Unlocking the truths of anxiety

If you have been reading this blog long enough or know me well enough, you know I struggle with anxiety.  I will never be cured from it.  It will always as my husband says, “be my crutch.”  We all have some sort of crutch we walk through life with.  If anxiety is yours, then you understand the racing thoughts, the sweaty hands, the jumpiness, the extreme emotions, going through your day in fight or flight mode etc.  You may experience deep fear that might even paralyze you.

Many of us will still fall into pits of anxiety from time to time even if we have fought for our mental health through counseling, medication, natural treatments, exercise, etc. We are broken, but God loves us anyway.  He cares for us. These are some of my favorite Scripture verses I read through whenever I feel like I am in one of those pits.

God’s plan for our lives is not one that will harm us or destroy us.  His PROMISES are to give us life so we can honor and glorify Him.

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over you coming and going both now and forevermore.  – Psalm 121:7&8

We all go through difficult times.  It is inevitable.  If you claim to know Christ you will endure suffering.  But God’s plan is PERFECT and it’s good.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Everyone quotes this verse when they think about anxiety, but don’t forget that key little phrase “with thanksgiving.”

“You thank God before you make the request because you’re saying, “Lord, whatever you do in response to this request is GOOD.” – Tim Keller

Seeking the Lord is a day by day sometimes hour by hour process.  

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,…- 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Peace comes from the same thing that joy comes from–the assurance of your salvation.” – Tim Keller

Nothing or no one can overpower you.  God is ALWAYS on your side.  He is NEVER against you.

 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

– from Our God by Chris Tomlin

God is ALWAYS with you.  You need not walk alone.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you – Isaiah 43:2

God offers help.  Seek him for direction in your anxiety.

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. – Psalm 40:1 & 2

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1&2

Your faith in Jesus Christ is worth more than gold.  It is WHO YOU ARE.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 1: 7 & 8

You are a CHILD OF GOD and it’s not because of all the nice things you do or the ladder of success you are trying to climb.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…- Ephesians 2:8

 

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Acknowleding emotions without driving everyone else crazy…

Do you ever have one of those days when you are hit with one discouraging thing after the next?  Little things start to feel like big things?

That was my day yesterday.  It spilled into today.

Yesterday I took my youngest two to the grocery store to pick up some green onions and fresh broccoli for a stir fry I was making.   Our local grocery store has one of those “kid sized carts” that children can push and be “shoppers in training.”  I told my four-year old son to grab one.  He got to it about five second too late.  A little boy was already pushing it behind his mom.

My son found himself in an emotional upheaval.  He was crying.  Loud.

All I wanted to do is shush him.  Tell him to be quiet.  Inform him it is not a big deal.  He can get the cart next time.  Then I got frustrated and agitated.

It dawned on me that my husband must feel this when I get emotionally out of control.  Which has been more often the past forty-eight hours.  He wants to tell me it is not a big deal.  Or turn off the emotions.

He accepts me as I am.  I, too, accept my somewhat dramatic personality.  Unfortunately the emotions can turn into deep anxiety which can impair other areas of my life including my thinking.  One thing I am learning to do is acknowledging my feelings instead of seeing them as extreme emotional fireworks.

For instance saying…

“I am disappointed because this happened” or “I am sad because this event occurred.”

One of the first steps in dealing with anxiety is acknowledging what upset you (the event) and how it made you feel.  This can also help the “dramatic feeling type people” like myself think rationally and respond positively to people i.e. not push them away or drive them crazy.

And yes it is a joy even among the challenges to have a son who is like me in oh so many ways!

Prodigal Girl

I’ve been on a short blogging hiatus lately due to do various reason such as vacation catch up, other writing projects, and other demands.  There is great stuff coming in the next few weeks.  I have been working on this manuscript (and it’s QUITE LONG) the past few weeks.  I hope you enjoy my testimonial and find rest and peace on this wintery Sunday.

 A teardrop falls from up in the heavens
Drowning the sorrow of angels on high
For the least of the helpless, the hopeless, the loveless
My Jesus, His children, He holds in His eyes

– Jars of Clay (HE)

“Amy, put your name on the board.”

My heart pounded and I broke into a sweat.  I approached the looming green chalkboard which by that point had ten or so names scribbled across it in all various sizes. Mrs. L, my first grade teacher, was not having a good day. With shaky hands, I wrote my name in a small printed format.  My lips were quivering, but I was strong enough not to cry at school.  The thought that kept permeating through my brain was that my perfect track record of not getting my name on the board was broken.

I was a good, follow-the-rules type girl.  There were instants I should have gotten in trouble, but the teachers let it slide because of my well behaved reputation.  In kindergarten I called a boy “stupid” after he scribbled on my new white shirt with a crayon.  He got in trouble, but I did not.  When he proceeded to tell the teacher I called him “stupid,” she interrupted him.  She told him to sit down and be quiet.  Because the teachers seemed to favor me, I posed a threat.  Until the day I got my name on the board.Me as a child playing with my youger brother

Then I felt like everyone else.

All I did was pass a newspaper clipping to Sam, the boy who sat behind me.  We had to find numbers in a newspaper and we were helping one another.  I really did not think it deserved my name going up on the board.  Especially because I was helping somebody.  I was determined to not get my name on the board ever again.

"I was a good, follow-the-rules type girl."

I maintained my “good girl” image well into junior high. Because I still followed all the rules, I never found myself in any large degree of trouble.  Sometimes I liked the attention of being the good girl who can get into trouble when she wants to.  I remember sitting in my first detention.  The teacher smirked and said, “What are you doing in here?”

“I got a detention.  I’m supposed to be in here,” I answered.

 He laughed, “Well, ok.”  It was almost like he did not believe me.  Detention was a two afternoon sentence.  But he waived the second day for me.

 Back in those days getting in trouble was talking out of turn or being late to class.  The “really bad kids” fought occasionally on the playground or used profanity.  Smoking, drinking, having sex with multiple partners, drug use, or theft might have happened.  It was not talked about in junior high and it was not normal in my world.  In the comforts of my Christian school all those things were “bad” and we swore we would never do them.  The peer pressure talks were in full force.  We watched anti-drug movies and were told to save sex for marriage.  I had no desire to experiment or rebel from the high moral system I was taught at home, school, and church.

 I believed the secret to living for Jesus was following all the rules.  If God set these standards for living, why would I step outside of them?  Would I not find despair if I chose another way?  Even though my faith matured significantly after junior high, I continued this pattern of thinking

  As high school students mature, they are more open about their lifestyles and their choices.  By senior year I realized it was not just the kids that dressed in black and showed up to class high on drugs that were experimenting.  It was the cheerleaders, the honor roll students, and the popular cliques as well.  It was some of the friends I used to ride bikes with in junior high school.

I sat by one of the most popular guys in art class.  He was very chatty and spent the whole forty-five minutes talking about partying and all the crazy things he did while he was drunk.  His parents allowed him and his friends to drink in a supervised setting.  This was not a deadbeat kid who is barely passing high school.  No, this kid was a church going, Bible believing charming guy.  He was adored by teachers, the girls loved him, and he was an A student.  As he shared about his exciting life, most of the kids sat and listened intently.  It was almost like the sophomores were taking notes.  One of my friends admitted she was trying to get into his crowd as if she was seeking to join an exclusive club.

 There were many others like him.  Part of me was jealous.  Obviously I was not on the invite list to these smashing parties. They seemed to be having more fun than what I was having.  If I really was living for Jesus and my social life centered around youth group, church, mission trips, Bible Study, and church drama team, why I was depressed?  My “fun” seemed embarrassingly silly compared to partying.  I should be happy and they should be miserable.  More so they should get what they deserve—despair.  Whereas I should get recognition.

But I was not getting any recognition.  The teachers saw me as a face in the crowd.  No one at school outside of the six people I hung out with me knew me.  I always had friends and never walked the halls alone, but I was constantly lonely.

Sometimes I wondered if I filled this empty void inside of myself with youth group, mission trips, and Christian music instead of drinking, sex, or drugs.  During my senior year I was selected to be the devotions leader for a Spring Break mission trip.  No surprise there.  I had that role for years.  When I saw one of the other leaders chosen was a popular athletic jock from my high school, I almost felt like saying, “Get out of here.  This is MY territory.  This is my place to shine.  You don’t belong here.”

 But does not Jesus say the opposite.  Is it not Jesus who steps outside and embrace the weak, the broken, and the sinners?  Did he not call out to Zaccheus?  (Luke 19:1-10) Converse with the woman at the well? (John 14:1-23)  Embrace the little children on his lap? (Matthew 19:14)  Did he not correct the “rule followers” and call them out on their merciless thinking? (Luke 10:25-37)

I did not get it back then.  I did not understand that Christianity is not a lifestyle, but a relationship.  In my first year of college I slumped into a cycle of panic and anxiety that bred depression.  I needed people in my life, but my constant panic and emotions drove them away.  I was no longer living at home and my high school friends were scattered all over the place.  Because of changes in church membership, I no longer had a home church.  It was like every inch of security was ripped out right under me.  I was falling apart quickly.  I could not continue on this downward spiral

I promised my roommates and my family I would go to the free counseling center on campus before I did anything irresponsible.  After several counseling sessions I knelt in the corner on my dorm room with a notebook and I wrote the following:

January 22, 1996

Dear Lord,

 Maybe it is time I cracked down and started talking to you…you know one of my number one faults this year has been trying to do everything on my own.  And you know I have found it doesn’t work.  So I just want to come to you in this noisy dorm room and tell you how much I love you.  And how much I need you in my life.  Or I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it through.  Can you help me?

 

I believe that God answered, “Yes.”

Tim Keller in his book Prodigal God says the following:

 “Elder brothers [those who follow all the moral standards] inability to handle suffering arises from the fact that their moral observation is result oriented.  The good life is lived not for delight in good deeds themselves, but as calculated way to control their environment.” (50)

When we continue this path, we find ourselves struggling to forgive those who wrong us.  We pursue judgement instead of grace.  We adhere to racism and classism versus understanding.  We are without love.  (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Once I sought the Lord on that cold January afternoon, I began to pray to him on a regular basis.  Slowly I began to pray for other people’s needs as they were put on my heart.  I realized we are all a bunch of prodigal sons and daughters in need of Jesus.  Not because we kept every single rule and showed up to church every Sunday morning.  God loves us because of Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)  He gave us more than what we ever deserved or could ever imagine.

He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber - Psalm 121:2a

Moms are not always the greatest listeners

Our church supports a chaplain who ministers to people in old age homes.  A couple months ago he visited the Adult and High School Sunday classes and shared how to listen and minister to people who are hurting.  At first I did not think I was going to learn anything I did not already know.

As we got further into the seminar and we actually had to practice counseling one another, I realized I could use some listening practice myself.

It dawned on me that we as moms are not the greatest listeners.  A mom walks into a moms group and complains that her baby is clingy and screaming due to teething.  What do we do?  We start telling all these stories about when our baby was teething, home remedies we used, and how much it frustrated us.  Honestly we truly care and want this mom to get the rest and relief she desires. Why do we all the sudden turn the conversation to us?  We want this mom to understand, “Yes, I know what you’re going through!  I’ve been there too.”  We want to encompass this “We’re all in this together” mentality.

The problem is this person may not need our expertise or stories.  She might just want support and knowing we care.  And nothing more.

When my daughter Kara was born, she started getting colds which turned into respiratory infections the first four months of her life.  Obviously when a baby is
congested, breastfeeding is difficult and sleep is even worse.  I showed to my moms group meeting as an emotional wreck.  I had not slept more than a two hour block in weeks.  I was averaging 4-5 hours of interrupted sleep every night.  A girl in my moms group, Alexis, asked how Kara was doing.  When I proceeded to tell  her how bad it was, she just gave me a hug and said she was so sorry.  I was not bitter towards my other friends who told me to put Kara to bed in her swing or car seat or told me to meet with a lactation consultant and on and on.  But what Alexis did meant more to me than any words of advice.

The next time you are at the playground or sitting in the library or talking in the fellowship hall at church and a mom shares with you her frustration about her life or her children, pause for a second.  If she is struggling with discipline issues or choosing the right preschool or her baby still is not sleeping through the night or she thinks she might be depressed, please listen first.  Go over what she said in your mind.  Then offer understanding.  If you feel a need to give advice or tell a story, simply ask.  “Do you want some suggestions?” or “Do you want to know what I learned?”  It might make a difference in her life or your own if you try this.  I am going to practice it too!