Categories
anxiety

5 Tips for Surviving a Dystopia

During this time in quarantine, some of you may feel like we’re living in the end times. Whether or not I believe the end is near is for another post, but those of us who are speculative fiction/dystopian/post-apocalyptic readers are well prepared for this kind of thing.

If you’re scared, don’t worry. George Orwell, Suzanne Collins, and even Disney have taught us plenty about how to survive a dystopia. While some of this post is meant to be funny, I hope you can find some nuggets to chew on and get through this difficult time.

1. Get a Pet

Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games) has a cat, and she survives all three Hunger Games. Wall-E has a cockroach, and he’s successful in saving EVE and bringing the humans back to Earth. Winston Smith (1984) doesn’t have a pet, and he succumbs to the psychological trickery of Big Brother. So, to stay sane, you obviously need a pet.

You need an animal that’s totally oblivious to the craziness so you can remember that there’s life outside of a virus, a totalitarian government, or world war. Even when the world is falling apart, all Fido seems to care about is chasing that squirrel up a tree. Despite the inconsistent weather outside, the birds are chirping as if it’s a beautiful, sunny day. Sometimes, we need a reminder of the simple things we take for granted.

2. Do Not Believe Everything You See and Hear in the News

In 1984, the main character, Winston Smith, works for the records department of the Ministry of Truth, and his job is to literally rewrite history and the media to make Big Brother seem like the all-knowing, all-powerful figurehead that has led the country in conquering other nations. As a writer in today’s day and age, it saddens me that there are many “Winstons” in our current media. Not all journalists and reporters are bad, but please be aware that “fake news” is out there. With the right editing tools, anyone can make anything look real.

My journalism teacher in high school told me to “beware the one-sourced story.” If you see a meme or a headline, even if it seems like it’s true to you because it caters to your opinions and desires, fact check it like crazy. Google “Did that really happen?” or “Did he really say that?” Look up the original video, article, transcript, photo, etc and analyze it. Use your senses to detect the body language, tone of voice, and details “between the lines.”

To find out if a source is telling the truth, consider their motivation for writing. We’re in an election year in the United States. Now is the perfect time for political campaigns to use what’s going on to talk about how well (or how not-so-well) the government is handling the virus.

Look at the funding behind the organization that put out this article, or what the company sells. If you happen to find a source that purely speaks the truth without any bias or agenda, share it with others. Don’t believe everything you hear, read, or watch on the Internet.

3. Stay Connected to Your Family

Early dystopian novels feature societies where families are separated. In fact, it was one of the main themes of Brave New World. These stories will mention parents and children because you can’t avoid the fact that you came from a human or that a human came out of you (except in Brave New World, where babies are created in factories).

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that family relationships aren’t great in these stories. In A Handmaid’s Tale, women give birth, but have to give up their children to their host family. Usually, the main character lives alone, with little mention of his or her family. In YA dystopian fiction, the main character will often have a sibling that encourages them, like Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Reed Blackwater in the Out of Time series, but they are usually separated for the majority of the book/series.

The lack of family makes the dystopia even worse because the main character gets inside their own head. During the quarantine, unfortunately, we’ve had to separate from our families. For me, this is the part of the whole COVID-19 situation that’s most like a dystopia for me. This virus has created (or heightened) our distrust of our family members. We’ve been stuck inside our own heads, first for the sake of our elders who we may accidentally give the virus, but now out of fear that our loved ones are now “unsafe” to us.

To survive a dystopia, do everything you can to stay connected to your families. Call them every once in while to see how they’re doing. Video chat. Invite them over your house and sit outside or in the driveway. Show them you care. Invest in people who care about you.

4. Remember That You Can Change the Narrative

Dystopian fiction became popular in the 1920s and 1930s because of political unrest and economic turmoil. Despite many of the details in these books becoming true, they were never meant to predict the future. Rather, they were meant to warn their readers of what could happen if we as people don’t take action.

Brave New World and 1984 came challenge totalitarian government that was popular in other nations around the world. The Hunger Games reveals the evils of self-indulgence. Wall-E is a warning to take care of planet Earth, or else we will have to live on a ship, floating through outer space. These stories weren’t saying, “This will be our future”; they were saying, “This can be our future, if we don’t do something.”

Katniss takes action in The Hunger Games by volunteering as tribute and surviving, even when everyone in District 12 starts the book practically writing her funeral. Parvin Blackwater in A Time to Die (disclaimer: I only read the first book so far of this series!) takes action by writing an autobiography that exposes the insanity of banishing people who lost their clocks.

Will we let our circumstances dictate our future, or will we take ownership of our lives? This is our world. How do you want it to look? What does a right world look like? To survive a dystopia, don’t let your negative circumstances define you. Use them to inspire you to take action to make things right.

5. Pray for God to Bring His Utopian Plan to Earth

When we think of the end times, we think of Armageddon. We think of massive viruses wiping out populations and natural disasters killing our crops. But that is not the end of the story.

In the beginning, when God created man and woman, He gave us dominion over the earth. At the end, after the destruction, there is redemption. God creates a new heaven and a new earth. Read Revelation 21 and 22 to see the beauty that awaits us.

It’s not a faraway place that John sees in his vision. What he sees is a prediction of the renewal of where you’re sitting right now. In the end, God will dwell on Earth with us. Heaven and Earth will become one.

If you think about it, the world isn’t getting worse. It’s getting better. And since WE have dominion over the earth, WE have the power to make it a better place. But we need God’s help, His perfect wisdom, to guide us in our rebuilding process, so that we don’t mess it up like we did the first time.

So, to survive a dystopia, pray that God would equip us to make a utopia out of our hopeless situation. Pray that God would take what the enemy meant for evil and use it for our good. Pray that in the midst of a deadly virus, in the midst of a world war, in the midst of a natural disaster, that we can have hope in our inevitable future with God.

Amen.


If you read dystopian fiction, I’m in the pitching process of publishing my debut novel, In Real Life. To receive dystopian short stories and updates about my book, you can subscribe here.

Categories
anxiety

What Time Is It?

The days, weeks, and months seem to blend together these days. We’ve been asking ourselves, “What time is it?” “What day is it?” “How am I feeling in the midst of it?”

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King Solomon writes that there is a time for everything. In each and every season of our lives, we have a response. But as a result of reading this passage in Scripture, I have to ask, What season are we in now?

Everything Under the Sun

If you ask everyone on this planet how they’re responding to the coronavirus, to being in quarantine, to losing loved ones, to living alone…we’d all have different answers. In the beginning, I struggled with guilt because I was actually enjoying some time off from driving, and embracing this new season of much-needed time with my husband (and myself!). I was actually hopeful that God could use this virus and turn this quarantine into a way to draw us back to Himself.

But this virus has affected all of us differently. Some of us are rejoicing, while some of us are grieving. Some of us live alone, while others wish they did. Some of us are mourning loved ones who have passed, while others are celebrating the births of their babies. Some of us are consumed by work, while others are thankful for time with their families.

While I always have something positive to say, this trial we’re all facing has taught me to be sensitive to the needs of others. There have been days where I’ve struggled to even have a word of encouragement. But in those moments, I’ve also learned to rely on God, because He is the ultimate encourager.

A Time to Mourn AND a Time to Dance

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I closed on our home, after months of waiting for a mortgage application and after years of praying and saving practically every penny we own. We were so excited, we danced and jumped for joy as we moved into this answer to prayer.

When I opened that first box the day before our furniture arrived, I felt a wave of panic and….sadness? How could I be sad when we could finally see the culmination of all our prayers and hard work? This is everything I’ve wanted for the last three years, even before my husband and I were married. Why was I fighting back tears at this new blessing, after years of hopping from apartment to apartment, waiting for a place to call our own?

I didn’t understand how I felt until I saw it through the eyes of a TV character.

On a recent episode of a show we watch, a couple had just bought a home, but one of them had a hard time enjoying it. Their real estate agent and family member encouraged this person to properly say goodbye to his old home.

At first, he thought it was strange, but as he spent time alone “with his old house,” he realized how important it was to relive old memories and appreciate what the house contributed to his life. While it was all meant to be comedic, it spoke volumes to me about this current season of my life.

It’s possible to be happy and sad about my current situation, because I’m both gaining and losing.

We Need to Let Go to Move Forward

Moving is a change. My life has been a constant change. As a world, we are all feeling a change taking place.

Change is good. I need to believe that. We need to believe that.

Before all this happened, I felt discontent and lonely. I was overwhelmed with activities and work and my life was just one big obligation to take care of everyone but myself. Though my schedule was full, I was empty.

needed change. But when the whole world literally shifted, I wasn’t ready, and I didn’t like it.

When we ask God for change, we come with our expectations. The change I was looking for was more money, more time, or boldness to say no when I needed to take care of myself. I wanted more space to live in, more convenience, more of the good things in my life and less of the bad.

But in asking for all of these things, I never asked for more of God, but that was what He wanted for me. So, His answer to my prayer was much different from what I expected.

To make room for this new blessing, the answer to my prayers, I have to let go of what was lost. In order to embrace the now, I have to lay down the expectations I had and seek the Lord in the midst of my emotions.

Friends, this isn’t a pause; this is life. We are never going “back to normal”; we are embracing a new normal.

As we walk through this difficult time, as crazy as it is, God is faithful and unchanging, yet He is calling us to a new thing. The world is being turned upside down, and we’re seeing a revival. In order to be ready for this new season, no matter how good it is, we have to mourn what we’ve lost.

Today, lay down your expectations for how you wanted 2020 to look, and embrace what God has for you. Take as much time as you need to grieve what you’ve lost: cry, scream, jump up and down, write in your journal. Then turn to God, who truly has a 2020 vision, for instructions on this next chapter of your life.

Categories
Encouragement

5 Habits to Keep After COVID-19

It’s been three weeks of social distancing and self-containment, and truthfully, I’m growing restless. But as I think of the world slowly transitioning back to reality in the coming weeks(or months?), I want to take advantage of the lessons I’ve learned in the midst of COVID-19.

As I’ve been praying about where God is in all of this, I’ve gotten the vision of a seed. Just as a seed is planted in the darkness, hidden yet nourished by the dirt, at the proper time, the seed grows into a strong oak tree that cannot be shaken. Seeds are being planted in this season, and in due time, we will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). Here are some seeds I pray will take root in the world, even when life goes “back to normal.”

1. We Keep Washing Our Hands

This is an obvious point, but I’m not just talking about physically. This virus has taught us to be more aware of how our actions, attitudes, and illnesses affect those around us. “If one member suffers, we all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we remember to practice purity in our words and our actions. That we can remember the power of life and death that rests in the tongue, and that we would choose our words carefully. Though we shouldn’t distance or isolate ourselves, we should be wise in what we share with others.

2. We Stay Home When We’re Sick

During the beginning stages of the quarantine, we received an e-mail from a local business about their protocol to handle the virus, “Employees who don’t feel well will be required to stay home.” My inward response to that was, Shouldn’t that always be the case?

I confess that I’m guilty of going to work even when I struggle to get out of bed. I’m guilty of being scared to call my boss and tell them I’m too sick to come into work. When I do take a day off, I try to justify why it was the right thing to do instead of embracing rest. But this virus has taught me that going to work sick doesn’t help anyone. Especially not me.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we would see that our lives are more important than our salaries. That we would have the courage to admit when we genuinely shouldn’t go to work or participate in that event. Though we shouldn’t cheat the system, we should use the PTO time (or even the non-PTO time) given to us by our employers to refresh and restore ourselves, so we can return from our breaks as healthy, hardworking members of the company.

3. We Make Time to Rest and Grieve

During this quarantine, we’ve lost a lot. Seniors in high school and college have missed a chance to participate in graduation activities. Sports events have been cancelled. Some people have important events, like birthdays, weddings, baby and bridal showers, and welcoming new family members into the world.

Loss happens in this world, but when “life goes on,” the pain and grief we feel often gets pushed to the side. We have to put on a happy face and keep going. It doesn’t give glory to God to power through our pain. We need to be authentic.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that when we’re going through seasons of difficulty in the future, the world would be forgiving and let us reflect on what we’ve lost. But even when it’s not, that we would be bold in our tears and pain, knowing that our Lord holds our tears in a jar and is with us in the pain.

4. We Keep Up the Relationships We’ve Cultivated (Including With Ourselves)

In this season of quarantine, we’re getting the opportunity to see our loved ones up close and personal. I’m personally thankful for the chance to spend more time with my husband, who has been working from home instead of driving an hour each day into work. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the video chats I’ve been a part of and the chance to get to know my friends “face-to-face.” I’ve also found a new love for myself, discovering gifts and passions that had yet to be awakened because of lack of time.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we will become so saturated in love for our friends and family that meeting with them would never be a burden. May we be free from obligations and instead invest in where we want to be. Though we should still go to work and participate in the world, we should intentionally carve out time to sit with our friends outside and laugh at the memories created during the quarantine. And that we can recognize that self care is just as important as pouring into the lives of others.

5. We Wait on the Lord

The whole world is in waiting right now, begging for this virus to stop wreaking havoc on our land. While the day we see a break will be glorious, it will not signal the end of all waiting. There will be many seasons where we’ll be crying out to God just as loudly as we all now, our voices straining in desperation to be set free from this wait.

We were in that season of waiting for a house for a long time. After weeks, months, and years of prayers, saving, and sacrifice, we are driving to the bank to close on our first home. As we live in our new house, our new house, we will never forget the prayers we’ve whispered in desperation to God, the promises that He can do the impossible, and the faithfulness that carried us to see the fulfillment of those promises.

The same God who met us in our need is the same God who is with us now. And He’s the same God who will be with us the next time we’re in a season of waiting.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we never waste the wait. I pray that we lean into God and bring the deepest cries of our hearts to Him. Even though it hurts, I fully believe that God hears our prayers and He draws near to us as we draw near to Him. May we never take His presence for granted, even when we get everything back that we lost in this season of waiting.

Amen.


If you are interested in fiction stories, check out the short story I wrote this week about how I believe God is working during our global quarantine period. You can subscribe to my e-mail list to have an encouraging short story sent to you every Monday morning.

Categories
Encouragement

It’s Time to Rest

I love my job. Working from home, writing thousands of words a day, learning a treasure trove of information, and being part of an uplifting team. At this job, I truly feel like I’m doing what God created me to do for this season. After each shift, I’m so excited and grateful that I have the opportunity to work in my dream career.

Except, why am I so tired?

I Experienced Burnout, Even in My Dream Job

Truthfully, my first month on the job was fun, but it was also information overload. As a result, I was tired. I could even say a felt a low grade of depression. For a couple of weeks I wondered, if this is my dream job and I’m depressed, did I follow the wrong dream?

Over time, I learned that I wasn’t in the wrong career. I was just burned out. Even though my job is exactly what I want to be doing, it was too much. I needed to make time to rest, especially since I hadn’t worked full-time in more than two years before this job.

We all need rest, even from good things. Just ask Elijah.

Elijah Was Burnt Out, Even in His Dream Job

Elijah was a powerhouse prayer warrior prophet for God. Everywhere he went, miracles followed. One of the most prominent miracles of God that he experienced was up against the prophets of Baal, a false god. You can read about it in 1 Kings 18. God shows up in a supernatural way, putting the doubt of all people to death. Oh, and He also brought rain down on the land after a long drought.

But shortly after all these miracles happened, Elijah wished he was dead. Wait, what? No, seriously. In 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah says what we’ve all said at one time or another: “I’ve had enough, Lord.” He asks God to take his life. You could say that it’s the one prayer God didn’t answer, but actually, He does.

Elijah Needed a Nap and a Snack

Right after this declaration, Elijah falls asleep. Sometimes, we just need a nap! But then when his nap is finished, an angel wakes him up and tells him to eat.

A literal angel made Elijah literal food. All of a sudden, there was bread and water in front of him. So, he did the wise thing. He ate. The food so strengthened Elijah that he traveled forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God.

During this dark time, Elijah learned the value of rest. He learned that, even when good things happen, these good things can’t sustain him. He’s human. Like all of us, he needed to rest after the emotional roller coaster he endured, even in the midst of the miracle.

The Importance of the Rest in Our Lives

Rest is so important to God that even He rested on the seventh day. He set an example that we all need to follow. The Sabbath reminds us that we’re human, that we can’t give our 110% all the time. We need to intentionally step back from our ministries, our jobs, our daily lives for just a moment to unwind and reflect.

Oh, and of course, to take a nap!

Most of my close friends know that I can’t stay out past ten o’clock at night. It’s a boundary I’ve set for myself, because I know that I can’t be (ahem) very Christlike past that hour. The truth is, I wake up early in the morning, so I’m tired by the end of the day. I’m human. I’ve recognized the importance of sleep for my sanity.

Key Takeaway

While most of us in the world are in isolation due to a virus that’s still not fully known to us. As a result, we have a ton of time on our hands. Of course, life goes on. We still have to work. But maybe, in our free time, we can make some time for rest.

Even though it seems like nothing is going on (you’re stuck in your house!), you’re going through a lot of mental and emotional stress right now. Recognize your need for rest, and make time to unwind.

This week, I challenge you to literally schedule time to rest. Here are some questions to get you thinking about how to rest properly:

  • What basic necessities (sleep, eating healthy food, working out, spending time with family, etc.) do I need right now? How can I fulfill what I need?
  • Think of your life as an empty cup. What activities and people fill the cup of your life?
  • What would spending a Sabbath with the Lord look like for you? What activities would you give up? What activities would you take part in?

 

Categories
anxiety

Hope in the Storm

The images of Hurricane Sandy are still in my mind.

In October 2012, nearly eight years ago, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast. If you live in this area, words may flash through your head to describe the experience.

Tragedy.

Destruction.

Nightmare.

Apocalyptic.

Even after the storm had run its course, we still suffered the consequences. Lines at the gas station clogged traffic for miles. Our homes were without power for weeks. Trees were everywhere, knocking down sheds and crushing cars. And I know that all I need to do is type the word flood for every Long Islander to shudder.

Are We Still in a Storm?

If you’re not from the east coast, you may not believe that some of us are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Some homes, especially near the water, are still being rebuilt. Those looking for homes need to consider property taxes and the massive flood insurance tacked onto the price of a house. Many of us live in fear of another destructive storm wiping away everything we ever knew.

I could argue that we are in a storm right now. But instead of a visible storm, it’s one where we can only see its effects. This post isn’t to make light of the severity of the situation. We have enough people making jokes about stores running out of toilet paper or the President cancelling student loan interest. This post isn’t to ignore what has already been said about how to respond. We should keep washing our hands and staying alert as the world tries to navigate this virus. But what I don’t see a lot of right now is hope. And I want to encourage you to look for hope, even in the midst of isolation, fear, and uncertainty.

Allow me to do that by sharing my experience during Hurricane Sandy.

What Happened to Me?

In 2012, I was in my junior year at Nyack College. I was dorming with my best friend in an all-girls hall. Besides my roommate, I didn’t really talk to the other ladies on my floor, except in passing. I had no reason to leave my personal bubble to pursue a friendship with any of them.

Suddenly, the news in the dining hall warned us that a storm was coming our way. The rain, wind, and darkness came almost as soon as the warnings. Before we knew it, classes were cancelled and we were asked to find shelter. We waited days that turned into weeks for our life to go back to normal.

Lots of Darkness, Wind, and Uncertainty

If I could describe my entire experience during Hurricane Sandy, it was what I saw out of my window each morning. From the third floor corner room, a tall, thick tree swayed in the wind. Every day, I wondered if the wind would eventually rip it up from the ground and send it flying into our window. But even after the storm, it stood strong and in place.

That’s how I want to be in the middle of life’s storms.

Even though classes were cancelled, we were required to complete homework assignments and midterms. When I tried to flick on the light in my dorm room, I was only met with darkness. Oh no. The power was out. It was dark in my room, and I was alone.

Until I opened up the door to my room and discovered the hallway light was on.

Coming Out of Hiding

Apparently, the other ladies on my floor had this same thought. We all ended up sitting outside our bedrooms, our laptops plugged into outlets in the hallway. And suddenly, we started talking to one another.

Our conversation started out as complaining about the weather and the spotty internet. But then it got deeper, and as the winds and rains pounded on our windows, we were laughing at each other’s jokes and playing UNO on the floor.

We made a daily habit of hanging out in the hallways. We worshiped louder and stronger than ever before, because we had a reason to believe that God is faithful in every season of our lives. Even the ones where the darkness overshadows the sunlight.

The Silver Lining in the Dark Cloud

During Hurricane Sandy, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I would’ve never paid any attention to them if it wasn’t for the tragedy that we all shared together. Even after the sun came out, we chatted with each other on the way to class and ate meals together in the cafeteria.

The images of Hurricane Sandy were brutal, but they were also beautiful. In the midst of darkness and depression, I discovered true friendship. While eating microwaved bean burritos in the dining hall and covering myself in blankets to keep warm, I found joy. Even though my school made an announcement that we should go home in this state of emergency and my home was without power, I learned how to be strong in the face of fear.

Hope in the Storm

So while we are washing our hands and stocking up on essentials, like we should, we should also be aware that these storms are part of life. After this coronavirus has ended, we’ll face another one in a couple of years. I know this because we’ve been through a number of storms in the past few decades. I mean, have you seen the news? Violence, destructive weather, and deathly illnesses have been on our headlines for centuries. We’ve gone through storms before, and we’ll get through this one.

I’ve gone through some storms in my personal life, as well. These personal storms that may seem small to you, but were catastrophic to me. But, like the tree that rocked back and forth in the harsh wind, God kept me grounded and secure.

May God strengthen us and give us hope even in the midst of these uncertain times. I thank God for all the medical staff and experts who know how to handle this virus better than I can ever imagine. But I know that we will see the end to this.

For now, let us be grateful for the chance to rest, for the opportunity to connect with family, and for the promise that God is doing something so great in our midst that we can’t even comprehend it.

An Ever-Present Help

Psalm 46 is a reminder that God is in control and He is with us:

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

“The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

“Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

“He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

“The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Amen.

Categories
anxiety

When God’s Yes Is Just as Confusing as His No

In 2015, three days after we had gotten engaged, I wrote this post on my personal Facebook page:

“God is so good  We’re so blessed. We may not understand what He is doing all the time (even in the good times!) But that’s why we trust Him and praise Him.”

Waiting on God is hard. This post is about when God answers our prayers, but we don’t feel ready to receive them.

Please tell me you can relate!

God’s timing is perfect, but what do you do when your husband comes into your life when you least expect it? What do you do when you find a house before you think you’re ready? What about when your pregnancy test is positive and you don’t know the first thing about raising a child?

We trust that God’s timing is perfect.

In our social media world, we tend to celebrate everything. We post on Facebook and/or Instagram when we start a relationship, get engaged, get married, get a house, find out you’re pregnant, find out the baby’s gender, give birth, and so on. While we should celebrate everything, if we’re honest, sometimes even the good times just don’t feel right.

Confessions of a Perfectionist

To escape reality, I imagine the ideal situation and daydream of a day when I get to experience that situation. For example, in this season, my husband and I are looking at houses. I imagine us living in a beautiful, flawless home in the best school district and an easy commute for my husband.

One day, God is going to answer our prayer for a home of our own. One day, we’re going to sign a contract and receive the keys to our new home. That home may or may not be everything I want it to be.

The house will be everything God wants it to be.

For a perfectionist like me, being totally content when God says yes is difficult because it means I have to surrender my ideal situation. I have to surrender my fantasy life, knowing that I will never have the perfect husband, the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect anything, on this side of Heaven. Only God is perfect, and He knows exactly what we need in every situation.

What Keeps Us From Accepting God’s Yes?

Besides being a perfectionist, there are other factors that have also affected my ability to receive God’s blessings.

  • Guilt. Sometimes, I feel unworthy of receiving God’s goodness. Other times, I know the struggle that others are facing right now. I feel unworthy when I receive an answer to prayer in a couple of weeks, and my friends who have been struggling for years are still waiting for an answer. It’s hard for me to accept God’s yes when it doesn’t seem fair for me to have it right now.
  • Fear. We all have fear of failure, and sometimes, we even have fear of success. What if God gives me what I’ve always wanted, and I mess it up? Or worse, what if God gives me what I’ve always wanted, and it’s not good enough?
  • Doubt. We spend a lot of time asking about how to discern the will of God. Often, we get so caught up in discerning God’s will that we miss His ultimate will for us: to enjoy life and worship Him with all we do. When God says yes, we wonder if it’s God’s will or if it’s just a trap.

What Do You Do When You’re Not Ready for God’s Yes?

So, how do you know when to wait and when God has answered your prayer? I’ve actually written a blog post about how to know when you’ve finished waiting. For now, I want to prepare you for when God answers that prayer you’ve been praying for days, weeks, months or years.

Start With Praise

Whatever you’ve been praying for, if God has said yes, that means He’s given you what you wanted. Even if you don’t feel ready for it, thank God for the opportunity to see His goodness. If you have doubt that it’s God’s will for you to have this good thing, cling to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (emphasis mine).

Pray With a Plan

I like to process things as they happen, so when something big happens in my life, I’ll usually talk out loud in the car or journal. I use these opportunities to pray for this new season and ask for God’s wisdom to guide me through it.

When you are faced with an answer to prayer, think about your next steps. How will you respond to this news? What do you have to do to get ready for this blessing?

Proclaim God’s Goodness

I’ll admit, you might feel like a jerk going up to your friend who is praying for kids and announcing you’re pregnant. You might feel totally awkward telling your group of single friends that you’re engaged. Just because God has answered your prayer does not mean the universe is suddenly in your favor. You will face opposition, even when everything is coming up roses in your heart.

When you face opposition, remember that God has answered your prayer. God has looked on you with favor. As you proclaim what God has done in your life, you will inspire others who are waiting for God to do a miracle in their lives.

Because you have waited and trusted in God to answer the cry of your heart, those in waiting will know that God is faithful to answer prayer. If God could move in your life, God could move in others’ lives also.

God Is Doing Great Things

God is so faithful to answer every one of our prayers. We’ve heard His no and His not yet, but we’ve also been blessed to receive His yes. God is faithful and good, and His timing is completely and totally perfect.

We can trust His yes.


Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

3 Ways to Help Your Spouse Who Has Anxiety

Almost everyone I know has an anxiety disorder or at least has had a panic attack at least once in his or her life. With this in mind, I am astounded that people exist who have never had a panic attack or even understand what it’s like to have anxiety. One of these people may be your spouse.

Anxiety is like another language. Those of us who have anxiety understand it completely, but those who don’t have anxiety are oblivious to what we feel. If you have a spouse with anxiety, and somehow you’ve managed to live on this planet thus far without any panicky experiences, you need to show your spouse you understand somehow.

Based on my own experience with a man who has no anxious bone in his body, here are some ways to help your spouse overcome their own anxiety. For the sake of saving word count, I’m using the “she” pronoun. This is based on my own experience anyway, and I am in fact a woman.

1. Tell her (and show her) you care

Anxiety is a very isolating disorder. When you have a panic attack, you feel alone. You feel like no one understands you.

If you don’t struggle with anxiety, you definitely do not understand why your spouse is acting the way she is or thinking what she’s thinking. Anxiety is irrational sometimes, but to your spouse, those anxious thoughts are as real as ever. Instead of trying to fix her, show her you care.

In the medical drama New Amsterdam, Max Goodwin, the Medical Director of the hospital, always asks his team and his patients, “How can I help?” Be like Max Goodwin to your spouse. When she feels alone, take a hold of her hand and ask her, “How can I help?”

She may know the answer, but sometimes she won’t. Sometimes she just needs you to sit there with her and listen to her talk. Sometimes she feels uncomfortable and may need to leave a situation. Always show her that you are on her side, even when her anxiety confuses you.

2. If you need more information, ask questions

I had a friend in high school who was afraid of pennies. Seriously? At first, I thought she was just seeking attention, but when I asked her about it, her answer made sense.

It turns out that she believed pennies were dirty and was afraid of the germs on the penny, not the penny itself. Why she was only afraid of pennies and not other coins, I don’t know, but instead of judging her, I accepted her and met her where she was.

Fears like going to parties, taking public transportation, and even going to work can make absolutely no sense to others. On the other hand, those who have social anxiety, PTSD, or work anxiety are totally gripped with fear at the thought of any of these activities. If you’re wondering why your spouse is anxious about a good thing, all you have to do is ask.

For me personally, I’m happy to answer questions about my anxiety. It doesn’t embarrass me to explain my fears, unless you make me feel like an idiot for having them. Truthfully, I don’t open up to you or listen to your advice unless I know you’re on my side.

3. Take her mind off of the problem

Since I have OCD, sometimes the best way to help me is to distract me from my anxiety. My panic attacks dissipate when I’m no longer thinking about whatever makes me anxious. If your spouse has OCD or an extreme phobia, help her take her mind off of the experience.

While you will need to help her deal with the root cause of her anxiety in the long run, if you’re out with your family or on vacation and her anxiety acts up, you need to distract her and help her as fast as you can.

4. Remember that your spouse is not a project who needs to be fixed

Anxiety is a mental disorder, but that does not mean that your spouse is a project. Your spouse is a person. Your spouse needs you to love her, care for her, and walk with her through this.

Now that you are one, this anxiety is yours, too. I’m still a newlywed, but I’ve heard that over time, you start to feel what your spouse is feeling and think what your spouse is thinking. I’m sorry if you feel your spouse’s anxiety, but instead of fixing her, show her you’re on her side.

You can show her you’re on her side by:

  • listening to her without judgment
  • praying for her on a daily basis
  • pulling her out of a situation when she is uncomfortable
  • standing up for her when others don’t understand

Pray for your spouse with anxiety

Ultimately, the only people who could heal your spouse with anxiety are her and God.

When you don’t understand, pray. When you want to be there for her but don’t know how, pray. When you’ve done everything you could to fix her and she’s still struggling, pray.

I believe God will give you the words. I believe God will give you the wisdom to help her. I believe God will ultimately heal your spouse from anxiety.

On behalf of all those who struggle with anxiety, thank you for taking the first step toward understanding your spouse and her deepest struggle.


Photo by Toimetaja tõlkebüroo on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Be Thankful and Have Peace

When I first became a Christian, I struggled with anxiety. I memorized verses about anxiety, such as Philippians 4:6-7. After wrestling with this passage for about a decade, I know that this verse literally has the key to curing anxiety.

Here is the verse, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

Don’t Worry About Anything

As we tend to read this verse, the first four words stick out at us. Don’t worry about anything. Wow, Paul, that’s MUCH easier said than done.

I think that’s why I’ve seen this verse more as a band-aid than as a Word from the Lord for me. When I worry, I feel like I’m sinning against God. I feel like I should be able to just shut off my thoughts and “get over it.”

If you keep reading, you’ll see what the verse actually means. You’ll understand that God wants to do more in our lives than take away our worry.

Pray About Everything

In another part of Scripture, the same writer of this passage writes that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We pray in the good times and the bad, but we especially need to remember to pray when we are anxious.

Part of my anxiety is obsessive thoughts (not to be confused with OCD, which includes compulsive behavior). If I have to wait to hear back from someone or something for any length of time, my mind will start to wander. I’ll worry myself into a hole and I won’t resurface until the waiting period is over.

When I pray, I make the choice to focus my thoughts on God. As I fill my mind with prayers to God, taking the attention off of myself and my circumstances, I notice the faithfulness and love of God. God’s love, peace, and faithfulness are all much stronger than my fears.

Be Thankful

For those of us in the United States, Thanksgiving is a time for us to pause and show our gratitude for what we have. As I ask every year, who are we thankful to?

Sure, you could be thankful to your parents for raising you, and to your family for supporting you through everything. You could even be thankful to coaches or teachers that have given you wisdom and have encouraged you to follow your dreams. If you really thought about it, where does all that goodness come from?

Thanksgiving reminds me that what I need comes from outside of me. God is the one who supplies my every need. When I thank Him, I take time to recognize that every good thing I have comes from Him.

Experience God’s Peace

Is it that simple? Can I really have God’s peace after praying a simple prayer and saying thanks to God?

Yes.

I wish I could say that anxiety disappears after you become a Christian. But I’ve learned that God has been faithful to me in the midst of my anxiety. I have experienced God’s peace in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

God’s peace has equipped me to face hardships and struggles, knowing that He is on my side and fighting for me. With God as my defender, I have learned to experience God’s peace in all circumstances.

The Rest of the Story

In Philippians 4, Paul continues to write about his ability to find contentment in all circumstances. He has learned that he can do all things through Christ (v. 13). And so can we.

Further down, he writes that he believes in God’s provision. God will provide for all of our needs (v. 19). My needs, and your needs.

Do your needs worry you?

The Rest of Our Story

Our story can continue without anxiety ruling over us. In Christ, we have the power to experience God’s peace, to be content in all circumstances, and to trust God for His provision. In the waiting, we have a way to escape the mind trap of OCD.

Don’t worry. Pray. Be thankful. Have peace.

Which of these is the hardest for you to do? Where do you need to trust God the most in this season?

Categories
anxiety

Update for You!

FINALLY! I have time and energy to update you all on my life.

Well, as of about four weeks ago, I started a position at an online marketing company. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’m working from home and having the time of my life. I can officially say, after years of praying, waiting, and hustling, that I’m a full-time freelance writer and editor!

Guess what I’m doing? Writing longform content for websites!

Yep, that’s right. I’m writing blog posts.

All day.

Every day.

So that’s why my personal blog posts have been lacking.

For those of you who don’t know, longform content is writing more than 2000 words on a website’s page. I have only explored the tip of the iceberg that is longform content, but what I’ve discovered so far is that longform content helps you rank better on Google. That’s why you see those long articles before a recipe for baked zucchini chips. OK, we get that your family loves them and that you and your husband took a trip to Italy to taste delicious zucchini. But there’s a reason why Google put that recipe on its first page for “recipe for baked zucchini chips.”

My desire to write to you all has been here the entire time. I’ve wanted to update you on my third wedding anniversary as well as on how God has been teaching me more about anxiety. So, as of now, here is my plan:

  • Write a blog post once a month.
  • I want to hear from you! Please reach out to me regarding what topics you want to read. I’ll also be sharing a survey soon.
  • I’m going to be doing some short stories to get you all excited for my book. I’m working on a lot of books, but before I released one, I wanted you to get accustomed to how I write and to my genre. So, tell me, do you like short stories?

My job as a freelance writer and editor (full-time!) is ultimately growing me as a writer. For now, my priorities are in a different spot, but it’s exciting.

One of these days, I’m going to get back into my routine. But between writing a novel, writing at least 10,000 words a week for businesses, and having a life, blog writing will take some time.

Until then, tune in next week for my Marriage Monday post about how leather perfectly describes my marriage!


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

“If you can’t love me at my worst…”

“…You don’t deserve me at my best.” This saying was popular when I was in high school. In the days before memes, we had AIM icons, away messages, and MySpace graphics. The context in which this phrase was used when I was younger is for friends and relationships. It’s hard being a teenager. If you are having a bad day, people don’t want to hang out with you. But when you’re all dolled up and you have a smile on your face, everyone wants to be your friend.

After I did a quick Google search, I realized that this phrase is still popular. The memes aren’t quite appropriate for this blog post, but you can make the decision for yourself how funny they are!

Unfortunately, there have been people in my life who could not love me at my worst. I’m not perfect, but I enjoy helping people, almost to a fault, when they are broken. But when it was my turn to be depressed, bitter, anxious, and broken, they decided I was too much work. When I needed them most, they turned their backs on me.

Then, when I would figure it out (generally on my own, but sometimes with friends and family I had allowed to speak into my life), suddenly they were back in the picture. And guess what? They would want me to fix their problems. When they would hear about my struggle with depression, anxiety, etc., they would act shocked. “Oh no! Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you reach out to me? I would’ve helped you.”

Yeah, right.

It turns out that, while there were some good people in my life who have supported me through tough times, there is only one person in my life who has truly loved me at my worst.

Before I knew Jesus, I literally was at my worst. Anxiety and chaos defined me. Sure, I looked happy, but that was just my shell. I was sitting in silence, plotting my next move, preparing myself for the unknown. As a result, I wanted nothing to do with God. But, as Romans 5:8 says, Jesus died for me anyway, knowing that I didn’t love Him, so that He could give me a better life.

I wish I could say that I came to God on my own, but His Spirit literally dragged me by the heels to youth group one night. And that’s where I found love. That’s where I found acceptance. That’s where I found Him.

And that’s when I knew that Jesus truly loved me at my worst.

My youth pastor told me that Jesus wanted to be my best friend. I have never heard it so eloquently put since then, probably because those were the words that the Holy Spirit used to tug at my heart and invite me into a relationship with Jesus. Although I couldn’t phrase it this way at the time, in that moment, God was inviting me to have a different life. He was inviting me to surrender my old way of doing things so that I could do things His way.

He was willing to give me His best. Now, only He is worthy of my best.

What does it look like to give God my best? For me, it’s being intentional about spending time with Him every day. It’s inviting Him into every aspect of my life, from the time I wake up to the time my head hits the pillow. It’s honoring Him at work. It’s writing the books He has called me to write. It’s treating my friends and family with respect.

When I’m at my worst, God still loves me. I’ve learned that my friends and family cannot fully love me at my worst, because they are all broken. We are all broken. But we can try. We can encourage each other, and point to the One who truly loves us at our worst, and wants to give us our best.

What are you willing to give Him in exchange?


Photo by Tiago Bandeira on Unsplash