Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Face Forward

The above image quote has been on my mind today. I am going to take each part and try to apply it to my life. I am looking forward to making some positive changes in my life and this quote seems like a good place to start my thought process on just how to do make those changes.

"Face Forward." I am so used to having my head slanted towards the ground eyes looking at the ground. The dirt and I are on a first name basis, we know each other well. There is beauty in every grain of sand, every piece of dirt, every rock, blade of grass, flower, and tree root. There is no doubt that I love the feel of the earth underneath my feet and the treasures I find as I walk upon it. However, I am missing out on many beautiful things that would be at eye-level if I would just lift up my head.

You may be wondering why I am even blogging about this. Well, you see, I have suffered from low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. That is my main reason for keeping my eyes focused on the ground. I don't want to see the look on someone's face when they see me. I just know it won't be good! At least that is what I have come to believe. 

I allowed certain people's words, actions, and beliefs muddy my view of who I was. I believed I was not good enough and my thoughts were not valid. Everything I enjoyed or had a passion for was looked down upon. So I began molding myself into something foreign to me and told myself daily that who I was and what I dreamed were of no worth and should be locked away in the darkest recesses of my being. (Just typing this makes me nauseous)

                                                       For you formed my inward parts
       you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,

    intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Psalm 139:13-15English Standard Version (ESV)
You're probably wondering, "could things really be that bad?" Yes. yes they can be, they were, and in many ways still are. All because my child-mind didn't understand how to filter out the negativity and the chaos going on around me. So I internalized it. I made it mine. I made it real. I find myself at 39 years old sifting through it all and pulling out the weeds to make room for the sunflowers, green grass, and trees of love and joy to bloom. 

The work is hard. The journey is exhausting. The emotional roller-coaster it nauseating. Most days I want to quit and just live in denial. Working on my physical health is hard, believe me, but this the work of facing forward - straight at myself in the mirror - without casting my eyes downward - is so much harder than I ever imagined. It takes every ounce of energy, courage, and "just do it already" attitude to face forward - to face myself for 30 seconds. I don't like who I allowed myself to become. I don't like the anxious, panicky, depressed, unfocused, chaotic-minded person I have become - or maybe always was. I want to fight her - I want to beat her. But you know that is not the way to healing. I have to love her - accept her. That is much harder to do than to berate her for being this way.  

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." 
~Philippians 4:6-8English Standard Version (ESV)

My first step to facing forward is awareness. Something I learned from a few years of seeing a counselor (the best decision I have made!). Every moment that I become aware of my triggers, my defense mechanism, my negative self-talk, my need to please people and leave myself on the back burner, I get one step closer to freedom. One step closer to healing. Every moment I become aware of the lies of our spiritual enemy and refuse to believe them, I get one step closer to freedom. One step closer to healing.Now that I am well into becoming more aware of my inner workings, I need to work on the second step. 

Step two to facing forward is "weeding my garden." Yesterday during my session I learned about a process of visualizing my mind, thoughts, attitudes, and feelings as a garden. (I have always found peace in nature). As I sit in the quiet, stillness of my garden I need to look around and find those weeds of self-hate, low self-esteem, doubt, negativity, unforgiveness, bitterness, and any thing else that I have held onto that is hindering my growth. Anything that steals my peace, joy, love, and happiness. (Joy and happiness are different, more on that in another post). Once I find them, I need to pull them out and throw them away!! One by one. Step by step. One day at a time. It may sound simple and a little corny but why over-complicate something that just needs a simple corny solution!?

There are many more steps along the way to healing. As I weed my thought garden I will practice taking every thought captive and guarding my heart so the enemy won't gain a foothold in my life. It may seem as if our battle is with people but it is not. It is a spiritual battle. The enemy, Satan (negative, evil energy), is out to manipulate, steal, kill, and destroy every single good thing inside of every single human being. He doesn't want us to have peace, joy, love for ourselves or others. So he uses us if he can to hurt each other. To bully, be little, and sometimes even physically harm ourselves or others. If he can keep us busy being angry, bitter, hurt, and trying to one up each other then we will not grow into the amazing, fearfully, wonderfully made, human beings we were meant to be. It's time we stop fighting ourselves and each other. It is time to allow the healing to take place.

 "The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity." ~2 Corinthians 10:4-6The Message (MSG)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Being Real

Those who plant in tears 
will harvest with shouts of joy.
~Psalm 126:5 NLT

"In the deepest recesses of my heart, those places I had tried to hide even from him, I sensed God had been waiting a long time for me to begin asking the hard questions. (Hope Prevails Insights from a Doctor's Personal Journey through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson)

When I read this last night it reminded me of all the times I felt God tugging at my heart to talk to Him. To let Him in to those "dark" places. But fear of being open, honest, and raw with my feelings, (even though He already knows but speaking them out loud makes them real for me), made me hold on tighter and push them even further into those places hidden behind the walls. The walls have gotten higher and thicker with every passing year that I hold these things inside. It has not only distracted me from a closer relationship with God but also with myself and others. 

As a teenager I begin having issues with my weight. At the time I didn't know it had more to do with a health issue that was never diagnosed correctly and less to do with what I was doing. However, I begin to believe that I was being punished for something, some sin I couldn't see, some sin that I had forgotten about. I thought maybe I was being punished for things that other people had done to me and how I never spoke up. I internalized everything. I made myself guilty and in eventually the guilt turned into excuses for believing that I wasn't good enough, that I was worthless, ugly, stupid, and should just give up. I know there are so many of us that feel those things at one point or another, but instead of just feeling it and letting it go, I lived it. I let jumped in, believed it, and made it who I was. 

At a very young age I was anxious around people, maybe it was shyness. I have always been afraid of public speaking and even skipped that class in colleges. I dropped out of classes, dropped out of college completely (more than once) all because I was anxious and that turned into panic. It got so bad I couldn't get out my car when I got to the building the class was in. Someday's I couldn't even leave the house. Over the years I have gone through this cycle over and over again. For awhile it seems everything is going great. I am able to leave my house with no anxious feelings. I can go to the store alone. I worked for 8 years straight (with a small hiccup of short term medical leave due to stress). Then I spiral down again. This last spiral has been the worst. It stole so many things from me and at first my only focus was on the things I lost instead of focusing on God and His promises.

In the last year I have been a part of three studies that have helped to open my eyes to what I was missing while "living in the land of negativity." I was tired of feeling lost, worthless, and unhealthy. These studies came at the perfect time. I was finally ready to say, "yes to change." 

A few months ago I begin that real, raw, honest talk with God through journaling and prayer. It was one of the hardest things to do. I can tell you now that it was the best thing I have done in a very long time. It helped me to see myself differently. It helped to see everything I have been through, by choice of my own or by someone else's actions, in a different light. I was able to see the lessons I was learning and the blessings I was being given. Even in this, the worst downward spiral into depression and anxiety, has blessed me. The daily struggles with health issues have made me stronger and have forced me to look at the choices I am making and how those choices are either helping me grow or hurting me. 

In future blog posts I will share more about the changes I have made and will be making. But for now, I just want you to know that being open, honest, real, and raw with yourself and God is the first step to healing your body, mind, and soul. It is putting your best foot forward! 

Coming soon: Making Healthy Choices 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hanging On

"...hang on to the vine..."

Am I hanging on? I'd like to say yes. But sometimes I know I lose my grip. I let go to grab on to something else, something I think is going to help me. Sometimes I lose grip because I am holding on to my pain to tightly.

The valley is treacherous with all its darkness and traps. Alone we may not make it out alive. I know because there have been times when I am so worn out I want it to be over. I give up and lay face down in the muck and wallow in it. These are the times I have let go of the vine and tries it on my own.

Sisters, the valley is treacherous even when we hold on to the vine but when we cling to Christ His strength pulls us through. Those worn out exhausted moments are then spent resting in His arms instead of the gross mucky negativity we so desperately cling to sometimes. It is then that we can receive His peace and "wallow" in His love.

"Make it your aim to cling to Christ."
(Anxious for nothing by Max Lucado

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Beautiful Struggle

" I can impress you with my achievements, or share my struggle and pray that it leads to your transformation."

~ Kirk Franklin

Looking through some old pictures I saw found this photo of a beautiful green field and it reminded me of how the seasons transform the landscape. Earth shares it's beauty in all forms from lush green fields to hot days to colorful fall leaves to barren fields in the middle of winter. Through it all it never loses it's beauty.

When I read the quote above it got me thinking about the seasons of my own life. In this season, I am in the midst of some struggles that will require changes like the Fall changes the color of the leaves and eventually they fall on the ground and still the tree stands tall awaiting the time the changes it made with be replaced with the blessings of Springtime's green leaves.

I don't share my struggles with many people for fear of being made fun of or for other's to spread it around to whomever they some in contact with. It's not that I am embarrassed anymore about the things I find difficult to deal with or the things that I have learned about myself throughout the last few years, it's that finding people who are ready to be real and honest with me as well has not been an easy task.

If you know anything about me, you know I love to talk. I love to talk about just about anything. Discuss spiritual things, emotional things, things that make us smile and feel loved. I love playing twenty questions or more. I will ask my husband random questions as 2 am because my mind hasn't shut off and I don't want to keep talking to myself in my head. I love learning new things about my husband, our families, and those I have come to know as friends. I want to share my story in hopes that it inspires and encourages others to see that even in the midst of some of the darkest days of my life I survived and they can too.

I wonder, is this world ready for that? Raw, honest, truths that I hold inside. If I open up and share my struggles will they do the same? Will they let their raw, honest, truths inspire and encourage me? Can our stories strengthen our relationships? I know that being completely honest with my husband and he with me has made our bond so much stronger throughout the years. We never have to wonder what they other thinks or feels. We don't have to worry about the things we tell other people about each other, because the love we share is evident to those who know us.

As I read the above quote again, I want to be truthful about every struggle and trust that who I tell will be by my side. They will keep my confidence and I will keep theirs. I want my story to help them look within themselves and find their raw, honest, truths. I want my story to be the seed that helps me grow and helps others grow as well. I want my flame to ignite their flame so we can stand tall and bright in the midst of anything that comes our way.

It's a funny thing that one short quote from the book, She's Still Here by Chrystal Evans Hurst, brought all this to mind. One more reason why I love to read!

Be blessed!