Letter for a Rainy Day

I found this letter I had written myself for a “rainy day.” You know, one of those days that nothing seems to be going right, depression begins to set in, and you can’t seem to focus on God’s goodness- no matter how hard you try. Perhaps it’ll help you for a rainy day too!

Dear Carrie,

You must be in the middle of a horrendous rain storm. Hail, lightening, severe wind, stinging rain, and dark clouds surround you. Don’t give up! The storm will pass. Sunshine is on the way!

While in the midst of this storm there are a few things to remember:

  • The task ahead of you is never as great as the power within you.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

  • Guard your heart, but don’t lock it up.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

  • God will be faithful to complete what He has started with you. He hasn’t quit. Don’t you quit either!

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6

  • Let go of control. God’s got this!
  • If something hasn’t gone right, try again!
  • Do you need to change your perspective? How is this storm good for you?

Even when we don’t understand what God is doing (and this horrible storm) we can still trust His promises.

Breathe!
Breathe!

Do something right now that will fill you up.

Smile, even though it hurts. You are loved and appreciated.

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.

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.

Being the Sunshine in a Dark Valley

Have you ever been somewhere that felt like a dark valley? A place that is full of negativity, condemnation, and just plain icky?

How can you even begin to bring a little positive light to a place like this?

Well, that is what God has asked me to do in a certain situation I’m in. And if I’m honest, I’m struggling with it. But God spoke some truth to my heart recently.

Joshua 10:8 says, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

So, a little backstory about this passage: Joshua is leading the Israelites into the promised land and they have to battle all the people who are already living there to be able to take possession of the land. And it’s scary. And God tells Joshua not to worry because the battle has already been won. He just has to follow through with the fighting.

Now, I’m not thinking God wants me to fight with people. But he does want me to be a light for Him in this particular place. And he’s telling me the battle is already won. I just have to keep my eyes on Him and “fight” through the darkness with my sunshine.

I’m going to press on. How about you?

How can you be sunshine in a dark valley?

The Power of Creativity

Have you ever said, “I’m not that creative.  I can’t paint, or sew, or draw, or decorate a house like Joanna Gaines.”  (Love her!!!)

Being creative doesn’t necessarily have to be about art.  Perhaps you’re really good at cooking, making a spreadsheet, dancing, or diapering a baby’s butt.  Or maybe you can put together an amazing outfit or pick out the perfect jewelry to compliment.  Or perhaps, you always know the right thing to say.  These things all require creativity.

So, even if, just for a moment, let’s say we all are creative.  In our own special ways.

Perhaps we can even view our gifts from God as creativity.  Here’s what God says about our gifts:

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”  Romans 12: 6-8 (NIV)

God gave us all unique and specific gifts.  And he’s asking us to use them.

So, lets draw this all back to our health.  How in the world can being creative help me be healthy?

Here’s how:

Do you ever notice that as adults we get serious?  And if you are in a place of depression or anxiety this probably really hits home.  There’s no time to laugh and have fun.  We have things to do, places to go, and people to annoy (I mean see).  We get serious about all the things.

Now, lets compare that with a child.  Children are naturally creative, imaginative little creatures.  They pretend.  They laugh.  They play.  AND, for the most part, they are happy, lighthearted, and frolicy.

So, what if we tried on a little play and creativity?  What if we added a moment of lightheartedness to our to do list?  What do you think might happen in our brain?

It’s going to chill out!  Stress is going to lessen.  Digestion is going to happen.  Smiles are going to occur.  And perhaps even laughter might escape our lips.  We might even allow ourselves to feel lighthearted.

Play and creativity is a crucial part of reducing stress.

PLUS, if we’re using the gifts God gave us we are fulfilling our purpose in life.  You probably know that people who feel like they have a purpose are much happier and fulfilled than people who don’t know what their purpose is.

So, get out there.  Do your thing.  Create.  And enjoy doing it!

 

 

 

 

 

What Are You Waiting For?

While traveling this past weekend in one of my favorite places – Asheville, NC – I saw this bumper sticker that said,

Don’t Postpone Joy

And I thought, YES!  I love that!

And I love that because there were many years that I postponed my own joy and thought I’ll be happy when…

I’m not teaching anymore, when I get over my depression, when I get off this medication, when this rain stops, when summer gets here, when I have 10 more counseling sessions….

God wants us to enjoy life every single day.

In our American busy, busy culture we often think, ‘Well, I’ll be happy when….’

  • I get a new job.
  • I  move.
  • My husband does…
  • It’s sunny.
  • I feel better.

What is your fill in the blank?

2018-06-25 14.12.16

Why not choose joy now?  In this moment.  No matter what is going on in your life.

You might be going through the deepest, darkest valley EVER!  And joy is nowhere to be seen.  And everything is tough.  And there’s no money.  And life sucks.

But…

why not choose joy now?

Joy is a choice.

 

So, maybe you’re thinking, “How in the world do I do that?”

Here’s 5 tips to help you choose joy now:

1. Start a Gratitude Practice

If you have followed my posts for any length of time you have probably seen me mention gratitude before.  (I talk about it a lot because it is sooooo important.)  Being grateful for what we have opens our life up to more of that!  What we appreciate appreciates.  Ann Voskamp wrote a book and devotional titled, One Thousand Gifts.  It’s an amazing journey into gratitude.  I highly recommend it!

 

2. Dive Into God’s Word

The Bible has so many powerful stories and accounts of people who were persecuted and chose joy anyways (Paul, David….).  They are true inspirations.  I am not in jail and don’t have an entire country’s army chasing after me.  Things are not as bad for me as they were for them and they were able to choose joy.

Psalm 5:11

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

 

3. Meditate

Meditation creates time and space for stillness in the midst of our crazy, busy lives.  It can be 2 minutes or 20 minutes or more.  Meditation helps to calm the crazy in our minds.  If you have a mind that runs like a train – like I do – then slowing that train down and breathing can bring a sense of peace and calm and joy.  We don’t have to be busy 24 hours a day to make God happy.  He wants us to create quiet time to be with him each and every day.  A meditation practice can help you do just that.

 

4. Do Yoga

Yoga has been a modality that has literally saved my life.  It also creates time and space for gentle movement and stillness (which is very hard for me!  Anyone else out there?!?!)  The breath work in yoga has not only helped my physical health but also my mental health and allowed me to slow down enough to be grateful for this very moment.  When I am grateful it is much easier for me to choose joy.

 

5. Make Healthy Food Choices

This might sound crazy but the food you eat can actually affect your mental health.  It is common knowledge that if we eat crappy food we will feel crappy physically.  Well, that also goes for mentally.  You either feed your body health or you feed your body dis-ease.  It’s much easier to choose joy when you feel good physically.  Feed your body organic whole foods and watch your joy level increase! Whoop!

 

Are you ready to choose joy?!?!  Comment below and let us know you’re choosing joy today!

Listen to Your Body

The Hunger Game:  Want to learn to play?!?!

I’m here to teach you how to tell the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger by playing the “Hunger Game.”

But first, why am I talking about emotional hunger vs. physical hunger and what’s the difference?

Emotional hunger means you turn to food either to avoid uncomfortable emotions or to heighten pleasurable ones.  It means you eat based on how you feel instead of what your body needs.

Examples of emotional hunger (FEELINGS):

  • Eating for comfort or out of loneliness or sadness
  • Eating from boredom
  • Eating to try to soothe anxious or depressed feelings
  • Eating to fill an aching heart

Whereas physical hunger means you eat when your body signals to you that you are in fact, hungry.  And it means that you stop eating when you are satisfied and before you are uncomfortably full.

Examples of physical hunger (SENSATIONS):

  • Stomach growls and gets that hollow hungry sensation
  • Body feels weak and energy goes down
  • Blood sugar gets low and you feel shaky
  • You feel lightheaded or faint

So what will learning to listen to my body do for me?

It will free you from being a slave to food!

What that means for you is that you’ll feel more in control of your eating and less dependent on food to “help” your moods and emotions. By listening to your physical hunger signals, you can determine how hungry or full you really are.  With practice, you’ll be able to pinpoint where your body is at any given moment.

By doing so, you will train yourself to stop eating BEFORE you are too full and to not turn to food when you are not actually hungry but are in fact bored, upset, anxious, or depressed.  Because everyone knows that’s a vicious cycle…so let me show you how to end that cycle and have some fun while doing it!

ENTER…….the Hunger Game!

How do I play the Hunger Game?

Let me first clarify that I’m not talking about undergoing top-secret weapons training to learn to “kill” off your colleagues or friends… I’m talking about a simple, helpful game that you can play all by yourself even in a busy restaurant!

Here’s how you play the Hunger Game:

  • See if you can be the slowest eater at the table – no one has to know you’re playing or that you’re trying to win the Hunger Game
  • Periodically check in with yourself throughout your meal and honor when you’re energized and satisfied by completing the meal
  • Use and end-of-meal ritual, like putting your napkin over your plate or ordering hot tea and fresh fruit to symbolize completion of the meal

What do I do now?

In my health coaching practice, I help my clients learn to tell the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger.  Together, we come up with a plan to help you keep identifying the difference so you can lose weight naturally and double your energy.

If you think you may be engaging in emotional eating and you don’t know how to change it, then click here now to schedule a time to talk with me today!

To your health!

Carrie