Category Archives: Anxiety

Anxiety. We can either pray, or we become prey.

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You guys,  the struggle is real.  The anxiety struggle, I mean.  And as we learned last week, it can come from just about anywhere, anytime.

For instance, several years ago (okay, it was 20 years ago…) I was on an airplane.  It was one of those tiny little puddle jumper things with propellers that was supposed to fly me from Chicago to Indianapolis.  Just looking at the thing made me jumpy!

And here’s the thing.  I was a nervous passenger to begin with; I always had been.  But sitting on the runway at O’Hare, looking up at the dark and stormy sky wondering how this tiny little plane was going to fly through it, my anxiety ramped up to all kinds of crazy.

We took off and about 10 minutes into the 45 minute flight, the plane got caught in the thunderstorm storm.  It was struck by lightening (apparently, this isn’t a big deal to airplanes, but I assure you it INDEED was a BIG FAT DEAL to me), the plane dropped about 1000 feet,  and the oxygen masks dropped down.  Yes.  THOSE masks.  The ones you are instructed to put on YOURS  first before helping others.  The only problem was, I couldn’t move because my body was frozen in fear.  And I wasn’t traveling with anyone.  And the flight attendants were busy in the chaos. So…no mask for Wendie.  Luckily, it was some sort of electrical malfunction from getting electrocuted in a tin canister in the sky (!) and we actually didn’t need them.

Anxiety, anyone?

Obviously, since I’m sitting here writing, all turned out well. We turned around mid-flight and landed safely back at O’Hare.  But, OH.  I was SHOOK, sisters.  SHOOK.    I was convinced, actually, that I’d never board another flight in my whole-living-life.  This was going to be problematic, though, because I lived in England at the time and traveled often for my job.  Um, red flag alert.

(I think now is a good time to tell you that I eventually got back on a plane and sort of overcame this weird fear of flying.    How was all this possible, you ask?  Well…I sought hypnosis treatment from a certified hypnotherapist in England who also happened to be a dentist  – I’m totally NOT kidding you so you can now begin to wonder about my healthcare choices.  But that’s SUCH a long story.  Saving that beauty for another day… 😉 I love cliffhangers.)

(Oooooh.  And speaking of in-flight anxiety stories, the next time we’re together, be sure to ask me about flying with a guy whom I affectionately call “Double-Double Mark-Mark” because he needed a double-double adult beverage to make it through a flight from Chicago to Sarasota.  We ended up sharing our iPad with him so he could watch “Gnomeo and Juliet” to calm his nerves.  It was all good until he offered the remainder of his adult beverage to my daughter – who was 11 at the time.  Um, no thank you, kind sir; perhaps it’s time for you to close your eyes for a bit.)

I SWEAR, you guys, I do not make these things up.

But here’s my main point:  my anxiety in those airplane moments was totally rooted in my need to CONTROL things.  Problem is, I’m not a pilot.  Not even close.

That’s the thing, really.  Control.  Well, it’s our need to have control. Which is just a dressed up word we use when we decide we need to manipulate our circumstances instead of letting God take His rightful place at the helm.  Girls, when we grab control, we are essentially saying we don’t trust Him.  And if we don’t trust Him, we are playing right into the hands of our enemy.  (See this post regarding our enemy and his manipulative ways for more info…)

Pray or Become Prey

I love this quote from Beth Moore: “When it comes to anxiety, we can cast it and pray, or we can keep it and become prey. We’re not convinced God is listening.  If we really believed He – the creator of the Universe  who has all things at His fingertips – if we really thought He was there, we would pray.”

So what’s a good Bible study girl to do in the face of such anxious times and circumstances?  Ladies, we need a plan.

Our plan is 100% scripture-based (and therefore TRUTH-based) .  It starts with knowing what anxiety is and how to call it out, and finishes STRONG with declaring Truth over ourselves, our circumstances, and even over others.

If you are interested in attacking anxiety instead of letting it attack you, click here for our girlfriend’s guide to kicking it out of our lives.  Remember from last week, it may not change your circumstance or situation, but it sure can bring you freedom from the freak-out surrounding it.  And that freedom allows us to step out in faith and take action when and where it’s needed.

God is good all the time, sisters.

isaiah 41 10 scripture card

Following our She PERSISTED study?  You can click here for our homework for week six!  Can you even believe we are HALF WAY THROUGH this awesome study?!  And for those of you who like all the extras, click here for some great online resources supporting our topics this week!

Smooches and prayers for FEAR-FREE moments this week!

Peace, love, and SO MUCH JOY!

Wendie  xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Note:  I take anxiety, on the clinical level, with extreme seriousness.  Prayer and a relationship with God have been incredible tools in my own toolbox for dealing with it, personally.  Having said that, if anxiety is affecting you in ways that disrupt your sleep, your daily life, your ability to take basic care of yourself, and/or your ability to relate to others, PLEASE reach out to a professional (doctor, therapist, pastor, counselor).  Help from every level is so important in conquering it.  If your anxiety or depression makes you feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, PLEASE tell someone immediately and call 911.  I’m praying for you.  Relief IS possible, sweet friend.

 

 

 

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Dear Anxiety, You’re Not Welcome Here

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Anxiety is hard wired into our brains and our physical body chemistry – think “flight or fight”.  Plainly put, when doled out properly, anxiety keeps us alive.

But somewhere along the line, for many, many, many of us, this security system of ours has become like a panic button that goes off all too often at a very high “volume”.

Here are two definitions of anxiety from Merriam Webster:

(1) : apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill : a state of being anxious

(2) medical : an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it

According to Max Lucado (from his book, Anxious for Nothing), the United States is the most chronically anxious nation in the world.  Fifty percent of adults over the age of 25 report seeing a doctor at least once in the past year for an anxiety related symptom. And (this one just about breaks my heart-open into a gazillion pieces):  seventy-five percent of school aged kids report experiencing anxiety on a regular basis.

Why?  Well, Lucado theorizes it all has to do with rapid changes.  We have experienced more change in this generation than any generation in the last 300 years.  Everything from technology, to travel, to instant access to anything and just about everything in between.  All good things, intentionally speaking, of course.  But they’ve come alongside our regular anxieties of daily living to sort of wallop us with daily exposure to fear.

Anxiety causes a HOST of physical problems. It can be as benign as a stress headache or queasy stomach or as quality of life altering like high blood pressure, ulcers, immune and autoimmune issues.

The effects on the mind can be equally as debilitating from panic and phobias, to depression, addictions, etc.

But how does anxiety mess or harm with us spiritually? It causes us doubt the sovereignty of God and turns us inward to rely on our own devices, attempting to take back control of things that were never meant to be our responsibility.

Lysa Terkeurst, in Unglued says this, however: “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.”  And what she means by that is that our emotions and the feelings that come from them are like  flags being waved that say, “Hey you!  Something is going on that needs attention.”  Emotions come from a gut feeling. Nine times out of ten, we do not need to spontaneously react from the gut feeling.  Instead,  we need to create a plan of action that should come from the mind, after some prayer and listening to God.

This is possible, girls! Listen to our Power Pack Scripture this week:

2 tim 1 7 card

I particularly LOVE the New King James Version on this one because it’s the perfect counter to the lie of anxiety. It gives us the confidence to look anxiety in the face and say, “God didn’t put you here so get the heck out.”

Then, we start arming ourselves with other power-packed TRUTH to help us in the battle.

You know how much I love Bible trivia, so here are a couple fun facts for you:

  • Directives regarding fear show up a whopping 366 times in the NIV; second only to LOVE (551), and just above gratitude/thanksgiving (340).
  • Philippians 4:4-8 is the most read passage in the Bible on a Kindle
  • Philippians 4:6 is the most underlined sentence on kindle

Now, I’m not so naïve to think it takes one prayer, one moment of clarity with God about it, and your circumstance changes and you never have anxiety again. If you look at the most anxious and emotionally charged story about Jesus in the Bible, it’s when He is praying in the Gethsemane.  Scripture tells us he didn’t just pray once about what was going to happen, you guys.  He went to His knees about it three times.  This thing we have with anxiety, sister, it’s an ongoing battle.

I whole heartedly agree with Beth Moore when she says that we have no bigger battle in our life-long, day-to-day living than our battle with anxiety.

But the first thing I want us to remember as we start digging deep into this topic is that we can rest in the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7 and Philippians 4:4-8. God has given us a freedom plan from freaking out.

In these next couple weeks, there is another sweet piece of scripture you’re going to want to lean in on:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  I Peter 5:7, NIV

Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7, NKJV

I wanted you to hear it in two versions. The NIV calls it out for what it is, right?  ANXIETY.  But the cool revelation about it comes  from digging down into the Greek lexicon from the NKJV.

Twice in that verse the word “cares” is used. The second use of it comes from a word that means tender loving-kindness and care, as in the type one receives from a parent.

The first “care” is translated from the Greek word, merimna, which means “anything that brings disruption and destruction to the personality and the mind.” That’s the level of anxiety He is asking us to cast upon Him. ANYTHING.  ALL THINGS.  Big, small, and everything.  Cast it ALL upon Him.

Next week, we’re diving into HOW that all looks, practically, in our daily lives.  It IS possible, sweet friends, to kick our Worry Bully to the curb and live with peace in our hearts!

Pope Francis Quote

May God bless you and remind you that your  are POWERFUL, FULL OF LOVE, and have a SOUND MIND!  For this week’s homework, click here.  For this week’s awesome extras, click here!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

PS – If anxiety is affecting your daily life in negative ways, I encourage you to reach out to a professional to help you navigate effective and positive ways of dealing with it.  This could include a doctor, a therapist, a counselor, a pastor, etc.  If your anxiety or ANYTHING else ever brings you to a place where you are considering harming yourself or someone else, PLEASE TELL SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY and seek emergency assistance.  I’m praying for you.

The WONDER of Forgiveness…

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This past summer, I learned an interesting tidbit of American history this about dams. Now, dams themselves have been around for as long civilization.  Dams are structures that help control the flow of water for irrigation, prevent flooding, create reservoirs for times of drought, etc.  But it has only been really within the last century or so that technology and structural engineering techniques have made it possible to create dams powerful enough to generate massive amounts of electricity .  But in order to do so, they change the landscape of the land surrounding them by actually flooding over entire valleys and the towns in them.  The result?  Hundreds of towns across the country have been strategically and intentionally flooded and are underwater.

So there are actual man-made lakes around the world that look beautiful and tranquil on the surface, yet lurking just below the surface (in some cases as little a 5-10 feet below the surface). Lovely to look at, but a little suspect for swimming!

town-under-water

One of the things we know is important to Jesus is that we are women of integrity. Believers whose outside appearance authentically represent the state of our insides.

How do I know? Well, many of you will recall this verse from our study of the Beatitudes:

 You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8, MSG

When we, as believers in Christ, refuse to forgive someone, we become like those flooded lakes. We may look good on the surface, but anyone digging any deeper into our spirits better watch out for some jagged wreckage in there.

We block God’s mercy – we dam up grace – when we refuse to forgive.  We gotta learn to let that forgiveness FLOW.

rushing-water

But how? Especially when the issue seems so unforgiveable to us.  But this is where the supernatural power of true reconciliation, when we actually take our unforgiving hearts to God, gets going.  Because for the big stuff, we cannot do it by ourselves.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Mathew 19:26, NLT

When Jesus says everything is possible, he means everything. So how do we do it?  Girls, this has been a bit life altering for me and I’m just getting used to it, but listen to this for a sec:

1 Peter 5:5-7New English Translation (NET Bible)

…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

CAST. YOUR .CARES. 

That’s where we begin.

Cast your cares, cast your cares, cast your cares! Your cares include issues surrounding forgiveness, girls.  So, in all humility, on your face, cast your cares.  You say to him, “Lord, this issue with forgiveness about __________ is about to crush my spirit.  This is beyond painful and it is splitting me in two.  This is compromising my soul integrity. I cannot do this alone and I need you.  So I’m giving it to you because only YOU can do something positive with it.”

And so the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within us begins. And then we change our mindset. We move our minds up and out of the mucky mire of unforgiveness with purpose and intent, because we KNOW we have a faithful God and we let Him know we fully expect Him to work this out.

Of course, all of that along with the humility of saying we know He will work it out in His time and within His will for it. We know He wants us to live with forgiving, merciful, grace-filled hearts.  That’s how we know we can expect a victory here.

I get it. I’ve lived with stuff that I find it almost impossible to think God could forgive someone for so how in the world am I supposed to do that?  Nowhere is it written that it’s going to be easy.  But because scripture says ALL things are possible with God, I’m going to try.  Regardless of/with whom it is I need to reconcile and regardless the issue – myself, someone else, or even God.  I’m going to try.

Following along with our series, Wonder-FULL?!  This is our LAST week of wonders!  Finish up reading the main book, Wonderstuck, and complete week 6 in your participant guide!  Meet us back here next week for a wrap up of the series and a special announcement of what we’re up to in 2017!

Peace, love, and WONDER!!!

Wendie

 

Expecting Miracles

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“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Have you ever been astounded by God? I mean, has he ever just surprised the ba-geezers out of you with something He does and knocked your socks off in awe when it happened?

It can be as personal to you as a Godwink (those moments when you realize God showed up and orchestrated something JUST for you…the person you absolutely needed to see in that moment, a song on the radio that brings you immediate peace, a glimpse of something that reminds you He is near and in control?)…

OR it can be something a bit more grand, say a Godwonder?

A miracle, even?

This summer, as I was reading through our current study (Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg), I decided to take Margaret’s challenge and pray to be reawakened to the wonders of God in my life.

It started simply enough with this five-word prayer:  “God, show me Your Glory”.

I HIGHLY recommend that prayer.  Like, highly.

Little by little, I started to hear and see things around me that I had sort of become oblivious to:  beauty in nature, “coincidences” in relationships, and miracles of all shapes and sizes in the lives of people around me.  It was a beautiful thing.  And my confidence in “Divine Expectation” began to regrow – especially for those around me.

For instance, my friend, Alicia prayed a very similar prayer before she headed out on a family summer vacation this year in Florida.  That trip remains a highlight of their year!  They experienced dolphins and manatees approaching them (in their natural environments, mind you – not contrived swim situations), and even happened upon a sandbar as the tide went out COVERED in a multitude of sand dollars – which they had only seen in souvenir shops and airport gift stores.  I was SO excited for them!

And, if I’m honest, I was also a little envious.

In mid-July, my gorgeous girl and I headed to Florida to spend a little “R&R” on the Gulf Coast with my parents.  We go once or twice a year, but this time, I felt God calling me to do something just a little different:  GO TO THE BEACH!

Beach umbrellas ellas ellas cropped.jpg(copyright Ella Connors, 2016)

I know.  It sounds weird.  We visit that area often so you’d think the beach would be a staple in our vacation “diet”.  But you see, my Ella doesn’t like the beach.  As a matter of fact, she hates it.  It scares her.  And it has scared her since she was little.  Nothing dramatic ever happened to her, she just gets a bit panicked there.  Overwhelmed.  Uncomfortable. And so, for the last 10 years of visiting Florida, we’ve avoided the beach.

But this year?  God was telling me – GO.  And so I planned my trip, with DIVINE EXPECATION of meeting Him there.  I’d go alone so Ella wouldn’t have to experience the anxiety and panic she always gets.  She could stay at home with my parents and I’d spend my day there, waiting for Him to show up and show off for me, like He had for Alicia.  I prayed for my own beach miracle:  I wanted to encounter wild dolphins.

The morning I’d set aside for my beach trip arrived and, sort of last minute, my parents somehow convinced Ella to come along and we all packed up the car and headed to Anna Maria Island.  This, I thought, was sign that God was about to unload a mighty miracle of dolphin family proportions!

We unloaded the car and set up half way between the ocean waves and a beachside restaurant where we planned to have lunch. Ella was determined not to get in the water, just collect shells with my mom.  But me?  Well, I was diving in head first to go find my dolphins.

After about an hour or so (and still no dolphins), I noticed Ella actually IN the water and reaching her hands down into the sand underneath, pulling up treasures to see, touch, and put back in.  I smiled, of course, seeing how God had made sure everything was calm enough as to not disturb my dolphin search.

ella-and-the-shella(Copyright Wendie Connors, 2016)

At lunchtime, we headed up to The Sandbar Restaurant.   After eating, Ella and my parents decided to head back down to the beach for more shell finding and splashing in the Gulf.  I stayed up in the shade to finish my drink, knowing we’d be packing up soon to head back inland for the day.

I thought about my prayer for my own beach miracle.  I had been so sure He’d meet me there. I’d expected the dolphins, and while it had been such a great  day, I have to admit that I was wondering where He was that day.

A nanosecond later, this verse bubbled right up into my brain:

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:13-14(a) NLT

“God”, I wondered, “I’m looking so hardWhere are you?”

I looked up and straight out into the ocean and my heart burst wide open into a million pieces.

Right there, right in front of me, was my beach miracle.

Ella was diving in and out of the waves, her eyes wide with joy and confidence.

My own personal beach miracle, my very own “dolphin” daughter splashing and laughing and unafraid and begging me with her crazy waving to come swim and dive with her in God’s beautiful ocean.

That day, I swam with my wild dolphin (or turtle, as the case may be… 😉 )!

ella-as-a-turtle-cropped(copyright Wendie Connors, 2016)

Girls, we need to learn to believe God for miracles.

In doing so, we also need to stop praying for what we think they should look like.  Our God is not limited to one kind of miracle.  We tend to sort of box Him in when it comes to divine expectation because we cannot even imagine the wonders of which He is capable.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)

I don’t want to be the kind of  person who boxes Him in. I need to remember He has infinitely more than one miracle up His sleeve, more than ONE miracle with which to bless me.

Yes, sometimes He shows off with glorious ostentatiousness, like Alicia’s entire sandbar full of sand dollars! And yet other times, He quietly blows our minds by loosening anxiety’s grip on the heart of a teenage girl, and sets her free to glide and flip and dive through the water like a dolphin, reminding us that His goodness and grace in granting miracles cannot be contained.

How about you?  Would you be so bold today to pray that five-word prayer:  “God, show me Your Glory”?    He wants to amaze you, girl.  Let Him.

Here’s a link to our favorite song this week: “Anything Is Possible“, by Matthew West!   Also, if you are reading the Wonderstruck book with us, read chapters .000 and .001!  You can also complete Week One in the participant guide if you are working at Level 4!  See you back here next week as we explore the Wonder of His Presence!  So good, right?!?!

Peace, love and WONDERFULL joy!

Wendie

 

 

 

 

 

simpl.if.I: Be Nice! (Summer Series Week #8)

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I’m one of “those” moms who cannot wait for the first SECOND of summer break. The thoughts of three blissful months of no arguing over homework, no making of lunches, and POSSIBLY sleeping just a wee bit later fill me with complete glee! And the fact that we are on our very own schedule just makes it even sweeter!

BUT. (There’s always a big but, isn’t there?!)

There ALSO comes a time every summer where I begin to think, “Hmmm…maybe summer break could be a teensy bit shorter”. This thought comes to mind because, to be completely honest, I’m not feeling so “nice” anymore.

The kitchen never seems to be clean. The laundry somehow multiplies. The gas in my car is constantly on empty. Our checking account feels a bit skinny. And my patience feels even skinnier.

Anyone feelin’ me today?

And so, upon waking this morning and realizing my less than stellar attitude about summer vacation (which continues for three more weeks, mind you), I spent a little time with one of my favorite truth tellers, Paul, who reminded me of the importance of being nice to others.

Be Nice Romans 1220

For me, praying God’s word back to Him is like picking up the phone to call a friend. Then sitting quietly and meditating on it is like giving Him the time to answer back. And today, He answered – loud and clear.

In the midst of my complaining to Him about all the things that were annoying me, He gently revealed to me that He wasn’t the only one to whom I had been complaining about it. Apparently (and embarrassingly) I had somehow exchanged my Mary Poppins bag of tricks that was always at the ready for spontaneity and teenage girl FUN, for a sack full of sour puss comments.

Whoops.

And in that moment, I understood that complaining about what I had been looking forward to for so long wasn’t my best plan.  I needed to change my perspective because my current mindset wasn’t helping anything. God showed me a great way of getting back to summer joy mode with my girl: remember the good things.

ephesians 5 15

The thought that I kept hearing in my head was this: “Remind Elle who she really is”. And as I thought about that, I realized this: who on this Earth is closer to her and more able to see the God-given goodness and beauty He placed within her than me? Who (other than her dear daddio) spends more time with her, loves her more, appreciates her, and celebrates her more than me?

God was prompting me to BE NICE and remind her of THOSE things, not the ones that were annoying me (because I’m sure she’s got her own list of what I’m doing that annoys her…)!

So, in between drop off at one camp and pick up an hour later,  I spent a few moments jotting down a list of the amazing things that make her unique to this world and so special to me. It wasn’t a long, multi-paged novella or anything like that! It was actually just a short-but-sweet bullet-pointed list of her beauty – inside and out.

When she got home, I watched as she found the card and read it. She smiled big and gave me a huge hug. She thanked me for the surprise love note and “being so, so nice” (her words, not mine) and reminding her why I loved her so much.

I caught her several times throughout the day opening the envelope to read the card again. She smiled each time. I had indeed surprised her with goodness and it felt so good, so sweet, to be blessed by an obedience to God’s prompting.

Who can you surprise with goodness today? Where can you add a little helping of “nice” to this world? It surely doesn’t need to be big or monumental or even cost a single penny. It simply needs to be authentic and from your heart right to someone else’s. It’ll change someone’s day  (and improve your attitude) I promise!

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take to improve your “niceness quotient” today!)

  1. Print/find this week’s mantra and scripture card. Display it somewhere prominent to remind yourself of the JOY in surprising someone with your goodness every day!
  2. Think of ONE person who could use a little nice in her/his world this week and make it a point to find something special (big or small) to do. The blessing you receive in return will exceed what you can imagine, sweet friends.
  3. Read all of Romans Chapter 12 in the Message Version! It’s honestly one of my favorite chapters of any book in the Bible!
  4. Watch this video from Needtobreathe called “Brother”. You’ll LOVE it!

If you are reading before amen by Max Lucado alongside us, this week we are reading Chapter Seven, “They Need Help” that beautifully talks about the power of intercessory prayer (praying for the needs of others). The study guide at the back of the book is great, too, should you have time to sit down to complete it!

Well, my dears, just two little weeks left of our summer series! I can’t believe it is flying by so quickly. But never fear – the ministry team is busily planning our fall 2015 series RIGHT NOW and we will announce it at the close of the summer session! So be sure to stay tuned!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: simpli.if.I week 9: Thank God!

simpl.if.I: Be Real! (Summer Series Week #6)

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Sometimes you just need to know you aren’t alone.  Sometimes you need reminding that weeping is cleansing and good and painful and hard, regardless of the reason why you’re weeping.

 Be Real Angel Statue

Jesus Wept.  John 11:35

When I read those two words from John 11 above, I honestly didn’t care why he was weeping.   I just needing reminding that Jesus wept and in the midst of it, I realized the healing power of this very short verse.  Jesus wept because he knew what it meant to be broken.  Just like us.  He wept because He knew it isn’t easy being human.  Just like us.  He wept because life is hard and He, Himself, experienced the fact that earthly life deals us blows we aren’t expecting and aren’t even able to deflect.   Just like us.  So He wept.  And therefore, it makes perfect sense to me that we do too.

 

We each weep because of a catalyst – an event.  Maybe because of a diagnosis.  Maybe because the bottom falls out.  Maybe because we can’t cope with the way it is for one second longer.  Maybe because it shatters our heart to see someone we love in shambles.  But honestly, regardless of the reason, we weep because we have been rocked at our very core.  We weep because we cannot have imagined “this” was coming.  We weep because we didn’t want it to be this way.  And we weep because we know change is coming.  But maybe change is just what we need to heal.

 

The beautiful flipside to the sadness is that we also weep when we are happy!  Can you even imagine all the times Jesus must have felt blessed tears on His holy cheeks when He looked around and thought, “My heart could burst with joy in this moment!”?  Even with all the heartache, there were most certainly tears of happiness shared around the table, too!  Just like us.

 

Weeping lets us be real, and being real is a grounding and simple and holy experience.  It puts us on an honest and transparent footing with others and, most importantly, with God.  Being real is a lifelong process that prepares us to intimately share ourselves with Him face-to-face.  To be real means to really know love.

Be Real John 11-35

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

 

So today, go ahead, be real.  Do the “ugly cry” if you need to – regardless the reason.  Because remember, sweet friend, you are infinitely loved and understood.

 

Practical Application:  (simipl.if.I’ed steps you can take to get REAL today!)

 

  1. Find/print our scripture card for this week: Be Real (John 11:35). Put it somewhere you can see it and read it to yourself over the course of this week!
  2. Read the verse in context of what was happening in the life of Jesus when this was recorded. Realize that Jesus experienced everything we do as humans. What a gift we have in watching how he did things.
  3. If there’s something going on in your life right now that is moving you to tears, let yourself be real enough to weep. Write a letter to yourself giving yourself permission to be mad/sad/happy/elated/frustrated. When you’ve written it, read it to God as a prayer. Tuck it into your Bible or a safe place to come back to once the emotion has faded and the situation has either resolved or lessened in intensity. It serves as a reminder that God brings us through to the other side of all things WITH Him.
  4. Check out this audio/video version of Francesca Battistelli’s “Holy Spirit”!

If you are reading before amen, by Max Lucado, this week you can read Chapter 5:  “Heal Me”.  And, if you are so inclined, complete the Chapter 5 study guide at the back of the book!

 

Thanks for joining us in this series!  We are growing together in Christ – it’s such an awesome thing!

 

Peace, love, and Joy!

 

Wendie

 

Up Next Week:  Simpl.if.I week  7:  Let Go!

simpl.if.I – Don’t Worry! (Summer Series Week 5)

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Somewhere nearby, a dog sits in his backyard barking all. the. time.  As you might imagine, this annoys the neighbors and upsets households for blocks.  But instead of getting angry, I find myself feeling really sorry for him. The truth about his beautiful boy is this: he’s an anxious dog who is in serious need of some solid training and attention (and maybe even a little dose of tough love…).  I know he’s bothersome to many people, but I just try to keep it in mind that his behavior is a result of an owner who doesn’t know how to take care of him or how to deal with his anxiety.

 Doggie Gate

I’ve experienced times and seasons of anxiety in my life and it occurs to me that perhaps this pretty baby isn’t so different than many of us humans who also feel sad and anxious.  We all just want to feel better, you know?  Maybe we’ve been “barking” and crying for help for years, and even those closest to us didn’t hear us (or didn’t know how to).  All this barking to simply say – “I don’t feel good.  I feel worried.  Take care of me.  Help me.  Bring me inside so I can feel safe because I can’t do that for myself right now.”

Worry exaggerates reality and makes us do one of several things:  we fight; we flee; or we freeze.

“Fighting” most often takes the form of trying to control the situation with a sense of force, which is just a nice way of saying manipulation, and – let’s be honest here – nothing good comes from that.

“Fleeing” when we’re worried just prolongs the inevitable, because life has a way of catching even the swiftest of us.

And “freezing” creates a whole set of problems in itself, because we cut ourselves off from anyone and anything that could possibly help, and end up isolated and alone in our pain.

None of these options deals with the worry.  Instead, all of these options turn our attention onto ourselves and our situations and they distort the truth, so we’re left feeling hopeless in the midst of the anxiety.

But what if we added one more option to those choices?  What if we built on everything we’ve learned so far here in our simpl.if.I series and added a “Don’t Worry” card to our deck?!

Don't Worry Matt 6-25

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells us not to worry!  In my favorite verse of all time (you’ll be reading it in it’s entirety this week), Jesus reminds us that worrying doesn’t do anything productive.  It keeps us from living in the moment, prevents us from fully experiencing God’s blessings, and moves our focus off Him and onto ourselves.

But trusting God?  Well, that is productive!  It gives us freedom.  Freedom to live boldly, with hope and peace, covered in True Love, even when life tries to tell us otherwise.

So back to my neighbor’s barking dog.  What if this dog’s master was able to bring him inside, provide structure, love, and discipline, and training?  What if the Master were to show him the freedom in trusting Him?  How would that look from his heart’s perspective?

 

pretty boy

I think that’d look like one contented, peaceful pup!

Lord, meet me at the back door when I’m barking and usher me into Your peace.  Teach me to fight the urge to manipulate, flee, and freeze and remind me of the freedom I have in You.  Give me courage to stand up to the lies that “worry” tries to tell me. Instead, show me how to listen only to Your Truth:  that you love me, have good plans for me, that You will never leave me, and that I am Yours forever.  You are so rich in your mercy, Father.  Thank you.

Practical Application:  (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take so you learn not to worry!):

1.  Find/print our mantra/scripture card for this week:  Don’t Worry!

2.  Read this portion of Matthew 6 to get our verse in context!  Such good and meaty truth in here, sweet friends!

3.  Call out your worry!  Make a list of things that cause you to either fight, flee, or freeze and then CROSS THEM OUT!  Instead of letting them control you, spend time placing them in God’s hands through prayer and through meditation on His goodness and His ultimate control and concern for you – you ARE the one He loves!!!

4.  Watch this music video for the beautiful song, “Shoulders”, by For King and Country!

If you are reading before amen with us (by the wonderful Max Lucado!) it’s time to read Chapter 4:  “I Need Help”, because, really, who doesn’t?!   If you have time and energy, complete the study guide for the chapter at the back of the book!

Have a great week, sweet friends! Know I am praying for YOU this week to break free of whatever is worrying you!  TRUST God and KNOW freedom!  Don’t Worry!  😉

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I week 6 (yes, we are onto the second half of the series…!):  Be Real!

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING ANXIETY OR DEPRESSION at a level which is disruptive to your daily routine and/or impairing your ability to function, I urge you to PLEASE call your doctor right away.  If you are feeling like things are hopeless and life is not worth living, please call 911 immediately.  You are important, you are cherished and loved, and you have so much more to say and do for this world!  Help IS literally one phone call away.  I am praying for you.

 

 

 

 

Simpl.if.I – Choose God! (Summer Series Week 1!)

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There’s this amazing and crazy cool thing that happens when we free fall into God’s arms.  We actually experience the peace of Christ, which transcends all human understandingDoesn’t that sound amazing?!

But here’s the thing:  in order to experience it, we must choose to do so.

Choose God Psalm 16-5

The choice of making God “first and only” can come from two places:  a place of desperation, OR a place of gratitude and worship.

Do you find yourself in one of those places today?

Are you in a “good spot” where you can sit with God for a bit, letting go of any mundane cares of the day and allow your spirit to spend time counting your blessings and thanking God for them?!  If so, DO IT!  Because when you do, you’ll wind up worshiping the One who Blesses instead of just worshiping the blessings.

Praise brings Peace, sweet friends!  Choose God and watch your spirit soar in joy! 

On the flip side, are you swimming in a sea of anxiety or fear today unsure of which way is up, wondering how much more you can take and the thought of “counting your blessings” is so absurd that it makes your head spin? Yeah, I’ve been there, too. So today I want to especially encourage YOU and your spirit to choose God.

This past spring, my family traveled through a season of upheaval and uncertainty.  Some of you walked it right alongside me, and for that I am so humbly grateful.

But when it first hit, my first instinct was grab onto anything I could and try to right the ship on my own, in a frenzied effort to avoid the storm.  I withdrew from friends and family, worried a lot, and kept trying to grasp control of each second in a desperate attempt to manipulate the outcome.

I did everything I could think of doing, except I forgot about choosing God.  Don’t get me wrong; I prayed – sort of.  I told God what I needed Him to do and got mad when He didn’t provide the outcome I requested.  I bargained and pleaded and wrung my hands and worried some more until, finally, I felt Him telling me to let go of my own agenda and choose Him instead because His plan was the only good one.  I needed to let everything else fall away so I could fall right into Him.

So I chose Him first, and chose Him only.

There were days when it was a choice I had to make every single minute because, in being human, it’s hard to give up control.  But the more I consciously did it, the more Peace began to infuse my spirit and the easier I could breathe.  The more I chose God, the more trust I found I could place in Him. And the more I found I could trust Him, the looser that icy cold grip anxiety had on my heart became.

It’s honestly so amazing what happens when we let God get in there and take the place of worry in our hearts!

phil 4-6

We’ve all got a journey to travel here, and some parts of the road are going to be more torn up than others.  The lesson to remember is that wherever we are on it – whether it’s on miles of smooth pavement or smack dab in the middle of major (re)construction – we have a choice on how we roll.  With God, or without.

Let’s Choose God together.

Practical Application (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take to deepen the meaning of this lesson in your life):

  1. Find and display our first mantra/scripture card for simpl.if.I: Choose God. Spend a little time each day reading over it and talking with God about what it means to you, personally, and what He wants you to know about Him through it. (If you don’t have the scripture cards already, you can print them up here!)
  2. Read Psalm 16 in its entirety in order to see our verse in context!
  3. Think about the blessings God has placed on your road at this time of your life. Write them down and take the time to thank Him for them – remember: Praise brings Peace!!!
  4. If you are in some major (re)construction right now, remember that a journey of any kind inherently means you are in motion. You are NOT stuck here – choose God and allow Him to move you through.
  5. Watch this awesome music video by Rend Collective and share it with someone you love!

If you are following along with our optional reading from before amen by Max Lucado, please read the last section of the book called “before amen Prayer Strengths”.  I know it sounds funny to begin at the end of the book!  But there is a method to my madness!  This section is designed to help you figure out what kind of “pray-er” you are and will take you to a website (BeforeAmen.com) where you can take a little assessment.  Then you can go back and read about prayer strengths and learn a little more about how you can best incorporate effective prayer into your life!

I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers this week, knowing God is working in great ways in your life right now.  I’m so excited to be on this journey together, sweet friends!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I week two – Always Pray

Just Get Up, Already. You Can Do It!

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When Jesus saw her and knew she had been paralyzed for a while, he asked [her], “Would you like to get well?”

 “I can’t, sir,” [she] said, “for I have haven’t a clue how to rise up from this mess.”

Jesus told [her], “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” John 5:6-8

It seems almost absurd that anyone wouldn’t want to get well, doesn’t it?  But it honestly happens.  Sometimes we tend to just sit in the mud and mire that surrounds us because at least we “know” it.  We can “own” it.

We know how to work it, if you catch my drift.  It’s what everyone is used to seeing us do and has become a way of thinking and behaving (albeit faulty) for us. We trick ourselves into thinking we’re stuck in this scary place forever, so we just better just get used to it once and for all.

Fear paralyzes us from the inside out.  It begins as a jolt to our system when something so extraordinary happens that our mind can’t make immediate sense of it.  And so, in an effort to sort of “self-protect”, we begin to shut down.  And sometimes, we end up settling into that space for the long haul.

Maybe, after a while, we almost forget what it was like to live more freely; without that feeling of anxiety.  We begin to believe that it’s just easier to keep ourselves lying flat-out in fear than to fight it.

If we aren’t careful, fear has the power to keep us down.

But then, in the middle of our settling into a pattern of learned helplessness, there’s this thing that happens when Jesus just simply points out, “Um, you know, it doesn’t have to be this way.  If you just get up, you can start moving.”

And if you trust Him, you try to raise yourself up a little to see if He’s right.  And joy-of-all-joys…you realize He is!

Suddenly, your surroundings don’t look so scary anymore.  So, then, that little, ice-cold hand that grips your heart starts to melt ever so slightly and your blood starts pumping a little easier.  Then the fog starts to clear, your sea legs stabilize, and you stand up for the first time in a little while and see over the top of the hole you’ve managed to get stuck inside and hope shines just a smidgen brighter than it did a moment ago.

Are you stuck right now?  Are you starting to believe that your surroundings will always be your reality?  Gosh, if so, I want to encourage you today!  Be brave.  Listen to the voice of Jesus.  Get up.  Take that first step.  And BE well!  I’ll be the one jumping up and down, clapping like crazy for you!  You CAN do this; and I can too!

Let the healing begin.

 White Paint - Baby Blue Background. Painting

Speaking of The Best Yes, are you following along with us this session?!  If so, be sure to finished reading the last three chapters of the book and complete Session 5 in the study guide.  Can you even believe we just have TWO little sessions left?!  *Sigh*

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

See you next week with some thoughts on building your legacy!  😉

 

 

God’s bigger than your fears! I promise.

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“I’m very brave generally, only today I happen to have a headache.”  (Tweedledum, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.)

I can totally relate, can you?!

We’ve been talking about walking through those open doors God places in front of us, haven’t we?!  But sometimes we fear what is on the other side of that door. Maybe it looks a little darker or scarier than we thought it would.  Maybe the task all of a sudden feels a little too big or even dangerous.  What then?  What do we do when we know it’s a God Opened Door, but the anxiety in our own heart is keeping us from walking through it and therefore, preventing us from getting where God wants us to be?

The cure for the anxiety we feel at the threshold of God Opened Doors is found in this:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…1 John 4:18, NIV.

Let me say it another way – the cure for anxiety is being in the presence of God – and God’s presence lives in us!

Jude 1-1 REAL

We will find ourselves, at times, staring at the door, realizing we need to walk through it, but for any number of reasons, not exactly jumping for joy to walk through it.  It’s interesting to me, too, that when you see some of these BIG OPEN DOOR opportunities being presented to people in scripture, even THEY aren’t too keen to take the leap!  (…Abraham, Moses, Esther, Mary, and even Jonah?!)

Jonah’s story is sort of an odd one, really.  God asks Jonah to leave the comfort of his home and friendly town and head out on a mission to the town of Nineveh to teach about repentance.

Jonah is none too keen to make this journey.  Nineveh and her citizens aren’t exactly known for their good-natured hospitality, especially not to those who aren’t her own.  Not only does Jonah not LIKE them, he’s a little afraid of them, too.

So instead of following God’s call, Jonah runs away and in the process, takes refuge on a ship, gets thrown overboard, swallowed up by a whale, where he spends three days in its belly before being sort of deposited on dry land where he finally does God’s biding in Nineveh and 120,000 Ninevites actually repent.

Other than the “ewww” factor, I think the big lesson we can learn from this story is that Jonah could’ve saved himself a lot of anxiety and trouble, not to mention physical hardships, if he had trusted that God had a plan…and a good one.  Because regardless of what circumstance Jonah found himself, no matter how many times he ran in the other direction, God always provided for him, and eventually brought him out the other side.

Whenever I get stuck in that spot of paralyzing fear or maybe simple resentment of where the door is leading me, I always come back to 1 John 4:18 – perfect love (GOD) casts out all fear.  And if I’m walking with God, fear must flee.

Making Godly wise, Best Yes (and NO!) decisions requires us to be strong and courageous.  And by keeping close to God, adding to our arsenal of Godly wisdom through scripture, prayer, and wise counsel, we are better able to confidently make those decisions – not because of who WE are and what WE, but because of our convictions of knowing who GOD is and what HE can do.

Are you following along with us in our GracePace Series this spring? If so, here’s what you need to do this week!

1.  Read Chapters 10-12 in your The Best Book!

2.  Complete Session 4 in the study guide!

3.  Write out a proverb or two on your chalk board (there are listed at the end of Session 4 in your study guide).

4.  Watch this video about accepting and asking for HELP – based on the parable of the Good Samaritan –  from our GracePace series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1qJd0OwRbA

5.  Enjoy a listen or two of our song of the week from Steven Curtis Chapman, “Take Another Step”.  Yeah.  I needed this one today.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E0F2s_3I78

We’re off for a week of “vacation”, sweet friends!  We’ll be back in two weeks with a little blog about the beauty of Jesus, right before Easter.  Have a great week!

Much love,

Wendie