Tag: Faith

Breakups, The Greatest Love, & Healthy vs. Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Painful Emotions

Heartbreak: It’s a killer. If you’ve experienced a breakup before, you’re familiar with the emotional, mental, and physical toll it takes on us. Whether it’s the end of a friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage, the breakup and grieving process can come with intense pain.

A few months ago, I went through a breakup.

Feelings of loss and insecurity especially bothered me at first. These are some of my specifically “triggering” emotions, causing me to think thoughts that made me vulnerable to my struggles. To be honest with you, in my initial moments of weakness, I didn’t choose to use healthy coping tools. I wanted to isolate myself at home, I didn’t reach out to many people, and I even found myself returning to old eating disorder behaviors…

The one healthy thing that I did choose to do was pray for guidance and healing. But even though I was asking God to help me, I still turned inward and turned to my body for security. 

At the gym I tried to make myself feel better. But rather than inflate my self-esteem, I  ended up with the same deflated heart. 

I was trying to console myself on my own – trying to feel “good enough” and “lovable” without leaning on any other person. Despite my rebellion, God swooped in and reminded me that I already am worthy; and that he loves me enough to pursue me.

God pursued me. 

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 121:2 “He heals the brokenhearted.”

The day after the breakup, I felt this gentle nudge on my heart that I should go to an event at church. Surprisingly, I decided to emerge from my cave of grief that evening. I didn’t try to hide my melancholy mood at church, but I didn’t go seeking sympathy, attention, or connection.

However, while I was there, three people came to me and initiated some very special and unexpected conversations. They were people who I wouldn’t necessarily go to for help; yet I received love, validation, hugs, and words of encouragement from them. When I went to bed that night, my heart was full; and I remembered that I’m worthy of love. 

I really felt like God was using his people – the church family – to speak truth and show his love to me when I needed it most. 

The next day, I turned to some of my not-so-helpful “coping tools” again. But God’s love proved stronger than my rebellion. Again, he pursued me through his people. While I was at home, three different people sent me texts saying things like, “Hey Jess, I was just thinking about you,” “How are you?”, “Can we talk soon?”, and “Let’s set up a time to hang out!” 

As much as I wanted to isolate myself during my time of insecurity, people were coming to me, pulling me out of my pity, showing me that I was worth their time and connection, and loving me at the right time.

Those connections, and the words of encouragement that followed, quickly began to build me up. People supported me. They inadvertently made me realize that I didn’t need to be so insecure or question my value. It’s cool to me that those friends reached out to me, not knowing what I had been feeling. I truly think this was an act of God.

Psalm 94:18-19 “Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

What’s even cooler is that this pattern continued for the next few days: I would turn to my Eating Disorder, but then I would connect with someone; they would encourage me; and I would momentarily snap out of my mental turmoil. 

To end that week, God reminded me of my value in an even more unique and powerful way. I attended my friend’s baptism service. Seeing my friend joyfully and publicly display how Jesus had transformed his life filled my heart with happiness. But what made the moment even sweeter was remembering that I was the one who introduced him to Jesus Christ. 

As I sat there, I could hear God saying to me, “Jessica, not only are you worthy and loved by me and by others, but you have the ability to change people’s lives! The most important thing about you is not your body or what others think about you – it’s that you can draw people into my Kingdom. 

Right then I started to tear up, and I felt the weight of all my insecurities fall off my shoulders. 

There’s two things I’d love for you to take away from this story:

1.) God loves us enough to pursue us! His love is stronger than our rebellion. He can draw near to us in our heartbreak, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy, and remind us that we’re made whole and complete in him. And I think sometimes he specifically uses his people to clearly and audibly speak the truths that we need to hear.

I love that when God chases after us, we get to remember that we’re cared for and seen by our heavenly Father; and we learn that it’s okay to rely on him when we feel weak. Like these verses say:

2 Corinthians 1:4-5, 9 “[God] comforts us in all our troubles. . .our comfort abounds through Christ. . .that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”

2.)  The other point that I want to stress is this:

The coping tools that I turned to (my eating disorder and isolation) did not cure my insecurities.

I think that a lot of us turn to self-destructive or unhelpful things when we’re insecure, lonely, heartbroken, etc. And those with eating disordered or introverted tendencies especially turn to our bodies or isolation when we feel insecure. But I found that what really made me feel better was connecting with people. Connection paired with a little bit of vulnerability created the opportunity for so much encouragement and healing! 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 13, he urged the Christians not to “think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” I won’t go into full Bible student mode to explain what this means; but I know that turning to my body for feelings of control and security would qualify as a fleshly desire. Paul advised them instead to “clothe” themselves with Jesus and to fight their battles with “the armor of light.” I love this! To me it reaffirms that Jesus is the key to getting through external pressures and trials and to overcoming internal conflicts as well.

So my friend, I want to remind you that you are valuable and loved. If God would pursue me, I know he would easily come after you too! He wants to be the source of your security and for you to feel whole and complete, because you’re his child. the Bible says clearly that nothing can separate us from his love, and that he’s close to the brokenhearted. He wants to hold our hand through the trials of life and for us to depend on his fatherly affection rather than trying to do everything and feel good enough on our own strength.

Comments and questions are welcomed! Have a nice week!

 

Fear, Breakthroughs, & Rewards (Part 2)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on September 30, 2017. 

This is part 2 of my 2-part blog post. If you did not read the first post, you may want to go back and read it first.

A wise and wonderful friend of mine once said something so true and so powerful to me. It was right after I decided to get help for my eating disorder and right before I actually started the hard work of therapy and treatment. In this season of intense conviction and anxiety, it was a difficult yet encouraging statement to hear. She said:  “The moments before my biggest breakthroughs and blessings always involved a battle of anxiety and fear; But it was worth it every time.”

At the time, I could only imagine blurry images of these so-called “blessings” that she said would come to me; and I could not comprehend what sort of “breakthroughs” I would have. I was too focused on my fears and on the obstacles I would have to overcome first. Anxiety kept my mind on the negatives instead of the potential positives.

However, now that I have submitted to the process of recovery for over a year, I’ve discovered that she was right. The battles that I fought were indeed worth it. Now I’ve been able to believe and apply this concept in other areas, as well.

But let’s rewind a bit. . .What happened after I pushed past my fear and started therapy and recovery?

Well, life certainly did not get easier for a while. I walked around with worry and anticipation during the weeks leading up to my first appointment.  I constantly questioned whether I had made the right choice in pursuing “recovery.” I was so fearful.

In the months to come, I had to do a lot of very uncomfortable things. Recovery is an ongoing process of, “Okay Jessica, now we need to talk about this___,  and work on this ___. You’re going to have to stop doing this ___, and cope with life without this ___.” An eating disorder is, in many ways, like an addiction. It’s not easy or glamorous to give up. I’ve had to change my behavior, my coping skills, my thoughts, and go against my instincts so many times. It was miserable some days.

But something cool happened over time. For every hard day that I got through, I realized I had the power to do something I deemed impossible, before. I think this is a good example of the kind of “breakthrough” my friend was talking about. It’s a positive, uplifting, and eye-opening experience. It’s an “Aha!” moment where we learn something new about ourself, and we let it really sink into our brain.

Every time I got through a day without using one of my eating disordered “behaviors” or unhealthy coping tools, I regained some of my dignity and sense of inner-strength. Even when I had a bad day, I realized that a lot of my fears were coming from made-up scenarios in my mind, and that the pains of recovery were not as unbearable as I had expected. My anxiety and fear have significantly decreased around the things I used to have panic attacks over. By enduring hardships and functioning through them, I learned more about life and about my capabilities; and this has allowed me to fundamentally change in positive ways. The changes in my life and thoughts have been the breakthrough that my friend predicted.

The blessings I have received from this difficult process of recovery are numerous: Resilience, true joy, more peace, self-care skills, incredible energy, new passions, empathy, connections with some of the best people I’ve ever met, a more genuine heart, a deeper understanding of my self-worth, and an understanding of what it means to rely on God in times of desperation.

But remember:  before I gained the blessing and breakthroughs, I had intense anxiety and fear to push through.

Now that I’ve told you my experience, let me give you another example.  My story is just one example of what can happen when we choose to fight through the anxiety and fears we have about something.

Let’s say someone is about to start a new job. They’re intimidated by everything they have to learn, and they’re anxious about making mistakes. They feel inadequate to fill their position. But after a while, they start to get the hang of things. Over many months, they make mistakes, get embarrassed, have to prove their skills to their own self, their boss, their co-wokers, and their clients. They’re exhausted, but they haven’t given up. Eventually, they learn that they are not only capable of doing this job, but they’re also getting really good at it. Through the years of determination, they get promoted and are highly respected by everyone who knows them in this job. They now have confidence in them self, new passion for their job, new skills, and maybe even better opportunities.

If that person had not fought through the anxiety, fear, and initial hardships, they wouldn’t have gained the blessings and breakthroughs.

Here’s another example: New moms often feel terrified before their first child is born. And many often feel doubtful, anxious, and inadequate during those first few months and years of mothering. But they also often endure those hard days, become better mothers, gain the blessings of being a mom, and realize they can handle more than they thought.

I can think of more examples, but I think you get the point. Now, I want to encourage  you to dig deep, and do some reflecting. What kind of blessings and breakthroughs could possibly await you on the other side of your own fear and anxiety? My guess is that if you choose to struggle through something that isn’t easy for you right now, you will eventually be rewarded with feelings of accomplishment and strength; you’ll gain insight; you’ll become more resilient to life’s trials; and you’ll possibly even find joy from other blessings that you can’t imagine yet.

(Also, because of who I am, I can’t leave out the impact that the scriptures have had on me. My motivation to do hard things often truly comes from knowing that God promises to strengthen me, sustain me, provide a better future, and lead me on the best paths. Here are some of my favorite verses for times of anxiety.)

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

“”For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

“apart from me you can do nothing. . .If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  – John 15:5,7

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Fear, Breakthroughs, & Rewards (Part 1)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on August 29, 2017.

This will be a two part post: Part 1 is mainly a personal account and background story. Part 2 will be more of a practical application, encouragement, and some insight for others.

There is a part of my story that I’ve only shared it with a handful of people. Now that I’m ready to talk about it openly, what better day to post about it than the anniversary of when it happened?

One year ago from the day I’m posting this – August 29th of 2016 – was one of the most pivotal days of my life. But I need to rewind the story a bit to explain why.

I’ve been aware of my struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia for a few years. At some point along the way, I heard about this process of “recovery.” Through social media, I discovered that thousands of girls (and boys)  like me were working towards freedom from disorders. At that point, I did not really want to give in to the process myself, but I was afraid for my life…So I began self-motivated recovery.

For many months before last August, I had been trying to improve my suffering health. I tried to eat more, set healthy boundaries with exercise, and focus on my spiritual growth. I was reading books about recovery and talking to the few people who knew what I was struggling with. However, since I had minimal accountability, my efforts would often fail. It was a roller coaster of small victories and major setbacks.

Last summer, I became increasingly aware that my energy levels were abnormally low; my mood was often unstable; and my mental “space” was often occupied with thoughts about my body and insecurities.

For several weeks, I had this nagging feeling that something had to change. I could not continue living this way, especially as a new college student. When I though about college, I became petrified…How could I focus on lectures and take good notes if I was tired, foggy-headed, and anxious most of the time? How could I be a good student if 80% of my thoughts were focussed on my body and my self? How could I walk around from class to class if my muscles felt weak?

I finally admitted to myself that my suffering surpassed the “benefits” I felt I was getting from my disorder. I was exhausted; I was tired; and my anxiety was intense. However, I felt stuck. I did not know how to move past the point I was at, because clearly my efforts were not enough. My disordered thought patterns were deeply ingrained and creating a prison in my mind.

Full recovery seemed impossible. When I felt like giving up, though, God would remind me of verses like Philippians 4:13, which says:

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

Or Jeremiah 29:11:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

And especially Galatians 6:9:

“So do not get tired of doing what is good. For at just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.”

So, I did not lose full hope; But I knew I still needed something to change.

The idea of finding a therapist popped into my mind. I wrestled with the idea silently for a while. I would waiver between, “No, I can power through on my own,” and “I definitely need professional help.”

Out of embarrassment, I really did not want to see a professional. I also wondered, “Am I skinny enough to be sick? Will the therapist turn me away?” Among other things, I thought going to therapy would mean I was admitting that I was “troubled” and weak. It would mean I would have to take time out of my schedule to sit in an office and have uncomfortable conversations. It would affect my family’s finances. It would mean surrendering control, giving up my behaviors, revealing my secrets, and probably gaining weight. There seemed to be way more cons than pros!

Yet, I still felt that nagging feeling that I needed to get help; and this feeling increased until I finally gave in.

On August 29th,  I sat on my bed, full of fear. I remember being wrapped in a blanket and shaking with anxiety. In one hand, I held a piece of paper with my doctor clinic’s mental health line phone number; and in the other hand, I held my cell phone.

IMG_3554I was scared, lonely, and filled with regret that I had allowed myself to get the point that I was at. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I thought about all of those cons that I associated with therapy. But because I have hope in the promises and forgiveness of my savior Jesus Christ, I made the best decision I have ever made: I ignored the screaming voices of my perfectionism, the stigmas of therapy, and everything in me that wanted me to remain silent and sick; and I called that phone number.

A man from the clinic gave me an “assessment” over the phone and directed me to a therapist, who I started seeing a few weeks later.

August 29th is important to me, because it was the day I overcame the overwhelming fear, anxiety, stigmas, pride, and vanity that were holding me back from living an abundant life, pursuing a better future, and trusting God. I walked into something that I knew would be painful, but I trusted that it would eventually pay off. That day was the day I said yes to recovery and yes to God’s plans for my future. It was the day that the course of my life fundamentally changed. It was pivotal

One reason I’m sharing this is because I’m proud of myself for doing what was so incredibly difficult; and I know I would be suffering so hard today if I hadn’t taken that step of faith. Just as importantly, I also believe and hope my story can encourage you to overcome hard things, too.

If you’re not sure you can really get past the fear in your life, I will hopefully persuade you in Part 2 of this post…Stay tuned.

 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

” So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed every day.  For this light momentary trouble is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Your Questions/My Answers

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on June 15, 2017.

Below are some questions that people were curious about and asked me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers and find some of my insights helpful!

Q: How do you manage or re-direct your anxiety? What are some of your coping strategies? 

A: I don’t always handle my anxiety well, to be honest. I’m still working on this and learning new “strategies” that work for me! I think that I am qualified to talk about this, though, because I used to have panic attacks quite often, but now I rarely do. I have come a long way. Here’s a few tools (besides medication):

  1. Taking time to simply breathe can help at times. Often, I unknowingly slip into shallow breathing when I’m anxious, and this is not helpful. It causes my body and stomach to tense up. If I can, I lay down or sit in a position where I can get comfortable; I release every tense muscle; and I pray.
  2. Self-talk is a good technique: I have to literally whisper truth to myself that can combat the lies I’m thinking. For example: In the morning, if something happens to trigger my anxiety, I might start thinking things like, “Today is gonna suck. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to eat. I can’t eat. This ___ is too hard for me to handle.” Lately, when I recognize that this is happening, I start combatting the anxiety by saying out loud, “I’ve gone through worse than this before. I’ve gotten through all my hardest days! I can get though the next 24 hours. I’m way healthier than I was before. God has never left me. Food is fuel that I need for this day.”
  3. When I’m alone, prayer is always my #1 tool. When my anxiety is severe, I feel like God is literally my only comfort – my lifeline. Plus, since I’m a verbal processor, It really helps me to talk to and cry out to God, telling Him what’s grieving me. I find some comfort in knowing that He’s with me, and He hears the cries of those who love Him and seek Him. Talking out loud about what’s stressing me out can also make me realize how illogical my thoughts are. Anxiety usually originates in our minds.
  4. Lately, when I can, I try to find someone trustworthy to talk to. This helps me get “out of my head.” I’ve learned over the years that too much isolation is not healthy for me, as an anxiety prone person. The reason is that anxiety usually comes when we think negative thoughts and allow them to progressively worsen and escalate. I do this a lot. So, having someone else – who knows me well or is level-headed – tell me the truth about my circumstances and rationalize with me is very effective.
  5. Crying…Yeah, it works for me. I don’t do it often, so when I do, it feels really good!
  6. Journaling about how I’m feeling is another good way to process what is going on in my life or swirling around my head.

 

Q: How’d you get through weight gain in your recovery? (In my eating disorder, I lost a significant amount of weight, over 3 years. I reached a weight that was dangerous for me. In order to be considered “safe,” I was told to follow a meal plan and gain weight. And I did.)

A: Weight gain is a difficult thing to feel 100% okay with. I was very resistant to the idea at first. However, once I followed the plan, I started realizing the benefits that the food was giving me. It was my medicine. After so long depriving myself, I felt so much better having vital nutrients! My headaches went away; I had energy; I didn’t need naps; My mood improved; And I was less anxious!…So, the benefits of food outweighed (no pun intended) the changes that my body started going through. Along with appreciating what food does for me…

  1. I also covered my mirror for 10 weeks, eventually put my scale away, and got rid of clothes that were uncomfortable. I realized that objects were having too much power over my self-confidence, related to my body/weight. And that’s pretty darn lame! (I do not feel the need to weigh myself anymore).
  2. Talking with a professional dietician and learning about a healthy, normal BMI was incredibly helpful! She explained to me how BMI is measured, why it’s different for everyone, what type of “frame” I am, why a healthy weight is important for women, and much more. She also told me recently that I’m sitting pretty comfortably in my healthy BMI range, and that there’s also wiggle room for me to gain weight and still be considered normal.
  3. I realized that my genetics are unique to me and my family. My extra weight will distribute differently that others’. A “thigh gap” is genetically unrealistic for me (and most people); and super thin arms are basically impossible for me to obtain. The list goes on. But that’s something I’m okay with now! Trying to force my body to be something it’s not supposed to be is exhausting.
  4. Also, I educated myself on how sick the media is, and how our culture worships the “thin ideal.” (I watched a few documentaries, did some reading and research, and learned about it in Sociology class). Once I learned how much women’s bodies are altered and edited in the media, my thoughts changed. Putting skinniness on a pedestal isn’t something I want to take part in.
  5. I accepted that the my body is no longer an adolescent body. It’s an adult body. I can’t keep it the same as it was when I was younger.

 

Q: How are you so vulnerable about your struggles with your friends and family?

A: I’ve always been pretty honest. I’m a talker. I don’t really like hiding secrets. So, with that being said, it’s pretty natural for me want to open up to people, in general. At least with people I know and trust, it has not been very difficult to tell my struggles.

When it comes to really heavy topics, though, or ones I know my family or friends may not understand, I think vulnerability came once I realized the value in opening up to people. Talking about my struggles can benefit me in a few ways: 1.) It creates accountability. 2.) It makes me feel way less pressure or awkwardness around people when I don’t feel like I have to hide something. It removes huge burden. 3. ) People sometimes surprise me with how helpful they can be! How can I get support, love, or advice from people if I don’t let them know what’s up? 4.) We are ALL broken, sinful people with struggles. So, I think people relate to me in some way when I talk about my problems. Nobody ever really reacts with disgust, shock, or disapproval. They usually say they’re impressed by my honesty. 5.) Conversations about difficult subjects can be mutually beneficial. Giving and receiving of advice, support, and prayer can happen. Plus, I think we can all learn things by listening to someone else talk about their personal difficulties. 6.) I like to educate people on the realities of anxiety and eating disorders, and I have seen God use that in multiple ways.

 

Q: What bible verse is your go-to encouragement when you are facing stressful/tough times?

A: During hard times, I always find some comfort in Romans 5:2-5″

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

And Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Q: How should a family member or friend talk to someone who has an eating disorder? 

A: This is a hard one, because all people, situations, and relationships are unique. I don’t want to make big, blanket statements about all people with eating disorders. In general though, I have learned a few things that I believe should always apply.

  1. Talk to them in private first. Please…Don’t bring up someone’s eating disorder in a group of people. This has happened to me at 2 different parties, and it is SO frustrating. If someone bring up their disorder/struggle in a group setting, then that’s their choice. But most likely, if you bring it up in front of others, you’re going to damage trust with them. Even a small comment intended for good can make someone feel violated or uncomfortable. (Again, this is still just my opinion. Situations may vary.)
  2. If you aren’t sure if someone has an eating disorder, but you suspect that they do, tread carefully…If you genuinely want to offer them help, go to them with utmost sincerity in your eyes and voice, and tell them first what you observe about their behavior or lifestyle. Don’t make them feel personally attacked. You must come off as caring and sincere, or else they won’t be honest with you.
  3. If you’re close friends with someone who has an eating disorder, and this is an open topic of discussion, don’t tell them to “just eat” or “eat less.” The disorders are less about food and more about other issues preventing them from feeling like they can eat normally. Try to instead remind them why eating healthfully is important for their whole well-being (energy, mood, mind, body functionality).

 

Thanks for your questions! And as always, thanks for reading and supporting my blog 🙂 It’s what I love to do. Leave a question below, for next time!

More Than I Imagined

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 7, 2017. 

“Lord, I am so tired of being afraid of the future. I know that I’m not walking in the truth, and my anxiety is holding me back from experiencing full joy and pursuit of my dreams. . .Please, I just need you to bring me security and then some joy and a little excitement in my life. . .I don’t know…I just want to feel more at peace and secure. Please help me, God. Amen.”

A prayer written by me,  January 2016

I found the above prayer in my prayer journal. Evidently, I was having a hard time and feeling devoid of security, joy, and peace. The month previous was when I was so terrified for my health that I got onto anxiety medication.

The beginning of 2016 was simply the middle of a difficult transition, and I was feeling a lack of direction for my life. I pictured another 12 months just as hard as 2015.

But, little did I know, I was about to have the most transformational and rewarding year ever! 2016 ended up being the year that I learned the most about myself and became determined to fight harder than ever!

Now, let me be clear that without my faith in him, I would have only sunk deeper into the pits of fear, disordered eating, insecurity, selfishness, apathy, and isolation. I know this because my belief in God was my main motivator in any and all efforts to get better.

My motivation is the fact that I believe He created me for a purpose and has greater plans for my future. And those plans do not include bondage to self-destructive behaviors and thoughts.

Through my consistent asking of God for help and a perfectly orchestrated set of events, God did more than I could have ever imagined.

He nudged me; He made me feel strong moments of conviction that broke me down when I needed to make a change; And He used specific people to say the exact words I needed to hear. And I believe that he even lead me to the scriptures that I needed to read, when I asked him to. There are some events that I give God all the credit for, because the timing was just too perfect. There is no way I could have planned each little (or big) moment of impact so divinely. It was purely the Lord’s doing.

Because of this, I’ve really been loving this scripture in Ephesians that says:

“How long and wide and deep and high is the love of Christ. . .Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be all the glory. . .for ever and ever! Amen.” – 3:20-21

Seriously, I’m blown away at his work in my life!

I compiled a list of positive events and significant changes that all happened within 2016:

  • I started this blog!
  • I went 10 whole moths without any major panic attacks. (WOO!)
  • I visited Biola University, and realized that I actually DO want to go to college!
  • I got accepted to Biola!
  • I shared my testimony with my entire highschool youth group (scary, but worth it!)
  • My anxiety gradually decreased, and I learned how to handle it better.
  • I reached two major clinical health goals!
  • I turned 18, graduated high school, and started my summer job all in the same month!
  • I worked as a middle school leader and went to summer camp with the youth group.
  • I shared the gospel with 3 people and helped lead 2 to Christ. (YAY)
  • My relationship with exercise turned healthy.
  • I started college.
  • I went on real dates with real boys 😉  (I don’t think I could have healthily done this last year.)
  • I found direction for life, felt new passions, and felt joyful.
  • I got asked to be a bridesmaid! AND
  • I made a scary but life-changing decision for my overall health that has been TOTALLY worth it! (I’ll share more about this one later).

It doesn’t hurt that I also made it to Disneyland twice, saw a couple celebrities, and made some friends 🙂

These blessings came at a price though. I had to fight hard. I had to wait patiently, keep going to church, seek the Lord for strength, cry, endure a lot of discomfort, ask people for help, and always ask God for direction. But now I can see that it was all worth it. I can see now that he did hear my prayer in January; and he had good things in store.

Yes, fighting was worth it; and God ended up doing “immeasurably more than I asked or imagined.” And this is my hope for 2017! I’m expecting Him to continually show up and to be on my team. He has never left my side, and He’s not going to now.

God can move mountains in your life as well! He will bless you in incredible ways if you  have an active relationship with Him, ask Him for help, and have a willing heart. Then wait expectantly with faith.

We’re Just Not That Smart

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on August 4, 2016. 

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in my life, it’s that God’s plans are far better than mine and that he deserves my trust. Because if I really evaluate what my life was like in times where I acted in independence from him – verses times of asking for his help – I can clearly see how much more I flourished when I acknowledged him.

But I have to be reminded of this fact constantly…

Like at the beginning of this summer: I was struggling with insecurity and fear, and I was running to old habits to sooth those feelings of emptiness. But thankfully, the Holy Spirit impressed two specific verses on me at the right time; and they’ve made a huge impact on my life since then. They’re Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

When I read this verse, I always kind of think, “Man, this is a lot to ask! Trust him with ALL my heart and in ALL my ways?…” It really is a pretty heavy demand.

I think it’s easy for us to get distracted by the demand of the first part without considering the sweet promise of the second part. God promises that if we submit to him, he will eventually “make our paths straight.” In other words, he’ll bless us by leading us on the right course for our best possible future. That’s a pretty sweet deal!

Now, in order to obtain the map to those “straight paths,” we still have the challenge of, “leaning not on our own understanding.”This is difficult! I don’t know about you, but personally, I make a lot of decisions based on how I feel, what I’ve observed, and what I think to be true (a.k.a. my understanding). I definitely try to be wise, and I know that I often can be. But I also know that the seasons of life where I suffer the most are because I’m momentarily  NOT “acknowledging” the Lord.

For example, my eating disorder stemmed from believing the ideas of, “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, or athletic enough.” – Do you think those statements were from the Lord or from faulty lies built up in my mind? I think they were very untrue…

When I evaluate some other ideas I once believed, I can see how many ended up being untrue! They were not scripturally based truth, rather they were my own “understanding.”

  • For instance, I used to think there was no way I could handle going to college, so I told myself that I didn’t want to anyway.
  • I thought I’d be stuck with anxiety and panic attacks forever.
  • I thought I could not be a good small group leader to middle school girls.
  • I thought I would always hate my job.
  • I thought I would always hate traveling.
  • I thought my body would never heal or be able to reach my health goals.
  • I thought my friendships would stay the same for a long time.
  • AND, I thought I could not write a successful and interesting blog…

The theme running throughout this list is that I was listening to doubt, insecurity, and the world’s opinions instead of believing in the truth of scripture. BUT, through trusting God, I have dismantled all of those lies and allowed him to change my heart and mind.

I see now how utterly wrong my thinking can be when I’m not inviting God into my decisions.

So, in closing, what does it look like to practically “acknowledge” the Lord? Well, as I’ve practiced it, I’ve seen that it’s not extrememly hard.

When I’m feeling discouraged about my day, I try to see the positives and view it as a growing opportunity instead. I invite the Lord to teach me. When I’m feeling afraid of the future, I take a moment to reflect on all that God has already brought me through. When I feel unattractive, I have to tell myself that my appearance is not highly important. When I’m upset with or hurt by someone, praying for them is a quick way to soften my attitude. When I don’t get what I want, I can thank God for what I do have and trust that he’ll provide me with future blessings.

Honestly, sometimes all I have to do is take a deep breath and say “Jesus I trust you” under my breath (even if it feels forced).

I believe that if we can work on evaluating our thoughts and dismantling those lies that cause roadblocks, we can focus on and place our complete trust in God so easily. It’s just a matter of practicing those truths and having a perspective that’s wider than our own. Inviting God’s truth to drown out the lies so that we can trust him to guide our lives.

What I’ve been up to: June, 2016

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on July 21, 2016. My first post as a high school graduate!

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged, and so much life has happened since then! I’m now graduated and already thinking about the college chapter of my life. BUT, I try not to live in the future too much; So let me catch you up on just the highlights of the first month of my summer. I’ve been doing and learning a lot.

Graduation Day

I vividly remember an important moment from that day. It happened in my thoughts, but it was pivotal.  As I was sitting in the pew, waiting for my turn to go on stage, I completely zoned out and suddenly everything going on became quiet to me.

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I started thinking about the independence I was going to gain from then on. My future looked unknown, big, intimidating, exciting, and everything else. The gravity of the fact that I was going to start making a lot of big decisions for myself became very heavy. I also realized that without a youth group to go to, It’s really going to be my own choice whether or not to live for Jesus and go to church in my adult years…I thought about how I’m living for something (someone) much bigger than myself. I processed these thoughts for a few minutes and then snapped out of my daze. Ever since then, I’ve thought about the future in a new, more serious way.

I’ve had a lot of joy since then, though! I felt immensely blessed by the love and support i received that day. Thankfulness and a full heart is how I would sum up June 4th. It started my summer on a wonderfully high note!

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Work

A lot of my days have been spent working back at the old Forest…In case you don’t know, I work at Enchanted Forest Theme Park. It has been rough at times, and here’s why:

It can be an incredibly, physically demanding job some days. Other days, I just sit in a gift shop for 8 hours and have way too much time to contemplate life. I sit there, bored, and try to see Jesus in my day. He usually seems hidden when I’m there, and I don’t like it. My co-workers often make me sad, and I struggle to find joy in a place surrounded by fake smiles. I’ve had to figure out what to do when I witness someone lacking integrity…It’s just a very different atmosphere than anything I’ve experienced, and it has tested me in several ways. But the bright side is that it causes me to cling to the word of God.

Senior Retreat

I got to go to Sunriver Resort for a few days with 17 other just-graduated seniors from my church. I feel like this was a turning point in my life. Before the trip I sensed God was about to do something in my life, and I was waiting with expectation. In our devotional one morning, we were focussing on Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I will spare all the details of how exactly God spoke to me, but this passage had a huge and lasting impact on me. I have read Proverbs 3 almost every day since then, and I just love those two verses the most. I really trust the Lord and his timing now, and I know he is wanting to remind me every day to acknowledge HIM over my own understanding. He says He will make my paths (my future) straight, and I want to accept that blessing from Him!

Also, I got to spend irreplaceable time with my peers, my wonderful mentor, and her adorable baby for those few days. I soaked in the love, advice, encouragement, and laughter and was reminded how filling it is to be with my church family.

John’s Homecoming

Straight up – I’m just real happy my brother
is back from college

 

I get a feeling of normalcy in my life when he’s here. He is my best friend, and I have been so much happier since he got home. Not only that, but we’re focussing on being each other’s best friend and spending intentional time together as much as possible. We have talks about life, we have been catching up, and he has lifted me up with affirmation.

Middle School Camp (Adventure Camp)

Yesterday I returned from 5 long days of serving as a leader of middle school girls. It being my first time as a camp leader, the experience was all new. I would describe it as hot, fun, tiring, annoying, challenging, hilarious, and rewarding. Being in ministry is like nothing else, I tell ya. Being away from cell service for that long allowed me to really be present and listen for God’s directing. Each day I grew closer with 7 young girls. They asked me questions constantly. They cried. They splashed me. They nagged me. They surprised me. They drove me crazy. And most of all, they blessed me.

Initially, I was afraid to go with the flow of the schedule and live in the present (due to my anxiety and desire to plan and be in control). But somehow, I ended up being okay. I surprised myself with how well I adapted. I actually found enough rest in the crazy scheduled week and 6 hour night sleeps. I was refreshed enough by the support of the people I was around and the reward of being there to help my students. I also remembered the passage in Proverbs 3 to “acknowledge him” in ALL my ways. I think what I really needed, whether I knew it or not, was time to be selfless and usable by God. I feel so healthy and free after several days of serving like that, and it’s going to challenge my normal way of living.

Anyways, there’s a whole lot more I could say about camp, but I’ll leave it at that. If you actually read all the way to the end, I’m very impressed. 😉 Thanks for reading! I hope you can be encouraged to acknowledge the Lord and let him lead you on straight paths as I have been.