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Coping with Anxiety
Faith, Life, Scripture, Uncategorized

Coping with Anxiety

For the last almost year I have been coping with anxiety. Originally I thought it was just situational stress. I was working full time at a church and still operating my content business mostly full time from home. I assumed the pace of it all had just finally taken its toll on my mind and body. (Church planting is hard y’all.) I was gaining weight (rapidly), and I had this constant feeling that all the plates I was spinning were about to come crashing down.

I decided (after much prayer and conversation with important people in my life) to transition out of my church job and go back to working from home as a full time writer. But the anxiety didn’t stop. Again, I just chalked it up to the stress of the season. We were renovating my dad’s home that was filled with mold and it was like a money pit. And in the midst of all that, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. That would stress anyone out, right?

But even after we discovered how to live life in the new normal with him, the anxiety was there. My blood pressure would spike for no reason. I lived with constant chest pain. I woke up with my mind racing, but not about anything specific. It was like a current of electricity running through my mind and body at all times.

I wasn’t worried though, if that makes sense. I’m not actually a worrier by nature. If something is out of my control, I just accept that it is what it is and move on. (If I think I CAN fix it, however, you can bet I will sure try though, lol.)

True to my type-A googling self, I looked up my symptoms, and the powers of google suggested maybe my caffeine consumption was high. WHICH IT WAS! Could that be my problem? So I cut out almost all of my caffeine, and just to be safe, had a complete physical, including a very thorough cardiac workup. Turns out my heart was fine, my body was fine, my blood pressure was fine.

My mind, however, was not okay.

Though I am writing this in the past tense, I am still struggling with anxiety. I feel a sense of unrest. Constant unrest.

Anxiety disorders run in my family, so I understand how out-of-balance brain chemicals and past trauma can affect us. Hear me say that if you struggle with anxiety or any other mental illness, I get that it’s physical and real. I also believe that we are spiritual beings in a physical body living in a physical world. There is a constant battle between those things, the spiritual and the physical.

For me, I have been feeling as though my soul is off balance in some way.

As I was sitting in church a few weeks ago, one of our pastors said, “Is anxiety holding a place in your spirit that belongs to God?”

I wanted to scream, “YES. IT IS.”

Since that Sunday, whenever I feel anxious I say, “The place being held by this anxiety belongs to God.” In the moment, it settles me because I believe there is power in spoken truth.

This morning I sat down with my Bible to pray for a friend and as soon as I touched the Word, I felt this immediate peace course through my veins, much in the same way anxiety has felt. I sat silently for a few minutes just drawing comfort there.

Then I opened it to the book of Luke and I read, “… it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, so you may know the exact truth …” Just as there is power in the spoken truth, there is power in the written truth. So today I am writing it down.

I don’t want anxiety to be a part of my daily life. I want the peace of God. In the physical and spiritual realm, those things are at odds with each other. I can’t think my way out of anxiety. I can’t rationalize it and make it better. But I can draw comfort from allowing the spirit of God to fill my soul and my mind, revealing truth to me, and leading me to the peace I need.

So I say to you today, if anxiety is holding a place in your spirit that belongs to God, begin to speak truth over yourself. Allow His spirit and that truth to replace the anxiety.

Faith, Life, Uncategorized

Hard of Hearing God’s Voice

Sometimes I say I can’t hear the voice of God, but what I really mean is I don’t want to do what He’s asking.

God’s voice is clearly discernible.  Even if the manner in which He chooses to speak is, shall we say, unconventional, His message is always pretty clear.

Burning bush, giant fish, words written in stone, chariots of fire, blinding lights on the road.  Weird messengers?  Yes.  Clear messages?  Yep.

I have discovered that when I say I don’t know what God wants me to do, I typically do know what He wants me to do, but sometimes I feel unsure because I’m waiting for a sense of peace to overwhelm me, and I measure that peace as my definitive sign. As I was thinking about my need for peace to be my “go ahead signal,”  I couldn’t help but wonder if Moses felt an overwhelming sense of peace as a BURNING BUSH spoke to him.  Or if Jonah felt a sense of peace sitting inside the belly of a whale?  Doubtful.

And yet, most of us say that we know we’ve heard the voice of God when we feel “a peace” that passes understanding.

I wonder, sometimes, if the peace doesn’t come after our spirit relinquishes control to the message we’ve heard?  What if our obedience to what we have heard is what brings us peace?

All that to say, He’s not so hard to hear.  I’m just not so great at obeying.  How about you?

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Unconditionally Yours

Thirty-five years ago, I said, “I Do,” to the man of my dreams, the man who swept me off my young feet and promised to love, honor, and cherish me for as long as we both lived. The truth is, at twenty, I’m sure I thought I was saying, “I Do,” to a whole different marriage than the one I have actually lived out.

That is not to say my marriage hasn’t been good. In fact, it’s been great, and terrible, and beautiful, and tragic, filled with ridiculous drama and incredible love. (Maybe marriages really are the stuff of fairy tales.)

As I reflect back on thirty-five years, I want to share what I believe I have learned about being married.

 

The Two Shall Become One

First and foremost, Mike and I had to learn to become a “we” instead of two individuals sharing the same address. I think a lot of couples never make the transition from me to we, and that’s why so many marriages end so early. Becoming a “we” means letting go of selfish pursuits aimed at making yourself great and instead chasing after the things that make you great together.

This often involves great sacrifice on the part of both spouses. As a married couple, you were created to compliment one another, to make one another better. Sure, you should be the best version of yourself you can be.

But being the best “me” cannot come at the sacrifice of being the best “we.” When me is more important than we, we loses, and the marriage dies.

Some examples of sacrifices we have made along the way to become a better we?

  • Mike sold his ugly college furniture so we could have “grown up” furniture that was more to my liking.
  • I didn’t wear purple for the first 15 years of our marriage because Mike hated the color purple.
  • I quit school so Mike could finish his degree.
  • Mike left grad school to get a better job because we had two kids, and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.
  • I quit numerous jobs I loved so we could move for Mike’s work.
  • Mike quit a job he loved because it was destroying our marriage and it wasn’t good for our children.

 

I cannot tell you how often we have sacrificed (both big and small things) because it was best for the “we” even when it wasn’t what “me” might have wanted (or even needed). I think the most surprising thing related to sacrificing is that it’s something you have to practice every single day of your married life. FOR.EV.ER.

 

One of Us Fought

Second, at some point in our married life, Mike and I both have packed a suitcase and declared we were finished. Fortunately though, we were never both finished at the same time. One of us was always for the marriage.

And that’s the point. Someone always has to be “for” the marriage. That is not to say you will both always be “for” the marriage. You won’t be. At some point in your married life, one of you will entertain thoughts of calling it quits. Maybe often. But as long as one of you is still standing there fighting for your marriage, you’ve got a shot at it standing the test of time.

 

I Am For You

Third, just as one of you must always be “for” the marriage, you must be “for” one another. This means giving the other person the benefit of the doubt instead of believing the worst of them. It means supporting their desires and their dreams, even if it means yours might have to be delayed a bit. It means trusting them, and trusting their love for you. Be their champion when they succeed and their soft place to land when they fail.

 

Go Home

Fourth, go home. Sometimes, when marriage gets hard, it’s easy to seek comfort, validation, friendship, and love in other places. This includes a job, volunteer work, the gym, your kids, a bottle, or other friendships. The list could go on and on. Seeking fulfillment outside of your marriage is a slippery slope and ultimately what ends most of the marriages I have seen end.

Go home. It’s a simple statement, but it can be difficult to live out at times. Just do it though. Go home and practice loving, honoring, cherishing, and respecting (you know, those things you said in your vows) your spouse. Even when you don’t feel like it.

 

Everything We Need to Know

And finally, most of the things that have carried us through our marriage, we learned in childhood (and had ample opportunity to practice in marriage).

  • Say you are sorry, and mean it. You are going to get a lot of things wrong in your married life. A. LOT. OF. THINGS. Your ability to say you are sorry for your part of every argument is a critical life skill.
  • Don’t call people names. I don’t care how many times they have overdrawn the checking account, loaded the dishwasher wrong, left the shower door open, wrecked the car, changed the TV show you were watching, or anything else. (Can you tell the things we fight about?)
  • You can’t always have your way. If “me” is going to become a “we,” you cannot and you should not always get your way. At some point, if you are always fighting for your way, you are just being a bully.
  • Hug it out. Remember when your mom always made you hug your sibling after a fight? Physical touch is critically important, especially if you are in a rough place. Hold hands, sit next to each other, have sex, or just hug it out.

 

Unconditional Means Without Conditions

Sometimes, when marriage is really hard, I read I Corinthians 13:4-8 to myself and remind myself what true, unconditional love looks like.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 

 

All that to say, I’m not an expert on marriage. But I know what unconditional love looks like. I’ve been married to a man who lives that out for me every day. No matter how unlovable I am, he loves me still. And no matter how unlovable he is, he reminds me to love him anyway. He’s my person.

I love you Mike Jones. Happy 35th Anniversary