My Story | The Valley Depths

Several months before I turned 17, I experienced strong chest pains. It became so intense I could barely breathe, carry my books, or even open a door. My parents had left on an important trip, so if I experienced any problems I was to call Grandma who lived close by. She came over in the night, checked my blood pressure, and made the executive decision to take me to the ER.

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I put on some clothes and got in the car with Grandma. Though my blood pressure seemed fine, the chest pain caused concern. It had started in my left arm and became progressively worse. On the drive there, the realization of how fast my life could change struck me. What I heard tonight could alter my life forever. Would I receive bad news? Did I have a tumor? Cancer? What was hurting my body? Even after leaving behind the overwhelming thoughts of death I mentioned in my last post, I still worried a bit of what might come.

Continue reading “My Story | The Valley Depths”

Grief & Joy Can Coexist

While I suffered the darkest years of chronic pain, I learned a lot about grief, about loss. It was hard to live inside a day experiencing so much physical pain. I hung up my dreams and resigned myself to a short life. I let my broken body rule my emotions. I grieved in the wrong way — without God. I forsook joy though I had every reason to know it. I became bitter and let physical pain wipe out gratitude.

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We have all been there in one way or another. We have lamented without God, and in the long process of heartache, we forget the joy we have in Him. Somewhere along the way, I learned that grief and joy can coexist. I can feel both.

It’s NOT Too Late to Have a Good Day

JoyDo you ever feel discouraged because you spent the entire day in a way you wish you hadn’t? I’ve had more days like that than I care to admit! I come into the day with good intentions only to find myself wallowing in disaster near the end.

I get caught up in this, that, and the other and begin to live my day focused on me and all that’s difficult in my life. And why shouldn’t I? Am I not having a bad day anyway? Can’t a human have just one day that they get upset at every little thing? What about that person who really hurt me? Can’t I stay mad about that? Oh good grief! See how easy it is to get lost in this kind of thinking? It feels good to think this way even though this thought pattern sucks out joy and thankfulness. And let me just tell you that one day of ingratitude and self-pity turns into many, many more!

I’m going to let you in on a secret this morning. Ready? Here it is …

It’s NOT too late to have a good day! Even if it’s 11:55 pm, you can still turn in the right direction. When you ask forgiveness of God and pray for His strength, He never replies with “No! It’s too late. You should have asked 2 hours ago.” He never, ever does that. He grants forgiveness to the contrite heart. He gives strength to the weary. He gives joy to the one having an awful day. It’s not too late.

Last week, we talked about the foundation of joy, which is a relationship with God. I hope you have grasped that and have begun to live it out. But I also know that even as we strive to love God and live a joyful life, we all still have hard days where circumstances seem to pit against us and life  seems so difficult. Having a joyful life doesn’t mean we will never experience hard times. It simply means that when these things come along … we choose to handle them the right way.

So I urge you to:

  1. Wake up and give your day to God.
  2. Cry out to God if you need to. Life is hard! We need His comfort.
  3. Forsake bitterness, no matter how appealing it seems.
  4. Rest in Him. Throw your burdens on Him. He wants them.
  5. Ask God to help you see the good once again.

But, if you get to 11:55 pm and every hour before was full of bad attitudes, hard times, resentment, anger, or ingratitude … remember that it is not too late to turn back to God and finish the day in a good way. God loves you and He desires to restore you. Let Him.

A thankful life full of joy doesn’t mean you smile 24/7 and throw confetti everywhere you go, but it does mean that you seek God with the daily, and often hourly, challenges that you face. It means that you give to God what is hard. It means that you don’t wallow in self-pity. It means that you continuously turn back to God every time you go astray. As you seek God for strength, as you ask Him for joy, as you rely on Him for healing, and give over your days … you’ll find rest and inexplicable joy.

So … good morning!

It’s not too late to turn back to God and finish this day the right way! You can have a good day, even when everything else seems bad.

The Foundation for Joy

Joy and thankfulness are the two easiest things to cast aside when trudging knee deep in the drudgery of daily life. However, seeking joy is the overwhelming trend on Christian social media. This gratitude, living small moments, looking for lovely has come on us in a wave and we don’t always know what to do with it.

Foundation for Joy

So, we like the status, share the post, and go on our way. All too soon, the challenge to find the lovely gets tramped on and swallowed up in all the frustrations, relationship burdens, and inward feelings of failure. Thankfulness is hard and it’s not as hallmark as acknowledging a  moment of precious life. We are fallen humans, living in a sin-cursed world, clinging to God. We all know that gratitude and a heart of joy are no picnic … it’s a battlefield.

Today, I want you to consider something: You will not succeed in a life of thankfulness if you only find your gratitude in this earthly life. You cannot cultivate a true heart of joy only by finding the lovely things or enjoying the small moments. It’s not just about this precious life. Facebook posts and Pinterest quotes are catchy, and they can often persuade you of the shallow things. We make these earthly solutions our foundation, but when the moment of testing arrives a Pinterest quote can’t hold us strong!

To have a heart of joy, to fight for a life of thankfulness … you must have a relationship with God.

This is the foundation for joy. To have no relationship with God means you forfeit true joy. It means you will have trouble finding the precious moments in life. It means you will scramble to make small life moments into something great and worthwhile.

However, you can only know joy and live a thankful life when you know God. Having a relationship with God reminds you constantly of His love for you. It provides a way to fellowship with Him wherever you may be and in whatever situation you find yourself.

Daily life is difficult, but God gives you purpose, peace, and strength! He provides for you a sure and steady foundation. God is good and He never changes, so even when life is hard you can experience joy. God, Creator of Life, Savior, and Prince of Peace must first be your foundation. You must diligently pursue Him and know Him, and then these lovely moments, these small things, these bits of happiness in a chaotic life are easier to see and they begin to make sense.

Be wary of the feel-good quotes you see and the flimsy solutions we believe in for a thankful life. We are a people easily persuaded. If you only look for the lovely and the small life moments without knowing God then you will fill up empty every single time.

Seek God.

Know Him.

He is the Giver of Joy.

Still Learning,

Sierra Straightforward

Concerning Change | Part 2

Last week, I shared about our recent move back into Christian camp ministry. This week, let me tell you something else.

I am NOT a flexible person! I cannot do a somersault. My body refuses to move that way. Growing up, my friends would try and try to teach me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put my legs over my head.

I don’t only struggle with physical flexibility but also with being flexible in daily life. I like days full of routine and weeks that repeat themselves. I like to know what to expect each day.

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However, when you and your husband move to a new county, delve back into camp work, settle into a new house, and begin new work areas all in the space of a month … nothing feels the same, and your capacity to adapt is tested.

You can’t stop change, but you can improve your “elasticity.” Having undergone some major life transitions, I can attest that my ability to adapt and do a “life somersault” has grown. I admit that during this last stretching period I still found myself in a fetal position for at least two days before choosing to rise and embrace the inevitable ups and downs that come with learning something new!

I want to share some important lessons I’ve learned from this experience.

1. Never make a decision based on an emotional five minutes!

Emotions make powerful convincers. Don’t freak out and run from something because it doesn’t fit the initial image you envisioned. Avoid making decisions based on those first five minutes and the avalanche of emotions that barrel down with them. Change happens in a moment, but adjustments take time.

2. Find time to process.

It may take a few days, but process all that happens to you. As you do this, your heart rates slows and you can let go of some of the harder aspects of the transition.

3. New beginnings always produce discomfort.

We look forward to things that excite us with a sense of being grounded and experienced. Change never starts that way! New beginnings can lead to confusion and discomfort, but you need the beginning to reach the wonderful middle you’ve waited for. Appreciate those first steps and accept its discomforts.

4. Ask questions, and be confident!

Never hesitate to ask questions and do so with confidence. Embrace your new work area, neighborhood, or community. Understand that you’re inexperienced and you will have questions. Contrary to popular belief, you can be confident and still ask questions.

5. Make new things special.

When you get to a new place or a job, everything is different. You experience things for the first time. Nothing holds special significance. I have found that picking a tree I see every day or taking a daily prayer walk helps me to connect to this new environment. Every time I see that tree or take that walk, I start to view this place as home.

Find those things as soon as possible, and you will be amazed at how quickly you begin to see this new world as your home!

Sometimes following these tips won’t come easily, but the outcome will be worth the effort. I can truly say that they do help! I’ve lived here less than two months and have already found myself enjoying my new home and making memories in a place that initially caused a lot of uncomfortable havoc! Discomfort is not a bad thing when you undergo transition, just keep on taking the step and live the moment in front of you in the best way you know how!

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

 

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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”

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.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.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.

Straightforward

As I started the process of writing for this ministry, Takiela asked me to come up with a name for my column. I didn’t know what to do. It stumped me for hours! My husband had some really good ideas. He claims he’s not a writer, but he’s quite poetic. Anyhow, we threw around good names, but they weren’t quite right. So, hours passed and I remained stuck in a rut!

Then, straightforward came to my attention. I wish that more adults would be straightforward. Let me tell you something, spending time with children can be refreshing and embarrassing. Why? Because, they are straightforward. They say what’s on their minds without the expended energy of beating around the bush. Kids don’t have a bush!

As you get older, you learn discernment. This is good! We should be discerning with what we say. But with age, we’ve also learned how to hide within ourselves and shut people out. We’ve learned to gloss over our problems and only show so much.

However, as a young woman, I want older women to be transparent with me. I want them to tell me what they have experienced, what they have learned. I want to hear their stories, so that I can grow from them. As people, we have all these experiences that we stack in a corner of our heart. We don’t tell or show anyone. Our hearts are closed tight, and we are closed off.

 

Sierra Straightforward

But this little column here? It’s going to be straightforward. This place will share, open up, and welcome you in. This tiny nook is going to be the corner of my heart that you get to sit inside. I’ll be discerning in the things I share, but I’ll also be straightforward and transparent. I hope you’ll do the same. Leave comments, tell me your story, and become a part of this FLOURISH community. I want to get to know you as you get to know me!

You don’t know many things about me yet, so I hope to take the next few weeks to show you some of the biggest mountaintops and deepest valleys of my life. Let me tell you, my story isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. No one has a sunshine, lollipop story! We just don’t. Each life holds hardness, goodness, heartbreak, joy, suffering, pain, hope, wonder, fulfilled dreams, and unfulfilled ones.

My life doesn’t resemble Pinterest-perfect images, and I’m glad for that. Life is much better than a perfect image. The tattered parts bring me closer to God, as the joy and fullness show me how much wonder God has given.

I hope that as I write and we share our lives together — we will come to realize the joy of imperfection, the wonder of life, whole and beaten.

Oh, how whole and beaten it is!

I have struggled with anxiety since the age of 12. It doesn’t burden me all the time. Rather, it comes in waves and knocks me off my feet. I fall flat for months at a time as I re-learn how to apply God’s truth to the battles in my mind.

At 15, I transitioned into chronic pain. It confused me. My thoughts grew dark. I took various pain medications. At times that the pain became so bad, I just wanted to die. The deepest part of the chronic pain valley stretched on for four years before I found a semblance of relief. I still struggle with pain today, but God has poured His strength on me. I have sought and found the comfort He provides. Even more, He has shown the mighty power of His healing.

So you see, my life is beaten and torn, but it is whole and joy-filled. That’s what I want to share here, the details of this beaten, whole, weary, full life. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of my young heart, but today, I wanted you to see some of what Sierra Straightforward will be about. I’ve said it before, but I can’t wait to share this life with you. And perhaps, you’ll want to share your life with me too.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

Meet Sierra Fedorko

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How do you compose the opening sentences that will introduce you to a community of people? How do you jump in and introduce yourself? First meetings can be awkward, so maybe it’s nice you’re behind a screen for this one!

All that to say, I’m Sierra. I’m glad you joined me, and I’m thrilled to be here! I won’t attempt to explain myself in one post. You might get bored and my fingers might cramp. But I can tell you that I’m thankful to start this journey alongside you.

Before we dive in too deep, I will share a few things about me. I’m young, though this last birthday had me feeling old. I mean, I’m in my 20’s now! YIKES. Also, I’ve never been a flower girl, but both my sisters and a lot of my friends have. I jokingly started the Never Been a Flower Girl club. Feel free to join if you fall under this category! Our club is small. Really small.

I started writing at about the age 10 or 11, and I took to all things poetry. I had a little desk in the trees where I wrote quite a bit of my young poetry. As I got older, I continued to write, but my writing and thoughts became darker as I endured heavy, hard chronic pain.

I eventually created a blog. My need to write only increased as I journaled, composed short stories, and worked on my first book. The journey of my life traverses through valleys and mountains, and my writing expressed all of that. Looking back, I see joy and anguish in my penned words.

As life moved forward, I continuously wrote on my blog. I recorded my journey, wrote from the darkness, wrote from the joy, and shared my life with people. Then in December 2014, Leading Young Women to Hope presented me with an opportunity. After reading my blog, talking with me, and explaining the ministry, LYWH offered me the position of columnist. This provided a place to write, a place to share my hope in Christ, and a place that would stretch me. Of course, I was excited.

The opportunity was right there, open for me, ready for me. Without obligation, they gave me time to consider it. Boy, did I consider it! The opportunity dangled close enough to touch, but I found myself in the middle of the busiest two semesters in my life (so far anyway)! To top all that, I got engaged soon after the offer came in.

A bit into the New Year, I made the decision that I couldn’t commit, not yet. I wouldn’t be able to give my best, not between teaching, taking classes, planning a wedding, enduring chronic pain, and going to numerous doctor’s appointments while waiting for approval for surgery. I couldn’t dedicate the time needed when embarking on a new project. Time is tricky. You never get more of it, forcing you to choose how you use your limited supply. So I did. I said no, and in doing so, I said yes to commitments I already had.

I took my busy classes, continued teaching JH students, planned a wedding, went on school trips, had doctor’s appointments, had surgery, got married, and honeymooned.

AND SURVIVED.

November 2015 rolled around and with it, perhaps the time to say yes to this writing opportunity. I had less commitments now and could devote my time even if it came months and months later. So here I am. I can now confidently write, invest, and share with this community, with you. I look forward to it! I want to share many things in my life with you.

I want to impart my experiences, my hope in Christ, His grace in my life. I want to cry the anguished tears together and walk hand-in-hand as we encourage each other to press on for Christ. I don’t want to hoard this journey but rather open up and let you in. I want God to receive glory as we walk together along this beaten path.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your life.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward