Discouragements

Sometimes you stare at a blank screen without so much as a syllable coming through your mind. The screen mirrors your mind. Blank. Empty. Without words.

It’s not as if you don’t have anything on your mind-the to-do list for your day or your week, future aspirations, current news, relationships with others, relationship with God. But we’ve maneuvered and compartmentalized so much of ourselves that we draw up to life with a big blank. No space really for any more boxes of things for our mind to dwell on, but plenty of white space filling in everywhere.

In that white space is where this year has been lived for me, alot of seeming noise but not quite distinct, just fuzzy. Not much intentionality or planning, just shoving boxes of life around to get through a day or a week. I realized in not making me choices or truly focused decisions, I’d made the choice for my life to just exist this year. To not really engage much mentally or use the excuse of one activity to define my whole existence.

Disappointments will come and go, but discouragement is a choice you make.

I was reminded over the weekend of this quote from Charles Stanley years ago. And it made sense that much of the white noise was discouragement over the boxes I’d put my life into only to revisit for nostalgia and wallowing in discouragement. I would look at the actions or assumptions I had put on others around me deemed it discouraging and just existed in it.

Over and over again.

I chose discouragement at every turn.

For 10 months, discouragement has crept onto the blank screen and the white space of my life. It was a record of habit, choosing it over fuel for pursuit, building a habit of packing it up instead of getting back up.

So what happens when you meet your repeated discouragement over disappointments? You have that choice to walk back into that room or begin to pick yourself up and go back to the disappointment and find ways of pushing through them or correcting where you were responsible. We have lost our sense of accountability and responsibility in many ways currently, but most of all we’ve lost our sense of responsibility to ourselves. To pursuing resilience and fight rather than discouragement and packing it all up. We flight alot more than we fight these days when faced with discouragement, when the disappointments get to be too much.

It’s how we respond that is on us. We can choose intentional pursuit of what we are given, facing disappointments and failures and going back the next day. Or we can pack that up in a box, shove it over in the corner, and then wondering why we can’t build a good habit of success for our lives.

On Not Being Okay

There have been multiple times I have written this post out over the years and deleted it. Or it’s been left as a draft. I have walked away thinking “What would people say if I posted that?” I worried over reactions and conversations that would have to be had if I wrote this post. Earlier this week it again came to the forefront of my mind when I was sitting with a coworker waiting for our to-go order as the news broke about Kate Spade’s suicide. Then this morning as news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke.

For a large chunk of my 20s I struggled with recognizing I was unwell. I allowed my mental wellness to become so toxic and unhealthy because I thought it was natural. I thought it would just be present with me and frankly, it sunk me into a depression I hid very well. 99.5% of the people who know me do not know that I gave serious thought to suicide. That I lived in a very dark place for a very long time. When you are struggling mentally, you find ways to hide it from those closest to you. Even now, my family wasn’t aware until they read this. I have confided in two or three people about this outside of a counselor up until now. I sought out help because I knew there was a path I was on that would lead me eventually to my death if I didn’t.

In our culture, and especially in the Christian culture, mental illness and suicide aren’t spoken about regularly or even comfortably. It has a shame shield wrapped around it, furthering the illness and deepening the depths of darkness one can find themselves in. Even telling someone you are seeing a therapist or counselor is met with  embarrassment for many. Over the years I have walked the line of shame in seeking help rather than live in the depression that would kill me. It took me voicing my fears of shame and embarrassment to my counselor about even sitting there to hear the truth we all need.

It is okay to seek help when you aren’t okay. It is not okay to stay in the realm of fear.

We go to annual checkups with our doctors, we don’t dare skip our annual exam at the gyno (even though we dread it ladies), and we ensure if we need new glasses or contacts we are beating down the door to our optometrist. When we have an unknown rash or a blood test comes wonky, we go in for more testing, for follow ups, for consultations. We will seek out everything that can help us, except when it comes to our brains. We won’t ask for prayer on it, we won’t share about our struggles with our closest confidantes because fear has told us that it’s not okay to be not okay.

If you are struggling in the depths, know you are not alone. No matter what fear is telling you, it’s a lie. A downright ugly lie meant to steal and destroy you. I beg you to not let it. Reach out, confide in one person. It’s scary and unknown, but it sure beats the alternative. There is no shame in calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or looking for a counselor. If you are a believer, ask a pastor for a reference or who they have on staff as a counselor. I went online-as it can be both good and bad-and sought out a counselor in my area that was also thankfully on my insurance at the time. But there are low-cost options I promise you that are good and beneficial.

Some days I still wrestle with mental wellness, and those are days I find myself pulling out the notes from my sessions, quieting the chaos that wants to drag me under, and confiding in someone. Speaking directly at the lie of fear and saying “Not today.” But it is difficult to know this battle will wage on continuously. That I won’t find a cure for the struggles I have mentally on this side of life. But there’s a hope I can rest in, to know that the lies and the shame and the fears aren’t mine to battle and win. They were long ago put to death by the hope of my salvation, Christ Himself. Some days I forget that, when the struggle seems suffocating and burdensome, when it is within an inch or a minute of swallowing me whole. Some days it takes speaking my fear out to another person, to a counselor, to hear myself voice what is locked within me to see there’s someone to listen, to not judge but to be present and realize I am not alone in it. That it is a lie. And to ultimately be the truth of my life, to speak His Truth that I am valued, loved and never, ever alone.

If you haven’t struggled with mental illness, I am sure you are a friend or family member, coworker or pastor to someone who is currently living in mental unwellness. Be the one to ask “are you okay?” Be the one to simply offer to sit and listen. Be the one to not let them be alone in it. Just be with them.


Recently I have heard this song played more and more on the radio and it’s meant so much to me even this week as the fears and lies creep in when you see people defined as successful and “having it all” are committing suicide. Maybe you need to hear it, sing it, believe it for yourself today.

The Golden Globes Speech

Y’all know I love some awards shows. I truly believe the tide of conversation is changing our landscape as we see the revolution of “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” on the forefront of Hollywood. Probably the most profound words I have heard in regards to the change of culture in our country were uttered during last night’s 75th annual Golden Globe Awards.

It held a different feel last night than the pomp and comedic nature it normally has, and for that I respect the presenters, attendees and winners/losers for that. You can change the conversation when it hits deep and it matters. So on this Monday, I wanted to share Oprah Winfrey’s words from her acceptance of the Cecil B. Demille Award for lifetime achievement-the first African-American woman to receive this award.

You can read her entire speech here from CNN. It truly is a new day.

Getting Ma’amed

It was bound to happen. At the ripe (and I do mean ripe y’all) age of 36 I got a ma’am from a guy that looked to be about 35 and a half.

EYE ROLL

I was leaving the gym one night and he was parked next to me, had his big ol’ truck’s door flung all the way open and was doing his post-workout “let me situate all my stuff” in his truck. I stood to the side and he looked up and said “Oh sorry about that ma’am” and let me through to get into my car.

not-maam

Let me be clear, I have been ma’amed before. Mostly by kiddos or college students. To be honest I hadn’t really taken offense to any of it because we’re in the South, it’s part of our learning. You ma’am and sir everyone who is in a semblance of authority or out of respect. But this one y’all, this guy got me. It’s been several weeks and I still am thinking on it.

Here’s why…

Because I haven’t really thought what a specific age would be like for me personally. I honestly was never one to say “by 40 I’ll have a husband, a cute refurbed ranch house and two very stubborn children who both take after their father. Oh and that dog I have always dreamed of.” It just wasn’t me, and it still isn’t. Maybe that’s a good thing, but part of me started thinking after I heard the word ma’am come out of this stranger’s mouth that it wasn’t.

I get he was being respectful but it’s opened up a huge thought train in my mind of future planning and where I often tend to cut ties with life on. Yes I have a 401(k) and have a mortgage, so obviously I plan for some future. But I have over the years never really drawn out much beyond the present state of affairs for my life. I jokingly, when asked by friends or family, point to Scripture in my obvious state of holiness saying “Only a fool makes plans and tells them to God.”

But there’s something to be said for pushing towards a future because when I dig into this deeper I find that I don’t think I am truly capable of one. I worry that setting some sort of goal (like writing a book) without putting a marker or date on it, will mean that I will get around to it eventually but have no means for monumental let down if I don’t. That by not putting any investment into some future plans, some hallmarks or goals, I am essentially setting myself up for mediocre living and underperforming to the potential God knows I have.

Am I the only one that does this? That sits in a consistent 45 mph drive and allows life to continue on without looking at where the GPS could take me if I pushed the pedal down or put my hands to the wheel? For me it took hearing a guy call me ma’am to jar me into this space of future, of seeing where life was letting me coast on cruise and where I was allowing myself to sit unchallenged and undefined, sifting through presentness without much concern for future. I am often here for the present making sure I am all the way into it but allowing the future to just come as it may, but now I am finding at this ripe age of 36 that future Sara would like some say in what present Sara is spending her time in, what she isn’t setting aside time to do, and where her goals are being set.

Have you ever had a ma’am moment that shocked you into seeing something about yourself you hadn’t realized was a problem? Where is it you need to set a focus or goal on in the future for yourself?

The Single Writer Rant

Can I tell y’all something? I get a bit agitated when I read Christian single columns or books on dating. That’s my thing right? Like that is exactly what I’m working on a book proposal for, and I hate reading on the subject?

Yes, yes I do.

Here’s the reason why it bothers me so much.

Because at *almost* 36 years of age, I have a very hard time finding a substantive book on dating/Christian singleness that isn’t fluffy junk or preparation for marriage only written by another single Christian. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff out there and I am a big fan of several authors on the matter. The problem lies in when I scroll to their bio (on internet articles) or flip the back cover open. Every single one of them says “married to…” or “wife of…”

Yes I want their expertise and knowledge on this stage of life…but what if this stage is ultimately my landing spot? I want to know how to live in this place of life from someone whose navigating it themselves as a single. My ultimate goal in life isn’t marriage, and most days I don’t think about it. There are days I long for it, and pray about it, and my future husband, yes. (Y’all he needs your prayers, cause I’m obviously quite a handful) My ultimate goal in life is to live in obedience to God, moving ever closer to Christ and who He would have me be.

And so I bring my rant to you the church, to the fellow writers and singletons in the church…let’s step into our lives fully, and talk about them. Let’s be honest enough with ourselves and with our people to learn and grow from one another. I wouldn’t let a fresh out of college kid tell me about the navigation of retirement, so why sit back and let marrieds tell us about our single life? I bring it to the publishers, the editors, the curriculum people…singles in the church and out of the church need their voice in print, in studies, in in-depth richness that pursues more than a marital outcome, but a life shaped and molded for Christ’s use.

Redeeming the Past

Do you ever wish you could go back and fix something with the knowledge you have now? I bet something popped to mind didn’t it? Some decision (or lack thereof) that was made on your part that took you off into one direction that you ended up regretting, apologizing for, and paying the consequences on for far longer. Maybe you even have more than one…

Recently I had a realization that I had been working towards my own redemption in a way. That I was pursuing something far out of where God wanted me to be solely as a means of redeeming my past, as someone who was let go from their job. It really took a rattling moment of clarity to see that I had been pushing at something so very hard that I knew was not meant for me any more. I was attempting to prove I was in fact worthy, true, a hardworker, diligent in my responsibilities and of value.

For almost two years I have been trying to redeem my past in my career-one that I am finally accepting was not for the long-term but rather for a season of life. It was what God was using to further my growth and development and to use in His grand story, not my own. Over and over again though I kept feeling the pull of lies that I had something to prove, that I had value to earn and worth to contribute. I wanted to be the one to fix it, it was my reputation and name that had been marred. It was my heart that was hurt and wounded, that I needed to put back into place to mend.

I didn’t really say all those things, but my actions sure did lay it out before me and before God. I kept saying I had chosen to move on from that career path, and yet there I was once again interviewing, applying, seeking out redemption by my own definition and in my own power. Y’all you may not even realize you are in it too, but it happens. When we go about attempting to redeem ourselves, our stories, our pasts we tell God we don’t trust Him with any of our life. We don’t believe He’s capable of redemption even in our past, let alone our current state or our future.

If we are His children, then we are redeemed. All of it. Every last bit of us is redeemed, even that ugly part we hate to acknowledge or that moment we look back to with such regret and heartache, He has redeemed it. He has forgiven us when we bring it to Him, and He uses it mightily. Y’all, He wants us to stop striving to work out way into worth and value, to stop pursuing redemption on our own. He got this along time ago and we cannot stop forgetting that truth. We choose the lie that our value depends on us, instead of what He has told us about ourselves and about Him. We deceive ourselves that we are actually god and that we can redeem any bit of ourselves on our own.

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. 

Colossians 1 reminds us that we already have redemption, and it’s not in ourselves but in Him. It always has been and it always will be. It’s not defined by our actions or striving, so why do we try? Why do we pursue these attempts instead of reveling in His awesome ability to redeem us and our pasts to be used for His work…which is so much better than my measly workings in my own vain attempts. He came after us in the darkness of our prideful striving to move us into fellowship with Him. We are of value, we have worth. We just forget that every bit of that is found in trusting Him.

It doesn’t come from us, and it never will. But in faith and trusting Him we find that redemption is given freely, always there and ever working for our good and His glory. So I can stop trying to make a name for myself because I already have one, His.

 

 

 

Regret of Indulgence

Today’s my half birthday. It’s not a thing, but it is a thing. Understand? When you have a summer birthday, and love winter, you tend to find an excuse to celebrate…especially at the end of January. January 24th rolls around and I try to do one little thing as a “you’ve made it halfway through another year puddin’.”

t-mcdonalds-sausage-biscuit-regular-size-biscuitFor days all I could think of was a hashbrown and sausage biscuit from McDonald’s. Refined pallet right? But y’all, it’s my comfort food….and I try to only do it once in a while. So this morning I told myself I could get it, and it was the most glorious of both….fresh and hot. Perfection in $2.19.

Then came the regret. Not that it was over, but that I’d indulged in that way. You know what I am talking about….the greasy aftertaste that fills your mouth, the lead in your stomach from the digestion beginning. Maybe it’s just me and not having had fast food in a while, but y’all, there was some regret.

It happens in all kinds of situations. We indulge as a reward for a job well done, a good season of life, some sort of accomplishment as a means of saying “Yeah I did!” and then follows regret because you gave in, or you realize that it wasn’t what you needed. We give in to our whim of a new job in a new place because we’ve lived through the hardness of a current situation. But we get on down the road and realize we’ve just run from addressing the bigger issue the indulgence masked, or we continue to feed the indulgence instead of the issue at hand.

Yes, it’s good to reward and honor accomplishments, I am not saying we shouldn’t. But when we have that pang of regret it’s best to dig into it rather than continue to brush it aside and continue on. Regret reveals a deeper nudge, a yellow warning light that cautions us to check on the maintenance of the situation or the feeling instead of feeding it’s urge.

Maybe then you won’t be left with a sick feeling in your stomach and the greasy remnants of your indulgence…