It’s Okay Not to be Okay


This book hit me kind of hard.  There were many, many nuggets of wisdom throughout.  Written by Sheila Walsh, this is an author who can drive very important points home in a way that sinks in, but does so without alienating the reader and making you feel judged or condemned.

Taglined “Moving forward one day at a time” this book was full of wisdom and tips to lean into our hard parts in life and really embrace who we are in God.

We’ve all experienced that moment where we wish we could start all over again. Failed marriages, lost friends, addictions, lost jobs. This is not the life we imagined. Yesterday can sometimes leave us stuck, sad, shamed, scared, and searching. Sheila Walsh encourages readers to face the pain head on and then start again, from right where they are. She shares that when she discovered “I’m not good enough and I’m good with that,” everything started to change.

In It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, Walsh helps women overcome the same old rut of struggles and pain by changing the way they think about God, themselves, and their everyday lives. She shares practical, doable, daily strategies that will help women move forward one step at a time knowing God will never let them down.

There are many quotable parts of this book, and I wish I could share them all with you, but that wouldn’t be fair to Sheila Walsh because she’d have written a book that no one who read my review will buy, haha.

 

But here are a few:

“Think about it for a moment. How many times do you feel like you’re not enough?  It makes me wonder were we got the idea of what “enough” is.” (p. 22)

“It’s okay not to be okay because we’re not home yet.
It’s okay not to be enough because God doesn’t ask us to be.” (p. 24 — whoa…. this is a point that was hammered home throughout the book and it has the potential to be SO freeing!)

“It might feel more ‘Christian’ not to bring our anger, pain, or disappointment to God, but I believe it’s actually the antithesis of a real relationship with Christ.  We become a little less authentic with every experience we bury.” (p. 40)

“We’re not perfect, but we are redeemed, so give yourself a break.” (p. 70)

 

I won’t quote any more, because most of the profound wisdom I have underlined and have drawn arrows to in the book are more powerful when kept in context of the stories Walsh uses to illustrate her points.

Filled with scriptures, this book will settle into your hurt places, and, if you let it, it might convince you to open yourself up to the idea that it’s ok not to be ok, and we were never meant to be enough.

I encourage you to check this book out.  It wiggled its way right into the core of me and whispered soft, comforting words to a heart that needed to hear them.

(As an aside, I read this book a little differently than I’ve read others.  I have a long commute and a subscription to unlimited audio books, so I listened to it while driving, but then to really sink in the points, every day when I got home I read through the chapters I’d listened to that day and underlined everything that stuck out.  So essentially, I read the book twice.  I actually really enjoyed doing it this way because listening to Sheila read this book was like having a deep conversation with a good friend.  Plus, her Scottish accent is great fun to listen to!)

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Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

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Battle Ready


Train your mind to conquer challenges, defeat doubt, and live victoriously.

That’s the tagline for this book by Kelly Balarie.

I loved reading this book.  It’s so practical and gives a wonderful toolbox to help when your mind gets crowded with doubt and fear.

Too often we fail to prepare for our battles. So when challenges, troubles, or opportunities arise, we rapidly become burdened with limiting thoughts of self-doubt, fear, impossibility, and lack. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can train our minds to conquer uncertainty, beat insecurity, and step past the tragedies of yesterday.

Battle Ready is a hands-on scriptural plan that teaches you twelve easy-to-implement, confidence-building mind-sets designed to transform your thoughts and, therefore, your life. You’ll gain practical wisdom, like how to

· make new habits stick in just five steps
· disarm the seven most common attacks that plague women
· exchange self-limiting thoughts for purpose-driven, love-releasing thoughts
· implement thirty-second mind-lifters that deliver peace
· create boundaries so you live life full of what matters

You can live victoriously.

And when a couple of authors that I’ll read again and again have good things to say about a book printed right on the back cover, you know it’s one you need to pick up.

“The most difficult fights we will face in this life will be within our own hearts and minds. Battle Ready will help encourage, empower, and equip you to live in true victory.”–Holley Gerth, bestselling author of Fiercehearted

“The best time to be strengthened against the Enemy’s tactics of doubt, disappointment, and devastation is before he makes his first move toward us. We all desperately need the biblical guidance and preparation found in Battle Ready!”–Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

What I loved most about this book was its practicality.  It’s not just a bunch of words aimed at you, telling you what to do.  It’s a guide that walks you through questions, plans, and reflections to help you decide how you’re going to reorient your mind.  Balarie compares our minds to a Smart Phone, talking about how we can use it to its full potential or we can let it use us, essentially.  What’s surprising about this book, though, is that although it’s powerful and deep, it’s a well-written and accessible approach to becoming battle ready.  Usually, books that tackle these heavy topics are as equally heavy as their topic, but that is not so with this book.  Kelly Balarie manages to pack powerful, practical, important advice and learning into a light, easy read, and I really appreciate that.

I highly encourage this book.  And I highly encourage you to take the time to really reflect on what you’re learning and to fill in the various places Kelly gives you to write, or think, or stop to pray.  Doing the work will help solidify the principles you’ll learn as you read.  There are also questions for group discussion at the end of each chapter so that if you’re like me, and you’re tempted to gather a few friends to read through this together and really dig in, the work is done for you without having to buy a separate study guide.  I really appreciate that, as well.

Another thing I loved was the idea of sowing and reaping.  I’ve never thought of this concept in quite such a way as the way Kelly lays it out in this book.  The thoughts we sow reap varying outcomes.  We can train our thoughts, and therefore we can impact the outcomes of our thoughts.  Isn’t this a cool idea?  We can be freer from our inner critics and our comparisons and judgments of ourselves and others.

I particularly enjoyed the way this was framed.  This isn’t a “must-do” step-by-step process, but rather we’re offered 12 “Warrior Mindsets” to help shift the way we think so that we’re ready for anything.  I love the idea of being a warrior in the fight against the enemy that can and does wiggle into my brain.  I’m very thankful for this book.

Also check out www.iambattleready.com for even more resources to accompany this book!

Check it out here, on Amazon.ca.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Fake Or Follower: Refusing to Settle for a Shallow Faith


I was asked to be a part of the Canadian Launch Team for this book, Fake or Follower, by Andi Andrew.  The description of the book sounded like exactly what’s been on my heart for my own walk with Jesus in the last little while.  Discipleship.  My church has been placing a pretty big focus on it as well — how do we walk with Jesus?  And so it’s been settling into some long-ignored places, and I like it.  Naturally then, when the chance to help get this book off its feet came into my inbox, I jumped at it.

There was a lot that I really liked about this book.  And I think it’s safe to say that anything I didn’t like was a reaction to my being deeply convicted about the words that Andi Andrew laid out on the pages.

Through this book you’ll walk through thoughts on being consumer Christians, on church hopping, on living as part of the culture around us in a way that no one would recognize that we’re different except for the occasional Sunday morning appearance inside a church.  You’ll read about community — how essential it is to a healthy Christian life, what that looks like, and what it doesn’t.  Learn and dig into where your identity is based.  Do you reflect Jesus?  This section was very challenging for me.

We love because we were loved first.  And love is more than a feeling.  I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, but it sunk in for me in a bit of a different way this time around.  What I really liked about this chapter though was the reminder that love raises the standard by which we live our lives.  Being loved doesn’t mean I have license to sin because I have grace.  This is by far the biggest argument against grace I hear from people struggling to wrap their heads and hearts and minds around the grace and goodness of God and Jesus.  “But doesn’t that mean you can just do what you want?”  No, because I’m loved in a way that makes that makes me not want to go back to what I’ve been saved from.  Andi Andrew has just given me words for an age-old question.

I was both challenged and encouraged by this book, often at exactly the same time.  Andrew uses humour and straight to the punch truth to get her point across in a way that I could really appreciate.  I highly recommend this book.  I also recommend that you take the time to dig into the reflection questions at the end of each chapter.  I’m often of the mindset that I want to “finish the book as quickly as I can,” usually because I’m pushing a review deadline, but you’ll learn about yourself as you dig into the questions.

I’m glad to know who Andi Andrew is now, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of this launch team.  The book came out October 2nd, so you can now buy it in lots of places that books are sold!  My preference is, of course, Amazon, but check your favourite book retailer to get your own copy.

 

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Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

I Will Not Fear


Fear has been a topic that’s been following me around lately.

We’ve done sermons on it at church.
I’ve read a book about it (Fierce Faith by Alli Worthington ~ fantastic book!).
I’ve had conversations with friends about it because lately it seems my life is a wee bit characterized by it.

I was given the opportunity to read and review a book called “I Will Not Fear” ~ A book written by a lady named Melba Patillo Beals.  She was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I can’t imagine what life would have been like — to have felt so unwanted, so other, so less than… and such fear!  I have studied American history, and I am aware of the records of what it was like in the 50s and 60s, leading to the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve read of the Klan, of the death threats….. but what I hadn’t read, until now, was someone’s first hand account.

This book will grab you and make you hold on tight.  The story this woman tells of how she was a “first” at so many things in her life — trying to integrate into a society that thought segregation was the only way to live, going to university, going to grad school, being a single mom, getting jobs where she felt “other” not only because of her skin colour but also because of her gender — it’ll grip you.

I know I’ve experienced a great deal of fear in my life, but as I read this I realized I’ve really had very little to actually be afraid of.  That’s not the point of the book, however, because Melba offers the wisdom she learned from her Grandmother throughout, and with every story of some sort of atrocious experience that would surely knock my foundation down at the knees, she tells of how she trusted God, trusted Jesus, and lived as though the protection of God were real (and it is)!

One of my favourite parts of the book, and what I found most encouraging, were the little nuggets of summary that she included at the end of each chapter.  My story may not resemble that of Melba Patillo Beals’ in any way.  I’ll never know what it’s like to live her story.  But I do know what it’s like to live mine, and fear has no place here either.  I can take just as much encouragement from her words, and from how she did not bow to fear, as anyone else can.

“… no matter what threatening evidence appears to be true, we need not fear because God is always beside us.” (p. 165)

“As complex and dangerous as a predicament may be, God is as close as our skin.  Although peril feels like forever, God is here now.  He will guide us through the jungle of fear, if we only listen and obey.” (p. 189)

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not long, only 200 pages, so it’s a short read.  And it’s written in a way that leaves you wanting to hear more of Melba’s story, to know that it comes to a happy ending just like we always wish.  Melba Patillo Beals is a remarkable woman of faith, and we would all do well to stand in the face of adversity and fear like she did and declare “not today.”

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Free of Me


It’s not about you.

And how often do I make EVERYTHING about me?

“What about me?”  “Why didn’t I get…?” “Do they not like me?”  “Are they talking about me?”

So much of our insecurity is rooted in self-focus, in holding a mirror up to ourselves and trying to measure our circumstances around us in that light.

But what if it weren’t about you….

This book is about so much more than insecurity, though for me, that’s a big takeaway.  The idea that so much of my own insecurity could evaporate by focusing on God, and God’s plan in any given situation, is both comforting and incredibly challenging all at once.  I haven’t fully digested it yet, as I just finished the book, however, I’m sure there’s life application in it somewhere!

Sharon Hodde Miller talks about seven mirrors we use to reflect our lives, when we shouldn’t be using mirrors at all.  I promise the analogy will make piles of sense if you read the book for yourself, and for now you’ll just have to trust me.  But I was convicted and challenged about making church about me, making my friendships about me, making my appearance about me… and more.

Culminating in how loving God sets us free, and why we were designed to love and serve others… this book was so refreshing.

It’s no wonder Ann Voskamp has said that this book “may be one of the most important truths of our time.” (according to the front cover of the book… I don’t know Ann personally, though I wish I did, and I don’t think we live too terribly far from each other……. but I am not a stalker lol.)

I digress.  A lot, actually…. back on track here.

Our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives–our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith–and it negatively impacts each one. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we get stuck in insecurity.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. Drawing from personal experience and Scriptural insight, Sharon helps readers

· understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
· learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
· experience freedom from the burden of self-focus

If you’ve been yearning for more than a self-help faith, then this paradigm-shifting message of true fulfillment is for you.

 

What others say about Free of Me:

“One of the best things for a healthy marriage, workplace, parent situation, or any calling is to realize the world is not orbiting around our axis. True joy is found when we realize there is a bigger story to tell. In Free of Me, Sharon paints this picture more beautifully than anyone I know.”–Jefferson Bethke, author of Love That Lasts

“Sharon spotlights the crippling disease of self-focus and shows us how to break free from its entanglements. If you want to walk in God’s life-giving truth, this book will help you do just that!”–Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In a culture captivated by self, this book is a must-read.”–Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

Sources:  All quotes came from the covers of the book.

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

free of me

Where We Belong


Oh my stars, this book.  This beautiful, wonderful book.  Historical fiction is my jam to begin with, so I knew I was going to like this book.  But I didn’t know I was going to adore and devour this book.

Where We Belong is the story of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora Hawes, who do not fit the mold of the 1890s Victorian era society they were born into in Chicago.  They’re well-read, they’re intelligent, and they’re adventurous; and they’re determined to find what God’s purpose for their lives might be.

The story, crafted wonderfully by Lynn Austin, details so much of the adventure, in pieces woven expertly together.  Just when you feel like you need more information in order to understand what’s about to happen, Austin goes back and delivers exactly the information you need to continue.  The story criss-crosses through the lives of the sisters, plus their butler, Soren, and their ladies’ maid, Kate, as the crew travels across the Sinai Desert to find a rumoured ancient biblical manuscript.

I can’t give you more information than that, but I can tell you that at times I was so enthralled by this book that I couldn’t imagine having done anything but read.  It’s a good thing it’s Christmas break, because I spent the majority of my last 3 days (including being up WAY too late last night finishing) reading it.  I related so deeply to the characters, especially to Rebecca, that I couldn’t stop.  If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a book hangover now that it’s finished and I blasted through 470 pages so quickly.  I’ve taken a break for most of today, though I may start the next adventure tonight.  Time will tell.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, though there was an element of that woven throughout the characters’ stories… but I appreciated the lack of romance in this one.  I really wanted the adventure and the history, and I sure got both.

This is my first Lynn Austin book, but if the rest of her historical fiction is as delightful as this was, I’ll certainly be back.

I was even more surprised and delighted to find that the story, while truly a work of fiction, is based on the lives of two real-life sisters.  I won’t give you any more detail than that, because to do so would give away important plot points, and I know you don’t want me to do that.  But I promise, when you get to the end of the book, you’ll want to read the very last page at the back that gives you the details of the real-life sisters that Lynn Austin based her work of fiction around.

“Join two incomparable sisters on adventures that span the decades and cross the globe.”

where we belong

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Here I Raise My Ebenezer


What do you think of when you hear the word Ebenezer?  Scrooge?  Charles Dickens?  Yeah, me too.  A miserable, grouchy old man who won’t be charitable for anything…. until the end of the story, of course, but the image sticks.

But in the last few weeks, it’s been popping up  around me, and none of those times were in the context of A Christmas Carol.  When that happens, I tend to listen, because I tend to wonder if maybe somebody somewhere might be trying to teach me something.

The first place I heard it was at work, of all places.  I teach English as a Second Language, and my case load is populated mostly by low German speaking Mennonite students.  Because of the prevalence of these students in one of my schools, the Christmas program is still pretty much the way I remember Christmas programs being when I was in elementary schools — about Christmas.  Now, don’t misunderstand me — I work in public schools, and I’m not about to go preaching that Christ is being ripped out of Christmas just because public schools don’t typically sing songs about Jesus at Christmas pageants anymore.  But at this school, because of the climate of the school, the kids do — because it’s what mostly everyone thinks and believes.  One of the classes I’m working in is singing an old hymn in low German at the Christmas concert.  I recognized it to hear them practicing, but because they’re singing in German (which to my dismay I do not speak), I couldn’t place it.  Thankfully, one of the boys was familiar with its English counterpart and was able to tell me that it’s “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which has this as one of the verses:

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

First thought:  What does Ebenezer mean??  Being a person who loves words, I wouldn’t let that one go.  And even if I’d been tempted, the word kept coming back up anyway.

P.S. Fifteen middle schoolers singing Come Thou Fount in their first language?  Yeah, try not to choke up while they practice…. just try.

It came back again while listening to an Audio Book.  The thing with these schools is that they’re not really close at all to where I live in the city.  They’re quite rural, and they’re about an hour away from my house.  That means I spend two hours a day most days in my car.  That means I plow through Audio Books like nobody’s business.  Thank you, Audible!  So I was listening to Lara Casey’s “Cultivate What Matters” ahead of my PowerSheets prep for 2018 (this whole sentence will get a whole other post at the end of December…. wait for it……) and it came up again.  Lara Casey started talking about Ebenezer, and then she even sang that verse of Come Thou Fount in the audio book!  I just love it when audio books are read by their authors.  That brought the word slamming back to the forefront of my memory.  And if that didn’t solidify the need to look it up and figure this out, didn’t I drive past a church called Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church on my way to a Christmas party that night?

OK, I get it.  I have something to learn here.

If you read 1 Samuel 7, you read the story of the Israelites going out to do battle against the Phillistines while Samuel was making a burnt offering.  God sent them supernatural help — verses 10-12 say:

10 Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. 11 The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

12 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah.[a] He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

Now, I’m not into slaughtering people, and I definitely believe that Jesus came in part so that we no longer need to do physical battle against each other.  That said, it’s pretty clear that God helped Israel here, and the Israelites can see that.  Samuel named a stone “The Stone of Help” for a reason.

Lara Casey writes a book using the metaphor of gardening to help us cultivate what matters into our lives (again, more at the end of December), and in it she encourages readers to find a stone, and literally put it into your garden or somewhere in your home as an Ebenezer.  A stone of help.  A reminder that the Lord is a helper to us.  A visual reminder that God is good.

The Lord is my helper.  The Lord is my Ebenezer.  Now I need to go find an actual, physical stone to put somewhere in my house to remind myself of this when the big feelings roll in.

Ebenezer means “stone of help.” From then on, every time an Israelite saw the stone erected by Samuel, he would have a tangible reminder of the Lord’s power and protection. The “stone of help” marked the spot where the enemy had been routed and God’s promise to bless His repentant people had been honored. The Lord had helped them, all the way to Ebenezer.

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The Case for Christ | A Movie Review


Movies based on books.  Some of us love it, some of us hate it.  I, personally, have rarely read the book when they get turned into movies, so I’m fine with it.

The Case for Christ is another such example.  When I first became aware of the book, it sounded interesting enough, but I was already firmly a believer in Jesus based on what I’d learned growing up, and as a teenager I felt I had no need to read it…. because there were other things taking up my time.

Fast forward 15-20 years (I can’t really wrap my head around that, gosh…), and here I am, sitting writing a review on the movie version of the book.  Like I said, I haven’t read the book.  But I know many people who have.  I know many people for whom the book was life-changing.  Either that book, or many of Lee Strobel’s other books… perhaps I should read them?

But I digress, I’m here to review the movie.

The quote Strobel makes right at the beginning of the movie really hit me — “The only way to truth is through facts.  Facts are our greatest weapon against superstition, against ignorance, and against tyranny.”  Now, I was aware of the book going into watching the movie, and I knew that the movie was about a journalist’s journey from atheist to believer, and so I saw the quote as fantastic foreshadowing on the part of the writers.

What I didn’t know was that the whole journey — the whole reason Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Jesus in the first place — was because his wife had become a Believer after a near-death experience with their daughter, and he thought she’d lost it.  Naturally, since facts and reason are so important, he thought he could reason her out of it.

I learned a lot in this movie — facts I didn’t know existed.  It was very well done, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s proof to me that even the most staunch of objectors can come to faith, and it really highlighted something I’ve believed for years — that it also takes faith to not believe.  If you can look at all the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, and still not believe that He is who He says He is, then that takes faith too — faith that despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise, this simply isn’t true.  Personally, I’d rather put my faith in Jesus.

I hope you’ve either had a chance to catch this movie in theatres, or that you’ll see it now that it’s been released on video.  No matter where you are in your journey, I believe there’s something in this movie for everyone.

Screener link was provided courtesy of Mongrel Media and Graf-Martin Communication, Inc.

All Saints | A Movie Review


You can watch the trailer for this movie at http://www.allsaintsmovie.com/.

All Saints is a faith-based film put out by Sony and Provident Films that looks at the inspiring true story of a salesman turned pastor named Michael Spurlock.  He’s assigned to a small church in Smyrna, Tennessee, that has a regular attendance of about a dozen people.  His goal?  To get the building ready to be sold.  The building sits on a prime piece of land that developers would love to get their hands on.

The problem?  When he gets there, he finds that a group of Burmese refugees, along with the dozen or so people already at the church, really need the church, and he struggles with the idea that he has to just shut it down and let it be sold.

If I’m honest (which I try to be…), I’ll admit that I don’t typically enjoy Christian movies.  I often find them pretty cheesy, and not relatable.  But this…. This was a great movie.  It struck a chord with me personally, having been involved in helping Syrian refugees on their arrival in my city, and being someone who believes that profit isn’t everything — especially when it comes to the welfare of fellow human beings.  I think the timing of this movie is poignant — it should be out in theatres in the next couple weeks.  With what’s going on in the news and the world around me lately, it was sure lovely to watch what faith, loving like Jesus, perseverance, persistence, and trust can accomplish.

Maybe I’m just hearkening back to my love of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I also really enjoy John Corbett as an actor, so when I saw that he had the lead role, I figured it couldn’t be that cheesy.  I was pleasantly surprised, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

To stay up to date about more Christian films, and when they’re arriving in Canada, check out faithfilms.ca

I was given a screener link to view this film courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. in exchange for my honest review.

On Anxiety, Jesus, and the space in between.


Recently, I’ve been struggling a little bit.  It’s been hard to talk about, and I’ve wanted to write about it, but I haven’t felt like I’ve had a lot of positive to say, and I didn’t want to sound like I was griping.  I finally have something positive to say, so here I am.

I also didn’t want to be offered dozens of potential solutions that I’d potentially already tried or that would just make things worse when I tried them and they didn’t work.  I’ve been navigating fairly well with the help of a trusted circle of very close peeps.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Here it goes.

Easter weekend, I did something stupid.  Me, hyper-sensitive to caffeine, whose reaction to it can be measured in the increase in words spoken per minute — I forgot to monitor my caffeine intake throughout the course of the day, and because it was a long weekend, I also didn’t think too much of consuming caffeine past my typical 3 pm cutoff.  It started the evening of Good Friday.  I had a Cherry Pepsi with dinner.  It took me a while to fall asleep, but I’d gotten home late anyway and I didn’t think much of it.  I went for lunch with a friend the next day, and had a great big glass of Dr. Pepper with lunch.  Later, (about 5 pm — I didn’t realize it’d gotten that late) we got iced capps through the Tim Horton’s drive thru.  THEN (because I’m an idiot), I forgot about the caffeine I’d consumed throughout the rest of the day, and I had another Cherry Pepsi with dinner on Saturday night, and dinner wasn’t until about 8 pm.

Well, shocking, I didn’t sleep that night.  At all.  Like I got up Easter Sunday morning and lead worship on precisely zero hours of sleep, and was so out of it that I could hardly put music stands together.  But what I discovered in the midst of the night of no sleep is that caffeine also sends my brain spinning down this spiraling tunnel of anxiety, and while I wasn’t sleeping at all, I was over-processing, hyper-analyzing, and pretty much freaking out.  If I could think about it, I was worrying about it.

Sunday night, I went to go to bed, and was fairly thoroughly convinced I was having a heart attack (turns out that’s pretty much what a panic attack feels like).  Long story short, I ended up in the hospital most of the night only to have a doctor tell me I needed to calm down and relax.

There’s been a lot going on, and I don’t need to get into all of it because that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that since all this has happened, I’ve found myself in a place where I have never relied so heavily on Jesus, even though prior to all of this I would have told you that I did, and now that it’s happening often, I’m able to see the differences that reliance, and that open line of communication makes in my life.  I’ve had a few really cool experiences in the past few weeks, and I firmly believe my deepening relationship with Jesus is the catalyst for that.

I’ve had to learn to pray my way through situations that make me feel like I want to panic.  I haven’t had any major panic issues since Easter, but some minor ones, and I’ve learned that when I lean into Jesus and claim the promises in scripture about fear and anxiety, I can come out the other side of my bouts of anxiety with confidence, knowing I’m never alone, I have not been abandoned in any way, and I am safe.

I’ve had to create a bed time routine.  If you know me personally, you know that I’m someone who likes to fall into bed exhausted, as late as possible while still being able to function, because my best thinking, my best work, and the most fun usually happens later.  I’m a textbook night owl, and having trouble sleeping rocked my foundation.  When you’re only used to getting 6-6.5 hours of sleep a night anyway, because you’ve narrowed down the bare minimum amount you need in order to function like a responsible grown-up on a consistent basis, I found that the second I would have trouble falling asleep, my brain would reel into panic again — because “if I can’t sleep, I can’t drive to work.  That’s not safe.” and other such things that I would tell myself at 3 am when I still wasn’t asleep.

My bed time routine involves writing out scriptures (the month of May was actually focused around anxiety and fear, and it was VERY helpful), journaling gratitude (I have a journal where I’m writing down all the things I’m thankful for from each day as I get ready to go to sleep — 1000 Gifts style, I suppose.), reading my devotional book (I do NOT give myself enough time for this in the morning), praying, and having a bubble bath while I read a theology book of some sort in the tub.  When I start to doze, and start not retaining what I’m reading, I know I’m ready to go to bed.  I then fall asleep fairly quickly, which has been awesome.

Sometimes, though, when I get to the time of night when I’m ready to start this process, I can feel my brain spinning and I know that if I don’t process what’s inside, I’ll have a hard night ahead.  I have a journal where sometimes I write letters to God, sometimes I just write what I’m thinking and process that way, and sometimes I just write out my prayers as if I were speaking them.

And here we are, at the reason I wanted to post today.

A couple of days ago I made it to my bedtime routine and I found just that — my brain was reeling and spinning, and I couldn’t quiet my thoughts down enough to even focus on the scriptures I was reading through and trying to absorb by writing out.  So I went back through my scripture journal, and I wrote a prayer to God claiming all of the truths I’d learned and internalized throughout May about anxiety and fear.  I know whose I am, so I don’t need to be afraid.  I know this deeply now, and it’s become a matter of making sure I remember it in my times of greatest need.

I wanted to share what I wrote down, in hopes that someone would need to read this and that it would be helpful.  When I wrote it, I didn’t include the scripture references to which I was referring, but I have here in case you want to go read the verses themselves to see what I based this on.

Lord, I surrender.  All my fears.  They’re nothing and useless when I hold them to the standard of your love, your care for me, and your grace.  Jesus, right now I honestly don’t even know why I’m feeling anxious and fearful, but I know it isn’t from you.  You don’t elicit fear.  Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I will fear no evil.  For my God is with me (song — You Never Let Go).  I have not been given a spirit of fear. The Lord is for me.  Who can be against me?

Father I cast all my cares on you.  I release their weight (Psalm 55:22).  I know your yoke is easy and your burden is light (Matthew 11:30).  I know you have not created me to live in this space of anxiety and fear.

I feel like I’m slipping, God, but I know I’m not, because you’re holding me and keeping me steady.  Please help me to trust my rational and logical thoughts. Your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer (Psalm 94:18-19).

When I lean on my own understanding, sometimes I panic and I don’t even know why!  I choose to trust in you (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 62:8).  You are good.  When there’s nothing good in me.  I’m running to your arms.

David prayed to you in his distress and you set him free. Lord, I am doing the same! You are for me, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me? Yes, you will help me.  You are for me (Psalm 118:5-7).  You work all things together for my good because I love you (Romans 8:28). I see this when I look back at my life’s circumstances and I trust that you stay the same through the ages (Psalm 30:4-5 — also the song Your Love Never Fails), and you will continue to work outside of time to hold my life together according to your plans.

You will never leave me. You will never forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6). You will never abandon me (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Father, I praise you for all these promises and truths, and I rejoice because I know I can trust them. Rest in them. Claim them. Live them (Psalm 56:1-4).

I am pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. I am never abandoned by you. I get knocked down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

My hope is in you! (Psalm 62:5).  You alone are my rock and salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:1-4).

I have all that I need in you. My rest comes from you. My peace comes from you. My strength comes from you. Even when I don’t think I can handle what comes at me, I don’t have to be afraid, because you’re right there with me. You protect and comfort me. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:1-6).

You are always ready to help in times of trouble! (Nahum 1:7, Psalm 46:1-3)

I want to live in the shelter of the Most High so I can find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. You alone are my refuge, my place of safety. You are my God, and I trust you.  You will cover me with your feathers and shelter me with your wings. Your faithful promises are my honour and my protection (Psalm 91:1-6).

You yourself will fight for me.  My job is to stay calm (Exodus 14:14). So I rest in you. I will find my strength in the shadow of your wings (song — My Hope is in You).

 

Anyway — it’s my hope and prayer that these verses find homes in the hearts of those who need to read them, like they have in mine the past couple of months.  In the five days since I wrote that prayer, I’ve reread it three times, and it washes me with peace every time I do.