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
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
Marriage

Priorit(ies)

Every morning, I feel like I have to make several choices. Do I help my husband get ready (since he has a long commute to work), or do what I need to do to get ready for work on time? Do I iron my husband’s shirt, or work out? Do I make us breakfast and lunch, or do I work on a blog post while he cooks the food? Do I fill up his water bottle, or do I wash the dishes?

The word priority has changed over the last couple of years. It used to mean the most important thing, but now, it can be made plural. When it comes to balancing your marriage, your free time, your kids’ schedules, and your other obligations, it seems like there are multiple priorities. I mean, which one could you really put first before the others?

When we’re single, our priority is to look out for ourselves, or maybe even to look out for a friend or family member. Once we get married, it seems that our priority shifts to making sure our spouses are healthy, happy, and at peace. However, those other important people in our lives don’t go away; we just have to learn how much of a priority to give our spouses.

I believe the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) pertains to this idea of choosing our priority. One day, Martha invited Jesus over to her house. Since hospitality was important (a priority) in the culture where Jesus chose to have His ministry, Martha was focused on making sure everything was perfect for Jesus’s stay. Her sister Mary, however, did nothing to help her sister get ready. In fact, she was listening to Jesus, which was important (a priority).

What Martha was doing wasn’t wrong. She was doing what was expected from her in the culture, and although it’s not explicitly mentioned in the text, I’d like to believe that Martha was busy preparing because her priority was making Jesus comfortable and well fed in a clean home. Nevertheless, Jesus admonishes her for not choosing what is better. What was important (her priority), in that moment, should have been listening to Jesus, the Great Teacher.

We have a lot going on in our lives. During this past school year, we had plans every single day. It was exhausting! From work, to ministries, to family parties, to small groups…we didn’t have room to breathe. Now that it’s the summer (and we’ve made some changes to our schedules), we have more down time, but before that, we literally had to choose what was most important (the priority) in each moment. Especially since money, and not only time, is also a priority for us now, because we are saving up for a house.

So, our questions were:
Do we save gas and food money, or do we visit a friend who we haven’t seen in months?
Do we have a date night, or do we clean the apartment?
Do we go to our small group, or do we have a date night?
Do we sit in traffic to go visit a relative that lives a twenty miles away, or do we go to bed early?

There was no wrong answer to each of those questions, but there was always a better choice. If my husband chose to work overtime while I wanted to spend time with him, I would have grown resentful, and his choice to work would not have been the better choice. If I chose to clean the house instead of helping my husband get ready, he would have been late to work and angry, so my choice to clean would not have been the better choice. It’s not always going to be a clear-cut correct choice, but when you have one priority, making the choice of what is better is definitely easier. Our priority, overall, was that we made the decision together.

I believe that, although we have multiple people and tasks that are important to us, ultimately, we have an overarching priority that encompasses them all. For me, my priority is obeying God and showing His love to others. Ephesians 5:22 calls me to submit to my husband as I submit to the Lord. The way I submit to my husband reflects how I submit to God. Men are also called to love their wives as Christ loved the church, so my husband’s love for me is a reflection of his love for God.

Think about the priority of your life. Does your schedule reflect that? Are you truly doing what you want to do? Choose today what is better.


Photo by Phil Desforges on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Choose Your Battles

Since I’ve had to go through some tough love recently, I have some tough love for you, friend:

If you can’t control your anxiety, your anxiety will control you.

In 2014, a dear friend of mine prayed for me and encouraged me with this word: You’re stronger than you think. I have never forgotten that, because it was something I didn’t believe. I think that I’m weak because I have anxiety. But that’s a lie. Anxiety does not have power over me. I am stronger than my fear by the grace of God.

When facing my fears, I choose my battles. There are some fights I’m not willing to engage in, where I let anxiety be my excuse, but there are some fights where I take out my biggest weapon and attack it head-on.

One of those fears is being on stage, being the center of attention. My best friend just got married this weekend. I was so incredibly happy for her, and I was blessed to be one of her bridesmaids. However, I couldn’t shake the fear of standing on the steps at the front of the church, where anyone could be looking at me. Leading up to the wedding, I realized that this fear was totally selfish. This was my friend’s day, not mine. Not a single eye was looking at me during the ceremony, and that’s the way it should be. Instead of letting the fear stop me from enjoying the ceremony, I filled my mind with the reminder that I was doing this for her, and for her and her husband’s commitment to God. By standing up there, I wasn’t just facing my fear; I was displaying to her and to everyone else that I supported her union to her husband and that I believed that God is at the center of their marriage. That is something worth fighting for.

Another one of those fears is flying. My fear if flying is debilitating. Most people get scared going through security, but I’m scared once the cabin door is shut and we have no way out until we land on the other side (even just writing that made it difficult to breathe!). On the flight, I shake uncontrollably, my muscles tense up, and I usually end up crying. Like, ugly crying. However, I love to travel. I want to see the world with my husband and my family. My husband’s family also lives in another state, and we have to fly to see them. When my grandfather was alive, he made a vow that he would never fly because it scared him too much. I cannot and will not do that. So I do whatever it takes to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare myself for the flight. I remind myself that whatever is waiting on the other side of the plane is worth the panic attacks.

Some anxiety is not worth fighting. I don’t go on roller coasters because the five seconds of thrill I’d feel conquering my fear is not worth day-long stress I would feel leading up to the experience. I don’t go on high ropes courses or go bungee jumping or sky diving because I’m afraid of heights; I have given up on the desire to add those things to my bucket list.

When you’re panicking, ask yourself: If I fight my fear, will it be worth it? My criterion for choosing my battle is: Will conquering my fear help me and my loved ones? Choosing to fight against my fear of being on stage helped me to celebrate with my friend and to show my support for her. Choosing to fight against my fear of flying helps me to enjoy God’s creation and to spend time with my loved ones. Although it may take time to fully overcome my fear, chopping away at the wall of fear a little bit at a time will eventually make the wall crumble.

You are indeed stronger than you think. God has great plans for you, and He will give you strength to fight each battle that comes your way. Today, try to conquer fear a little bit at a time. If you need help, reach out to a friend. I’m always here if you need prayer or encouragement!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:3-5


Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Jesus Gives me Peace

This week, I was worried about how Christmas Eve/Christmas would go.  I’m normally very anxious during holidays, and now that I’m seeing more people, I worry that I will upset someone or that someone will be in a bad mood.  However, this Christmas was not like that at all.  This Christmas, I had peace, and it was amazing.

On both sides of the family, we had a very mellow, chill time.  There were exciting things happening (such as my sister getting engaged!) but there was no drama, no fights, no stress.  We ended up, at both sides of the family, sitting around and talking and eating.  Isn’t that how the holidays should be?

The last few Christmases had a lot of pressure on them.  The first Christmas my husband and I spent together, we were engaged, so both sides of the family wanted to see us and had asked us a million questions about our plans.  Last Christmas, there was some tension about how we were going to spend our first Christmas as a married couple.  But this Christmas, there was no tension.  Not only was our environment at peace, but my husband and I were both at peace in our hearts.

Ultimately, peace does not come from our environment.  It comes from Christ.  Even though God provided a peaceful time for us at both of our families’ houses, we could have mentally stressed about what could have happened.  It could have been worse.  We could have had a fight.  I could have gotten sick.  Anxiety is big on playing scenarios that could happen instead of focusing on the reality that actually happens.

Anxiety causes me to focus on myself, to focus on what bothers me and what people could do to hurt me.  But when I fix my eyes on God, He shows me that the world does not revolve around me.  For the first time in three years, my focus was not on me.  It was on my sister who just got engaged.  It was on the people who were surrounding me, who were in the same stage of life as me: waiting, praying, and just plain resting.  My focus was on God, who has blessed us so abundantly this year, and who has truly allowed us to rest on Christmas.

One of the names of Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  He came to give us peace with God, peace with others, and peace within ourselves.  If you do not have peace with God, you cannot have peace with others and you cannot have peace within yourself.  I’ve tried to look for peace in what I eat, how successful I am, and how nice I am to other people.  But even if the scale says a good number, even if I’m not sick, even if everyone around me is happy, those things do not give me peace.

But the opposite is also true.  Even when there is chaos, when I can’t control my weight, when my family is all up in arms about something, when my to-do list runs off the page, I can have peace because I know that I have peace with God.

Jesus Christ came as a baby, in the humblest of forms, to bring us peace with God.  Jesus is our peace offering from God.  When we all bow before the manger in humility, we are able to have peace with one another.

Jesus came to Earth to understand us as humans.  You may feel like no one else understands, but God does. He suffered the same pain that we all suffer.  He went through everyday life on Earth just like we all did, from working a full-time job to dealing with people on the street.  Knowing that Jesus understands exactly how I am feeling, even when I am anxious, gives me peace.  Knowing that I have someone with me in the midst of the struggle gives me peace.  And having a chill Christmas does not give me hope in the candles and the table setting and even the food, but it gives me hope that every good and perfect gift is from above.

May God bless you as we reflect on 2017 and as we plan ahead for 2018.  God will go before you and will meet you in the new year!


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Categories
Uncategorized

Slow Down!

In tenth grade, I could never get a perfect score on my math tests.  I would always be the first student to hand in her test.  Since I knew all the answers, it was easy for me to go through the test quickly.  However, every time my teacher would hand back my tests, they would have at least one question wrong.  My teacher would tell me to look over my test.  I would scan each sheet of paper, looking for that red ink.  The ink would often circle around a mistake that could have easily been avoided.  I would have no problem doing the hard math, like factoring or simplifying the fraction.  The mistake would come when I was one step away from the answer. All I had to do was add 25 and 30 (for example), but I would write down 65 and move to the next question.  I knew how to do math.  I learned addition in kindergarten.  However, because I rushed through the test instead of taking my time and checking my answers, I would make mistakes.

Yesterday, I discovered that I still have not learned how to slow down and check my answers.  I am taking a TEFL certification class so that I can teach English to non-native English speakers.  Since I had off from work, and I am working every other day this week, I decided to get as much done of my weekly assignments as possible.  I clicked through the lessons, taking notes and gaining insight about how to teach English pronunciation.  I finished a week’s worth of notes in two hours.  Since my momentum was going, I decided to take most of my assignments – five multiple-choice quizzes – at that moment.  The program gave me an hour to work on each of the quizzes, but each quiz only took me five minutes to complete.  I felt pretty confident because I had just read the material and I had gotten a perfect score on my first quiz.  I didn’t bother to look over my work. Expecting to get a perfect score on all the quizzes, I was astonished.  I got three answers wrong on each quiz.  If I had taken the time to review the material, or at least to check my answers, maybe I would have done better on my quizzes.

Rushing clouds our judgment and makes it difficult to live to our full potential.  When I have a panic attack, I feel a sudden urge to do anything to calm me down. If I am in a stressful situation, I feel the need to leave as soon as possible.  I have noticed that this robs me of the opportunity to enjoy what I have in front of me.  Sometimes, I feel anxious at work, a job I am very grateful to have.  Because of a huge mistake that I made one time at another job, I often want to rush through helping a customer so that I do not make a big mistake at my new job.

Now that I have realized this, I have tried to become more aware of my rushing.  Before helping a customer, I take a deep breath and consciously remind myself that I am blessed to have a job that I enjoy.  I stop to ask the customer how he or she is doing. We sometimes have conversations, but most of the time my customers simply appreciate the recognition.  I have been told that I have a positive attitude, and that my optimism has a good influence on other people.  By taking the time to slow down and enjoy what I am doing, I am positively affecting the lives of other people as well.

What could you do if you took a break?  If you feel an uncomfortable urgency, take a deep breath, tell yourself to relax, and choose to do something that will help you rather than hurt you.  I have heard it said that strong emotions – both good and bad – can lead to unwise decisions.  You can save yourself a lot of guilt, regret, and anxiety by slowing down and reviewing the situation.  Slow down, and enjoy what you have in front of you.

Categories
Uncategorized

New Series: Overcoming Anxiety

I find great joy in using my struggles and successes to bring encouragement to other people.  This next series that I feel I should share is a rough topic for me.  Having had anxiety since I was seven, I could say that I am an expert at dealing with anxiety.  I have heard many times that if you have anxiety, you are living in sin or you do not have enough faith.  While there is some truth to that, it is not encouraging for someone who seeks to be obedient to God.  After praying and seeking counsel, I have realized that there is more to overcoming anxiety than simply thinking good thoughts or breathing clean air.  By the glory of God, I am a lot better than when I was even a few months ago.  I hope to share what I have learned with you over the course of the next few days.  

I will be talking about practical ways that I have developed more peace.  I will include advice given by my counselors, good friends, and authority figures.  I believe in a God that heals, so I will be discussing how God has helped me find peace.  

Although I have dealt with anxiety and have had success in overcoming it, I am not a doctor or a psychologist. I can only suggest speculations about what has helped me.  I do not claim that what worked for me will definitely work for you, but I hope that it encourages you that you are not alone.  If you have an actual anxiety disorder, I suggest that you go to counseling.  But if you are simply looking to live a more peaceful life, I encourage you to read this series.