Ever go on a road trip and find yourself distracted by the millions of billboards on the road seducing you to take a detour? Whether it's a detour to a lunch spot, hotel, mall, etc., what was supposed to be a 5 hour car ride somehow turns to 9 or 10. Half the time, when you get to the lunch spot, hotel, mall, or whatever, it's not even as good as the billboard may have promised. If you thought that detours only pop up when you're driving, you're in for a surprise!
The truth is, in our Christian walks, there are many detours that can distract us and lead us on a path we weren't originally supposed to be on. These "detours" always promise us something greater than what we have now, which is why we get lured in.
One man in the bible we know took a major detour or side trip is my man Jonah. In Jonah 1: 1-3
God was very clear, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and tryout against it; for the wickedness has come up before Me."
What did Jonah do? "But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD." <-- DETOUR!
I notice I am more likely to take detours when my eyes are no longer fixed on Christ. I DO get easily seduced by those worldly "billboards" that promise something better, bigger, and faster. Reality? The billboards I am often distracted by never live to their promises. But you know whose promises never fail no matter how many times I take side trips? Our Lord, Jesus Christ's. I have seen how Satan tries to lure me away from my true destination. Be warned. Satan can be persistent and the detours are often subtle. We have to be alert. Always praying. Always seeking FIRST His Kingdom.
Don't be fooled. Whatever this "IT" is that is slowly taking your attention away from your true purpose and true destination...it cannot and will not measure to the promise God has for You!
Stand Firm, brother and sisters.
Ever feel like you're stuck in a negative thought cycle leaving you complaining more than praising?
Here's the deal. I will rarely post anything on here that I have not learned myself. Let's talk about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for a minute. It's a therapeutic model that helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective (and positive) way. I use CBT with a lot of my clients, educating them on the power of their thoughts and mind. Though I teach this every day, I failed to notice how much my thoughts have been impacting my emotions and actions.
Let's be real.
Who actually likes snow at this point? I never did. My (I am trying not to use the word hate...even though it was the title of my last post) lack of love for it is only growing. All over social media I am seeing many people's attitudes take a turn toward the negative. We are maxed out. Winter is rough. Motivation starts to decrease, energy is low, sleep is off and on, healthy eating fluctuates, and we just feel like we are chopped up into little pieces and spread out every where. No? Just me?
God met me right here. He wasn't waiting for me to get my act together and "fix" myself so I can be presentable to Him. Nope. He met me right in the middle of the negative thought cycle; right in the middle of the roller coaster ride and He said, "You will continue to be restless until you find your rest in me...change the way you think, invite me into the battlefield of your mind...watch as my peace surpasses ALL your understanding." I took a deep breath, as though I were breathing in all of his goodness, faithfulness, love, peace, joy, and power and breathing out all the noise, crap, distraction, and negativity.
Most of us know Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Many of us are thinking/praying about what to give up for lent. Last year I decided to add more prayer/intercession for others into my walk with God and asked you to reach out if you wanted prayer. It was a powerful experience and over 80 of you reached out requesting prayer! So I set aside time every day to lay down your requests before the King. This year, I want to invite God in these next 40 days into my thought life. Mindfulness of my thoughts requires a lot of energy and willingness to confront myself. I believe it is worth it because that is the battlefield for me. It's where lies and distortions can grow, but it's also where my purpose can be re-defined by God Himself.
Take a moment and reflect on your thought patterns. Are they honoring God or do they dismiss His presence?
This may seem like an unusual post under this section of the blog but I promise there is a reason. For Valentine's Day, Graham and I had plans to get out of town and enjoy a weekend away. We had the hotel booked, dinner reservations made, and events planned for the weekend. Come to find out (surprise, surprise) another huge snow storm was on its way...nearly 2 feet. Crapola. Plans had to be changed. I knew we would be miserable trying to shovel ourselves out on Sunday, attempt to drive in the chaos, and still go grocery shopping, food prep, and get other stuff done before Monday rolled around. The plan had to change.
Despite the fact that I can manage big changes really well (I actually enjoy them...things like moving, new job, those kinds of things), I have a hard time with small day to day changes. Thankfully Graham is the opposite...he struggles with big changes but handles little changes incredibly well! As I was calling the hotel to cancel, I could already feel myself getting irritated and quite honestly just straight up disappointed. My mood was crabby and I was having a hard time snapping out of it. Waking up this morning, I knew I needed to get my attitude checked and be reminded of living each day with no regrets. I opened up The Word and just allowed God some room to speak to my heart. Guess what? He did...just like He always does :) The long and short of it is that I believe Graham and I's life is going to be full of MANY changes and this was an opportunity to learn the importance of flexibility and trusting in God's plans, which can absolutely take place in very "earthly events" like a Valentines Day weekend. Needless to say, today surpassed my expectations.
After some time with God and a good ol' sweaty workout, Graham found out there's an indoor winter farmer's market near by! So we hit the road and went to check it out! As you can see in the picture above on the left, they had everything from homemade breads, jams, Mediterranean food (this part was awesome! The guy serving the food was from Egypt...first Egyptian guy I had an encounter with in New Hampshire, pretty awesome!), honey, maple, jewelry, vegetables, fruits, pot holders, mittens, wooden art, and all other sorts of things. We did our usual grocery errands and then came home to have lunch and relax.
You want to know something funny? Maybe other married couples can shed some light on this. So, this weekend was filled with so many simple outings but it was such a good time to spend with Graham. We talked at dinner how we work to deepen and strengthen our marriage but sometimes we don't spend as much time fostering the "friendship" aspect of it. As we played silly games like Wii bowling, tennis, boxing, and just let ourselves be ourselves it was more than a fun day with my husband but truly a fun, relaxing, down to earth day with an incredibly special friend.
The snow had arrived but that didn't stop us. We got dressed up and went out to dinner. The food was perfect. The atmosphere was romantic. AND to top it off, our waiter was just awesome. We had the opportunity to talk with him and get to know him a little bit. I wish I spent more time getting to know the people around me and not being so quick to pass them by and move on.
So why share all of this with you? Here's the thing. At the end of the day, even if we hadn't gone out to dinner or the farmer's market, what mattered was that we were together and had time to spend quality friendship time with each other. Everything happens for a reason. This is something that I forget a lot. I get wrapped up in the day to day "human-like" activities and I dismiss God's presence. REALLY though, He is always present; in the meaningless and meaningful. Once I was able to open my eyes and see that my way is not God's way and my plans aren't always His plans, I was able to let go and just embrace what He had in store. And it was good.
Let Him Love You.
For the first time in about two weeks I am feeling refreshed, at peace, and confident of my purpose and identity. It's been a roller coaster ride with mixed emotions and division within myself. The best way I can explain it is that my body was in one place, my mind somewhere totally different, and my spirit was just kind of floating around randomly.
Thankfully, I was able to talk with my mom Sunday night and she prayed with me for 30 minutes on the phone. The whole time she was praying I was writing everything she was saying in my journal. I know that probably sounds awful but I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking through her and that I was going to need to come back to this moment.
In her prayer she kept mentioning Esther. She happens to be one of my favorite women in the Bible. I have always admired her selflessness, courage, loyalty, and her faith. In Esther chapter 4, Mordecai (Esther's Uncle), had learned about Haman's evil plan to completely wipe out the Jews (of which Esther was one). Mordecai pleaded with Esther to intercede on their behalf before the king (as she was now queen). Esther expressed concern as the law stated that anyone who comes before the king without being summoned is put to death unless the king extends his gold scepter. Mordecai's response was this (vs. 13-14) "Don't think for a moment that because you're in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a tim elite this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this.
Every time I read this passage I get the chills. Is God allowing you to be in a difficult job where it may look in the natural as though there is no hope? Perhaps you were made for such a time as this.
Is your family unit struggling and there doesn't seem to be any compassion, love, or peace?
Perhaps you were made for such time as this.
More than anything, no matter what happens, I want people to see THE God behind Caren. Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? After the incident with being thrown into the fire, king Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
Others gave glory to God because they saw the devotion and complete submission of his servants. They bloomed for such a time as this.
Wherever you are right now, I believe your hardship will never be in vain. Allow God room to bloom through you for such a time as this...
A few posts back I shared with you how I have been struggling to live in the moment as I have been so distracted by future plans, hopes, and dreams. Thankfully this topic came back up!
I had the honor to visit with this beauty today. As we sat around sipping coffee and hot chocolate, we began sharing about the importance of embracing each moment God blesses us with reflecting back on the many times God has been faithful. Through that discussion I began to see how silly it is to worry about the future! The same God who has provided, protected, healed, encouraged, strengthened, and loved me in seasons that have passed is the same God who continues to write my story today.
I want to share with you one a few verses that have truly been shaping how I walk with God over the last year:
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
No matter how many times I read this, I am reminded of the phrase If you're worrying you're not praying and if you're praying you're not worrying. So true. Last Sunday my pastor also said something that I believe is 100% true. He talked about the importance of taking time to meditate on the Word and on God's promises. Then he said, "If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate; same part of the brain is being used." Whaaaat? How crazy is that? So basically, no excuses.
Today, I no longer have yesterday. Today is all I have for tomorrow is not guaranteed. Today, I will be present. Today, I will be grateful for all the Lord has done. Today, I am going to trust that He is the author of my story and that everything He writes is good. Today, I am going to embrace each moment and live for Him who has chosen and called me for His purpose. Live today.
Too often I find us trying to treat symptoms rather than the sources of our struggles. There is a time and a place to ask "what?" but there is also a time and a place to ask "why?"
O.S. Hawkins identifies 3 primary symptoms of depression and I find I agree with them all.
Back to Elijah. One of the first symptoms I find associated with depression is isolation. Pulling away from those who love us most can be the most dangerous because it leaves us alone with our thoughts...which are too often inaccurate. Even Elijah detached himself from community when he went into the wilderness and sat under a broom tree (1 Kings 19:4). I can't help but think that if Elijah was surrounded by those who cared about him, his pain could have been eased.
Despair / Discouragement
Elijah went so far as to say "It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers!" Elijah was experiencing hopelessness; he lost all will to live. To tie in the source of anxiety, you can see how the fear and fatigue fogged up his thinking. We are not depressed because we are discouraged....we are discouraged because we are depressed. Look at the source, not just the symptom!
Elijah was deceived and was fed by incorrect thinking as he stated, "I alone am left" (v.10). God quickly reminded him that there were 7,000 other people who had not bowed down to the world's false gods. Elijah was so fixed and consumed by his problems he couldn't see the clear picture.
So what's the SOLUTION?
First look at your physical needs. I don't think it's an accident that Elijah immediately fell asleep and that the first thing the angel that woke him up did was to say, "Arise and eat" (1 Kings 19:5). How you fuel your body and keep it in good shape can be some of the best ways to fight depression (spoiler alert...be on the look out for a post under Fitness about the connection between faith and fitness).
Look at the personal solution. I know I have been in places where I knew God didn't want me there, but I would keep hiding. God then comes in, in that still small voice, and asks "What are you doing here?" That question will be very personal for each one of us. Don't run from the question.
Where does this leave you? That's between you and God. This post was simply to turn your attention from yourself and to the Lord who is right there ready to restore, refresh, and renew you. Look up.
"What are you doing here?" (1 Kings 19:9)
If you aren't familiar with Elijah's story, I invite you to read his journey throughout 1 Kings. To sum it up, this was a question Elijah heard God ask him right after one of his most victorious mountaintop experiences. With that said, even though Elijah was one of the strongest of all God's men, he was given to spiritual depression.
Myth #1: Only people who fail experience depression. Case and Point? Elijah.
Depression is real.
Working in a community mental health center, many of my clients are battling depression. Just as we are made up of soul, spirit, and body...depression too can manifest itself in all three dimensions. Sometimes it's due to a physical obstacle like a chemical imbalance, which should be addressed by a medical doctor. There is a psychological aspect, too, which I like to call "soul issues." Those can be addressed by trained counselors, which is what I have been blessed to be a part of. Finally, like Elijah, there is spiritual depression that leaves God asking us the question above....
What are the sources of depression? What about the symptoms? Is there a solution?
While reading The Jesus Code, by O.S. Hawkins, I was able to dig a little deeper and
see depression from a different perspective.
What are the SOURCES of depression?
Take moment to examine yourself. Are you tired? Have you been living in fear? Have you forgotten God's goodness, faithfulness, responsiveness, and power? Take a moment and reflect on the many times that God has proven faithful and courageously react in faith rather than fear.
*Part 2 will address the symptoms and solutions for depression so stay tuned!
A Bit About ME!
Hey friend! My name is Caren and I am so glad you stopped by! This blog is a bit of my corner on the internet where I share honest thoughts about my faith journey, fitness journey, doctor wife journey, and motherhood journey. ALL of it! The good bad and ugly! I pray that something I share encourages you today!