Christian Life, Mental Health

Girl Stop Apologizing & More

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Have you gotten your hands on a copy of Rachel Hollis’ latest book, Girl Stop Apologizing? Rachel lays out important actions she has taken to attain her level of success. In a world of people telling you to just follow yours dreams, Rachel explains that you can’t just dream, sit back and hope for the best. Achieving big dreams requires hard work, a plan, discipline, and sacrifice.

Rachel’s message is that we need to stop apologizing for who we are and how we are “wired.” We have to stop making excuses for why we aren’t succeeding and stop blaming others for our lack of progress. She shares what keeps her on track like her 10-10-1 rule, getting up an hour earlier than her family, finding a place to work that is not distracting, avoiding time-wasters like social media, eating healthy, exercising daily, creating measurable goals, enlisting help, being a hustler, and so forth.

I love Rachel’s personal examples and practical advice. If people put into practice just a few of her life-principles, they are sure to reap the benefits. This book is not about theology. It’s not about living a Christian life-style. It’s not even about being a mom. This book has a purpose and it hit the bullseye. Rachel talks about her personal health and fitness through eating, sleeping, and exercise, but she does not talk about taking days off. That was not the point of her book so I have no complaints for her leaving it out.

One of the stories Rachel shared was how she decided to forego resting at an airport, even though she was exhausted, so that she could work on her book edits. She mentioned that she was willing to sacrifice rest in order to meet her objectives. This story made me think about how many people out there sacrifice rest in order to be productive.

Many people have no idea that rest is an important part of increasing productivity. Medical research reveals that the brain needs days off in order to restore itself. Many studies even connect REM sleep to emotional memory processing (Walker & van der Helm, 2009). Professional athletes and trainers will tell you that you must take one day off a week for your muscles to rest and restore. The Bible even talks about how we should take a day off for sabbath rest (Exodus 20:8-11). Without rest at least one day per week, we end up being less productive on the other six days.

My encouragement is to read Rachel’s book and figure out how to apply it to your life. However, don’t become a “hustler” and neglect to take days to reset and restore in the process. Achieving your goals while being emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, and relationally healthy is what will make you a real success story.

 

 

Reference

Walker, M. P., & van der Helm, E. (2009). Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Psychological bulletin, 135(5), 731-48.

 

 

Christian Life, Mental Health

Loneliness… The Health Epidemic

Did you know that loneliness can cause physical, mental and emotional health problems? When we think about the causes of health problems, not too many of us would ever think that lack of connection with people could be the culprit. We live in an age of technology that allows us to be connected to thousands of people at any moment of the day, but we are more disconnected from people than ever before. In 1980, 20 percent of Americans reported feeling lonely and today that percentage is more than double (Brown, 2017).

When I think about seasons of my life when I experienced a significant struggle, loneliness was often at the center of that struggle. After my daughter was born, I silently struggled with postpartum depression. My days were spent at home, caring for an infant, with little interaction outside of my home. When I lived in Northern Virginia, I couldn’t seem to make deep connections with people. Most of the people my age were still single, yet I was married with two elementary-aged children. Those who had elementary-aged kids were nearly two decades older than me and they didn’t reciprocate my invites for coffee and get-togethers. I constantly cried and thought about running away, while confused about what was causing my sorrow. Then I became lead pastor of a church and was met with a new form of loneliness. I couldn’t technically be friends with parishioners and people in the community weren’t too comfortable being friends with a religious leader. This new role did not leave me with too many people to turn to, who could understand what I was feeling.

My ability to connect with people who get me has changed my life. As a therapist and pastor, I have surrounded myself with people in my field, who understand what it is like to live out those two roles. I am naturally an introvert but having alone time is very different than experiencing loneliness. I have made it a priority to grab a cup of coffee or tea with a friend, plan a girls’ trip every once in a while, and regularly chat with long-distance friends on apps that allow me to have a face to face connection.

We are created to be connected with one another and not in a superficial, social media connection. Loneliness leads to lethargy, while connection leads to contentment. Have you been feeling fatigue with no medical explanation for it? Loneliness could be at the root of your ability to feel emotionally, mentally, or physically healthy. If this is you, make a commitment to yourself to do whatever it takes to find someone to connect to. There are many creative ways to make this happen but many of us need a little inspiration sometimes. You aren’t alone in this struggle! Send me a message if you need some help to come up with a plan, or talk with a relative or acquaintance who does this well. You are worth it!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

 

 

Reference

Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. New York: Random House.

 

Christian Life

Craving For Love

Blog_Craving for Love-2In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis writes about a conference she attended that impacted her life in a profound way. The insight she had about herself was realized when a speaker asked the audience two questions, “Which parent did you crave love from more?” and “Who did you have to be for them?” Upon reading that second question, my chest began to tighten, emotions began to well up, and I sat silently, thinking about my childhood. Growing up, I lived with my mother and two older sisters. I craved my mother’s love on a daily basis and tried to get her attention by misbehaving. Subconsciously I thought, maybe if I was mean to the dog, talked frequently, was overly expressive, or an all-star athlete she would pay attention to me. Then my mind wandered to my father. I never lived with him yet I always longed for his love and attention, on the rare occasion when I was able to visit.

As I continued to sit in silence, pondering my answers, these questions gripped my heart. Without a doubt, I knew I longed for my father’s love more than my mother’s. I knew this because of a memory that came to my mind of a time when I visited my father sometime during middle school. Shortly before this trip, I was in a production of Beauty and the Beast in a theater outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I wasn’t just a part of the production, I starred as Belle in this theater’s academy program. In my 12-year-old mind, this role made me special… it made me important… it made me somebody. I was so excited to show my dad the VHS recording of the performance so he could share in my glory and affirm that I was talented and special. However, after my father watched that tape, he remarked that it would be a “bigger deal” if I starred in a musical at a real theater. It did not matter that he was wrong about it not being a theater production. What mattered to me was his lack of affirmation. All I really wanted was a daddy who loved and affirmed me. I don’t think he intentionally tried to hurt me with that comment but the damage was done.

That was the last extended stay visit I would ever have at my father’s home during my childhood years. I was done trying to become the daughter he would be proud of. I was done trying to earn my parents love. The next few years would be spent searching for love through dating relationships that left me feeling empty and hurt. The only thing that could mend my broken and hardened heart was the love of Father God. This realization began when I was 15 and has continued to strengthen over the last 18 years. Therapy, pastors, mentors, books, and relationships have been instrumental in my growth but what transformed me the most was when I stopped believing the lies I told myself; lies that I was worthless, unlovable, damaged, and unintelligent. Ultimately, I could not have done this without replacing those lies with the truth. The real truth is, the word of God is the most powerful source of truth that speaks value and worth to each and every person. God’s love is unconditional and no amount of performing could make him love us more. Scriptures tell us that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), greater than all other created beings (Genesis 1:28), adopted as his children (Ephesians 4:1-5), created with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11), gifted (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), and the list goes on.

When you read those two questions, what came to your mind? Whose love did you crave as a child? Do you have a story like mine? Whose love do you still crave? Who are you trying to be in order to be loved? I encourage you to take some time to ponder these questions and think about lies you have been believing about yourself: lies that say you are less than; lies that say you will never amount to anything; lies that say you need to be someone else in order to be loved and accepted.

Christian Life, Mental Health

Six Biblical Principles for Eating Disorders & Unhealthy Food Relationships

vectorstock_3710686We live in a nation that is obsessed with image. Unless you live in a remote area without television, internet or places to shop, you are bombarded every day with images of photoshopped people that society pressures you to look like. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder in the United States and every 62 minutes one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder (ANAD). Even those of us without a diagnosed eating disorder struggle with an unhealthy view of food and our bodies. I honestly cannot think of a time when I did not think about losing weight before taking a beach vacation…okay, maybe when I was pregnant.

There are many excellent therapies for eating disorders but I believe true success cannot happen without spiritual integration. Many people with eating disorders struggle with poor self-image and a negative view of God. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or a poor relationship with food and self-image, here are some helpful biblical principles to help transform thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

  1. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). The word of God has the ability to create positive thoughts and a healthy identity, which is countercultural to a world that stresses the importance of perfection.
  2. Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NIV). Having faith in God and hope that life can be different is an important part of creating change. Scripture has the ability to develop one’s faith and provide hope for the future.
  3. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (NIV). This is a difficult concept for many people who have felt rejected by their parents. Joshua 1:5 says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (NIV). God is a loving father who will never reject us or abandon us like people do.
  4. Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches that people’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts and that his thoughts are higher than ours. People with an unhealthy relationship with food always have poor views of themselves. God’s thoughts of us are opposite of the lies we believe about ourselves. In fact, each day that God created something in the universe, he used the words “it was good” or “it was so” to describe that particular creation (Genesis 1:3-25). It wasn’t until God created mankind that he used the words “it was VERY good” to describe his creation (Genesis 1:31). We are God’s delight and were specifically made so that he could love us.
  5. Feelings of shame and dishonest behavior are common in those with eating disorders. Both of these are displayed in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned for the first time (Genesis 3). The first thing Adam and Eve felt was shame. This feeling caused them to cover their bodies and fear God. When God asked what they did, both were dishonest and shifted blame to someone else. Knowing that people in the bible had the same struggles we do can help normalize the feelings and behaviors of those with eating disorders.
  6. Lastly, recovery from eating disorders should involve recognizing one’s gravity of sin and the need for atonement (McRay et al., 2016). Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). This truth allows people to understand that when they acknowledge their sin, God removes it and brings them back into relationship with him. When people begin to see themselves as forgiven and accepted, they can let go of shame and be confident in their spiritual connection to the Father. That loving connection is essential for true recovery.

References

ANAD Your Future is Worth Fighting For. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved from http://anad.org

McRay, B.W., Yarhouse, M.A. & Butman, R. (2016). Modern psychologies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal(2ndEd.). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Christian Life, Mental Health

Choose Peace Over Progress

peaceoverprogressLast summer, I decided to expedite the process of finishing my master’s degree by taking three classes in eight weeks. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it ruined me! I used the excuse that I could recover during the last month of summer. During those eight weeks, I lived with chronic anxiety and fought back tears on a daily basis. I’m embarrassed to admit how crazy I was… I mean, I’m working on a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Shouldn’t I have it together?

Thinking back over the years, I have a habit of trying to accomplish things at an unhealthy pace, without the proper rest required to maintain sanity. I have also seen many clients who struggle with anxiety and the common theme in their lives is that they don’t know how to rest. When challenged to take a day off or even a couple hours, they can’t even think of what they enjoy doing for pleasure. Many of those people struggle with negative thoughts like, people will think I’m lazy or I need to be productive to be accepted. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.

The truth is, everyone is worthy of investing in themselves through pleasurable activities, being pampered, going on an adventure, taking a vacation, and simply resting. Research shows how detrimental constant multitasking is to our mental and emotional health. Resting and investing in yourself can improve memory, heart health, reduce stress, and keep you at a healthy weight…who doesn’t want that (Seballo, 2014)?

In her book, Breathing Room, Sandra Stanely penned the words, “choose peace over progress.” That’s a powerful statement for a driven person but it’s even more powerful when that person chooses to live by its principle. I know I’m not the only one who needs this reminder. What is it that you need to lay down or quit in order to live a life of peace? When was the last time you rested from work and invested in YOU?

 

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4, NLT).

 

Reference

Seballo, A. (2014, February 12). Health Benefits of Rest. State of Health: Florida Hospital. Retrieved from https://www.floridahospital.com/blog/health-benefits-of-rest

 

Christian Life

Christians Who Hurt People

Recently my daughter told me about a girl at school that she has been getting to know, who recently moved here from another state. She learned that this friend is also a pastor’s kid and is struggling with missing friends she moved away from. I was excited to hear that my daughter was connecting with another pastor’s kid, who she could relate to and empathize with. I quickly told her that I was glad she had someone like her and that “pk’s need to stick together.”

My excitement quickly faded after my daughter told me something that her new friend’s sister just experienced. She explained that her friend’s older sister was recently approached by a member of their church, who told her she was an embarrassment to her father and should not be at church in her appearance (black clothes and a nose ring). I have to admit, such anger rose up inside me that I wished I could hit the person who said that to this young girl. Hurt and emotions rose up within me, thinking about a struggling teenage pastor’s kid who always feels pressure to be perfect and left the only life she knows, to sacrifice with her family for a church where she does not feel loved or accepted.

Lingenfelter, in the book Ministering Cross-Culturally says, “One of the biggest problems in our families, church, and missions is that we often insist that others think and judge in the same way we do. We do not accept one another in love; rather we try to remake those around us into our own image” (63 ).

I have seen these things happen in the church more than I would like to admit and it grieves me. As followers of Christ, we are called to love and accept people. We have not arrived! It is not up to us to force people to look and act like us. It is up to us to lovingly point people to Christ so they can be made into his image, not ours. Jesus embraced people like this young girl while shunning the religious who acted like the adult in this story. His example is a reminder to each of us how precious each person is. As believers and churches, let’s aim to love others more than anyone else does…especially pastors kids!

Christian Life

Valentine’s Day Idea: Married, Single, and Dating

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image © Sherri Robbins

It’s February… the month of love.

While so many people focus on plans and gifts for Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think about learning how to have healthy relationships and to love my family unconditionally. Unfortunately, from early childhood, I was taught that love is conditional.

From the time I was a young child and into adulthood, both my parents withdrew from me when I did not meet their expectations. Yes, my mother threatened to sue me when I let her down and I have gotten hate mail from my father, but I understand why they did it. Their dysfunctional childhood years taught them how to push people away when things don’t go the way they envision.

We are all narcissistic by nature and many of us don’t know how to change. Broken relationships all over our world are evidence of this. Our presuppositions of others and tendencies toward making things about ourselves originate from our past relational wounds. Because we don’t learn unconditional love as children, it affects the way we love as adults. I wasn’t shown how to love my husband and kids, but I’m determined to learn how. Do I fail? Yes I do, but I continue to come back to the one who can show me how, God.

So my challenge this month is for each of us to focus on our relationships. What past hurts are preventing us from having healthy relationships now? Who do we need to forgive? What behaviors and thought patterns do we need to change in ourselves? Have we strayed from the One who is our example of unconditional love?

Work on your relationships, seek counseling if you need it, and this just might be the best Valentine’s Day ever!

“Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to do both.”
( 1 John 4:21b MSG)