Encouragement, Mental Health

God will always Breakthrough

I must be honest. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Covid 19 has completely changed the way we do life.  Here in the States, specifically Ohio where I live, we are encouraged to wear masks everywhere we go. Stores are opening but only allowing a few people in at a time. Restaurants are only open for take out and patio dining. Life is definitely different and I’m not sure if it will ever get back to the point we once were. It’s easy to get depressed and feel hopeless during these times.

There have been many suicides attributed to the Covid 19 Virus. People afraid they have it, people getting depressed because they have been cut off from the outside world. Those of us with mental illness are feeling the effects of isolation and fear a bit deeper than others. Darkness seems to be everywhere. Depression is deep and anxiety overwhelming.

But as I write this, I am looking outside my picture window, and do you know what I see?  Sunshine! Bright beautiful sunshine.  It reminds me that no matter how dark I get God’s light always breaks through.  John 1:5 says…

            “And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”.

We need to remember that we are not going to be left in darkness. Jesus came to bring light and love into the world. That light and love is still here. We may lose sight of it in our current situation, but we are still surrounded by His light.  There is no darkness deep enough that God cannot shine through. And what happens when light meets darkness? The darkness flees.

Your enemy would like nothing more than for you to be immobilized by the fear and the darkness you are living in.  It makes him so happy to render believers helpless. But Jesus defeated Satan and we live in that victory. We live in the light! It may seem harder to see amid these circumstances, but if you look hard enough, you’ll see it. It may be dim at first, but as you go towards it, it will get brighter and brighter. So how do we go towards it?  We pray, we read our Bibles, we soak in His presence and we trust Him to help us through this time.

Sometimes, we do all these things and we don’t get relief right away. That’s OK. Keep pressing in. God is faithful and He will restore you. Yes, the way we do life has changed. Things may never get back to what we consider normal and we will all have to live with that. But the way we seek God, interact with Him, love Him, does not have to change.  He is still on the throne, still in control and He still loves us.

God is our light in the darkness and that light will always breakthrough.

Encouragement, Mental Health

Don’t Ever Quit Trying

There have been so many times in my life I have tried things, like working a regular job, that just didn’t work out.  The stress that working outside my home was too much to take and left me struggling to breathe. Have you experienced this? Have you attempted something that your illness put a stop too? It’s easy to give up.

But we shouldn’t ever give up. There are things worth doing. I’m not just talking about working. Things like starting a ministry, singing in a band, writing that book that is swimming around in your mind.  Anything you desire to do; you should give a try. 

Our illnesses can and do put limits on what we are able to do, but they should not stop us from trying. Sure, things may not work out. You may fail but fail forward.  Allow yourself some leeway to try.  If one thing does not pan out, move on to something else. Don’t allow yourself to stagnate.

It is so easy for us to say we “can’t”. Our illnesses create the perfect “out”. Who expects someone with a mental illness to succeed anyway? Many don’t. But we should have enough faith in ourselves and enough faith in God to pursue our dreams.  God has a plan for each person and who are we to say we cannot do what He has created us to do? Whatever that looks like in your life, know that God will give you the ability and the perseverance to accomplish your goals.

In my Coaching practice, I discuss goal setting all the time.  We need to make a plan to achieve the goals we set. We need to pray and ask God what our purpose is. We need to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. But most of all, we need to step out in faith and make the attempt. Sometimes we need to make that attempt over and over, but eventually we’ll get it right.

God will never call us to do something he has not equipped us to do. But I am not only talking about what God’s calling is on our lives, I’m also talking about little things we want to do. Maybe, you want to do something just for the fun of it. Something that you have been putting off because your illness gets in the way. Do it anyway. Do it afraid. Don’t allow your illness to be the deciding factor in what you are able to accomplish. If you want to go back to school and get that degree, do it! If you want to be a photographer, or a ministry leader…do it! The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work out.  So what! Move on to the next thing on your goal list.

There is nothing we can do that will make God love us any less. Once we honestly believe that, we are free to set out and try new things. Please don’t let your illness stand in your way. Yes, it may limit you in some areas, but it may free you in others.  Find your purpose. Find your fun. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and do it afraid! You have nothing to lose!

Encouragement

Hello Beautiful

Did you know you’re beautiful?  You are.  It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, inside you are beautiful!  I know you probably don’t see yourself this way. I don’t often see myself as beautiful either, but God says we are beautiful.  We need to believe that.

Among other lies we believe about ourselves; our illnesses whisper to us that we are ugly inside.  Our illnesses embarrass us, and they help relegate us to the unlovable category.  Our behaviors are sometimes odd and sometimes, even a bit scary and people treat us differently once they find out that we have a mental illness.  This can make us feel less than beautiful. This can make us feel rejection, fear, and pain.  All negative.

So how do we turn this negative into a positive? We listen to what Jesus says about us. He is the only plumb line we need to follow.  He has the last word.  It is so easy to identify with our illnesses and give them way too much power over our lives. We quickly become the victim and forget that we are more than the lies that we begin believing about ourselves.

 Don’t think that the enemy of our souls, Satan, isn’t behind those lies. He is! If he can get us to the point of belief, then we are rendered helpless and we are going to suffer needlessly. These lies cripple us with doubt and pain.  We need to stand up against Satan and call him out.  Yes, our illness creates problems for us, but God loves us.  Despite what we think or what Satan tells us, God says we are loved.  We are special and we have our illnesses for a reason.

We may not know what that reason is, but we do not suffer in vain. God has a plan and we are part of that plan. Do not believe the lies. You are not ugly.  It’s time to throw off the blanket of doubt and fear you’ve been carrying! Stand up! Lift up your head! And tell yourself you are beautiful.  “Goodbye regret, emptiness, fear, shame, hopelessness and hello beautiful”. (Quoted from Mercy me – Lifer).

     You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Songs 4:7).

Encouragement

Moving Forward

Sometimes I get stuck. I get stuck in my pain. Stuck in my depression. Even stuck in my joy. I just get stuck.  My illness can stop me in my tracks.  It sneaks up on me at the worst possible moment and blindsides me.  Granted, there are times when I can feel a mania or a depression coming on, but not often.  My moods usually start with a great deal of unexplained anxiety which I quickly blame on this situation or that commitment. But, no, it’s usually a mood episode. My illness makes it difficult, at times, to keep moving forward with my life.  It debilitates me.

But God wants me to move forward. He wants you to move forward. But how? What do we do when all we can see is our illnesses stepping over our boundaries and we are stuck?  I always turn to God. I search Scripture, pray and meditate, but what if I am seeking the wrong thing?

I go to God with my moods and my darkness or with my over abundant happiness that indicates a mania and I always expect Him to make it better. I wait for Him to move in my life and give me relief, so that I can move forward. And He does.

21 Empowering Quotes on Faith To Help You Keep Moving Forward

But what if the catalyst that moves us forward has less to do with what he does and more to do with who he is? What if we sought God for the sheer pleasure of who he is and not what he can do?  I think we would find a God we never knew.  Yes, He is our loving Father, our truest friend and our rock, but can He be so much more. Yes, He can.  In Him we have a treasure we have not fully discovered.  I don’t think anyone will truly know Him this side of Heaven, but we can search. 

Deuteronomy 4:29 says “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul”.

We need to take the time to seek God for who he is.  He will still give us the ability to persevere when our world becomes chaos but seeking him for who he is will give us a depth of relationship that we may not have. Our main goal is to know him and to love him with a reciprocal love.  We yearn for that even if we don’t realize it.

Don’t allow yourself to get stuck. And if you are stuck, don’t stay there. By seeking him, you will find the catalyst to move into the life God has chosen for you.  Keep moving forward!

Encouragement, Mental Health

Quiet Acceptance

Have you ever met that one person who, no matter what is happening in their lives, they accept it with quietness and resolve? They never ask, “why me”? They don’t throw a fit or become angry. I have met such people throughout my life, and I stand in amazement at their ability to accept and move on.

When I was first diagnosed, I spent a great deal of time in denial, anger, non-compliance. My diagnosis seemed like a death sentence. Will I ever be the same as I once was, and other such questions ran through my mind. How is this diagnosis going to change my life? I was not very accepting of my newfound friend.

But as the years passed, I quietly accepted my illness and I viewed this as a great victory! I could look at myself in the mirror and see me, but with a different lens. I was now a person with a chronic illness that would never go away, and I could work with that.

My Bipolar has changed my life in so many ways. Some bad. Some good. I can no longer work a “normal” job, but God has opened opportunities to write and I am grateful. I can no longer stay up past 10:00 because I know it will make me ill. Getting enough sleep is paramount to a well psyche. I know that at any time I can go way up or way down and I must be prepared to handle the chaos those moods bring. Do you have a similar challenge?

I have yet to meet someone with a mental illness who can say they have it all together. I don’t think that person exists. If he or she does, I want to meet them and pick their brain! But I have met people who have accepted their illness quietly, no fanfare, no pity party, just accepted. They amaze me. I am, now, that person. I have accepted and moved on and I try to help others to accept their illness quietly and with grace. We can all get to acceptance. We must stop fighting who we are in our illnesses and move into who God has created us to be. That person involves all the aspects that make up the new us.

It is so easy to be angry and upset. Confusion and bitterness can creep in and take us captive. We must be diligent in our fight for acceptance. If we can’t accept our illness and learn to love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to do the same? We must make the change in order to help change the attitudes of others.

Quietly accept your illness. Live your life from a place of victory. Make the changes you need to make. Become who God has called you to become. It is a journey that starts with acceptance.

Encouragement, Mental Health

Fear Less

Well, we have made it through another week of social distancing.  I know this is pressing us to our personal ends, but we pray that it will soon be over.  As I have talked about before, fear and anxiety are common companions these days and we are crying out to God, in unison, to please bring an end to this pandemic.  But, while we are crying out together, have you felt like taking more than your fear and anxiety to God.  Have you felt like crying or screaming, or just throwing something to vent the feelings you have inside?  Well, I have. But I smile and pretend that I am holding up just fine. I’m sure you do as well.

We do not really know how to navigate these new waters.  Our days are spent wondering and at times worrying about whether we, or a loved one will contract this virus. And if one of us does, will we survive it? Should we be doing more, or less, in order to stay safe?  We don’t want to show our true feelings to those around us.  We want to spare them the concern we feel, especially if we are a Mom or Dad.  We are supposed to be strong…have all the answers, but we don’t. But I know someone who does.  Our Father in Heaven.

As we are being strong for our loved ones, we can go to God with our fears and anxieties.  We do not have to pretend we’ve got it all together.  We can be true and honest with our Father.  We don’t have to pretend. We can cry, scream, break a few things if we need to. God is not afraid of our feelings; He is also not surprised by them either.

I know, at times, we feel out of control.  We have never lived through something as serious and as unknown as this pandemic. I cannot sit here and tell you that all is well, because it’s not. But I can tell you God is still in control.  He is not sitting up in Heaven, unaware. No, He’s very much in tune with our lives.  He knows our fears, and our doubts, and we do have doubts, but these emotions do not have to cripple us.  We can get through this, even if we must do it afraid.

I often say, “press into God” and I mean that with every fiber of my being.  If you want peace during these times.  If you want to quiet the fear and doubt, get into the Word.  Find out what God says about the emotions you are feeling. Find out His way to deal.  Do not be afraid to vent to God.  He is big enough. Actually, He is enough. We need not worry or fear. Our Father is on the throne. The World is still His. We are still His. Take comfort in the fact that He loves you.  You are sacred. You are His and He will never leave us or forsake us. That is His promise. Stand on it, believe it, live it. Shalom!

Encouragement, Mental Health

Weather the Storm

Someone said that we are always close to a storm; either we’re walking into a storm, enduring a storm, or coming out of a storm. I find this to be true in my life and I’m sure most of you can say it is true for you. So, I guess the question is not “what do we do if we go through a storm”, but “how do we get through the storm we’re in?”

My first inclination when things start getting rough and darkness begins to creep it’s way in is not to run headlong into the arms of my Savior, but to turn inward and isolate from the pain or the fear or whatever emotion is clamoring at me. It isn’t until I become desperate that I run to God.  Why? Why do I let my storm get me so off course that God is the last person I run to instead of the first?  I believe that it is because I have a lack of faith.  A lack of faith that God can take away the pain and the darkness and pull me up out of my storm.

It’s easy to have faith when things are going well. But what about now?  Right now, the World is in a place of chaos.  Our normal has been replaced with uncertainty and fear.  I know that this Virus is on everyone’s lips and no matter what you do, you cannot get away from hearing about it.  But what would happen if we put great faith in front of our fear? What would it look like, globally if everyone turned to Jesus during these trying times? Well, I can say there would be a great deal more peace. A great deal more healings. A great deal more comfort.  Actually, there would be a turn for the better in all areas.

So why are we turning to the media, and the Government, and the Scientist for answers when we should be turning to God…lack of faith.  Now I cannot speak for everyone and I am not trying to generalize the actions and reactions of people during this time, but I can say that for myself, it has been a lack of faith.  I’m sure some of you can say the same thing.  Kudos to those saints who dove right to their knees when all of this broke loose! I am glad you were praying. But to all of the rest, including myself, who has allowed a lack of faith because of fear, to keep you from your knees, it’s OK.  God is all knowing, and our lack of faith does not surprise Him.

But we do not have to stay sidelined because of our insecurity.  We can start right where we are, and Jesus will meet us there.  Right in the place of our fear, anxiety, and in the storm.  This virus may be the biggest storm we go though.  It is certainly one of the scariest for me and my family, but if we do not strengthen our faith in prayer and drop to our knees to pray for an end to this pandemic, then we are not doing the one thing that can stop it.  Only through God will we find the answers.  Only though God can we find the cure.  We need to be praying, with faith, that God will end this and destroy this virus! He is the only one who can.

This storm is great.  The fear is real. But our God is bigger than the storm.  Take your faith, even if it as a bit anemic right now and pray.  God will strengthen us for this battle, but we must allow Him to work and to do that, we must pray! Seek Him and He will make Himself known, and He will bring Himself glory through this.  This is our collective storm. Let’s enter the battle with faith…great faith!

Encouragement, Mental Health

God is in Control

As the whole world is practicing social distancing with many being in quarantine the corona virus is on everyone’s lips and minds. There is no way to lessen the fear and anxiety that comes along with this pandemic.  But how do we, who suffer from mental illnesses in which anxiety is already a factor deal with this added stress?

We all need to follow our country’s protocol to stay safe and, hopefully, put an end to this pandemic.  We need to wash our hands, social distance, and use common sense when it comes to going out for groceries and such.  That being said, these guidelines do a little to quell our anxious minds, but not enough.

Prayer, leaning into God, reading Scripture, and knowing God is in control will ease our anxiety better than any hygiene practice.  We need to remind ourselves that God has this. He knows what’s going on. He knows the fear and anxiety we are suffering through. He knows. By leaning on Him, we will know peace.  God’s peace.

When our anxiety is so big and overpowering, we need to pray. Psalm 91 is a prayer of protection. Pray it over yourself, over your family, over your loved ones and friends.  Trust that through that prayer, God hears. God answers. We are not to fear anything but in our weakness, we find strength. We can do nothing apart from God.  That includes facing our fears and anxieties concerning this pandemic.  We are more than conquerors is Christ Jesus! Nothing this world throws at us can ever change who we are.  We are mighty through the shed blood of Christ! We are more powerful than this virus because we draw our strength through Jesus. He is in control!

We must not let this crisis over shine the resurrection of our Lord. He conquered the grave and gave us a precious gift. The gift of eternal life. When you are tempted to worry. When fear grips you and your anxiety is out of control…remember, God is in control and He’s got this!

Encouragement, Mental Health

The Greater Plan

Having a mental illness can cause one to question “why me?”.  We may go through a litany of questions that we fire at God because we are trying to understand the path we are on. We can get so wrapped up in the here and now just trying to get through one more day that we forget to look up and understand that God has a plan! Our illnesses are not in vain. God is going to use the pain and the confusion for His glory.  We only need to allow His plan to unfold. That is easier said than done.

So many times, I’ve surrendered my illness and my life’s plan to God, only to get absorbed back into the “why me”.  I’ve pondered that question to the point that I became angry at God.  I wanted to know what good having Bipolar Disorder could ever bring anyone I crossed paths with.  So, for a long time, I kept it a secret.  If no one knew then I could avoid the judgments and the loss of relationships by those close to me who just wouldn’t understand.  I could live with this as my secret and no one would be the wiser.  Until that one day…

I was at Church and I was praying for God to take this illness away. I didn’t sign up for this and I certainly did not want to live the rest of my life suffering with it on a daily basis. I cried and I begged but to no avail.  Finally, when I had calmed down, I asked God the “why me” question and I felt Him say in my spirit that I have this because He is going to use it to bring Him glory.  He was going to help people through my illness, and I was not to keep it a secret any longer.  I had to begin telling people that I do, indeed, suffer from a mental illness.  That was a big step. I began to allow people into my private world of suffering.  Some judged, some left, some stayed, but I was being obedient.  I was going to look up and live by God’s plan. I quit asking “why me?” and began to see that there were people around me who needed to hear my story.  Who needed that hope that I have that God is in control no matter how out of control we feel.

I’d like to say that the minute I surrendered my illness and my “why” to God that things got miraculously better. They did not.  I suffer from symptoms of my illness in some form every day. I know you do as well. But what did change is how I perceived myself.  I was no longer someone who had a terrible illness, I was part of a greater plan to bring hope and healing to others. This is God’s plan for me.  It may be God’s plan for you as well.  I encourage you to ask God ‘why me?” but I also encourage you to take His answer and apply it to your life right now.  Don’t hide yourself away in shame and fear.  God has a plan for each of us and he will use our suffering to help others.  Be brave and try to be transparent with others.  You will never know who you can help or whose life you may touch with being open and honest about your illness.  Always remember to look up each day and to know that you are part of a greater plan.

Christian Living, Encouragement, Mental Health

Anxiety and Worship

Have you ever heard that worry and worship cannot live in the same heart?  It’s a phrase I heard years ago when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  To say I worried is an understatement.  I worried so much that it turned into a full-blown anxiety attack.  That anxiety got so bad that it paralyzed me. I came across a little book that had an intriguing title. It was a book about ridding oneself of anxiety and worry.  Since I was dealing with that exact issue, I bought the book.  Want to know what it said?  It said that the best way to get rid of anxiety and worry was to worship.  Worship? Really?  Could it be that simple?  Yes, that simple, but not easy.

When we are experiencing anxiety so great that it affects our ability to live life, worshiping can seem like a monumental task but I learned that just repeating the phrase “Jesus, I love you” was an act of worship. So that’s what I did.  I told Jesus over and over how much I loved Him and how much He had changed my life and how grateful I was.  I did this for days and days.  And, you know what? It worked.  The decrease in my anxiety was almost immediate! The more I set my heart to worship, the more my mind calmed.  Pretty soon, I was waking up with a sense of peace, not turmoil.

Now, I guard my peace.  I will not do anything to lose it.  It is so important to me and the best way to keep my peace is to keep my eyes upon Jesus.  To never lose sight of the fact that God did not give me a heart of fear.  Isaiah 35:4 says…

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with diving retribution he will come to save you”.

Wow! What a promise.  Do not fear. Do not be torn down by anxiety.  Lift your eyes for your God is coming and he is coming to save you.  You and me. That’s a promise you can depend on.

So, when anxiety strikes, all you need to do is Worship and stay still. God is coming and He will deliver you.  That’s a promise!