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
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
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

In Case of Infestations

Yep. You read that right. Today, we’re going to talk about how to deal with little critters.

Most people who have been married less than two years aren’t living in a house. Whether you’re renting from a friend, you’re saving up cash in your parents’ basement, or you’re in a complex, you’re most likely living in an apartment.

Did you know that apartments are the breeding grounds for rodents, bugs, and pests? I bet no one told you that in marriage counseling! I bet no one told you to put roach repellent and mouse traps on your registry. But these little critters try to infest not only your home, but your marriage as well.

In our two years of marriage, we’ve had our fair share of visitors creeping in and out of our living spaces. As a neat freak, control freak, and perfectionist, I put the blame on myself every time an unwanted guest would come into my apartment. Maybe I didn’t vacuum enough. Maybe I shouldn’t have left that tiny crumb on the floor. Maybe I should have washed the dishes. It seems like every time I finally clean my house, they show up. And seeing those little things in our space makes us feel so unclean, we want to throw out all our stuff and move!

Lately, God has been calling me to be faithful with what He has given us. We may not have a huge space, but we are responsible for keeping it clean and protected. I’ve been more intentional about washing the dishes, decluttering our space, and vacuuming (oh, how I love the vacuum!).

After seeing just one “bug” in our apartment, we are worried when we will see the next one. It has caused us to live in fear, which adds stress to our daily lives and makes us more irritable. We’ve gone into survival mode, “every person for himself,” but that is not the way that God calls us to live.

Let’s be real: If you don’t understand it, you’ll most likely be afraid of it, and you’re living in fear. We’ve seen everything, from ants to cockroaches to mice to spider crickets. Just the look of what shouldn’t be in our apartment is enough to traumatize us. So that’s why I’m warning you now, before you get freaked out: don’t freak out!

My husband and I are not experts, but here are some ways that we have coped with the little pests instead of living in fear.

Don’t blame yourself. Like I said, apartment complexes are breeding grounds for pests. Therefore, when you have one, it is 0% your fault. Get it out of your head that you’re dirty or unworthy of owning your space.

Do your research. Certain pests are more prominent in some areas. We actually saw a review on Google that our apartment complex has cockroaches. Spider crickets like basements and moist environments. Mice like areas near the woods and near water. So, if you live next to a park or a body of water, you should be aware of what you might see. Don’t freak out, just be prepared.

Prepare for the worst; hope for the best. My husband and I do whatever we can to keep the critters away. We clean the house regularly (making sure our stuff is off the floor and food is stowed in shelves). We don’t live in fear, but we prepare as if an infestation can happen at any time. Bugs and rodents can be nasty, and once you have one, there’s always a chance of more coming back to take over the place. The maintenance staff at our apartment complex also has been attentive. If we have any problems, we call them immediately and they come within 24 hours. Wherever you are, learn about your resources, and use them.

Pray! God has called you to be responsible for your living space, but He doesn’t ask you to do it alone. Just like with anything else, whether you’re renting or you own a home, God can provide strength, wisdom, and resources to make you successful in your stewardship. I cannot even begin to tell you the spiritual lessons I’ve learned from having bugs and rodents in our apartment. My prayers have never been stronger. My declarations of faith have never been more bold and confident. It has also been wonderful to see Lenny step up and act in faith, and to be the leader that God called him to be.

Psalm 91 is a psalm of God’s protection and provision. I wanted to share just one verse with you, but it is all so good, I can’t pick and choose! May God bless your living space, and may Psalm 91 become real for you and your marriage (especially in your dwelling place):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”


Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

Prayers for the Impossible

Three years ago, I wrote a post on Facebook:

“Sometimes we go through impossible situations so that we could truly know and believe that nothing is impossible with God.”

How appropriate for the conversation I want to have with you today about impossible prayers!

Think of the impossible situations in your life. I want you to really think: If God could answer any prayer in my life, what would I pray for? What fears would He remove? Which ways would He provide? Which miracles would He perform in your midst? Which blessings would He pour out on you?

Maybe you’re saving for a house, and your budget is tight. Maybe you’re pregnant, and you don’t know how you and your spouse are going to do this whole parenting thing. Maybe you have a house full of kids and you are still overwhelmed. Maybe God is calling you to start a ministry or serve in your local church, but you feel totally under qualified. Maybe you just aren’t on the same page as your spouse, and the happily ever after you expected is never going to come true for you.

Whatever impossible situation you’re facing, God can make a way. God is healer. God is provider. God is our wonderful counselor.

It’s not a prosperity gospel thing to say that nothing is impossible with God. He can and will answer the impossible prayers that we pray. He wants us to trust Him with the obstacles in our lives, especially if He is calling us to go through them.

Steven Furtick said in his book Sun Stand Still, “…if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.” God wants us to come to Him boldly, fully believing and expecting Him to do the impossible in our lives. If you are a follower of Christ, you are living by faith daily. And when you follow God and learn to listen for His leading, He will not lead you astray.

The same God who fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish can provide for you and your family.

The same God who multiplied the oil in the empty jars of the widow can give you everything you need to take on this next step of your life.

The same God who made the Sun stand still (a scientifically impossible task) can still the storm raging in your heart right now.

The same God who sacrificed His Son for us, and raised Him to life, will resurrect and restore your broken relationship.

When praying for the impossible, I must warn you that it will be uncomfortable. You might feel spoiled at first, or even unworthy. But remember that in Christ, who is our Great High Priest, we can have boldness and confidence to approach the throne of grace, to find mercy and help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

With that in mind, begin to pray for the impossible task that God has called you to accomplish:

Name the impossible. Put a name to what you want God to do. Really, think about the most impossible situation that comes to mind, something that aligns with what God is currently working on in your life. I gave you some suggestions above. For us, it’s having direction, provision, and unity of heart for our next living situation. Be specific, not because God needs to know the desires of your heart, but because you do.

Ask God. It’s that simple. Truthfully, if God has put this desire in your heart, it is part of His will for you to have it. It may not be exactly what you expect, but it will be exactly what God intended for you. Simply ask God for whatever you listed above.

Do I have a part to play? We need to take responsibility for the impossible situations that God has called us to overcome. Using our example of saving for a house, we’re not just sitting around waiting for a check to come in the mail. Lenny and I are both working and tightening our budget so we’re saving as much as we can each month. It’s not that God can’t give us a check in the mail, but He wants us to be invested in the life that He has given us.

Find accountability. I find it powerful to speak the impossible prayer to a friend. That way, you’re not just asking for it from God; you’re believing for it by declaring it to someone else. Over the weekend, I told a couple of my friends about our exact plan for saving for a house, and how we wanted God to provide. My friends each stated their agreement with our prayer, and now I know they are all praying for us as we take on this task.


Photo by Giorgio Parravicini on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

Prayers for Unity in Your Marriage

Relationships are essential for our well-being. Studies show that people who have healthy relationships live longer and have an overall higher enjoyment of life. There’s no better relationship (besides God) to invest in than the relationship we have with our spouse.

I believe that there is an enemy of our souls that wants to keep us isolated. Jesus says that this enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Based on the fact that relationships help us live longer, he literally is killing us by destroying our relationships and stealing our joy.

When I fight with my husband, it’s usually about selfish stuff. When I get mad at my husband, I’m not thinking of him. I’m only thinking of myself. While it’s important to have needs and to express those needs, we also need to be aware that ultimately, we are a team.

When you pray for your marriage, after praying for yourself, it is imperative that we pray for our unity. That is what the enemy of our souls attacks the most. That is what society thinks is the most archaic part of our relationships. But it is also what we need in order to have a thriving marriage.

Obviously, you should pray this prayer with your spouse, but you can also pray it individually on behalf of your relationship.

Thank God for your marriage. Your marriage is a gift from God. Start your prayer by thanking God for the unity you have with your spouse. By thanking God, you not only acknowledge marriage as a gift from God, but you’re also declaring that there is unity in your marriage. Decide to put God first in your marriage, starting today (if you haven’t done so in the past).

Acknowledge the areas in your marriage where it is hard to have unity. Last week, we prayed for ourselves. Specifically, we discussed praying for what is hindering us from being the best husband/wife we can be to our spouse. Today, we can apply the same prayer to our unity as a couple. Where do you struggle with being a team? Do you try to take control of the finances? Do you parent your spouse when it’s time to do chores? Do you make decisions before consulting your spouse? Ask God to show you where you need improvement in your unity.

Surrender those areas to God. When you acknowledge these areas where you need improvement, give them over to God. Allow Him to help you grow in these areas. If it’s an area you can’t control (like outside relationships such as how your in-laws treat you or how loud your neighbors are), surrender that fully to God. You can’t control other people, but you can control how you respond.

Ask for protection. The enemy of our souls will try to attack your marriage when you least expect it, or when you’re most vulnerable. For me, I’m exhausted by ten o’clock at night, so of course, most of our fights happen at ten or eleven o’clock. Pray that God would protect you during those times, and be on your guard. Now, when we get snippy with each other, I check the time. Okay, it’s ten-thirty. Whatever our issue is, clearly has to do with the fact that we’re both tired.

Make goals together. Aside from putting God first, nothing brings you closer to your spouse than creating common goals. When you’re working toward the same goals, you tend to work together rather than competing.

If you comment below, I will pray for unity in your marriage as well! God bless 🙂


Photo by Jenna Jacobs on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

Start with Me

A few weeks ago, I shared how we should start our years off on the same page as our spouse. We don’t have to be the same person, but we do have to make an effort to compromise and share goals with each other.

The best way to get on the same page as your spouse is through prayer. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share how to pray for your marriage in specific circumstances. Before praying to change my spouse, I always want to examine my own heart for anything that needs to change in me.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to look at our own lives before we judge others:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

This is not to say that we should not judge others, but that we should do so only after making sure our conscious is clear. Applying this to marriage, if I judge Lenny for leaving his dirty socks on the floor, and yet I leave my dirty socks on the floor, I need to get my priorities in order. If you don’t leave your dirty socks on the floor, but it bothers you when your husband does, there is a way to bring it up to him. We will talk about that in the coming weeks.

This week, we want our prayer to be three simple words: Start with me. The temptation is to try controlling our spouses, but in reality, we simply cannot control anyone but ourselves. No matter how much you nag or complain or even pray, you cannot change your spouse’s behavior or attitude. But you can bring your concerns to God.

I personally like to journal, so if you’re looking for a nice format to bring your concerns before God in a written prayer, here are some tips:

Be honest with God about how you feel. It may actually bother you if your spouse leaves his dirty socks on the floor, to the point where you can’t even sleep at night. If so, take it to God first! Your husband may not understand why it bothers you, but God does. Write down exactly how that action your husband does makes you feel. You’ll be surprised about what comes up.

Ask God to bring up any past hurts that could contribute to why something bothers you about your spouse. Looking back at the feelings you wrote down, think about why your husband’s actions invoke these emotions in you. Maybe your little brother used to leave his socks on the floor and it would stink up the whole house. Maybe you have an obsession with keeping your house clean. Maybe you want to control your spouse because you’ve put him on a pedestal and you don’t want him to disappoint you. Whether or not you know the reason why his actions bother you, ask God to reveal the meaning behind your feelings to you. If needed, ask God to bring healing into these hurts so that you can see past the faults of your spouse.

Confess your sins to God. This really should be before the other points discussed, but usually when we pray about our marriage, we pray to try to change our spouses or our situations. Now that your guard is down, and you’ve realized that whatever problems you have in your marriage are also your responsibility, you can deal with your own sins.

Ask for (and received) forgiveness. God wants a relationship with us. We can check off the list of sins we’ve committed, but unless we know that God forgives us, and we accept His forgiveness, we can’t fully, intimately connect with God. Don’t rush through this. Take time to receive the grace and forgiveness of God in your life.

If your marriage has problems, you are not the problem, but neither is your spouse. Before you blame your spouse for the chaos in your life, make your prayer, “Start with me.” Whatever you want to see changed in your spouse, ask it for yourself as well.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

Be a Team Player

You may be wondering how Lenny feels about me writing about our marriage. Do you really think that I’m venting about my husband without his permission?

On this blog, I really don’t talk about deep issues in our marriage. I don’t believe an online platform is the place to do that. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe I should be complaining to my husband or my marriage about anyone. For those who like to vent about their significant others to your parents or your siblings or your best friend or even his parents (seriously?), read this clearly: STOP! Fighting in marriage should be like sex in marriage. Everyone knows you do it, but no one is involved in the details. When I share something about Lenny, I always ask his permission first, or I use an insignificant detail, like him leaving his socks on the floor (which he never does!).

You know why? Because we’re a team.

When we first got engaged, we spent a LOT of time preparing for marriage. We joined a Bible study for newlywed and engaged couples. We went through eight sessions of premarital counseling. We read whatever we could. And we prayed. A lot.

By doing this, we not only learned the value of teamwork, but we learned how to be a team. Now, in everything I do, from how I spend my money to how I conduct myself on Facebook, I have my husband in mind. I know he does the same for me.

While reflecting on what makes a good team, here are some attributes I’ve considered. I pray that you also think about making your marriage into a team effort, and that you and your spouse can both be team players.

Collaboration. In a team, each player has different strengths to contribute to the overall well-being of the group. We’ve discovered recently that we have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different priorities. Not that we don’t care about each other, but that we are so focused on other things that we don’t think about everything. In our fight for control, we’ve learned how to let it go and let our spouse take control in the areas that matter to them. We’ve also learned not to compete in the midst of our different strengths and weaknesses. Instead of working against each other, we work with each other in order to achieve our goals together.

Respect. In a team, each player shares equal value. While my priorities may be different from Lenny’s, I respect his opinion and his feelings, as he does for me. I show respect to Lenny by listening to him, making eye contact with him when he wants my attention, and using an encouraging tone while speaking to him. He doesn’t want me to be his parent, so I shouldn’t talk to him like I’m above him.

Communication (and Prayer). I’ve always believed that communication is key in any relationship. Prayer is communication with God, and constant communication with our Heavenly Father is vital for us to have healthy relationships. Lenny and I pray on a daily basis and seek God’s will for our lives. We also talk consistently about our goals for the future and about our progress toward those goals. We discuss when incidences happen and how to avoid conflicts in the future. But even questions such as, “The dishwasher’s dirty. Can you put that dish in the dishwasher?” or “Next time you go to the store, can you pick up some more chicken?” are vital toward our marriage team. How is Lenny supposed to know I want that dish in the dishwasher if I don’t tell him? How am I supposed to know Lenny’s hungry for chicken if he doesn’t tell me? We’re not in the business of reading each other’s minds. We have to remain in constant communication, so that we can know what we’re thinking and make a game plan for the future.

Celebration. My favorite part of being on this marriage team is celebrating when we’ve done something right. We celebrate everything, from keeping our cool in front of difficult people to paying off debt. Life is so much more fun when we look back and see how far we’ve come, and how much God has done in our lives.

If you want to turn your marriage into a team effort, go for it. There is nothing stopping you from beginning this journey now. All it takes is a humble attitude, respect, communication, and celebration. Practice at least one of these attributes today, and let me know how it goes!


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Alternatives to Anxiety Medication

While some prefer anxiety medication, I do not. In my opinion, the side effects far outweigh the treatment, and most of the time people end up dependent on medication. If you’re on anxiety medication, I do not judge you for it. It’s just my personal preference to look for other, less addictive ways to overcome anxiety. Even if you’re on medication, these alternatives can still ease the discomfort of anxiety on a daily basis.

This past year, I’ve gone to the doctor because of difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, and chest pains. Pretty serious stuff, right? Every time I go, they give me an EKG, and they say my heart and my breathing are completely normal. The doctor or PA (whoever is available at the time) tells me I probably have anxiety and try to prescribe me some sort of medication. Each time, I refuse. There has to be another way to treat anxiety besides popping pills.

If you are like me and want some alternatives, here are ways I’ve found to treat anxiety.

Diet. Sugar and caffeine can both contribute to panic attacks because they energize us and make it difficult to sit still. In addition to these, if you have food sensitivities or digestive issues, foods that are more challenging to digest can cause physical unrest as well. This website lists ten foods you should avoid if you have anxiety. Although we don’t have to completely alter our diet, we can try to cut out some of these foods.

Exercise. I’ve been told that anxiety is just stored up energy. When you think of it that way, it’s easier to control. Studies show that after just five minutes of physical activity, anxiety starts to decrease. Make an effort to walk, jog, bike ride, or dance for 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a day, and see if you feel more calm.

Essential Oils. I feel like every time I look through an essential oil catalog, each description of an oil is “A calming blend.” Lavender always tends to calm me down (is there anything lavender can’t do?), but check out your favorite essential oils website to see what blends or oils can work for you.

Breathing. The best part about air is it’s free! When God created us, He breathed into our nostrils. Ever since then, we’ve needed air to survive. I didn’t realize that I forget to breathe when I’m anxious until someone had to remind me one day. That’s a little scary! If you’re anxious, take a minute to focus on your breathing (inhale, exhale). Don’t worry if you think you look silly while you’re breathing heavy. Your survival is more important than how you look.

Pressure Points. A good friend of mine taught me two pressure points that are helpful for me. Since they are difficult to describe, here is a website that has several points you can use on your body to relief stress and other psychosomatic symptoms from anxiety.

Journaling. By far, this is my favorite and most effective way to treat anxiety. Anxiety begins in the mind, and then extends to the body. I’ve seen the difference in my life when I don’t take the time to write. My mind is jumbled, I can’t sit still, and I’m considering all the worst case scenarios. Sometimes, I write ten pages in one day, just trying to process my thoughts and feelings. Every time I write, though, I end up feeling better. Through journaling, I learn what I’m feeling and thinking, and how I can change those thoughts and feelings into more positive and productive ones.

Counseling. I’ll admit, counseling is scary. If you don’t want to invest in a counselor, at the very least, consider speaking with a friend about your feelings. We were created for community. Join a small group, take your friend out for tea, or send a note on Facebook to someone.

Self-reflection. This is part of journaling. Self-reflection goes a little deeper than journaling, though. Journaling is the what, while self-reflection is the why. You may realize through journaling that you’re afraid of rabbits. Self-reflection is looking at your past and trying to figure out where that fear started. Did you have a rabbit as a pet when you were younger? Did you watch a scary movie about rabbits? Once we know why we’re afraid, we can learn how to overcome the fear.

As you know, trusting in God has been the ultimate cure for my anxiety. While anxiety is still a daily struggle for me, I know God is my constant and is able to help me through it. I am thankful that He has provided all of these ways to help me through this battle.


Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN 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