Necessary Storms

“He who sends the storms, steers the vessel.”

Sometimes, over the course of our lives, we assume we know what’s best…and we [attempt] to do just that. Many times, what we consider to be what’s best for us is not really what God has purposed. And then there are the times when we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the course we are on is not even close to God’s plan…but we take that route anyway.

You’re on a ship, sailing west. You should be sailing northeast. The waters from time to time become hard to navigate, heavy winds and large waves almost knock you off course. Finally, a huge storm hits and you can no longer control the ship. Its cold, wet, tumultuous, and terrifying. Eventually, the storm subsides and things calm down, but you are completely off course. You have no sense of direction and are completely at the mercy of the waters and winds.

Imagine that storm was allowed by God for the sole purpose of getting you off course, because that’s not the way He wanted you to go. He subtly tried to push you in the right direction with winds and waves, but those attempts were disregarded.

Whispers are easily ignored when you’re loud and wrong.

Sometimes storms come because life happens. Other times, they come because it’s necessary for us to be pushed back into God’s will. Having been through storms of both kinds, I must admit that I am so appreciative of God’s great love for me. He would rather allow me to go through storms that will draw me back into the safety of His arms than allow me to perish in peaceful waters.

 

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The Guilt of Moving On

“This isn’t about guilt or innocence. The point is, it’s time to turn a page.”

I messed up. I can see someone saying “we all make mistakes…no one is perfect.” True, but I messed up, and am having a hard time dealing with it. This will probably be one of the most transparent things I’ve written to share publicly. No…I am not going to serve some “piping hot tea”, but instead be very real about what I am currently experiencing.

A choice can be a mistake, but all choices are not mistakes…sometimes our choices are intentional. Let me explain…

If I check the weather and it says it will rain, and I think to myself “I’m not going to be out long, I can beat the rain. I’ll just leave my umbrella in the car.”, when I get caught in the rain with no umbrella, I can honestly say this choice was a mistake. I mistakenly thought that I would be finished before the rain came. Now if I know that I’m going to be long, and getting caught in the rain is definite, and I still choose not to grab the umbrella…well I just chose to get caught in the rain. This was no mistake.

My choice, was no mistake. I knew I was getting caught in the rain, and some days decided to dance in it. Never was I proud of this, but I allowed myself to stay in it. Several times, in fact, I tried to escape it only to return. Finally, I decided once more…no more rain, and I sought counsel to assure that I had accountability so that I wouldn’t return. I also sought counsel to confess and repent, so that I could be free and move forward. All of the above were accomplished, though I am not walking away from this unscathed…

In the process of me playing in the rain, my actions were hurting someone. I honestly never intended for this person to know my actions were affecting them, but our sins have a way of finding us out. Carrying the responsibility of causing someone else immense pain is a heavy burden to bear. Now I know many love to quote and argue that God has forgiven me, so I am forgiven…and I believe this with my whole heart. I have confessed, both to God and the person that I have wronged, and I am forgiven. Ironically enough, the person was pretty adamant about wanting me to understand that they aren’t angry with me. You’d think this would make me feel better, but it doesn’t…

While I am forgiven, and the person holds no grudge…they are still hurting from something that I chose to do. My choices caused and continues to cause them emotional and mental agony. So how can I say “I’m forgiven. Now I can move on” when I know things aren’t just that easily handled for them. It seems selfish to drag them in a pit with me, and once I am rescued, walk away and leave them in the mess I made. It’s not fair.

So now I battle with moving forward for my own healing and restoration (because I too was hurt in all this), and feeling guilty for actually doing so.

Normally there’s a lesson I have learned or a moral to my story…not this time. I ‘m sort of at a loss. So, If you’re reading this, please say a prayer for me. Thanks.

Anxiety Sucks…

So when I first started this blog, I stated that it would do double duty as a journal (of sorts) since I found it so hard to actually journal. This post is one that may or may not be beneficial to the reader…but hopefully beneficial for me.

So anxiety…I have it, and it is often triggered by specific situations and people. What I am learning more and more, and it was a huge lesson for me yesterday, is that my anxiety and the things/people that trigger me are mine. I take full responsibility for MY anxiety and MY triggers.

Yesterday my anxiety was triggered, and I responded as I normally do (in an unhealthy way). In an attempt to get a hold of myself I went for a run.

Sidebar: you know how on TV when people are experiencing some sense of stress and they go for a run and if fuels them? That’s fully what I was expecting to happen…it didn’t.

So I went for a run in an attempt to clear my head and rid my physical body of the affects of my anxiety. Somewhere in the midst of my run I realized I wasn’t trying to run the anxiety off, I was trying to run from it. At this point my thoughts changed…I was faced with the task of directly addressing my issues, which eventually led me to come up with some affirmations specifically tailored to combat my anxiety. Here are some of my takeaways from this run…

  • this anxiety is yours…you cannot hold others hostage to the responsibility of managing or preventing it
  • these triggers are yours…while they may be directly connected to specific people, or even the cause of what you experienced with specific people, they(the people) are not to blame
  • my present situations are not my past situations
  • my current relationships are not a duplicate of my past relationships
  • the people in my life now are not the people who hurt me then
  • I am loved and needed…but also wanted

As I ran, and these affirmations came to mind, I had to fight back tears, and almost broke down several times. I keep assigning what happened to what is, and it interferes with my ability to heal and be free.

Last night I surprisingly went to bed with little effort, but awoke (before my alarm) to that sizzling, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anxiety. As I laid there I wondered what it was that was still holding me hostage…why, after my time of reflection, was I still anxious? I got up and prepared for my morning run. Normally when I run I listen to music. This morning I decided to listen to a sermon from one of my favorite preachers (Steven Furtick). I was looking…well actually I was planning to look for a good sermon to listen to, but the first sermon at the top of the list was one titled Why Am I Anxious…go figure. Of course I chose that one.

That sermon was ordained by God for me to listen to this morning at this particular time. It was so good and so relevant that I literally listened to it back to back. I was running the first time and wasn’t able to keep note of the things I knew I needed to be keeping note of. Some takeaways from this sermon…

  • Him: nothing changes until I do
    • me: I can’t expect things to be different if I’m doing the same things that I know cause me anxiety
  • it’s not what is happening that’s causing me anxiety, it’s how I am thinking that is causing me anxiety
    • nothing has been done TO me…I’m allowing my mind to take me to a place of offense, which triggers the anxiety
  • there are some ways in me that are making me vulnerable to the way things are and allowing me to remain anxious
    • it’s not all external…it’s mostly internal. I can’t (always) change the stimulus, but I can always control my response
  • what am I taking in? how full am I of what?
    • I’m certainly not taking in enough to make me emotionally/mentally/spiritually strong
  • what hope do I have to have peace, if I don’t make a place for it
    • I spend far too much time thinking (and in some cases obsessing) over the wrong things…my mind is often consumed with unhealthy thoughts
  • we have faith that we don’t feed, and then we don’t have access to the strength that we would have if we did feed it(faith)
    • your’e slacking…you’ve not been feeding your faith
  • before I change what i take in, I need to know what I take in
    • as much as I hate doing it, I need to take better inventory of my thoughts and disconnect more from frivolous or unhealthy stimuli (including social media, music, tv)
  • if you let the enemy in, and then pray for God to drive him out, it creates a cycle where you are creating your own state of mind that you are trying to pray away
    • this is so me…it’s exactly what I do. I need to stop.
  • some of the people we allow in our lives are draining our faith
    • as much as I enjoy and love them…if it’s causing me spiritual/mental/emotional weakness, I need to decrease (and in some cases cease) interactions

All of this was easy to hear…none of this will be easy to implement/change. I recognize I have a task ahead of me, but a necessary one, nonetheless. I’m exhausted…

If you’re interested in listening to the sermon on anxiety (I highly recommend), here is the link Why Am I Anxious

 

Not Ready To Quit

“Nothing so wretched as a guilty conscience.”

“All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”-Romans 3:23

We sin. All of us. It’s in our human nature to do wrong. It doesn’t mean we are [all] bad people, it just means we are human. It is what it is…the best of us actually care when we know we’ve messed up, and as a result, experience guilt.

While I recognize that some who read this do not subscribe to Biblical principles…I ask that you stick with me on this one…I believe you still will be able to relate.

So, 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I believe this, and do in fact confess daily because I know I mess up…daily. Again, human.

So at least twice now, I’ve been in prayer and confessing to God about things I know that I’ve been doing that I shouldn’t have…both times I felt like I was just going through the motions. I was admitting my wrongdoing, but didn’t feel the guilt of it lift. So normally, when I pray about things, I feel an emotional, spiritual, mental, and sometimes even a physical lifting of the burden. These times, in particular, I realized why I was still feeling the burden of guilt…I wasn’t ready to quit.

Let me see if I can be a bit more clear about what I’m trying to convey without telling all my business…

We will say I was stealing cookies out of the cookie jar. I know for a fact that stealing the cookies is wrong, but they’re so good. So I keep admitting and asking forgiveness of stealing the cookies, but I know, when the opportunity presents itself again, I’m going to take more cookies.

My guilt wasn’t being lifted because I knew in my heart, that I wasn’t ready to quit doing what I knew was wrong.

Finally I said…”You know what Lord, I know this is wrong, and I’m really not ready to quit…but I want to want to quit. Change my heart and my desires.” We don’t have to put on a front in prayer…God already knows what we think and feel. When we attempt to mask what we truly think and feel, we are only hindering ourselves…we certainly aren’t tricking God.

I’m sure all of us have done something that we’ve felt guilty for doing, whether we believe the Bible to be true or not. The thing is making up in our minds to move forward, exercising discipline and restraint to prevent ourselves from continuing unhealthy behaviors that may turn into habits. Be honest with yourself (and anyone who may be directly affected by your choices), and say “hey, I’ve done this thing, and while I know it’s wrong/harmful, I enjoy it…but would like to stop.” I mean, as cliche as it is…admitting you have a problem really is the first step to rectifying it.

Be Present

If there was ever a worrier, I am she. For as far back as I can remember (which is about the age of 3…yes 3) I have been a worrier. As a small child, I would sit quietly and think of random scenarios of something horrible happening to my parents, and then I’d cry. There was never any indication that my parents were in any danger…but I had to prepare my mind just in case something did happen to them. 

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles, it empties today of it’s strength.” 

As I reread what I’m typing, it looks so crazy that I was doing that. What’s even more crazy is that I still do this today…30 years later. Any idle time I have where my mind has an opportunity to wander (I’m a masterful multi-tasker and daydreamer, so this is quite often) I’m usually thinking about all kinds of things that aren’t true, and probably never will be. Not always necessarily bad things…but also not necessarily healthy either.

I spend a great deal of time thinking up scenarios that I wish would be the circumstance of my current life, or thinking forward in what-ifs and the possibilities of what could bes. Oftentimes I’ll go so deep into this, that I get extremely irritated when real life people interrupt my thoughts by engaging me in conversation. The other thing I do is think up something so imaginative and ideal, that once I do snap out of it, I’m immensely disappointed at what actually is.

This is so counterproductive to living a happy life full of gratefulness. I cannot enjoy and be grateful for what is, if I am constantly existing in what if.

Though I still struggle with controlling my thoughts, I will say that over the past few years I’ve learned to counter these thoughts with scripture. When I catch myself and actually exercise my mental muscles, I’ll stop and remind myself of scriptures like Isaiah 6:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” and Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” 

Everything we do, everything we experience, everything we are begins in our minds. I can’t really afford to waste mental energy on unhealthy thinking patterns. I’m missing out on what’s right in front of me. I’m not saying don’t dream or have goals. What I’m saying is worrying and wishing that life was different or better in some way that you honestly and truly don’t believe will happen for you shouldn’t be common practice.

When we seek God’s will for our lives, it doesn’t matter too much what we wish could be, because we will never be able to imagine anything better than what He has planned for us.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The truth is, sometimes what God has blessed us with is actually better than what we want, but we can’t accept it because He didn’t give it to us the way we wanted it. It’s hard to appreciate the greatness of a blessing when we are so focused on what we didn’t get or what isn’t happening.

“Never let the things you want, make you forget the things you have.”

My goal is to be present. Present in every moment of my life, appreciating where I am, what I’m experiencing, and what I have. Looking forward to what will be, but not in an attempt to dictate or fabricate a future outside of what is really meant for me. How do I do this? By trusting God.

Isaiah 49:23 “…Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

I encourage you to do the same. Mind your thoughts…easier said than done, but absolutely doable. God bless!

Stamina over Speed

Life is a marathon, not a sprint…I’m not that into cliche sayings, but it fits for my current thoughts.

I equally love and hate running. It hurts…but it hurts so good. I’m the type of person who prefers to run on the street instead of a treadmill or track. When I choose the latter two, I can stop whenever I get tired. Running on the street forces me to complete the run…if I get there, I have to get back. The feeling of accomplishment when I turn the corner of my street to end my run always makes the fatigue, burning lungs, and aching muscles worth it.

Confessions…

I’m a procrastinator. I begin many things and oftentimes don’t finish them. I have many ideas, but tend to be too lazy to put in the work to implement them. Sometimes my ideas are so big that they intimidate me, so I don’t even try. I doubt myself often, and my ability to do things that other people will deem worthy. The approval of others (or lack thereof) both hold me back and pushes me forward depending on the circumstances.

I’m very talented at many things (shameless horn tooting). There really is no reason I haven’t accomplished more, other than I start things with a sprinter’s mentality. I can’t even sprint in real life…I mean I could for a very short amount of time…but isn’t that the point of sprinting. Who’s sprinting for prolonged periods of time? Tangent…The point is, I recognize that I’ve been needing to approach things from a marathon mindset. I’ll start something…I’ve started many things, wanting to hurry up and get it over with so that I could bask in the success of my results. Nah…not exactly how things work. My impatience in the process is what hinders me. I’m very “I want the results and I want them now!” Except, life is not a JG Wentworth commercial.

My newest endeavor has been painting. I never went into painting thinking I’d make a business of it. The response has been a bit overwhelming, and in true Nesse fashion, I actually put it on hold for a while due to the intimidation. Over the past few weeks I’ve done more than I ever thought I would, and everyday I have to motivate myself to keep going. One step at a time. One day at a time. Task by task…I’m actually doing this. I understand the work that needs to be done, and am equally excited and nervous about doing it. This is a marathon, I could attempt to sprint, but I won’t last. I want to last. I want to win. I have goals, and still more goals to make as I check others off the list as completed.

I encourage anyone reading this who is like me, and have a hard time getting things done…whether it be losing those 20 lbs or starting that business, writing that book (I still need to illustrate mine) or going back to school (also me), it’s a marathon. Focus on your stamina and being able to maintain throughout the entire process. Be patient. Keep working. It’s not about how fast you can make it happen, but how long you can last while producing and maintaining good results. Godspeed…

 

Good Grief

I don’t think Charles Shultz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoons, really knew how true the words “good grief” are when he wrote them as a coined phrase for Charlie Brown. And I guess, when you think about it, the phrase in itself seems oxymoronic. How could anything be good about grief?

Now unless you’re a masochist, most people are uncomfortable with pain. We tend to be especially uncomfortable with the mental/emotional pain of other people. The awkwardness of not knowing what to do when someone breaks down and cries in your presence…do you cry too, hug them? What? Typically, there’s an issue that you probably can’t fix. No one likes to be put in that position. A lot of times, the person not grieving may say or do some real problematic things that they’re not even aware are problematic.

It’s problematic to tell someone hurting to “be strong.” It’s problematic to not allow the griever the opportunity to grieve, even when we think the cause of grief is not warranted.

Which really brings me to something that I had never considered before this morning. I just recently began a devotional on my Bible app dealing with depression (Depression: A Devotional for the Wounded Spirit). Today’s devotion dealt with grief, but this particular paragraph really spoke to me…

“You may be in a situation, however, where what you lost wasn’t necessarily good for you, but there’s still a gnawing hurt and weightiness in your soul…Today you may find yourself torn over whether it’s healthy to grieve the loss of something that was unhealthy. Grieving is a natural process that even the savior of the world engaged in. Don’t block your feelings. Perhaps it’s time to grieve.”

I am, in fact, grieving something that was not healthy for me. For days, I’ve been battling the guilt of even doing so. Why am I so sad…I’m free. This is what I both want and need. It doesn’t matter though…it still hurts. The grieving process is a necessary one, and so many people miss out on being whole because they don’t do it. Faking it until you make it will only work for as long as the pain stays suppressed. The thing is, every time something that comes up to remind you of that situation or that person, you’re faced with the opportunity to feel the pain all over again. Deal with it. Grieve.

In case you’re not familiar with the 7 stages of grief…Image result for stages of grief