You Can Have a Peaceful Pregnancy

peaceful pregnancy

[Guest post by Sarah Coleman: Sarah was the first woman to reach out to me to submit a guest post when I became editor. I loved her writing and I could feel her kind and generous spirit through the computer screens that connected us. For those of you on the path of motherhood, be encouraged.]

John 14:27 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

I was fairly optimistic when it came to pregnancy.

I mean, teenage girls don’t have a problem with it. Why would I? Of course I would give birth to healthy children.

 Then I had a miscarriage. And everything changed.

The second time I fell pregnant I didn’t take a pregnancy test until the morning sickness was quite obvious. I guess I didn’t want to get my hopes up again. Two days later I boarded a plane to Israel. We visited many remarkable sites, but none were more memorable for me than our last stop, the Garden Tomb.

I was roughly six weeks pregnant by this time. Very early stages. To be honest, my heart was fretful. Worrying every day. Every twinge. Every small stomach pain. Reminders of the pain in my heart due to the previous miscarriage.

Ever wondering. Ever anxious. Smiling fearful.

The Garden Tomb is the most beautiful place in the world. I don’t mean that is beautiful asthleticly, I have certainly seen scenery more lovely. But in terms of the feeling a place gives you, it was the most soothing emotion I have had.

It is a pretty garden, full of old trees, pleasant flowers, peaceful water features, and quaint stone pathways. There are areas for quiet contemplation and meditation, as well as spaces for large groups to partake in communion. And of course, there is the tomb.

The tomb that once held my Saviour’s body is awesome. Awesome is one of those over used words. Rarely is anything described as awesome, truly awesome. Yet the tomb of Christ is. It is an empty shell, cut in stone. And inside there is absolutely nothing. Nothing. The most wonderful nothing to be found. Awesome.

I exited the tomb empowered and enthused. He is risen. He won. He conquered. Death has no victory. Jesus is alive.

Reactions to seeing the empty tomb varies. To some, the realisation of a risen Lord results in praise. Others, contemplative worship. People weep, or on the other hand exude joy. For me, it was peace. Time visiting the garden tomb culminated in peace. Peace that told me everything would be alright. It was the most exquisite moment in the world.

There were many times when I drew on the peace I felt that day. From hearing that my baby was too small, to an emergency caesarean section. Through it all, I drew on Christ’s peace. My baby was born strong and healthy. Everything was alright.

John 14:1 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

God does not want you anxious through pregnancy or motherhood.

He does not wish you troubled. Experience His peace. Yes, things are going to be alright. Everything will work together for good. No harm will come near. Peace from the Father surpasses all understanding. Trust in the Lord. He is our peace.

Psalm 91 is full of promises of safety and protection. It concludes with these words:

Psalm 91:14-16 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long lifeand give them my salvation.”

Receive peace from the Lord, today. Allow Him to calm your fears. He loves you and will answer when you call. And His rewards include peace. Everything will be alright.

Romans 15:33 And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.

 

sarah-colemanI’m an Aussie passionate about Jesus & family. Through blogs and books I minister life and encouragement. Download my FREE eBook, Be Amazing: You Know You Want To. Find more of my thoughts at sarahcoleman.com.au

 

 

 

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Finding Peace During Stress

How do you find peace during stress?

“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34
 

I spoke last week quite a lot on who I was – but now it’s time for me to tell you a little bit about who I am now. I didn’t even know how to write this post (although I had it planned) until last Saturday when I went to founding editor Renee Fisher’s birthday party. The picture above is from that evening.

The truth is, I didn’t even really want to tell you who I was before Saturday.

My life is pretty great. If there were some checklist for a great life, mine would pass with flying colors. I don’t say this to sound like I’m bragging or ungrateful. I actually say this to let you know I am aware of how blessed I am. I have a wonderful marriage. I have a nice home to live in. I have a supportive family. I live in beautiful San Diego. I just became the editor of Devotional Diva. My husband mainly supports our family so that I can work on my writing. And that’s really good, because I still have ongoing health issues. But recently, in the midst of all this good stuff happening, the health issues have been worse. On top of being sick, the military healthcare system can be rather difficult.

And I have been so insanely stressed out.

I was lashing out at my husband because I got frustrated so easily. And then I would feel terrible about that, too. My anxiety was getting really bad. Any little thing that happened could throw me into brief hysterics. I kept comparing myself to other people.

“Nobody else gets so upset about a rude cashier.”

“Nobody else goes to the doctor so often.”

“Everybody else gets so much more accomplished than I do.”

I was beginning to hate myself. Friday night, I had a heart-to-heart with my husband about how stressed out I was feeling and how bad I felt about myself. Impulsively, I decided I would get a haircut the next day. After growing my bangs out for 6 months, I had them cut short again. I thought I might look better in bangs again, and I craved some change. Looking the mirror instantly became easier.

Small changes can help, but later on Saturday God brought me an even bigger one.

I was anxious about the party because the only person I was going to know beforehand was Renee, the birthday girl. When the party (at a local winery) got started and Renee introduced me as the woman who was now editing Devotional Diva, everyone gave me a warm and excited welcome. I found that conversing with everyone was pretty easy, and I was enjoying myself and the beautiful view. Towards the end of the evening, Renee offered to anoint me with oil from Israel and pray over me. I have been a Christian pretty much my whole life, but I had never experienced either of those things before. The anointing oil possessed the best scent I’ve ever smelled. As the women prayed over me, I never felt the presence of Christ more. The stress I had been bearing seemed to just melt away.

I felt peaceful.

It was almost as if I could see myself sitting in that beautiful sunset, these ladies’ hands over me in prayer. I could see the power of God at work. I went home feeling so blessed, and have retained that tranquil feeling ever since. I can still picture myself being prayed over in that gorgeous setting. My stress level is much lower now. I was praying in the several days before the party that God could heal me of my recent emotional turmoil. And did He! I don’t think that I could have gone on much longer the way I was.

The Lord is so awesome, isn’t He?

→M

 

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A Different Kind of Stress

different kind of stress

[Guest Post by Bonnie Gray – I was surprised to find the answers I was looking for in her new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I think all of us at some point in our life think we just have to try or pray harder. Do more. I love, love, love her story. If you’re stressed out today, I know you’ll be encouraged by Bonnie’s fresh word!]

Can we ever be free from stress? Stress seems to be so embedded in our modern lives, we’ve come to breathe it like oxygen.

Emails, Twitter, doctor appointments, and a to-do list filled with growing unchecked boxes are all part of my reality.

Is it realistic to expect a stress-free life?

I’ve lived a lot of my life hiding from my heart, reducing everything to a minimum. I did do less. But paring down to the bare essentials made me lose a sense of wonder.

Introverts or extroverts, we were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, renewed by a sense of adventure, engaged with community, and soul-fed.

Without these elements of creativity, adventure, community, and soul care, we experience a different kind of stress.

Soul stress.

I don’t want to make a reentry into striving a stream of new endeavors either, like stepping into the California rivers for whitewater rafting. Everything looks calm on the outside, but the underlying currents threaten to pull me under.

Are we left to choose only between inactivity or overactivity? As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress.

We pursue the opposite.
We pursue rest.

After PTSD entered my life, I couldn’t socialize with people like I used to or do life like I once did. I could hardly keep track of my car keys.

I look out from my post-PTSD life and all I see is desert. I see nothing.

What do I do with my life? What do I do with these empty spaces? You’d think the concept of whitespace came through some inspiring moment walking through a field of wildflowers. But “feeding my soul” sounded too right-brain. Too touchy-feely. So God prompted my first steps through what was initially most accessible:

my left brain.

God knew this about my personality: my desire to pursue. So he put me on the journey to rest by pointing me to a new ambition. It’s ironic. The idea of spiritual whitespace came to me while reading a blog on business strategies and innovation.

I was reading an article written by Matthew May called “Break Through by Taking Breaks.” It offered scientific evidence that down time is required for creativity and new thinking. Archimedes discovered volume displacement while taking a bath. Einstein’s theory of special relativity came while he was daydreaming, and author J. K. Rowling sat traveling on a train when the Harry Potter character “flashed in her mind.”1

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these brilliant flashes of insight you can see they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away played a part.2

It was fascinating to learn that “putting pressure on ourselves to try and work harder, more intensely, or more quickly may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights.”3

If this is true in the worlds of art and science, what would be the implications for our relationships with God—in spirituality and faith? The biggest lightbulb moment struck me. I had been desperately trying to connect with God by doing the same things. I thought I needed to try harder.

What’s wrong with me?

Nothing. I needed something different.

I typed in rest into my computer to do a word search in the Bible. What I found stunned me to the core.

Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it?

I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God.4

We urge you, brethren,  to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet [restful] life. (1 Thess. 4:10–11)

Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest— is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.

I was intrigued. I had always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But now, suddenly God put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.

My heart skipped a beat. This is what has been missing. Rest.

Hesuchazo became the match that ignited the fire of the Holy Spirit in spiritual whitespace.

We were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.

As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress. We pursue the opposite. We pursue rest.

Our ambition is spiritual rest.

Bonnie GrayBonnie Gray is the founder of Faith Barista, a contributor to Crosswalk.com, and a featured writer for DaySpring’s popular (in)courage blog. Her writing is nationally syndicated and has been spotlighted in Christianity Today and McClatchy-Tribune News Services. She has served as a missionary, a ministry entrepreneur, and worked in high tech as an engineering and marketing program manager. A passionate speaker who inspires audiences to find God in everyday life, Bonnie lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, Eric, and their two sons. Learn more at www.faithbarista.com.

[Excerpt taken from Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]

[photo credit: Camil Tulcan via photopin cc]

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Resolved to Surrender

surrender

[Guest Post by Andrea Portilla – Why is it that we try to work harder, give and serve more when all we need to do is simply surrender? I appreciate Andrea’s post, and I hope you will too!]

At the beginning of the New Year I had made a resolution: I was going to take a bubble bath once a week!

A perfect kind of resolution!

The first few weeks into the year I was beside myself, for I came to realize God desired so much more from my life than I had been giving Him. In the midst of motherhood and babies; being a loving wife and intentional mother, I lost the vision for myself.

I lost the desire to dream in the midst of diapers.
I lost the desire to plan in the “to do” lists.
I had lost the joy of the work set before me.

The idea of God desiring to use me for more was daunting and overwhelming. I had nothing else to give. Yet, I was restless and discontent.

One evening I was soaking in my bath tub, enjoying the warm water and quiet hum of the jets as the scent of lavender and peppermint permeated the room and the fizzy bath salts tickled my toes. Candles were lit and soft music was playing.

Despite the serenity of that moment, my heart was shattering. In the weeks prior everything I tried so hard to be “good” at seemed to crumble. My marriage was strained by stress and hard parenting issues. My relationship with my children was strained because of disobedience and strong wills.

I had no words to encourage my husband.
I had no wisdom to parent my children.
I had nothing.

I was desperate. So I took baths and I prayed.

I was crying out to God; angry, scared and uncertain of all I was “suppose” to do.

“Lord, somehow I have lost myself. I was trying so hard to juggle all this stuff. I was trying to keep it all together and instead, everything is a jumbled mess. What do you want from me? I can’t do anything…I have nothing.”

“Surrender.”

The word that had been haunting me for months came softly into my soul, like a soft wisp of wind gathering strength in the valley to flow through the trenches of my heart. In the quiet of that moment, I gave my nothing to Him. I offered all of my lost dreams, desires and doubts to Him.

Every plan I had for my children.
Every formula I had desperately tried in hopes for better.
Every desire I had for my marriage.
Every fear I had for each of those beautiful blessings.

In that moment, with airy bubbles all around, I lifted my hands in complete surrender and said, “I’m done.”

“I’m giving it all to you…all of it. My husband, my family, my life…it’s yours. Do what you want with all of it.”

I was breathless and vulnerable and completely free. My spirit was consumed with joy and overwhelmed with His love. All those selfish desires that were hindering me to live a life completely devoted and in full surrender to His purpose were gone.

In my bath tub full of bubbles and bath salts, I completely submerged myself; baptizing myself to show the Lord I was in.

For the first time in my life I was resolved to live this life with raised hands and open palms. A life emptied of all my nothingness and filled with His everything.

Beloved, He desires to use every part of your life. He desires to empty you of your plans and fill you with His purpose. He desires for you to give Him all your dreams, your visions, your doubts and your fears. He wants to take all you have been called to and every gift that he has given you, to send you out to those who only you can love and minister to because that was His greatest reason for creating you.

Lift your hands up in complete surrender and give all of yourself to the God who called you, so that He can give you the life He purposed and created for His kingdom.

Surrender your life so that He can give you the life He died for — A life worth living.

Andrea PortillaAndrea Portilla lives in Richmond, Texas and has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years. She is a mom and home educator to three amazing kids. Andrea writes at www.beautifulcraziness.blogspot.com, loves to entertain family and friends in her home and spends whatever time she has left pretending to be crafty. Connect with Andrea at http://www.beautifulcraziness.blogspot.com, the Beautiful Craziness Facebook page or on twitter @andreaportilla9.

[photo credit: Dennis Wong via photopin cc]

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Shame, Our Souls, and the Gospel

shame

[Guest Post by Kimberly Davidson Campbell – I have never met a woman who had it all together on the inside. Maybe you do a good job or holding everything together on the outside, but there’s always traces of shame that tries to steal our joy. I appreciate Kim’s words of encouragement today. Like fresh water in a desert oasis of my heart. Receive them today with love!]

As I sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s now trip-cluttered (otherwise immaculate) Camry, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by all the areas of shame that plague me. 

These areas of shame don’t just plague me — but in some way — they plague most of the women we know.

According to author and blogger Shauna Niequist in Bread & Wine, most women are battling shame in two areas: how their bodies look and how their homes look. I would like to add one as well: how their children look (or act).

Here are some of those examples in my own life:

+ I’m ashamed that my husband is unable to give me a piggy-back ride or carry me over the threshold.  This isn’t because he isn’t strong.  He is.  I love his arms and how strong they are. It is because I weigh almost 40 lbs more than him.

+ I am ashamed because of my flabby body.  It is now covered with stretchmarks from two kids and losing large amounts of weight several times. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything – but I don’t like stretchmarks.

+ I am ashamed because my closet is a mess and my husband’s is all in order and tidy.

+ I am ashamed because I struggle to keep our home as clean as the mister would like it.  So I come unglued when he suggests that he could help do some of the dishes or vacuum. Shame affects pride.

+ In high school, I was ashamed as a part of the cheerleading squad and traveling singing group because the order size for my uniform or dress was always bigger than everyone else’s.

–        I struggle when I am in public with my toddler and he is pitching a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to do something.  My parenting skills are not what they should be if he is misbehaving.

+ I (wrongfully) pride myself in that my boys have never had to have their nursery number put up on the screen during church for me to come and get them. I would die in horror if that ever happened.

You may or may not be able to resonate with any of these examples, but I’m sure you have examples of your own.

Maybe it’s why you can’t look at pictures taken long ago. Or why you keep private stashes of House Beautiful or Shape for midnight reading. Maybe your shame in your body comes from a tattoo from another time in your life you would gladly remove if you could. Or maybe it’s the scars from an abortion or eating disorder.

Shame is not only an indicator of the outward home or clothing size or perfect children. Shame reaches our souls and steals our joy!

Shame also reveals many other truths about our hearts:

  1. It reveals pride. I’ve mentioned this before, but pride is so ugly in a believer’s heart. Everything we have ever received is from God and is not of our own doing. So, when we strive to keep appearances up for the sake of making ourselves look better – it is not a helpful tool in sharing the truth of God’s Word.  (Ephesians 2.8-10; Isaiah 2.17)
  2. Comparison is a nasty habit. Whenever we compare our lives with those of others it reveals an ungrateful heart to the Lord. It is wrecking friendships as well. Oh, be grateful in your heart for all that God has done for you and in you! He works all things together for our good and His glory! (Romans 8.18-39; Colossians 3.15-17)
  3. Both of these areas of our hearts reveal a lack of love for others. One of the two commandments we are given in the Word is love your neighbor as yourself. Friendships are one of most important things in my life.  I love the sweet friends that God has blessed me with over the years and in every place I’ve lived. But, when I let sin hinder those relationships, it brings bitterness that takes forgiveness to overcome – by the truth of the Gospel.  (1 Corinthians 13)

The Gospel – the life and work of Jesus Christ – as it does for every area of our lives, has a direct impact on our life and soul of shame.

  1. Jesus doesn’t love you because you are skinny or wear a certain size. I remember Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada boasting in the fact that she was now in a size 4. But, her life wasn’t any happier than it was when she was slightly bigger. Jesus work in our lives often to heal us from an addiction to the scale or the tag on the skirt.
  2. The gospel isn’t yours only if you have a farmhouse table in your dining room or your baseboards never have a speck of dust on them. The gospel is ours not because of anything we have done – but because Jesus has done everything.
  3. Christ is ours no matter how our children behave – or misbehave! Claim that truth!
  4. Christ frees us! Romans 8.1 is a verse that every believer needs to claim for their lives as a mantra. We are free. There is no condemnation!

The next time you find it hard to believe that you are more than your house, your outward appearance, or any other area you find yourself ashamed of – rest in the doneness of the Gospel of Jesus! And boast in that!

kimberlycampbellKimberly Davidson Campbell is a wife, mother, freelance writer and photographer who resides in the Atlanta area with her family. She graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in Education. Her passions include life-on-life discipleship, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, being healthy, and photography – and mostly spending time with her husband and two very active sons! She blogs regularly at http://kd316.com.

[photo credit: Jims_photos via photopin cc]

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Life as It Is Meant to Be

life as it is meant to be

[Guest Post by Hannah Anderson – I met Hannah through my friend Lisa Velthouse, founding editor of PickYourPortion.com. I always appreciating meeting new people through others. It excites me even more when I found out that they are also (shocker) a writer! Please welcome Hannah who writes with grace and glory — while reminding us what life as it is meant to be, looks like!]

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”—C. S. Lewis

One summer my husband, Nathan, and I drove from Seattle to Los Angeles on Highway 101. We had both been raised in the eastern United States, more at home in the rolling Appalachians than anywhere else, but we were visiting friends in Seattle and decided to drive down the Pacific coast before flying out of LA.

We had been on the road only a few hours when, somewhere in Oregon, we crested a bend and I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. I yelled at Nathan to stop the car, quickly jumped out, and ran to a short length of beach. I stood there taking it all in — the waves pounding against the rocky coast, the rough winds whipping my helpless hair, the gulls crying as they somersaulted above the water, and the salt sea biting at my upturned face.

And I felt very small.

Like David, I couldn’t help but think, “What is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that you care for him?”

And I wondered, How does one person make any difference in all this?

The fear that our lives lack significance, that we are merely specks of dust floating in the massive cosmos, can easily spark the search for identity.

Add to this the fact that we must devote vast amounts of time on the basics of daily life (I once calculated that in my lifetime I will prepare nearly 50,000 meals for my family), and it’s a wonder we all don’t run off to exotic places in search of ourselves!

This fear drives some women on a never-ending pursuit of success and perfection. From the fast-paced executive always scrambling for the next deal to the tiger mom bent on shaping her child into a future Supreme Court justice, we are hounded by the thought that our existence will somehow be worthless unless we achieve quantifiable success.

For others, this same fear causes them to retreat into their own zone of comfort and hide from the greater world, content to be a big fish in a small pond if it means avoiding the constant reminders of their limitations and irrelevance.

And yet the deeper magic is that no matter how small we may feel — no matter how small we actually may be — we are not insignificant. We are not lost in the grand cosmos.

We do matter.

But it’s not because of anything we’ve done; it’s because of something God did back at the beginning.

Genesis describes the first moments of human existence like this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after our likeness . . .’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them . . . .”

Unlike the rest of creation, as majestic and glorious as it is, only men and women are made in the image of God.

Only we have the breath, the very spirit of God, flowing in our earthly lungs; only we can be truly called His children.

And this is why your life is significant.

It’s not because of what you accomplish or how many people you influence. Your life is significant because when God created you, He “crowned you with glory and honor” by making you like Himself.  So that as you walk and talk and live and move — and prepare those 50,000 meals — your very existence, your life itself, reflects and represents Him on this earth.

This is where you must find identity; you must find it in God’s image. Because you are made in God’s image, you exist to reflect and represent Him on this earth. Because you are made in God’s image, you are made to proclaim what He is like by doing what He does.

Because you are made in God’s image, you are made for glory.

Hannah AndersonHannah Anderson lives with her husband and three children in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and is the author of Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Moody, 2014). You can connect with her at her blog sometimesalight.com on Twitter @sometimesalight.

[Excerpt from Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image, Moody Publishers, All rights reserved.]

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Riding Waves of Faith

waves of faith

[Guest Post by Emily Rose Massey – When she asked if she could share her story, it was hard to narrow it down because this girl has gone through so much! Her testimony is as huge as her heart. I know you will be encouraged by her story. If you currently feel stuck under the waves of life, you are not alone. Stand and have faith with Emily today!]

Our faith is tested under waves of faith, and in the weight and pressures of life.

It’s in the fire, the trials, and the storms of life that we are truly strengthened. We can choose to rise above the chaos or allow it to overtake us.

Recently, my husband and I endured a time of testing and trial as we lost our first baby at just 6 weeks along in my pregnancy. I carried that child for two weeks before ever knowing that the baby was with Jesus and not going to be a part of our family here on earth.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is what has been our anchor through all of this.

Having an eternal perspective definitely helps you put one foot in front of the other when you are going through a storm. God’s overwhelming love and amazing grace has overshadowed us and carried us. We have felt His arms hold us close and we are thankful. We are also so grateful for the prayers of so many friends and family who have continued to lift us up.

As someone who doesn’t like to admit weaknesses, not out of pride, but because I constantly declare Philippians 4:13 over my life, I have had a hard time realizing that it is okay to grieve and it’s okay for grieving process to take time.

I have heard the grieving process described as “coming in waves,” and I can definitely attest to that.

Grief becomes a danger when you allow those waves to pull you under instead of rising above and riding those waves with the grace and strength that the Lord pours out for us. Just because you have God’s grace and strength to endure difficult times doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to face sadness or grief.

Just like all attacks from the enemy, the Lord gives us the armor to withstand whatever is thrown at us, as well as a firm foundation beneath our feet. One of my favorite pieces of our armor is the sword of the Spirit because it is our offensive weapon to cut down the devil’s lies with God’s Word.

Faith comes by hearing the Word and that faith is released when we declare God’s truth and promises. Those promises are what give us hope. Jesus promises us in John 16:33 that we will have trouble in this world, but He also promises us that we are safe because He has already overcame the world.

Whatever you are facing has an expiration date.

You won’t have to live with that trouble forever; it cannot overtake you, unless you let it.
So take heart!

Stand firm on the foundation of your Rock, Jesus Christ. Let nothing shake you because you have been made an over-comer through Jesus’ victory on the cross. Sadness and grief will come, sometimes like a tidal wave, but you have an anchor of hope and His name is Jesus! He gave you the power to walk on those waves and He will not let you sink. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

I am praying for those who may be going through a season of sadness, grief, or loss. Lift your eyes up to the hills where your Help comes from. He will keep you from sinking!

Emily Rose MasseyEmily Rose Massey is the author of The Vessel: From Marred to Honorable, a true story of a life delivered from the mire and filthy pit and bondage of sexual sin and molded into a vessel for the Lord to flow through to reach others for His Kingdom. She and her husband are both active in many areas of leadership at their church, including worship ministry, drama ministry, children’s ministry, and youth ministry.  In addition to teaching and preaching the Word of God, Emily also pours out her passion for the Lord through her songwriting. Her songs spring forth out of a forgiven heart full of thankfulness and devotion unto God. To connect with or learn more about Emily, visit www.emilyrosemassey.com.

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Mental Health and the Church {With Video Links}

mental health and the church 9

Recently, I attended the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church (#Hope4MH). 

The good news is that they just posted ALL the videos from the plenary and breakout sessions. You can watch them on YouTube here. If you struggle with mental health or know someone who does, please watch and share!

It was hosted by the Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, Bishop Kevin Vann of Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and Steve Pitman of NAMI-OC. You can download the conference workbook for free here.

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year — that’s one in four adults and one in ten children. People of every race, age, religion or economic status are affected.

One in four adults.
I know because I am one of them. 

From the age of 10, I experienced signs of anxiety. In my 20s, I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Now in my early 30’s, I am on medication (Lexapro) to help control my anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn’t until July of last year that I felt comfortable enough to blog about my mental illness, anxiety diagnosis, and which medication I’m taking. I wrote about it here and here.

Maybe it’s because I felt the freedom to share or maybe it’s because I felt that no one else was sharing about mental illness that I finally spoke out.

When I heard about the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church I knew I had to go! I knew, however, that this conference did not come without a cost. My sympathies go out to Rick and Kay Warren in the loss of their son — and I don’t want people to miss this. Through their pain they are helping others navigate their pain.

I.
Am.
Truly.
Grateful.

If you struggle or suffer from mental illness or know and love someone who does, this conference is revolutionary and I hope you will feel the freedom to get the help you need!

The Conference Main Sessions included below WITH video links:

+ The Role of the Church in Mental Health with Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D. and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min. – WATCH HERE
+ Integrating Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Health with Aaron Kheriary, M.D., Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil., and Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Helping the Helpers: Crisis Management for Church Staff with Tom Okamoto, M.D., Louise Dunn, D.Min., Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D., and Teresa “Tita” Smith, MSW, LCSW. – WATCH HERE
+ Resourcing the Church with Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D., Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div., Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div., Steve Pitman, and Tom Lambert. – WATCH HERE
+ Standing Together in Suffering with Kay Warren, Amy Simpson, MBA, Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D., and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min. – WATCH HERE

The Workshops included:

+ The Lay-Person’s Faith-Based Response to People in Crisis by Louise Dunn, D.Min. – WATCH HERE
+ How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in Your Church by Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div. – WATCH HERE
+ Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis by Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div. – WATCH HERE
+ Stigma or Stigmata: Helping the Church Rethink Mental Illness by Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Christianity and Depression by Aaron Kheriaty, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Understanding Women’s Mental Health: Is There Really a Difference? by Shari Muis, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Living With Bipolar Illness by Tom Okamoto, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ El Papel De La Iglesia Sobre La Salud by Hermina Shea-Martinez, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ The Spiritual and Emotional Roots and Treatment of Addiction by John Townsend, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Saving Lives One Community at a Time by Jessica Van Der Stad – WATCH HERE
+ The Most Important Lesson Learned from 87,000 Brain Scans by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Celebrate Recovery and Dual Diagnosis by Pastor John Baker – WATCH HERE
+ Helping Helpers Manage Crisis in the Church: Building a Bridge With Professionals by Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Understanding and Helping Loved Ones With Borderline Personality Disorder by Robin L. Kissell, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Welcomed and Valued: Building Faith Communities of Hope and Support by Tom Lambert – WATCH HERE
+ Abogando Por Personas Que Tienen un Diagnostico De Salud Mental Y Equipando La Iglesia, Las Families, La Comunidad Y A Los Profesionales Que Trabajan Con Ellos by Cecilia Mercado – WATCH HERE
+ Therapeutic Partnerships For Recovery by Steve Pitman – WATCH HERE
+ Food and the Body: 3 Steps to Healing Eating Disorders Through Community by Constance Rhodes – WATCH HERE
+ Troubled Families: Support for Loved Ones Affected by Mental Illness by Amy Simpson, MBA – WATCH HERE
+ Re-Think Mental Illness: The Role of the Church in Recovery by Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE

I took a lot of notes during the sessions and attended two of the breakout sessions listed (we were only allowed two). Here are some of the most impacting bits I wanted to pass along:

mental health and the church 13“The Church is supposed to be a place of hope. I’m not okay, you’re not okay, but God’s okay so we’re okay.” – Rick Warren

“Your chemistry is not your character. Your illness is not your identity.” – Rick Warren

“Our faith does not promise life without suffering, but it does offer hope. Science alone can’t provide us with all the answers.” – Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

“We need to make a mess. Roll up our sleeves in the lives of others. The shepherds need to smell like the sheep.” – Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil

mental health and the church 14“Hope brings healing to my brokenness. If you’re struggling I urge you to reach out. Revealing you’re feeling is the beginning of healing.” – Rick Warren

“Do your own recovery.” – Tom Okamoto, M.D.

“Compassion plus resiliency = model of active listening.” – Louise Dunn, D.Min

“Don’t say, ‘you just need to pray more to get over your mental illness’ to someone because it is hurtful.” – Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

“Create a culture of openness in your church. Give testimonies every week as part of your sermon.” – Rick Warren

” The issue is never the issue. Start with the easiest change first. It gives you hope for the next win.” – Rick Warren

“26% over 18 year olds will have a diagnosable illness this year.” – Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

mental health and the church 3

“I have bipolar disorder. I am not biopolar. There is a big difference.” – Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“The most courageous thing I’ve done in my life was continue to live when I wanted to die.” Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“You can borrow hope. The more hope you have, you can give away. If you’re in hell right now, don’t stop — you’re in hell. Keep going!” – Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“You need a safety net of ‘CARE.’ C stands for Community (Galatians 6:2). A stands for Assistance (James 2:15, 16). R stands for recovery. E stands for Education.” – Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div.

mental health and the church 1“Turn your anger into advocacy.” Tom Lambert

“Women are twice as likely to attempt suicide more than men, but men complete suicide more than women.” – Shari Muir, M.D.

“Weight gain (besides pregnancy) is the second most likely reason women stop taking psychiatric meds against their doctors advice.” – Shari Muir, M.D.

“The person with a mental illness is not the only one who needs help or needs to change.” – Amy Simpson, MBA

“40% of homeless people have mental illness and 20% of homeless people have a serious mental illness.” – Amy Simpson, MBA

So what’s your story? There are pastors, authors, speakers, professors, and volunteers who were willing to come forward to admit things they’ve never said before. I appreciate their honesty and willingness to do so. Because of their bravery — I will continue to be brave and share my story.

mental health and the church 11“My brain doesn’t always work right but God always works right.” – David Mandani

Resources to Get Help:

+ Get Help Now! – Call 2-1-1 to find a Mental Health Practitioner
+ Saddleback Church Support Groups –  (949) 609-8392 or saddleback.com/care/supportgroups
+ Celebrate Recoverywww.celebraterecovery.com
+ New Hope Crisis Counseling – (714) NEW-HOPE or www.newhopenow.org
+ NAMI National – (800) 950-6264 or www.nami.org
+ County Behavioral Health Information and Referral – (855) 625-4657
+ 24-Hour Crisis Prevention Hotline – (877) 727-4747
+ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – (800) SUICIDE
+ Veterans’ Crisis Line – (800) 273-8255

“The art of medicine [has been granted us] as a pattern for the healing of the soul, to guide us in the removal of excess and in the augmentation of what is deficient: it has been granted us by the God who directs our whole life.” – Basil of Caesarea (ca 330-379)

Prayer in Times of Despair (St. Ignatius of Loyola)

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things 

Wherever you are on the journey to mental health, I pray that God be with you.

mental health and the church renee fisher.jpgIf there’s anything more I can do to help serve you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me or book me to speak at your next event.

*Thanks to Saddleback Church for allowing me to be a blogger for this event. I am in their debt!

*To see what others are saying about #Hope4MH go here.

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When it's Easier to Declare Defeat

declare defeat

[Guest Post by Mara Rose – I am so encouraged by her story because someday if my husband and I decide to have kids I will have to go off my medications, and that will not be easy. I love what she says that God still performs medical miracles. Believe it! Be encouraged today my friends.]

Sometimes it’s easier to declare defeat prior to trying, rather than to try and fail later.

There are so many things that we can worry about in life. And our worries can be amplified when we decide to have children. This past summer, my husband and I decided that we felt ready to start a family. Unfortunately, my ability to carry a child was still questionable.

My issue with doubt and self-defeat stems from 15 years of chronic pain and a questionable reproductive disease known as Endometriosis. I’ve spent years on medications to try and help me function “normally”.

I have often thought that my body should come with an instruction manual. Thankfully my Maker knows the number of hairs on my head, He knows my fears, He knows my desires, He knit me together in the womb, He knows it all.

Yet, I still had doubt.

What would happen to my body if I went off medications? What would happen to my pain if I got pregnant? Not only that, but statistics say women with Endometriosis can take up to 1 year to get pregnant and some aren’t able to conceive at all.

The answers were uncertain — which is when we took a leap of faith and gave it a try.

My first thought after reading the positive pregnancy test was, “Holy cow! This is a miracle.” My second thought was, “I need to talk to my doctor”.

Joking aside, it is incredible to know that despite my doubts and fears — God blesses us anyway!

In the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I was gripped with anxiety and uncertainty. I felt better after speaking with my doctor about how to treat my pain while pregnant, but I still had fear.

One day I was overcome with emotions (and hormones). My husband lovingly took my hand and said, “You aren’t the first person to have chronic pain and be pregnant. Trust God to take care of it.”

Even with the blessing of this miracle baby growing inside me, I was focused on trying to control my pain instead of giving it over to the Lord.

Our baby isn’t here yet but I am already learning so many things about myself through this pregnancy. Everything has improved since my first trimester. There are still challenging pain and energy days, but I’m learning to cope with it. Most importantly, I have to say that my faith in the Lord has grown immensely. He showed me that His Plan and His Power is far greater than any statistic or prognosis.

No matter what your doctor has told you, medical miracles still happen every day! Believe it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:4-7, NIV).

Mara_RoseMara Rose is an up-and-coming author and Christian writer. She has endured years of chronic pain and strives to be a light for Jesus even on the darkest days. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Jonathan, who serves in the military and is an OIF Veteran. You can read more from Mara on her blog,wordsbymara.com, or on Twitter @MsMaraRose.

[photo credit: lanuiop via photopin cc]

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Lessons Learned from Fasting

lessons learned from fasting

[Guest Post by Elise Boggs – We met many years at North Coast Church. She worked on staff with the College ministry, and I was serving as a volunteer in the 20-something ministry. It’s pretty amazing to see how far she has come. If you find yourself like Elise, unfamiliar with fasting — I think you will like to hear her story.]

Miracles do happen.

Last year was a challenging year. I made the decision to leave my role in ministry, I ended a two year relationship, and I became overwhelmed with anxiety to the point of being issued a mandatory three month sabbatical by my doctor.

I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

My identity as a visible leader in ministry was traded for anonymity. The hope of an enduring relationship was replaced with the issuance of metaphorical “Go back to Start” card. My challenges with anxiety bubbled to the surface the day I went into work and shortly thereafter returned to the parking lot because of a panic attack.

I thought I was dying — in a sense I was. There were ways I was functioning that did not work anymore, ways that needed to die.

The first sermon of the new year  I heard was based on Philippians 3:13 where Paul encourages us to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. I decided to start the year off with a spiritual discipline I have always avoided.

Like people who say (those people being me) that they aren’t runners, I always believed I was not one of those people who could fast. I am a lightweight. two glasses of wine is my limit, energy drinks make me nauseous, and I once threw up Golden Spoon frozen yogurt because it was too sweet for me.

When I thought of fasting, I envisioned myself failing miserably, too weak and disoriented to grasp any spiritual insights.

Despite my hesitations, I felt a nudge to start this year differently and attempt a fast. To help me acclimate to this discipline, I chose the Daniel fast, which is a 21-day partial fast consisting of fruits, vegetables, water, nuts, beans, and whole grains. The only beverage permitted is water.

Here are three of the most significant lessons learned from fasting.

1. I can change. I am a foodie. I watch the Food Network and read cook books like novels. My friends know that if they are looking for a recommendation for a good place to eat, I have a mental file cabinet of every cuisine stored away for every occasion. I enjoy every kind of food and am every person’s easiest guest because I like everything.

Enjoying food is a good thing. Being addicted to certain things, especially those that aren’t good for you is another. My addiction? Starbucks! A single day does not pass that I don’t think about my next Starbucks beverage. My daily ritual consists of coffee at home in the morning to wake me up and an afternoon fix at Starbucks to keep me going.

2. It’s not you, it’s me. When you care for something, you protect it. This fast has caused me to be more discerning about what I do and do not allow into my body. When going out to eat with friends, I have had to stick by these values as I watch them enjoy my favorite coffee or bite into a delicious burger.

As the days passed and I remained committed, I noticed that I began to experience a care for myself and well being in a way that has been foreign for me. Cherishing the body God gave me has been a tangible way to show love to myself, a continual message of my value to be nourished and protected.

3. The best exercise of my self will is letting go. The book of Daniel illustrates a constant struggle between submission and power. Daniel is submissive to God and His ways of living. The kings of the time were interested in their own power and half hearted in their devotion to God, despite the miracles they witnessed in Daniel’s life. During this fast I realized I have a hard time submitting to God.

My fears whisper that if I surrender, I might get hurt. Like the kings of Babylon, I do many things, even good things in my own strength, but have not experienced the miracles Daniel did. I often wonder if miracles even still happen? I don’t want to get my hopes up, but deep down I do.

The focus of a fast is spiritual — it is not an excuse for a diet or vanity.

I have not stepped on a scale since I began the fast. Surrender and submission are often associated with weakness, but if I take God at His Word, He says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I have heard this verse, but I don’t know that I have lived this verse. I have a hunch it’s because I have not fully surrendered those areas in need of his grace and power and I have been sitting in the nosebleed section in the house of miracles.

I anticipated symptoms of withdrawal and probable failure, but to my surprise this has not been the case at all. God’s power is the reason this fast was easy. I have no other explanation for it. My willpower is less than stellar when it comes to food. Each time I drove past a Starbucks, His power kept me moving forward forgetting what was behind and moving towards a new future. When I was hungry, He gave me patience to prepare a meal and not worry that it was taking away from something more productive. Each time I smelled meat cooking or went out to eat with someone, God kept my thoughts fixed not on what I couldn’t have, but what I could have,  a second helping of Him.

I have struggled for freedom in so many areas without success and I believe God in His mercy allowed me to experienced freedom in this seemingly small way to give me confidence of His power in the other areas of my life that seem insurmountable.

He is teaching me that I can change!

I can be free from anxiety, depression, financial struggles, approval addiction, unhealthy relationships — with His help and doing it His way, I can be free.

Who knew being released from these small things would have larger implications? Romans 12:2 promises us that God can transform us into a new person by changing the way we think. During my fast, my thinking shifted from believing that I could not overcome deeply ingrained habits to being set free in a very short amount of time.

This has larger implications for so many areas of my life where I have been battered and bruised or compromised my values for the approval and acceptance of others. It is easiest to blame something external, but the truth is that I don’t believe that I have loved myself in a way that has let the good in and protects from the bad.

I have come to believe my challenges with anxiety are rooted in my own self-neglect. But there is hope!

Now that I have had a taste of what it looks and feels like to care for my body, I can begin learning what it means to live out the message of Proverbs 4:23 which says “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”

Elise BoggsElise currently teaches at Chapman (Brandman) University in the MBA and Organizational Leadership programs. She also directs her own consulting practice specializing in leadership training, team and organizational development, and career and life coaching. Connect with Elise at {eliseboggsconsulting} at {gmail} dot {com}.

[Photo: Susan L., Flickr]

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