September: Mental Health Month

Mental Health Month

Starting this September, I am looking for guest posts on the topic of mental health.

I have shared my story along with many other stories on anxiety, depression, and mental health. Since I started the recent transition of getting of my anxiety med, I thought it would be encouraging to gather more stories to encourage those of us who are going through it. If you struggle or have lived or loved others who struggle and would like to share please send your query to me at: renee (at) devotionaldiva (dot) com.

Requirements: 500-750 words including a 3-4 sentence bio and picture.

[Photo: Aban Nesta, Flickr]

Continue Reading

Do You Want to Get Well?

Do You Want To Get Well

I believe God is serious when he asks you and I the question, “Do you want to get well?”

In John 5, we read the story of an invalid who had been seriously crippled for many, many, many, many years. In other words–a long time! The story goes,

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gatea pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’

‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked (John 5:1-9, NIV).

I wonder how long you have been suffering and struggling to get into a place of healing? Every time you come close like the invalid in John 5–something or someone sabotages your chances to receive God’s healing.

Maybe it’s a co-worker.

Maybe it’s your bank account (or lack thereof).

Maybe it’s a family member.

Or maybe it’s your own excuses (ouch!).

But I have to wonder if un-forgiveness is one of the things stopping you from walking in healing.

David, a man familiar with suffering, pain, forgiveness, and repentance wrote,

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5, NIV).

My story is similar. 

When I kept silent my skin (not bones) wasted away. Literally. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in the hospital bed at San Diego Children’s Hospital with no skin on my face and feet. All because I had cried over a boy. I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t forgive him for leading me on. I wanted nothing more than to feel loved again. I went three whole days before my mom could get me to stop crying. At that point my body broke down. The rash that had started on my toe spread across the tops of my feet and then to my face when I rubbed the tears off my face.

I share how miserable I was because I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with unforgiveness.

I share my story in my new book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me because I had never experienced God’s in such a powerful way, that was what caused me to finally believe.

Guess what?

This past week, I visited Family Christian Stores and found they will be placing Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me in the Wellness section. At first, I thought it would be in the Christian Living section. Nope! Next I thought it would be in Women’s Interest section. Wrong again. When I found out FCS is placing my book in the Wellness section I had to catch my breath.

Family Christian Stores

“Forgiveness doesn’t just affect relationships, but the body, soul, mind, and strength. It took my body ten years to heal from that health crash. I don’t know why God didn’t step in and heal me. But because God allowed my rash to spread I have an even bigger story to tell–one that doesn’t just end with forgiveness but restoration.” (Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, 115)?

Today, choose to let go of your unforgiveness and watch God heal you of your past hurts, present circumstances, and future fears.

Do you want to get well?

Say it with me, “YES!”

[Photo: ergobachmann, Flickr]

Continue Reading

Forgiveness is a Choice

Forgiveness is a Choice

Forgiveness is a choice and the only person you have control over is yourself.

The only attitude you can control is your own. We can’t control what other people do, how they act, or what they feel. We can only make choices for ourselves.

For instance, Paul knew his story was less than perfect.

Before his conversion, he persecuted Christians! But he didn’t let the sins of the past stop him from becoming a mighty Christ-follower. He received the title of apostle because he wasn’t afraid to truly let God transform him. He gave his weaknesses to God and became a new man. The former enemy of Christians became one of the most influential leaders of the early church.

To read the rest of my new article and enter to win a free copy of my latest book Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me please click here.

[Photo: Aya Dajani, Flickr]

Continue Reading

How to Move On With Your Life

How to Move On With Your Life 2

One of the toughest questions to answer is how to move on with your life.

Why?

Because it’s both personal and painful. Unfortunately, it’s a question no one else can answer but you.

I’ll never forget a few years back when I sat in my church’s counseling office. I had booked an appointment last minute because my life at that time was in major crisis mode.

I never knew when I was going to have a panic attack or how long it would last.

But, I remember her vividly.

The lady whom I didn’t like or care for much. She was just someone who could see me at the last minute. Not to mention, I didn’t have to pay her an arm and a leg for counseling appointments. It was during our last visit that she told me,

“I think you should go back on your anxiety medication and stay on it for the rest of your life!”

Or maybe she said “for a long time.” I don’t really remember much after that. She scared the crap out of me. Her words hung over me like a death sentence.

***

Recently, I woke up. It was as if a light bulb suddenly went off inside my mind, and I yelled at the top of my lungs.

“I reject those words spoken over me by her.”

I said those words of freedom loudly and resolutely.

It was one of those rare moments of freedom I’ve experienced since that fateful day at the counselors office, and I didn’t want to let the moment go.

I want to be free of my anxiety.

I want to let go of my past.

I want to move on with my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on anxiety medication before–a few times in fact.

It helped me when nothing else did.

What I appreciated about my nurse practitioner is that she took the time to listen to me. She didn’t just tell me there was nothing (or everything) wrong with me. When she diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a young 20-something–it felt nice to finally know what the heck was wrong with me!

But.

But anxiety medication was never prescribed as a forever pill.

It was meant for a temporary fix to help me through my moment of crisis (and I’ve had a lot).

***

I’m excited that I am ready to share my story!

Quote 12In my new book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me I share the good, the bad, and the ugly about forgiveness and how it took me a really long time to forgive myself.

I am no longer hiding.

I am a giant mosaic of brokenness, and I’m finally okay with it.

I know each piece, each layer has made me who I am: beautiful.

It reminds me of the story of Joseph. In Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, I share how God mightily turned around evil into good for Joseph and his entire family and extended families.

Friends, I believe you and I were intended for good.

Dr. Larry Osborne of North Coast Church asked a key question recently in a sermon on Joseph,

“Why do we have to get to the point of desperation before we let go?”

He also said that what we really think is self protection (or self-care) is really playing the perpetual victim. Joseph’s dad Jacob, couldn’t see that God was blessing him. All he could see was his grief and why he couldn’t let his family move on with their lives.

***

Going back to the story of her, and the reason why I was sitting in her office in the first place.

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

I thought I could handle working full time along with a brand spanking new literary career and my first book contract. For once in my life I wasn’t struggling with how to pay the bills or take care of my health.

Instead of viewing a new writing ministry as an opportunity for God to bless me (and something I had prayed many, many years for), I played the perpetual victim.

I didn’t want to move back in with my parents.

I didn’t want to give up my amazing ministry job that paid the bills.

I didn’t want to be “housebound” once again.

But that wasn’t what God had planned for me. And that wasn’t all God had planned for Jacob.

Thank God Almighty that He uses boneheads like Jacob and like me. And thank God the story doesn’t stop there.

God’s the kind of God that will sit there and help you pack your bags while you sob your eyes out. I did it. I’m sure Jacob thought he was losing his other favorite son for good.

But.

But God brought Marc into my life. He gave me a new home and an office (my first office)! And He gave me more book contracts!

If only I could go back in time and give my former self a hug and tell her what she thought was the worst thing ever was really the beginning of many blessings to come.

Would you pray for me as I move on with my life and go off my anxiety medication? How can I be praying for you?

[Photo: Tanya Puntti, Creative Commons]

Continue Reading

Persecuted Church Video

persecuted church video

Every Wednesday this month, I will be reposting selected videos from Quarter Life Conference.

I’m so excited to be able to continue the conversation on the topic of church. As an American Christian, I believe it’s way too easy to be apathetic (lazy) about my faith compared to my brothers and sisters sufferings around the world for theirs.

Moreover, I am excited to report that the second Quarter Life Conference exceeded 500 video views, which was more than our first conference! The purpose of reposting a few of the videos is to highlight a few of the stories you shouldn’t miss.

Please let me introduce you to my new friends Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh as they share their story of persecution from their new book Captive In Iran. Their story brought me to tears. I can’t remember the last time I sobbed so hard. The fact that they’re around my age and have been through much more than I will ever have to endure made me feel ashamed of my faith.

Am I doing enough to share–even when it hurts or is inconvenient to me?

While you watch Maryam and Marziyeh’s persecuted church video, ask yourself what would you do if you were imprisoned for your faith?

To watch more videos on church from Quarter Life Conference, click here.

qlc-logoAlso, announcing Quarter Life Conference 3.0 on career & social justice on October 3rd.

If you’d like to get involved please leave me a comment or send me an email (renee) at (devotionaldiva) dot (com).

[Photo: Imagens Cristãs, Creative Commons]

Continue Reading

Mind Blowing Forgiveness

mind blowing forgiveness

Did you know Adam and Eve weren’t the first ones to ask forgiveness from God?

Say what?

I’m so conditioned to the story of Adam and Eve from my Sunday school days that I might have missed this little nugget if it weren’t for my husband, Marc. We were in our weekly small group Bible Study when he humbly pointed out this fact found in Genesis 3 about Adam and Eve.

I was floored.

Yes, Adam and Eve were the first ones to eat the apple, sin, and forced out of the garden for good–yet instead of telling God they had sinned and/or asking for His forgiveness, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). The Bible does not record them repenting of their sin.

I couldn’t believe all my thirty years of learning about sin, forgiveness, and the story of Adam and Eve that I had missed a significant biblical truth. At the time, my pastor was going through the book of Genesis. So I emailed him, asking, who, then, was the first person to ask God for His forgiveness?

To continue reading the rest of my article on iBelieve please click here or here: http://www.ibelieve.com/faith/mind-blowing-forgiveness.html.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy 4th of July! Happy Birthday America!

[Picture: jeff_golden, Creative Commons]

Continue Reading

My Bucket List

bucket list

I like to celebrate things. In fact, it’s no secret that I celebrate just about everything!

Yesterday I wrote on Facebook,

“Praising God for an amazing and way-too-exciting birthday month. Can’t believe I’m about to admit this, but I’m so glad it’s over so I can go back into my writing cave AKA my office and write stuff to encourage others, including myself!!!”

With that said, I can’t wait to celebrate a few things this July! 

(1) I started working out exactly one year ago today.

July 2nd means a lot to me because I overcame the fear of exercising while taking anxiety meds (it just feels differently). I used to have no problems motivating myself to lose weight and stay in shape, but for some reason I was having a tough time. That’s why I started the I Love My Body series on the blog and exercising on a regular basis. I encourage you to take a look at what other people have to say about their bodies here.

(2) I wrote my bucket list exactly nine years ago this July.

I found my bucket list of the 30 things I want to do with my life, and couldn’t believe how many things I had actually accomplished (21 of the 30 things). I hope you’ll keep in mind that this bucket list is mine and only mine. {Just an FYI: One of the things I’m really looking forward to writing about on the blog very soon is what happens after you check things off your list? Like when you no longer have excuses to hide behind (like weight, debt, failed dreams, or health issues) or when you’ve checked things off your bucket list (then, what)?

I am choosing to share my bucket list to show you that none of this would have been possible without God.

I sincerely hope and pray that you’ll rediscover your list or make a new list–and watch God enable and empower you to achieve your dreams (His dreams). When I was praying about how and if I should share I read this in my devotional time:

“Our calling is impossible to fulfill, apart from the power of His Holy Spirit. As soon as we think we can handle it on our own, we become useless to Him. But as we are willing to get out of the way, let God take over, and allow Him to overshadow us, we will see Him do what only He can do, and those around us will be moved to believe” (The Quiet Place, Nancy Leigh DeMoss).

(1) Write a 365-daily Devotional and publish it (Faithbook of Jesus, 3/8/2010)
(2) Publish “Forgiving Me: A Self Portrait” (Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, 8/1/2013)
(3) Write and publish 8 more books (I now have 6 left)
(4) Get married to my Proverbs 31/Isaiah 34:16 man (Married Marc, 10/15/2011)
(5) Go to Hawaii (5/2008)
(6) Have at least one child, a girl, adopt?
(7) Be a speaker to young people (ONGOING, CHECK)
(8) Learn how to sew (No longer interested ha ha!!)
(9) Overcome my fear of boats (Parasailing, 07/2009)
(10) Have lots of really good married sex (Uh….)
(11) Own another orange male tabby cat (Allergic to cats, but I adopted Star on 05/2012)
(12) Own another Black Lab! (No longer interested in black labs now that I own a pit bull mix)
(13) Own a home in Southern California (Marc bought us a home before we got married, 10/2011)
(14) Travel to Germany
(15) Help my husband fulfill God’s purpose/calling on his life
(16) Be a pastor’s wife
(17) Lead hundreds of thousands of people to Christ
(18) Be a soccer mom (No longer interested in this ha ha!!)
(19) Own a mini-van (Bought a Hyundai Elantra, which is big enough for me 01/2013)
(20) Lead a home group for hurting women (06/2010)
(21) Play piano again for worship (2004, 2007-2008)
(22) Be a best selling author
(23) The Lord would speak and prophecy through me for others (ONGOING, CHECK)
(24) Be a racehorse! Open those gates Lord! (Cindy my first mentor called me a race horse and fully believed one day I would become everything I dreamed of becoming, CHECK)
(25) Be an intercessor (ONGOING, CHECK)
(26) Become a Christian Writer’s Guild Mentor (Switched to San Diego Christian Writers Guild board member, 06/2013)
(27) Travel to a foreign country on a mission’s trip
(28) See at least one grandchild
(29) See my dad with my daughter
(30) Go to Romania and help the orphans

[Photo: BusyBee-cr, Flickr]

Continue Reading

Forgiving the Church

forgiving the church

Today, I am honored to be a part of Quarter Life Conference by speaking on a topic close to my heart–forgiving the church.

When it comes to my heart for the church–I’d say it has been growing since I was 5 years old! That’s the day I asked God to come into my heart, forgive me of my sin, and make me new! In the 25 years since I became a Christian–I’ve encountered many hurts from people who call themselves followers.

People who go to church.

And I’ve also hurt other people.

None of us are perfect, and in light of my new book Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, I wanted to personally share my heart  why I believe it’s possible to forgive the church. Please watch my video Forgiving The Church or watch the video below.

I hope you’ll join me and the 13 other AMAZING speakers on the topic of church.

Also, I’ve gathered some pretty amazing books on the topic of church from a few of those speaking. You can win a copy of the book of your choice, by tweeting with the #QLC hashtag and the book title you wish to win.  Winners will be chosen on June 22th by midnight.

Called to Stay by Caleb Breakey (1 Advanced Reader Copy)
Captive in Iran by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh (3 Free Copies)
Real by Daniel Darling (1 Signed Copy)

[Photo: throgers, Creative Commons]

Continue Reading

Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me Blog Tour

Forgiving Others Forgiving Me Blog Tour

Welcome to the Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me blog tour! I’ve been waiting to say this for so many years, and I can’t wait to finally share bits and pieces with you on the blogosphere.

+ Mind Blowing Forgiveness (via iBelieve.com)

+ Forgiveness, A Good Place to Start (via Church 4 Chicks!)

+ The Greater Good of Forgiveness (via Songine’ Clark)

+ Forgiveness is Not The End! (via Ed Cyzewski)

+ Forgiveness is a Personal Choice (via Ungrind)

+ Review: Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me (via Emily Miller)

+ Prayer Changes Things (via Wendy van Eyck)

+ The Importance of Forgiveness and Prayer (via Dawn Wilson)

+ Real Reconciliation (via Daniel Darling)

+ Why Is It So Hard to Forgive VIDEO INTERVIEW (via iBelieve)

+ Forgiving Others, Forgiving me Interview (via Ava Pennington)

+ Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me Interview (via Tracy Steel)

+ Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me Interview (via Sarah Francis Martin)

+ 5 Keys to Forgiveness (via WHOLE Women Ministries)

+ Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me Interview (via Rachel Berry)

+ Intentional Discipleship (via Tyler Braun)

+ Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me Giveaway (via Jami Witherall)

+ More posts coming soon (via Jaimie Bowman, Laurie Coombs, Arlene Pellicane, Addie Zierman, Lisa Copen, and Ronel Sidney)

*NEW* I created a website for Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me.

At forgivingme.com, you can:

+ Locate which bookstores are selling

+ Learn why I wrote the book

+ Read who endorsed the book

+ Download Chapter 1 for free

+ Download a free eBook of all the scriptures on forgiveness from the book.

Also, I will soon be releasing Chapter Videos so you can go along with the Discussions Questions at the back of the book. If you’re looking to host a 7-week Bible Study on forgiveness, you will be able to soon!

Continue Reading

Your Love Can't Change Him

change him

[Guest Post by Teryn O’Brien – Want to know why I appreciate her so much? She writes things I swear I could have written. It just makes me want to fly to Colorado Springs, CO and give her a big, BIG hug. If you didn’t already read her previous post, Follow God’s Heart–you should read that immediately after reading this post!]

In many chick flicks and romance novels today, there is a common storyline.

It goes like this: Bad boy meets awkward, shy girl. Girl’s innocent charm completely captivates boy. Her love heals him. Boy changes and they live happily ever after.

As females, this dream is close to our hearts. We all want a man to see there’s something in us worth having and to change for us.

We want our love to change things.

Yet this mentality can lead to harmful practices. We missionary date. We date guys with lower standards. We date guys who don’t believe in God. We date guys who abuse us or misuse us.

For two years, I was in love with a guy. He was a broken guy. He said he had secrets he couldn’t share. He said he could never forgive himself.

I was a hopeless romantic.

I wanted to show him that there was healing.

I wanted to change him with my love.

And so I tried really hard to change him. And you know what happened? He didn’t change.

He actually got worse and worse. No matter how hard I prayed for him, sent him Scriptures, listened to his problems, and stood by his side, he rejected it all. None of it changed him.

But he did change me.

I was shattered, in every sense of the word. I’d clung to him because I loved him. And he never responded to that love. He simply used me. When we parted ways, I was heartbroken. I truly thought I was supposed to stay with him and change him. I’d prayed almost every day for him. I’d asked God so many times to heal him.

And God didn’t.

Why not, God? I’d ask Him. Why didn’t you heal him? Why didn’t love change him?

I have friends like this, too. One of my friends dated a guy who wasn’t a Christian, but she wanted so badly to change him. She cooked and cleaned for him. She served him and prayed for him. She tried so hard to change him. And it didn’t work. In fact, he called her names. He damaged her heart. Then he left her.

But she still wonders, What if he someday loves me? What if he changes?

It’s hard for her to let go.

Sometimes, I wonder if our prayers aren’t so much about love as they are about control.

Sometimes, we use prayer and service and Scripture as a tactic. We use love as a tactic. A tactic to arm-wrestle God into doing what we want in a relationship. We want things so badly that we’ll try to control things through our love. To try and force a man to change when he has intentions of ever doing so.

Ultimately, this damages us because we stay in situations we never should’ve been in. We stay with angry, abusive, manipulative guys who take advantage. We hang onto relationships because we can’t let go. We think, “My love can change him.” And so we stick it out, no matter how hard it gets. Now matter how damaging it is to our hearts.

Girls, this isn’t romance. It’s desperation. It’s abuse. It’s wounding.

But God, He isn’t fooled.

God said “no” to my relationship because He knew it was abusive. He knew it was wounding me. He knew that boy would never treat me like I should be treated.

No matter how hard I prayed, He said “no.”

My love didn’t change that boy. Finally, I had to surrender him to God’s love. Because love sometimes means letting go—no matter how hard it is to do so. Love means surrendering to God, it means trusting that He has a plan, it means stepping out and releasing the need to love and to be loved.

Because my love can’t save a man. My love can’t save anyone.

Only God can save.

Only God’s love can heal.

And it’s hard to admit, but we can’t control God. And we can’t control if a man will accept God’s love and healing in their lives.

We’ve just got to trust that God is in control. And we have to let go.

Teryn O'BrienTeryn O’Brien’s passion is to spur others on to the healing Christ’s unconditional love brings. She currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO, where she works in marketing at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. She spends her free time roaming the mountains, writing a series of novels, and combating sex trafficking. Read her blog about Identity in Christ at www.identityrenewed.wordpress.com.

[Photo credit: Helga Weber via photopin cc]

Continue Reading