Tuesday, June 20, 2017

4 Steps to Take When You Feel Anxious

Anxiety.  What thoughts does that word stir up in your mind?  What feelings are triggered when you think about it?  Maybe you go into a panic attack just thinking about it.  Anxiety is not a new emotion, it is in fact one that is well known and felt among most of humankind.  Millions of people of all ages battle some sort of anxiety at some point in their lives.  There are thousands and thousands of blogs, medical journals, magazines, etc. with their sure-fire ways to battle anxiety.  I’ve read many of them, but they all seem to fall short of true help.  There are many band-aid fixes, and some legitimate options for stress relief that I've used myself and in and of themselves aren’t bad ideas. 

As a Christian who desires to experience everything God has prepared for me in this life and the next, I want His answers.  I know that He is the only one who can provide ultimate, long-lasting peace to calm any anxious thought that may take over my life.  So, I dug back into scripture with the purpose of finding a sort of “game plan” to counterattack anxiety when it rears its ugly head.  I went back to pages of scripture that I know so well I can quote chapter and verse.  The pages are so covered in notes you can barely read it anymore.  But read it I did, and I dug deeper than ever before.  

Before I share the steps that I came up with, I make the following disclaimer: This is one idea taken from truths I’ve learned through years of studies.  They are not profound, they are simply practical enough for my brain to wrap around.  This is not a magic formula for anyone and everyone to get rid of severe anxiety issues in an instant.  This is meant first and foremost for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior.  If you have never repented (turned from) your sin and invited Jesus to be your savior, I urge you to do that now!  If you have questions about it, I would be happy to talk with you.  For those of you who know Him and follow Him, I hope this will encourage you to take a step closer to Christ and away from the anxiety that wants to overtake you.  You DO NOT have to be a slave to anxiety!  Jesus is the ONLY answer and He wants you to be free!  Find a good biblical counseling center if you need to, talk to your pastor, or if you don’t have a church, email me at Melissa@myanointedlife.com and I would be honored to talk with you.

I was only in a few passages, but I spent a lot of time in them.  I still don’t have all the answers, but this round of study led me to a very vital connection that I don’t remember noticing in the past.  Through Philippians 4, I also looked at Hebrews 13:5.  I was in several others as well, but the connection I want to discuss today was made in these two passages.  What we are really searching for in the escape of anxiety, is peace.  We want to experience the peace of God that passes all understanding.  I knew the verse so well.  I knew that I was not to be anxious about anything.  God says, don’t be anxious.  Instead, be thankful, prayerful, make my requests known to God.  And, that’s where I always stopped.  I mean, I’ve read the rest very often, but I never connected the dots.  As Paul continues his letter and unravels his thought process, he gives us a great list telling us what to replace our anxious thoughts with.  Don’t be anxious, instead think on these things.  It’s in the next few verses though that I had my “aha” moment.  Philippians 4:10-13 talks about being content.  The ever-famous, often mis-contextualized verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” is found in this section.  Does it seem impossible to let go of anxiety?  Do you find it difficult to be content in EVERY circumstance?  Is it possible that the lack of peace we often feel is actually a lack of contentment?  Mind. Blown. 

So, being the practical application junkie that I am, I needed a system.  I wanted a biblical based grounding exercise to get my mind back to where it needs to be when I am overcome with anxiety.  This is what I came up with.  It may not be for everyone, but I am hoping that it helps someone!

1.       Find three things you can touch.  Now tell God how thankful you are for those three things.  Express your gratitude to the one who gives EVERY blessing you have.
2.      Name three things that you wish you could change about your circumstance.  Now, ask God to forgive any discontentment you have about these things.  Confide in Him that you want these things to change, but ask Him to have His will in the situation.
3.      Think about three things that are true about God and quote any scriptures that come to your memory.  Thank Him for who He is.
4.      Breathe and ask God for His peace to fill you, guarding your heart and mind as you let go of your will and rest in the perfect will of God.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Go Ahead! Give God Your Worst!

I love spending time with my kids.  I want to know every detail about their lives.  I love sharing with them what’s going on in my life.  It doesn’t matter if we’re playing games, watching TV, or sitting down for a meaningful conversation, I love it all.  As much as I love them and want to spend every minute I can with them, there are times that I am just so exhausted!  Ok, it’s almost every day.  I’m spent when I get home from work.  I just don’t have the energy to keep up with them the way I’d like to.  Most days I feel like I am not giving nearly enough of my time to them.  

Can you relate?

We spend day in and day out serving our children, loving them, spending as much quality time with them as we can.  We know how important it is to foster those relationships. There’s no question about it.  It does not matter how tired we are, we take time for our kids.  We would never go days on end without spending at least a little bit of time with them.  We would never tell our kids that we’re just too tired for a hug, just too exhausted for a conversation, even if it means we might fall asleep during that conversation, would we?

Then, why do we say that to God?

Isn’t our relationship with our Heavenly Father much more important than that of our children?  Having a healthy relationship with God is the absolute best thing you can model for your children.  So, why do we make excuses?  “I’m too busy to read my Bible.”  “I don’t have much time to spend praying, there’s too much to do.”  “I am just so exhausted, I don’t want to give God my tired leftovers.  Shouldn’t I give Him my best or nothing at all?”

NO!!  The truth is, your best isn’t good enough anyway.  He doesn’t want your best.  He wants your ALL.  That means He wants you when you are exhausted, weak, falling asleep while you’re praying.  He wants you when you get a day off and set up a two-hour date with Him. He wants the best you got and the worst you got.  Everything!

So, open your Bible, get out a journal, and start a conversation with God right now.  You won’t regret it!

Not sure where to start?  Send an email to Melissa@myanointedlife.com or comment here and I would be happy to answer any questions you have or give suggestions on how you can build a meaningful relationship with the Lord.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5 Things I Hope My Children are Learning from Me

I will never forget the day I held my firstborn child in my arms.  Joy, laughter, excitement… fear, anxiety, the unknown.  These emotions (and more) were just swirling around in my mind as I started the chapter of motherhood that would last the rest of my life.  There are so many things I’ve done wrong as a mom, and a lot of things I’ve done right.  It’s not easy raising little independent people, wanting so desperately for them to make all the right decisions, behave all the right ways, and avoid all the pitfalls that life wants to throw at them.  Then they become teenagers!  I have three teens in my home right now and every single day is an adventure.  A wonderful, exciting, joy filled adventure.  An exhausting, mind numbing, hair pulling out adventure.    Can it be both? 

Well, as I am wading through these years of guiding these young lives into adulthood, I face the natural fears that come with parenting.  I wonder if I am really being the mom they need?  I know I’m too hard on myself sometimes.  There’s a thousand blogs and even more books that tell us moms to take it easy on ourselves, but what about the things that really are legit?  I’m not perfect.  There are so many things that I wish I had done better when they were younger.  There are so many things I wish I was doing differently right now.  Some I can change, some are outside of my control.   And so, I reflect on a few areas that I hope and pray are getting through to my kids despite my inadequacies.  This list is brief, not at all complete, but these are the things that are on my mind today. 

Five Things I Hope my Children are Learning from Me

1  . To be in the word of God.  Life is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, victories and defeats.  Temptations come in so many shapes and sizes.  Trials are lurking just around the bend.  How do we navigate?  How do we know how to live?  Only by reading, studying, applying, and living the Word of God do we find the answers to these questions.  God speaks to His children exclusively through God’s Word.  He can use people, he can use anything to speak to us, but ONLY when it lines up with God’s Word can we truly say God spoke to us.  If what we are listening to contradicts God’s Word one bit, then it was NOT God speaking.  I want my children to know God’s Word.  I want them to experience God as they learn about Him in His Word.  I want them to see firsthand that the Bible is living and breathing in their life.  I hope that I’ve taught them that enough in both my word and example that it stays with them forever.  Without it, they will suffer so much unnecessary heartache.

2 .  How to Pray.  Watching my children go from their “Dear Jesus” prayers as little children, to heartfelt, relational prayer with their Heavenly Father is a great joy to me as a mother.  I hope that my children know that prayer is not about the right words, but about the right heart.  It’s not about checking off our to-do list, it’s about a lifeline to the God of the universe.  I hope they see the power that prayer has had in our family and even in their young lives.  As God speaks to us through His Word, we speak to God through our prayers.  Relationships fall apart when there is no communication, and I want my children to experience a full, sound relationship with their creator and savior.  I hope that when they are in the middle of discouragement, their first reaction is to look up and ask God for help.  I hope that when life is going awesome and they feel like they’re on top of the world that their first reaction is to look up and thank God for all He has blessed them with. 

3 .  To Love Unconditionally.  The first commandment, Jesus says, is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.  This is one of those areas that I know I should be doing more to instill this truth in their lives.  Love others, no matter what.  Show that love for others by our actions.  Take the time to make sure that girl is ok that you see sitting alone in the cafeteria.  Pray for that bully and show kindness to him knowing that there is almost definitely something going on in his life that has caused that behavior.  Don’t force your way into the popular crowd, but go sit with the kid that everyone makes fun of.  Love.  Always.  Share Jesus with everyone God allows you to.  Love.

4 .  The importance of self-respect and self-confidence.  I hope my children know how absolutely amazing they are!  They each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses.  One is not greater or lesser than the other, they are simply different.  I hope that when the devil tries to tell them they aren’t good enough that they remember that Jesus valued them enough to die for them.  I hope that when they sin, they don’t wallow in guilt but that they remember that God is waiting for them to forgive them and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.  I hope that when they feel depressed or discouraged and they don’t know who they really are yet, that they remember Whose they are and that they are fully capable to do anything that God calls them to do.
5 .  To work hardJosh and I have reminded my kids throughout the years that God created work for man before sin entered the world.  Work is God ordained.  We live in a lazy world filled with people who want to take all they can get but who aren’t willing to put forth the effort it takes to get it.  I hope my kids know the value of hard work.  I hope they put the effort into their jobs that show what it means to do all things to the glory of God, working for God and not for man.  I hope that they don’t remember the nights that I’m curled up in pain at home all night, but that they think about the hard work I did all day that put me there.  I hope they see that I get up every morning and face that work all over again, knowing where it puts me at night.  I hope they understand that we have high standards on their chores because a good work ethic matters.  I hope that one day they will appreciate how much we push them to work harder. 


Monday, May 8, 2017

Does Prayer Always Work?

The Christian life is full of landmark moments, those crucial points in time that led us to the cross and continued to change us as we grew in Christ.  It begins with the first time that God sends someone to plant the seed of faith in your life.  Later, others come along to water that seed that was planted.  Eventually, you hit the most pivotal moment in your life.  The day you accept God’s gift of salvation by putting your faith and trust in His son, Jesus Christ.  Your history re-written, you begin to move forward in your new Christian walk.  As you grow and develop, becoming more and more like Christ, you face many moments that later will become landmarks to you.  These are the moments, that if carefully recorded, you can look back on decades to come and see how God used each moment to change you into who you are today.  Maybe you have moments that are not so good landmarks, moments that you were faced with a crisis of belief and you chose to turn a blind eye for a time.  Sorrowful as those decisions may have been, they are still a landmark pointing you to the exact spot that you sit right now. 

Landmarks in history.  Pivotal moments that alter the course of life.  We all have them, and most often they appear through moments of extreme anguish, heartache, or pain.

The most pivotal landmark, I believe, in all of history can be read about in the gospels of the New Testament.  Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, on the brink of the most agonizing time in His existence.  The plan was set before the foundation of the world.  He would give up some of His godly rights, join mankind on earth to become one of us, so that He could meet all the requirements of a just God to be the only sacrifice worthy of covering the sin of every person to ever live.  As 100% God, He knew the plan, He knew it was the only way, and He knew it was time.  As 100% man, he was in utter agony over what He was about to go through. 

Three times He asked His Father to let there be another way.  “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matthew 26:39.  “If this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it….” Matthew 26:42.  He “prayed the third time, saying the same words.” Matthew 26:44.

In His moment of trial, knowing what was coming that night, agonizing in the sorrow of what He would go through Jesus did the one thing He knew would work to get Him through this overwhelming time:  He prayed.  He went to a familiar place, where He often went to be alone with His Father.  He fell on His face, He prayed, cried out, agonized with His Father about this task that He didn’t want to do.  If there is any other way! 

Pivotal moment.  If Jesus had stopped right there, begging God to change His circumstances, refusing to go through what needed to be done, then mankind would be completely and utterly lost.  There would be no hope of the resurrection.  There would be no remission for sins.  We would still be slaves to the law, trying our best to be good enough but falling short every single time.  There would be no salvation.  What a dark, bleak future that would have been. 

Alas, Jesus did not demand his circumstances be changed.  He asked for there to be another way, but He humbly followed it up with “not as I will, but as you will… your will be done.”  Jesus trusted God completely.  The prayer of Jesus that night in the garden didn’t change His circumstances one little bit.  He would still be arrested, tortured, beaten and bruised, and hung on a cross to die the death that you and I deserve.  I am so thankful that He didn’t give up. 

I think my favorite part of this landmark  in time is the moment Jesus gets up from the ground.  I picture my savior in a crumpled heap in the dirt, crying out to God in agony, sweating drops of blood from the sheer physical strain of the emotions He was experiencing in that moment.  Face down, grasping at the ground as He wrestled with his humanness of the moment.  He prays… He prays some more… He prays even more, fueling up for what is waiting for Him when he turns around.

Then, my Jesus stands up.  I imagine Him slowly coming up from the dirt, raising himself up to his full height, squaring back his shoulders and taking a few steps forward to wake up his friends.  Gone is the agony.  No fear, no anxiety, no hesitation.  Jesus doesn’t leave His prayer time to go hide in the bushes in hopes that the Roman soldiers won’t find Him.  Nope, not my Jesus.  He grabs His disciples and says, let’s go, my betrayer is at hand. Matthew 26:46.  I love the way John describes the next scene in John 18:4.  It says “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, WENT FORWARD and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’”  No running away.  No cowering.  Jesus faced the circumstances head on and did what He needed to do to be obedient to His Father and to open the doors for everyone who will believe that we too can have a relationship with God the Father. 

Are you as in awe about this as I am?  Do you know my Jesus?  When you are overwhelmed, facing a storm that you just don’t want to go through, you can go to the Father trusting that He knows what He’s doing.  You can spend time with Him in prayer, not to change your circumstances and make life easier, but to grow 10 feet tall, square your shoulders back, and walk into that storm head on.  No fear!  No anxiety!  That is the power of prayer.  That is the power of my God.  That is power that comes with believing in Jesus Christ.  If you don't know Jesus yet, then that's the first thing you need to take care of right now!

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

When you’re struggling, when you’re weak, when you just don’t think you can keep going, fall on your face before your Father and cry out to Him.  Simply trust Him.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

How Strong is Your Faith?

I have faith.  Just have faith!  Where's your faith?

These are phrases that I hear all the time.  People want faith, they crave it.  When someone's down, it's a natural response to talk about faith.  I've used a "faith" phrase many, many times for many different scenarios.

BUT.... Here's the truth...

Your faith is only as strong as the object your faith is in.

You can have all the faith in the world to get you through your time of sorrow, anxiety, stress, whatever you're going through, but if your faith is in the wrong thing or person then it's not going to do much good for you.  Think about it.  If you're going to walk out onto a lake that is frozen over, you are putting faith in that ice, believing that it's thick enough to hold you without breaking.  If the ice is thick enough then your faith is founded and you should be ok.  However, if the ice is too thin to walk on, it doesn't matter how much faith you have walking out there, you're going through the ice.  It's more about the object your faith is in, and not so much the faith itself.

I was on a flight recently that took us through some heavy wind and storms.  The turbulence wasn't dangerous, but it was definitely scary for me.  As I sat there praying that we land safely I was keenly aware of the fact that God was the one in control of this plane, not the pilot.  Yes, I have a level of faith in the skills of the pilot, believing that he knows what he's doing and how to maneuver this aircraft, but my faith that held me together was that God controls the wind. God is the one who has control over life and death.  My faith is not what kept me sane, it was WHO my faith was in that calmed my fears that night.  

 So, next time you see a post on Facebook that vaguely refers to faith as a general practice for every person to feel better (and you likely saw it on my page!), just remember that it's not the faith itself that is important.  Who is your faith in?  If it's in anything or anyone other than the one true God of the universe, then it is misplaced and it will fail.  How do you find true faith in God?  Only through His son, Jesus Christ can you truly experience the freedom that real faith brings.  This is why Jesus can say in Matthew 17:20 "if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to this mountain move from here to there and it will be moved."  He's the mountain mover!

So, where's your faith?

Friday, January 6, 2017

How the Smoky Mountains Changed My Outlook of 2016

I think of God and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for His help.  You don't let me sleep, I am too distressed even to pray!  Psalm 77:3-4

Some of you can relate to Asaph's cry in this Psalm.  I know I can.  These two verses pretty much sum up 2016 for me.  I'm almost ashamed to even write that statement for every critical eye to read.  Almost.

The year began on the heels of a couple years of settling into some major changes in our family.  If you are in any kind of public ministry, you can relate.  I won't get into detail, but uprooting a family with three children heading into their teen years and putting them headlong into ministry in an unknown place full of major changes is trying to say the least. 

 We moved mid-2014, and I spent the rest of 2014 and all of 2015 paying very close attention to the needs of my family.  I tried to take on EVERY task at the church thinking I was helping my husband.  That's my job, right?  Wrong.  I spent a lot of time praying for my children, trying to do things that would make their transition a little smoother, even getting them pets because I know how much they wanted pets.  (in hindsight, one dog would have done the trick... there was no need for them to each have their own.  But here we are).  In all of my carefully calculated efforts to help my family adjust to our new life and all the changes that were happening, I had forgotten to help one specific individual.  Me.

2016 completely blindside me.  Now, I would use to say that I consider myself a woman of strong faith.  I'm in the Word of God daily, prayer life up and down, but definitely there.  I read through the entire Bible 1 to 2 times per year.  I study constantly, always searching for greater understanding and take great joy in teaching it to others.  I seek God's guidance constantly.  Yet, here I was in the depths of something I couldn't explain.  Situation after situation, heaping more and more stress on my already fragile state, surely pushing me to my breaking point.  I tried desperately to fix things, searching desperately for God to show me what to do.  I continued to pour myself out on everyone else, all the while desperate for someone to pour out into me.  That's the part I'm ashamed of.  I know that God is enough.  I know that God was and is pouring into me.  He wasn't giving me any clear answers, no clear direction.  So I took the hits and stayed right where I was, slowly moving forward but feeling like I was sinking.  He was teaching me that my faith is indeed small, but He is not.  He was breaking me down in order to build my character.  I don't like that too much.  lol

Then God blessed us with a very low cost trip to Gatlinburg.  We couldn't really afford it, but we desperately needed the time away and it was such a great deal that we decided to sacrifice for it.  It was my first time actually staying and visiting the Smoky Mountains.  Josh and I went for three days over my birthday.  I was hoping for rest, reprieve, escape, answers.  What God showed me in the Smoky Mountains was not what I expected.  When we arrived, I was overtaken with the beauty of the landscape.  Being the last day of October and first few days of November, the colors of the trees lining the mountainsides were absolutely gorgeous!  I couldn't wait to get in the mountains and take in all of God's beauty.  It just looked so good!  When we finally got up into the mountains for a day of driving and hiking I noticed something.  The further up the mountain we got, the less beauty there was.  Trees were sparse, dead, colorless, lifeless.  You had to get to certain stop off points to look back at where you'd been to appreciate the overall beauty of it again.  You had to really be watching for the beauty when you were in the midst of it.  Then we hiked up to the highest point of the mountains, climbing up a lookout tower to see out over every side of the mountain range.  The work it took to get up there was rough.  I had to stop at every bench along the way to catch my breath.  Many people were giving up, turning around to go back down.  I wanted to do it though.  I wanted to get up to the top of the mountain.  I wanted to see the views.

This was my life.  God spoke to me so clearly that weekend.  He has beautiful things in store for us, both here on earth and later in Heaven.  He sees the landscape of our lives, and it's breathtaking.  I was so focused on the struggles on the path that I forgot to take in the landscape every once in a while.  It was really a "duh" moment for me.  Of course I knew this!  I can look back over my entire life, all the way back to my toddler years, and see how God has carefully guided me, creating a beautiful landscape of my life to portray His glory.  That is, after all, what it's all about.  Those mountains show the power and glory of the God of the Universe.  That same God wants to show His power and glory in my life, and yours!  It is so important that we stop to look back on a regular basis.  Not looking back to hold onto something bad that God has already free'd you from.  Instead, look back to view the landscape of your life.  See where God has brought you from, be encouraged that you're making progress, be comforted that it is God's power that does the work in your life.

The second half of Psalm 77 starts in verse 11 with "But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts, I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works." 

I have been trying to process all the things God was saying to me in those mountains.  Honestly, I was afraid to share.  I feel like people expect me to have it all together, when the reality is I am just another sinner saved by grace.  The farther up the "mountain" I get the harder and harder the trials get.  Oh, but the harder the trial is, the greater the power of God is shown in my life!

A month after we visited, I was saddened to see that forest fires were consuming this beautiful landscape.  God reminded me again of how things can change in an instant.  I thought about all the people who's lives were completely changed, devastated.  I prayed that God would show them His power by comforting them, providing for them, helping them to see the same truths He showed me.  Remind us that this world is NOT our home. We are pilgrims, passing through on our way to a perfect home.  Come soon Lord Jesus!

Psalm 121:1-2 (HCSB) I lift my eyes toward the mountains.  Where will my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.