Tag Archive: grace

Jan 09

The Troubled Journey: A Parable of Life, Obstacles, and Hope

This week I am excited to share a parable written by my son.  It’s an amazing picture of what I’ve observed personally in my own life and as a counselor who sits with many people on a troubled journey.

Troubled Journey

There was once a person, who sat, troubled. For this person had been on a journey, and had come to a cliff blocking their path. They saw no bridge to cross it, and saw no way around it for the air was too dark. So they sat, wondering if their journey had come to an end. After what seemed like a very long time of sitting and staring, they began to question if they need only walk off the cliff. And up they stood, with rash, to walk off. 

But then they saw something approaching them in the darkness. A spirit had come to them. The spirit seemed to have a familiar face and they greeted the spirit as one does. Then the spirit turned them around. And all of a sudden, they felt comforted by a presence that had always been with them but they had never noticed. They saw that the path behind them was light, and they saw many faces all smiling towards them. Many faces of which they knew as old friends, and many faces of which were unknown to them.

Guided by the comforting presence they walked to the smiling people and told them their problem. Then all of the smiling people walked to the edge and began to form a bridge. All together the smiling people formed a bridge and for the first time the person, once troubled, could see the other side of the cliff. So they walked across the bridge with the comforting presence. While walking across, they almost fell many times, but whenever they did the comforting presence carried them back to balance.

Eventually, they crossed the bridge and stood at the other side that once did not exist to them. The smiling people stood together with them and they began to walk the new path they saw. And through the time walking this path they crossed many cliffs where the smiling people made bridges for them, and they helped make many bridges for others of the smiling people who then frowned. But they could always tell that the comforting presence was with them, either guiding or carrying.

Written by Nathan Thompson

Everyone sees something a little bit different in this parable. Please comment below with your thoughts and reflections. Like it? Please share it on social media. There is always hope!

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/troubled-journey/

Apr 01

Identity Attacked

The idea of identity and its significance to our mental and emotional health has been rolling around in my head the last several weeks. Our ability to challenge lies, face fears, and stand up to temptation is all connected to our identity. So what is identity? It’s who, at the core of our being, we are…how in our own minds, we define ourselves. As I reflected on this idea…I came across a passage I have read many times.
matthew3Matthew 3:16-4:3. The temptation of Jesus comes immediately after his baptism. God declares His identity.
“My Beloved Son”.
It is set.
Determined.
Not up for debate or argument.
Yet, with each temptation, Satan starts by questioning His set, established identity.
“If you are the son of God….”.
If you are? Are you kidding? God, the Creator of the Universe just said who He was! He’s God’s beloved Son! There’s no need for Him to prove it by doing anything.
NOTHING!  NO!  PROOF!  NECESSARY!
Temptation begins with the questioning of our fixed identity. Click To Tweet
Yet here is where the temptation begins…with identity. See, your identity as a child of God is SET.  ESTABLISHED.  Identity defined by God's loveSETTLED.
It’s not up for debate.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and SO WE ARE.” 1 John 3:1
But our temptations start here too…with us questioning our set, established identity. We doubt. We wonder. We don’t feel good enough or worthy. We question. We listen to our shame.
Identity matters. Who we believe we are and where we get our value anchors our soul to something. Anchors keep boats from drifting due to wind or current.
Do you anchor your identity in the solid, oceans deep truth that you are a child of God? Or, do you anchor your identity in a neighboring boat. It may be your children, your job, your spouse, a close relationship, your possessions, your image or any other thing. Can you imagine if boats in the ocean threw anchors into each other? They would all SINK! Seriously, it would be chaos. There is only one solid place to anchor your identity.
Identity Anchor
God knows we will struggle with this. “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1 John 2:28
This verse says that the secret to anchoring our identity in Christ is to abide. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9
Abide means to rest, dwell, accept, and to act in accordance with.
Even when we don’t feel it, abiding in Christ will help us have confidence in our identity. God knows our tendency is to shrink from Him in shame. That’s what we do with other people when we screw up, offend them, disobey, or have conflict. We avoid, hide, or distance ourselves from them. Yet God wants us to draw near.

 

 

Identity matters. Who we believe we are anchors our soul to something. Click To Tweet
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of gracethat we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus understands. Someone questioned His identity, too. He’s been asked to prove Himself, too. He went to the cross so your identity as a child of God can be permanently and forever FIXED!
Jesus understands. Someone questioned His identity, too. Click To Tweet
Let us with CONFIDENCE draw NEAR to the throne of GRACE to receive MERCY and HELP in our time of NEED.
What a remarkable phrase. You don’t have to have it all together, be perfect, clean yourself up, or have it all figured out to confidently draw near to God. It’s the exact opposite. We confidently draw near to find the help we desperately need!
You don’t have to have it all together to confidently draw near to God. It's the opposite. Click To Tweet
 No matter how loud our shame screams: UNWORTHY! IMPERFECT! NOT GOOD ENOUGH! THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!
You can CONFIDENTLY DRAW NEAR to Jesus.
He wants you to!!!!!
Beloved, draw near to Jesus and rest in His work on YOUR behalf! Know that your identity is anchored securely in Jesus. Not in what you do. Not in your relationships. Not in what’s been done to you. It’s in Christ!
Beloved, draw near to Jesus and rest in His work on YOUR behalf! Click To Tweet

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/identity-attacked/

Mar 08

Embracing Imperfection and Finding Freedom

perfection masquerades as goodThat’s a strange thought for me. Embracing imperfection. Several years ago, I sat in my counselor’s office and he challenged me with this idea.
Hi, my name is Aimee and I struggle with perfectionism. Anyone who knows me well will laugh at that statement…because it’s painfully true. I’m a first born, high-achiever, minister’s daughter. I grew up with eyes watching me, looking to me (or so I thought). Perfectionism was born and rooted deep in my heart.
Perfectionism masquerades as something good. Who wouldn’t want to strive for excellence or success in all things? Yet, it comes with BIG cost…insecurity, self-doubt, and lots of SHAME.
See perfectionism is impossible…
Let that sink in a minute.

 

Perfectionism masquerades as something good. Click To Tweet
No one is perfect; no one functions at that high level. We all know this deep down. Perfection is a mirage that leaves us in a desert wasteland, dry and thirsty.
Perfection is a mirage that leaves us in a desert wasteland, dry and thirsty. Click To Tweet
How can this be, you ask? How can something presumably good lead us so astray?
Perfectionism brings SHAME. It communicates, “be perfect and you’re okay”. When your humanity kicks inPerfection leaves us dry and you mess up, perfectionism shouts, “something is wrong with you because you aren’t perfect.” Cue the shame and unending self-doubt and self-loathing.
Here’s the light bulb moment….perfectionism and abuse communicate the same message.
Both speak condemning shame and inadequacy. Both shout, “something is wrong with you.” Both abuse and deceive us.
So how do we get free?
By embracing our humanity, weaknesses, flaws, mistakes, warts and all. By sharing our imperfections with those in our life. By living life fully transparent and real. There’s freedom here. Scary, vulnerable, beautiful freedom.

 

By embracing our humanity, weaknesses, flaws, mistakes, warts and all. Click To Tweet
You see perfectionism is often image and identity driven. You want others to see you as a “have it all together” person. You fear failure because you see it as your definition.
But failure doesn’t define you; it’s an experience to learn from. Identity isn’t in what you do or don’t do. Identity is rooted in something deeper; it’s who you are. We are all broken people living in a broken world with other broken people. We are human. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we fail. What’s beautiful about us IS our imperfections. It’s what unites us and sets us free.
What’s beautiful about us IS our imperfections.. Click To Tweet
Owning my many imperfections, has freed me from the tyranny of shame. Click To Tweet
For me, owning my many imperfections, has freed me from the tyranny of shame that used to beat me up mentally when I failed. I think the biggest Aha moment for me in my own journey was this thought: “If I am perfect than I have no need for Jesus.” So beloved, I will revel in my imperfections because Jesus is so much better. I will trade SHAME for GRACE and experience REST and FREEDOM. My mistakes and failures remind me of His perfection in my place. Before God, the perfection I long for is mine, not because of my goodness or excellence but because of Christ’s goodness and excellence.
I will trade SHAME for GRACE and experience REST and FREEDOM. Click To Tweet
My mistakes and failures remind me of His perfection in my place. Click To Tweet

Imperfection Gets Grace

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” 2 Corinthians 11:30

 “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron….For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son (Jesus) who has been made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:11, 28
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness (perfection) to everyone who believes” Romans 10:4
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/embracing-imperfection/

Nov 30

Hope for the Holidays

Hope for the Holidays Not Christmas Stress

Let’s all be super honest! The holidays bring stress. Lots of STRESS!! Even good things create stress and just the sheer volume of extra work brings with it a level of stress. Most of us have schedules that have no extra room to accomplish these extra tasks.
* Gift buying  *Decorating *Parties *Wrapping *Travel *Finances
Not to mention, the list of things that surface during the holidays.
*Expectations *Loss *Loneliness *Grief *Depression *Anxiety *Family
Now I love Christmas but what I really love is family time, relaxing, good food, games and peace. I love celebrating the amazing thing God did by sending Jesus. Accomplishing for us, what we could never do on our own. The last thing I want is to get lost in the chaotic must be perfect American Christmas…but we do…it’s easy.
We like pretty things and giving gifts and parties and on and on it goes. If we aren’t careful, we walk through the season and we miss it…or we dread it.
If we aren’t careful, we walk through the season and we miss it…or we dread it. Click To Tweet
Maybe there is hope for the holidays, hope for the stress we are all under. Maybe the solution is to shift our expectations. To expect things to be busy, to expect things to be not perfect, to expect people to be crazy, to expect stores to be busy, to expect kids to argue during advent, and to expect those who’ve experienced grief to be sad.
Preparing for stressful times is a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual process:
Mentally:
 Look at the situation with realistic expectations.
Remember what you really value and want out of this time.
Physically:
 Take care of yourself: eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep
Take time to sit and take slow deep breathes.
Observe the world around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Take time to live in the moment.
This time of year can be difficult for those who have experienced loss Click To Tweet
Emotional:
Know when you need extra support. This time of year can be difficult for those who have experienced loss or already struggle with anxiety and depression. Have safe people on call for you, join a support group, or just be real with your family and friends. They love you. You don’t have to pretend. If you need professional help, call a good counselor.
Spiritually:
The season is about GRACE! Grace God extends to us through the incredible gift of Jesus.
The season is about GRACE! Grace God extends to us through the incredible gift of Jesus. Click To Tweet
Grace wins. Grace doesn’t expect anything but us to be real and messy. Grace gives. Grace forgives. Grace is undeserved. Christmas is Grace.

 

Hope for the Holidays

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/hope-for-the-holidays/

Oct 13

Embracing Who We Are

This is a crazy metaphor…maybe only women will understand it…but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about embracing who we ARE and not striving for something different.
This came about as I started letting my hair, do what it does…which is a half-hearted wavy, not real curl kind of thing.
For years, I have just straightened my hair (or kept it shorter). It never really did much else…yet all of a sudden my hair has more spunk (or waves) if I let it.

FullSizeRender-3

Sometimes I do, I let it be wild and wavy…some pieces are straight, some curl sweetly and some just frizz or stick out. My inner perfectionist screams that my curls are wild and out of control…yet I let them be and do what they want to be and do.
As I have wrestled with this different type of hair (and let me assure you, the struggle is real…short hair may be in my future), I picture all of us in life. We are wild and wavy. We are unique. Some of us frizz, some curl cutely, some stick out straight, but we each matter, and we each have meaning.
We are wild and wavy. We are unique. Some of us frizz, some curl cutely but we each matter. Click To Tweet
Yet so often we don’t let ourselves just be wild and wavy. We are told to straighten out. Don’t be unique; be like all the other straightened out people…boring, the same, and perfectly smooth.
The thing is…even when I straighten my hair…if it rains or I sweat, the wave returns. There is no perfect conformity and there is no such thing as perfection. It’s an illusion…an unattainable standard. All the striving for perfection brings me is the feeling that I am constantly not enough. I need to do more or try harder.
Yet I am who God created me to be and so are you… wonderfully wild and wavy. I make mistakes and I mess up. Sometimes my waves are pretty and sometimes they are a frizzy mess.
Grace is wild and wavy. It uproots perfection and shouts “It Is Finished”. I’ll settle for wild and wavy because it means I get Jesus…His perfection is better than my horrible attempt to straighten my wild and wavy hair…..
Grace is wild and wavy. It uproots perfection and shouts “It Is Finished”. Click To Tweet

wildlove

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/embracing-who-we-are/

Mar 18

Help! My Thoughts Won’t Stop!!

As a counselor, one of the common things people struggle with are what I call spinning or out of control thoughts.  The psychological term for this is rumination and we all struggle with this.  Usually we ruminate about a fear or worry.  We are worried and afraid, so we continually think about it to try and solve it or fix it.  Often we are trying to think our way out of a feeling!
Mindfulness is very big in psychology right now and has proven very helpful with rumination.  Mindfulness has personally helped a lot of clients.
Mindfulness Overview
Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It’s hard to put these things away and concentrate on the task at hand.
So the One-mindfulness skill is an effort to help us focus our attention on the here and now, to be able to absorb the DBT information and take part in the present. Please do not judge yourselves about this. This can be a difficult skill for people to learn. It requires lots of practice and willingness. Be patient with yourself.”
From DBT Self Help
Mindfulness is a Biblical Idea.  Although, these concepts are fairly new to psychology, the principles and concepts are found in scripture.
  • Be Fully Present in the Current Moment with God
    • “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:9
    • “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices” Psalm 37:7
    • “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 46:8
  • In the present moment, notice how God cares for the world around you and for you in very practical ways! God wants our focus to be in the present of today’s moments!
    • “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6: 25-34
    • When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them. Look at the birds, consider the flowers. Sometimes, just simply observing the world with our senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) can bring mental calm. If nothing else, counting your breaths and slowing them can bring physical calm. Jesus keeps them in the present moment by telling them to only focus on today.
  • Christian Mindfulness is Rest for your soul! In emotional distress, the Bible indicates that God wants us to come to Him and find rest. What specific activities keep you in the present moment with Jesus and give you rest?
    • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28
    • “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
  • Don’t assume your judgment of your thoughts or feelings is truth (just observe your thoughts or feelings without judgment in the moment). Observe the thought and test it against God’s Word
    • Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26
    • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
    • “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Mindfulness Examples
Mindfulness involves:
Awareness: What is going on around me, what do I see, what do I smell, what do I taste, how do things feel as I touch them?
Nonjudgmental View of Thoughts: Thoughts or feelings aren’t bad or good, normal or abnormal. They are  just thoughts and feelings.  They flow in and out like water.
Staying in the Moment: This may be the hardest part for those that focus on the past or worry about the future.
Takes Practice: This takes practice during non-emotional times so that it becomes easier to do during emotionally overwhelming times. Practice staying in the moment and observing what you notice with your senses during showers, brushing teeth, or during daily chores. Click Here for samples of mindfulness exercises.

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

rest and hope in God

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/thoughts/

Feb 24

The Comparison Identity Trap

So what is up with girls? Deep down inside, we each long desperately to be known, understood, and loved for who we are (warts and all). We love finding girlfriends who just “get us”, who find us silly and fun. We are drawn to those friends that we have things in common with. As young girls, we delight in our friendships.
Then something happens…..I am not sure when it does but at some point we start comparing ourselves to other girls. In the process we begin to judge ourselves as less than in some area: beauty, fitness, style, intellect, heart, personality, talent, etc. We create an “ideal” self-image that, let’s be honest, is probably super unrealistic. Yet, we judge our self against it day after day. And day after day, we feel less than, unimportant, unworthy (especially when we are super active on social media)!
So what do we do?? We try to be the best at something: the most popular, prettiest, most fashionable, most athletic, most intelligent, most fun, most rebellious, most artistic, etc., etc.
In the process of trying to create for ourselves this awesome “ideal” self-identity, we stomp on friends along the way. We may drop friends because they don’t fit our ideal or we may be so caught up in our goal that we don’t realize we hurt them.
WHAT KIND OF MADNESS IS THIS????
Making yourself better (at anything) does not bring you what your heart deeply longs for! What you really want, more than anything is to be truly known and loved for who you ARE. In your effort to create this ideal self, you are no longer “who you are”.   Whoever loves this “ideal” version of you doesn’t really know the real you! And, deep down you know it! That’s why chasing these things feels empty. Not only that, you often hurt the real friends you had all along.
Where you look for your identity is important. For Christians, our identity is IN CHRIST! We are completely, fully, and finally loved. All the belonging and acceptance that you long for is already yours IN CHRIST. You have it, now, just as you are!
So, pursue the things that God uniquely created you to do (sports, school, arts, beauty, etc) but do it as a reflection of God’s glory through you. Love others with the love that God has poured into you. Forgive other ladies when they fall victim to this comparison/identity trap and hurt you. You understand it’s power and you’ve fallen victim to it yourself.
Seek safe friends that can be REAL (warts and all). Friends who embrace you for your uniqueness and celebrate their own.   Friends who are aware that they mess up and can own it.   Friends that push you to Jesus. Remember we live in a broken world and people are going to hurt us (because we all sin). We can’t change what happens to us but we can decide how we let it impact us and what we do about it. And remember, when you are hurt by another person this does not change your worth or value!!! Run to Jesus when you are hurt and hear Him say “Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17 .  He loves you completely as you are (the current, messed up, non-perfect version of you).
This is an imperfect process since we still live in a broken world.  We will continue to struggle with comparison, identity, and looking to things other than Jesus for our identity.  Sometimes we do great for a while and then catch ourselves looking to something else for meaning.  THERE IS AMAZING GRACE FOR THAT!!  It Is FINISHED!  You are forgiven, move on, fix your eyes anew on Jesus.
Sharing your real struggle with safe people is a great way to start finding real connection. How have you struggled with this?  What are your fears? Where do you tend to place your identity?  What is your deep longing?

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/the-comparison-identity-trap/

Oct 24

Be a Friend to Yourself

speak to yourself like a friend

We tend to be much harsher in our thoughts than we would ever be with a friend.  When we mess up or make a mistake or fall into temptation….most of us tend to then terrorize ourselves in our mind.
What kinds of things are you saying to yourself?  Does it fall into this category:  I should have done this…..I should have known better…..I’m the only one who is this bad…..what is wrong with me…..
These are mental habits we get into because of some situation or feedback we receive from other people at some point in our lives.  Whether these super critical or shaming messages are given to us intentionally or unintentionally, we internalize these terroist messages as TRUTH.
The problem is that anyone subjected to shaming, critical, or condemning messages over time starts to feel bad.  Often this is what is behind painful, intense emotions like anxiety and depression.  It’s not always what happened to us in the past that is making us sad or anxious but the messages that we tell ourselves about what happened.  We believe our inner terroist.
And since we think these terrible things about our selves, we would never share that message with anyone else.  I bet if you shared just one of those terrorist thoughts with a friend, they would tell you how hard you are being on yourself.  Friends are compassionate, understanding, encouraging, and supportive.  Friends let us be real.
What if for just one day, you pledged to speak to yourself no different than you would to a friend.  What if you decided to nurture yourself?  What if you decided to stand up for the you that the inner terrorist is beating up?
Now, I know habits are hard to break and this one requires some inner dialogue but what if it made a difference?  What if you eventually silenced the terroist and started believing the truth!
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God!
He knows every hair on your head!
He loves you with an everlasting love!
When you were still broken and sinful, He sent Christ to die for you.  For all your brokenness.  He took the shame that your inner terrorist is placing on you day after day!
IT IS FINISHED!

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/friend/

Oct 10

The Six C’s for Managing Anxiety, Biblically

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Looking for Biblical anxiety help?

Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can develop into a vicious cycle.  It may start for one reason but the cycle can continue for different reasons.  See my previous post on anxiety is a more detailed explanation of how this cycle starts and continues.

Now, understanding anxiety is helpful but what someone struggling with anxiety really needs is in the moment help!  The physical response to anxiety is so overwhelming that it feels extremely scary.  

When in the midst of anxiety, the natural response is to escape NOW whatever situation you’ve decided is causing this response.  For my son, the anxiety response was caused (he thought) by our separation.  It is not the same for everyone but regardless of who you are, you know what you think is the cause.  Unfortunately, escaping the situation only reinforces the anxiety response.  Remember the cycle:

anxiety cycle

So what can you do?  What does the Bible say?  What does the research say?  Is there hope?

YES!  There is HOPE for those brave people willing to try something different.  Let me tell you, I am serious about the word brave!  It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on and I am humbled by those I’ve seen take these steps.  To me, you are a real hero!  Below are scriptural methods for dealing with anxiety that are also backed up by psychological research.

The 6 C’s for Managing Anxiety 

  • Current moment presence:  This just means being fully present in the current moment.  The psychological term is mindfulness.  For the Christian, this has two parts:

    • Being fully present with yourself in the current moment.  This involves taking the focus off of your anxiety/fear and placing it onto the observable world around you.  Using your senses, evaluate what you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell.  Start describing you immediate present moment.  Sometimes just observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm.  When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them.

       “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6: 25-30

    • Being fully present in the current moment with God.  God is always with you no matter your experience.  Remembering that in the middle of panic is one of the ways the Bible instructs us to handle the difficult situations we encounter.  Jesus reminds his disciples of this in Matthew 6.  God calls us continually to come to Him for REST.

      •  “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6: 31-34

      • Be still, and know that I am God.”   Psalm 46:9

      • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.”  Psalm 37:7

      • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 46:8

      •  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

      •  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7

  • Connected with safe people:  Safe relationships soothe, bring security, and comfort.  Anxiety and fear is much easier to face when we are with a trusted person.  This is how God wired human beings to grow.  It is part of the way we image God because God is intrinsically relational.  Counselors who specialize in anxiety use this concept by utilizing the power of the therapeutic relationship to encourage clients to face fears in a safe environment. 

    • Before sin entered the world, God knew that we would need relationships, I mean, He created us that way!  “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is right for him.'”  Genesis 2:18

    • God designed children to receive comfort from their parents and this gives them a safe base from which to explore the world.  This same concept can be replicated in our relationship with God and other people. “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms.  Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3

    • God intends the body of Christ to take this supportive and caring role for each other.  “Instead we speak the truth in love.  We will grow up into Christ in every way.  “He is the head.  He makes the whole body grow and build itself up in LOVE.  Under the control of Christ, each part of the body does its work.  It supports the other parts.”  Ephesians 4:15-16

  • Calming the physical body:

    “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms. Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2-3  This verse indicates that we have within us the power to calm ourselves, so what are some practical tools for calming our physical anxiety symptoms.  If you are calming your physical body and refocusing your mind, the anxiety will start to lessen.

    • Slow deliberate deep breathing

    • Slowly contracting and relaxing each different muscle, starting at your toes and moving up to your head

    • Counting your slow deliberate breaths

    • Meditating on scripture, calming imagery, or present moment awareness

  • Change negative and false thinking patterns:  Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think.  In addition, we develop thinking habits over time.  Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:

    • Negative thinking

    • Jumping to conclusions

    • Predicting an outcome

    • Comparing yourself to others

    • Reading other people’s minds

    • Critical internal voice

    • Catastrophizing

    • Harsh judgments of self and others

If you identify with any of these thinking patterns (and let’s be honest, we all do this on some level) then let’s start here.  Sometimes, just learning how to question our thoughts and change our internal dialogue will dramatically change our experience.  But how?  Start by:  1) Journaling your thoughts, 2) Questioning whether your thoughts are true or balanced, and 3) Consider alternative explanations.  If you struggle with this, find a good counselor who can help you.

Scripture tells us to:

Pay attention to our thoughts:  “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

Renew our mind.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2  

Evaluate  and recognize truthful and beneficial thoughts.  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32  “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”  Phillippians 4:8

  • Consider your heart:  What we are anxious about reveals what we value and treasure.  I know that’s tough to hear but it’s truth.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus tells people this right before he instructs them not to worry.  Our worry reveals what we value.  For my son, he values his parents and the fear of something happening to them can send him into panic.  For some people, it is safety, for others control, and for others it’s the image other people have of them.  What is deep behind your fear?  What are you placing at higher value than God?  Do you really trust that God is good?  God is enough.  I’ve been following a beautiful story of a 13 year old boy who just lost his battle to cancer.  His witness of God being enough even in the struggle, even in the face of death was humbling.  I have heard this from more than one person in the midst of deep struggle.  God is enough!  God is in control!  God is good!  God is at work!

    “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”  Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,  “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3: 18-24

  • Cling to GRACE:  All of the above things will help you manage and deal with your anxiety.  After some consistent work, you will start to see your anxiety reactions decrease.  However, anxiety may still sneak up on you.  None of us are perfect nor will we achieve that status till God makes all things new.  You know what is awesome?  “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)  and your perfect record before God as a Christian is the anxiety-free life of Jesus!  Cling to that grace!  Give grace and patience to yourself.  Take a deep breath and start again!  There is always hope!

    Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

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biblical anxiety help

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/four-cs-managing-anxiety-biblically/

Aug 15

Parenting

 mom juggle

Parenting, The Great Surprise!

Well, I became a mom almost 14 years ago (wow, when did I become so old?).  Although I love my kids and I love being mom, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, prepares you for this!

I mean how did I become the finder of all lost things, the fixer of all broken things, the chef, the maid, the clothes washer/dryer/folder, the chauffeur, the teacher, planner, organizer, hostess of many friends, etc., etc., etc.!  My favorite moment this month is when my kid wakes me up to tell me that he is awake!  Really, he couldn’t be awake by himself…I had to lose out on the bliss of sleep as well?

Thankfully, God gives us incredible love for our children and grace to cover each and every mistake.  Watching my boys transition from kids to teens is pretty cool!  I mean they can do stuff for themselves (hang in there moms of littles…it does come) and they are pretty cool to be around!

Parenting is hard and definitely not for perfectionists, pleasers, or wimps (yikes, I have a little of all of that in me)!  Nothing has grown me up more than growing as a mom with my kids!  As I reflect on years past, here is what I would tell my young mom-self (if I could):

  • Building the relationship with my kid is way more important than the condition of my house!

  • Frequently what frustrates & angers me is simply childish curiosity or accidents, so relax!

  • Read Dr. Kevin Leman, he ROCKS!

  • There is grace for me when I mess up &  grace for my kids too!

  • Children learn just as much about life when I mess up and apologize, as they do when I do it all right!

  • Rigid expectations for myself and my kids could lay a heavy burden on me than is reasonable.

  • Have fun!

  • Get sleep!

  • Learn to say no!

  • Take care of myself so I can care for others, no guilt!

  • Have friends & be the village for each other!

  • Don’t neglect my relationship with God!  He is # 1!

  • Don’t neglect my marriage, husband comes before kids!

  • Laugh often!

Moms, you’re not alone!  We got this!  There is always hope!

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Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/parenting/

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