Healthy Voice For REAL

A Personal Letter to Every 2017 College Graduate: And One More Thing

This is dedicated to you the graduate, the graduate you love, the recent grad or the soon to be grad. Since it's Notre Dame graduation weekend, I got inspired cause I live close to the place I was blessed to graduate from twice! Wasn't expecting to write this, but when God give you the words, you write them down!! Enjoy....

Go you. Congratulations.

Blaze new trails

Follow those dreams.

Ignite the fire inside you and shine your light like the stars in the sky. 

And one more thing....this is something you aren't going to hear when they confer your diploma. It's also something you probably never heard in college nor will hear out in the real world. Yes, everyone will have advice from career paths to when to get married, where to live and how to start a family. It'll be like you just came out of the nest and everyone wants to show you the way. But the truth is, you will have to learn the hard way, by walking through it all yourself. Things won't work out as you plan, no matter how hard you plan it. The job you thought was your dream job will turn out to be not so good. The boy you fell for, won't be the right fit. The time you wanted to be having kids will be different than what you plan. 

Here is all I can say. Your plan isn't the best plan because God has got an even better plan. So if it gets rough and you wonder why you are on a detour, trust that God must be up to something good. Even if it sucks, you'll be amazed by how he'll work it out.

The best advice I can give you is what I wish I knew even before I got to college. It's this:

You do not have to find validation or approval in the world, in people, in social media or career. If you look in the right place, you will find it in one thing and one thing only.

God.

Don't think this is a religious lecture or some kind of punishment. This is an effort to help you see where you want your compass to point. Have it point towards God. Keep your eyes on Him. So when you get detoured or things don't go as planned, you have a plan and that's to focus on Him. He will be your anchor, your rock, your steady hand, your source of comfort and strength, your provider, your healer, your hope and your Savior. More than anyone you will meet out in the real world, He will be right there if you let Him be. But you've got to ask for His help.

I grew up in a Catholic family - went to Catholic school from kindergarten to graduate school and never learned this one simple thing:

God wants more than anything to have a relationship with you. He doesn't want to just be in the box of religion. He wants to be with us in ev-e-ry-thing. I spent way too long thinking, "He's up there, not down here," and I've talked to too many high school and college students who feel that. But you have to know He is right there with you fighting for you, cheering for you, shepherding you, and loving on you like no partner or parent ever could. 

I had to go to rough lengths to find this out. But when I did, my life was filled with joy that I could never have gotten from 2 degrees from Notre Dame, a "good upbringing" or a sweet job like the one I had at the White House. None of those things could fill me the way God can.

So when you are out in the world, and you come against something that doesn't fill you or breaks your heart deeply, go to God. He'll be standing there waiting with open arms ready to tell you like He told me, "I love you and I forgive you for everything that you've been carrying. Now walk with me." 

One more thing. If you still aren't tuning into this God concept, why don't you try tuning into something that helped me? And in many ways still does today. 

That is, know that you have a Healthy Voice. This Healthy Voice is for you, loves you, speaks life to you, encourages you, comforts you and will never hurt you. It will take work to hear it and listen to it, but I can tell you right now it is there. You may doubt it, but you DO, indeed, have a Healthy Voice. I like to consider God to be mine (and it took a long time to get there) but you may have a different path.

The reason it's so important is because a long time ago the enemy planted a seed called your Unhealthy Voice. It's probably already hurt you a lot and it will try to hurt you for the rest of your life. We all have one. The point is, as you grow in life you will get sick of it and want to hear your Healthy Voice. That is good. That means you are ready to receive what you deserve which is all the love in the world. You may have to work through it to defeat that Unhealthy Voice but it will be worth it because it's like an octopus that has tentacles into many areas of our life depending on our makeup and experience. Whatever you do, don't let it defeat you. 

Make a choice to listen to your Healthy Voice, even if it takes help from others. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Why? Because despite the fact that we live in a world where you should look like you are put together and don't need help, the God who created us DESIGNED us to seek help from Him and others. So when you feel like reaching out, know that God (or your Healthy Voice) is right there, arms wide open, ready to reach out His right hand. 

"Don't be afraid for I am with you. Don't be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand."- Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Godspeed graduate! May God be with you always!

Debunking the Myth of the Perfect "Person" for You

Pardon me for this late post. My sinuses are so stuffed. I'm finally going to the doctor tomorrow so apologies if it doesn't make sense! This blog has taken ALL day when usually they take 1-2 hours max!

____

I have two questions to start off...

Why would we assume that we're going to find the perfect person when we know we ourselves aren't perfect either?  

Why do we believe the lie, (however long we do) that we will achieve happiness when we DO find that perfect person?

It's like believing the myth about the perfect body. We somehow believe that there is some perfect body and we'll be happy once we get it so we go on the hunt.

Before I go any further, I want you to pause for a minute. Drop your judgements. None of this, "Well she's in a relationship, blah, blah, blah." My marriage isn't perfect. It's great, but not perfect. Neither is anyone else's - no matter how PICTURE perfect it may be. My life isn't better because I'm married. It's just different. Your life isn't worse or better because you are single. It's just different. So - approach the rest of this as we are all human, trying to walk through relationship issues. Period. End of story. I digress.

The Dating Landscape

I'm amazed at this new app #tinder (yes I'm old). I thought #match was tough when I did it. Now it's down to just a picture? And you are supposed to figure out if you like someone, by a picture when you know nothing else? Talk about pressure!! We are so much more than a picture! And seriously - what if you meet a stalker? I met some serious weirdos on match! On the other side of the coin, I also know that people find love online because I've seen it. There is no right place. It happens when it happens. The point is that today it just takes a lot of work so I give everyone out there credit.

This "Person"

As far as this "person" goes, you want the right one - not the perfect one. Once you are okay with that, you are going to have to accept this is not going to be a surface thing. Much like the profile picture not showing everything, society's ideal relationship today doesn't show everything. Getting into a relationship is a raw and deep thing. It takes vulnerability. I mean being real with yourself first.

Is it the person you want? Or just a person to fill that hole...And if you are going to get real, there is only one who can fill this hole. It's called the "God-shaped hole" for a reason. It fits His love perfectly. It's not meant for any person. It's for the God who loves us. So the sooner you get to know Him, the sooner you'll be able to meet the person who is right for you. Because let me tell you, as long as you are trying the whole hole with any person - you will be disappointed. 

Falling in love with Him first, helps bring us a healthier relationship for the long haul.  

Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
— Matthew 22:37-39, NIV

The Deal Breakers List

Do you have a list of deal breakers? What's important for you in the LONG haul? What do you value? Watch for someone coming into your life that doesn't fit every qualification on your list perfectly.  It might be God challenging you to see if you are seeking the idea of love or real love, perfect love or imperfect love.

Little story. When Mike came into my life I knew he was the right one and that little of qualifications I had went out the window. Of course there were some that stuck, but it was his character that stood. The fact that he was 10 years older, already had been married, and had three pre-teens in tow was scary as all-get-out. But the love I felt? That didn't matter. I had to let my guard (or my list) down and notice what God was doing. I'm certainly not saying every woman needs to marry a divorced Dad. What I AM saying is that you may need to budge a little. God may have a different plan and you may really be faced with looking at your real priorities. 

My husband's faith and trust in God is what drew me the most and laid the foundation for our walk today. God is the only way we've gotten through what we've gotten through in the beginning of this marriage. He's the reason we love and forgive and keep walking. The only one. So if that' important to you, then you've got to pray about it. Pray that God brings you His will, not yours in a companion. 

Trusting His Plan

You may think you want to find the right person when the truth is - until you find the right person IN you - you won't find the right person FOR you. Find who HE is (God) and who YOU are IN Him. Focus on that and he'll give you direction and do it in his perfect timing. Believe me I thank God I didn't meet my husband until after I started working on me in treatment. Before that I wasn't ready. Every rejection I got from every guy was needed to be part of the story. Every one of them taught me something about myself and brought me closer to my person. And when I got real with me, and how I was using guys before to fill a hole, I found the only one who can fill the hole and he brought me through the pain of rejection from all those guys. But I had to be willing to walk through it, let it go, and trust that He had me. In the process,  I learned that He loved me first. With all my flaws and insecurities he still loved and still loves me first. In fact, he loves me more than ANYONE. More than anything he wants me to see me as he sees me.

Now don't think I'm saying you have to find this perfect relationship with God. He will be working on you until the day he takes you. What I am saying is get your priorities straight. If he loves you that much, and it's there for you to receive it, then you can take that "person" off the pedestal and go to Him. He will give you the desires of your heart.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
— Psalm 37:4, NIV

Parting thought...

If this blog got to you in a not-so-fun way, pray about it, think about it. Are you putting this hunt for the right guy on a pedestal? Are you putting your husband on a pedestal? Maybe it's time to take a step back and adjust the priorities. This can be for everyone. I know I'll be thinking about it all week. Relationships are the thing in life that always need a reset button and I can't think of a better way to reset than to put God first in them.

I hope you have an awesome week. Love you. Take care of you. Don't let the Newsfeeds get you down.

 

How I Realized I am A Writer And I'm Okay with That

Just making that statement is so freeing. Stick with me and I'll explain why below....

Yesterday I wrote about how God used a UHaul to remind me about letting go. Today, all I can think about is how letting go of that empty truck, leaves the space - not for emptiness but presence in this exact moment. I am not waiting for someday to happen or promising what I'll do "if." I am accepting who I am and frankly, appreciating who I am after many years of beating up on who I am. 

I am...a daughter of the one true King.

I am...a recovering woman.

I am...a married woman.

I am...a stepmom.

I am...a proud midwesterner.

I am...a writer.

That last one is so powerful, because I spent a long time I think trying to deny it, thinking the world doesn't "think" it's a formidable career, thinking I had to fit into some mold of what the world thought would be right for me. Good, old people pleasing...I gave a lot of people power to tell me what I needed to do when all the while God was whispering to me...just write.

The passion got ignited back in grade school when I wrote a creative essay on life as a child of divorce called, "Between Two Worlds." I remember the teacher telling me I had a gift, but I stuffed it down for a while and kept it to myself. But when my life started to change, I got into treatment and I started living a new life? Guess what showed up? My writing. That's where I went to express my feelings, to process the story of life - like a music artist goes into a studio and makes a record, I write. The book I wrote is what got me through the loss of my father. It was me processing the entire experience of this person being in my life and his influence. 

But today - I'm writing a new chapter. Today, I'm embracing the fact that I'm a writer and it may not hold a massive amount of money for me, but it holds joy. I know that God will provide and if I need to get a part-time job so that I can write? Then so be it. I'm okay with that. And for some reason I think going out East helped me get even more okay with that, because I'm not who I was. I am who I am.

I'm the girl who gets inspired in the car by nature, by music, by inspiring messages and I pull out a piece of paper to write. I'm the girl who gets inspired by Netflix episodes while I'm cooking and I have to write on a grocery list. I'm the girl that brings a Moleskin everywhere I go and I write.  If it's made of paper or there's space to write on my phone - I'm gonna write. I don't care if it's a gum wrapper, a grocery store receipt or a used up post it, I will write. The inspiration is constant. The difference is that I'm putting it out there right here, right now. Not only that,  I'm drafting blogs on my site instead of on a piece of paper I'll use someday. I don't know if anyone reads these, but I know I've got to put them out there. If God's giving me the power to do it, then I can't hold onto it. If I can see all the beautiful things God is doing in our lives everyday and I can show the world just a little piece of that with writing? Then I'm ALL IN, because in the end - it's not people I'm pleasing, it's Him. So if you want to keep reading, then keep reading. Share it with friends or just get real with yourself. If I can do it, you can too. Oh and one more thing, of course there were a few songs to go with this.

You know, there are two songs that make me think of how powerful His love is in my life today. One is on the radio pretty often right now. In fact, I heard it twice today and it speaks right to the relationship I have with the Lord right now, how he's everywhere and loves me. Me. You. Both of us, in ways we can't even begin to imagine. Boy am I grateful for His love and grace or I would have no idea how to love myself. Loving myself isn't a willpower thing. It comes from the God who loves. So I'm sticking with it. And I'm sharing with you below, the song I'm talking about. Oh and one other, given I think I just said "I am" twenty times in this blog, the song "I Am" came to me and it's all about how we can choose to hold onto Him and so "I am" and really, "He is." So, here you go. Have an awesome afternoon everybody...

There are two videos. First one is "The Maker" By Chris August and it is AWESOME. If you love nature, you'll feel like you are there. I kinda wish I was when he made it! Makes me want to run to the top of a mountain. The second is actually the interview/story behind the song for "I Am" by Crowder. You here a bit of the song in the beginning, but it's the interview that I thought spoke most loudly. So watch it and then watch or listen to the song. 

Hope to see you here tomorrow as I'm doing a video with a theme complementing these posts on IDENTITY.



How God Used a UHaul Today to Speak to Me about Letting Go of Dead Weight

It's the end of the day, 4:00 to be precise, and I'm just sitting down to write. I've got what feels like a migraine but I've got to post this blog.

One of my recent realizations that feels like it's taken me ten years to come to is that I don't need to say, "I'm gonna write a book about that some day," I just need to write. I hear friends talk about the everyday life stuff they go through, sharing what you don't see on Facebook and it's just proof that we're all going through stuff and we all need to talk about ALL of it. I know, that's against the world's rules - don't talk, keep it all inside. I agree to a point. We need people we trust to talk through issues. But we also need to put out there the stuff that we ALL deal with every single day - like teenagers, blended families, ailing parents, deceased parents, grief, struggles, revelations and all the little things - so none of us has to feel like we're the only ones going through it.

 So, I'm gonna get real here. I'm going to talk every day on here about topics I'm dealing with every  day because that's EXACTLY where we all live. Today. Not tomorrow. But today.

So TODAY...

We got 12-15 inches of snow last night. Neither my husband nor I slept great. I woke up with this morning with a headache and a tummy ache. I felt the only place I could go was to my chair and have a chat with God knowing I could rest in him. It was good. Got to work on stuff I didn't realize was there to work through, but that's just how he works!

Then I put on my big girl panties and went outside to clear the snow from our Suburban and the UHaul trailer that we had still not returned. Last night I so badly wanted Mike to do it for me, but when I finally got in the car and started driving toward the drop-off location, I knew why it wasn't supposed to happen like that. 

After I cleared the snow with a big sweeper in between the truck and the trailer (something my princess-self would never have even thought of years ago), I got in the Suburban and started driving. I put on my "Theme Songs 2015" playlist and two songs came on. As I settled in, I began to realize how simple this task was, but also - how symbolic.

See, last Wednesday I drove this puppy (the Haul) home from DC - 10 hours. It was filled with just a few pieces of furniture from my Dad's old house. It's a big deal because my stepmom is finally letting go of the house they built and starting her own new life. It's awesome for her. It's also awesome for me, because I got a few new pieces that remind me of my Dad. 

But more importantly I got an even deeper realization of how little material possessions mean to me in the grand scheme of things. Early in my recovery, I struggled with my worth being attached to things I got to show me love, and worked through it hard in treatment and throughout my early recovery. Because of working through it, today I have a completely different perspective of it, and I am hugely grateful for that sense of peace.

I'm even more grateful that my Dad's love for me wasn't in how many "things" I could get from the house, nor any specific thing of value. Why? Because he's with me. I just know it, and nothing anyone could give me could put a value on that love. So, every one of these "things" was just that - a thing, a beautiful piece to remember him, but not to place the value of our love in - how powerful.  

So today, when I got in the Suburban to return the Uhaul, it was a completely different realization I wasn't expecting, but it was SO cool.

That empty Uhaul weighing down the back of our Suburban symbolized somehow an empty, dead weight of the past. And here I was driving to give this dead weight back, to take it off my shoulders so I could go about my life on another level, an even deeper one than I've already felt.

Then I realized that trip was like a new beginning for me in the sense that I don't have to hold onto old stuff anymore, be it physical or emotional, because now I can open the way for rekindling family relationships without the dead weight of the past there. I can come home and feel present to my home because I don't have that empty Uhaul with me. More importantly I don't have to be who I was out there, or who others I thought expected me to be. I can just BE me. I can be exactly who God created me to be because he LOVES me and is making me the woman only He can.

 So as I started to drive, it was like God was saying, "We've got one more load Mere. It's this big empty box - like the one you thought you had to fit in, but realized on a new level this past week, you don't have to do that. It's big and heavy, a literal dead weight. And we're getting rid of it. But you've got to do the work and take it there for me so you can feel how awesome it is to get rid of it." And here I am thinking, "I am ready God. I'm taking this for you. It's the last one. It's all yours. This box doesn't serve me anymore. I'm not in it and you aren't in it so let's dump it. It served it's purpose. Now there is a new purpose." Ahh, how I love surrender moments like that. 

And from the moment I started the ignition and plugged in my phone for jams, I realized through the lyrics that God really was using this moment to show me how far I'd come. I seriously love when he does that, and I so glad Mike let me do it myself because it made the moment that much more awesome. That being said...

I'm sharing with you the lyrics of those songs here, and if you so desire, you can watch the YouTube videos or listen to them on Spotify. Either way, they are powerful songs that always come at moments when God's talking to me. I hope you enjoy them and see how they might be speaking to you about something in your life today. I hope you have an awesome evening.

These Two songs right in a row: "This is the Time", Superchick, from the movie "God's Not Dead" and "Lord I'm Ready Now", by Plumb.

The lyrics for "This is the Time: by Superchick:

This is the story of your life
A movie starring you
What's the next scene have for you to do?

Leave the dishes in the sink
Leave your fear there too
Live the story you would write for you

Say hey hey wake your heart
And break break break apart
The walls that keep you from being you
And walk walk towards the light
And don't stop till you live your life
Like someone died for you

This is the time to try
Step out your life is waiting
And as you fall you'll find
That you can fly

(Repeat)

You can find a million words
To build a wall of fear
Safe behind that wall imprisoned here
Take that someday step today
To who you're meant to be
And turn your dreams to plans
So you can breathe

Prechorus
Chorus

Ask anyone whose time is up
What they'd give for what you've got
And how they'd live your life
Live like your lifes worth dying for
You've just walked out that prison door
And you'll know how to live your life

Publishing: DJ Spacemonkey Music(ASCAP)/Matt Dally Music (ASCAP)/Onegirl Music (ASCAP)/VMK/Whizbang Artists Music (ASCAP) Admin by Whizbang Artists Music
Writer(s): Max Hsu, Matt Dally, Tricia Brock, Melissa Brock

Here's the Video Link 

 

Here's the Artist Website

Then the Lyrics for Plumb's Song, Lord I'm Ready Now:

I just let go
And I feel exposed
But its so beautiful
Cuz this is who I am

I've been such a mess
But now I can't care less
I could bleed to death

Oh Lord I'm ready now
All the walls are down
Time is running out
And I wanna make this count
I ran away from you
And did what I wanted to
But I don't wanna let you down
Oh Lord I'm ready now
Lord I'm ready now


You called my name
I turned away
But now I
Am listening
I was so caught up
In who I'm not
Can you please forgive me?

I've nothing left to hide
No reason's left to lie
Give me another chance

Here is the lyric video for the song

Here is her website

Being a Christian in Recovery: Reflections on the Robin Williams Loss

Since last Friday I've been reflecting on the fruits of the spirit:

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

WHY I DON'T "GOT THIS"

On Sunday morning I went to a service at Granger Community Church. The new series is called "Help" and Pastor Beeson talked about people that talk like they "got this." That's danger zone for me.

I thank GOD I DO need God.

I DON'T got this. God's GOT this and he's got me.

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Flash forward to Monday night. We all find out that Robin Williams has died of apparent suicide.

What I DO know today is that God didn't put me on this earth to willpower my way through my mental illness. He gave me my mental illness so that I could see HIS will is more powerful than mine could EVER be. Not only that - he did it so I could be a light for HIM in the darkness.

I AM a woman walking with Christ who is in recovery. I only came to the relationship I have with Jesus today BECAUSE I got into recovery. The journey of recovery is what has led me to finding Christ in Me, not "up there, not down here" like I thought he was as a kid. I had to come to the end of me to begin a journey with him.

Why is it important for me to share this? Because I believe there is a disconnect between the faith side and the mental health side. 

I am more than my mind or my thoughts or my feelings. I am who God created to be in soul and in spirit. My thoughts or brain chemistry do not define me, my worth is defined in Christ. My weight does not define me. My worth is in Christ. When I look at my health I don't pretend that I've "got this." Oh my mental health is "fixed" and everything is just "fixed" because I got into recovery and I went to treatment, and I have found God. No, my life has almost gotten harder because I'm facing stuff. But overall,  it has gotten SO much better, because I GET to face that stuff. I GET to be real about that stuff because I've had to deal with it.

I also GET to walk through it primarily because I know that God's got my back because if I ever got to the place where I thought I had my mental health figured out? I'd be in big trouble. My health is a journey and it's physical, mental, emotional, AND most of all spiritual. I consider it an HONOR to be able to be present to things, to walk through the tough days and experiences today. Why? Because I know that God's doing something I couldn't do on my own free wilI.

####

Earlier today I was taking notes for this blog. The passing of Robin Williams speaks to me because I "get it" in different ways.  I've lost a best friend to suicide. I've struggled with depression, addictions, anxiety and everything that goes with that stuff beneath the surface. I've walked the road of recovery. I know how much my mind wants to get me. I get it. My mind IS a battlefield.

Do I know exactly what he went through in his final moment internally? No. Do I know exactly what wanting to take my life feels like? No. But I DO know all too well people that I love and care about struggle with it and it's serious #@$%.

I won't take the time I write this blog to debate about all the religious and political debates that surround it. What I will talk about is the stuff of the heart and why treating mental illness and getting REAL about it as an issue is of supreme importance within ourselves, in our society and for the next generation.

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A PERSPECTIVE

I don't know if you've had a chance to read the letter Robin's daughter penned to him (Here it is), but it touched me in a deep way. In her last line of the letter she expresses sadness about losing her father and the hole he left. My Dad was no Robin Williams but many would say, "Your Dad lit up a room and he'll be missed," or "He made you feel like you were the only person in the room." Others came up to me at his wake or sent me messages as soon as they heard about how much my Dad had impacted their life and the choices they made in a good way. Each one made me feel even more lucky to have him as a Dad. Each one made me feel like, "I'm so glad I wasn't alone in feeling the light of his spirit." Their words and stories about him filled up my soul. And with his 3 year anniversary of being gone fast approaching next week all I could think when I read her letter was, "Wow, I get that." Different death circumstances, but still loss of our Dads. Loss period.

I only can connect to that because I learned how to feel when I got into recovery from NOT feeling for so many years. I wouldn't be able to feel the emotions that come from missing my Dad or be able to write or talk about him the way I do, if I didn't get through recovery and learn how to navigate intense feelings like this.

TWO THINGS MAKE MY LIFE:

1) My Recovery

2) My Relationship with God.

I heard that Robin Williams was in recovery in some shape or form. That means he got to a place just like I (and many other people did) where he couldn't take it anymore. His mind was making him turn to alcohol and other addictions and there was no amount of money, movies or Academy Awards that could make that go away. The mental stuff is NOT an outside job. The disease of the mind does NOT discriminate. 

It's an INSIDE job.

DESPERATE TO CHANGE

You can look like you've got it all together and be absolutely falling apart on the inside, and no one ever has to know...unless you are desperate.

You don't give up until you are desperate and I (just like millions of others in recovery) was desperate. What I was thinking, feeling on the inside was absolutely killing me. I had to deal with it because I hadn't EVER dealt with it and all the addictions I'd gone to just were not working anymore at all. So I DID go to treatment and get into 12 step recovery and every drop of knowledge and tool that I got on that journey was only by the grace of God...and STILL is only by the grace of God.

But there's that underlying thought in society that somehow whatever you did to get better "fixed you." Yeah, you know - you go to meetings for a while to "get it" and then your good. You go to therapy and your "good." You go to treatment and you get out and your "good." Oh man is that a lie. You are given the tools to LIVE. That is ONLY when the journey just begins.

So when I had my spiritual awakening and found God in the depths of my soul struggle, I didn't just go "Oh yeah, I'm good. Here we go!" Far from it.

He gave me the courage to take the first, second, hundredth, and continued steps. He still gives me the courage to take every single step. If I stumble and fall HE is there to help me up and so are the tools I've been given to do this:

To LIVE LIFE knowing that one of my greatest weaknesses is my mind and if I just give it to God and keep going to meetings, and getting in the Word, He will keep showing me the way.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

WHY IT TOOK RECOVERY

That 12-step program I found when I got into recovery is EXACTLY the door that walked me through to a deeper relationship with God.  Finding a god of my understanding is the route I had to take to find that God is my God. But It TOOK not having rules drilled into me of how to live that opened my heart to HIM. I didn't just "get" this faith I have. I found my faith because I surrendered my life. On the road of recovery, I literally had to relearn and get to know the god of my understanding, the one who saved me. I needed to learn who he was and why he died FOR me and continue to learn from the Word just how much he is FOR me. 

My program complements my walk with Christ. He meets me but I've got to meet him and part of meeting him is that program. It's part of who I am today and my relationship with God ain't nothing that anyone can take away. Once I accepted him into my heart, there was no going back.

I truly feel like my recovery has given me a new faith that is between me and God on a deeply spiritual and relational level. So while the world debates the political or religious ramifications of contemplating suicide, I'm just going to keep walking in the light. That light is recovery and that light is Christ. Period.

I actively face and walk through whatever I have to in treating my mental health or whatever health because no matter what - getting better is an inside job that I GET to do because of who HE is.

WHY YOU GOTTA GET REAL

You've got to be willing to face mental health struggles and not worry about all the crappy stigmas around it or what other people might think. Who CARES what other people might think. This is your livelihood you are messing with and just because you can't see what's going on with your mind does not mean it's something you can just "fix" with a little willpower or positive thinking (or a workout or a diet.) It takes a LOT more than that. It takes facing your crap, dealing with your past and getting present to who you are today.

Who I AM today is a recovering woman in Christ and I know for sure that he isn't scolding me or judging me or punishing me, because he's been with me every step of the journey. He meets me right where I'm at with a whole lot of love and grace. All I've got to do is keep walking, keep facing my stuff, keep growing and keep learning because God KNOWS I'm never going to stop until He decides to take me one day.

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ACTION

I know that mental health issues and suicide are huge issues that I could write even more than I already have on this. I know that it's happening in every generation across the board because my stepdaughter had a classmate take his life last year. I lost a friend. My Dad lost a friend. Everybody often knows someone in some way. That's not what matters. Yes, the lives lost DO matter. But what also matters is how we address it, talk about it and deal with it. Pretending it doesn't exist (in every age and class) is just stupid. Gossiping about it? Doesn't help at all. Being present because you never know if someone is fighting a battle on the inside cause EVERYBODY'S got their stuff on the inside.

You never know who you can help by smiling, listening or just sharing your story. All I know is that not talking about it has to stop. Getting beyond the talk also has to begin. Because if we just talk about the outcome, we'll never get to the root. We have to get to the root and part of that is breaking the stigma so people can find the strength in safe circles to start facing it. I am willing to be part of that change, to provide a safe space to talk about it, but I can't do it alone. So if you've got a testimony, and you see someone struggling - share it. Most of all, don't do nothing cause that's exactly what your mind wants you to do.

If you right now, struggle with how you feel, what you think about yourself, suicidal thoughts, eating issues, addictions or just feeling uncomfortable in your skin in a way that you feel like you can't talk about it? Find someone safe to talk about it with. If you don't have someone, call a suicide help line. Call someone. Get out of your head.

If you can't find anyone you can turn to God. If you are angry at God or feel like he's playing a part in this that's making it worse, I want you to put down absolutely anything you are "thinking" about him - like he's punishing you in some way (been there done that) and realize this:

He loves you more than you will EVER be able to imagine and ALL that he wants for you is to ask for help so you can truly know that he is FOR you, not AGAINST you. I know it may seem crazy. But I'm someone who had God in a box and never let him into my pain because I thought I had to be good enough. But where he wanted to be was in my pain. All I had to do was say, "Help!"

Ask for help. You are not alone. I know when I get stuck in that place, I have to force myself to get out of myself. Whatever it takes, I've GOT to get out of my head. For me it's a walk in the sun, a journal entry, a call, a meeting, a passage, a quote, a music video - ANYTHING to get me out of my head. Maybe some of what you see below could help you at this very moment.

I hope this blog has helped you or will help someone else. Even if one person reads it, I will know in some way I passed on my experience to help another and that in itself does a little bit to erase the stigma.

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GENERAL RESOURCES

If you are struggling or know someone who is here are some resources that helped me on different parts of my journey, and maybe they can help you with yours if you are open to a faith-based perspective:

Here is a list of every verse that speaks to how our mind is a battlefield: http://www.openbible.info/topics/battlefield_of_the_mind. Getting right to the Word will give you some guidance if you seek it. Joyce Meyer wrote a fabulous book called "Battlefield of the Mind" that you can get and hear her talk also very real about how our minds truly are a battlefield. https://www.joycemeyer.org/ (This is a link to her website where you can find not just the book but devotionals, videos and radio broadcasts that speak messages of truth for you to listen to anytime, anywhere.)

Rick Warren, author of "Purpose Driven Life" is serious about breaking the stigma around mental health you can read an article here about that. I am inspired by someone who knows the Lord that is willing to be honest that mental health isn't something to be ignored or kept inside.

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ARTICLES AND BLOGS TO HELP

I won't begin to approach everything that's out there from a mental health side because it's extensive. What I will do instead is recommend that you seek out stories and maybe read some of these articles stemming from Robin Williams' death to give you a better perspective of the importance of dealing with it. Maybe then, it will open up your heart and mind to realize what matters is you getting healthier mentally, not what everyone else is thinking about you. These articles also speak to the most present statistics from all respects and offer some resources. Best advice? Don't try to figure it out for yourself. You will need the help. IF you pray, pray for willingness to ask for it. You and you alone (whoever you are that's dealing with it) has to be willing to face it yourself FOR yourself. So learn what you've got to learn. Keep doing what you are doing until you realize, "Okay this way/my way isn't working anymore. I need help."

So here are some of those articles:

From RELEVANT Magazine: "Suicidal Tendencies: What we Aren't Talking about is killing us." (one of my favorite magazines with a thorough perspective, especially for the next generation.)

Here's a WebMD Article/Newsletter that came out in response to it today: "When Depression Becomes Deadly."

A personal article from someone who has "been there, done that." It's on Huffington Post and it's called, "There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide."

"What the Church and Christians Need to Know About Suicide and Mental Health," from a website called "A Holy Experience."

Lastly, a fascinating article from Yahoo.com about Carrie Fischer's experience with him as a friend called, "Carrie Fisher on Robin Williams: He was the Opposite of Selfish."

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MOVIE CLIPS TO HELP

Here are two actual scenes from Good Will Hunting that speak so truly to the issues behind the surface, to our insecurities, our idiosyncrasies, and our pain and I think it's an important teaching tool.

MUSIC TO HELP

Finally, here are two songs that I think could help you if you are in that space because they've helped me - the lyrics, the artists testimonies, the actual music. They have helped me and I go back to them regularly so I want to share them with you in case music is one of the languages of your heart.

The first two songs are a group called Building 429. I saw the lead singer share his testimony live in concert recently about his brush with suicide and how getting back to God was what got him out of that ugly place...it makes these songs, videos and his voice so much more powerful.

 

This singer below, Dara Maclean is a Christian artist who talks about how our baggage ties us down - another one I saw sing live and heard the hope in her lyrics of letting go.

This is a Christian Worship song that speaks right to depression and addiction and God as the anchor in all our storms. Many days it's the song on my alarm to wake up. It's called, "Shores" and it's by Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

Here is another one, Demi Lovato, recovering music artist and her song, "Warrior" about her story and struggle with addictions and an eating disorder. It gives me chills and she's another one I went to see in concert with my stepdaughter just so I could feel the presence of her as a voice for recovery.




Why I Thank God I Know my Mental and Emotional Health is Not Something to Be Ignored, Healthy Voice for Real #5

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I don't know about you, but there is something about this little girl that reminds me of myself when I was little, what I may have looked like when I was sad and felt alone. I wanted to use this image because I thought it spoke to that little girl in you and me who may want relief from what she's thinking or feeling....who probably would have loved relief from it then if she knew...

Jump forward in time to who you are today, the things you've been through and more...listen to this song. I heard it the other day on the radio and was moved. Remove the premise of the song and listen to the lyrics. It may take you a couple times, but it's all about being the person you are underneath, not the one everyone else sees. Listen all the way to the end. It's powerful.

"It's hard enough to be myself, let alone to try to be someone else trying to play the role, trying to look the part, never saying anything from my heart..."

Here's the deal...

If we don't pay attention to our minds, we end up stuck in them trying to control everything in our lives, when it's our minds that are actually controlling us. Although the world judges those who face their mental health issues, many of us have no choice. It doesn't matter about a scarlet letter, what matters is that we live life. Because I know that my mental and emotional health play a major factor in my physical health, I always have to pay attention to them and what might be influencing them. Not only that - I have to proactively treat them in many ways because one never knows how they are are going to hit us. Do we all have such mental and emotional struggles? Yes. We all have both. Some of us have them more that others. Some of us have a lot more work to do on them to get healthy. The important fact is that we DO something. So, let's talk about meltdowns.

Have you ever had a meltdown moment?

You know, when everything seems to not go your way, and then you just feel like you are going to fall apart and sometimes you do?  It's like a domino effect. All the pieces fall into place just wrong enough that you think you aren't going to make it.

You know how it's all about how to react to it, right? Well, it's a lot easier to handle them when you are present to the fact that your mind can be a battlefield and your emotions can think they run your life. If you try to "control" your thoughts and feelings yourself, you'll end up at a dead end. Sometimes that dead end can be the biggest gift of your life. It can be such a meltdown that you finally realize you need help. You finally realize, okay, may way isn't working anymore. I need help. Those in recovery or on a path of renewed faith get it. Surrender is a GOOD thing. Weakness brings power, and sometimes? 

We've got to break down to breakthrough.

And that is why we have to face the fact that our mental and emotional health is a huge factor in our overall health. There are factors with the makeup of our brain chemistry, our thoughts based on what's happened to us in life and our feelings based on how we've reacted to those events that have happened. These factors are not something we can just "fix" with 3 hours at the gym, or the next best diet fix. They are also not ones we can fix by going to one therapy sessions. What we have to learn to do is process THROUGH them, and sometimes, it takes every single tool we've got. When we've got tools, we know exactly what to do to get through them. We know like we know our names that "This tool shall pass," but only if we are willing to face the facts!

Let me tell you a quick story that might make sense of this:

The other night I had one of those nice little meltdowns. 6 years ago I would have binged on something or found a place to get a "fix" to my feeling. That night, I did what was right in front of me to do. I went to the place that I go to talk to my Dad and I just sat. I cried it out, hard at some moments. I talked out loud to God, to Dad (it's a quiet place in nature). I took notes on my thoughts into my phone notebook so I could get them out of my head. I called a friend who I knew would "get it." I cried more. I let myself feel the feelings. I realized instead of this moment breaking me, it was breaking me through to something better. I looked up scripture on my Bible app regarding the situation to see what God might say about it in his word. I got on my Spotify and found a positive, encouraging song to listen to that reminded my God was right there with me carrying me through the moment. I got home with my puffy face, which was the last thing I cared about after knowing what God just brought me through 5 minutes before. I could not have done any of that without all the tools I've been given in my program of recovery or my relationship with God and trust in him. 

.Why do I tell you all this?

Because the "world" will tell you that you can get your thoughts right, you know with a little of that willpower you use with your weight?... and your life will be grande. In some respects, that is right. But if you think you will be the one to "fix" them from a place of willpower all by yourself, you could be setting yourself up for failure and I wouldn't want you to do that. If we access it, we've got a power that can help us renew our minds and it's not us!!!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
— Romans 12:2 NIV

The same thing goes for your emotional state. Some people may say to you, "Aren't you over that yet?" or you may think you are the only one in the world with your problem. I can tell you that you are not alone and I get that voice that says, "Get over it." There is a big difference between getting over it by walking through it and getting over it by pretending "you got this." HE'S got this! 

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
— Philippians 4:6-7, The Message

Our mental and emotional health are very serious matters not to be taken lightly. The best thing we can do is address them, acknowledge them, learn about them, navigate through them. Even better, we can turn our fears over to God who I promise you helps you walk through them. I know I didn't grow up in the Word, but the more I study it, the more I realize He IS the one who can help me through this, because of his love.

So, if you struggle mentally or emotionally? Don't keep it inside. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to someone who knows better than you what you can do. Talk to someone who can remind you that no matter what your thoughts or feelings try to tell you - you are good enough and capable having a joyful life not run by your thoughts or feelings.

Here are a few parting messages to take with you....

“Don’t allow your mind to tell your heart what to do. The mind gives up easily.
— Paul Coelho
“When a person is going through a hard time, his mind wants to give up. Satan knows that if he can defeat us in our mind, he can defeat us in our experience. That’s why it is so important that we not lose heart, grow weary and faint.”
— Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind

A Reflection from "Jesus Calling" earlier this week...

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From Entrepreneurial Failure to Victory in Surrender: HV for Real Post #3

Being an entrepreneur is often something that sounds glamorous especially when you've been inspired by successful ones in your life. I certainly have! Sometimes I find myself putting them  on a pedestal. You know that old comparing my insides to their outsides game?  Yeah, you know the one. Even though our gifts, talents, resources and experiences are completely different - somehow we can compare our own work as an entrepreneur to the success of another who looks like they've got it together. We literally take each step of our work, even though it may not seem majorly profitable like the outside world like to see it, and make it into a pea. Somehow I don't think God loves it when we do that, cause he loves us.

Let me tell you a little more. The first year after my Dad passed, I wrote a book.

The year before my Dad died I developed a program where I got to use my faith to lead an international franchise in health and fitness to their Healthy Voice (cool stuff - not perfect though.)

The year after he died, I wrote a book for that audience and others who wanted to hear my testimony.

The second year after he died, I spent my time (in real life) planning a wedding, and (in my work life) planning where this business is going to go.

Here's the shocker - it didn't all go into a pretty little blue box and get DONE so the rest of the world could see how perfect and pretty my business is.

In fact, ask me straight up and I'll tell you straight up - it has BEEN a journey. It's been a journey of discovering where this will go and ultimately, step by step, day by day where GOD wants it to go - not ME. That discovery journey has had a loud, "I'm not doing enough. Healthy Voice should be further," voice. I know you get it. It doesn't matter what you are dealing with. It's not a nice voice, because it wants to take your feeling of "not good enough" and beat you over the head with it. I've had to harness that voice of God that says this:

YOU ARE EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. I TAKE YOUR NOT GOOD ENOUGH BECAUSE IT'S MINE. YOU JUST GIVE ME THE BEST YOU'VE GOT.

That sure shuts that other voice up, doesn't it?___

See, although Healthy Voice may seem like some business that's got it all together, that's NOT what's going on behind the scenes. Are there a ton of messages to share? Yes, and as you can see, I'm sharing them. But I'm one person with a pretty full life. I take it a day at a time.

Now I'm realizing how simple it is - just sharing the REAL message of the Healthy Voice, not how I want it to look.  In the process,  I'm doing everything I can to focus on God and shut out that voice that says, "Not Good enough,"

I'm believing in the one that says, "You got this. I got this. Just keep going. Love, God."

Think about it with your weight. Does it feel better to try and lose every pound you can before you really live? Or does it feel better just to live now and get healthy as you walk? 

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Here's the bottom line.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and that is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
— Ephesians 2:8 NIV
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
— Romans 11:6, NIV

How are these passages relevant to failed entrepreneurship?

Because for a long time, my religious upbringing made me believe I had to WORK for it. I had to EARN my way into heaven, or to be loved by God. I thought along the lines of, "If I just got something right by my own works, or willpower or whatever - then I could get it right."

But these two passages have been life changers for me, because they remind me that I didn't get saved by works. I didn't earn my ticket to a relationship with Christ. He died on a cross so that I could be saved by HIS grace. He gave me my sins and struggles so that I could give them to HIM. Yes, that means if I fail at something on my OWN doing? God can take my fails and make them epic victories. How cool is that? 

But that passage also means he doesn't want me to sit around and do nothing. He wants me to take his message through my work and share it with the world. That means there is a balance between faith and works. But now I know that works doesn't GET me "better" faith. By faith, I'm given the spiritual power and strength to do his WORKS in the world. Again, that doesn't mean, "Oh okay God, then I'll just wait till you tell me what to do (and do whatever I want while I do it."

No that means LISTEN for his direction. Pray for his will and guidance in your life. Then he will show you his most pleasing and perfect will. Grace may not make sense if you haven't surrendered. But let me tell you, when you do, you realize how much of a gift grace really is, I mean, can't even put it into words. But you've got to GIVE it to him first, then seek his guidance in taking care of the rest . But a little tidbit? It's not gonna come in some big master plan of, "Hey, here's how I want you to live your life. I got it written out in a blueprint." NO!

In the book of James, it talks about how faith without works is dead. I used to think that validated that the truth that it's all about works. But now I know that I can't rest on my faith, I've got to ACT on it and God will show up as I continue to do that.

Read the passage:

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
— James 2: 14-18, The Message

FAITH IS ACTION. FAITH REQUIRES ACTION. ONE STEP AT A TIME. ONE DAY AT A TIME. FOR GOD'S GLORY, NOT OUR OWN. 

I don't know how this blog spoke to you, but I do know that if you receive God's grace you CAN find peace through every storm of life, even the ones the world might think are "supposed to" be glamorous.

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This entire post, I've thought of the song, "Healing Begins" by Tenth Avenue North. I'm going to share with you three video versions of the song. One is the original with the band, another is an unofficial one that I wanted to post because I think it is a powerful demonstration of personal struggle, and the last one is one of victory.

It's got nothing to do really with Entrepreneurship, but it's a moment that I surrendered and made my faith public.  This video shows me that it's ALWAYS him and that it IS by grace I have been saved so no matter what goes on in my REAL life, HE'S in charge because I gave him my life.

For those who might not understand it because you were baptized as a kid and wonder why you would do it again - I can tell you THIS is where I made it my choice to put my life in his hands. This is a literal example of putting my faith into action and I cherish the moment.  If you want to see the exact moment, go to the 1:00 mark. But the whole video is a grand testimony of God's love.