This Halloween Take Off Your Mask

God sees graphicThis weekend, as we go about our usual activities, there will be all sorts of unusual sightings along the way. Some scary, some adorable, and some downright disturbing. But the one common thread throughout Halloween is the chance to be something you are not. It’s the one day a year that you get to hide behind a mask and actually get rewarded for it.

Don’t get me wrong. We dress up and have a great time with our kids and friends. We eat way too much candy, and we carve crazy pumpkins. But when I thought about what Halloween would look like to someone who had never seen it before, it seems a little absurd. We walk around, pretending to be someone else, and receive candy because we participated.

Then I thought about it as an analogy for our own everyday lives. How many of us walk around pretending to be someone else so we will receive favor from others? And how many of those efforts feed our anxious thoughts?

For a lot of my life I have made decisions about things like what clothes to wear, what music to listen to, or what friends to seek all based on what others thought. It is exhausting to try to be “on” all the time and it is not honoring God. He created me exactly how He wanted me to be. Who am I to think I can do better? Recently, God has been showing me ME…the me he gifted in certain ways, the me that has strengths and weaknesses that he designed to fit all together that will bring about the me that He intended. He has been teaching me about where my identity lies. I am not worthy because of the approval of others. I am worthy because I am a child of God, the bride of Christ. I am 100% approved by Him and that is where the peace resides. In knowing that whatever situation you are in or what ever struggle you are facing God sees you, He knows you, and He is with you.

Imagine you enter that crowded room where you don’t know a soul and have no idea what to talk about, but instead of entering alone imagine that you enter with your arm linked through the arm of Jesus. You don’t have to do it alone anymore. He is right there with you, giving you a sense of identity that is all your own, but completely found in Him at the same time.

So this weekend as everyone else is hiding behind their masks, remove yours instead, link arms with Jesus and find your identity in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

3 Lessons I Learned About How to Get Out of That Rut

29279bd549315bcc418e70cd0ef0730cA rut is not a very fun place to be. I mean, this definition alone stirs up all kinds of depressing thoughts:

Rut: a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.

Wow! I think that hits the nail on the head in a few areas of my life! How many of our patterns of behavior have become unproductive, and worse yet, hard to change? One of those areas, for me lately, has been my relationship with my husband. I have been married for over 22 years to my best friend, but yet those times of monotony still creep in. Recently we found ourselves slowly falling into some of those dry “patterns of behavior” once again, but we sat down last weekend and talked about how we could keep things alive and well between us.

Right there is Lesson #1: When something is not right, TALK ABOUT IT. Do not let it go unchecked. It will just fester and add to the things you are already anxious about.

After we talked, I felt this peace settle over me. I knew that it would take time but we were on our way to something better, something fresh.

Lesson #2: It is not easy to bring up hard topics but the resulting peace is so worth it!

Let me explain how this went down. Shortly before this talk we had, my husband asked me what I needed to do over the weekend. HA! Seriously? Where do I start?! I took him to two different rooms in our house that were just sucking the life out of me and proceeded to tell him, “There is just so much I need to do, I don’t even know where to start!” These rooms had just become laden with piles and everywhere I looked something needed to be put away. I love to organize and I have all these great ideas, but most of it takes money and money is tight. So, instead I just get on Pinterest and dream about how those rooms will look someday, and nothing gets done.

So, Saturday I did what I could but it still didn’t feel like enough. I came away still feeling overwhelmed, and I don’t know about you but when I am discouraged in one area, it just takes over. Suddenly, everything in my life is unfulfilling and I am on a downward spiral. The anxiety builds and pretty soon it has to come out. For me, this happens with a good cry. Sometimes I feel sorry for my husband and all I put him through with my crazy emotions, but he patiently listened as we had a talk that really needed to happen. The process was messy but the outcome was full of grace.

I’m not sure at what point this idea began to form in my husband’s mind, but later that night when I was gone with two of the kids, he went to work on his little plan.

One of the rooms I showed him on Saturday was our bedroom. I had ideas about rearranging it so that I had a place to bring in a desk and make a little writing area. But every time I thought about it, it seemed so overwhelming. Stuff is too heavy, things mounted on the walls need to be moved, and so on… It was simply too much work just for me…BUT not for my husband and our strapping 12 year old son. 🙂

As I walked in the door that night, I could tell instantly by the look on his face that something was up (he is not the best secret-keeper). He sent me to our room and I could not believe my eyes! Everything was moved and it was all how I imagined and more! He left me an entire blank wall with plenty of space for a desk and whatever else I want to there to inspire my creativity. I can’t begin to explain to you how much this blessed me, but also how refreshing it feels to walk into my room now. I am even making my bed everyday now just to keep up the look (I know, wonders never cease!).

So, pay attention to Lesson #3: If you let someone in on the things that are suffocating you, you just might be able to breathe again. The loneliness evaporates and you feel empowered by the relationship instead of depleted from it.

One step forward can have a domino effect. Take some time and think about what that step might be for you. Then TAKE that step, let someone in, and be amazed at what blessings are set in motion.

This thing called “Friendship” and how it calms our fears

As I read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 the other day, I realized a little more about myself and why I love to sit down and share my story. It brings comfort. There is something about feeling understood that just soothes our tired soul. So, it should have been no surprise to me that when I shared about my anxiety in my last post, you responded. Anxious thoughts plague so many of us these days. It is unreal how many of us battle the fear of not being enough or of being stuck where we are. Listen to these words that I read and then I want to tell you my new idea. 🙂

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 

Now catch this last part…this is how I feel when I think about all of you out there who share my same feelings about our struggles and where our victory comes from…I am going to personalize the pronouns here:

7 [My] hope for you is unshaken, for [I] know that as you share in [my] sufferings, you will also share in [my] comfort.

If there is one thing I want to convey through my words, it is that we have hope in Christ and you are not alone. Friendship is so powerful. God created us to need Him but also to need each other. As we go to each other for support and love, a great healing takes place in our hearts. I don’t know what I would do without my “coffee” friends. (I don’t actually drink coffee but I wish I did, so I just get my Vanilla Chai Latte and pretend.) Those times together are precious and I wish I could do it more, but I sorta feel that as we start a conversation here it can be like our “coffee time” with friends. The more we realize we are not alone, the less afraid we will be.

So, my new idea involves Instagram. It’s ok if you are not an “Instagrammer.” You can still see my feed if you click “Instafluence” (my new made up word that I googled and found out that I didn’t actually make it up but it still works for now. 🙂 )in the menu on the side of my page. What I want to start doing is pay attention to the little things in life and capture them. I am calling them my #anxietyhack moments. Anything that feels the complete opposite of anxiety, even for a moment, I want to pay attention to it and share it with you in the form of a picture. The fun part is, if you do the same and use the hashtag #anxietyhack, we can search that hashtag through out the weeks to come and share our moments with each other! Like I said, if you don’t Instagram, you can still see my feed throughout the weeks to come, so check back often and see what kind of moments I discover. I need the accountability!! 🙂

If picture taking is not your thing then you can also comment below with your #anxietyhack moments of the week. Together, we will shift our focus, create more peace-filled moments and life less afraid.

How to Define Anxiety and Not Let it Define You

Download your printable bookmark now. It's all ready for you to color and personalize. This would also make a great Bible Journaling template!

Download your printable bookmark now. It’s all ready for you to color and personalize. This would also make a great Bible Journaling template!

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7

Anxiety is baffling to me. Had you asked me 5 years ago if I struggled with anxiety, I would have instantly denied any anxious feelings. It’s not that I never had anxious feelings or thoughts, but I never seemed to dwell on them long enough to give them a name. After three and a half years of dealing with chronic hip and back pain, I have become very familiar with anxiety and find myself swallowed up by it often. It is not pretty. It comes and goes and probably from the outside not many people would even know that I battle it as often as I do. Lately it has felt suffocating at times. After a long break from the hip pain, it has returned. It is so discouraging to not know why it has come or when it is leaving. Like I said in a previous post, I have spent more time and money than I care to on this and I just don’t want to do it anymore.

But anxiety is a funny thing. I feel anxious about the pain, yes, but then it seems to grow from there. I find all kinds of other things to be anxious about. Some are valid, but honestly, some I wonder why I even throw them into the mix. It turns into this overwhelming feeling of depression and defeat. I hope I am not alone when I tell you that it is at this point that I turn to Jesus. He is an ever-present part of my life, but that is just it. I sometimes keep him as PART of my life instead of giving him my WHOLE life…Surrender.

1Peter Bookmark Color

…or download this original artwork by me! You can use this as a reminder for your own life or to remember to pray for me. 🙂

As I sat with Jesus and tried to make sense of these anxious thoughts, I realized some things about where my anxiety comes from. Here is where and how I began to define my anxiety:

  • Anything that I cannot bring a resolution to on my own.

How to get rid of the hip pain, a relationship that I know needs mending and I don’t know where to start, starting a blog and running into more technical difficulties than I ever imagined. 🙂 And the list goes on…

  • Anything that causes me to feel overwhelmed and incapable

What do I make for dinner for the millionth time? (seriously, I hate to cook), how to get back to a healthy lifestyle (again for the millionth time) and stick to it this time, how do I clean my house AND educate my children AND work from home all at the same time? And, again, the list goes on…

  • Anything that distracts me and divides my attention away from God’s calling on my life

Again, finally stepping out in faith and starting this blog only to be bombarded with attacks from the devil…feeling inadequate, getting caught up in details that I don’t know how to do instead of just doing the thing God asked me to do. Letting selfishness and laziness dictate my priorities with my family relationships. And, still, the list goes on…

So, as I defined some areas that my anxiety was coming from, I was able to take them head on, straight to Jesus. When I turn my focus on Jesus instead of the anxiety-prone questions that crush me like dead weight, my perspective changes and it becomes about my calling in that moment. Jesus is right there, carrying me, ready for my attention to be on Him and not my own efforts.

I love to read the devotional Jesus Calling. It amazes me that when God directed her to write that book, that He already knew I would have that book in my hands on that particular date and need to hear that exact thing on that exact day! Amazingly Awesome! So, as I am wading through this low point in my anxiety battle, He brings me to 1 Peter 5:7. The verse that I started this post with. CAST all your anxiety… Do you know what cast means here? If you are like me you might have pictured casting a fishing line. But if you do that you are still holding onto something. “Cast” here is to “throw away” or “give up to God.”

I just need to recognize the source, give up, and let Him care for me in the perfect way that only He knows how to do.

Creating a Work of Heart

Art GraphicCreativity: The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Right off the bat I have probably lost you because you are thinking, “Oh, this is about creativity. I’m not creative. This one’s not for me.” Don’t go! Don’t leave! Just hear me out and see if you think about creativity in a different way by the end of this post.

Ok, so after reading the definition above, what thoughts come to mind? Do you think about art museums, studios filled with paint splatter, or some other form of art that seems impossible to create? I thought all those things and they are true. BUT, there is more. Look at that last part again, “…especially in the production of an artistic work.”

artistic: having or revealing natural or creative skill

You can have natural skill or reveal it, but either way, it is in there. It also says “skill.” Does it say skill to paint or skill to sculpt? No! It simply says skill: a particular ability.

This is the part I really want you to grasp.

“In the beginning GOD CREATED the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“So God created man in his own image, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

God created AND WE are created IN HIS IMAGE, therefore WE were created to create. You still with me? That is a little bit of a mind bender there and it is ok if you read it again. I did. 🙂 What I want you to see is that God made us to take after Him. He gave everyone a deep desire to produce an artistic work. But what I have learned is that it is hard to identify what that desire feels like and how it can be fulfilled in my life. And, it is also true that some desires are buried deeper than others. We will work on digging them up in another post. But, now watch this…

Art:
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,
typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,
PRODUCING WORKS TO BE APPRECIATED PRIMARILY FOR THIER BEAUTY OR EMOTIONAL POWER.

You have probably already created art and don’t even know it. Our entire lives are filled with moments where we are struck by the beauty of what just happened, or we are overcome with emotion as we navigate the trials and blessings that surround us.

  • Did your children just treat each other with respect for the first time, and you saw light at the end of the tunnel of this thing we call parenting? ~ emotional power.
  • Did you just finally get that scary closet organized where everything has a place? ~ beauty.
  • Have you worked for countless hours with a struggling student to then finally see the light in their eyes as they “get it”? ~ emotional power.
  • Have you just taken time out of your day to gather your family together to watch a beautiful sunset? ~ beauty.

You see where this is going right? Today, before you get too far into the list of to-do’s, take a few minutes and reflect on times of emotional power or beauty in your life, and start to notice your role in “producing these works of art.” Art is very much a part of our daily lives. We just have to pay attention and look for it.

Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; 
They will behold a far-distant land.
Isaiah 33:17

P.S. As I was straining my brain, trying to come up with a title for this post, my amazing husband saved the day and came up with this one. I like him. 🙂