Stress in the Midst of Rest

In the midst of this mandated rest do you find yourself feeling stressed at all?

Perhaps you feel stress about the virus, not being able to go and do as you would like, finances, moving forward, being restless…

After about a week of not sleeping well, I decided it was time to take a look at my own stress. And I didn’t like what I found. See, I’m one of those people that my brain tries to hide the stress from me so I actually don’t “feel” it until I get physical symptoms – like not being able to sleep.

I have not allowed myself a period of rest. I have continued to push and do and be all the things when perhaps God was calling me to rest too. To take advantage of this mandated rest period – 40 days to be exact (Check out all the events in the Bible that were 40 days long!)

So, why do we find ourselves stressed when we are called (or mandated) to rest?

My first thought is guilt. I feel guilty when I’m resting. This person and that person are working and I should be too. Who am I to rest when they are giving it their all?

Another idea is perhaps lack of control. When I can’t control outward circumstances I tend to up my control on internal circumstances. Meaning, I try to control the things I can – and like a tyrant sometimes too. :/ And that often leads to massive to-do lists (Mine today had 29 things on it. Sigh.). And overworking too, so I don’t have to think about what I can’t control.

Isaiah 28:12 says, “God has told his people, “Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.” But they would not listen.” (NLT)

Yeah. That’s me. Sigh again.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

As I sit and type this it sounds so refreshing in my exhausted state. I am going to seek to rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Wanna join me?

Loving Yourself in the Midst of Stress

Stress comes and stress goes.

How we handle it and what we do with it greatly affects our physical, mental, and spiritual health. There has been much research on what happens to our bodies under stress. Many studies confirm what I found to be true for myself: When we don’t deal with stress in a healthy way and stuff it down our bodies hold on to it until we end up having physical symptoms. That could be something like chronic illnesses, pain, even diseases like cancer, digestive diseases, fibromyalgia, etc.

So, what can you do to help love yourself in the midst of stress (a.k.a – take care of yourself)? Here’s my top 5 suggestions:

  1. Pray – Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. When you take time out of your day in quietness with God you will automatically turn down the stress response. Plus, God can help if you ask Him too!
  2. Forgive – Often when we’re stressed we want to blame others. I invite for you to offer forgiveness in a time when anger or frustration would normally come out instead.
  3. Take time for yourself – Maybe even just a few minutes here or there breathing, praying, or whatever to help calm the central nervous system. Fill your cup!
  4. Sleep and exercise – Yes, this is taking care of yourself! Getting enough sleep and exercise is super important when we’re stressed. When we’re tired and our bodies don’t get the movement they crave we are more likely to be grouchy and snap.
  5. Relax with family or friends – Research shows that spending time with those we love helps relieve stress. Laughter is the best medicine!

What is your go-to when you are stressed? How do you manage it?

My Personal Gut Story

Gut story? Who wants to read that?

I know, right?!?!

BUT, if my story can help someone else to feel encouraged then this gut story of mine is worth sharing and reading. So, here it is:

About 10 years out of college I started having some serious health issues. Pain in my upper back and stomach pain from out of this world. Had ALL the tests and procedures done. Blood work, colonoscopy, endoscopy, ultrasounds, x-rays, two gallbladder tests complete with radioactive drinks….

And the only thing they found was possibly the scarring from an ulcer. Yet, I was in excruciating pain every single day. Finally, my gastroenterologist told me, “We don’t know what’s wrong with you. There’s nothing else we can do.”

In the midst of all that I also had food allergy testing and found out I was allergic to barley. Weirdest thing ever, I thought. And I told the doctor I didn’t drink beer. He said, “Then you’re fine. There’s nothing you need to do differently.” I didn’t understand so I went home and researched and found that barley has gluten and is in nearly everything it seemed: anything with flour, Carmel color, sauces, coke….

So, that was it. That was the day the medical field lost my trust. That was the day I decided to take back control of my own health.

So, I started doing research on how to make my body healthy. On how to heal. I read, and read, and read. I listened to health talks meant for doctors. I became a sponge for knowledge about my gut and health. And the thing was, no matter what the topic there were always similar suggestions for how to heal. And it all started with diet.

I knew my mental health wasn’t in the greatest shape either. I had begun to see a counselor to help with that.

And, I had come across a reverse elimination diet called the GAPS Diet. That stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet. Whoa. The more I read and learned about it the more it described me. But if I tried this diet I was going to have to change everything. I mean everything. Starting with what I ate. See, the reverse elimination diet component means you take everything (yes, EVERYTHING) out of your diet. You drink bone broth for a certain number of days (depending on your body) and then you begin adding in foods one at a time to see if your body has any adverse reactions to them.

I was ready to not hurt every time I swallowed a bite of food. I was ready to reclaim my health. And I was ready to do whatever it took to get there. So, I jumped in. Feet first. Head first. Whatever you want to say, I was all in. And for two weeks, all I ate was bone broth. Beef bone broth, chicken bone broth, and fish bone broth. (I don’t recommend the fish. Ick!). Then I began eating the chicken from the broth I’d made. And within a few days I was already feeling better. Within a few weeks I wasn’t in pain anymore.

Then, I added cooked onions, cooked apples, and eggs next. I continued adding foods one at a time until I was on the full GAPS Diet – which is still limited but way more options than just broth. I stayed on this diet for about two years.

This diet healed my gut. But it didn’t heal my allergies. I had gotten my mental health under control by this point. I had even gotten off all anxiety and depression medication (whoa- that’s a story all in its self).

So, I began working with my chiropractic physician. She put me on a regimen for two months of supplements to reinvigorate my gut cells. Then I was on a strict diet of mostly veggies, fruit, and meat for two months.

And this process healed me from my allergies- along with tons of prayer too I might add!

So, I started eating whatever I wanted again. And for two more years I was just fine.

Then, this summer I started having pain and major gurgling again. My gluten allergy was back. And this time dairy has been an issue for me too.

So, I am once again gluten free and now dairy free. For the time being. I am certain that I can be healed again when the time is right. I’ve been through this before. And I know what to expect this time. And I’m ready. Ready to heal myself- without drugs, without chemicals, without anything Big Pharma has to offer me. Because nature was given to us by God. And he intended for us to use it. So, I will.

Are you in a place where the medical field has let you down too? Have you been given a “life sentence” of illness, disease, or symptoms? Let me speak life and love into you right now:

THERE IS HOPE. And yes, for you too. No matter what you’ve been told. No matter what your diagnosis. No matter what. There is hope. I’d be happy to listen to your story too. Share a piece of it here by commenting below.

Are you a perfectionist like me?

Hi. My name is Carrie. And I am a recovering perfectionist.

I like things neat, tidy, my way, and perfect. And I prefer the people around me to be too.

However, that’s not real life.

Real life is messy, imperfect, unpredictable, painful, and way out of my control. (God is showing me this pretty intensely in the current season of my life. Sigh.)

I feel like part of being a perfectionist is feeling in control. And when life spirals out of control then we freak out, stress out, and our anxiety hits the roof (and perhaps blows it to smithereens).

Control is really an illusion. There are certain things in life that we can control such as:

  • What we eat
  • What we wear
  • What we talk about
  • What we think about
  • Our happiness
  • Who we hang out with
  • How seriously we take life
  • What we believe
  • Our priorities
  • How kind we are

Other than that, God has the ultimate say on what goes on in this crazy world of ours. We can’t control other people. We can’t control situations. We can’t control hate.

So, if you’re a perfectionist – recovering or not- like me, I invite for you to take a step back. Allow God to do His thing (He’s actually really good at it) and give Him control over all things. All things.

All things.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

How Effectively Do You Use Time?

Our health is directly related to how we deal with stress. And time is one of those stresses that affects all of us. How effectively do you use your time? I know I am not always the best manager of my time.

So, I’ve been reading this book called The Deborah Anointing, by Michelle McClain-Walters (she also wrote The Anna Anointing and The Esther Anointing). In it she says,

“The quality of your life is determined by how effectively you use time.”

Notice she says, “time,” not “your time,” Hmmmm….

We feel most stressed when our calendars are so full and we feel like we have to get it all done NOW! So, how can we practically understand time and manage it better?

Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Michelle goes on to describe four spiritual seasons of time in our lives. We experience:

Spiritual winter – a time of death to self

Spiritual spring – a time to embrace the call

Spiritual summer – a time of revelation

Spiritual fall – a time of harvest and fulfillment

In the midst of our busy schedules it’s important to keep Christ as our focus. It is sooooooo easy to allow ourselves to focus on things of this world – money, status, reputations, ourselves… (God has been working on my heart on this very thing lately. Sigh.)

Our life here on earth was meant as a preparation period for our eternity. God created each of us perfectly and for His purposes. If what we’re doing isn’t glorifying God in some way, we might need to reconsider if we need that thing. What spiritual season are you currently in? And how can you honor and accept where you are?

Let’s look at 5 ways we can practically keep our focus on God and use our time wisely no matter what spiritual season you might be in.

1.Adequate time with God daily

This is the most important part of our day. Think about this: You have about 8-10 hours of time during the day that are most likely dedicated to someone else – work, kids, whatever. That leaves you with 14-16 hours of time for yourself. Hopefully about 8 of those hours are sleeping. And that gives you 6-8 hours to do whatever else you desire. What are you doing with that time? Cooking and eating, exercising, playing, chores… What can you do so that time with God is your number one, non-negotiable priority?

2. Make a list of our top 5 priorities

I encourage you to take a moment and write down the top 5 priorities in your life. These are the MOST important things. This list will help you prioritize what you say yes or no to. Then use this list. Don’t just make it and put it aside. Allow it to help you make decisions.

3. Take time to breathe

You might be thinking, Carrie, I breathe all day long. I know, I know. But, I’m talking about time to focus on your breath. Every time you breathe in oxygen God is breathing into you His breath of life. Take time for 10 deep, focused breaths a day (at least) and watch your stress melt away. There are many different breathing techniques for different things. If you need help with this please let me know! I’m happy to give you more details, information, or tips.

4. Say no

This might be one of the hardest things for us. Saying no – especially when they are good things! But, it also might be what needs to happen to clear some things out of your calendar to make room for your top 5 priorities. I invite for you to inquire of God first to see if it’s something He wants you to do or not. Is there anything you can say no to today? And I might add – that if you have kids show them how to say no to things too. You will help set them up for success in so many ways.

5. Make a plan and be flexible

It’s important to not be willy-nilly all the time or just live by the seat of our pants. We do need a plan. But it’s also important to be flexible with that plan. Life is uncertain and when we hold on to our plans like a tight fist then we are only causing more strain and stress on ourselves. (Take a moment and make a tight fist. See how that would feel in your entire body to carry that around all day every day.) Make a plan, and allow God to infuse, change, and direct you – even when His way seems way out of the way. His plans are always good!

So, what is one thing you can do today to be a better manager of time?

Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.

“Are the walls to lock you in or to keep others away?  And if the doors were to be opened would you leave or would you stay?”

These are the first words in the song, “Run Wild” by for KING & COUNTRY.  I love this song and it resonates with me deeply.

See, about 10 years ago I had locked myself in a prison of my own making.  I allowed depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and co-dependency to rule my life.  And my prison became a safe place.  I knew what to expect (panic attacks, social anxiety, stomach pain…).  And as horrible as these things were I didn’t quite know how to escape.  And if I did what would the pain be like on the other side?  Worse perhaps?  Fear kept me trapped.

So, in working with a counselor (for many, many years) she showed me that the door was open and always had been.  I didn’t have to be in bondage to my emotions, feelings, and OCD-ness.  Yet, stepping out of the comfort zone was extremely hard.  And it took me awhile to actually shed the chains of imprisonment.

And what took even longer was shedding the effects of my imprisonment.  My hardened heart, my requirement for control in all situations, my tendency for enjoying being a hermit…

And if I’m honest those things still arise on occasion.  If I can be aware of when these things might rear their ugly head, then I can take steps to prevent them from taking over.  But if they blindside me then I become a prisoner in that moment.

So, I’m learning to be free again.  And if I’m honest… this freedom is pretty awesome.  I want to encourage you that if you feel imprisoned, you too can be free!

And the only way I can enjoy this freedom is because I know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus paid the price for my ugly sin.  He took on my shame, my imprisonment, my sin, and because He loves me so much I can live free.  And He tells us:

“You, my  brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;  rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

So, are you living free?  And what are you doing with your freedom?

Run wild.  Live free.  Love strong my friends.

God Specifically Said to Me…

“Encourage women with your story.”

For years- and I mean years- I knew that there was something God wanted me to do.

But He wouldn’t tell me what.

And then one Sunday morning about 4 years ago, out of the blue, I was sitting in church and God spoke to my heart. He said, I want you to encourage women with your story.” The words were so loud I actually looked around the room to see if anyone else heard them.

Nope. Just me.

At first I was excited to finally know my task. But 5 seconds later I was in mortal dread. What?!?? My story? My deepest, darkest secret?!?!  Nooooooooooo!!!!!

 

Anything but that God.

I can’t.

Bam. Anxiety attack.

 

Needless to say, I didn’t hear much of the sermon that day. My mind was racing. My heart was beating out of my chest. And I was at church by myself. Nobody to whisper to, “Hey! God just spoke to me.”

I felt alone. Like I had for the previous 15 years.

See, I held my secret – the I had an abortion secret- in for 10 years without telling a single soul.  I internalized the trauma and became very sick- mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was having anxiety and panic attacks. I developed ulcers and food allergies. I was in immense pain. I was severely depressed. I thought about cutting myself everyday to release some of the pain. And I wanted to die.

And I didn’t realize all these symptoms were from the stress of trying to be perfect enough so nobody would find out about my secret.

Through counseling (with an amazing woman – Thank you, Sybil!) I was able to learn to manage and eventually control my anxiety.  This took years!  I’m talking like 6 or 7 of them.  But, what I didn’t realize at the time was that God was molding me and shaping me into a new calling.  He was getting me ready for what He wanted me to do – encourage women with my story.  

Being that I have an absolutely terrible memory, I am digging out all my old journals.  I will be using them to remind me of the hard times (and I’m feeling the anxiety rising as I do this) so I can share, encourage, and love on you with my story.  

The raw, real truth of it.  

Hang on friends.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.  But, one thing I know for sure – the bumps are what smooth us out in the end. Kinda like rocks on a shore line.  Smooth, shiny, and beautiful.  But they didn’t get like that in a day.  It takes years of tumbling.  

 

Here’s a prayer I found in a journal that I had written for myself in November of 2015:

 

 

 

God,

I commit this calling to you. I don’t have any idea how, what, where, when this will come to fruition. I feel uncertain and wonky. I feel my anxiety growing inside me. I lay down my burdens, anxieties, and fears at your feet. I will let you take care of the details. I will honor you as my Father by allowing you to be in control.

Deep Dark Secrets

There has been so much talk about abortion lately. So many people are quick to exert their opinion and to ask questions like, who would ever, how could somebody choose, or why in the world?

This post is only for people who have or have had a deep dark secret, have skeletons in their closet, or have had an abortion. If you’re not one of those people then this is not for you.

If you have a deep, dark secret (like having an abortion, perhaps) I bet you’ve kept it a secret for a reason.

Shame. Guilt. Don’t want to deal with the judgement of people finding out…

Here’s what I have to say about that:

The ONLY opinion of you that matters is from God. And He knows about the deepest, darkest places of your soul. And He loves you more than you could ever dream of being loved.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to [the brim] of all the fullness of God,”
Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV), words in [ ] are mine.

God forgives all of the darkest places when we come to Him and ask. That’s all it takes. Asking.

And if you’ve found yourself in a deep, dark hole because of your shame or guilt I want to encourage you. There is ALWAYS a way out. There is ALWAYS hope. There is ALWAYS love. Even down there in the deepest, darkest pit. Find a pinhole of light and begin moving toward it. Even if it feels like it’s a million miles away. And even if it feels as if you have to cross the entire world to get to it. Take one step toward the light today. And if that’s all you can do today, great! You can take another step towards the light tomorrow. Before long, the light will seem so bright you will wonder how you traveled so quickly!

I hear some of you saying, “Carrie! How do YOU know what it feels like to be judged because of what you’ve done or not done or what’s been done to you?”

Well, because I have lived this truth. See, I am one of those that has had an abortion. I let my decision pull me down into the deepest, darkest pit I couldn’t even imagine. And I didn’t tell a soul. For 10 years I let this dark pit grow until it consumed me.  And I wanted to die.  

I’ve lived with the shame and regret and guilt of my decision for almost 20 years now. And what I’ve learned is that forgiving yourself is the hardest part. And I’ve also learned it’s so worth the decision.

I now live in freedom from my past. It no longer holds me in bondage. All because of the love and forgiveness of God.  And God has asked me to encourage women with my story. So, I boldly (only with God’s help) step out and tell you my deepest, darkest secret.

If you’re out there hiding in the darkness because of fear I encourage you to reach to God. Ask Him to help you walk towards His healing, loving, peaceful light. And if you need someone to talk to, I’m happy to listen as well.

There is always a way out.  There is always hope.  There is always love.

Whoa Nelly!

Whoa Nelly:  whoa is the word to stop a horse.  Nelly is what farmers used to call all their female horses (because they didn’t name their work tools and a horse was a tool – according to urbandictionary.com).

In today’s time this phrase is also used to talk about anything out of control – you know a dog, a kid, breakfast time, life…. And it’s usually used after the fact.

Whoa Nelly!  2018 was cray!  That’s the term I’m using for last year.  Whoa Nelly!

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

The year started off really nicely with a few ski trips with my husband to some new and some familiar places.  One of those new places was New Hampshire in February.  This is where the year began falling off course.  We decided to hike up Mt. Washington.  Tucker’s Ravine to be exact.  With 40 pounds of ski equipment on our backs.  And when we arrived at the hiking location my shoes instantly broke apart from dry rot.  But I didn’t have any other options so I hiked in broken boots.  Oh, and there was a blizzard that day.

I ended up with an injured neck, spine, and foot.  Not from the amazing ski down.  But from the hike up.  Fast forward a few months (I rested and took care of my neck and back, but not the foot) and I re-injured my foot.  I was put in a boot.

Then, my husband ended up in the hospital from an infection from being flogged by our rooster (I know, I know.  It sounds crazy.  And it was.).  He nearly lost his leg and was in the hospital for nine days.  During that time, in my boot, carrying our whole house to and from the hospital each day, my foot got worse.  I got put on crutches and when my husband was discharged they wheeled us both out in wheelchairs.  What a sight!!!

2018-04-30 16.53.16

My husband healed up pretty quickly – in about half the time the doctors expected.  Me on the other hand – my road to healing was not going to be easy.

I wasn’t able to teach or do yoga anymore, but was determined to heal quickly.  Within a month or so, I was back at the gym trying to gain strength.  I had even termed the summer, “My summer of buff.”  But that was short lived.  Because I injured my foot again.  Really?!?! Yes, really.  I was gaining strength and being really mindful and careful, but something wasn’t quite right.

I then began working with a physical therapist (thank you, Penny!!!).  What we found out was that when my foot healed the first time it healed incorrectly, so the re-injury was just a matter of when.  She did so many things and continues to help me so very much!

And today, in 2019, I am still having pain and it gets tired really quickly, but Penny and I are onto something with a plan of healing.

Whoa Nelly!

In addition, the stress of our injuries took my focus completely off my business.  And it really showed.  I allowed stress and fear to overtake my mind, and my business nearly went under.  I even had to take an additional part time job to help make ends meet.

And that was a whole other mind battle to face.  Why am I here?  Why can’t I be good enough to make my business work?  I’m committing my ways to you, God.  Why aren’t you following through on your end?  and so on and so forth.

Sigh…..

Plus, my husband was totally stressed in his job too.  We were just a household brewing stress by the gallons.

I ended up cancelling all the ski trips planned for 2019 because of my foot.  And skiing is my favorite thing ever!  Sigh, again.

So, to say that I was ready to let 2018 go is an understatement.

And now, just a few days after I let go, I have begun anew.  Isn’t it amazing how new beginnings can feel refreshing, energizing, and encouraging?  It’s like I’m a new person.  Why couldn’t I decide to do that in 2018?  That I don’t know, but what I do know is sometimes it takes a new year, an event, an injury, a God intervention…. to wake us up and pull us out of the muck and mire and into our God given destiny.

I am determined.  I am strong.  My mind is focused.  Watch out world, cause I’m free!  I’m leaving my Whoa Nelly behind.  My chains are being broken, and I have God-power behind me!

True Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you and your family have abundance and notice God’s blessings especially this week!

So, at a time when we focus on our gifts and are thankful, let’s look at true gratitude and what that really means.

Robert Emmons defines gratitude as two things:  “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”  Secondly, he says, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.…”

So, gratitude is receiving good things and recognizing those good things come from someone besides ourselves.  And if you’re a Christian, we recognize those gifts come from God – even if they come through another person.

Psalm 31:19 says, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”  (NIV)

So, gratitude is recognizing the good things God has given us.  And I might add, even those things we don’t see as good in the moment.

For example: my depression.  In the midst of it was the worst thing I’d ever experienced.  In my eyes it was not good.  But coming to the other side of it, I can see all the good it did for me.  It allowed me to deal with my past, it gave me great compassion for others, and brought me to the place I am now – which is soooo much better than where I was.  And if you are a Christian you know that what the devil intends for evil in your life, the Lord will use for your good – if you allow Him.

So, gratitude is being grateful for ALL things.  Sigh.  That’s hard.  Especially hard in the hardest of things.  So, how do we cultivate gratitude in the midst of the hardness?  OR how do we continue to be grateful in the good times?

Here’s what has worked for me:

My counselor helped me begin to cultivate a gratitude practice.  In the middle of my really sticky messiness when I was so far from having a grateful heart, she invited me to begin writing down every single day 3 things that went well that day.  And I also wrote down one thing that I would do differently next time.  This went on for months and months.  And then she invited me to begin writing down 3 things I was grateful for every morning.  And at the end of the day writing down 3 amazing things that happened that day (and it might be as simple as I made it through the day and am still alive).  And currently, I practice gratitude as often throughout the day as I can.  I am constantly noticing the beautiful things God has placed around me and stopping to say thank you.

Gratitude is a journey.  It’s not a destination.  And the more we notice the blessings and say thank you the more God will pour out from his heavenly storehouse on us!

If you’re wanting to begin cultivating a gratitude practice but aren’t sure where to start or how it will look for you, I encourage you to check out Ann Voskamp’s book and devotional, One Thousand Gifts.  It was super beneficial for me in cultivating a gratitude practice.  It’ll help you get started and guide you along the way.