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Peace and Faith in God

Peace and Faith in God

Hello friends!

Thanks for joining me for another devotional time. I’m starting to really enjoy these, and I hope you are too!

Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 1:6-10

I enjoy asking myself a key question as I meditate on Scripture. It often brings a passage to life in fresh ways! So today, I look at this passage and ask myself:

What does this passage say about peace and faith in God?

Here were a few thoughts that came to mind:

v. 6 – “…fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you…”

This calls us to trust what God has done in our lives and to follow the calling He has placed on our lives. Afterall, we won’t seek to fan our giftings into flames (grow, practice, cultivate them) if we don’t trust God who gave us those gifts. Now, sometimes we don’t know what our calling is, but other times we do. And when we do, we should trust God and start moving in that direction, preparing, praying,  and ultimately taking the leap. It’s hard to take that leap, but it’s so worth it!

v. 7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

This is a very commonly quoted verse. Today, I look at it and see a description of what faith can empower us to do! Faith enables us to move outside of fear. Perhaps fear still attacks us, but fear does not come from God. Perhaps we may never stop experiencing or encountering fear, but God has given us those three unique gifts to help us withstand and overcome the fear we experience. Those three gifts are: power, love, and self-discipline. Faith tells me that, even when I struggle with fear, I can still be bold, care for others, and care for myself. I can still find strength in the midst of fear, because fear doesn’t come from God. But strength does!

v. 9 – “…but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time.”

Wow, think about that! He had a plan from before the beginning of time, and He followed through with that plan. I’m lucky if I follow through with my plan from this morning! I am so thankful that God is dependable and that He follows through with His commitments. When He promises you something, you can trust it, because He will follow through with His plan. It might not look like what we think and it might not be when we want, but it will be good and perfect in His way. And I am thankful for that! What a huge relief that He is dependable!

Questions to ask yourself today:

  • Do I have a sense of what my giftings are? If so, how can I put those into practice today? If not, who can I ask (a mature person that I trust) to speak into my life about the giftings they see in me?
  • In what areas of my life have I been experiencing fear? How can I shift my perspective on God’s ability to give me power, love, and self-discipline in the midst of those situations? Where can I trust God more?
  • Where have I seen God to be dependable in my life? Where do I need greater trust in His faithfulness?
  • Who can I share this lesson with today? Who needs to hear this message?

Thanks for reading!

If you liked this devotional, here are some others you might enjoy:

Grace, peace, hope,

Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

“Worrying Doesn’t Help”

“Worrying Doesn’t Help”

“Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying?” -Matthew 6:27

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus encourages us not to worry. But sometimes, after reading that passage, I find myself worrying even more. I’m so performance driven, that I worry about my ability to not worry. Geez, we are silly creatures!!

Verse 27 above became real to me this past weekend. I had published a blog post and was concerned how someone might respond to it. And I couldn’t stop worrying and worrying about it….

Finally, I asked myself three questions:

  • Do I know how this person will respond to that post?
  • Can I control the when this person will respond?
  • Do I even know if this person will respond?

The answer to all three of those questions, of course, was a big, emphatic no!

So the next logical question?

Then why worry? What will worrying do for me in this situation? Will it add a single hour to my life? It’s just stressing me out more!

A reflection from www.hopemire.com on Matthew 6:27After going through that thought process, I instantly remembered Matthew 6:27. Wow! What a blessing that Jesus gave me this moment to see a practical application of His own words!

As you go through your day today, I’d challenge you to ask those questions when you’re tempted to worry. Do you know for sure whether that thing you dread will happen? Can you control when it will happen? Will worrying help or hinder you in this situation? Then give it over to Jesus!


Thanks for reading! I hope this post was a blessing for you today.

If you liked this devotional, here are some others you might enjoy:

Many blessings on your day,

Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

Monday Montage – My Favorite Posts from This Week’s Problogger Challenge

Monday Montage – My Favorite Posts from This Week’s Problogger Challenge

Hi friends!

This past week, I have been participating in a 7-day blogging challenge with ProBlogger. It’s a super awesome blogging tutorial website, and creator Darren Rowse is the best!! Anyway, that’s why my blog appears to have come back to life after several months of near silence!

I’ve enjoyed this blogging challenge so much. We’ve been part of a Facebook group, and the camaraderie has been simply amazing! I’ve met so many new friends, explored many new blogging styles, and I’ve read a lot of amazing blog posts!

Today’s the last day of our challenge (sad face), and our goal today is to write a “link post,” where we link to at least one other blog. As I said above, I’ve really enjoyed the people and blogs I’ve met this past week, soooo… I thought I’d share some love, and list my top five favorite posts from this challenge that were relevant to our niche.

I hope you enjoy!

 

How to Have a Sunday Morning Retreat for People Who Think They’re Too Busy

This is a fun, short little post on Instagram. I didn’t know people could do blogging on Instagram, so that was cool to see! With a focus on self care, this post lists a few steps you can take to pamper yourself. I can’t wait for Sunday to roll around, so I can have my Sunday morning retreat! Or maybe I’ll just do it now!

 

How to Manage Stress When Your Work is an All-of-Life Thing

This article shares lots of great ideas on how to manage stress, when work and life are highly integrated. It was an interesting read for me, because I used to work in community development. There’s a trend in neighborhood revitalization where you go live in the neighborhood where you’re working. One of the consequences of that trend is, you think about work all the time, because you live where you work. That is also a problem for missionaries, pastors, and members of other similar ministries. When your job overlaps with what you view as your life calling, it can be hard to set healthy boundaries. This post has some good tips on managing that stress.

 

How to Be a Friend to An Autism Parent During a Child’s Meltdown

This is an excellent post with tips on how to respond when you see an autism mom (or dad) working with her (or his) child through a meltdown.

If you are an autism parent, this is a great one to share with your friends, should they ever ask how they can better support you. Jenny is also working on a survival guide for autism parents, so make sure you subscribe to her blog, so you can access that guide once it comes out.

If you are not an autism parent, please read this! It’s easy to respond in a hurtful way.

Ripples in Mirror Lake – a short story

This is a nicely written, fictitious story about a hiking trip, with a beautiful life metaphor. Well worth the read! It explores themes of life perspective and blame, as well as looking beyond just the surface. It’s a quick read, and quite enjoyable!

 

Empathy and Communication: The Dynamic Duo

This is an interesting article that explores how empathy and communication are related. When dealing with conflict, empathy is an important step in the process, allowing you to understand what the other person is experiencing and connect it to some of your own experiences, so that true communication can take place.

 

Called Out of Darkness

Called Out of Darkness

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
–1 Peter 2:9-10

How amazing that, as Christians, we have been rescued from darkness!

Except that some of us still feel trapped there…. Life can be seriously hard. I have those days when I simply don’t know what to do, and I just want to curl up in my bed and close my eyes.

Yet He loves me! And He calls me a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own possession.

He loves me! He has called me out of darkness, and transferred me into His Kingdom of light!

Oh yes, He loves me! Once, I was not accepted, but then He came and accepted me! Once I was without hope, but then He came and gave me hope!

He loves me. And He loves you.

How encouraging that He is the One who calls us out of darkness. It’s not some evil being who is calling us out, for judgment and chastisement for all our sins. Instead, it’s an amazing, beautiful Father who calls us in, forgives us (if we have Christ in our hearts), and ushers us into His Kingdom!

How much peace does that bring?

I mean, the deep peace. There will still be anxieties and fears in this life. But we have a kind Father to whom we can bring those things. And He will help us.

Friend, He is leading us away from the darkness. It’s a journey we’re all on. For some, the journey will be fast and breakthrough will come in an instant. For others, the journey will be long and arduous, and true breakthrough might not come until we break through the veil into the Kingdom of Heaven. But either way, breakthrough is coming!

Don’t lose hope, my friend. You can make it. Because He is with you and Jesus will never leave you, not one step of the way.

If it helps, picture His hand holding yours. He will gently lead you beside still waters and, little by little, He will help you on your way!


Thanks for reading! I hope this devotional was a blessing for you!

Feel free to check out some of these other devotionals I’ve written, and as always, please share with your friends!

Peace, my friend!

–Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

What is Your Bedtime Routine?

What is Your Bedtime Routine?

Back in April, I wrote a blog post in which I shared my bedtime routine. Since I struggle with anxiety and had a high stress job at the time, I really needed a routine to help establish a sense of normality. Preparing my lunches and picking out my outfit the night before also helped me go to bed with a greater sense of peace, because I knew things would be ready in the morning.

I must confess, I haven’t been great about keeping up with that routine, especially since I moved, changed jobs, and went back to school. It’s been hard finding my new normal. Life is much less structured, and sometimes a bit unpredictable.

In many ways, that’s great! I’ve had more time for me, for blogging, for dreaming, and I’ve been able to catch up on sleep! But sometimes I really miss the routine.

Anyway, I’m participating in a 7-day blogging challenge today, from www.problogger.net. It has been awesome! Today is day 6, and our challenge today was to create a piece of content that is a “discussion starter.” We’re supposed to ask a question of our audience.

So my question to you is this:

What is your bedtime routine?

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you do for your bedtime routine (or what you wish you did!) I’d love tips and fresh ideas, and I’m sure we can all learn from one another!

If you don’t have a bedtime routine, feel free to take a look at my post on what I do (or used to do, lol!) each night. It might get your juices flowin’!

Find Your Most Important Things (Free Printable!)

Find Your Most Important Things (Free Printable!)

I have way too many goals and distractions competing for my
attention. It can be
quite overwhelming! Especially because I struggle with anxiety. I find myself divided into a million little pieces, each part of me chasing after some other goal or expectation. Gotta catch’em all!

Facebook. School. The GRE. My business. Finding a church. Taking care of my cat. Text messages. Being a sister. Being a daughter. Blogging. Exercising. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Sleep. Grad school research. Friends in Waco. Friends in Dallas. Friends in Peru. LinkedIn. Twitter. Pinterest. Time with Jesus. Learning Arabic. Pokemon Go. Unpacking. Redecorating. Organizing. Painting. Photography.

But c’mon, let’s be realistic. I can’t get all of that done!! Yet I still try… and as a result, something inevitably gets dropped, and nothing gets done well. Which I hate….

So… when it all feels important, where do I start? How do I calm down my mind and focus on the most important things?

Let’s go back to square one.

Step 1: Realign Your Heart with God

One of my goals for 2016 was to keep in mind that God made me who I am on purpose. Therefore, I want to live a life that honors Him! Not one filled with distraction.

A few key verses in realigning your heart…

Matthew 6:33 “But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.”

Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock. Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not collapse, because its foundation was on rock.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth.”

Questions for consideration:

  • Where have my priorities been focused recently? Based on what I know about Scripture, where should my priorities be focused?
  • Do I trust God? If I don’t, I won’t follow Him…. I won’t be willing to step out on the water, and I won’t see lasting breakthrough. Do I trust Him? Am I willing to let Him make the decisions in my life?
  • Am I giving Jesus space to speak into my life? Am I giving Him room to guide me? When was the last time I slowed down long enough to let Him speak into my heart?

Step 2: Let God Redesign You

I have learned a lot about rest over the past couple of years. Part of rest means simplifying things… returning to the basics…. Instead of having twenty different time commitments, what are those three big things I can really focus on?

With that in mind, I took some time to journal on Saturday. I prayerfully asked myself this question: “Where should I focus my time and energy during this season?” Then I just waited for some sense of direction from the Lord. I felt Him direct me to three main things: studying for the GRE, spending time with Him every day, and getting invested in a church community. Makes sense.

I also asked Him for a key word or Scripture that could serve as a theme for this season. I was looking for just one word, but got a few in reply: peace, patience, diligence.

I feel so much better when I have an overarching sense of direction. I know where to focus my time and energy. I feel like I’m making progress toward my life-goals, rather than just wasting away, one day at a time.

So ask yourself those same questions:

  • During this season, where should I focus my time and energy? What should be my priorities? Now write them down. Use the free printable below to record your answers.
  • What key word or Scripture can I use as a theme for this season?

Step 3: Start One Day at a Time

Now that I’ve realigned my heart with God and sought Him about my focus, it’s time to live that out. But I don’t trust myself to make that change on my own. So I’m going to do two final things. First, I’m sharing those goals with at least one person I see on a regular basis, for accountability. And second, I’m going to write down those goals and pin them up on the mirror of my bathroom.

What about you? Ask yourself these two questions:

  • With whom will I share my priorities and theme word/verse?
  • Where can I post a reminder of those things, to keep them in the forefront of my mind?

Download your free printable now! Use this sheet to write out your theme verse (or theme words) and the top three goals you want to focus on during this season. Post it somewhere you’ll see it! Let’s simplify and return to a foundation on God’s Word and His purposes for our lives.

Goals sheet for starting back at the basics - free printable! www.hopemire.com

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

Expectations rule my life. My subconscious mind constantly seeks out the expectations of others, and then drives me toward fulfilling the “needs” of the entire world. Making them happy is equivalent to keeping myself safe.

Rest… letting go of expectations….

I remember when God first began teaching me about rest. I was sitting down to spend time with Jesus. I started by just quieting my heart and asking God how I should spend time with Him that day. I was sitting on a couch in the living room and I felt like He said, Just stare out the window.

“But God,” I replied, “I should read the Bible or something.”

Still, I felt like He was telling me to just stare out the window.

“But God, then I should spend some time praying or something.”

No, just stare out the window.

“But then, I should put on some worship music….”

Should, should, should. As if I knew better than God…. Have you ever argued with the Creator of the universe? Clear as day, I felt like God said to my heart, Michelle, on the seventh day of creation, I chose to rest. If you refuse to rest, then there is a part of My character that you will never understand.

So I spent an hour staring out the window.

Rest. What a concept! One night, I was in bed trying to fall asleep, but couldn’t calm all my racing thoughts. I kept stressing about events at work. I imagined whole scenarios about my boss, what she’d say and do, what others would say and do, how I’d respond, what I wanted to say but knew I never could, and overall how angry and upset I felt.

Rest. Could I imagine a life where the expectations of others did not rule me? What if I could make my own choices without fearing their reactions? What if I actually believed I was safe even when disagreeing with people? But what if I could just lie there in that bed and not have other people’s real or imagined expectations hijacking my brain?

Rest… taking a moment to just be. To simply exist. Not worrying about everything I have to accomplish. Choosing to ignore the expectations that are clamoring for my attention.

Rest… a moment to enjoy… silence. To focus simply on the air entering and leaving my lungs. To lie there and simply… lie there. To just… rest.

*****

Thanks for reading! If you have time, please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you are learning in your life about rest. This is still something that is so hard for me, and I’d love to continue growing in this area. I hope you have a blessed day!

On Feeling Alone…

On Feeling Alone…

There is a place in my head where I feel alone. It’s like a cold, dark cave in which I find myself trapped, and no one is there with me. I can see everyone else. Not through a hole, but more as just a general awareness that everyone else is happy, living the good life, except here I am, apart… alone….

I don’t know how to get out of this dark cave. As I look up, I see the mouth of the cave is wide open, and light floods in through it, whispering of the joy that can be found outside the cave. I truly want to get there, to leave this place behind, but… how do I take that first step?

I feel paralyzed. Like that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night and think about getting up, but don’t feel like you have the ability to do so, because your brain is still telling you that you’re asleep. Sleep paralysis…. I can’t move…. I’m just stuck.

Only a few friends notice when I’m trapped in the cave. They may ask me what’s wrong, but I shrug it off. In part because I don’t have the words to express how I feel. In part because I don’t have the energy to handle their follow-up questions. Or perhaps I’m simply too afraid to share the truth. I don’t want people to worry about me or to delve too deep into the places where I myself am afraid to go. So I tell them I’m fine, just a little tired.

I feel so alone in this place. Not because people don’t love me, but because I can’t open myself up to them. And because I’m too nervous with my own feelings to even explore them. It feels like there’s a chasm waiting right in front of me, and if I explore my thoughts too closely, I’ll fall off the side of that cliff into that chasm. So… it’s easier to stuff my thoughts away. It’s easier to sleep them off. It’s easier to ignore them as I spend all night watching Netflix. I’m afraid of my thoughts and emotions, so I turn around and walk away.

But I can’t keep this up…. Deep down, I know that I must confront my fears, confront the emotions and insecurities. I can’t choose isolation forever. I must bring my friends into the process. But how? How do I choose courage? How do I let myself get so close to that cliff? How do I make these useless feet work so that I can walk out of the cave and into the light?

Sometimes it really does feel hopeless…. Those questions are too hard to answer, too scary to approach. Still, I can’t hide forever. I can’t live my life in a vegetative state. If I truly want to live, I know I must approach these topics, no matter how hard that seems. So… where do I start? How do I move forward?

Making It Through Work On A Bad Day

Making It Through Work On A Bad Day

Well… I’ve clocked into work, my computer has been turned on, a huge to-do list is calling my name, and yet all I want to do is stare blankly at the wall….

That’s how it feels when I’m in a cycle of depression. The problem is, I’m not paid to sit around and stare blankly at the wall. Somehow I need to muster up my energy and will-power in order to make it through the day.

How am I supposed to remain productive when feeling depressed? That’s a question I recently found on a Life Hacker post. Man, what a great question! Sometimes I really have no idea. And when I’m in the midst of that cycle, the last thing I want to do is force myself through another day at work. I’d rather curl up in bed. Well, here’s my best shot at answering that question:

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. When someone has a broken leg, you don’t expect him to run a marathon. If you’re having a bad day in your mental health recovery process, it’s ok to take it a little bit slower than normal. Be realistic. (If things are especially poor, please skip to number 5 below.)
  2. Break larger goals into smaller steps. Large projects and complicated tasks can be overwhelming on any day, but especially on a bad day. If you absolutely can’t avoid that larger task, try breaking it into smaller, more manageable steps. These smaller steps feel more realistic and, as you begin checking a few of them off your list, there is a sense of achievement that may help you regain some momentum.
  3. Take a walk during your lunch break. I know that taking a walk may be the last thing you want to do, but sometimes getting a change of scenery can help your mind press the re-set button. The day light and physical stimulation often help lift your mood. Research also suggests that getting outside during the day may help you sleep better at night, because it adjusts your body’s circadian rhythms.
  4. If allowed, use YouTube. This may apply more to anxiety than depression, but when I’m really struggling, I turn on 10 Hours of Thunderstorm and Rain Sounds. Something about the sound of thunder and rain relaxes me on a deep, deep level. I’ve recognized that about myself, so I take advantage of it, especially at the office. For you, it may be river sounds, crickets, the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, or another genre, but somehow music and sound have the ability to reach deep within and touch our very souls. The main point is: discover what helps you relax (or feel energized, if that’s what you need) and then use it to your advantage.
  5. Know when to step away, re-evaluate, or even seek help. We all need that paycheck, but if you’re just really crashing, it might be time to re-evaluate. Sometimes we just need a day off in order to rest and recover. If taking one day off would help you be more productive on your next day back at work, then it may be worth it to take a mental health day. There is no shame in that. Additionally, depending on how severe your symptoms are, you may need to seek professional help. If you fear you are at risk of harming yourself or another person, that’s when you should call 9-1-1. If you don’t think you’re at that level, but you’re still concerned about your symptoms, you may want to contact your mental healthcare professional. Again, there’s no shame in that. They are there to help.

Anyway, those are some thoughts I wanted to share. Please keep in mind that the above is not meant to be medical advice. Depression is a medical condition, so if you are experiencing any symptoms of depression, I’d encourage you to visit a licensed professional counselor or psychiatrist. I have no professional training in the mental health industry. I’m just a co-struggler with depression and anxiety. The above steps have helped me in the past, so I hope that they will help you as well. If you have any additional ideas for making it through work when experiencing a low day, please share in the comment section below!

Do You Have a Friend to Help Get You Through The Holiday Season?

Do You Have a Friend to Help Get You Through The Holiday Season?

Have you ever felt lonely or anxious during the holidays? Many people do, especially those who struggle with mental illness. Stress runs high as we shop, cook, plan, and travel. Expectations go unmet and we may have to deal with personalities we haven’t seen all year. Without healthy coping methods, sometimes all of that stress and stimulation can be quite overwhelming! But we do have a friend who can help us through that season, or any season for that matter.

I remember as a little girl riding in our family car through the dark nights of New England. My older brother up in the front seat rattled on about the video games he wanted, the new Magic cards he wanted, the wooden practice sword he wanted…. He’d ask mom to give him money for this and that. In the backseat, I rested my head against the frozen window, staring out into the darkness. Here and there, we’d pass a house, lit up with pristine white Christmas lights.

drivingBut suddenly I’m startled back to reality as my brother begins shouting and arguing with mom. He’s angry about something…. I don’t know what. I just keep staring out the window, pressing my face against it, hoping and pretending that I can be somewhere else. I try and lose myself in wonder as I gaze upon the beautiful lights that adorn the houses and trees. I want to be out there, alone in the peaceful winter wonderland!

As surely as the sun rises, He will appear…

Light is such an interesting thing. There is a deep science behind it, wrapped up in frequencies, wave lengths, and electromagnetic particles. Despite its very scientific nature, there is also something dramatically beautiful about light that has caused it to dance across literature, hearts, and minds for millennia. It has come to represent truth and clarity, as well as safety and comfort. Even as a child, I was enraptured by that light and tried to escape into it. Somehow the beauty of the light distracted me from everything else that seemed so broken.

Back then, I didn’t know Jesus like I do now. He is my light and my hope! I love Hosea 6:3 that says “…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” That is a promise. We all know there are 24 hours in a day. Half of that time is spent in darkness, but our planet continues rotating and suddenly the sun appears. The exact hour changes gradually throughout the year, but it always comes in predictable fashion. The rising of the sun in our emotional lives, however, does not always seem so predictable….

Struggling with depression often feels like I’m stuck in that endless night, where things will always be hard and my mind will never make sense. There is often a lack of hope and clarity. Everything feels dull and pointless. But dawn is coming….

dawnIn my mind, I sometimes wonder if daylight will ever come again, but we have a promise from Scripture that it will. In the middle of a challenging season, that promise might not make things feel better, but somehow it gives me the strength to keep holding on just a little while longer.

So I try and start each day by choosing to focus on Jesus, whether that’s reading a devotional or even just saying a simple quick prayer. And at the end of the day, as I sit in bed, I redirect my attention to Him before turning the lights out. Sometimes, that’s all I can do: redirect my attention. I often lack the energy or motivation to do a full “quiet time.” Even though I believe that’s important and beneficial, nevertheless if I can’t fully engage in that discipline on a given day, then I still try and just whisper these words: “He loves me. He’s with me. He’ll never leave me.” And as I lay my head down on my pillow, still feeling that uneasiness in my gut, I just say, “He is good and He is enough.” Then I close my eyes and wait for morning to come.

How do you make it through the holidays?

I hope this blog will help start conversations, enabling us to support one another and be an online community for those struggling with mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others. One of the most important pieces of mental health recovery is finding a source of hope as well as choosing healthy coping methods. Above, I shared that my biggest source of hope is Jesus. What is yours? And how do you cope during the holidays? Even if it seems small, please share with us by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!