Editor’s Note: This is a guest submission from Sheila Lloyd. Sheila’s husband had a stroke in 2014, and this is part of their story of recovery. Thanks so much, Sheila! WHAT DID I LEARN THROUGH THE STROKE? How I am more like Jesus because of …
Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Soul
[Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by Jehn Kubiak. Healthy boundaries are so important in this rushed world we live in. P.S. Happy Independence Day to US readers! Take some time off and relax!]
I became a walking skeleton after stress literally ate me alive last year as a Biola University student. My already-thin body dropped about 35 pounds within nine months and went from three meals a day to one––a cup of soup and a banana or a protein bar and a smoothie. Doctors constantly became amazed at the fact that I wasn’t hospitalized, and I only have God to thank for that.
After three therapists, four doctors, and a long recovery process, I finally became physically healthy again. However, I still struggle with Panic Disorder at times and feel like I constantly lose control over even the most minute things. My family and friends constantly repeated one word that remains forever imprinted on my mind: boundaries. However, it took me a while to truly listen to their advice.
On my 21st birthday, my parents sat down and told me I needed to set boundaries for my last undergraduate semester. During the previous year, I took on way too many responsibilities: three jobs, an unpaid internship, wind ensemble, and freelance writing. They asked me to prune certain things from my life, such as work hours, and I did reluctantly at first.
This past December, my dad recommended Soul Keeping by Jon Ortberg, who explained how an overly busy life can severely damage one’s soul. Plus, I took a Spiritual Formation class at Talbot, where I learned how Christians often believe that they must do everything with excellence in order to please God. However, that class helped me understand that, while God wants us to do our best, he also doesn’t want us to become perfectionists. Otherwise, we idolize results instead of truly serving God, and then we push our limits.
I found this was very true of myself because I always thought I was not glorifying God with the gifts he gave me if I didn’t do everything with 100 percent effort. Therefore, I often worked until my body literally felt stretched to the limits, as if someone stretched it out with a taffy puller.
Now that I’m a graduate student at the Talbot School of Theology, I finally learned the importance of setting boundaries: I’ve decreased work hours, set apart time for rest, spend more time with people, and don’t obsess over my coursework. If I feel like napping one day, I lay down instead of powering through yet another assignment. If I need a mental health day, I take one instead of letting my Panic Disorder get out of hand. I no longer need an A plus in every class––an A minus is good enough.
I shared the story of my sickness during a cohort retreat for Talbot, and my group members told me something I will never forget––”God says you’re not done resting yet.” As a result of the material I learned in my Spiritual Formation class, God revealed something very astounding––my physical illness was a manifestation of a spiritual sickness. My soul was sick, so my entire being became sick.
Now that it’s the end of the semester, I can see how setting boundaries ultimately helped my soul. I used to always feel nervous and couldn’t look anyone in the eye because I feared people would see through my tough facade. However, now I have days where I feel at peace––I’m not quite at the point where I feel consistent peace, but I no longer feel like I’m consistently falling into a sinkhole I can’t climb out of.
Perhaps this is why, in Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus cautions his listeners against overvaluing earthly treasures––even “good” material things, such as productivity, never fulfill the soul because they’re temporary. I once treasured work above my well-being, and that nearly cost me my life; I hardly ate due to my busy schedule, so I dwindled down to 92 pounds and was almost hospitalized.
After enduring these health struggles, I finally understood why Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible. Most people hate it because Solomon’s words seem so ambiguous, but upon a close read, one can uncover a valuable message. Solomon reminds his listeners that work done to the point of vanity only results in misery. He says,
“What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:3-4).
Work is not bad, but an obsession with work is.
Boundaries and balance are crucial. God values hard work, but he doesn’t want us to work so hard that responsibilities consume our souls, making us burn out and unable to function. As the adage goes, “Work hard, play hard.” Down-time is just as crucial as productivity. Those of us who are overachievers must learn to say “no” to unnecessary things and find moments of rest throughout the day. Work does not define worth in God’s eyes.
Jehn Kubiak is a Biola University journalism graduate and current pastoral care and counseling major at the Talbot School of Theology. She is a San Diego native who enjoys distance swimming, coffee, dogs, and painting. She loves researching and writing about people, sports, activities, and more.
Bad news filled my ears:
“…tumor in your ovary”
“ Cancer markers elevated in your blood stream…”
“ another tumor even larger on your colon…”
“ You will need surgery.”
“ We may need to take everything out.”
“ You will forever be marked and changed no matter what.”
“ This started with you wanting a child, that won’t happen.”
“ Getting the bad out of your body is the only thing that matters.”
[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Naima Johnston Bush. Wow. This is an amazing story on infertility, and Naima has also blessed us with a song today! Thank you, Naima, for having the courage to share your story to spur others forward!]
I’ve been blessed to work with students and the Lord, in his infinite wisdom has given me a mother’s heart.
There are my college kids from the years I worked in higher education, who lovingly called me Momma, the kids from the youth group where I served as an adult leader who now have kids of their own. I’m so proud and honored to have played a part in their spiritual development. Watching them serve the Lord as adults has brought me tremendous joy. But recent events brought me to tears, made me a hormonal mess for the span of 48 hours. Why?
I asked my husband if he was disappointed that we had no children after being married almost seven years, me pushing 46 and the doctors saying it’s too late. They say my recent diagnosis of liver disease won’t allow me to get pregnant nor carry a baby to term if I did. That beautiful man said no, of course he wasn’t, that God would simply provide our family through adoption.
Which was always part of our plan, but when I examined the truth of the matter later on I realized what I was really asking was, are you disappointed in me, did I fail you as a wife and as a woman? Childless women in the Bible were often ridiculed and frowned upon. It often feels like a mark of shame, this badge of barrenness I bear.
But that’s when Jesus whispers to me to take heart, my husband loves me because I’m me, not because of what I give him. That somewhere there is a child praying for me as hard as I’m praying for them. There was joy in understanding that. In tears, there was hope and there was joy.
One of my kids had a beautiful baby recently and I thought, if these were really my children, I’d have over twenty grandchildren by now, twenty grandchildren, and here I am, arms empty, heart still breaking. But then I remember the ten years they cried out to the Lord for their child and how I loved them so much I couldn’t help but rejoice with them for this miracle! There was joy in that.
Bianca, my Chihuahua, has traveled the road with me for thirteen years of fulltime ministry. Right there giving comfort, nuzzling me with that heart shaped nose, hogging the bed and making her appearance between Jon and I at the most inopportune times. Now the vet thinks she has cancer, and we need to decide on surgery or letting her go.
How do you cope when the one little creature who has been most like your child may be reaching the end of her days? I grasped onto to the promise that God cares for man and animal alike, I rejoice that she is in no pain, still chewing bones, begging for treats and racing up and down hotel hallways. I trust that the Lord has this in control and how long she lives is decided by Him. So I spoil her, hold her close and spend more time playing fetch and less time chained to my desk… and there is tremendous joy in that. I believe, although I know some disagree, she will be there in heaven and I find explosive joy and great peace in that.
Finally, I was in covenant with three women, all of us childless, all of us praying for years that God would open our womb and bless us with a baby to call our own. All three have had baby boys, like Hannah prayed for Samuel or Sarah laughed for Isaac, or Elizabeth gave birth to John in her old age. All, except me.
What do you do when you feel forgotten? Like your prayers will never be answered and your life over the last eighteen months has been nothing but adversity?
You rejoice that you still believe, you find strength in the truth that no matter how you feel, God has not forsaken you and you praise Him because somehow, in the midst of it all, you still love Him and want others to love and know Him as well. You stand back in utter amazement, convinced Jesus Is Real, because you can still sing, and I find unshakable joy in that.
My prayer is that whatever is breaking your heart today, that somehow, God shows you… the joy in the darkest places.
Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. is but for a moment,His favoris for a lifetime;Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30 Verse 4 and 5
Here is Naima’s beautiful original song entitled, “I Sing for Joy.”
If you are reading in the newsletter, just follow this link to go to the blog and listen!
Dr. Naima Johnston Bush is an independent Christian Recording Artist, Author and Speaker on a mission to encourage women to live a Refreshing Life of exuberant joy, powerful prayer and sincere gratitude. She is the wife of Pastor Jon Eric Bush and travels fulltime sharing her music and ministry with churches, women’s groups, schools and various social and civic organizations. For more information visit: www.ministryofnaima.com
Grateful for My Body [Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Leslie Uffman, who has an amazing fitness and body confidence story to share today! Leslie competed in triathlons (insert horror face emoji, then two “100” emoji’s here), but still wasn’t happy with her …
[Guest Post by Rayni Peavy. This post is a part of the 2015 Devotional Diva Christmas series entitled, “Extraordinary Christmas.” It was originally published on Devotional Diva in 2012.]
I’d never been afraid to fly. From the time I was a baby I’ve been flying on a regular basis. Even flying across the country a few months after 9/11 didn’t scare me because I trusted God with my life.
And then it happened.
Several years ago, out of nowhere, I began having anxiety attacks. Unfortunately two of them came back to back on a long plane ride overseas. It was a traumatic experience, to put it mildly. From that moment on stepping onto a plane was a trigger for extremely high and almost unbearable anxiety.
But, I have found that when I trust God and lean on Him, who is the only One truly in control, there is no room for anxiety.
On each intensely anxiety-filled flight I took after the “fateful” flight overseas, I asked God to come into my feeling of anxiety and dissipate it…to take it away.
Every single time He did it.
Sometimes I had to ask more than once because I was so worked up, but God has always been faithful to meet me in the midst of my anxiety and remove it. Because of this I know without a doubt that God will not fail me. Ever. But even with those victories I still had intense anxiety when approaching a flight.
I wanted the anxiety to be gone for good.
And then the Washington trip came.
The thought of having to get on a plane made me want to crawl into a hole and hide out. Forever.
My boyfriend Joel (now my husband) and I had plans to fly to visit his family. I wanted to cancel the trip…but I knew I had to go and that God would go with me. So I asked God to completely deliver me from this flying anxiety once and for all.
God requires our faith to have an action step.
I likened it to the Israelites in Joshua 3. God wants to lead them into a new place, but in order to get there they have to cross through the Jordan River, which happens to be in flood stage at the time. Minor detail, right? God tells Joshua to have the priests (who are literally carrying the presence of God in a box called the Ark of the Covenant) to take a few steps into the river and then He will make the flooding stop so all of the Israelites can cross to the other side.
“Now it was harvest season and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up at a town upstream…Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by them…until everyone had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:15-17)
I love that it says that the people crossed over on dry ground. Not wet, muddy, soggy ground.
As I walked toward the plane bound for Washington, full of anxiety, I asked God, as soon as I took the first steps onto the plane, to “pull the waters” of my anxiety back so I could “cross over” through the flight on dry ground.
And He did!
Two flights. No anxiety on either one. None. Coming from where I came from, that, my friends, is truly a miracle.
What are you struggling with today?
God desires to meet us in the midst of every large and small burden we experience. Invite Jesus into it and ask Him to deliver you. Sometimes the journey is scary or painful but God’s deliverance and freedom are worth every step! What’s your story?
Over the past 15 years Rayni has discovered that nothing is better than knowing Jesus! She has enjoyed working at churches on the East and West Coasts as a Bible teacher, mentor to young adults and an event coordinator. In her free time Rayni likes staring at the ocean, exploring new cuisine with her “foodie” husband and learning to speak French. You can read more on her website www.RayniPeavy.com and follow her on Twitter.