in the middle of the night

I've dealt with anxiety for as long as I can recall.

In high school, I sometimes spent entire school days doing my best to slow my breathing, slow my heart rate. Most days I was able to make it through the day, to force a smile, and to hide the panicked feeling from those aroun dme. There were a few days, though, that resulted in my going to the nurses office and explaining that I was in the midst of a panic attack. At first, no one knew what to make of my ability to explain what was happening and wondered if it was my trying to manuever my way out of school for the day.

I have always been aware of my emotions, of how my body reacts to different situations. But I have never been able to stop my body from reacting or my emotions from taking over all aspects of my life.

I still haven't mastered the art of keeping my emotions at bay at all times. In fact, as I have gotten older and learned how to better deal with life (sometimes), it has become harder to push my emotions to the side, to hide how I am really feeling.

I have several different theories for why this is. One of the biggest and most prominent theories is that as exhausting as being upset/depressed/angry is, it is that much more exhausting to pretend to not be those things. My life is harder when everything is bottled up and shoved to the back of the closet. It might be easier for others to not see me upset, but my concern is not for others when it comes to emotions. My concern is for me and for my family.

My anxiety has slowly begun to creep back into my life. I know the root of it: insecurity.

I think insecurity has been the root of just about everything outside of happiness and joy. Insecurity creeps in and breeds negative emotions. It breeds heartbreak. It breeds anxiety.

I'm trying to battle the insecurity as much as I can. I know I am not the commander of this battle; that would be God's role. And I am grateful that He is the commander. If I were to lead myself into battle, I would likely not last more than five minutes.

Reading through So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore has helped. Spending four to five days at the gym has helped. Eating food that is healthy and not full of grease and fat has helped. Recognizing that insecurities exist has helped.

It's still there, lurking and waiting to attack, but I am finding weapons I didn't know I had, weapons that strengthen my ability to fight and strengthen my sense of self.

This morning, for example, I woke with a heavy heart. I hadn't slept through the night due to my two dogs wanting to cuddle and then pushing me away with their paws. I had also been plagued with worry over finances, over job security, over all the uncertainties in life. And each time I woke with worry, I prayed. The anxiety subsided enough to allow me to fall back asleep for a few hours; I would wake up later in the night with the same worries.

My alarm was set for 5:30am this morning, but after a fitful night of sleep, I knew my body was not prepared to run a mile on the elliptical or row for two miles. I chose an extra hour of prayer and sleep followed by taking my time to get ready for work and then taking ten minutes out to read my Bible before spending my thirty minute drive to work in prayer.

So much freedom exists in the thought that this world is not the end, that this world is not what matters. So much freedom exists in remembering that I am not in control, in remembering that none of this is up to me. I forget these lessons at times, but Jesus always reminds me of these things when I need Him to most.

It's taken most of the morning to battle my anxiety and to battle the assault of insecurity. But I am feeling stronger. I am clinging to the fact that there is no security in this world. There never will be. And looking for this world to fulfill my security will only leave me empty and anxious.

(title from "I Am Yours" by Misty Edwards)


a face like all the rest

My alarm went off this morning at 5:42am. I considered waking up at that moment but instead hit the snooze button, promising that the extra nine minutes would not deter my plan to walk out of the house at 6:15am. 

I left the house promptly...at 6:24am.

Less cars travel I-235 North at 6:30am than at 7:30am. There was ample time for prayer and for reflection, but my mind wasn't as awake as my mind so I focused on the road and the country radio station. My eyes were a bit more wide when I arrived at the gym, and the Emergen-C kicked in right before I started my work out.

15 minutes on the stationary bike. 5 minutes running on the elliptical. 5 minutes on the rowing machine. All my muscles ached after I rinsed off and changed into my clothes for work. The aching only intensified as the work day sped by.

It has been over a year since I truly worked out. There were sporadic trips to the gym. There were a few mornings my alarm was set, the snooze button was hit, and then the alarm was reset. A few evenings I planned to go to the gym after work, only to discover I had left my gym clothes and tennis shoes at home. By the time I arrived to the house, the couch, my dogs, and my husband appealed more than a run on the elliptical or swim in the pool.

A few times today I wondered why I was doing this to myself. Why couldn't I just restrict what I ate? Why couldn't I just walk around the neighborhood? Were the gym membership, the early mornings, and the locker room showers worth it?

It's now almost 10:00pm. I hate a healthy dinner of Persian eggs (eggs, eggplant, tomatoes, onions and garlic) over Jasmine Rice. I drank close to eight glasses of water over the day. I took a shower following Community Group. There is a bag packed with clothes for work tomorrow by the front door, along with my tennis shoes. I plan on sleeping in my gym clothes, and my alarm is set for 5:42am.

God's spoken to me through the aching today. His voice has been louder than my complaints of hurting all over, my jokes of this having been the first time I worked out in a year. And He has reminded me that this aching is what will make me change, what will sculpt me into the person I am supposed to be.

It won't be easy. I know that, but He has stressed it today and tonight. But it will be worth it.

As tired as I was at work, I also felt more awake. I was productive. I enjoyed talking with people on the phone more than I have in the past several weeks. I caught up on much of the work I was behind on. The eight hours flew past, and I found myself surprised when the computer screen informed me it was 5:00pm.

The work out ignited the passion I thought no longer existed for my work. It stirred me from the slumber I fell into weeks ago.

It's been one day, and thirty minutes of a cardiovascular workout. My muscles hurt. My eyes are tired. But already I feel changed. And I have so many days left. How much more will change?

It's not about the outward appearance; I know that. In the past, I focused on the shape of my face, the size of my pants, and the tone of my arms. I gave up when there were no results and went back to destructive lifestyle patterns. But this time, while the outward appearance will change (and I will welcome it), I'm more interested in how it transforms me inwardly.

As I lean into early morning work outs and welcome the sweaty forehead, I will learn why it is that change hurts. I will come to see how God molds me, shapes me, trains me. I will learn about tenacity, about commitment, about reaching goals and setting new ones. He'll show me how to replace my insecurities with His security.

Already, He is using this for His glory; it's bringing out the joy in my life. He is transforming my heart for Him, my heart for His will in my life. He's providing me with words, with thoughts. He's meeting me in my aches and showing me the beauty that will be gained.

And it was only a thirty minute workout.

(lyrics from "hero" by abandon)


the current here is stronger now than i remember

A few months ago, I began serving as a youth leader for our church youth group. It was a decision my husband and I made together. We were struggling to find different experiences together, were craving community, and were desperate to serve together. Almost immediately, we were offered the daunting task of beginning Bible Studies for the girls and for the boys.

In my twenty-five years of life, I have had the privilege to serve along side several beautiful and amazing women of faith. I spent fourteen weeks, over the course of two summers, in the East Texas heat at Camp Cho-Yeh. I worked alongside other college students, sowing into teenagers and pre-teenagers. I cried with my co-counselors, laughed with them, and ate too much Sonic with them. I also led Bible Study with them.

One of the most glorious parts of leading Bible Study at a summer camp is the lack of preparation counselors need to make. It's not to say that one can walk into the time for Bible Study and go about it with no preparation. It is to say that an amazing group of men and women come together before summer begins and decide on a theme for the summer, decide on lessons to accompany that theme.

There is no true theme at this time. At least not yet. I am responsible for the theme. I have wonderful women of God to serve alongside me, to steer me on the right path, and to assist with the teaching and the conversation. I do not have a group of people deciding on the theme and then writing the lessons.

The beginning of Bible Study has been slow. I believe that once school starts and the temperatures steadily drop to a bearable point more girls will come. It's not about the numbers but rather the hearts. I have a heart and love for teenage girls; I want to see their lives transformed.

On Sunday evening, I was privileged to spend time with two wonderful teenagers and two other leaders. 

Earlier in the day, I began reading So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore. It was a present from my mother-in-law. I had asked to borrow the copy she previously purchased, but instead, she bought me my own copy. I appreciated the gift immediately. I have so many insecurities I am ready to bid farewell.

I decided to focus on insecurities during the evening Bible Study. So many women struggle with insecurities. I always thought my insecurities would disappear when I turned twenty-one, when I graduated college, when I got married. Some have, but new insecurities have replaced the old.

The hour I spent in Bible Study on Sunday was amazing. I was blessed and honored to hear pieces of their stories. I felt privileged to know some of their testimonies. And I wondered what it was I could offer to them. They had all survived so much, and they all trusted God with an openness that I still struggle with. 

I know there is a reason God has placed me in the youth group. I don't understand it, and I feel like I am nowhere near ready for the challenge. But He has proved himself faithful time after time. And I know He will bless the time I spend with the youth; He will bless me with the right words when speech escapes me.

I shared a story about how difficult the week was. I talked of uncertainties we had faced on Thursday and then disclosed how the Lord lifted many of those uncertainties on Friday. It was a simple thing, really, having to do with finances and employment. Two things that matter all too much to me; two things I often put before my faith in the Lord.

But He is faithful. He saw my insecurities, saw my heart, and He knew I was at a point where I could bear no more. And He removed most the weight. 

I know insecurities will creep up later. I know panicked thoughts will consume me again. I will pray for an answer, for direction, but I might not believe an answer or direction will come. I'll crumble to a mess of tears. And when it is too much to bear, He will once more remove the weight.

It's the threat that gets me. The unknown. The hurt. The what if that tugs at my heart, rips at my soul. I noticed it was often the same for those who attended the Bible Study. As Beth Moore states, "Threat. That single word captures one of the most powerful drivers of insecurity. More often than not, if we're willing to make the connection, we can trace the feelings of insecurity to a perceived threat, especially when it comes in a sudden rush."

And doesn't it always come in a sudden rush? It might be a threat that often lingers in the back of my mind, but when it becomes a true threat, not just a perceived threat, it rushes at me with the speed of an airplane soaring through the air.

But God is faithful. I witnessed it in the stories I told. I witnessed it earlier tonight in text messages from my husband, discussing the current political state of the hospital that employs him. There is darkness; there is evil in the world, and it breeds insecurity. 

But there is God; there is the security He provides. Sometimes we just have to experience the rush to find the safe landing spot.

(title from "anchor" by satellites and sirens)


you made me smile when i was sad

I started this blog on a whim. It was a thought the went through my head, a thought that ignited an idea. The idea was to hold myself accountable, to document the way God moved in my life. I haven't been the best at updating. Part of it is for lack of trying; part of it is because of fear and uncertainty; part of it is because of not knowing what to say.

It's this habit I have, this self-deprecating habit, of committing to something, anything in my mind and then not following through. It's this fear I have, have had for years; a fear of success. Not of failure but of success. Because what happens if I succeed? How would that change my life? Could I handle the changes? Would I welcome the changes? Would those around me welcome the changes?

The people I am close to love me; they want the best for me. I have heard these words more than a million times. But I struggle with really listening to them.

I want the best for me. I do. I want to be the best version of myself possible. This includes every aspect of my life: work, writing, house, weight, health, happiness. So why then is it so difficult for me to work to achieve the best for me? Why would I rather sit and wallow, allow myself to do all right but not extremely well?

If the answers come to me, I'll make sure to post them here. For now, I am going to concentrate on seeking out the answers. Starting tonight, I am going to do what is best for me, not necessarily what I want to do, and I am going to chronicle each step here. Even the steps that result in my tumbling down a staircase and bruising every inch of myself.

This all started after a loving conversation I had with my husband. Our lives are quite separate, unfortunately, due to differing work schedules. I work from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and he works 3pm to 11pm during the week (and sometimes the weekends). We spent the entire day together, a first in almost a month.

After an afternoon of relaxing and not cleaning the house, we saw Inception and then ate dinner together. He made a healthier choice in his dinner selection (minus the queso and chips we both decided to get), and I went with the American meal of a hamburger with french fries. Afterward, I said I wish I had ordered a veggie burger with a side of fruit. I thought about ordering it, even thought about ordering a salad, and then decided to go with the dinner that sounded better at the time. At least I only drank water with dinner, though.

Once we were home and sitting on the couch, we began to talk about health, about my being the best version of myself. We talked about the differences in my appearance between now and when we first met. I was blonde, always wore contacts, tan, and thinner when we met in 2007. Now I have reddish brown hair, wear my glasses most days, don't remember what a tan line is, and have put on more weight than I will admit to.

He handled the conversation with love. There were no negative words, no accusations. He stated he wanted the best for me, wanted me to enjoy my appearance, to feel beautiful, and he reminded me that he still sees me as beautiful.

I respect him for coming to me with his thoughts. It wasn't an easy conversation, and I know he struggled with what to say and even if he should say anything at all. But he did speak with love, and I am thankful for that. I didn't want to hear the words, but I needed to.

I plan to join the gym at the University of Oklahoma. It is $20 a month and will be removed from my paycheck before taxes, much like my parking permit. I plan to work out either in the morning before work or in the evening after work. There will be no excuse not to go as the gym is one minute from my office.

I plan to stop eating so much processed foods. It used to be unavoidable when I worked for the state when I spent at least twenty hours a week driving across the state of Oklahoma, but now, I sit in an office and leave campus only when I decide on fast food for lunch. Not only will it save us money to not eat at Braum's or Chik-Fil-A or McDondald's, but it should assist my waistline and cholesterol levels in shrinking.

I plan to cut diet coke out of my life as much as possible. I've endured withdrawals before. I know I can do this. The people I work with just may not like me as much while I am going through withdrawals.

I plan to not give into my every craving. I have the house to myself at night, and I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching The Bachelorette, and savoring a bowl (sometimes two) of ice cream. It's almost like I am back in college (minus the brightly colored apartment). Just because I have the opportunity to be a girl and eat too many sweets three or four nights a week, while my husband works, doesn't mean I should.

I've tried these things before, and I always gave into my wants and desires. I always allowed the wants and desires of right now to dictate my actions rather than looking into the future.

Now it is time to look into the future. I have years of life, I hope, left on Earth. I am called to make them years of joy, healthiness, happiness, and hope; I am not called to make them years of sometimes happiness and enjoying what I want in the moment.

I believe God speaks to us through other people, and while tonight's conversation with my husband may have been just about my health, I believe God is speaking to me about all aspects of my life. I am just going to start with this one aspect and see where it leads.

(title from "more like her" by miranda lambert)


no height and no depth could separate us

It’s no secret that the past few months, and even the past year, has been a year of trial, a year of strife, a year of tears and fears with a few rays of sunshine. So much has fallen apart including (but not limited to) our house. We’ve been blessed by a supportive family, close friends, and so much more. I try to focus only on the blessings, but recently, I’ve struggled with seeing the blessings during the present.

I tried my way
It always ends up being a mistake
I’ve prayed to see how He works in struggle and strife while going through struggle and strife. It’s easy to glance in the rear view mirror and have the blessings and reasons fly past. It’s so difficult to slow down, even pause life completely, when it seems as though many days are just meant to survive.

As I said, we are blessed. Life is difficult right now, but it is not impossible. We have enough to meet all of our needs and a few extras. Still, I am tired, exhausted even, and I am ready to not just have enough, to not just survive. I want to be able to enjoy life, to find joy in the situations we are in, to love uncontrollably and irrevocably. I want to bless others, to have enough left over that I feel like I have something left to give.

It’s not just one thing but a lot of little things together. I have cried out to God, asked Him for a miracle, for a sign, for something, and there have been small instances that made me wonder if He were speaking to me. I pray and ask for clarity, but nothing. He is once again silent.

But You’re right when You say
That You set the time for the plans You make
I never thought that I could ever learn to let it go
Somehow its better when I follow in the paths You show
So I’m here I’m waiting
Cause I believe
There is a tugging on my heart, one that says “just wait; I am here. I am working.” I do my best to believe it, to hold onto the waiting. I remember that He will always come through in His timing. I remember that He blesses those who wait on Him. So I wait. Sometimes patiently and with joy. Sometimes while sitting in my office bathroom with tears streaming down my cheeks.

We’ve known, since a few months after we purchased our house, that it needed so much more work than we realized. The work includes: a new crawl space foundation, insulation, new electrical work, updated plumbing, trees trimmed, new windows. I am sure there is more as well, but we have not yet discovered all of the home’s problems.

If it weren’t for the price tag attached to these items (like $17,000 just for the new foundation), I would be okay with it. I would remember that we have time, years even, to complete our work-in-progress. However, we have heard from multiple sources that the foundation is getting worse, there is now water flooding our crawlspace, and that we have maybe two years, at most, to complete the work.

Some say we need a miracle
Some say there’s no hope at all
But I know that Your love is strong, it goes on and on
And on and on
Rise up when it gets us down
It’ll be the voice in a blaring crowd
Because we know Your love will lead us home
It goes on and on and on and on
So we have prayed for a miracle, knowing God can deliver a miracle whenever He sees fit. We have prayed for $50,000 to simply fall out of the sky. We have prayed for Him to lift our house and steady the foundation. We have prayed for peace, for new employment opportunities, for direction. And He is quiet. I don’t think silent, as we have both heard whisperings, but quiet.

I’ve done my best to grasp an understanding of the situation, praying for clarity and reasoning. And He has provided some, but there is still so much I am uncertain over, so much I am not sure how to reason with.

Why is this our house, our problem? Why couldn’t we have been blessed with a different house? Because even though it has a lot of problems, this house is a blessing. It has kept us protected from storms (both spring and winter ones), from flooding, from power outages. It is the house we walked into, prayed over, and felt as though it were home. What are we supposed to learn from this?

There is no fear of belief
There’s just this cold reality
That wants to take me away from You
While writing this post, I felt God nudging me to remember that we (I) are much like an old house. So many of us have been rejected, left alone and abandoned. Our house certainly was as seen in this picture. For at least six years, it sat vacant, forgotten, boarded up, and unloved. I have felt that way, as have so many other people I know. Are we to learn from this house how to rebuild a person, to see how God views the people of the earth?

Or am I to learn about patience and contentment? Those who know me best will openly tell you (and tell me) that I move too quickly. I am not good at waiting. I am always looking for the next thing. I am ready for the next season of life. I do not always enjoy the current season of life. I breathe in the scent of flowers, but after two days, I am ready for new blooms, for a new scent, even though the scent of the flowers lasts for weeks at times.

Or am I to understand God’s timing more, to bend to His will instead of bending Him to mine? Because I often pray for things to happen quickly, for Him to move now. Recently, I have prayed for His timing, for His will, and I have said how afraid I am of those things. Because if I lean into Him and His will, I lose control, and as my husband will express, I have a bit of a problem with control.

I’m not sure of the reasons yet. I may never learn of the reasons. And I am so close to losing hope because I am tired. Tired of struggle, Tired of heartache. Tired of seeing the world hurt. But I refuse to lose hope.

Even if it means I have to cry in the bathroom every day at work and then pull myself together, I will not lose hope. I will not.

There is no doubt in my mind
That in Your perfect time
Your plans and Your ways will unfold.
(title and lyrics from "on and on" by chasen)


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