Think About Such Things β€οΈ

Philippians 4:4-8 NIV

For some, reading these verses may be very new, while for others this may not be a familiar selection. This verse has become a popular one for those looking for biblical guidance to help them through troubling times. Recently, I came across this verse in a book I read by Max Lucado; Anxious For Nothing.

I just want to say this before proceeding: Mentioning this book is not going to give me any kind of perks! These are just my thoughts and opinions that the book has inspired. Nothing I say here is in any way connected to Max Lucado, although I may use some of his quotes from the book. Lastly, even though I feel it’s rather obvious to declare, I am not a professional counselor or any kind of professional, I just make posts to try to reach others who may be going through some of the same feelings.

After reading this book, I felt like I should use some of my notes and quotes from the book, to make a blog post or posts that others may find interesting or helpful. As most of you know, if you’ve read some of my other posts, I have long struggled with anxiety, panic and depression. I have been very lost in them that I really became this lifeless blob for over a year. While a year is not even close to the length of time I have struggled with these issues, there was a year or a little more, where I was so deep in those issues that I became unable to live a “normal” life. In the midst of this terrible time, I would have never believed I’d be able to get out of the dark place I was in. I felt as if I had gotten so lost, I couldn’t possibly find the light again. Would I ever be the person I used to be again? Would I ever be able to enjoy my family or friends again? Would I ever be able to think about going to work again without breaking down and crying hysterically out of pure fear? Would I be able to walk outside, take a shower, sleep or even eat without the fear that I’m going to die doing those things?

It truly seemed irreversible at the time. It seemed like my anxiety, panic and depression had pulled me so far under, that I could never find my way out and in a way, I was right. I would never have found my way back, if not for my faith. I am aware that simply stating that my faith helped me through such a horrific time may not come across as very helpful, especially to someone who may be in the deepest, darkest depths of anxiety, panic and depression. To be quite honest, sometimes hearing something like that can make a person in the midst of such things feel even more guilty and cause them to sink lower into those feelings. I don’t want anyone reading this to feel as though they can’t make it out of their dark place without faith in God, but I want to tell you that I would not have. God isn’t just exclusively available to believers, He’s there for non-believers as well; He doesn’t turn anyone away. If you need Him, you only need to ask for Him, He’ll find you.

Back to the Bible verses I shared in the photo at the start of this blog. “Rejoice in the Lord always…” ALWAYS. Not just when things are going good in your life, maybe even moreso when they’re going horribly! Easier said than done right? To someone who is struggling, telling them to rejoice in the Lord may seem like a slap in the face! How can I rejoice in the Lord when I’m consumed by fear and worry? How can I rejoice when l find out I can’t have children or when I’ve miscarried? How can I rejoice in the Lord when I’ve lost my job, when my child is diagnosed with so many health issues, when my husband or wife is facing health issues, when I am in constant pain from an unrelenting disease, when I have lost my home and have nowhere to go, when I am going through a nasty divorce and custody battle, when I’m being abused (physically, mentally, emotionally or all of the above)- the list can go on indefinitely! How can we say REJOICE to someone who is drowning? If you have never been taught to swim, how is yelling REJOICE to you when you’ve fallen in the lake going to help? IT WON’T! We don’t have to use our words to tell someone to rejoice, we can simply lead by example around them. We can live our life with such transparency, that they will see things we have had to endure, and in turn, see how we have never stopped rejoicing all the while. Others will see how we handle our times of difficulty and wonder how they too can do the same. I have personally felt, growing up and even now, that you can get so much further with people when you’re not forcing your beliefs and religion down their throats, but simply planting seeds each time you’re near them and living your life authentically; they’ll notice, I assure you! Eventually, they’ll come to you looking for your “secret” and that’s when you’ll get to share with them that there is no secret at all, there’s only God! ☺️

The C.A.L.M approach by Max Lucado in a post found on Pinterest

In the Anxious for Nothing book, you’ll find this C.A.L.M. approach laid out for you. I don’t want to give away too much of this book, so I’ll also include a link at the end of this blog incase anyone is interested. Again I get nothing in return for promoting this book, I just believe it to be a good read.

C is for COOKIE…no wait, that’s not the right one! πŸ˜‚ C is for Celebrating God’s Goodness. Again, not to sound like a broken record, but during our most trying times, it can be hard to rejoice or celebrate. You’re not perfect, neither am I, so we won’t always be able to do it as we should, but we can do our best to be mindful about it. In our more challenging times, we can say our problems aloud or write them down and then we can voice or think about what we know is good in our lives at that moment, minus whatever negative issues are going on at the time. It may seem that NOTHING good is happening, but if your eyes are open and your heart is beating during your dwelling on your misfortune(s), then you already have something to celebrate! Thank God I am alive and I opened my eyes this morning, although today might be terrible, I am still going to celebrate my being alive to see another day! It’s more about not dwelling on the negatives of the day or week or month or even year. It can be extremely easy to slip down the slope of Negative Mindset Mountain and pretty hard to try to climb back up, trust me I speak from great experience! We can acknowledge the negative and then move our thoughts to what good there is in our lives, on that day, and celebrate those thoughts. It doesn’t matter how big or small the positives are, just as long as we shift our mind from acknowledging our negative and celebrating our positives. Don’t fall into the trap that is the negative mindset, it can quickly get out of hand. One minute you’re talking about one negative that happened to you today, then you’re talking about something bad that happened yesterday, then last week and it just keeps on rolling downhill until, before you know it, you’re discussing stuff that happened to you 10+ years ago! We need to be aware of who we talk to and if the conversation is serving us well. If you find that it’s not serving your mindset well, you have the ability to shift the conversation and if it keeps circling back to negativity, you can just end the conversation and pick up another day. Sometimes our days can be going just fine, then if we encounter someone who is not having such a great day, if we listen long enough, our emotions can take us to the same place they are. Entertaining too much negativity can cause us to catch the negative bug! This is why, when I know I’m having one of those days, I try my best to keep to myself either until I shift my mindset or until the next day! I still have some work to do on this, but I’m happy to say that I have improved pretty well in that area! We need to focus on one day at a time, acknowledging our difficulties of the day, dropping them off at the slippery slope of Negative Mindset Mountain, then keeping on our journey until we reach Celebration Campsite! This is where we can set up tent, take our shoes off and stay awhile!

A is for Asking God For Help. For some of us it can be easy to ask for help, but if you’re like me, you take the world upon your shoulders, never ask for help and then breakdown at some later date under all the pressure. Asking for help may not come as natural to some of us as it does for others, but anyone can feel the relief that comes from simply knowing someone is around if we need help or having someone tell us they’re nearby if they need us. We can call out to God when things have gone wrong, but why do we forget that He’s there from the beginning? Why do we wait so long to go to Him for help when He’s already told us time and time again, “I am right over here if you need anything!” Let us remember that God is this constant Presence and we can go to him at any hour for any kind of help! We don’t have to wait until we’re really underwater before asking Him for a hand.

L is for Leave Your Concerns With God. How many of us bring our backpack of burdens to God and forget to take it off before going on with our day? πŸ™‹πŸ»β€β™€οΈ We are encouraged, in the Bible, to bring our burdens to God and He will give us rest. He wants to take our burdens from us, so why can’t we seem to let go of them?

Photo credit to Pinterest
Photo credit to womenofnoblecharacter.com

I have stated many times that I believe many of us who deal with anxiety and panic have a bit of an issue with control. What I mean by this is, one way or another our anxiety stems from an issue with lack of control. Take myself as an example, all of the anxiety that caused my panic issues mostly had to do with death, in some way. Every single thing I did, I truly felt and believed I was going to die if I did it. I can’t eat because I’ll have an allergic reaction and my throat will close up and I’ll die. I can’t go outside because I may get bit or stung by something and die. I can’t go to sleep because I’ll die in my sleep. I also always felt I would have a heart attack and die. I would also like to add that I have no known allergies to any food or bites/stings. My anxiety and panic concocted all of these scenarios in my mind and I believed that in refraining from living, I would infact survive! Did you hear me? If I stopped living I would stay alive. In refraining from doing anything I used to enjoy doing or simple daily health habits, I believed I was controlling the outcome of my life. I believed that I was somehow in control or taking control of the situations. I can stop the danger before it happens! What’s wrong with this picture though? Are any of us in control of our lives? To an extent, I suppose we are. We are in control of our choices, we have been given free will. We decide where we go, what we do, say etc. Are any of us able to keep others from death? Do we determine when we die? No! We have no say in this. Age, race, gender, health none of this matters when it comes down to it. Someone could be sick for years and still be alive longer than a healthy person who loses their life in a car accident. The point I’m trying to make and the fact that can be hard to swallow is ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, we are not in control. This fact can cause anxiety and panic in people. If we can accept that we are not in control, we can learn to leave our concerns with the One who is in control! We can go to God in prayer, making our concerns known to Him. We can write them down in a journal or simply on a piece of paper. Once we have prayed or written down our concerns or done both of these things, we can then remind ourselves that we don’t need to pick those burdens back up before leaving, nor do we have a use for the burden backpack anymore. When we leave our concerns, we need to do just that, LEAVE them!

M stands for Meditate on Good Things.

Screenshot from bible gateway.com

Now we revisit Negative Mindset Mountain, where avalanches of what ifs, doom and gloom, worst case scenarios, fears, anger, frustrations, resentment, jealousy, hatred, comparison and the like, happen on a regular basis, 24/7! You would think that not many people would come to visit this place with the frequent avalanches, yet you’d be surprised at how many people have a vacation home here or worse yet, have moved there permanently! I don’t have a vacation home or permanent residence here, but I have been known to visit and it’s not a place I like to be. Sometimes, I have managed to get to this place without wanting to go or without even knowing I’m there, but once I realize I am and I don’t know how long I have been there, I feel such disgust, embarrassment and shame. I feel disgusted because I am someone who is often viewed as the positive one to other people. The one who listens to others, gives great advice and makes everyone laugh, yet in my own personal life, I can be the opposite. I don’t often listen to myself, although I can give sound advice, I can’t give myself that same advice. I don’t extend myself the same grace I do to others. I must admit that I can make myself laugh πŸ˜‚πŸ€ͺ I feel embarrassment because I don’t like to be around negativity or negative people and the thought that I have been that person to others can not only leave me feeling disgusted, but embarrassed as well because, I am wondering to myself how long have I been projecting negative vibes? An hour? A day? A week? You see, at Negative Mindset Mountain, you can lose track of many things, one of those being time. In addition to feeling disgusted and embarrassed, I previously mentioned I feel shame. I feel shame because I have forgotten to leave my concerns with God. I have forgotten to ask God for help and I have forgotten to celebrate any good in my life. Much like the person who has had one too many to drink, I have blacked out and somehow woken up in this place. I don’t know how I’ve gotten here and I am not sure when I arrived. I don’t know if there is anyone else I have affected by my journey. If I’m in this place, I most likely haven’t been the example that I want to be to others. I feel shame because I have fallen down that slippery slope and been swept away by the avalanche. We tend to make it to this place because we let the wrong kind of thoughts bombard our minds. We forget to protect our hearts and minds and, in doing so, we nonchalantly open the door and let all the negativity on in to what will later become our very own pity party! Somewhere down the line, we stopped acknowledging all the good or positives in our lives and started solely focusing on all the negatives. So how do we make it back down the mountain?

We use Philippians 4:8 as our cheat sheet! If you take a look at that verse, it maps out the entire way back down! Let’s look at the verse and break it down. Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true; not what ifs, not worst case scenarios that may never come to be. Whatever is noble; thoughts that can promote honesty, generosity and things of that nature, not thoughts of jealousy or lies. Whatever is right; thoughts that are morally right are considered reasonable or ethical. We know the difference between right and wrong and this is what is meant when we are told to think of “right” things. Immoral thoughts would be the opposite of right thoughts, such as thoughts of evil or wrongdoing. Whatever is pure; again, untainted thoughts, free from evil. Thoughts that are true and uninfluenced by the wickedness of this world. In our minds is where the evil would start first. The thief, the murderer, the liar, the adulterer, they all have something in common…they first thought of evil before carrying out evil. The thief saw something he did not have and thought to himself that he should have it, so he would take it. The murderer let anger, resentment, hurt and whatever other evil thought control his mind and he thought about bringing harm to someone else and how he could hurt the other person. The liar uses his mind to weave his web of lies before speaking them to others, to come across as believable. The adulterer looks lustfully at others who are not their spouse and has thoughts of how they will become closer with this person(s). They engage in sex with this person, cheating on their spouse not only physically, but mentally and emotionally too. Whatever is lovely; these thoughts are rooted in love and affection. They are thoughts that can celebrate the goodness in not only your life, but in other’s lives around you! Jealousy has no place here! Whatever is admirable; thoughts of admiration or respect of others, especially God. Thinking on the goodness in your life can bring about admirable thoughts towards God. We look in wonder and astonishment at the world God created for us and the children He has blessed us with and the family. We see every day miracles and our minds admire the work of God! If anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

If you didn’t notice, most of these words are synonyms of each other. They work together! Meditating on good things is all laid out for us in that one verse. Instead of thinking about what others have that you don’t, think about what you’re thankful for in your life and what you have or have worked for. Instead of thinking about the worst possible outcome of a situation or what MIGHT happen if you do this or that, think about what is more likely to happen. Is it more likely that this whole Final Destination type of scenario will play out or is it more likely that you’ll have worried and stressed yourself over nothing and then miss out on a greater time. Think of all that can go right. This is my hardest challenge, because my mind seems programmed to only see the worst case, but with a little rewiring, I believe I can improve upon it! Instead of dwelling in resentment for how people have treated you in the past, think of what you’ve taken away from that and how you use it for good in your life now. Don’t get so blinded by hatred, anger and resentment, especially from the past, that it hinders your living now. Don’t think of how you can get back or get even, use it as fuel to do better and be better. Nothing that has already happened can be erased, but it can used for good! As Max Lucado said in his book, “There is a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror. Your future matters more than your past.”

If you find that negative thoughts are trying to creep in, immediately recall the words in Philippians 4:8. Let this verse serve as a reminder to all of us, to shift our mindset from acknowledging the negatives, to celebrating the positives!

A quote from Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing

Dear God, I pray that someone who needed this message finds it. I pray for everyone who comes across this blog, whether they like it or not, that maybe they could just take away one important thing from it. I pray that anyone struggling will find peace that only You can give. May at least one person read this and be able to make that mindset shift. Please use my words to show others Your grace and unconditional love. Let us remember the words in Philippians 4:8 and do our very best to think those kinds of thoughts. I thank You for working in me and through me so that I may not only better myself and my relationship with You, but help others to come to You as well. I pray all of this in Your name, AMEN!

I will leave the link below to anyone who would like to check out the Anxious for Nothing book. He also offers a DVD and study guide, if any small groups are interested in that. I bought the study guide thinking maybe I could still use it with the book, and while I can use it for notes and such, I personally feel it is much more geared towards the DVD. The link below will be just for the actual book. I GET NOTHING FROM SHARING THIS LINK! Please don’t view this blog to be any kind of promotional gain! Much love and God bless! ❀️

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0718074211/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_fabc_CXWBGCDVJZDARV8JKT6Y

Grateful Heart

Good Morning Everyone!

I’m not quite sure if today I will be able to continue blogging my notes from the sermon series I have been listening to, it may have to be tomorrow. It would seem today is leading me down a different path; I seem to have woke up with a message on my heart, so we’ll see how it unfolds. I’m sure God is leading me to this message for a reason, so it’s likely something to offer peace and comfort to all of us in some form. ❀ Wherever He leads, I’ll go!

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I woke up this morning with an urgency to discuss gratefulness. Many of us, like myself, would say they’d consider themselves to be a rather grateful person; always doing their best daily to thank God for the blessings in their lives. Honestly, some days it seems I give thanks constantly because I am filled with an unexplainable joy. Good times seem to cultivate more joy and without much effort. What of the not-so-good days? How can we remain grateful, with that same unexplainable joy when our days aren’t going well or our life has taken some unexpected sharp turn?

I know I may seem wise, but I don’t have all the answers πŸ˜‰ I will, however use personal experiences to give my best opinion/views on the matter. I also love using Bible scriptures as a reference because the Bible is our cheat sheet…it has all the answers to any question we will ever have, we only need to look.

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Most of us would say, I have a grateful heart. I wake up each morning, thank God for the gift of life and for the health and contentment of myself and my family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario; it’s ideal! We should be thanking God as soon as we wake up because He is the reason we do. But, we have all had those times in our lives when we have gotten so deep down in our trials that we wonder if we even want to wake to face another day. Of course, to me, this is a form of bitterness; something has gone wrong in our lives and we are a bit bitter and confused. We think things we don’t mean wholeheartedly because we feel pain, hurt and sadness. We want to know why. Why God is something like this happening to me? Am I not a good person? Am I not worthy?

A simple fact of life is, bad things can happen to the “best” of people just as they can to the “worst” of people. We are all human and no matter how good we are, we are never immune to the bad experiences in life. There is ALWAYS a reason, very evident or not, for why we are assigned specific mountains at certain times. In any circumstance, I can guarantee that a gift is hidden in the darkest of times. You’re being equipped to help someone else who will need you or your words. We can all appreciate and be thankful for people in our lives who give us great words and express care during our tough times, but in all honesty, don’t we wonder how they know how we feel when they haven’t been in our situation? We feel their heart is in the right place, they’re saying all the right things, but in a way their words are empty to us because we don’t believe they can relate. So, whose words can hold meaning to us most? Yes! The ones who have endured things we are going through. Someone who has personally been where we are at and made it to the other side! I believe any bad we go through gives us this unique ability to be someone else’s hope and light in their time of darkness. I know I sound repetitive with that statement, but it’s so true. Think of how many more people you can reach on a personal level, when you have been through some of the same situations they have. That is the beauty in our pain. That is where our gratefulness can come from in our darkest hours. We can thank Him for allowing us to go through this terrible time, because we know He has much bigger things in store for us. Trust me, in those hours, I KNOW it can be difficult and almost near impossible for us to think that way. It’s in our nature to question why something is happening to us, but remember we have tunnel vision and God has that panoramic view; He sees the whole picture, while our focus is what’s right in front of us at this moment.

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One of my most difficult times with maintaining a grateful heart during a hard time was when I endured the loss of my pregnancy in 2014. January 16th, 2014 to be exact; one never forgets. My husband and I had our oldest son at the time, he was approaching 2 years old, yet we were so excited to be expecting another child. We love babies and they’re an amazing miracle from God! Unfortunately, our baby wasn’t to be here on this Earth with us…we were unaware we had conceived a real angel. I feel we often forget that our babies are a true gift from God and they’re His before they are ever ours. Even with that knowledge, the pain didn’t seem to subside any. I was about 7-8 weeks when we lost our pregnancy. Some would say an insignificant amount of time to have such a tremendous reaction to, but no matter the size of the baby or the amount of time you carry your baby…it was still a part of you. You had plans for this baby that went years into the future; it was already a part of your life because it was a part of you. I remember going to the hospital because I had to leave work early that day because I started bleeding. Of course, some bleeding can be considered normal in the beginning of pregnancies, I however was not convinced. I guess I just knew in my heart where this was leading at that point. I passed some clots prior to leaving for the hospital and all I could do was cry. I do remember telling my father through my tears that if I’m losing my baby, it’s what God thinks is best for my baby and I. Still sadness was ever-present. There I sat in the hospital waiting room…waiting and waiting and all the while still bleeding. I felt like I’m losing my baby and no one is trying to help me. It’s an emergency! I’m in a hospital, I’m pregnant and bleeding and I can’t save my own baby and no one is coming to help; I must wait. What a sick and devastating feeling, especially as a mother, knowing what’s happening to your baby and yet you cannot do one thing to stop the process…all you can do is witness the unfolding of events. After waiting in the waiting room, being called back for blood work, then sent back to the waiting room, then called back to lay in a hospital bed in the middle of a crowded hallway and given an IV, I was finally seen. By the time they administered an ultrasound, there was no sign of pregnancy; like my baby never even existed. It was heartbreaking. At some point from leaving our home to waiting in the hospital, we had lost our baby. I had lost our baby. Guilt weighed heavy on me, as I felt I had failed at my job as a mother. I felt I had failed to keep my child safe and protected. They gave me a discharge paper which read in big, bold print: Miscarriage; then they sent us on our way. My husband and I got to the car and as we were leaving we just stopped the vehicle and held each other crying. It was such a long day, yet it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. It’s a sadness and pain I would never wish on anyone. I struggled with seeing pregnant women or babies. I am a person who has always loved children and babies and pregnancy etc, yet I developed this aversion to them. I worked in a grocery store so it’s not like I could escape them. I remember crying because I missed being pregnant and knowing I was having another baby, yet I also cried because I didn’t want to be that kind of person. I didn’t want to feel that feeling of avoidance when encountering pregnant women, babies and children. I knew miscarriage was a common occurrence but we never imagine it could happen to us until it does. I’m not going to say I did not struggle and still don’t shed tears for our angel baby, but I chose a grateful heart instead of accepting a bitter one. I thanked God for the short time I had with our baby and I chose to talk openly about it to not only help my healing process, but to bring honor to the life we had made. I chose to name our baby, although gender was unknown, I went with Uriel, which means “God is my light.” It was confusing and one of our toughest times, but I told others I would be open about it because God will use me to help others going through the same circumstances and that He did! I have be able to help several people since and was able to give them comfort, peace and hope that no one else could.

Of course that example was one of many. Whether it’s my anxiety disorder, depression, struggles with self harm/ suicidal thoughts and tendencies and all that I have experienced, the same gift has come from all of it…the gift of light. In those times I often wondered the meaning and purpose of it all, but as time went by I had my “ah-ha!” moments. I realized God had better plans for my life. He might say yes, no, wait or simply not right now, but trust me when I say better is around the corner. ❀

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I sit here typing this to you at 30 weeks pregnant today with our 4th baby (3rd earthly baby). God is good πŸ™Œ Nothing is impossible with Him! I know He cares for my Uriel until I am reunited with him/her later in life. I am still blessed in many ways! I am very blessed to be able to speak from a personal place to all of you as well! I pray my words always help someone who needs it! Let’s all be grateful in the good and bad times because we know God is for us, not against us!

Much Love and God Bless! ❀