what are you calling yourself?…because He calls you mine…

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I have no scars on my arms, because I was a cutter of different sorts. The scars are on my heart and mind from year after year of stripping and slicing away everything God says I am, and embedding into my flesh everything that I am not. It’s a dangerous habit and every bit as harmful as the physical slicing of skin.

I think it was the grace of timing that saved me. During this period of my life, I never heard of cutting. It wasn’t an option I knew about for numbing the pain. Because there were times I would have done just about anything to numb the pain – it just happens I turned to alcohol, performance, and relationships because those things were accessible.

I say all this because I work in a field where I see cutting on a weekly basis. But guess what I see on a daily basis? Internal slicing and dicing that is more easily hidden, but certainly no less painful. And if there is one thing God has showed me about this habit, it’s that it pains Him deeply.

Isaiah 43:1 says this, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”

Why does this verse matter? Because I want you to think about something. When God looks at you and calls you by name, He calls you mine. Not loser, dirty, broken, ugly, coward, unloveable, shame filled, or hated. He calls you mine.

And God doesn’t just call anyone mine. He calls you His because He chose you on the cross, and He would choose you a thousand times over again. He calls you His because everything un-perfect about you is perfected in Him. You are certainly not unwanted or alone. He looks right at you and says, that one – she chose me and I chose her – she is mine.

We can cut, slice, and dice ourselves verbally all we want, but God refuses to do it. And if we want to feel towards ourselves the love He feels towards us, we are going to have to stop. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m just telling you it’s possible.

One of my favorite verses is Mark 9:24 where a man exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Because here’s the thing…if we believe in Jesus, He can help us overcome the lies we believe about ourselves.

When we start verbally bashing and beating ourselves, and it feels impossible to stop, that’s when we call on the power of God. That’s when we yell out, “God you have called me chosen, worthy, beautiful, and redeemed, but parts of me object – help me overcome my unbelief!”

There were times in my life I literally had to exclaim this out load. Because I needed help y’all!

I didn’t overcome this cutting behavior on my own. I didn’t overcome it strictly by going to therapy – although it helped a lot. I overcame exactly how God says we overcome – by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. He gave me the power to overcome. And I am so thankful I couldn’t do it without Him, because I learned to depend on Him for my identity – and nothing else.

If you are a cutter of any sort, today is the day that can begin to change. Not that it’s an instant fix, it takes time. But today is the day you can say for the first time, “I do believe Lord, help me overcome my unbeleif.” And keep praying and asking, as long as it takes. Keep fighting. In this battle, you will win. But it’s time to pick up His truth and put down the blade.

The most dangerous story we could ever write…and the sequel that changes things…

hopeWe have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:19-20a

Living without hope is dangerous. In fact, people who attempt suicide often do so because they are experiencing intense psychological pain and have lost hope that things will get better. And I get it. Psychological pain is one of the very worst pains there is. Our bodies are capable of overcoming so much, but if the mind is robbed of expectation that things will ever improve, it’s dang difficult to carry on. Hopelessness is the most risky narrative we will ever write.

And because I believe in the power of the story, because I understand how utterly and completely devastating internal bashing can be, nothing pains me more than to hear someone verbally author their story of defeated desperation. Even if I can see hope glowing like a gigantic halo all around them, even if I know theories, techniques, and life changes that might really help them – it doesn’t effect much if I can’t help them believe it for themselves.

I want to give you a few tools that can help you overcome hopelessness. These are not extensive, exhaustive, and will not apply to everyone. They certainly aren’t to be used as a standalone if you are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts. However, these are a few things that I think might help…and we’ve gotta start somewhere…

1. Blow up the positive. We can have 10 good interactions in a day, 5 neutral, 1 negative  – and what will we remember? The negative one. What will become huge in our brains? Not the 10 positive, but the 1 negative. We will feed it until it grows into a big fat hairy good-consuming monster. One way to begin overcoming hopelessness making the difficult decision to take in the good and blow it up. To use our finely honed bad-dwelling skills, and switch them over to good-dwelling skills. Every time something good happens we must choose to be mindful of it, notice it, think about it, talk about it, and focus on it. 

2. Choose to look outside of yourself. Hopelessness exists in isolation. It believes we are the only one struggling with what we are going through and that no one else could possibly understand or help. As a result, we recluse and hide. Open yourself up to the idea that although others may not completely understand what you are going through or be able to offer an easy solution, they likely do care and want to help. Take time to connect with others, even if they don’t get all that you are going through. Connection, even in small amounts, helps us find our way out of the darkness.

3. Plan for a plot twist. Just because your life has been in the crapper doesn’t mean it’s going to stay there. Even if it’s been in the crapper for years – it’s time to plan for change. Maybe you need to consider counseling, maybe medication, maybe you need to plan an exit strategy from circumstances that are causing you great distress, maybe it’s time to lay down some boundaries and stop letting people run over you…there are so many ideas…the possibilities of plot change are endless. But ending the story is not an option. Think about what you can do to plan a plot change, and even if a positive outcome appears unlikely to actually happen, try it and see what happens anyways. 

4. Remember Jesus. The Bible says He is the anchor of hope for our souls. However, satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy will do whatever he can to keep you in a state of depravity. He will tell you your story sucks and it’s never going to get better – but satan lies. He’s a big fat liar and he wants you to look for evidence that his lies are true. He wants you to believe God doesn’t love you and that this hope the Bible speaks of is less than reality. But we know better than that. Every tiny shred of God’s Word is true. He is your hope. Stop looking for evidence that He doesn’t love you, doesn’t care, and has abandoned you and start looking for evidence to the contrary. Start seeking Him in prayer, study, and Biblical community even if you feel like it’s the stupidest thing you have ever done and it couldn’t possibly help – do it anyways!

If we do all of these things, our life may not go through a sudden miraculous change. Circumstances may in fact remain the same, but the way we tell our story might shift. We might begin to see a tiny light of hope in the darkness. And even a tiny speck of hope can be an anchor for a gigantic ship. It can keep you steady in the storm.

If a narrative of hopelessness is the most dangerous story we could ever write, then a narrative of hope becomes the safest, most stable and strong story we could speak over ourselves. It’s a story of life and living. A story of redemption and restoration. It’s the sequel you have been waiting for and it starts right now.

 

 

 

brave girls do it afraid…and a Valerie Wieners art giveaway!!!!!!!

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I like wearing “Be Brave” on a T-shirt. Or having it on my coffee mug. I even plaster Valerie Wieners Be Brave Prints on on my walls. I like to see myself as Merida from the movie Brave, riding through the forest on my horse, a fearless bear slaying woman warrior. But since I don’t have a horse, and I can’t ride my pembroke welsh corgi…I don’t live near a forest or any bears, being brave is all in my head and on my T-shirt unless I change my idea of what brave really looks like.

And for an anxious girl, being brave in real life sounds difficult. I don’t always like to try new things or meet new people. Sometimes I prefer real life to remain in my safety bubble. So I asked God what being brave would/should/could look like for me? Should I don a bow and arrow and see what targets I can hit today? Should I go out of my comfort zone and do something crazy?  Or does my brave look a little different?

And in that moment He spoke to my heart…

Sometimes being brave is walking into a situation you have no control over and staying present anyways.

Ok God, there it is for us fixers. For those of us who prefer the pretty things and big red bows. There it is for those of us who want resolution and solution. For those of us always looking to enjoy life in the future when things are “better”.

What if we were brave enough to say: this is my present…I choose to enjoy it now…even when life makes no sense and my safety bubbles are popping right and left…

This is my my horse. This is the monster beast I need to get up and ride. This is brave.

Because reality for us natural born helpers and fixers is, we want to make a difference. But sometimes we can’t.

Sometimes all we can do is be present with someone who doesn’t feel like they can be present with themselves. Sometimes being brave is saying there’s really nothing I can do to help you right now, but I’ll sit here with you anyways. Sometimes it’s feeling like you stuck your hand on a stovetop and left it there but saying I can stand it, cope with it, and choose to move forward. Being brave is being present and choosing love even when it hurts and you want to say words no Jesus loving girl should choose to say!

Because brave people don’t wait for something to be fixed before running in with their hair on fire. Brave people are prepared to fight. Brave people use their gifts even when they must use them afraid. They don’t let fear stop them. They do it afraid. They fight afraid, and they do it with passion and love, even when they know the battle might not be won.

So you may not have a horse, bow and arrow, flowing red curly hair, or even a be brave T-shirt or wall print (although you can totally get one at valeriewienersart.com) – but girl, you can be brave.

Maybe your brave looks like mine. Maybe it doesn’t. Ask God to show you what being brave looks like for you. And then do it. Do it afraid. Do it with passion and love, knowing you may not always be able to fix or win, but with Jesus, we win in the end.

**************Valerie Wieners Art Giveaway**************

Valerie Wieners is one of the bravest women I know. If you don’t follow her blog or follow her art, you totally should. She is a gifted artist and writer who is passionate about redemption and bravery in Christ. And because of the amazing heart she has, she has kindly offered to giveaway 5 of her Be Brave prints!!!! Here is how you can enter to win…

1. Like Valerie’s Facebook Page and/or Instagram Page and leave a comment below letting me know you did and which print you would prefer from the top of this post (just say 1st one or 2nd one). Also include your email so I can message you if you are a winner.

2. You get a bonus entry if you do number one and sign up for Valerie’s exclusive email specials, and trust me, you want to because she sends out amazing coupons! Click here to go to her website and there is a place to enter your email in the right hand sidebar. Again, let me know you did this as part of your comment so you get a bonus entry!

3. You get a super bonus entry (that’s three entries) if you do number 1 and 2 and also share this post on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) Again, let me know you did in your comment so I know to enter you name 3 times.

You have until July 29th to enter to win! I will send an email to all the winners so that I can get your address and Valerie can get your print shipped out!!!! Yay!!!!

help me please…I need an exit strategy STAT!….

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My porch is like the seat of all wisdom. Sitting out there and watching people go by, I have more thoughts about life than any other time of my day. Yesterday there was this girl that ran in circles. She would run up the block, and then back down the block, up the block, and then back down the block. I bet she did it 50 times! I kept wondering why she didn’t just break out and run around the park – expand her scenery options. It seemed strange to just keep running the same path over and over again when there were so many other options available…

And then God, in classic fashion, womped me over the head with His wisdom and said, “ya think!!!”

We are creatures of habit and our brains are organs of habit. They like to run the same circuitry over and over again. This can be a great thing if you need to remember how to do your laundry. Once you learn it, your brain can repeat that pattern and you can do it over and over again without much thought. But it sucks when it comes to weird, awkward, painful coping patterns that we learned long ago. Patterns no longer necessary, but we still use because we haven’t figured out an exit strategy.

And I’m on this self-compassion kick lately. I’ve been teaching some strategies to a few people around me just to see how it works, so last night I thought I would deploy it on myself…

I was sitting there watching the lady run circles, my mind simultaneously running circles. It kept running back into my past, picking up baggage, running into my present, and dropping it on my lap. I would see the baggage, feel overwhelmed and ashamed, and then tell myself what weak person I was for still feeling hurt over these things. And then instead of offering myself compassion, I ran back for more baggage to grab – dump – feel overwhelmed and ashamed – and then bash myself for feeling that way. Strange cycle – but one my brain loves none the less. I started to feel like I just couldn’t take it anymore, so that’s when I deployed the compassion bomb.

The baggage was already dropped in my lap, so I couldn’t shew it away. It was already there. I had to look at it, but I could change the way I thought about it. I could offer myself compassion. In my mind I began to tell myself things like…

that was really painful, that probably shouldn’t have happened – but I can understand why it did, that really hurt, you felt so confused, you felt alone, you felt afraid, anyone would feel alone and afraid, you are so scared of being left alone and hurt and not having anyone to help you out, it’s okay that you feel this way, but you are not alone, God is with you, you have great family and friends, you will get through this, you are enough, you are strong, you are a survivor, you have all the skills you need to look at the tough parts of life-deal with them appropriately- and then move forward, God is with you, you can be still…

And I’m serious ya’ll – the exit strategy worked. Instead of cycling back and getting more baggage to feel ashamed of – I felt at peace. Instead of feeling panicked, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. So much that I went inside, and fell into one of the most peaceful sleeps I have had in weeks. This self-compassion thing really works.

So the next time you or your brain starts running the same path over and over again, try deploying the self-compassion exit strategy. Offer yourself the same grace and understanding you would offer to a friend, and offer it up real and with passion. Tell yourself the things you know God is telling you. Think about your favorite scriptures and all the things you know are true. And exit that cycle. There is so much more to see…why keep running the same boring, painful, path?

paper princess crowns in toilet water…sometimes this is how God heals…

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So there was this one time I wrote a letter to myself and then my therapist and I burned it and flushed it down the toilet. Just writing that makes me laugh. But I’m serious. It really happened.

The whole story goes like this. I started going to counseling several years back because I was having panic attacks. I was raped at age 15 but hadn’t told anyone up to that point. Turns out, my anxiety was a result of keeping this locked inside and refusing to cope with what happened.  I had a really rough time in therapy and because I am more comfortable writing versus speaking, I would write, and then we would discuss what I had written in session.

One day I wrote this letter. It was filled with awful things. Horrible things I said to myself and things I said to the dude that raped me. I took the cap off my pen and just let it rip. No filter. After discussing the letter, we decided burning it would be a good way to let it go. Because we didn’t want to catch the building on fire, we did it near the toilet. That way once it got close to our fingers, we could drop it in.

She held the paper, I lit the paper, and we watched it slowly consume the words that plagued me. It was very therapeutic. Then, as planned, she dropped it in the toilet. Weird thing was, even surrounded by water, it continued to burn. In fact, on the very top of the paper was a pink princess crown. It was part of the decorative notepad I had written on…but the paper continued to burn until all that was left was the crown. The words burning meant a lot to me but the fact that God kept that paper on fire until nothing was left but the crown…it overwhelmed me.

I hadn’t thought about this story in years until a friend messaged me last night. She shared with me that she had also been raped, chose to write a letter to her younger self, and how she let this letter go. It was a beautiful story. And right then and there, my not so glamerous toilet water story overwhelmed me.

I closed my tear filled eyes and let God speak to my heart. I hadn’t cried over this story in years, but the tears just kept coming. And as I laid there in bed, God whispered sweet truth, telling me of His faithfulness to provide. How that princess crown in the toilet really was the work of His loving hand, and that I am beautiful in His eyes. Always have been, always will be. That I am redeemed and remain redeeemed, no matter what. That I can be still and let go in the safety of His arms.

As a therapist myself now, it’s easy to let theoretical thoughts and ideas consume the bulk of what I do. And don’t get me wrong, these things are good. But sometimes I forget what God can do with a toilet, a lighter, a piece of cheap decorative paper, and the heart of someone who cares. That’s all it really takes. God, people caring for people, and listening to the prompting of the Spirit in that moment – that’s where deep and profound healing happens. Therapists aren’t miracle workers. They are just vessels willing to help others be set free.

I’m honored to do this job. I’m honored to carry the torch that so many have carried for me. I’m honored that God would heal this wounded and broken little girl enough to let her help someone else. I’m just honored. And redeemed.

And maybe your heart is broken today over something that happened in your past. And maybe you desperately long for freedom. It seems like it will never come, oh but sister it is coming and probably in ways you never expected or imagined.

Rest your weary head in His arms. He’s got this. His arms are big, strong, and wide open. He’s your Savior. He knows how to set you free. And He will send others along the path to help you.  Do you trust Him? He is faithful.

Redemption is always coming. He floods you with His love and overwhelms you with his grace. Pray for this. It will happen. You are redeemed. You are set free. The pain that plagues you will be consumed and He will leave you with precious gifts. Like paper princess crowns in toilet water. That’s really all it takes.

an exercise in self-compassion…

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So I’ve had this burden lately to help others develop self compassion. Because we can be way crappier to ourselves than we are to anyone else. And it’s not like we don’t know this is unhealthy. We do. Yet the internal self-berating banter lingers on…

Let me give you an example. I have some fear right now. Things are going reasonably well in my life. But I have this fear that if my circumstances drop again – so will my mood. And I don’t like this fear. Sometimes I beat myself up for having it – like it’s irrational and weird for me to have.  I find myself having little if any compassion for why I might feel this way.

If I was talking to a friend, I would tell her that it makes sense that she feels this way. That her fear is based out of years of battling insecurity. That she worries she will be left alone to cope with a life that at times seems overwhelming. Then I would assure her that she is going to be okay – because she has the skills and abilities to cope with what she needs to cope with and she knows how and who to seek help from if she needs it. That is what I would tell a friend…

And I am making the very conscious effort to offer this same voice to myself. But it’s not always easy. And it certainly doesn’t come naturally.

Some of us have the impulse to shame ourselves almost incessantly. Things go well – and we think we didn’t deserve it. Things go bad – and we feel like we caused it. We see failure not just around us, but deep inside of us. We don’t even have to experience failure in the external world for us to feel like a failure in our internal world.

So how do we stop this? How do we put a halt to this cycle of internal shame and self-criticism? We must choose to offer ourselves compassion. We must choose to offer ourselves empathy. We must choose to feel our feelings, decide that it’s okay to feel what we feel, that we will love ourselves even when we are at our worst, and that we can care ourselves back into a sense of security and safety.

I want to provide you with an exercise that might help you do this…

Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On one side write down everything your internal critic says. All of the ways you are being hard on yourself…

Then look at what you have written. What would you tell a good friend who told you these things? What would you say to them to show them compassion? Then think of or research Biblical scripture that would set itself up against your self-criticism. Write all of these things in the other column.

Take time to do this exercise fairly regularly, especially when you notice an increase in feelings of anxiety or depression. And then, as often as you need to, choose to speak and redirect your mind to compassion.

Here is an example from my sheet of paper. On the one side I wrote, “It’s stupid that you feel afraid. People must think you are so insecure.” On the other side I wrote, “It’s normal that you feel afraid. With time you will feel better. Remember what the Bible says about fear, that each day has enough worries of it’s own. Maybe you can allow yourself some time to feel this fear, give this fear to God, and be kind to yourself. You are not alone.”

For many of us, being compassionate to ourselves may feel foreign and weird at first. We are used to being our own worst enemy. And maybe we are so good at, and even pride ourselves, with loving others, so it just feels wrong to be kind to ourselves. But I will tell you being kind to yourself and learning to offer yourself empathy will free you up to serve others more generously.

And if we take this to a spiritual level, when we are kind and loving to ourselves we are choosing to see ourselves as God sees us. He does not see our sin. It is washed white as snow. He does not see our depravity. He sees us empowered with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we offer ourselves compassion for our flesh, but also repent and embrace that we are made new, we open ourselves up to experiencing the fullness of what Christ has for us.

Giving your distortions the space to be…

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I wrote a post the other day about throwing out our negative thinking. Statistically, it was one of the greatest posts I have written. It received more likes and shares than any other post directly from my blog. And yet I continue to talk to person after person struggling with this very concept. If I’m brutally honest, I often have this struggle myself. I know some of my thinking belongs in the dumpster…the women I talk to know it belongs in the dumpster…yet for whatever reason…it hangs around.

I have done research into the biological reasons behind this, theories regarding why it takes so long and such effort to change things, but I want to breeze past all of that today. Not because it’s not important stuff, it very much is. But because today I want to talk to you woman to woman  – from the deepest place of my heart.

I read a statement the other day on the To Write Love on Her Arms website that said sometimes we must learn to give our distortions the respect they deserve. At first I thought, WHAT? No way! My distortions don’t deserve any respect. They cause me nothing but grief, pain, strife, and hours of battle upon battle. I will not respect them. They belong in the garbage dump! And they do belong in the garbage dump. But the more I thought about this statement it began to work it’s way into my heart.

What if I were to give these distortions the respect they deserved? What would that look like? What if I decided that the times the low growl of you are unloveable reverberates in my ears, I told myself it’s okay to feel unloveable in this moment. Not that it’s true. Because I am not unloveable. But given some of the things I have experienced, it makes sense that I might feel this way – right here, right now.

Or maybe your distortions tell you that you are not enough. Or that the world is against you. Or that things have gotten so bad that you just can’t take it anymore. Are these things true? No. But it feels super invalidating to immediately throw them in the garbage dump. Because in the moment, and in moments from the past, these messages may feel incredibly and completely true.

In giving our cognitive distortions just a moment of respect, even though they are not true, we allow ourselves the right to feel and think what we are feeling and thinking.

There have been times I have gone to throw I’m unloveable away and I just don’t want to – or it feels like I can’t. It feels too painful, and almost as if I am throwing away the part of me that experienced some very painful circumstances. And I don’t want to throw this part of me away. Although it’s a part that isn’t always pretty, it’s a part that is very raw and real – and in many ways has helped me become the person I am today.

Now we must be mindful that in giving our distortions the respect they deserve, we don’t give them more than they deserve. Because while these thoughts and emotions are very real – and the thoughts may have carried a nugget of truth at a certain time our life – they are not the truth now. You are loveable. You are enough. You can get through this. And the entire world is not against you. We must give the thoughts and feelings respect, but then decide that they don’t get to dictate our actions.

It’s a delicate balance, and not always easily achieved. But my hope is that in giving yourself the right to feel what you feel and think what you think based off of the things you have experienced, you will find some peace within the internal turmoil. That when that old thinking bubbles up, even when you thought you had gotten past it, you will be able to look at it and recognize it for what it is rather than going into a tailspin because you feel like a thought trashing failure.

Because you are not a failure. Anyone who had been through what you have been through, with your history-genetics-and all factors combined – would feel and think what you feel and think. And that is okay. It’s just not okay to let those trashy thoughts keep you from becoming who God says you are.

You are a holy, righteous, redeemed, beautiful daughter of the King who has very real feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Feelings, thoughts, and emotions that God gave you as a gift. They get tainted at times by things the world allows. But that is okay, because God makes all things new. You are a new creation in Him. The old has gone and the new has come. It doesn’t mean what happened doesn’t exist or deserve respect. It just means it doesn’t define who you are.

 

When you struggle to forgive yourself for something that wasn’t your fault…

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How can I forgive myself for something I did that was horribly wrong? I knew better and still I acted? People struggle with forgiving themselves all the time.  But my personal battle with self-forgiveness looked a little different.

You’ve probably heard it said, “don’t blame the victim.” And that’s a good thing. Because the victim will  often bury herself with far more blame than anyone else could shovel on top of her. I spent year after year after year blaming myself for being a victim of date rape. Telling myself things like I should have known this would happen, I should have ran out of that car screaming, the clothes I was wearing made me look like I was asking for it…etc…etc…etc… Mountains of self-hate crushed my soul. I forgave the man who raped me long before I forgave myself.

And maybe that’s you too. Maybe you struggle with blaming yourself for something that really wasn’t your fault. I want to share a few things that helped me finally move past self blame and hatred and allowed God to set me free…

1. I had to stop holding myself to a hindsight standard of judgement. It’s easy to judge our actions in hindsight. To think and say all the should have, could have, and would have’s. But the truth is we often had no idea what would happen in the situation we were in. Were there signs we might have missed that we can see looking backwards – yes. But we must realize that we did not have the ability to see those things at the time.

Also, we must allow ourselves to be the age we were when whatever happened, happened. For me, I judged the decisions I made as a 15 year old with an adult level of knowledge and maturity. Might I have known things were going nowhere good as a 34 year old with a counseling degree – yes. But my 15 year old self had no idea what was about to happen. I had to set 15 year old me free from the ridiculous standards I was holding her to.

2. I had to think about what I would tell someone else. We are so much kinder to other people than we are to ourselves. Allow yourself to step back and think about what you would tell someone else who went through what you’ve been through. Then apply that empathetic response to yourself. You may not feel you deserve the response at first, but with time and effort you can offer yourself the same compassion you would offer to a friend.

3. I had to process in my own practical way. Come up with a way to go back and love the parts of you that were broken and wounded in that moment. Communicate with her and tell her she is loved. For me, that looked like writing a poem to her. There is a picture of that poem at the bottom of this post. For you, it might look different. Maybe you need to write your younger self a letter telling her that she is loved, maybe you need to visualize your current self coming alongside your younger self and nurturing her…ask God to lead you in what this process should look like for you.

4. I had to ask myself if Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was enough. Maybe you are like me, and because I could see all the sin I had engaged in before I was victimized, I felt like I deserved what happened. I knew Jesus died for my sins, but I couldn’t allow myself to live free from the things I had done. I had to ask myself if I would let the blood of Jesus enough. If He forgives me and He is God, should that not be enough for me to forgive myself?

Philippians 3:12-17 tells us, ” Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What is behind us is behind us. This forgetting he speaks of is not forgetting in the sense of denying our past, it is forgetting in the sense of allowing ourselves free from shame so that we can run towards what is ahead – full freedom in Jesus.

Jesus came to set the captives free, but satan came to take the free captive. What happened to you is a part of you, but it does not define you. It was not your fault, and it is okay to set yourself free to live and enjoy life. His blood paid the price for you to do this. His sacrifice is enough. Don’t live another day in the bondage of hating, blaming, and refusing to forgive yourself for something that was not your fault.

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Because we choose to let Jesus teach us how to love…14 years…and forever…

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They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 10:4-9

The time I squeezed smelly work boots onto his feet because his back was too messed up to bend over. Or the time we laid in bed cry-laughing about all that we were going through. Or even the times we ride bikes and he teases me by not letting me pass. And that time we had pizza and wine in Palo Duro Canyon. These are the times I treasure in marriage. There’s nothing fancy about them. Nothing over the top special. Nothing that can be bought or sold. Just simple times, sweet smiles, and the warmth of knowing we love each other even when we are at our very worst. These are the times that make marriage worth fighting for.

Celebrating our 14 year anniversary may not be a huge mile marker for anyone else, but it certainly is for us. 7 years ago I doubted we would make it another year, much less another 7 years. What held us together? What brought us through? A promise we made to God.

I know in the times we live, marriage isn’t always seen as something involving God or designed by God. But rest assured, it is. Only God can bring two people together in the ways that Kevin and I love each other, and only God can hold two people together in the ways that Kevin and I began to loathe each other. It wasn’t because of our goodness, our determination, or our anything that our marriage survived some really rough patches – it was because what God brings together – truly no human has authority to break apart. And because we chose to rest in and center ourselves under God’s authority, forgive each other, and love unconditionally – God brought redemption.

Over the past few years, this is what I have learned about marriage. There is a unique mesh that develops. From the moment we say I do, and even before that, knots are tied. Every time we share a laugh, a tear, a smile, a story…every time we have sex, parent our children, hold each other, care for each other…and the list could go on and on…we tie soul knots. The intimacy strengthens.

But then there are scissors, rips, tears, and breaks. Like the time we went to a party and flirted with a co-worker, we spent money on something we agreed not to, we call our spouse something offensive under our breath or in our mind, we get angry and resentful over a mistake they made, or we choose to ignore each other rather than help each other through a time of pain…and the list goes on…we rip, tear, and cut.

Ties are made and ties are broken. But there is one tie that always remains. The promise you and your spouse made to honor each other, and love each other, until death do you part – the soul connection that happens when two people become one flesh and the emotional attachment – this cannot be undone.

This is why I hate divorce. Not because I judge people. Not because I do not believe there is a time and a place for it – because there definitely is. I hate divorce because it rips people to shreds. I hate divorce because of the lie it feeds that it’s freedom when really it’s bondage. We can free ourselves from a marriage on paper, but a soul tie often – if not always – remains.

And I know the grass looks greener down the street and in the movies. And maybe everyone around you seems to have it all together (which they probably don’t) and you wonder why life has to be so complicated for you (which it probably is). But that is not, and cannot be a reason to let go. If you and your spouse can choose to fight for your marriage, even if you have to pray like crazy and fight on your own at first, if you can make it through the rough spots, it’s worth it. Over and over and over again…it’s so very much worth it.

It’s not an easy fix. And it’s certainly not an overnight fix. Knots weren’t undone in a moment. If you look back and investigate, they were untied piece by piece. And that’s how they will be re-tied. That is how your marriage will experience redemption – small knot by small knot – at first tied out what seems like obligation – but eventually the feelings will and do return.

You didn’t marry the wrong person. You didn’t fall out of love. But you do need to make concerted and conscious effort to pick back up the rope and start connecting. Have hope in your marriage not because of what you can see, or what you can know…have hope in your marriage because of WHO you know. What God has joined together, let no one break apart.hope

managing your mental garbage…

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Have you ever thought about how many garbage cans you have? Go ahead and think about it. Mentally go through each room in your house and count how many garbage cans you have. Chances are, you have one for just about every room. Some get used more frequently than others. I use the garbage can in my kitchen constantly, but the one in my sunroom rarely gets used and needs emptying far less often.

Now think about the last three things you threw away? You might not even be able to remember because we rarely have deep thoughts about what goes into the garbage. We see trash…we throw it away. It’s that simple. There are a few things that we might hang on to and really question if they are trash or not, but for the most part, throwing something away is an easy decision.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if that were the case with our thoughts?

There are thoughts constantly flowing in and out of our brains. Some of these thoughts we need to nurture. They need a secure and stable place to live. They are like the heirlooms in our home – special and important. Thoughts like I am valued, treasured memories of loved ones, our favorite Bible verses, things about ourselves and our families that bring us happiness.

There are process thoughts. We use these throughout our lives. Like how and when to do the laundry. How to do multiplication. How to feed a baby. These thought processes can even be instinctual, part of our DNA.

There are thoughts that are only valuable and worth keeping around for a season. Things like, I need to get my child to camp by 2:00 today. This thought might take up an important space in my brain until 2:00, but then I can let it go. Or maybe I think about a project at work. Once the project is completed I am able to think about it far less often.

Other times there are thoughts that have no business being in our brains. However, they have been around so long we get used to them. It’s like that old moldy jar in the back of the refrigerator. Everyone knows not to eat it. Everyone knows it’s trash. But for whatever reason no one ever seems to throw it away.

Perhaps these are old messages that seem to repeat themselves, like I am unloveable or I am unworthy. Or even I am a failure, I can’t do anything right. Maybe if I don’t do my best to fix and take care of everyone around me, bad things are going to happen.

There are so many garbage thoughts that can junk up our brain. If we never stop to throw away our trash, our brain is going to look like the city dump. The more trash our brain holds, the less room for valuables.

So how do you manage your mental garbage?

First of all you have to decide what needs to be thrown away. There might be some things that resemble a used Kleenex – thoughts that are easy to part with. Then there are going to be thoughts that resemble an old familiar but stained t-shirt. You know it needs to go into the garbage – but  you just don’t want to part with it – it still feels comfortable. Then there are things buried deep. Like a gummy mess plastered onto fabric and dried in the sun – you really want to throw it away but no matter how hard you scrub, you just can’t seem to get it removed! There are all sorts of thoughts that need to go in the garbage. Bottom line is, these thoughts usually aren’t true, they cause damage, and they always take up space that could be replaced with truth.

Once garbage is recognized, we must be willing to throw it away. There are certain everyday thought items we might need to trash over and over again. For me an everyday item is I must do something perfectly or I shouldn’t do it at all. I have learned to identify this thought and when it comes up – which is multiple times every day – and I am able to put it in the trash.

Other garbage might need to be worked through with a therapist. Maybe there are some deep seeded beliefs and damaging wounds that need to be worked over before you feel ready to throw them away. An example of this for me is I am unloveable. It took a lot of work for me to realize this thought was not an heirloom and actually belonged in the trash. Work with a therapist helped me get ready to chunk it – but I still struggle with letting it go from time to time – it’s one of those sticky gum thoughts. And that’s okay. Mental house cleaning takes practice, but the more we recognize junk for what it is, the more quickly we can process and let it go.

Philippians 4:8 says this, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Many of us want to think good things, but our minds seem constantly consumed with negativity and worry. Again, there is rarely room for the good stuff if your house is piled up with junk. Make a decision today to start recognizing your trash. Look it at, allow yourself to call it what it is, do your best to let it go, replace it with your true right and lovely – and remember it is okay to call in reinforcements to help you with this process! Sometimes we get so junked up that we need to call in the professionals!

And one last word…don’t be too hard on yourself. Your house doesn’t have to be immaculate. There’s always a little bit of garbage hanging around my home – both literally and mentally. Don’t feel like it has to remain spotless for you to be okay, just decide you will do something about it before it gets bad.