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Sharing the Joy of Others

One of the biggest lessons I learned this last year is to share in the joy of others. In November, I took to my blog to write those reflections for my readers. It weighed on my heart. I stayed up until the early morning hours to finish it, eager to share my discoveries.

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In the last month, we have discussed the value of others, the variety of our life stories, and the importance of coming alongside other people on this long, hard, worthwhile journey. Thinking of others doesn’t come easily, we are selfish people — every single one of us. Considering others takes work, especially as we trudge through deep valleys of our own. However, I want to encourage you to not only look at other people, but to see themA task that requires purpose and thought.

Most of us have social media accounts. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, we have accounts! While participating in these online communities, we often rebel against the perfection that our friends post. We wonder why we don’t have such beautiful lives. We judge our whole person-hood by likes on a photo. But last November, as I started to realize the uniqueness of my story, I also began to see the lives of my friends in a different way.

Our lives are something to be shared, not shown off. I pulled today’s reflections from my November blog post, “It’s Not about My Messy Life.” 

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 What if —

Instead of going against the tidal wave of edited photos and pretty life moments, I purposefully decided to enjoy the lives my friends are living.

What if —

I shared in their joy, took their happiness as my own, commented kindly and sincerely on the beauty, the laughter, the smiles, and the honest highlights of their lives.

What if —

It wasn’t about fixating on the mess, but deeply enjoying the mountaintops. And shouting a CONGRATS to those on the top when I am in the midst of a valley.

What if —

I delighted — relished — absorbed — cherished — held close the wonder and magic in the lives of my friends.

What if —

It’s not about me at all. Not even the stripped divulging of my mess. Not even the promoting of my world. But the sharing, the sharing of each other. Life to life. Bare of comparison, clothed in the joy of each other.

What if —

I threw back their joy double the size they had initially.

Honestly —

I should care less that its edited. That it looks perfect, pristine, and magical. I should care less if the Newsfeed is full of highlights that look nothing like my current life.

By now, I should be mature enough to inwardly, purposefully accept that life is messy and that my friends don’t have perfect lives. I should be mature enough not to compare my life to the edits. I should be well past the proving of my authentic existence.

I should value —

Knowing who to share parts of my mess with (hint: it’s not the whole world).

Knowing when to share the highlights.

Knowing when to share hardship and when to share wonder.

I should remember to hold the private moments — both good & bad — in the corners meant for my heart.

I should remember to live and cherish my own memories, nurture my personal relationships, and deepen the bonds in my life all without an audience.

And maybe —

I am given a daily chance to cherish the lives of others through the edited pictures, strings of happy moments, and special milestones posted on social media. And maybe that’s all OK. It might even be really good, because perhaps this is something I was meant to do: delight in the joy of others. 

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Can I just tell you how sharing in the joy of my friends and family has enriched my life? I am content in my story while sharing in other stories. Social media provides a way for me to be a small part of so many lives. That should not make me jealous, envious, or discontent. Rather, it should fuel joy, gratitude, and sincere relationships!

Living within your own story means hard work, but it is so worth it. As you live within your own story, don’t forget to look out and share in the lives of your friends and family. Don’t forget to see their joy and celebrate alongside them. When sharing, and not showing off, becomes the goal, the social media community becomes a joy, not a burden.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

Guardar

That Dusty Corner

The following words push together to form a story that can be true of all of us today. God wipes clean what we’ve made black, and we must share this hope and healing with other believers.

ThatDustyCorner

 

So right now, God sweeps me clean. I hurt, but I am thankful. While, I help wipe the grime, I reflect on days prior. Weeks, really. It took so long for anyone to enter this corner. But, I let Him see it. Little did I know, He could always see that dusty space. I just never willingly led Him there.

I went about my busy life, tending to business, doing my things, and going my own way, occasionally looking to Him for guidance. He already lived in my heart. I’d opened the doors years ago. Though, I often locked Him in, never telling others about my Peace Keeper and my Savior.

She Is Significant Too

I know you’re told on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter that you are significant.

And you are.

But I want you to think about something–

She is significant too.

The woman working in the drive-thru. The one nursing a baby. The one driving one lane over. The one filling her gas tank. The one frustrated at the checkout. The one on the other side of that perfect Instagram account. The one who has a bigger blog following than you. The one with essential oils and the one with medicine prescriptions.

SignificantToo

Not just you, but her too.

The world does not just revolve around you, and neither will it adjust to make you the center. Because you’re not.

Society says it’s all about me, what makes me happy, significant, fulfilled, loved, and uplifted. I can slide easily into the mindset that I’m at the top, and all of you just circle around me and give me my worth.

When the Journey Changes

At the age of 15, I experienced intense, regular headaches. They came so often that I began to worry. By 16, I suffered with unbearable migraines. I would lie down in the school nurses station between classes so I could gather enough stamina to sit upright for the lecture. I would groan quietly to deal with the sharp twists and turns knifing through my head.

It was agony.

near the beginning of my chronic pain journey
Near the beginning of my chronic pain journey

For the last 4 years or so, I’ve recounted this tumultuous journey of chronic pain. Every chronic pain story differs, but each one hurts. My own journey holds much personal depth, and I hope that soon I can adequately communicate my experience with you.

However, in the past year, I have known healing and rest from physical pain. It still remains, but not in the same agonizing way. I am not in darkness. How unique that you and I should meet when this journey of mine has just begun to change.

You see, I recently did a 5-minute cardio workout. Those of you with chronic pain understand the significance of that statement. It feels so good to have my muscles burning again. It is a happiness that I have just begun to re-experience. I thank God for a body that can move intensely for 5 minutes and for these moments of exercise that leave my body burning in the best type of pain I could ever wish for.

This is healing pain. My journey has just begun to change, and I must record it.

I have clearly documented my chronic pain. It is set in my history, but I cannot only recount the dark and hard part of my journey. I must also share when it is full of light and ease. I must remember today. I must remember this healing. No journey stays the same forever. At times, I felt as though the pain held me tight, pulling me closer and swallowing me up. But that’s not the truth.

It can feel desperate, black, and eternal, but this chronic pain journey has slowly changed throughout the last 6 years. Here I am today, having completed a 5-minute intense cardio work-out! The journey does change. It just takes time.

Whatever you face today is hard and often unbearable. But if I could offer you a cup of coffee and have you sit at my kitchen table, I would tell you this …

Don’t impatiently wait for the journey to change. Keep living day by day, step by step. If you need to cry, do it. If you fall into discouragement, fall. But let every pain, heartbreak, and discouragement push you closer to Christ. He is your refuge. Trust in Him.

It is easy to remember and memorize the hard times, but when a moment of joy, light-living, and healing comes your way…savor it, recount it, weave it tightly into your history. That is your journey changing, and just as you remember the hard times, remember the good times too.

As you pray for healing, strength, and guidance, bind your heart closer to God. You may not always receive the answer you hope for, but never let your wishes stand as a barricade between you and the Savior who loves you more deeply, freely, and fully than anyone else ever will. To be frustrated at God is to forfeit your only peace and hope.

You are not alone on this path. Everyone deals with some type of chronic pain. It may not be physical, but it could be mental, emotional, and even spiritual. We all hurt in some way. We were not meant for this world after all. But we have hope! Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to You. Then, look at others and really see them. Ask how they are doing. See how you can share in the burden.

The journey will change, and it will most assuredly take a long time. But we cannot lose heart, God is our refuge and there is joy to be realized in this life of hard valleys. As a woman struggling under chronic pain, I experienced 5 minutes of intense cardio.

That is joy. It is healing.

And I am determined to remember it.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

 

 

 

Your Story Is Different than Mine

Comparing my life to someone else’s always comes easily. Chances are, if you’ve been in this Internet world long enough, you’ve read a blog post — or two or three — about the futility and vanity of comparison. They are right! It destroys and leads to pride or discontent.

I’ve fallen in the comparison trap plenty of times. Too many. We all have! By this point, most (if not all!) of us know that comparison is empty and we don’t need another blog post to tell us all about its vanity. Instead, I want you to get excited about your story. Look at what you have, the experiences you’ve been through, the adventures you’ve enjoyed, the trials you’ve endured, and become excited for this gift of your life!

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Not too long ago, I stumbled into the comparison game. Unrest plagued me as I pondered on what I had missed as though it held the key to my happiness. I became so absorbed in what might have been and in trying to squeeze into another person’s reality that I totally disregarded my life.

It left me drained and restless. So, I embarked on a partial media fast. I steered clear of Instagram and the Facebook Newsfeed, and I only used Pinterest for recipes. Instead, I focused on my own story. I decided to remove distractions to get to the heart of my problem.

Continue reading “Your Story Is Different than Mine”

The Kitchen, Cooking, & Confidence

My husband and I recently celebrated our first year anniversary (May 23rd!). It has been a full year! I have enjoyed being a wife and not having to plan a wedding anymore! I’ve also learned a lot.

I’ve had a good start to my journey as Mrs. Sierra Fedorko, but I had to re-learn a lesson that can apply to anyone’s life, married or not.

our fist home
Our first home

I used to call myself a go-getter. The kind of person who confidently plunged into new things. It turns out, I’m confident with the things I know I do well, those that hold minimal risk of failure. I accept failure as long as I don’t believe I can succeed. I automatically cross off anything that doesn’t fall under my natural gifts and abilities. I don’t try to learn it. I give up before I even begin. I’m notorious for this. So much for being a confident, go-getter!

Leading up to marrying Ben, I convinced myself I couldn’t cook. Now, I do have some horror stories in the kitchen department, including a box cake that turned out flat and super oily brownies (stories for a different day!). But I had barely spent time in the kitchen. I just assumed that since I wasn’t a natural, I wouldn’t excel at it.

Could we live off of chocolate chip cookies? After all, that entailed the extent of my culinary prowess. It became our joke, but I knew I had to learn. I was nervous about it. When I voiced my concern to Ben, he assured me that we could learn together. I didn’t marry a make-me-a-sandwich man, and I was thankful he’d learn alongside me. It comforted me.

So, we got married on a windy May day. I wore a pretty dress. We took a thousand+ photos. We said our vows. Happiness abounded. But do you want to know something?! The wedding day doesn’t last forever, and I had to buckle down and learn how to cook!

Remember, I had already accepted failure. I let fear stand in the way and put unnecessary limitations on myself. So my kitchen days began. I scoured Pinterest for easy recipes, I fumbled with pans and measuring cups, I had a horribly hilarious experience baking bread, and I made a surprising discovery.

I enjoyed cooking!

Wait a minute … how many times had I vocalized my inaptitude in the kitchen? How many times had I said how much I disliked cooking? How many times had I accepted failure, before making any true attempts to learn? So, so many times!

You can’t pick and choose when to exemplify confidence in life. It doesn’t mean doing only what you’re good at and avoiding anything new and different. Don’t pull a Sierra!

Understand that failure is inevitable, but don’t place limitations on yourself and accept defeat as the final word. I’m learning to tackle new things and exhibit confidence even in areas I struggle with. I now plunge in, knowing that failure means I can learn from my mistakes.

Being confident doesn’t mean I’ll thrive in everything. It means I refuse to limit myself to a little Sierra Box. I want to keep learning, undertaking challenges that scare me. And folks, cooking scared me! However, a year later, I have learned I love spending time in the kitchen. Can you imagine if I had gone on forever just believing that I was a terrible cook? I almost did.

These days, I experience more successes than failures in the kitchen, but the failures make for hilarious stories. All because I made myself learn something that didn’t flow naturally.

My advice? Don’t give up before you begin. Don’t be scared of failure. Confidently plunge into the things you don’t do well and let yourself learn. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Sierra Straightforward

 

On Worry | Part 3

It all came back. Not in the force of the dark thoughts that I had before. This was totally different, but it had the same effect. These new thoughts twisted my gut and imprisoned me. I didn’t expect it. I hadn’t dealt with an onslaught like this for a long, long time. But, it came. Fast and sure, and plunged me back in the depths. Even though I’d climbed out before, I didn’t know how to crawl out now. I felt trapped. I felt broken. I felt dark.

worry3I had succumbed, dived deep, and here I struggled again. Frustration and heartbreak overwhelmed me. This all over again?! The earlier darkness hadn’t returned but worry plagued me, thick and suffocating.

If only…

What if….

Maybe if I…

How come I didn’t…

It circled endlessly, tearing at my heart. As I backed away from social media, talked to my husband, and worked through these personal struggles, I realized the root of my worries. I also began to apply, once again, Scripture truths to my life.

I asked myself the hard questions. Who defines my worth? Christ. Is this____ true about my life? No. Is this____ real in my life today? No. So, what is true? What is real? I did the hard work once more. I wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards. I prayed. I even started re-reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. (I highly recommend it!) I combated the wrong thoughts and chose to cling to real things and the truths of God. Once again, I found freedom from worry, from unreal things that didn’t matter. I found refuge in God, His Scripture. I’m 21 and anxiety, worry, what if’s, and unreal thoughts still come back to shake me to my core. I am imperfect. I get ragged and I fall back into the depths easily. Anxiety will follow me for the rest of my life.

BUT–

 There is hope. There is always hope for me and for you!

I have a sure way to fight this darkness. I know I hold the victory as I meditate on God’s truth, throwing out the untrue and unlovely, and embracing that which is real, honorable, and true. A lifetime struggle can look discouraging, but that is where I have to pause.

Am I facing the future right now? No. Is the future real right now? No.

What is true? This moment, right here. I can choose God’s truth or my own worry. What is real? The victory I have in Him. What do I need to think on? The truths of God.

Doesn’t all of this sound redundant? It is! We are experts at repetition. We just have to learn how to meditate the right way!

Perhaps, today you face discouragement because, after months of a worry-free mind, it has all come back. You crumple, not expecting this. The force of worry consumes you.

It buries you.

It pushes and pulls you.

It pierces you deeply.

You are not alone. It just happened to me. I am sure it will happen again.

BUT–

Decide to think on the truths of God. Ask yourself the hard questions, banish the unlovely and dark thoughts, and focus on real and true ones. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Experience refuge in God all over again.

Don’t despair! Rather, bask in the knowledge that God has the power to rescue you every time you fall! Every time! God will not refuse helping, comforting, and rescuing us — even after the 100th time you fall back into deep worry.

You will know freedom as you know Christ.

And you will have victory again!

Don’t dwell on the anxiety you may face tomorrow, two weeks from now, or next year.

What is real today?

The victory you have when you remain rooted in God.  

What do you need to think on today? 

The truths of God.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

If you missed them, catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

On Worry | Part 2

Last week, we talked about the depths of worry. (Don’t miss part one.) We discussed verbally admitting the struggle and touched the surface of freedom from darkness. By now, you know that I fight some deep, perplexing issues. We all do! We may struggle differently, but we all struggle deeply. This is a safe place for us to talk about it. So, let’s dive right in. If you haven’t written Philippians 4:8 on a 3×5 card yet, you will definitely want to by the end of this post!

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For the rest of this article, you’ll read what I like to call the Truth Process. This process is hard and easy all at the same time. But the good news is that one can live free of worry, even when it doesn’t feel possible. I can’t express to you the depths of my worry. Maybe if we sat over a cup of coffee, I could adequately describe how far I sank, but we aren’t face-to-face, and I’d rather show you the way of HOPE than drone on about my own past darkness.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

As a teen, I began the process of thinking on truth. I memorized this verse. We often say it’s too hard to meditate. But if you’re the anxious worrier that I was (and still can be sometimes!), you are an EXPERT at it. In other words, we excel at meditating! But the problem comes in dwelling on the wrong things. We focus on what could be, what might be, what I might do, what I didn’t do, on dark things, on lies, and on destruction.

So how do we use our expert meditating skills the right way? Let me share three practical ways (aka–>the Truth Process) to change those bad habits.

#1. Write Philippians 4:8 and other Scriptural truths on 3×5 cards. 

Be sure to write down Philippians 4:8 (one of the most helpful verse for freedom from anxiety), but also study Scripture to find other verses that give you comfort, strength, and hope. Remember, God wrote these truths for us! He gave His Word to help and sustain us — to tell of His love, His care, His power! Keep that in mind as you look for Scripture to write down.

After you compile 3-4 verses, carry them with you wherever you go. Read the card(s) every time you walk through a doorway, pass a trash can, look out a window … you get the point! Pick a daily action that you do frequently, and when you find yourself doing that action, read the verse as well! Just do it. You will be amazed at the subtle changes you’ll begin to see. The invasion of truth in a dark, battered mind makes a huge difference.

#2. Ask yourself, “Is this True? Is this Real?” 

We can’t just read Scripture and be done with it. We have to apply it as well. When you read Philippians 4:8, pull your anxiety parallel to God’s Word. Is this _____ true about my life? Is this _____ real? Is this ____ lovely? Continue asking yourself if these thoughts line up with Philippians 4:8. If you can’t say yes to any of these questions, then you have to throw the thought out.

How can you throw out a thought? How can you stop thinking it? Restructure the questions above. So, what is true? What is real? What is lovely? Answer those questions after you reject the untrue, unreal, and unlovely thoughts that we are so apt to focus on. You’ll begin to see a huge change!

#3. Do this over and over and over and over again. 

You won’t see much change if you don’t continually think on truth, discard wrong thoughts, and think on truth some more. It took a lot of the same dark thoughts to plunge you into despair and anxiety. It’s going to take daily, hourly, minutely meditation on truth for you to live free from anxiety. You have to keep reading Scripture, memorizing it, knowing it, and then applying it.

Ask yourself the hard questions, throw away the untrue, unlovely thoughts. Next, think again on what is true and real. You will find that God’s truth overrides darkness every time. You will find freedom from despair.

Perhaps you say I’ve had victory before, but I’m ragged again. What do I do?  Oh my dear, I understand. I recently went through a whole struggle myself, but I’ll talk about that next week. You are not alone. Keep thinking on truth and come again. We will find truth and comfort together.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

P.S. Consider reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. While I wrote this article in my own words, I’ve taken the advice from her!

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.6

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Fight

Fighting doesn’t always mean resorting to violence. We know that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds, and that is exactly what we intend to do…demolish the strongholds of anxiety and depression.

Do not allow these killers (anxiety and depression) to murder you, which is precisely their purpose. Make no mistake about it ladies, anxiety and depression can be just as deadly as some forms of cancer and you must fight against it with everything in you. Known for being relentless and ruthless, do not underestimate the enemy of your soul, whose determined to steal, kill, and destroy. Anxiety and depression will attack with no holds barred. Therefore be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! When your strength is depleted, remain standing and let the Lord fight your battles. Your first line of defense is ALWAYS GOD.anxietydepression6

There are several tactics that can be implemented when breaking the cycle of ungodly thinking. Because both anxiety and depression are known for altering the perception of their captors, you are their main target. If they can get you to believe that you are anything less than what God says, they’ve won half the battle. The blows that anxiety and depression throw at you may sometimes leave you dazed, confused, and barely able to see clearly. If the way you view yourself is off, if your vision is even slightly skewed, the way you view yourself must be reestablished immediately. Be determined in your strategy to overcome by any means necessary. Do not let your guard down and extend no mercy because trust that none will be reciprocated. You must fight for your right to be free from the mental prison that will not hesitate to arrest all other aspects of living. Roll up your sleeves and fight ladies, fight for your life in Christ.

Just one more day to go before our journey comes to an end, are you still with me ladies? Hang in there because I saved the best for last. Today, I pray that each of you would be endowed with the supernatural power of the One who fights constantly for you, with you, and on your behalf – the Champion of life, death, and satan himself: the One and Only, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.5

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Focus

I am all too familiar with the negative spin that anxiety and depression puts on everything fanxietydepression5rom future expectations to the way you see yourself and everything in between. Contrary to popular belief (and popular usually means those who haven’t dealt with depression personally), when battling with these two monsters, blanket statements like “mind over matter,” “wishful thinking,” and (my all-time favorite…NOT) “just think positive” will not cut it. As a matter of fact, it could actually make things worse because now feelings of guilt develop due to you not being able to “positive think” it away.

If anxiety and depression were that easy to get rid of, why is it that an alarming amount of people have these issues and the number of people dealing with them are constantly growing? Ladies, anxiety and depression is so much more than being “down in the dumps” and to overcome it means you must be willing to concentrate on the Lord wholeheartedly.

To break out of the ungodly thought process you must focus – control your mind, don’t allow your mind to control you. Yes, thoughts will come (guaranteed), however, you do not have to entertain those thoughts. Be intentional in your thinking and purposeful in your processing.

While in these bouts of mental anguish, remember who you are in God, and should you forget, revert back to the only truth that does not waver – His word. Listen ladies, you cannot rely on your feelings because not only are they unstable but they can lie to you as well. It is crucial that you become completely dependent upon the Lord of hosts. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever.

Unfortunately, many people who have issues with anxiety and depression, are also perfectionists. Perfectionists are constantly holding themselves to higher standards and unrealistic expectations. Sometimes people fail to realize that God is not interested in their attempts at being perfect, He doesn’t have to look beyond His own throne for perfection (quoted by Laurie Lewis). God already knows you are incapable of perfection. Alleviate self-imposed stress by allowing yourself to be less than perfect, instead focus on who you are in Him.

Writing has always been therapeutic in my opinion. Consider keeping an ungodly verses godly thought journal. Whenever an ungodly thoughts pops into your head, write it down, afterwards, write a godly truth (may include scriptures) that will negate the ungodly thought. Focus on the godly truth you wrote down, read it often, memorize it. Soon, each time the ungodly thought enters your mind the godly thought will be sure to follow. It won’t take long for you to obtain a few pages full of godly thoughts that are now ineffective due to the godly truth you chose to focus on. If you keep you mind on the Lord, He’ll keep you in perfect peace.

Wow ladies, it has been awesome to share with you today. As we come to another day’s end, please know that my prayer for you is that you would fully concentrate on God’s goodness and His grace. You won’t want to miss tip six, join me again tomorrow! May the Lord keep you, until we meet again.

 

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.4

anxietydepression4Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Fitness

Exercise is such an ugly word, wouldn’t you agree ladies? LOL! In spite of how we may feel about the word, it is a necessary evil. I’m sure you’re all too familiar with the spirit of heaviness that causes such menial tasks, such as getting out of bed or taking a shower, to be insurmountable, much less exercising. However, research tells us that staying fit is proven to be just as effective as prescription medications used to treat anxiety and depression. Apparently, staying fit with regular physical activity such as exercise, actually triggers new cell growth in the brain which has several benefits. It causes muscle tension relief and it increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, as well as reducing high levels of stress.

When establishing a fitness routine, keep in mind that most of your benefits will come from exercising at least thirty minutes or more every day. Whether you are an amateur or an expert as it pertains to fitness, you can start small. If you do too much too soon, your fitness action plan will fall apart before you know it. Short bursts of activity in 10 minute intervals will have a noticeable effect on your mood. Buckets of sweat, gym memberships, personal trainers, signing up for marathons, etc. are not necessary to be fit. Any activity that gets your arms and legs moving and raises your heart rate may be considered as exercise. Dancing, swimming, walking, running, (requires moving of the limbs and accelerating the heart rate) can all be incorporated into your daily routine. It makes it easier if you choose activities you enjoy because you’re more likely to stick with it. Committing to several small activities spread throughout the day can quickly add up. It also allows you to tackle your fitness routine in small doses rather than all at once. With the smaller portions it doesn’t seem as overwhelming, especially to those of us who don’t exercise regularly.

There are several ways to implement those smaller chunks of exercise into your day, like parking your vehicle in the farthest spot on the lot, using the stairs instead of the elevators, make walking the dog a part of your daily routine, etc. These are all small adjustments that will make huge impacts.

Four down, three to go! I hope you all will join me again tomorrow as we discuss our fifth tip. My prayer is that every woman who is having this battle will know without a shadow of a doubt that she is not alone. Lord, I ask that You remind these ladies who love You that you have loved them with an everlasting love and nothing will separate them from the miraculous love that You have so freely given to each woman. Speak to them throughout the day in ways that would assure them that You are right there in the storm with them, providing shelter making it impossible for them to get swept up by the treacherous wind and rain. Remember ladies, your hope is in God alone. Blessings!

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.3

anxietydepression3Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Fun

When we become adults, the world suddenly becomes so serious. For adults, fun is something that we simply don’t have time to indulge. We have unscheduled it on our calendars and removed it from our to-do lists.

We have to come to the realization that in order to overcome anxiety and depression, we gotta have some fun. Girls just wanna have fun, right?! Do things that relax and energize you. In doing so you will learn how to better manage stress, develop healthy habits, and schedule some long overdue, fun activities into your day.

In your pursuit for fun, try exposing yourself to a little sunlight each day, a minimum of at least fifteen minutes per day. Sunlight actually helps to improve your mood. Sitting in a garden, reading a book under a tree, even taking a stroll in the park will help in obtaining your daily dose of sun.

It’s not unusual for anxiety and depression to alter your normal sleep pattern. Whether you’re sleeping too much or too little, your mood will be affected by it. On average we need about eight hours of sleep, which should be your goal each night. You may even need to try some relaxation techniques prior to your bedtime, it will help to relieve some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression, while reducing stress. It can also enhance feelings of joy and well-being. Creating healthy sleeping habits will definitely help to improve your mood.

Before anxiety and depression took over your life, you had fun and enjoyed doing certain things. Of course you can’t force yourself to fun, however, you can make a conscience decision to participate in activities that you once found to be pleasurable like an old hobby you’d like to revisit, or an interest you may want to explore. Investigate your creative side through art (painting, sculpting, etc.), writing, build a collection of some sort, or take a trip to the park, the beach, even the mountains with a few friends. Music has the ability to greatly influence its listeners, it has extreme mood altering capabilities. Having said that, be careful when selecting your playlists. Opt for music that makes you feel good, empowered, inspired, strong, etc. Stay away from dark music with violent lyrics, sad songs, and music that triggers painful memories.

You will have to push yourself to have fun because most likely you won’t feel up to doing anything, but follow through with it anyway. It may not happen the first time, but eventually you’ll notice a gradual improvement in your moods accompanied by being more energetic. Whether you see change immediately or not, continue to make time for fun.

This brings us to yet another end ladies and I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts thus far? This question may be a little premature but have you been able to apply what you’ve learned to your life? I’m excited to hear your feedback. If you want to share with me personally as opposed to commenting below, please feel free to contact me via email at: Takiela@TakielaBynum.com . Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Blessings!

On Worry | Part 1

I washed my hands all the time. I fretted about everything. I cried easily. Anxiety plagued me. I lived in prison — a prison of my own making. My struggle with anxiety increased in my early teens. I feared stealing, lying, cheating, killing myself, and so many others things.

Today, I open part 1 of my journey through worry. I hope you’ll stay for all of it.

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A life of constant worry lead to exhaustion. I felt stuck in a black hole, unsure of how to climb out. How could I go from chains to freedom? How could I break the cycle of questions and torments, especially when trapped so deep? Would it ever happen? Or would I always live like this?

These feelings tormented me.

As a young girl, this did so much damage. Such thoughts always lead to deep damage. Eventually, I voiced my twisted, dark thoughts, because I couldn’t cope alone anymore. It wasn’t hard for those close to me to know I struggled, but it was hard for me to verbally admit it.

But at last, I told my Mom the struggles I faced. I was tired of the endless darkness. My Mom gave me the first shreds of hope. She wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards for me to read over and over again. She also bought me Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. This book pointed me to Scripture and showed practical ways to break out of my self-destructive thinking patterns.

However, it isn’t easy reaching this point. Admitting one’s struggles takes courage. It’s hard to share the dark thoughts inside us or to say, “I’m afraid I’m going to kill myself.” If I could travel back to my life as a young teen, I’d tell myself three things. Continue reading “On Worry | Part 1”

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.2

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Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Food

You’ve heard the phrase, “you are what you eat” right? Well, to my surprise there is some truth to that old adage. Actually what you eat has a huge impact on the way you feel. When dealing with anxiety and depression, your goal should be a balanced diet of complex carbs, low-fat carbs, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Stay away from “comfort foods” and do not to succumb to the urge of emotional eating, especially if it includes trans or saturated fats, high levels of artificial or chemical preservatives or hormones (some meats), alcoholic beverages, and caffeine. Minimize your sugar and refined carbs such as French fries, pasta, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, baked goods, sugary snacks, etc. These foods will temporarily make you feel good but your mood and energy will quickly crash, which could cause you to feel worse. These types of foods have a tendency to adversely affect not just your mood, but your brain as well.

Complex carbs will increase your serotonin levels. Foods such as whole grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, baked potatoes are all full of complex carbs that will increase your serotonin levels without the crash like refined carbs.

Implement more super foods into your daily intake. Nuts, bananas, and brown rice are all foods rich in nutrients that can boost your mood. Increase your vitamin B consumption by taking a B-complex vitamin supplement or eating more eggs, chicken, leafy greens, and beans. Deficiencies in B vitamins can trigger mood swings.

Sometimes, when battling with anxiety or depression, you don’t have much of an appetite at all. When you don’t feel well, it’s not uncommon for your food intake to significantly decrease from little to nothing. Skipping meals is a bad idea because long stretches between meals can make you feel both tired and irritable. Make it a goal to eat a small meal or snack every three or four hours.

Well ladies, as we bring today’s discussion to a close, I hope you will join me tomorrow for the third tip on overcoming anxiety and depression. I am praying that the Lord will demonstrate His power in your life while you walk through this emotionally challenging journey. May you experience the glory of the Lord in ways you never have before. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Until we meet again ladies, blessings!

 

Redefining FLOURISH

It’s a dirty topic, but somebody’s gotta discuss it – anxiety and depression.

Before we go there (anxiety and depression), let’s talk about what redefining flourish means.

redefine: to state or set forth the meaning, explain, identify the nature, essential qualities of, specify distinctly, determine or fix boundaries or extent of, to make clear the outline or format of. (www.dictionary.com)

flourish: to be in a vigorous state; thrive; to be in its or one’s prime; be at the height of fame, excellence, influence, etc. successful, prosper, grow luxuriantly. (www.dictionary.com)

Essentially, the concept regarding the phrase redefining flourish is this – to go beyond the boundaries of the traditional definition of the word flourish, breaking out of the restrictive description of the word flourish.

Ladies, the Lord does not get any glory when His daughters are walking around oppressed, defeated, or broken. He takes no pleasure in us being imprisoned by our thoughts.

Some may not realize it but anxiety and depression are both head conditions, (before you take offence, hear me out please), meaning it starts in the mind (the battle ground of the enemy) and then travels to the heart spreading like a cancerous disease, eventually infecting the entire body. Once the mind has the heart convinced, the body will follow. They (anxiety and depression) are the byproducts of fear, it is their driving force. When we are plagued by fear, it cripples us to the point of paralyzation. Medically speaking, when a person suffers from paralysis of any kind, it’s because of an injury or disease of the nerves, spinal cord, or brain (NOTE: it does not list heart). The brain registers the information and the heart carries it out. For example, if someone is depressed, the brain alerts the heart, and the heart sends out the notification by pumping the depression tainted blood to the rest of the body – when the mind has the heart convinced, the body will follow.

This gives new meaning to a few of those popular verses in the Bible that urge us to keep our minds in check (Romans 12:1-2 NIV, Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV), even going as far as offering suggestions on what to think on (Philippians 4:8 NIV). God reminds us in His word that He has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV). When a person is paralyzed (even if it’s by fear), I’d venture to say that the word power wouldn’t be on the list used to describe their feelings. Just sayin. Love is a force that holds its own, it can tap into a level of courage that was previously dormant. There is nothing like a sound mind. It embodies peace, rational thinking, and understanding.

The word of God says “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Mat 7:11 NIV It says it in Luke 11:13 NIV as well. (NOTE: In these two passages of Scripture, the “good gifts” mentioned are referring to the Holy Spirit.) In addition, the Bible clearly states in James 4:2 KJV, “…ye have not, because ye ask not.” and the NIV translation says it like this, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Verse 24 in Mark 11 explains, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received in, and it will be yours.”

After reviewing the previously mentioned Scriptures, think about these questions before you answer, be honest with yourself and rest assure that God already knows the answer. You can lie to others, and even to yourself, but there is no hiding the truth from the Lord of the universe. 1. What have you asked God to do for you regarding anxiety and depression? 2. When you ask Him, do you fully believe that He will deliver? As I pondered these same questions myself quite a few years ago, I hate to admit it, but I was ashamed of my answers. After coming to that realization, I fell on my knanxietydepression1ees and asked God to forgive me. In my prayer, I asked God to provide me with an action plan for overcoming and to strengthen me for the journey ahead. There was work to do and I needed to get started right away, thus my research began.

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Family and Friends

It is important to have a support system available to you because it plays a major role in helping to overcome the struggles associated with anxiety and depression. While in the storms of anxiety and depression, maintaining a godly perspective along with sustaining the minimum effort needed to overcome this relentless pair, may seem impossible. Not to mention that the very nature of these beasts (anxiety and depression) makes it difficult to reach out for help. By adding isolation to the emotional turmoil, it can quickly turn a bad situation to much worse. However, on the flipside, retaining emotionally healthy close relationships with a trusted family member or friend can be vital in the process of overcoming.

Often times, reaching out to someone who is close, simply isn’t an option for various reasons like embarrassment, guilt, shame, exhaustion, etc. However, when these thoughts invade your mind, know that it is the enemy talking, using anxiety and depression as his voice. The enemy of your soul would have you believe that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The people who love and care about you want to help you. Also, making new friends and improving your support system is always a plus.

Surround yourself with family and friends who love and care for you. It is important to spend time talking face to face with people you trust. They only need to listen, they don’t have to fix you. Ask for help and support that is beneficial to you. Don’t expect people to automatically know how to help, be as specific as possible.

Remain involved in social activities, regardless of how you feel. Sometimes, when dealing with anxiety and depression, you’ll probably feel more comfortable retreating into your shell but resist these feelings. Being around other people will help you overcome.

My prayer is that you don’t’ get weary as you walk this difficult journey. God will strengthen you, He will order your steps, continue to trust Him and believe He is able to do what is impossible for you. Join me tomorrow to discuss the second tip for overcoming anxiety and depression.