When to get help from a counselor…

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We have been studying some really tough stuff over at Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study. The chapter we are reading this week is about finding confidence in Christ despite the pain of your past. If you aren’t part of this Online Bible Study let me encourage you to click here and see for yourself all the work God is doing!

Over 17000 women, together, studying the power and promises of Gods Word through the Bible and Renee Swope’s book “A Confident Heart”.

But, as I said before, yesterday was a tough day on the blog. And so today OBS leader Melissa Taylor is encouraging us to move forward despite the pain of our past. However, for some of us this will be more difficult than others. In fact , for me, moving past the pain of my past involved about 2 years of professional counseling combined with a continued anti-depressant medication.

I want to share with the all of you who might be wondering, when it is time to get help? When is it time to seek counseling?

And as a counselor myself, and a survivor, I want to share my thoughts with you.

It could be a good idea to see a counselor if:

the pain of your past involves flashbacks, panic attacks, or frequent intrusive memories of the event

your past is affecting your day to day activities, your thoughts about it are becoming intrusive and overwhelming

you are feeling depressed or sad most days

it’s becoming hard to sleep most nights

there is increasing conflict and tension in your relationships

your work or family is suffering because you cannot focus or concentrate

you feel anxious most of the time

you think about hurting yourself or ending your life

you have unexplained medical/physical problems that are bothering you

Again, these are just signs that it might be time to see a counselor.

Some of you will say you tried counseling, and it didn’t work. Or you had a bad experience with a counselor. Please don’t let that stop you. There are several counselors out there and I encourage you to find one who is a good fit for you. It’s ok to shop around a bit and find the right one! Also, consider that perhaps the last time you went to counseling the timing may have been wrong. Things could very will be different now that you are at another stage of your life.

If finances are a concern, look for a counselor who operates on a sliding scale. Also many churches and schools have programs to help individuals pay for counseling. There are options out there.

And most importantly, pray about it. Pray about the financial concerns. Pray if you have fears about going. Pray for God to help you find the right counselor.

Counseling is not a sign of weakness. It is a valuable and sometimes very necessary tool to help you get out of a tough place and move into the confident thriving life God has for you. I am praying for you sweet sisters in Christ and I can’t wait to see how God provides for you in this exciting season as you move forward despite the pain of the past.

A simple man called Epaphroditus…

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Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. (Philippians 2:25 NLT)

He’s not an apostle of the twelve so to speak. Just an ordinary man, doing extraordinary things. Much like you and me. His name ,Epaphroditus, was a common name. Not a name of royalty or special stature. He was simply a servant with the means and desire to love God and love people.

But when I read about Epaphroditus I can’t help but wonder if he might be jealous. Serving Paul, undeniably gifted and chosen by God, and Timothy, the one chosen to study under Paul. Yes Paul called Epaphroditus friend, but were their moments he longed for more than to be at their service? Did he long for The Lord to lift him up to a place of recognition and stature?

Yet nothing in scripture indicates that he did. Everything indicates that Epaphroditus just wanted to serve The Lord and his people. No alterior motives. No jealous ambitions. He just longed to serve. A prime example of what Paul beckons the church to do just a few verses prior, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 NLT)

When serving in ministry it’s easy to get competitive. Who can spread the Gospel the fastest, and with the most zeal and fervor. Yet those high and low who seem most a display of His splendor have not arrived there easily. Nor by accident.

God calls each of us to our place under His royalty never leaving a spot untouched or unclean – and the hammering out of grace that ensues, though freely given, is not easily won. The internal battles to accept or deny His power in the crevices of our hearts and minds in many ways delineate how and where we will allow The Lord to manifest in our lives. Giving us His heart of gold He walks with us on our journey. But only to the extent we are willing to wrap up in humble swaddling clothes is the message able to seep past our own prideful defenses. Only in humility can the power of His grace flow fully through us and complete us where we are lacking.

And so it could do us good to linger a bit in the last verses of Philippians 2. To learn a bit at the feet of Epaphroditus who considered serving others the highest honor we could ever be bestowed. To have a servants heart. To walk in humility. To love our God and love people with a Spirit always willing to risk it all and fall face down.

Four ways to depress less…

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Depression is on the rise. Funny…a word that means to push down is on it’s way up. More and more people struggle with the sadness epidemic. I myself have been a victim. I take anti-depressants daily, as well as attending counseling as needed…and so my symptoms are virtually absent. However, I know at any minute the deep sadness that once left me paralyzed could return.

So I have options. Live in fear of the possible return, or be proactive and take steps that leave me less likely to depress.

Maybe you struggle with depression, or know someone who does. I am going to share four quick tips that can help you depress less.

They are not cures or therapy for depression…rather just a few simple suggestions to help us live a life less on the depressed and headed towards God’s best.

Tip #1 Exercise the body!

Everything about exercise is great. It promotes the release of feel good body chemicals and just makes you feel better in general. The key to exercise is to find and do something you enjoy. You don’t have to train for a marathon or embark on some crazy boot camp program (unless you want to and you consult with you doctor first!) Just go for a walk, get outside and play with your kids, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just get moving!

Tip #2 Exercise the mind

Our minds can get stuck in a rut. Just like our bodies can become sedentary, our minds can too. To keep your brain challenged, decide to learn something new! Maybe begin learning that language you always wanted to learn, start a new hobby like crochet, learn about a new computer program. Just keep that brain active and learning.

Tip #3 Exercise scripture

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God’s Word is alive and active all by itself. It doesn’t need us to activate it, but it certainly can activate us! I’m guilty of just reading my Bible, and leaving off the application. However, this habit breeds stagnancy – and stagnancy can lead to depression. What would happen in your life if you chose to study a scripture and practice living that scripture? Let’s try it!

Tip #4 Exercise worship

If it wasn’t for worship music, I don’t know how I would have gotten through my most depressing time in my life. Listening to and singing Christian music allowed my heart to move from a place of dwelling on my sadness to dwelling on His greatness. So worship. With song, movement, or action. Allow the focus to shift off of you and onto God.

I hope you find these tips helpful and easy to apply. And I want to hear from you! What do you do to depress less? What are you eager to try? Leave a comment and let me know!

Expectations…

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Expectations are tricky. Set them high and you might get disappointed. Set them low and life becomes stagnant and boring. So what do we do with expectations? Let’s take a look at Philippians 1:20 for a Biblical perspective…

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

I usually think of expectation as waiting for something good. Watching for good to happen. However, Paul wrote this verse from prison. Are expectations meant for more than the good times? I believe so, and want to share a few thoughts with you about expectation.

1. We can expect in good times and in bad times

I get excited about good things. When I know something wonderful is coming, expectation swells in my heart and I enjoy thinking and dreaming about what is to come. However, when something difficult looms over my head, I shudder. I might avoid thinking about the future, hoping if I ignore it, it will go away. But with Christ we have the freedom to expect in the good times and the bad times. Why? Because we are not abandoned. He is fully aware in our good times and our bad times. We don’t have to be afraid of impending pain, because when we lean into Him, hard times can be a catalyst for spiritual growth and maturity.

2. Expectations can counteract shame

Shame is a confounding emotion. It tells us we are not okay. That something is wrong with us. When we experience difficult times, shame sees an opportunity to grow. It tells us the difficulties we experience are our fault. Maybe they aren’t our fault, but what if they are? Shame goes on to tell us we are unworthy and unforgiveable. That we may as well just give up. There’s no room for expectations in a shameful heart. But Paul advises us to expect and hope, that we might not be ashamed. Shame will hold us stagnant, while expectation will allow us to move forward.

3. His exaltation is not dependent on our expectation

God will be exalted no matter what. He is glorious and praiseworthy, weather we choose to regard Him as such or not. Just as Luke 19:40 says, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” We can choose not to expect from God. When hard times come we can choose to believe He cares nothing about us, that we are unworthy, and we may as well give up. When good things come we can chock it up to luck and refuse to believe God had anything to do with it.

Or…

We can live our lives in expectation. Believing in the good and in the bad, He will be glorified. We can tie ourselves close to Him that we may experience some of that His glory spilling out and filling up our empty hearts.

So here you are…at a place in your life where good things and bad things are likely both on the horizon. And the Lord asks you, are you willing to have expectations of Him? Expectations of good things, and expectations that even in the bad, He will be glorified, and if you are willing to get close to Him…that glory can’t help but spill out on you. So what will you do with your expectations?

 

Do not throw away your confidence…

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There was a trash can by the door. A confidence receptacle. Ready and waiting for me to throw in the towel. Maybe I could pretend I had an urgent fit of nausea. I could receive an urgent phone call. They couldn’t fault me for that. When there’s an emergency you have to go, right? But something gripped my confidence tightly and would not let go. Nerves that refused to settle knew they would have to stand still in the presence of His glory.

The rest of the night passed slowly. Fuzzy. As if part of a dream world that reality could not yet own. My head swooned at the thought of others hanging on words softly spoken. Oh Lord let them be Your words. Please let them be Yours.

A boldness of Spirit flesh cannot understand took the stage. Front and center, standing, equipped to share. A testimony of God’s grace unhindered and unbridled. The girl once fragile and broken now steadied in her gait by the arms of Jesus.

Would they understand? They were men. Would they be careful with my story of rape?

As I spoke, one eye filled with tears, then two, three, four…the whole room understood this theft of confidence. They too had experienced gut wrenching pain. Maybe not in the same way. But each unique to their own story.

I walked by the trash can again on my way out. It was brimming with my fears. A fresh truth nestled itself deep in my heart and mind. God’s message is not limited in its power nor quarantined to certain pre-screened audiences. His message, like is love, is all encompassing. I may never know the impact of that night this side of heaven, but I do believe the hand that gripped my confidence and held it tightly is the same hand that will provide much reward.

Hebrews 10:35 says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Confidence is indeed worth holding onto. But we throw it away so frivolously, sometimes without even realizing it. So how do we hold onto our confidence? Perhaps we must decipher how it was brought about in the first place.

Self-confidence is brought about by success and achievement. It waxes and wanes with life experiences. The confidence God speaks of is a far cry from self-assurance. The confidence we do not cast off is assurance in the Lord God Almighty. It is a trust that His promises are indeed true and reliable. It is most often built in times of tragic uncertainty, bursting forth when nothing else seems to flourish or grow.

This confidence often presents itself as a choice. We choose to find God amidst uncertainty. To consume His promises as truth, allowing them to digest over time in the recesses of our brain. As He proves Himself faithful again and again, evidence builds that He is indeed Lord and that His plans are in fact for good, even when we don’t understand.

We may never know the answers to questions that arise in difficult times. Why did this have to happen? How could God let this happen? However, we can realize that the answers aren’t important. It doesn’t matter why I was raped, or how it happened. What matters is that God was able to take even this and use it for good. Authentic grace and redemption stories far overshadow the now dimly lit pain of my past. My confidence in Him has built over time. He holds it close to me even when I cannot hold it tight myself. And so I will not throw away my vested interest in His truth. That He undeniably is Lord of all. That all that is lost will be repaid with a double portion. And that confidence in Him will indeed be richly and deeply rewarded.

Would you like to join me on a confidence quest? The next Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study begins October 13th. We will be studying A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. All you need to participate is the book and you sign up for the study here: http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/sign-up/

I hope you will join me! Comment below after you sign up and you will be entered to win a copy of the book for you or a friend! I will announce the winner October 10th!