orthodontist, gave my mom a reduced price for my braces. People brought us meals, and extended an invitation into their home and into their lives.  We received support that we desperately needed, but probably would have never asked for. Almost all of these people were from church. They lived out their faith in ways, I will never forget.  The church stepped up in a way that will be imprinted on my heart forever.

Sara

Has the church body or someone from the church changed your life in a meaningful way? I’d love to hear! Comment below with something the church has done for you.

Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way, you will follow Christ’s teachings.

Galatians 6:2

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Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

 

My first attempt at a Vlog, (yes that is a word), sharing a little bit about my journey with Hope and Laughter, and the things that I have struggled with whether through faith, writing, fitness, diet, pretty much all of it.

 

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Making God’s Truth a Reality.

We can read the Bible, we can go to church, we can pray, but ultimately unless we really and truly believe it, and internalize it our lives can’t truly be transformed. We have to change our thoughts before we can change the way we feel. We have to reframe our thoughts, even if we don’t feel it. We have to recognize that we CAN retrain our brains and therefore began to retrain our behavior. t starts with doing things we don’t feel like doing and saying things OUT LOUD that we may not quite understand. It starts with doing. In the words of NIKE “JUST DO IT!”

Craig Groeschel preached about how our thoughts effect everything that we do specifically our behavior. How do you talk to yourself? When you wake up, do you start your day with I’m so tired, the kids are driving me crazy, where’s the coffee, I have so much to do, I’m never going to get the job I really want, it’s going to be a tough week, there’s just too much to do, I can’t stand the people I work with, I’m never going to get ahead. Not exactly the ideal way to start your day is it? Your life is moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. Do you like the direction they are heading?

We all know we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change how we think about our circumstances. Stress isn’t about what you have to do, but how you think about what you have to do. Somewhere along our faith journey we have forgotten that we are equipped with weapons for battle. God has given us weapons not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. [I know many people don’t believe in the idea of spiritual warfare, that it’s made up, but if you believe in God, and you believe in the impossible, then what is so IMpossible about the spiritual between good and evil.]

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. {no one said the devil wasn’t smart, he’s always strategizing and manipulating. The scariest, is he knows God’s Word, (Matthew 4:1-11)} 12 For wea]”>[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.14 STAND YOUR GROUND, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.b]”>[b] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.c]”>[c] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.{Luke 11:9-10} Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.d]”>[d]

Satan has you convinced, that you can’t, you won’t, and you never will, but God says I can and you will because you have Me. The more you say God’s truths the more you will renew your mind. Eventually a light will click on and you’ll move from just saying it to believing it to acting it out. When your thinking changes your life will change.

Download my free printable with 10 truths for a renewed mind.

Sara
Download your free printable here:

https://sarasoenenblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/blue-white-simple-writing-prompt-essay-worksheet-2.pdf

 

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5 Unexpected Lessons from our Detox

When Mark and I set out to do this detox, to say I was skeptical was an understatement. We have done detox’s before and sometimes have been successful and other times we gave up before we finished. The times we were successful, there were some small changes, but nothing really big. The times that we didn’t finish I was so burned out from all the prep, and planning, that I just threw in the towel. There were always parties to go to and with a lot of toddlers running around, a glass of wine was frankly too hard to pass up. I have to say this was different. I bought the Ultimate Reset back in July, and I had just started getting into a work-out routine and this sounded like a great idea. When I got the box in the mail I was more than a little intimidated. That box sat in my pantry for 6 months, until I finally got up the courage to set a date. January 15th. My best friend’s birthday party was on the 13th and I wasn’t about to watch everyone have fun cocktails while I sipped on my water. When I finally made the commitment and completed the detox, I was more than amazed at the things I learned.

  1. I actually like vegetables. I like vegetables, but can get bored with them and struggle to always want to eat them unless they are smothered in salad dressing, or covered in cheese. This reset showed me so many great recipes and fun and new ways to eat and season them that I actually loved.  So many of the recipes I will be using even after the detox is over.
  2. If there is a specific plan I can do it. Mark and I did a 10 day detox just about every January, and one of the reasons we found it so easy was that it told me EXACTLY what to eat and when. When I did Whole 30, while there were recipes and many ideas of what to eat, I still had to come up with a meal plan and figure out what we were having for every meal.  Having a set menu made things much easier and less stressful.
  3. I love wine, but…… Mark and I enjoy having a good glass of wine or a mixed drink. What we discovered through the detox is yeah, one glass of wine isn’t a big deal, BUT for me if I have more than one I tend to make unhealthy eating choices, I’m completely unproductive and I sleep poorly. Mark and I both agree that neither one of us have ever slept as well as we did on this detox. I mean the way I used to sleep before I had kids. (I know many parents have given up on ever sleeping that well again.)
  4. Perfection doesn’t have to take place in order to be successful. Throughout my fitness and health journey I have to come to realize how destructive perfectionism is. Perfectionism sets you up for failure, feeds your insecurities, and puts your focus on the wrong things. Week 3 was probably the hardest week, Mark traveled, I had major PMS and was the most restrictive in terms of the diet. Normally I’d just give up and give in to my cravings, but I wanted to be successful and watching Mark loose so much weight was motivation enough. I was hungrier and instead of beating myself up, I upped my quantities of food, but stuck to the meal plan so I was full, and successful. I had to realize what was going to work for me, not what I was “supposed” to do.
  5. I can do the thing I never thought I could. I know so many people had their doubts about this detox, a gradual shift to a completely vegan diet. If you would’ve told me 3 weeks ago, that I couldn’t do this, I would’ve agreed with you. I’ve tried GF/DF diets before and never lasted. My focus was on all the things I couldn’t eat instead of finding things I could. The biggest reason for my success was the food was great. Sweet Potato bisque with red bell pepper was to die for, and today I ate lentil lime salad for lunch!!!!!! Y’all I chose to eat this, the detox is over, and I chose to eat this. I haven’t had sweets in 22 days. Yes, I had a glass of wine during the Super Bowl, but it was worth it. Being able to say I did this was more than just about doing a detox and getting thin, I proved to myself that I could do something I never thought I could which is almost as exciting as fitting in my skinny jeans.

Sara

Interested in doing a detox?  Email me.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. II Timothy 1:7

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The problem is the pattern and we can break it.

             Before my decision to share with you guys my struggles and triumphs in my journey with depression and anxiety, I was working on finding solutions for myself. I would try to read anything, and everything related to those topics, and still do. After Zeke was born, I had lots of time to work-out and listen to podcasts. One of my friends told me that she ran listening to sermons. That seemed strange to me, but at this point I was opening to trying anything. She said she loved Steven Furtick because he was intense, and amped up and was very motivating to listen to. I began listening to Steven Furtick, and fortunately for me probably the most powerful sermon I’ve ever listened to was my first. Let me say this upfront, I won’t do his sermon justice, but I mean it when I say this sermon changed everything.

          Because of my depression I was at their mercy, and my thought life was a result of the life around me not a pattern.

             I had always been under the assumption that my thoughts were out of my control. I merely saw each attack, as a series of random events.  That is not the case. We all recognize that the world is full of patterns; traffic patterns, sleep patterns, music patterns, coding patterns, etc., so why was it so far-fetched that my thoughts would be a pattern? Often, we see new patterns, or habits we have created as ineffective. We focus on the results instead of how we ended here. We either give up too soon, and don’t see the result of our labor or we aren’t looking at the pattern that let us to the product or results.

            Think of all the times you’ve done something, and you kept at it, for days, months, maybe even years and you saw only minimal results, and then one day everything clicked, things were easy and the result you had been working towards was finally accomplished. My first piano lesson didn’t result in recital where I performed a Bach Invention in front of a packed audience. I had to practice for hours and hours, day after day, month after month, and year after year, before I was an accomplished pianist and even then, there is always more to learn. I knew the result was possible, so I kept at it.

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Me “teaching” Zeke his scales.

The same can be said when it comes to depression. Depression is a pattern of negative thoughts that over time have resulted in a brain that is not functioning at its’ best. Often times we think we are the victim of life’s patterns, and other people’s choices, which can be true some of the time, but more often than not the results we see in our lives are products of our own patterns, that we have created over time, sometimes patterns we don’t even recognize. The world isn’t the problem, God loves the world (For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life John 3:16), but the pattern of the world is the problem. (Do not be conformed by the pattern of this world, instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2) Everything in your life is a result of a pattern. EVERYTHING. If we can perceive the patterns in our lives than we can solve the problems.

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The patterns in creation, at one of my favorite places, The Natural Gardener.

So what can we do to change this pattern? How can we beat it? How can we tame it? How can we be in charge instead of be the victim. Our mind is powerful, but we are in charge and we can take control. I am fighting this battle with you, you are not alone.

Your fellow warrior,

Sara 

             Yet, in all these things (death, destruction, feminine, heartbreak, depression, anxiety, etc., ) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37     

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Cycle of Depression.

Let’s get a little scientific for a minute. I think depression is viewed as something that very few people encounter and there’s only a small number of us who will have full blown depression. The statistics say differently. Fifty percent of adults will develop a mental illness in their lifetime. Now obviously that doesn’t mean 50% of adults will get depression, but we all know depression is obviously a common mental illness. I feel like if we understand how depression works and how it comes about then we might understand how susceptible we are as well as how our brain works. If we understand how the brain works than we can begin to break the cycle.

Several years back a man named Dr. Robi came and spoke at our church. This man not only was an amazing neuroscientist (PhD.) but a believer. For me I hadn’t encountered many people like this. It seems so many scientists abandon their belief and so many believers abandon their brains. I have come to find out this isn’t the case. There are so many scientists who see the connection between God and science and Dr. Robi is one of them. Dr. Robi spoke a lot about how our brain worked and how things like addiction effected our brain. So I began doing my research about him and discovered he had several videos etc., about depression. In his teachings he talks about how whatever you think, you feel and what you feel you act out in your behavior. This alone was startling. Whatever I think determines what I feel and therefore how I behave? Why I hadn’t I understood this more clearly before. The limbic system processes our emotions and negative thoughts. Negative thoughts increase cortisol. Too much cortisol takes over our hippocampus and therefore leads to depression. I know this an oversimplification of the actual process of our brain, but it’s a start.

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Think to feel to body to action, and then in reverse. First thing to address is the action and then work backwards. Did you catch that? Work BACKWARDS.  So now that we know how it works, how do we change the pattern? Over the next several weeks I’m going to talk at length about the power of our mind and our thoughts. We recognize its’ power but ignore it’s place in our well-being. We must begin the process of retraining our brain, retraining our thoughts, understanding our emotions, and ultimately changing our behavior. Sounds so simple but we all know simple doesn’t mean easy. Ironically Dr. Robi, suggests we start with changing our behaviors first. This makes me think of a Seinfeld episode where George realizes that he must do the complete opposite of what he’d normally do. For example, instead of believing he could never get the gorgeous girl he sees at dinner, he goes up to her and shares how he’s unemployed, lives with his mom, and has no job prospects. She of course is blown away by his candor and agrees to go out with him.

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Now I know I just shared a sitcom scenario, but I think it’s a funny way of looking at it and I love to laugh. I think focusing on our brain when we are in the throes of depression can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Our brain is a nightmare even WE don’t want to uncover. So instead of focusing  on your thoughts,  just do it.  Do something. If you aren’t exercising, go for a walk, regardless of whether you feel like it. Because you exercised, you will physically feel better, which in turn makes you emotionally feel better which in turn will produce more healthy thoughts because of how you feel. You see the circle? Just try it. One thing at a time, one day at a time.

Let’s not decide tomorrow you’re going to train for a triathlon, or eliminate all sugar. I have come to realize that drastic immediate changes just don’t work for me. I have to take small baby steps and focus on one day at a time, and sometimes one meal at a time, one hour at a time, and one work-out at a time. Let’s reverse the cycle and start a new one. Remember whenever you think you’re the only one, you’re not. I’m running this race with you. Yes, we’re at different stages, but I’ve been through most all of them, and I too am trying to break the cycle and start a new one.

Fellow warrior,

Sara

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…………..right?

Four Tips for Surviving the holiday’s.

Are you asking yourself this question this Christmas? Is your anxiety at an all-time high and at the same time you feel bummed out by all the “happiness of the season?” (Kind of like Charlie Brown). The holiday’s aren’t the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Sure, there are numerous fun things to do, great parties, fabulous food, and all the lights, but things just don’t always go the way you planned. The bonus you expected didn’t come, you didn’t get invited to that party you thought you would, your pants are too tight, and maybe the holiday’s aren’t the same because you have lost someone you love.

First let’s be honest, you’re spending a lot of time with family, family who you may only see once a year if that. We all know family can bring a lot of drama, differing values, labels from your childhood (you’re the “middle child”, the always late child, the irresponsible child…….. and all of these labels are from 20 years ago when you lived at home with your parents), political conversations, as well as the twenty questions about where you’re at in life. Do you have the right job, live in the right house, in the right city, with smart kids and the perfect spouse? Are you meeting all the expectations?

Then there’s the financial strains that the holiday brings with it. Numerous parties, outfits for parties, gifts, is someone going to get you a gift that you hadn’t planned on buying something for? It always seems like the car breaks down, or something with the house needs to be fixed, unexpected expenses are never welcome in December.

The holidays can also be a reminder of those that we have lost. Either our favorite grandparent who always made us laugh, a parent, a child, or a best friend.  The holidays seem to highlight these losses, and we’re left feeling empty and alone.

We know this isn’t the life that God has called us too. If we are called to live life and life to the fullest, it certainly shouldn’t look like this. I’ve learned a couple of things over the years about stress and the holidays.  While this holiday has been difficult for us there are a few non- negotiables I’ve put into place to lighten that load.IMG_2505

  1.  Less pressure on myself for everything to be perfect. (things aren’t going to look like “it’s a wonderful life, more like National Lampoon’s Vacation.) You might have to say no to some parties. Is it more important to do every single Christmas thing you can think of or to enjoy your time together with your family? Most of the pressure you’re feeling is from yourself and not your family. My kids’ favorite thing to do during the holidays is watch a Christmas movie in front of the fireplace and eat pizza. I spread a giant blanket out on the floor and don’t stress about it. If there’s food everywhere I stick the blanket in the wash and call it today. Best clean up ever.
  2. Find time for yourself. Everyone needs alone time and somehow we sacrifice that  to please everyone and all the while we are miserable.
    1. Take a 30 minute walk/Exercise
    2. Put the grandparents to work and go to Target by yourself
    3. grab a Starbucks and actually drink it while it’s hot.
  3. For those that are experiencing a loss, the best tradition is to start a new one. After the loss of my father the last thing my mom and I wanted to do was sit around and think about how much we missed my dad. We changed things up, we went to other people’s houses, we went to the movies on Christmas night. No one can expect to have all the same traditions and it not cause you a lot of pain. Start new traditions, I promise your memory of the ones you loved will not fade.
  4. Most importantly are you spending time in God’s Word? Somehow in the Christmas season, the season that is the glorious story of Jesus’ birth and all the hope that His birth brought to the world gets lost. Sure you may read advent with your kids at night, but are you spending time in the Word alone, in prayer, and asking for God to use you to bless others, and to take the focus off yourself? Isn’t that what the Gospel is all about, sharing God’s love with everyone?

Sara

                   My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10 (NLT)

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Depression: A pruning process instead of a prison sentence.

I could spend hours, days, and page after page about perspective. Our perspective on our life, ourselves, and our struggle with depression and anxiety, shapes everything. I mean everything. Years ago, when I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, while it was such a struggle, it was much more manageable than full blown depression for me. I worked out, I got help, I got in a Bible Study, and I was extremely intentional about what I listened to. One of the things I loved to do was listen to Steven Furtick. I listened to him while I worked out. Yeah, I know that may seem strange, but have you listened to Steven Furtick? That guy is amped up! He’s intense, but in a good way. He’s on fire, and it’s clear he is working in his gift. Lifting weights and listening to him, was great for my heart, soul and mind.  I was working on my fitness and my mind.

Something about what he said really resonated with me. I felt like while the topics he was discussing were general they pertained so well to someone who was struggling with depression and anxiety. I started to listen to everything that he said through the lens of anxiety and depression, specifically depression. I couldn’t wait to listen to him, and see what new things he had to say and how it pertained to me, and anyone else that was struggling with depression. We see the world differently, and the world sees us differently.

For so long, I looked at depression as a thorn in my side, or consequences of poor decisions I had made in my twenties. I did things that I’m not proud of and I’m ashamed of and I just figured God was handing out consequences and this was mine. Yeah, now I know that God doesn’t work that way, but at the time that’s absolutely what I thought, and when I spend time out of God’s Word, I start to believe that again.

In one of his sermons he talks about John 15 and what it means to abide in God’s love. “Jesus is the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  God is always pruning us, it is a continual ongoing process that will only be made complete in salvation. Let’s define pruning here before we go further. Pruning means to trim, by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness or growth. I don’t know about you, but that sounds painful. It makes me think about what our yard looks like in the winter, kind of pathetic, right?

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Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear fruit.”

We cut everything down that will die in the winter, things are shriveled, dilapidated. They look thirsty, and sad, but what happens in spring? The same thing that happens in our own journey. We blossom, grow and are more beautiful than we were before, but the process is painful, arduous, and sometimes ugly. The same can be said of our struggle with depression. Depression isn’t a good thing, and I definitely don’t look forward to it rearing its’ ugly head, but I do know that every time God has redeemed it. I have come out stronger, tougher, more secure in who God has created me to be, and with more wisdom. Let’s be clear, I don’t always enjoy the process, but the reward is great. So, while we are in this process, cling to the hope that you will bloom even better than before when you reach the other side.

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Sara 

“My Father is glorified by this, that you may bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you, abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:8-11

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It’s a win,win.

I grew up in a home where volunteering was a way of life. From a very young age, I watched my parents volunteer. It was something that was understood, and shown to me way more than it was ever talked about it. My parents taught Sunday School, volunteered with the youth group, my mom was on Young Life Committee, volunteering at school, counting money for Salvation Army, and this year with all the Hurricane evacuees my parents help prepare food, and set up beds at their local church.  The funny thing about volunteering, is the goal is to serve others and remove the focus from yourself. Ultimately when you volunteer your heart changes as much as the person you are serving. While serving others, you too are being blessed.

I have always enjoyed volunteering.  You are constantly meeting new people, and it’s extremely task oriented. It’s a win, win situation. In case you haven’t noticed I’m extremely task oriented and accomplishment drives me way more than it should.  I’ve made most of my closest friends from volunteering. I volunteered at church whether with Vacation Bible Study, serving on Sunday’s, helping with Mobile Loaves and Fishes, or leading a Bible Study.

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Christie, Sara, Lizzy, Ashlee and Julie at Vacation Bible School, Summer of 2015.

One of my first experiences volunteering, was when I decided to go on Summer Staff at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in North Carolina. I was 18, didn’t know anyone and was headed half way across the country for one month. The funniest part was my job for the month was working in the kitchen. Now I love cooking gourmet meals, and baking, but working in a camp kitchen and feeding 400 or so people, 3 times a day was a little bit out of my wheel house. The biggest challenge, being in the kitchen at 6am.  Y’all I had never seen 6am. It’s one thing to be up at 6 am it’s a whole other thing to be up and dressed, and doing something.

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Matt and I preparing grilled cheese sandwiches, Windy Gap ’97.

It was one of the best summers of my life. I met my best friend in that kitchen. We would listen to music, dance and crack 1200 eggs, by 7am. Making grilled cheese for 400 people and fries in the deep fryer was both hysterical and a blast. We always argued over who was going to be the “fry girl” because the next day your face broke out from all that grease. Given the chance, I’d do it all over again. I learned how amazing God is, I learned that there a lot of amazing fun, crazy people who have the desire to serve God too.  My life was changing just as much as those campers. I would never be the same.

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Brooke and I, at Western Night, Windy Gap, ’97.

That one summer lit the fire for me to see volunteering as a way of life, not something that I just did on the weekends, or that I needed to travel across the world for. I could serve at church, or volunteer at MLF. I could have neighbors over for dinner, when their spouse was out of town, or run an errand for a friend who was stranded at home with a sick kid.  Sometimes the biggest impact can be from the smallest act of service.  Give with what you have where you are at. Some seasons I have the capacity to serve in a big way, and other seasons, it’s small, either way, I’m forced to look outside of myself and find joy serving those around me.

The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.  Proverbs 11:25

Sara

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Am I not enough?

Why did I need help? What was so hard? The puzzling looks on their faces haunted me, and the guilt ate away at me. Why couldn’t I do it? Why was it so hard? Why could these other mom’s do so much and why could I only do so little? Why did I need a break from my kid? Was there something wrong with me? Did I not love my kid? It’s amazing the guilt we carry, and the judgment that we feel for doing what’s best for us because it doesn’t fit into the little box that our world has told we must fit into.

I was blown away at how hard being a mom is and how much work and most importantly how restricting. At the time Mark and I lived downtown and went on dates every weekend, and walked anywhere and everywhere. All that changed when I had Zeke, I learned the importance of drive-thru’s and that carrying that huge car seat everywhere was literally a pain. I needed a babysitter to get my hair done, and needed to check with Mark’s schedule for a girls’ night. The days of my independence were gone.

I needed a real break, but I was terrified to admit it. I mean I quit my job, I didn’t work, I was now a stay at home, bringing no money to the table, and I needed a break? This was embarrassing and what I felt like was a complete reflection on me and my inadequacies. By the time Zeke was nine months, the ddoctors finally realized I had post-partum depression and out of that Mark and I agreed to get me some help. Fortunately, I had a friend who only needed her nanny a couple of days ago, so we did a nanny share. Four hours, two times a week. It wasn’t a lot but it changed my life. I was able to run errands, in half the amount of time, I usually did. I had time to do things like Bible Study, and have lunches with friends, I developed a whole new set of friendships because of those few hours a week alone. I was a better mom for it. I was happier and nicer, and couldn’t wait to come home to Zeke. The best part was Zeke loved his time with Marcie, and Marcie became a part of our family. The way she played with Zeke was amazing, and they played non-stop. He was just as excited to see Marcie come over as I was.

At the end of the day we have to realize that what works for us as individuals, helps us be better mom’s, wives and friends. We can’t allow our insecurities to prevent us from doing what’s best. We can’t allow the judgment, or the shame we feel because of how others react determine our choices. We have to take control of our lives and our families lives and do what’s best for them, not what looks good to everyone else.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138:8(NLT)

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Depression, anger turned inwards.

I think so often we focus on the sadness of depression. The weightiness and the overwhelming despair and hopelessness that people feel. While all of this is true, we can’t ignore the wrath that is raging war on our soul. I had a therapist, tell me once that Depression was anger turned inwards. At the time, I didn’t really understand it, but these words really ring true. Our anger and sadness are so intertwined that we don’t even see it. The anger leads to the sadness, and the sadness leads to the anger. A vicious cycle that must be broken.

The anger isn’t always so obvious, and other times you can’t miss it. For me when I went off to Baylor, I had a lot of anger, that I didn’t realize was just sitting at the surface waiting to explode. In high school, everyone knew my story for the most part, I had a huge community of friends, a church, and plenty to keep me busy. College was completely different. I was starting from scratch. In some ways, that was wonderful, and in other ways, it was a constant reminder, that my life was different, I didn’t look like everyone else. At Baylor, I was surrounded by people with the typical nuclear family. I was surrounded by people whose life had followed the “path.” You know the normal one, the one where everything works out, your life comes together in chronological order (childhood, college, marriage, kids). Well my life didn’t look like that. I had lost my dad and having to explain that everywhere I went was gut wrenching. You wouldn’t believe the awkwardness of telling people I had lost my dad to suicide, especially at a Christian school.

I made people uncomfortable, and so did my story. To be honest sometimes I took pleasure in people’s discomfort. They had no concept of anything outside their box, I was jealous and I resented them for how easy life had been. This was the root of my anger. Jealousy. I didn’t choose this path, my dad did. My dad’s decision changed my entire life in a matter of minutes. From a “normal” nuclear family, who was happy, to now a single mom, working two jobs and going back to school, and me the girl whose dad killed himself. All within a blink of an eye, and all out of my control.

Anger eats at you, it destroys you, just the way, jealousy, bitterness, and hate do. The key is it only eats at you. I had to forgive my dad for changing the course of my life forever and most importantly I had to allow myself to be angry at God. All you have to do is read Psalms to understand we aren’t alone in our anger. David had anger, but it was always followed by worship. Anger is good, and it necessary, but what you do with your anger is where the problem lies.

What I’ve learned over time is that no one’s life is really “normal”, no one really follows the path, and even those that look like they do, things aren’t exactly what they may seem. I’ve learned that Christ never called us to a life of perfection and/or a life of comfort. Had none of these things happened, I wouldn’t be writing to you today, someone on the other side of anger. I forgave my Father and ultimately realized that God’s heart was broken over my father as well. I mourned and raged with my Heavenly Father, which ultimately taught me so much about who God is, a loving, and strong Father.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

Sara

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Gratitude Schmatitude

When I started writing all I really wanted was to help others. Everything I’ve been through had to be worth something. My goal was to encourage others, remind them they aren’t alone, and show them that you can live an abundant life. What I didn’t quite expect was how much others are helping me.

I’ve struggled to write this week, to encourage you when I’m in my own battle. How do I find a way to encourage others when my own family is going through a tough season? I need some encouragement myself.

It reminded me of something Steven Furtick shared in one of his sermons. He talked about his gratitude journal and how he writes down five things he’s grateful for at the end of every day. Some days are harder than others, to find things be grateful for. He talked about how powerful it was, and how it changed his behavior. (I think we are all looking for ways to change some of our behaviors). It forced me to think about what I was grateful for that day. It was hard to think of anything honestly.  The roof over our heads, no fist fights, my AC is working (I live in Texas so AC is a basic need), and a fun conversation with a friend at Costco. Sometimes it’s just the little things in the every day. Because I forced myself to write these things down, it brought to my mind, something really powerful that I almost missed. Something that could’ve easily got lost in the shuffle. It was one sentence, that someone said to me. One sentence!

A friend of mine had been reading my blog and she expressed her sympathy for things that I had gone through and how you never know where someone is coming from or what they’ve been through. That one sentence brought back to my mind all the things that people have told me since I started writing. Friends at the doctor’s office, friends at my kids’ preschool, the hugs people had given me, friends who had stopped me at church with tears in their eyes, it reminded me that I am not alone in this battle. It gave me hope for the compassion that others have. Compassion I wouldn’t have known about had I kept my struggles inside. The time these women took to tell me how my writing had impacted them was powerful. How awesome would it be if we actually shared with others how they impacted our lives? One sentence could change the course of their entire day. What about the friend who always brings food when they come over, or the friend that always makes you laugh, the teacher that thinks your kid is hilarious when they are driving you crazy. We all know that is priceless!

Whether you are in a rough season like me or a season of plenty. Write it down. Write down all the wonderful things you are grateful for. You may not need them now, but when you are in a tough season you will be able to see the hand of God on your life and the life of those around you. You might be surprised what you have to be grateful for. End your day with gratitude. Find things to be thankful for. Your perspective will change even when your circumstances haven’t.

Sara

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Have you prayed about it?

How many times as someone responded this way to your either plea for help, guidance or just the desire for some compassion? This line used to drive me insane. I can picture the eye roll I probably thought no one saw, but unfortunately was all over my face. I’ve never been one to hide how I feel and even if I try it’s written all over my face.  When someone uttered those words, I found it incredibly insulting, as though I hadn’t thought to ask God for help. It also seemed so trivial. The only advice that someone had was to pray?  I think the thing that I found so frustrating, is that no one explained that this was part of the puzzle, and not the whole puzzle.

I’m sure many of you have encountered this same response when you have shared your heart, or struggles. It’s almost as if when someone suggests that we pray, they have given up on us, they find our situation hopeless, and that there’s really nothing else to do. You walk away from those situations deflated and defeated. It’s as though they have affirmed exactly what you already thought, that there is nothing else to do.

God never said to pray and then sit around and wait for a neon sign, even though I pray for neon signs all the time. God calls us to work and be proactive and take action. Pray, work, repeat. Pray for the perseverance and do the work. For me the work is reading my Bible, prayer, working out, alone time, and being part of my local church. He doesn’t say to pray and then sit by your bed and wait. God is a God of action and we were created to work.

When you read the Bible and look at the individuals and their prayers, you see how powerful they believed prayer was. They believed that prayers could stop the sun from going down,

 “So the sun stood still and the moon stopped,” Joshua 10:12

and from rescuing people from prison

“But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him… And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands.”  Acts 12:5,7

They believed. They believed that God is who He says He is. I don’t know about you, but who wants to believe in a small God?  Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives in us.

“The Spirit of God who raises Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)

Prayer is pertinent, powerful, practical and pleasing. Pleasing to you and to God. You don’t need to have some fancy prayer with big  theological words.  Be real, honor God for being God, but also be sincere and tell Him what’s on your heart; it’s a conversation. He already knows what you are thinking so I promise He won’t be surprised. Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you, Keep seeking and you will find; keep knocking and it will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7:7
Your prayer warrior,

Sara 

 

 

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The Prison of Perfectionism

  “some days everything about life is just hard, everything bugs me, along with everyone. I’m so short tempered, I have zero motivation, and I just start out the day down, and feel as though everyone and everything is against me and I caused it or brought it on myself. I woke up and my allergies were awful, my hands were swollen, I couldn’t find my daughter’s favorite toy, or Zeke’s goggles, I’m behind on laundry, struggling to figure out how to do something on this computer, getting mad at Mark for dumb things, burned banana muffins (it was my first attempt at gluten free), Zeke soaked his diaper and got the couch wet. I’m a bad mom, I can’t keep up. I’m a bad wife, I’m nagging my husband. Can’t I do anything, right? How many other people have days like today and do they feel as defeated as I do?” 

Can anyone else relate? I realize after reading this that at the core of this dialogue is the desire for everything to be perfect, and for me to be perfect. Perfectionism is a prison and we hold the key. There’s a huge difference between perfection and striving to do your best. I can’t tell you how many things I haven’t tried because I don’t want to fail. If I can’t win, then I won’t engage. I was trying so hard to have everything perfect, and it was killing me. Perfectionism was stealing my joy.

But it’s not about the list of things that went “wrong” it’s how I perceived it. I perceived that everything was my fault, I caused it and it’s a reflection of who I am. There’s a reason there’s a high correlation between depression/anxiety and perfectionism. The anxiety about messing up, or not being perfect, causes you to procrastinate and the more you procrastinate the more you become anxious. These anxious thoughts will eventually lead you down the path, that you can’t do it, and then you aren’t enough, which is a perfect storm for depression.  We have to realize that this list of things that went wrong do not make us who we are.

If we wait until everything is perfect, we will never start. If I waited until I was an excellent writer, or my website was perfect, or I paid a professional to make my logo, I would never started this blog. A year ago this was only an idea and eventually I gave myself a deadline and said you know what this is the desire of my heart, and I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off. Can I tell you it’s been so worth it? How many people have affirmed me, how many people have actually read it, way more than I expected. I would’ve missed out on the opportunity to realize that I wasn’t alone and way more people related to my story than I ever could’ve imagined. I don’t want to miss out on the joy of life, because I’m waiting for everything to be perfect. I don’t want that for you either. So let’s capture those thoughts, tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine and celebrate who we are, where we are at, and keep pressing on. You are enough!

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.  Ephesians 2:10

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Depression is a liar!

There are so many lies we tell ourselves in a day especially in the midst of depression. When you’re depressed you can’t always decipher the difference between the lies and the truth. It’s deceiving. The lie is just close enough to the truth, that it’s believable.  When your brain isn’t at its’ best, when you’re not on your A game so to speak, this is the perfect moment for the lies to take hold. These lies are now controlling how you think, how you view yourself and others. So, let’s establish what these lies are and begin to retrain our brain with the truth.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Let’s stop wasting precious brain capacity on things that can destroy us, both physically and mentally, and start using that brain power for the life that God has planned for us.

  1. Lie #1. Depression is my fault. How many different ways have we told ourselves, that we brought this on ? We’re too insecure, we’re different, if only we were tougher, etc. or worse we begin to blame others for our depression. Depression is a medical condition and it is not your fault. Pure and simple.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Notice that we WILL have troubles, trials and sorrows. The world and no one who lives in it will have a trouble-free life, we all face trials, but we are not alone in this battle.

  1. Lie #2. People that are depressed are weak. We have believed the lie that we just aren’t that tough, we’re weak, mousy, pathetic. Would you tell a person that has cancer that they are weak? That if they were tougher they wouldn’t get cancer? That they could just wish it away, if they have enough positive thoughts? That their lack of faith had brought this on? I don’t think so. That would be insensitive, insulting and downright rude. So why do we think that someone with depression is any different? That because depression isn’t a physical disease we can just will ourselves out of.

                  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7

  1. Lie #3. Depression is just a disease of the mind. It doesn’t affect your physical well-being. Depression effects your mind, body and soul. Just because we don’t have physical scars, decay or disabilities, doesn’t mean that the body isn’t effected. Did you know that depression/anxiety is linked to IBS, joint pain, weight gain, back aches, headaches, bloating, numbness and insomnia? I could name others, but these are just a few of the big ones. Depression is not just a mental battle, but a physical one as well.

                         “A sound mind makes for a robust body.” Proverbs 14:30

  1. Lie #4. Depression is a sin. Everything you’ve ever done is coming back and this is God’s judgment on you. You messed up and here’s your payback. God saw what you did, last night, last week, last year, so because of those things, God thought depression was the perfect punishment. God doesn’t work that way, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

                “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

There are many other lies, that we tell ourselves, but these are some of the ones that I see the most frequently, and unfortunately many others will repeat those lies to us as well. I hope you will hold fast to these verses and remember you have the tools to combat these lies with the truth.

            But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

Your fellow fighter,

 

Sara

 

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I’m not taking this lying down.

Change the Conversation.

       Well if you been following my blogs the past several weeks you have a better understanding where I’m coming from and what I’ve been through, and why it is that I feel so strongly about changing the conversation.  Our culture is stuck, comfortable, in a rut so to speak. I’ve stopped reading the majority of blogs, self-help books, and whatever else comes across my screen because it’s too damn depressing. I read a blog the other day about being an anxious mom and the solution at the end of the blog, was to keep asking your children for forgiveness. That’s not a solution, if anything that’s an insult. I can’t imagine someone reading that who is in the throes of anxiety and worrying about being a parent, wife etc., and only to come to the end of the blog and get punched in the gut. We’ve spent millions of dollars on research about depression/anxiety around awareness, demographics, etc., but no real solutions, just more statistics. While this research is extremely important, it can’t end there.

 There is hope even in the midst of depression.

 My hope is to give you hope, not just affirm the negative tape that is on replay in your mind, but help you find ways to change that tape. Did you know the average person has 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them are negative? I think it’s pretty clear that we are aware of the problem, what we need is solutions. We all need affirmation that we aren’t alone and that we aren’t the first to feel this way, but we can’t stay there. We’re surrounded by a culture of affirmation, but somehow in our quest to find affirmation we’ve lost the ability to problem solve and move forward. We confide in one another, we seek out community, we read books about our problems, but no one is giving solutions. I’m tired of the affirmation, I’m thankful our culture is beginning to embrace, acknowledge and recognize this problem, but we can’t stay there. I refuse to stay there and so should you.

   Living an abundant life is possible even with depression and anxiety.

There’s more to this life then sustaining, we should be thriving. Thriving, living, enjoying, and embracing this life. Please understand, I don’t mean all the sudden all your circumstances are going to change, you’re thin, you’re financially stable, whatever your (fill in the blank here) of what makes you happy happens. I mean learning how to live well right now, with what you have where you’re at. I want to fight this battle with you, alongside you and remind you that we have the tools to do it. I’m sure as hell not going to take this laying down and neither are you. In the spirit of one of my favorite movies from the early 2000’s, Bring it On!

Sara

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31, 37-39

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Redemption (Testimony Part III).

The good news is after reaching bottom, the only way out is up. I found a job in Salado at a jewelry store and started fresh. My step-dad was the most amazing support during this. He never judged me, he knew the horror and shame that I felt for this decision. He knew every job application I’d have to explain my “obstruction of highway passage”, any man I dated, the shame I caused my mom and my family. My arrest was proof that I had never really dealt with all that had happened and life had finally caught up to me. Life just keep happening, things kept changing and I never really had the time to grieve and get well.

About six weeks after I moved in with my parents, I was dying to get back on my own, and give them some space as well. No one wants to live with newlyweds especially if it’s your parents! (Sorry mom, LOL!)  I knew eventually I wanted to find a job in Austin, so I found an apartment there and moved a couple of weeks later. My poor step-dad moved me close to 6 times before I got married. He was thrilled when I met Mark because he knew he’d never have to move me again.

I felt like I had been given a second chance at life, and everything seemed fresh to me. I wanted to start over and I wanted to start in Austin, where no one really knew me and knew my past. Because I worked on Sundays I knew it’d be hard to find a church so I asked some of my friends and found a Bible Study. I began to meet wonderful girlfriends, godly women, who weren’t perfect and accepted me just as I was and exactly where I was at. I even met amazing godly men who were encouraging and a great support for me. I had finally found a community of people to support me, and to many friends to count.  Friends that are still a part of my life today. We watched each other get married, have children and it all began with that one Bible Study almost 12 years ago. God was continuing to heal and restore me, one day at time.

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I began doing my community service for my arrest and God used that in amazing ways. I ended up getting a full-time job from the non-profit that I was doing my community service for. It was kind of a staff joke that I was a former CSR that was now a full-time employee. I began working for an attorney in a non-profit and just took to the job immediately. I revamped the systems of the entire department. The job was a great fit. It was yet another way that God was healing me. I had value, purpose and I was doing well spiritually and emotionally. Things were beginning to stabilize. Not to long after that, a girlfriend of mine from Bible Study asked me to move in with her. She was one of those people who understood the things I had gone through and had her own hardships as well. One of those people that you will be friends with for life. That move changed my life. Little did I know that God had planted my husband, right next door. It was only a matter of months before we were engaged. I still laugh to this day about my husband’s first impressions of me. He said when we first met he thought I partied a lot because I was out all the time. We laugh now because what he didn’t realize at the time was that I was either at  Bible Study, or out with my friends from the singles group at our church. I still to this day have some of the best memories with those friends. We had so many great times, Shady Grove Unplugged, dancing at Gruene Hall, and time on the lake.

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Our wedding was such a celebration. I was so madly in love with my husband and still am. We had a whirlwind romance that ended with my dream wedding. I know so many people thought that my wedding was over the top, but to me I just wanted to thank all those people that had prayed for me, loved me, encouraged me and stood beside my mom and me all those years before. It wasn’t just a party about celebrating my marriage it was a party about my healing, and that called for a celebration.

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There is hope and my life is living proof. My life isn’t perfect, trust me. But this my friends, is only the beginning I can’t wait for you to embark on this journey with me.

Sara

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My Testimony Part II.

My Testimony Part II

If you’re reading this and you haven’t read part I, Here’s a link to part I of my testimony. http://bit.ly/2plJCh7    Before you read this remember today’s blog is Part II of III. While it might seem to end dark we know this is a story of redemption and without a fall from grace there is no redemption.

After I moved home, an old friend of mine reached out to me and was the first person I really felt like understood me. Matt and I had met a week after my father had died, almost 10 years before. We were always great friends and spent a lot of time together. We spent holidays together with our families, and his parents were my safe place. If my mom was working late, or in school I’d go over to Matt’s house. His parents and my mom were on Young Life Committee together and we all went to church together. He had flown home for Easter and confronted me and said, Sara I’m not flying home for your funeral so what are we going to do to get you better? It felt good for someone to care enough to say those harsh words to me, and it felt even better coming from a man, and a man that I trusted. Matt became my outlet for everything, we talked all the time and grew extremely close. I trusted Matt with my life and I knew he cared for me and wanted me to get well. Unfortunately for me the summer of my 25th birthday Matt was killed in motorcycle accident and my world was rocked. My pastor, who is a like a second dad, came to pick me up at work after my mom told me the news. I was mess, and I could see the fear in everyone’s eyes. This will break her. I’m not sure she can handle it, and I felt the same way. I had just lost my best friend. To me, loosing men that had a huge impact on my life seemed to be a pattern. I knew my dad for 12 years and I knew Matt for 12 years.  I knew that Matt would want me to thrive and fight back, but I didn’t expect to do it all alone and I had no idea how.

Not too long after this happened, I knew I needed a change. My best friend called me and said I have a house in Austin, I need a roommate and I’d love if you’d move in with me. After being at home for so long I needed to get out. I knew my mom’s intentions were good for me, getting me on meds, and seeking therapy, but home in some ways was really hard. All the memories, it felt claustrophobic. It felt like I was walking around with a scarlet letter, or two, one for S (daughter of someone who committed suicide), and a D for depression.  I just wanted out, somewhere fresh where no one knew my past and I could start over as well.

I moved to Austin which was great for a while, but I couldn’t find a job, which now I know was linked to my depression. I had a lot of fun, got really skinny, something was missing and really nothing was changing inside. For me, being social was always a distraction and always a way to not face the reality of what was going on. So many believed I wasn’t depressed because they would see me out and having fun, it didn’t make sense.

My mom helped me find a job in Dallas and I began working for Lancome at NorthPark Mall. My good friend Shelby from Austin was moving to Dallas so I moved with her. Clearly, I was just running from my problems and moving seemed to be a common theme. After a month or two and things weren’t getting better I decided to get my own place.  This only amplified my loneliness and isolation, probably not the best decision, but understandable. Working did help distract things but at night the reality of my loneliness would set in. I just wanted to numb. I was completely lost, my depression was getting worse, I was alone, I had no idea what I wanted out of life, and no idea where I was headed. I honestly had no desire to live. I prayed that the Lord would just take me in my sleep.

In the middle of all of this my mom met a man. Needless to say that threw me for a loop.  No matter how old you are, no matter what the circumstances, either of your parents getting remarried is just hard. Yes, I realize it had been fifteen years, but clearly things were still fresh for me. My mom’s marriage just happened so fast. She met Dennis in August, and I remember her calling me in October from their trip to California, saying they were going to get engaged. WHAT? Are you kidding me? I don’t want a step-dad, I don’t want to like this guy. What is going on?  Only a week or two after that, one of my co-workers, took his life. I was one of the last people he called that night. I decided to go to his funeral. I could see all these people around me struggling and grieving. I had been here before so I thought if anything I could go to encourage my friends. I had no idea where the funeral was, but decided to go with some friends. He was a nice guy who was well liked, and he had always made me laugh. Unfortunately, it was one of the worst funerals I’ve ever been to. There was no hope for those left behind, no affirmation of where he was. Was he in heaven or hell? After the funeral we drove to the graveside. As we approached the cemetery something seemed all too familiar. It was the exact same cemetery where Matt was buried. All I could think was this was too much, the funeral, Matt was gone, my mom getting married, I’m completely alone and completely confused.

One month before my mom’s wedding while my parents were in California for a company Christmas party, I drove down to Austin for my friend’s wedding. I was a stress case, my mom was now in engaged, and getting married in one month, all these things that had happened at work, I hated my job and I was just miserable. Well unfortunately that night, I drank too much and decided to get in my car and drive. God spared my life that night and everyone else’s who was out on the road, but because of those bad choices I wound up in jail. Everything about jail was humbling, humiliating and life changing. I’m thankful for that night. After that night I never questioned that God wanted me to live. He spared my life and allowed me to not hurt anyone else in the process. It was truly a miracle. In my mind, it was the turning point for me. There was no turning back, no depression, no nothing. It was time to move forward, and never look back and so I did.

I came back to Dallas and to my job, of course they found a way to fire me. Shocking!  Good riddance! I hated that job. The irony was that my car was stolen on the day that I got fired. Seriously, could I just catch a break. Yes, I understand many of the problems were due to my own poor decision making, but still. I got up to go to work and my car was nowhere to be found and neither we’re my keys. I had forgotten that after I double bolted my door, I left my keys on the outside. Quite an easy way to have your car stolen.

The last year or so of my life, just seemed like a blur. So after getting fired, my car getting stolen, losing a coworker to suicide, and still grieving the loss of Matt and clearly in the throws of depression. It was time for my mom to get married. Well since I had no car, I was fired, I was scared to live in my apartment (the good news is they caught the guy and I got out of my lease because the security guard let the perp into the complex; the bad news is they couldn’t charge the guy with grand theft auto because he had my keys) and I really had no other options, and my mom getting married in a matter of weeks, guess what happened next?  I had to move in with my mom and in a matter of weeks live with her and her new husband!!!!!! It turned out to the best decision I’ve ever made.

#itgetsbetter #depression #anxiety #iamnottheonlyone

 

Sara

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My Story…..

Part I of III.

The most powerful thing about your story is that no one can change it or take it away from you. It is wholly and completely yours. Today, I want to share with you how this all began and why I had the desire to share my story. I’m going to break it up over several blogs, so it’ll be easier to digest so bear with me.  It’s a pretty scary thing when I really start to think about it, so I don’t. (haha, not exactly an emotionally mature response I know.) I sit here, restored and renewed, but with a work in progress sign hanging around my neck. I come before you today humbled, confident, full of joy but at the same time broken, damaged and cautious of what lies ahead. This is my reality. The reality of living with depression and anxiety.

My desire to share my story and give others hope is because of the lack of hope I have found in this world, for someone struggling with anxiety and depression. For me, my story really began 26 years ago when my own father took his life at the age of 44 years old. My father was an amazing godly man, one who I remember reading his Bible every day, leading Bible Studies, a deacon in his church, volunteering with the youth group and loving our family well. We didn’t have a lot but I knew every day how much my parents loved me. I was only 12 years old when my father took his life, and what I didn’t realize until later was that my father was waging a war against anxiety and depression. In the last months of his life I saw his personality change and light in his eye grow dim. I saw the angst and frustration that the depression caused my mother and the struggles it brought my family. I was way too young to truly understand what was happening. I was so confused by my dad’s decision especially for the fact that my dad was doing all the “right” things. He was on meds, meeting with our pastor, meeting with a deacon as well as receiving Christian counseling. I think this planted a seed for me. I was confused and so was the church about my father’s decision. I also experienced such horrible judgment most of which came from inside the church. The next 6 years looked very different for me. After my father’s death, I lost both grandfather’s and a grandmother and watched our family struggle, like I had never seen before. We struggled in every aspect imaginable, financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. My mom was now on her own to raise me, with no financial cushion, and no life insurance we had to start at the bottom and work our way through life as a completely new family for a reason that made no sense.

Looking back at my life from that point on I can see how the seeds of depression had already  begun growing and how I probably should’ve been on antidepressants all the way through high school. My response to what happened to me was normal considering the gravity of how much my life had changed, but really I wasn’t processing anything and I managed to stuff it all down and carry on. I graduated high school applied to one school, Baylor and was headed off to college.

I was definitely ready to leave Temple, the irony was that I only went about 30 miles away to Waco. This was the beginning of the internal conflict that was brewing inside of me about being close to my mom, but wanting to be completely away from my small town, questioning my faith, wondering where God was in all of this, but at the same time feeling as though He was the only one with the answers. Going to college and especially a Baptist school where everyone was a Christian left a sour taste in my mouth. I was surrounded by people who really had never experienced any trials or hardships and I felt completely isolated and alone. My friends were people who had a mom and a dad, a trust fund, and a career path. I realized I went to school because that was what you were supposed to do after college, but I really had no idea what I wanted to do, but just knew I wanted to be away and be on my own. College was a struggle and I had no business being there. I am sure that I spent my entire college career depressed and unable to function normally. Things hit rock bottom when I wasn’t going to class, and completely cut off all contact with my mom. My mom had to break in my apartment and confront me, she knew I was depressed and I can only imagine the fear and anger she was going through. Here I was a student, super involved, well rounded, someone who thrived, and now in college, I was failing my classes, unable to study and involved in pretty much nothing. My mom brought me home forced me on meds, and I began to realize that I too had depression and I had no idea what that meant for me.

#hopeandlaughter #anxiety #depression

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T-ball Practice…..yeah, t-ball practice.

Sometimes anxiety comes at the most unexpected times for what seems like the littlest of things.  Can I tell you I still have nightmares that I didn’t graduate college. That I get a phone call and there’s one class that they missed that I still need to take in order to graduate, and yes I have my framed diploma. Yeah, anxiety is just not rational.

I told my friend I had anxiety about going to my son’s first t-ball practice. She was surprised. It amazed me the number of reasons I could give why I was anxious. I’ll get lost and not make it to t-ball practice. What if it’s on a different day and I misread the email? What if I get there and no one else shows ups? What if he hates it? What if all the moms look really cute and I’m the frumpy one? What if my daughter has meltdowns? What if he doesn’t have the right pants, or shoes or shirt?(I know silly, but I didn’t play sports and I’m an only child, so pretty clueless when it comes to sports and my husband was out of town). What if we just don’t fit in? You get the idea.

Did I mention that I was meeting my friend? Uh yeah, all this anxiety and my good friend’s son was playing t-ball too. She’s one of those awesome friends, that just tells it like it is. Ladies, everyone needs a friend like this. Her confidence blows me away, and it’s something to be admired. She rolls with the punches, she doesn’t care what others think (and not in a disrespectful kind of way), you just feel bolder around her, these kinds of friends are priceless. Being tough and strong doesn’t mean doing this life alone. Being tough and strong means having the courage to ask for help, and invite others along.  So, I had a friend to meet, someone who I knew well, and still all this anxiety. The good news is when you’re doing something for your kids, well you just have to do it. My anxiety can’t prevent my son from going to t-ball practice, can it? Well honestly, it can but I didn’t want it to. Sometimes you just have to do things you don’t feel like doing. Honestly, after I got there, and saw my son out there, the anxiety passed, we laughed, my daughter had meltdowns, but I wasn’t the only mom with small children, and I forgot snacks at home, but the other moms shared with me. We all desire to appear as though we have ourselves put together, and our “on top of it.” When in reality we’re all doing our best and some days are just harder than others.

You know that friend I confided in about my anxiety for my son’s first t-ball practice? She shared with me something that brought her anxiety, and you know, it just made me feel better. Not because I desired for her to go through that, but to be reminded that I wasn’t the only one that experienced anxiety, in the everyday, in the little things.

#hopeandlaughter #ididitanyway #anxietymindswantstoknow #iamnottheonlyone

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Be your biggest champion.

How do you advocate for yourself, with your friendships, at work,  with family, medical professionals, etc.?

   Advocating for yourself does not mean, telling everyone everything about your personal struggle with depression and/or anxiety and attempting to explain it to them. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is develop boundaries. I would strongly recommend Boundaries by Henry Cloud. Great book! (I probably could use a refresher course myself). Find those few trusted people you can confide in about your battle and be grateful, be grateful that you have a few people who you can share this with, and by few I mean less than five. It could be even one or two. Your personal battles are personal, you decide who gets to know the deepest parts of you and your struggles.

   Understand that depression and anxiety aren’t just mental, they are physical. So many times we go to the doctor for physical symptoms and in reality we aren’t looking at the source of the physical. We have lost the ability to recognize that the two are interwoven, and connected. One absolutely affects the other. In the day and age of specialties we no longer have anyone looking at the whole body. Our doctors want to look at all physical problems having a physical solution, instead of the possibility of a mental one. Unfortunately the solution seems to always be a pill as well. Why do we forget about the brain? The brain is the most powerful organ in our body and effects every aspect of our life. It effects how we look at the world, it engages every aspect of our body. So let’s pay attention to this a little more. Be quick to remind your doctor that you are struggling with depression or anxiety, could any of your physical symptoms be a result of anxiety? Things like IBS, inflammation, bloating, joint pain, back pain, etc., From now on everything should be seen through the lens of depression/anxiety. That’s not to say it should be your only focus, but that should always be in the back of the doctor’s mind and it’s up to you to remind them.

With your family, set some boundaries, expectations, and be realistic. When you’re depressed you’re not running at your full capacity. You will NOT be able to do everything you do when you are well. That’s OK, its’ a season. You will soon be past this season and will embark on a new healthier way of living with a new capacity. Don’t be disheartened by this, don’t compare yourself, to others, you aren’t like everyone else and that’s awesome! Most people go through this life with the inability to understand truly who they are, what their passion is and how they do life best. I hope to equip you to be able to do those things for yourself. You can own who you are and be confident in it. We all desire to be originals and at the same time fit in. I have long viewed myself as a square peg in a round world. That used to bother me, but now I secretly love it. There are days I don’t, and I can feel defeated, but I know who I am, and that is powerful.

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On the outside looking in.

What if I’m reading this and I’ve never had depression? I have no idea what it feels like. I hope over time I will help bridge that gap as well as try my best to explain the affliction that is depression. Watching the heartbreak my husband went through dealing with my own depression and anxiety inspired me to share my perspective as well as his.

First let’s call a spade a spade, some of you reading this aren’t sure, depression is real. It appears someone is just self-involved, sad, negative or insecure. Well while those things might be true, and that’s unfortunately how depression is manifested to the outsider, the reality is there is a war being waged inside their mind. A war that no one sees, hears, or experiences. The individual experiencing this depression is in pain, and their pain is real and present. So how do we explain a battle that no one sees or hears?  We’re unable and let’s be honest sometimes unwilling to share our inner most thoughts, even if we could, we wouldn’t want you to know. We know it’s not rational, and it doesn’t make sense.  The biggest struggle for someone who is in the throes of depression, is the inability to trust their own thoughts. Their thoughts are skewed, irrational, and not based in truth. Another aspect that is hard for someone on the outside to grasp, is how day to day life seems so hard. Taking your kids to the grocery store, just sounds impossible. For me taking my six-month-old to swimming lessons, was about the only thing I could do in a day. It wore me out. The smallest of tasks has somehow depleted every ounce of energy I have. You feel as though you are carrying a 50lb weight wherever you go.

So, what can you as the friend or loved one, to walk through this trial with them? Listen, and then listen some more. It’s important they feel they have an outlet to be honest and open with. This should not take the place of professional counseling or medication if deemed necessary. (I’ll take more at length about medication). What would you do and how would you respond if this person had cancer, instead of depression? Maybe help with errands, offer to cook a meal, take them to a funny movie, watch their kids for a couple of hours, in short serve them and don’t take no for an answer. Be relentless in loving the individual going through this battle. They want your support, whether that is apparent or not. Listen to what they say and what they are going through. It may not make sense, it may seem unreasonable, but it is very real. They have lost the desire to do so many things, because of depression, day to day life just has no appeal. Remind them of who they were before depression. This is a wonderful gift you can give them, because they have lost sight of who they were before this ugly disease creeped in their life. #hopeandlaughter #depressionisreal #iamnottheonlyone

Sara

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Depression’s sister, anxiety.

We view anxiety as situational and not that big of a deal when in reality we underestimate the joy it steals from us. It isn’t always manifested the way we expect, or when we expect.  We have mislabeled anxiety as personality traits such as anger, irritability, stress, or laziness when instead we need to recognized these issues as symptoms. Symptoms of the bigger issue.

After dealing with my third round of depression I still didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t depressed anymore, but my anxiety was through the roof. I had only dealt with one part of the problem. I had to address the anxiety, because if I didn’t I’d get depressed all over again, and I refused to let that happen. Anxiety and depression are sisters and constantly feed off each other.

I was stressed out, short tempered, over planning my life, executing nothing and procrastinating about everything. Anxiety is a stronghold that creeps in undetected and when we least expect it.  I say all this not to discourage you, but to reveal it to you and open your eyes. You can’t always control when anxiety comes, but you can control how your respond. Our current culture has taught us that anxiety is the norm, that everyone is amped up, fearful, stressed out, and overwhelmed.  All you have to do is watch the news for ten minutes or spend time on social media, and see we are a culture that is maxed out! I don’t know about you, but that is not how I want to live my life. It’s exhausting. Anxiety is exhausting.

Now that we can identify some of the ways anxiety manifests itself, how do we combat it? There are three things that I think can help us stop this pattern.

  1. Limit your social media. Not only limit the amount of time that you spend on social media, but the content of your social media. For example, reading the news before you go to bed isn’t the best idea.  Fill your mind with things that bring you hope and laughter, not fear, worry or comparison.
  2. Take control of your day. One of the most powerful things I did was an anxiety time chart. I monitored what I did every 15 minutes for about a week. I was blown away by the amount of time I spent either on my phone or watching TV, or browsing online. So many wasted hours. By not getting to the things I needed to get done, my anxiety was only increasing instead of using my time wisely.
  3. Exercise! It’s really important, but something I probably struggle with the most.  Yeah, you read that right. Exercise. Try to find 30 minutes a day where you get your heart rate up and clear your head. For me, thirty  minutes a day is much more doable than driving to the gym, going to a class, driving home, showering, etc., You know the drill.  You can do a lot in thirty minutes. There are tons of resources online now that are free to help you. One thing I really enjoy is listening to podcasts, sermons, or audiobooks. You’ll be amazed how excited you’ll be to get outside and go for a walk! I’ve found that I do my best thinking when I’m on my walks. I love listening to my Steven Furtick when I lift weights or when I’m out for a walk. He’s over the top and gets me motivated.

I’ve attached the anxiety time chart I used but broke it down to 30 minute increments.  If doing it for a week is overwhelming just try three days, or maybe even one. Don’t pressure yourself to do the time chart, we are all in different stages of our journey with anxiety. If it’s too daunting just pay attention to how you spend your time, and you will see where you aren’t using your time the best of your ability. #ownyourtimedontletyourtimeownyou  #hopeandlaughter #anxiousalways

Anxiety Time Chart

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It’s More than Just the Baby Blues…

Close to 1,000,000 suffer from postpartum each year and that’s only the reported cases. Close to 10% of women don’t even report feelings of postpartum because of fear or shame. In fact, more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses this year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. (postpartumprogress.org, http://postpartumprogress.org/2011/02/how-many-women-really-get-postpartum-depression/).

So with all these statistics out there, how come no one talks about it? I was diagnosed with  postpartum depression after I had my first child and it was gut wrenching and heartbreaking. I think the biggest struggle was the fact that it went undiagnosed for so long. There is so much emphasis on the care of the pregnant mom and the unborn baby, but as soon as you have your child, the care becomes virtually nonexistent. You see your OBGYN two weeks after delivery as a check in, but let’s be honest, who is thinking clearly at this time? No one. I didn’t sleep for 72 hours after I had Zeke. I was hyped up on adrenaline and anxiety. I had no idea what I was doing. The reality is no one has any idea what they are doing, but very few will admit that. All the sudden you are responsible for this tiny human being, that you know nothing about, that cries A LOT that needs to be fed constantly, and demands all of your attention. Even if someone tries to explain it to you, you just don’t get it until you experience it yourself.  The transition from working full time and being quite independent to quitting my job, feeling very isolated and now responsible for a whole other life who I didn’t really feel connected with was much harder than I thought.

Many doctors chalk up how you are feeling to baby blues, lack of sleep or hormones. The reality is if you don’t feel like yourself, and your baby is more than two weeks old, go and talk to a doctor. I had a history of depression, which my doctor was aware of, and I was still told that I didn’t have it. Well newsflash I had postpartum depression and unfortunately I went undiagnosed for close to nine months. I went to several medical professionals before someone really listened to me and heard me out. The thing I learned from this whole experience is the only who will fight for you is you.

You aren’t the first mom, who hasn’t immediately taken to being a mom, postpartum or not, you aren’t the first mom to struggle, you aren’t the first mom to feel alone, you’re not the first mom to say this is a lot harder than I thought it’d be and nor will you be the last.

I had the opportunity to speak about my struggles with postpartum depression through an amazing organization called http://www.fearlessmom.com I shared my story, in a roundtable discussion with a therapist who specializes in anxiety and depression as well as the head of Fearless Mom and another mom.

I hope this talk sheds some light on what you are going through or what you have overcome, and please if you know someone who you think needs help, reach out and encourage them. We are all in this together.

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What is Depression

What is Depression and how do we possibly explain what it’s like to someone who has never experienced it. Most of the time I feel like people with depression are viewed as either sad, pessimistic, socially awkward or just hard to be around; maybe that’s just my own experience. The difference between depression versus other illnesses, yes its’ an illness, is the minimal outward signs. Because depression is a disease of the mind and not of the body, it goes unnoticed. Most of the symptoms of depression are mistaken for  laziness, bad habits, or personality.

For those on the outside trying to understand what depression is, it’s hard to explain the inward battle going on in the mind every day, every hour, virtually every second. When someone is depressed they naturally internalize all interactions and believe they are at fault. This frame of mind is their default setting. One of the toughest aspects of depression is that you can no longer trust your internal thoughts; analysis paralysis with an inaccurate view of reality. How do you explain to someone that your mind isn’t functioning the same, you see the world differently and that it is a constant battle in your head that you are virtually exhausted from and no one has a clue this battle even exists. Never mind the day to day chores, experiences, work and family that you have to maintain on top of this. In most people’s minds if they can’t see it then it doesn’t exist. The statistics on depression are staggering. 25% of all US adults have mental illness, 50% of all adults will develop mental illness in their lifetime, that’s some big numbers. Did you know that mental illness results in more disability than other group of illnesses including cancer and heart disease and yet we are still so ignorant to understanding it.

In most people’s minds if they can’t see it then it doesn’t exist.

So where do we go from here? As your friend, as your advocate as someone who is walking this journey with you I don’t want to leave you there. We must first recognize that being depressed doesn’t make you less, isn’t some sort of punishment and most of all it’s not your fault. You didn’t bring this on yourself. I know it and you need to hold on to that TRUTH. Truth is the key to this battle and the key to winning it. Depression is a constant lie you are trying to overcome and the only way to overcome lies is with truth.

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  John 8:32

Sara

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The Why

This can’t be happening again? That’s the question I asked myself a year ago when I was diagnosed with depression for the third time. After an almost complete lifestyle change how am I here again? All these questions, lead me here, writing a blog post, putting myself out there, and seeing what happens. The fact that I’m even writing a blog post is laughable enough. I have no professional skill, I’m not a good writer, I’ve never been published, the list goes on.  The one thing I do have is experience and if I don’t share my experiences, everything I learned and am learning, all the tools, encouragement and knowledge I’ve gained over the past 22 years is wasted. 

Struck by lightning, electrocuted, hair standing on end, with my finger still stuck in the socket, pretty much sums it up.  I didn’t see it coming, one day I was driving the car on cruise control, with the top down, my hair blowing and jamming to some Rihanna, the next day, I’m in the backseat, someone else is driving and I have no idea how I get there. Depression, wasn’t supposed to come back, not now, in my mind not ever. I had beat it. Eight years, with no issues, a healthy marriage, financially stable, two healthy children, an abundance of family and friends. It just didn’t make sense. Hadn’t I done all the “right” things to prevent it? The first two times I got depression made sense to me. This one didn’t. There was no big drama in my life, no life changing event, (from my perspective), so why now? 

So this time around was going to be different, I was mad, I was equipped, still depressed, but ready to do battle. I knew what to expect, or so I thought. Things weren’t going how I planned, the tools that had worked before weren’t working anymore, I was actually becoming depressed, about being depressed again. You can see how this could become a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle that could lead me plummeting down a mountain into a ditch I could never get out of. It was hard enough the first two times, but this time seemed even worse. 

 How could someone at 38 years old get her third round of depression, and feel completely hopeless, and utterly dumbfounded. In an age where information is everywhere, resources are abundant, and communication is accessible, why was there nothing out there? Why is all the information about depression discouraging, hopeless and completely out of touch?  Why are the authors of the majority of books about depression being written by those who’ve never experienced it? The list of questions could go on. Basically I found no hope for someone like me. So instead of trying to search for hope, laughter, joy, encouragement and peace, I decided I’d create it for myself, and maybe just maybe, share it with others. 

#hopeandlaughter #anxiety #depression #iamnottheonlyone #thewhy

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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

Thwarted Plans

When things don’t go as planned.

So often we make plans, and somehow, we’re surprised when these plans are thwarted. Whether by our own decisions or the result of someone else’s decisions, things don’t go how we thought they would. Either way an unrealized dream or an unexpected change in our path can be very upsetting, sometimes heartbreaking. I have realized that the source of my depression lies in this space. Whether my father committing suicide, and changing the course of my childhood, or the choices I made in my early twenties as a result of so much anger and confusion that led me to drink and drive and put myself and others at risk, to becoming a mom and not immediately falling in love with being a mom and my new baby that I couldn’t wait to meet.

Dreams and Depression.

This last week I was hit with a smaller version of that, something that would forever change things. For the past year I have been working hard to get in shape and attempt my first sprint triathlon. As part of my road to recovery after my third round of depression, my therapist and I had talked about my dreams and things that I wanted to do. Part of what makes a dream a dream, is pursuing something you thought you never could. Competing in a triathlon is definitely one of those.

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How fitness affects our body.

I’ve never been athletic, I’ve never played in sports, but I’ve loved to swim, and after I gave birth to my son I began running. My pregnancy with my daughter was one for the books. It put me through the ringer, and I spent 16 months in physical therapy with limited abilities to work-out. After I finished my PT, I decided working out had to be a priority not just for my physical health, but my mental health. I know that not being active during that time definitely sustained if not worsened my depression. I needed to set a goal and baby step my way there. I spent 9 months working my butt off, getting in shape and making my health a priority. When I finally felt in shape I began running and the first time I ran I had a terrible knee injury and spent weeks with a swollen knee. I brushed it off and visited the chiropractor and thought surely there was a solution and I just needed to baby step my way even in running. I tried running again and the same thing happened, a swollen knee, that left me hurting and day to day activities were painful. Finally, I got up the courage to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and what he told me was gut wrenching. He said Sara you have the knee of a 62-year-old and you can never run again. You need to change your entire work-out program, you need only engage in low-impact activities, limited squats, and lunges.

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My anger could lead to more depression.

My world was rocked. I haven’t cried that hard, been that angry in a long time. I yelled, I screamed I hit the wall, both literally and figuratively. How could this be? In the past year I have changed my life drastically, put my health as my number one priority, worked hard, and made life long changes. I was devastated. I could see the fear in my husband’s eye, he was scared this would send me back…..back there. You know the lowest of low. Hopelessness. While things weren’t going how I planned, I rejoiced in my external anger. I know that may sound silly, but my anger was a victory. A victory that I was expressing not repressing my emotions.

I could see the fear in my husband’s eye, he was scared this would send me back…..back there.

I was deeply disappointed, things WILL forever change, but I’m still determined to reach my goal, it may not be on my timeline (my 40thbirthday), and yes, it may be different, but I can still fulfill it.  I now begin a new journey of pursuing fitness with an injury and getting to focus on my favorite part nutrition. This mama loves to be in the kitchen. So, while I won’t be competing in this year’s Spa Girl Tri and there will need to be adjustments in my work-out routine, I’m not giving up or throwing in the towel. The road did not end it just took a new turn.

Here’s to seeing where that turn will take me,

Sara

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9