EH COUNSELING

 You can accomplish your goals and live life emotionally healthy

Serving the States of South Carolina & New Jersey

MY BLOG

An ongoing series of INSPIRATIONAL entries

MY PROGRESS IS IN MY PRESS


Recently I have been discussing the importance of increasing personal activities, community involvement, social interactions, and overall engagement as part of mental and emotional health. However, these suggestions are easier said than done when dealing with depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and numerous other issues that we all encounter at some point in time or another. I began to think about how we can do things that benefit us when nothing in us is motivated to actually do it. How do I make progress when I don’t even feel like moving? The Lord led me to Philippians 3:14, which says ‘’I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,’’ and revealed to me that progress is made in the press. The dictionary defines press as ‘’to act upon with steadily applied weight or force; to move by weight or force in a certain direction or into a certain position. The scripture doesn’t say that I easily stroll toward the mark, it says I PRESS toward the mark. In Philippians it’s referencing our spiritual goal of pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God. In these human bodies, many times we are also pressing toward the mark of peace, joy, happiness, decreased depression, decreased anxiety, better self-esteem, increased positive support system, deliverance from addictions, and the list could go on and on. So, if those things are the mark, how do I make progress in achieving them, I PRESS! I put pressure on myself to move beyond lack of motivation toward the mark. I put pressure on my accountability partners to keep me accountable to reaching my goals. I put pressure on myself to push into bible study, prayer, praise, and worship. I put pressure on myself to be transparent with trustworthy people who can help me move toward my mark.


I’m reminded of getting my hair pressed as a child. It took work for my grandmother or hair stylist to press out this thick hair and make it straight. They literally put the comb IN THE FIRE and that initiated the press. Sometimes life has us in the fire but don’t give up and don’t give in. YOUR PROGRESS IS IN YOUR PRESS, SO PRESS ON!

UNDERSTOOD NEEDS


I recently spoke to a group of Godly women and shared my testimony of medical crisis, healing, and the lessons learned because of that experience. I shared that one of the primary lessons I learned was that God understands our need before we understand our need. In following up on the thoughts I shared, the Lord led me to the story of Lazarus in John 11. I thought about how his sisters, Mary and Martha, understood the need to be for Jesus to come heal Lazarus while he was sick, to prevent his death. Jesus understood the need to show the sisters and all those around them that He was the giver of life and has the power to resurrect from death. Verses 41-42 reads, “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” Verse 45 states that ‘’then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him.’’ Lazarus’ death was an opportunity for unbelievers to believe; and an opportunity for those who did believe in Him to see Him do the miraculous. His sisters and the people who watched him die thought the need went unmet; why, because they did not really understand the need.

Many times, our greatest need is for God to get the glory and to show us a part of His character that we may not have experienced before. If Jesus had met the sisters’ need in the way they wanted and when they wanted, the story of Lazarus would be a lot different; and not that we would not celebrate the fact that He showed His healing power but, in this situation, we would not be able to celebrate His resurrecting power. If He had healed and prevented death would the unbelieving Jews have been turned into believers? In His infinite wisdom God understood their need and He understands our needs. Many in the Kingdom who feel as though they are in dead situations look to the story of Lazarus to be reminded that our Savior has the power of resurrection with only His voice. Can you even imagine the power of the testimony of Lazarus, “I was dead, sleeping in my grave then Jesus came along and SPOKE, and death had to loosen me, the things that had me bound had to loosen me so that I could walk in freedom.” Thank God that He understands our need better than we understand our need, and that when He meets the need He gets the glory, and we have a testimony that we boldly share with others that reminds them of His character and His power to still do miracles, signs, and wonders. 


IT'S NOT WASTE, IT'S WORSHIP


Matthew 26: 6-13 tells the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with a very precious and expensive ointment from her alabaster box. When the disciples saw what she did they got very upset and commented about that she was wasting ointment that could have been used for other purposes. However, Jesus told them that what she had done was preparing Him for His burial and that it was of such vital importance to the story of Jesus on earth that everyone who hears the gospel will hear about this woman. There are messages that have been preached about her and songs that have been written about our need as believers to pour from our alabaster boxes.

What the disciples considered waste was her form of worship. I wonder what things we as believers do today that people would consider waste. In a society that focuses primarily on doing what makes you feel good, brings you more followers and likes, and makes you more money, the behaviors of a servant of Christ can appear very wasteful. My 10yo recently reported that kids in her class have teased her for going to church every Sunday. I know many adults feel the same way; yet they would stand in long lines to get into a stadium to cheer on their favorite sports team, because although you can watch the game on tv, there is something about being in the place, surrounded by others who love what you love. So it is with church, it’s not a waste of my time, it’s part of my worship. And not just church but anything that I do or anywhere that I go that provides an opportunity to serve others and pour into them what I have in my alabaster box is not waste, it’s worship and worship has great reward.

Each day we are given an opportunity to use our gifts, skills, and abilities to help others, to speak a word of encouragement or inspiration, to show kindness and compassion, to give instead of receive, to show love to the unlovable, and grant grace to the undeserving. All of these can be viewed as waste, but I challenge you to view them as a form of worship. Just as the woman in the scriptures, your worship will not go unnoticed to the King of Kings. No, it may not be written down for all eternity, but it can make a forever impact on the lives of individuals and the individuals that those individuals influence. Thank God for these golden opportunities to worship in a society that would call your service waste. 


VICTORY IS MINE


An excerpt from my book from Healing to Wholeness: “Despite what we may feel in the moment, all of us have past successes and accomplishments. For many people, their greatest accomplishment is survival; their ability to have survived the hell they have been through. Do not ever minimize your successes and accomplishments, including survival, as these are necessary steppingstones on your faith walk and life journey.’’ Let’s talk about this in more detail from the perspective of being Victorious.

I Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’’ Victory is defined as a success or triumph over an enemy in battle or war; a success or superior position achieved against any opponent, opposition, difficulty, etc. So, the word of God is giving me a sneak peek into the future outcomes of the battles I face in life, I WIN! There’s a victory with my name on it. As Christians we don’t believe in crystal balls and fortune telling, we believe in what thus saith the Lord. Some days life feels like a battle, the people who we thought were fighting with us seem to be fighting against us, and we feel like a target for the enemy. On these days encourage yourself in the fact that you can have the victory. You may be beat up and wounded after the battle, but you survived. As a survivalist you learn things to do differently in the next battle, you learn how to avoid some battles, you learn how to patch up those wounds and keep moving, you learn that God can keep you and protect you and that He is still writing your story.

When you don’t feel victorious lean into Jesus, the scripture tells us that the victory is found through him. He was victorious over the grave and came out of that battle with ALL power. Your wounded, He’s a healer; you feel unprotected, He’s a protector; you see no way out of the battle, He’s a way maker; you need a miracle to make it, He’s a miracle worker; you are consumed by worry about the battle, He’s the Prince of Peace; I could go on and on but from Genesis to Revelation you will find what you need to lean into Him. Don’t make the mistake of overly depending on people, yes God sends people to help us, but let’s not make people our god for they are imperfect, as we are, and they require strength to fight their own battles. Lean into Him who was, and is, and is to come. He who never runs low on strength. Lamentations 3:22,23 reminds us that “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great if thy faithfulness.’’ That’s why in the middle of life’s battles, physically, financially, mentally/emotionally, socially, we can declare THANKS BE TO GOD! Fight on Victorious one, FIGHT ON!


HOW’S YOUR VISION?


Last week I experienced a first, my first appointment with an optometrist, thus my first experience having my eyes dilated. Since I never had my eyes dilated before I wasn’t sure what to expect. The doctor put the drops in my eyes and said that while I was waiting, I could pick out my first pair of reading glasses (yes, my eyes are getting older). I tried on numerous pairs of glasses and when I picked the pair I liked I told the person helping me that I was going to take a selfie to capture the moment. Phone in hand, camera ready, selfie pose established, but guess what, I couldn’t see myself clearly, everything was blurry. I couldn’t see myself clearly enough to accomplish the goal I had; it was funny at the moment. The person assisting me commented that ‘’you won’t be able to see clearly because of what the doctor put in your eyes.” I began to think of this experience in terms of our self-esteem and self-image.

For many people you cannot see yourself clearly, your potential, your strengths, your gifts, talents, and abilities, not because you don’t have them but because someone (or many people) has dropped something not in your eyes but in your head. They have dropped drops of doubt, hate, resentment, stereotypes, judgements, negative talk, negative belief systems, hopelessness, and anger into your system to the point that you can’t see clearly. Not only is everything in your life seen through a blur and fog, but when you look in the mirror you see yourself through this same blur. When we don’t see clearly it impacts the steps we take, the direction we go in, and who we lean on for help. You can stay stuck in the same place longer than God intends because you can’t see where to go, which direction to take, and then fear sets in because if I walk when I can’t see clearly, I could fall, and a fall is seen as a failure which reinforces the poor self-esteem and self-image problems we started with in the first place. If I cannot see clearly then I may lean on whoever offers to help me, however, if my vision is blurry, I cannot see where they are leading and not everyone has our best interest at heart. I challenge you to take a mental/emotional and spiritual selfie. How’s your vision? How do you see yourself? How do you feel about yourself? Begin to challenge poor self-esteem, self-worth, self-doubt, and unbelief that you can accomplish your goals, love yourself, and be both mentally and spiritually well. Look at yourself and recite Psalms 139:14, ‘’I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.’’ Do not let what people drop into your head affect your sight too long, know who you are and whose you are. Love yourself and if that’s hard to do seek the help needed so you can see clearly.


GOD, WHERE ARE YOU?


I was in the supermarket today with my daughters and I was in one section, and they were dancing around in another section, and they yelled out, ‘’mommy where you at?’’ I said ‘’no, where are YOU at because I’m where I’m supposed to be and ya’ll are supposed to be following right beside me.” They thought that because I told them a few of the things on my grocery list, they knew exactly what section I was going to, but they didn’t know the order I was shopping in to get the groceries.


Hours later I thought about it, and it was like God was saying, ‘’that’s how ya’ll (my children) are. You get into situations and circumstances that lead you to yell out ’God, where you at?’, but just like with your own children, my response is where are YOU at?” God knows all, he is the creator of the list of His promises in our lives, He knows where everything is located, and even if He reveals some of it to you, don’t think you know His perfect order. That’s why you must follow Him. Just as I told my girls, ‘’if you stay next to me, you won’t ever have to ask where I’m at.’’ Even if you don’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, why I’m in the section I’m in, or going in the order I’m going, I know what I’m doing and that’s all that matters. So, let’s stick with God, follow his leading so our anxiety and impatience doesn’t have us dancing around in the wrong sections of life yelling, God, where you at?


INTENTIONAL


Instead of a resolution, I was asked to think of a word for the year and a scripture I connect with the word. I immediately thought of the word Intentional. The dictionary defines this word to mean, done with intention or on purpose; intended. I was led to Psalms 1:1,2 because the man that is described in the passage does things intentionally. Psalms 1:1,2- Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. He intentionally doesn’t surround himself with certain people and purposefully meditates on the law of the Lord. I thought to myself, this year I am going to try to be more intentional. I will intentionally read my bible more often, spend time in prayer, focus on self-care, seek to grow my business, seek to grow my knowledge and education, purposefully spend time with my family, focus on helping my daughters carry out the will of God for their young lives, and the list goes on. I don’t just want to set goals or resolutions and put very little effort into making them come into fruition, I want to be INTENTIONAL! Everyone can come up with their own intentions for the year based on their personal goals, visions, and dreams. I want to suggest four areas I encourage you to be intentional in this year. Certainly, this list is not exhaustive but is only a starting point.


1. Be intentional about your spiritual walk. In verse 3 it tells us, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.’’ What a great testimony of the spiritual benefits of this intentional lifestyle. Don’t say you want to get closer to God, or read your bible more, or pray more; BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT IT! Our families, our communities, our society, and our world need individuals who are intentional about their spiritual walk. People who will seek the face of God, who will intercede in prayer for those who are hurting, who will study the scriptures to rightly divide the word and speak truth, God’s truth, not man’s truth. Be intentional so you can reap great spiritual rewards.


2. Be intentional about your relationships and communications. Are your relationships healthy, are your boundaries healthy, who is in your circle, and are you able to freely communicate your thoughts, feelings, and opinions? As we are now entering another year of the pandemic, there should be spotlight on our relationships and sense of ‘’community.’’ We have been locked down in our homes, isolated to rooms in our homes, kept away from family and friends, and told to social distance from other human beings to be safe. How’s your relationship with those you have been locked down with and could it be better? When you cannot physically be around friends and support systems, are they still support systems? Do they still encourage you and lift you up even from a distance? This pandemic, as well as the atrocities we see on the news daily, teach us that life is short. Are you making the most out of life? Are you using your voice to make a difference? Are you standing up for yourself as part of your own self-care? Be intentional about having a healthy support system and using your voice for the good of not just yourself but others as well. You have something to share with someone else that may change their life. There are connections with others that you need to make that will change the trajectory of your life. Be intentional about having a healthy circle of relationships and healthy communications.


3. Be intentional about your personal goals and vision. Proverbs 29:18 says, “where there is no vision, the people perish…..’’ Not every perish is a physical perish; how about when your hope perishes, your joy perishes, your peace perishes, your faith perishes? What is your vision for this year, for your life? Of course, no one knows the future and things happen every day outside of our sphere of control but that doesn’t mean we don’t set goals and live life with a purpose. God has a plan for our lives, and we should strive to make our goals and vision match with God’s goals and visions for us. Goals give us something to strive for, to look forward to, to put our hope and faith in; goals and vision give us purpose. Be intentional about identifying and carrying out your purpose this year. And don’t compare your vision to anyone else’s vision because what God has for you is for you.


4. Last, but certainly not least, be intentional about your healing and wellness this year. Many are carrying around crosses they were supposed to have disposed of years ago; wounds that were supposed to be healed already, guilt that was supposed to be given over to God and left with Him, and the list goes on. Strive for healing and wellness this year in all areas of your life. As a therapist my focus is always on mental and emotional healing, but our lives are made up of various systems, including financial, spiritual, and physical, and we must strive to be well in all areas of our lives. We have talked about being intentional about your spiritual walk this year, but also be intentional about your budget this year. Be intentional about your health this year. So many are dealing with covid or the complications from having covid, in addition to other physical ailments, let’s strive for better health this year, including me. Be intentional about your budget this year. Unless someone has found the tree that money grows on, we need to be intentional with our finances to reach our financial goals and find wellness in this area. And be intentional about your mental and emotional health. Seek counseling if needed, reach out to a friend, join a support group; do whatever you can do to begin your healing journey and be mentally well. Research continues to show that during this pandemic depression and anxiety has risen, including in children; and with the number of deaths caused by the virus can you only imagine the grief that exists within society at this time. So many people are mentally struggling and emotionally unstable. Depression, anxiety, grief, stress, unforgiveness, addictions, self-hate, etc do not just disappear because we want them to, you must be intentional about addressing your mental needs because it is no less important than your other needs.


HOPE


If I could give one universal gift to everyone for Christmas it would be Hope. What an important time of the year to talk about hope. For some, when we think of this time of the year we think about warm, feel-good holiday movies, time with family, receiving gifts, celebrating the birth of our Savior, and anticipating a new year. But for some this is a time of intense grief, intense loneliness, feelings of regret about what was not accomplished this year, and recognition of lack.


Psalms 42:11 tells us to HOPE THOU IN GOD! How do you find hope in God? We find hope in the promises of God. His promises are found from Genesis to Revelation. One of the most powerful promises is found in Deuteronomy 31:8 when Moses encouraged Joshua by reminding him that the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us. That wasn’t just a message for Joshua. The promise that He would not leave the children of Israel is the same promise to you. When hope if lacking, look yourself in the mirror and say I AM NOT FORGOTTEN OR FORSAKEN. Will you immediately feel hope? probably not, you have to say it, think it, and read it until something in you begins to believe that it could be possible. Any goal that we have starts with a belief that it could be possible. If you apply to college with the goal of becoming a doctor, something in you believes it’s possible you can one day be a doctor and you take classes, read books, and do internships with that possibility in mind. Before we can restore hope, we must restore the idea of possibility. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If I’m not seeing it, I’m using my faith to believe it’s possible.


Start taking the impossibility out of your situations. The belief that it’s impossible for you to reach your goals, impossible to get out of debt, impossible to be content in life, impossible to have healthy relationships, impossible to have hope. Another promise addresses our impossible mindset. In Luke 18:27 Jesus says ‘’the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’’ That’s why we must first find our hope in Him and give Him our mindset of impossibility.


We find the promises of God by reading the Word of God, hearing the Word, and spending time with those who believe in the promises for themselves and want to share those promises with us. Of course, there are additional ways to gain hope, including therapy, support groups, a positive support system, opportunities to reach goals, inspirational books, articles, podcasts, and/or blogs, but these should be utilized in conjunction with and not at the exclusion of our primary source of hope, God.


Why even talk about hope? Is hope just another four-letter word? No, we talk about hope because the loss of it can be deadly. Suicide is real. Suicidal thoughts are real. The belief that life is not worth living is real and without encouraging hope, this belief permeates a person’s thoughts non-stop and can have deadly consequences. Death is the most permanent of consequences, but it is not the only consequence. Hopelessness can lead to addictions, the dissolution of relationships, mental breakdowns, and spiritual crises.


I am reminded of a preacher years ago who said that if Jesus wasn’t born, He couldn’t have died; and so, we have hope during this season because our impossibility was nailed to a cross one day and with his resurrection the impossible became possible.


What hopes need to be resurrected in your life? What promises do you need to grab hold of and never let go. This holiday season and the beginning of a new year is a great time to re-commit to hope. HOPE THOU IN GOD!


DO NOT REPOSITION, RISE UP


As is probably the case for millions of parents doing the morning routine during the school year, it is a struggle to get my child out of the bed to start getting ready for school. One morning when I had repeated “get out of the bed’’ for what seemed like the one millionth time, I noticed that her pattern was to tell me she was up and reposition under the covers. I guess she thought that if she simply moved to another spot on the bed that would satisfy the instruction to get up. I stood next to her bed and told her ‘’don’t reposition in the bed, GET UP!’’ (notice the exclamation point; as every parent can imagine my tone as I made this statement). Then it hit me, my own words came back to me as a teachable lesson; many times, that’s what we as adults do in life, we just reposition but we don’t get up. We recognize dysfunction in our lives, yet we just reposition. We realize we are not living up to our fullest potential, but instead of trying harder we just reposition. We are aware of our unhealthy relationships but instead of setting boundaries and having tough conversations to develop and maintain healthier relationships, we just reposition. We have visions of greatness for ourselves, but we let the fear override the courage and we just reposition. I needed my daughter to rise up and not reposition so that we could get to school on time; however, I encourage you to rise up and not reposition for your own mental/emotional stability and wellness.


We may not hide under the covers and move from one side of the bed to the other, but there are many ways in which we reposition instead of rising. Counseling teaches you about what are called Defense Mechanisms and Cognitive Distortions. I am not going to go into the history and detail of these, but I do want to point out three areas that I see individuals reposition: denial, distorted thinking, and poor boundaries. Without going into all the therapeutic language for each, I will keep it in the simplest of terms. Denial simply says there is no problem. It’s like when a child makes a mess and then tells you that nothing happened, ‘’there’s nothing to see here mommy.’’ We don’t search for solutions when we don’t have a problem. If someone walked up to you and said, “hey, what’s the answer?’’, your response would be “what’s the question?’’ So, denial keeps us repositioned in unhealthy patterns, thought processes, relationships, addictions, etc, because if I don’t have a problem, I don’t need a solution.


Next is distorted thought processes. Distorting thinking negatively impacts our perception and therefore our reality. Take the person with low self-esteem issues. If that person has been told through the years that they are worthless, have no purpose, won’t accomplish anything, or even worse statements that have been made to people sometimes starting at a very young age, the person eventually begins to believe these things about themselves, and it becomes their thought pattern about themselves. That thought pattern influences their perception of their abilities and of the world around them, and this becomes their reality. It’s time to think about what you’re thinking about. Do you have negative thought patterns? I know, I know you’re just a realist (sometimes referred to by the people around you as a pessimist). The fact is that we all have negative thoughts, but we don’t all have negative thought patterns all the time, there is a difference. Just like we all have sad days, but if every day is a sad day, that’s a problem that needs attention.


Finally, are poor boundaries. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says ‘’Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’’ Some of us don’t guard our heart, we don’t set boundaries for people, and they treat us however they want to, whether we like it our not. We get entangled in situations and circumstances we don’t want to be in and would not be in if we set better boundaries; and this is not only from a romantic point of view, but we have all types of relationships and interactions with people in which we must set boundaries to guard our heart. The other extreme is those people who guard their heart with a one-hundred-foot-high cement block fence with barbed wire at the top. They don’t trust anybody at anytime with anything. The problem is that when we go to this extreme to keep the bad people out, it can also keep the good people out and keep us emotionally and socially isolated because they see that we are so guarded they would rather not engage with us at all.


What are you repositioning in that you really need to rise from? I tell my daughter that getting up and going to school is for her benefit, to educate her and position her to accomplish anything that she sets her mind to, now and in her future. So, I encourage you to get up for your own benefit, to position yourself to accomplish anything you set your mind to, now and in the future.


DO NOT FOLD, FLAP THEN FLY


Recently I experienced self-doubt and the desire to give up on something I felt I was called to do. Have you ever made a decision and when things don’t seem to go as you had visualized in your mind you start to doubt yourself? You ask if you made the right decision? Do you have the right strategy to accomplish the goal you set forth? When we set goals for ourselves and we attach a timeframe to such goals, it can be psychologically devastating to reach the timeframe without reaching the goal. During my period of self-doubt and questioning I was reminded of my trip this summer to Hershey, PA. During one of our sight seeing adventures my family and I visited the butterfly atrium at the Hershey Gardens. My mind wandered back to walking through the atrium and seeing butterflies in all stages of life. Butterflies flying overhead, having to watch your every step because some butterflies were simply relaxing on the floor, some seemed to camouflage so well with nature that it was hard to tell if you were looking at a real butterfly. I remembered that some butterflies had their wings folded and they didn’t move at all, some were still but flapped their wings, and others flew all around. The memory of my trip to the butterfly atrium stirred up in me an encouragement that I tell myself almost daily now, DON’T FOLD, FLAP THEN FLY!


I use the analogy of the butterfly because it was the memory that came to my mind, but my focus is to encourage each person reading. I encourage you that in those moments of self-doubt, negative self-talk, and self-questioning about your decision-making abilities, do not to fold. When you’ve folded, you’re living but you’re not moving. You’re no longer setting goals, striving for better, interacting with the world around you, recognizing your accomplishments and strengths. You have folded to the point that people look, and wonder are you still in there. They wonder what ‘’happened to the old you?” They wonder if your isolation is a sign of deep reflection or deep depression. And you begin to ask yourself the same questions. Flap your wings, keep moving, keep striving, keep pressing. Many times, our strength is found while we are pressing; or better stated, we find our strength in the struggle. Have you ever done something because it needed be done, and afterwards you think to yourself, “I don’t know how I did that”? You flapped until you flew. And what a great experience to fly; to be who you are called to be, to accomplish the goals you set forth for yourself, to begin to stack up successes until it changes your outlook, and to be an example for others who find their strength in watching you fly. I end with Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV):

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”


When in doubt don’t fold, when confused don’t fold, when scared don’t fold, when life doesn’t go according to plan don’t fold, when expectations don’t match reality don’t fold. Flap the wings that have carried you this far. The wings that have lifted you through grief and heartbreak; through joy and contentment; through fear and courage; through successes and failures. Fly above the self-doubt and negative self-talk. Fly above indecisiveness and fear. Fly to the destination God has called you to and to the goals you have set for yourself.


Don’t fold, flap those wings then FLY!

MAINTAINING MENTAL WELLNESS IN A DIVIDED COUNTRY


No one can watch the news, read a newspaper, or browse the internet without becoming keenly aware of the fact that we live in a divided country. We are divided about things both great and small: politics, children, healthcare, immigration, religion, diversity, inclusion, and on and on and on. My question is, what impact does this have on our mental and emotional health? How do we as believers stay informed about the world around us, while doing what we are called to as members of the Kingdom, and take are of our own mental health. Below are some steps we can take to maintain mental wellness while being in this world but not of this world.


Step 1, pray. Prayer is not only a powerful tool to see changes in the world around us but to obtain peace within us. We must turn off the news, stop reading the paper and online posts, and just take a few minutes to pray in order to stay in our right mind. I have literally felt depression and anxiety taking hold of me while watching the news or reading an article that symbolizes the harsh realities that exist in our society. How many murders must we hear about before sadness sets in? How much hatred and division can we observe before anxiety sets in? Instead of just absorbing all the negative information, pray. Pray that God would cover your heart and your mind so that you do not internalize the division and dysfunction of this world to the point that it begins to negatively impact your mental and emotional well-being. We are called to be the salt of the earth, don’t lose your flavoring by not taking care of your mental health.

Step 2, be humble. If we are completely honest, sometimes we want God to judge ‘’those people’’ who stand with opposite opinions of ours, destroy them even, yet they remain with loud voices and powerful influence, and we must admit that we do not know what to do but keep our eyes on Him while He shows us the answers. With the introduction of social media, we no longer have to agree to disagree, we can debate for as long as we can type replies. Even when we know we are in the right, it takes humility to follow the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs 15:1(NIV), “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’’ We can watch endless debates and/or participate in endless debates until our anger is stirred up. We can’t think clearly, we can’t see clearly, and the last thing we are worried about is representing the Kingdom of God. Humility, not being a coward, says I may be wrong, and I am willing to listen to another point of view; but if I know I am right, I am willing to speak the truth, stand firm in the truth, and not engage in foolish conversations that seek to do nothing but give the enemy pleasure and negatively impact my emotions and emotional well-being.

Step 3, praise. The purpose of praise is to move us beyond our flesh and feelings. Who among us has not let our flesh rise while watching the news, or reading a newspaper article, or engaging in endless debates about politics, laws, policies, etc.? When most people think about their flesh rising in these circumstances they think of anger, but what about depression and anxiety, hopelessness, and helplessness that can develop. Praise is so important because it does not remove us from life’s circumstances and the reality of the world around us, but it does remind us of I John 4:4, “ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Let’s not let what we see overshadow who we serve!

Step 4, be courageous and use effective weapons, such as letter writing, petitions, and running for political office, etc. What natural weapons are you using to bring about change in your community and society? Do your weapons align with Kingdom principles or are they fanning the flames of the divisive fire that is burning out of control? This step is important to our mental health because it is a very empowering step. When we feel empowered, we feel good about ourselves. Instead of focusing on those things that are out of our control we put our faith (and our anxiety) into action by doing things within our control. Feeling a sense of control and feeling that you have a powerful influence can bring about peace, which decreases anxiety; and hope, which decreases depression; leading to mental and emotional wellness in a society that is naturally and spiritually not well.

SELF-CARE VS. SELFISHNESS IN A SELFIE WORLD


Smile for the camera! That seems to be the motto for modern times. We live in a selfie world and truth be told; we love it! We love sharing our life in pictures, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet when I talk to people about the importance of self-care, they think the idea is one based on selfishness. So how do we help change the perspective that self-care is selfish when we live in a selfie world? So, let’s have a versus battle to clarify the difference and make sure we are taking care of ourselves as best as possible to be emotionally and mentally well.


Self-care says It is important to take good care of myself to best care for others VS selfishness that says I must look out for me, numero uno, with little to no thought about others.

Self-care realizes that I am part of various systems, like a car having various parts and if one mechanism is broken it can affect how the whole car runs VS selfishness that says I am the whole car, the only system that matters is me and how I affect other systems is irrelevant.

Self-care considers the things that are beneficial to me even if they are not always pleasant for me, i.e., exercise and healthy eating VS selfishness that says I want what I want when I want it and instant gratification is the only thing that matters.

Self-care realizes that it is a component of mental and emotional wellness VS selfishness that thinks everyone else is the problem and I have nothing to change.


When we talk about the need to be emotionally and mentally well, we must emphasize the importance of self-care. We must do those things that we both enjoy and that are beneficial to maintain wellness in all areas of our lives because sometimes it is lack of balance that impacts our mental health. Balance can make the difference between sadness vs depression, concern vs anxiety, caution vs paranoia, and hope vs hopelessness.


While selfies are fun and cool, the outside picture does not always match up with the inside turmoil. In a society where selfies are on the rise, but so is anxiety, depression, and suicide, we must never overlook the power of self-care to a balanced lifestyle and to stability in our mental health. 

WATCH YOUR BACK!


Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No, there’s a cross for everyone,

And there’s a cross for me.


In looking at the words of this hymn I am reminded of the scripture in John 16:33, ‘’These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” So, we all have the crosses of life that we carry on our back, some seasons the load is lighter and at other times the load is very heavy. But sometimes our load seems extra extra heavy and when we figuratively turn around to see the crosses we are carrying, we realize other people have put their cross on our backs. Many times, they don’t come out and just say ‘’hey, carry this cross for me.’’ No, it’s the ‘’can you do me another favor; can I take up more of your time than you really have to give; can I just complain about the problems but show no interest in your suggested solutions; can I only reach out to you when there’s a problem; can I invite you to my pity parties but leave you out of my celebrations,” and the list goes on and on. That person who when you see their name on the caller ID you pump yourself up for the conversation because you know you are about to go on a wild ride of emotions. You don’t answer their calls, texts, or emails when you’re in a great mood because you know they will bring you down.


Proverbs 3:27 (NIV) says ‘’do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.’’ Sometimes God positions us to HELP others carry their cross for a season. When we have poor boundaries, or no boundaries at all, we not only carry our cross, but we go around taking other peoples’ crosses from them; and we wonder why we feel burdened, and they look carefree. Growing up in church you always hear the saying ‘’God won’t put more on you than you can handle.’’ Although life can sometimes make you doubt that saying, one thing is sure, people will put more on you than you can handle if you don’t have good boundaries. WATCH YOUR BACK!