America, It’s Time to Choose Life.

America doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to choosing life. Such a powerful nation has abused its power and made evil choices which led to, and still leads to, the death of many.

This country was built on the backs of slaves who were torn from their countries and families, and still waited for over a century for basic civil rights after slavery was illegalized (though still continued in many forms). Natives of this country were horrifically forced from their lands and culture. These evil deeds still echo today in the consequences and injustices suffered by the descendants of the people in these groups. And 45 years ago today, the killing of unborn children was legalized in America. As I wrote last year, this has not only brought death to millions of children, but has brought about other types of death as well.

I have no deep thoughts to leave you. I can only wish that you and I will pray, fast, and do whatever we tangibly can to work toward a nation that chooses life for her children and descendants. We can fight for a culture of life, that respects and values every life. We can fight against the evils of racism and classism. We can do our part to impart hope and healing to mothers and fathers, and provide ample love, support, and resources for them as they make the courageous decision to bring a child into this world.

“A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”-St. John Paul II

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”-Deuteronomy 30:19

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Photo by Josh Bean on Unsplash
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Mental Health Series Pt. V: Finance.

(Note: I want to begin with a disclaimer that I am very much still figuring things out in this area. However, I’ll leave you with words from the Bible and some thoughts and ideas I’ve gleaned through sermons, readings, conversations…Please feel free to add your thoughts and what you’ve learned in the comments as well!)

Finances are a tremendous source of stress for people all over the world. In fact, I’m sure that if you were to survey people about their biggest sources of stress, finance would be in the top 3 for the majority of people. Finance equates in a big way with our ability to survive and achieve a certain quality of life. It even affects our relationships; one cause of marital discord and divorce is disagreement over finances. As with all aspects of our lives, the lenses with which we view finance is influenced by our faith.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” Matthew 6:25-33

Jesus tells us clearly that our Heavenly Father is looking out for us. He will provide for us, and we are valuable to Him! We are to place our priorities on the Kingdom of God first. He also warns us that worrying is not productive. Worrying doesn’t take away our troubles or find a solution. Instead of worrying about your situation, pray for solutions!

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

Did you know that Jesus was not talking about an actual sewing needle? He was talking about a narrow gate into Jerusalem, which was named “Eye of the Needle.” In order to get through this gate, all of the possessions that a camel was carrying needed to be unloaded. The camel could then get through, but would also need to hunch down and go through very carefully in order to fit. It seems then, that we must rid ourselves of attachment to material possessions. Wealth does not disqualify one from the Kingdom of God. It is what one does with the wealth that makes a difference. I believe that peace will come to our minds and hearts when we stop trying to keep up with others, and we realize that our greatest treasures are not to be found materially. When we learn to find joy in our relationships with God and other people, and find the beauty that surrounds us in our lives, we will be free from much stress.

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“Eye of the Needle Gate, Jerusalem”–Photo from Biblepicturegallery.com

However, we know that we cannot survive without food, shelter, and the other necessities of life. God provides, as we read in the passage from Matthew. Though God provides for us, we cannot simply sit idle and wait. We need to do our part. He has given us many gifts and talents to be used. In certain economies, jobs may not be available in the area you studied or have experience. Learning a new skill and finding a creative way to apply it can be a great way to increase your income. It can also be a good way to lessen your stress level and learn not to rely on one employer. (And sometimes, despite our efforts, God does provide in amazing ways without our expecting it!)

Many times, one’s workplace, boss, or coworkers can negatively affect their mental health. Finding a new job isn’t always feasible. In these cases, a counselor can be helpful in dealing with stress and areas of concern. Finding healthy ways to cope for as long as you are in that environment will be of benefit to you.

One last point: get rid of debt, and stay out. Debt can cause great stress. Depending on one’s level of debt, it can also take much money away from the other needs of life and cause you to be overworked. Dave Ramsey‘s books can be a good place to start in learning more about living debt-free and how to go about the process. Additionally, some loans will also allow you to pay based on income; look into this if you need to.

Takeaway points:

  • Pray for and actively work toward financial solutions. There are many aspects to this. Perhaps you could start with very small investments when you have a little extra money. You could also start carrying a business card and be prepared when networking connections come along. Learning new skills that can lead to more income is another aspect.
  • Curb worrying and turn to prayer instead. Train yourself to turn your worries to prayer.
  • Find healthy ways to deal with workplace stress. A counselor could help you with this. These articles also have some good ideas. Sometimes an environment is toxic, and you will need to find a healthier workplace situation for your mental health.
  • Free yourself from debt, and don’t let yourself get into debt again. When you think about it, debt is actually a form of slavery! Too many people are in debt beyond their means, causing great distress.
  • Learn to find your greatest treasure in God, relationships, and the simple beauties of life.
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Photo by Peter Lloyd on Unsplash

Next up: food and mental health! (It will be the last post in the series!)

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith

Mental Health Series Pt. IV: Higher Education

Mental Health Series Pt. IV: Higher Education.

Certain cultures (especially parents within a culture) tend to place immense pressure on students regarding the issue of their education. From the time a child is young, it is drilled into them that they absolutely must succeed in school. The child pours

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Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

themselves into their studies from the time they are very small. They graduate from high school and go on to college and obtain a degree. This is a tremendous accomplishment. But, oh, but you can’t stop at a Bachelor’s degree! You must go on for a Master’s! But everyone has a Master’s nowadays, right? It’s not sufficient. Go on for a PhD! Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit. The point is, a huge emphasis is placed on education nowadays. There are many beneficial aspects to this. As with anything, there are also downfalls. Education and knowledge are immensely valuable. Much progress can be made in a person’s life and within society due to education. Yet, sometimes societal or familial pressure in this area can be overwhelming.

This pressure can plant the idea within a person’s head that their worth is based upon their performance and academic achievements. This is a lie. One’s worth is not found in the level of education they attain or how well they perform academically. A person’s worth is found in their identity as a unique child of God, created by the Most High!

Here are a few tips to practice positive mental health as it relates to academia.

  • Evaluate why you are attending school or studying your subject. As with anything, check your motivations. Perhaps you are anxious or feeling down because you are not actually following your call and are simply pursuing what your parents pressured you into. Only you can figure this out, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the body and mind are tired, and you just may even need to take a semester off. Don’t be afraid to make the decision to change direction or to take a break, if necessary. These decisions will be difficult to make now, but will pay off immensely in the long run.
  • Live a balanced life. Do not let yourself be consumed by your studies. We all need balance in our lives. As humans, there are multiple facets to each of us. The good news is, that taking time away from studying refreshes you and allows you to return to your studies more focused. Don’t lose who you are as you go about your academic program. One day you will graduate (it’s true!), and life will go on without school. Even while you are attending school, it’s important to take care of your physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. I’ve found that having some sort of creative outlet is helpful as well. Even as a student, you are building habits that will carry into life after school.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure, or what appears to be failure. Despite your best efforts, you may not pass a test. A paper may come back with a less than stellar grade. Your thesis or dissertation may need extensive rewrites or even be rejected. Someone I know spent 5 painstaking years of his life for a PhD that never materialized. After this experience, he discovered great joy and a calling to teach non-native speakers of English. We are human, and the fact is that life sometimes involves failure. Sometimes failure actually becomes success, as we find a new path to follow with joy. It may simply be a learning experience that teaches you to go about studying in a different manner next time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This may seem like a silly tip. Yet we forget sometimes or refuse to ask for help! We could go a lot further if we asked for help. Perhaps this means meeting with your professor or academic adviser. It could mean admitting to yourself that you need to utilize the tutoring center. It could also mean counseling if you are struggling immensely with stress in your life. Importantly, it definitely means praying and asking God for help on a consistent basis! Being a student is not an easy vocation!
  • Remember who you are and Whose you are. Your parents may be upset that you received less than A’s, or that you choose a different program than they planned for you since the cradle. There are numerous scenarios that can occur. Always lean on your Savior and remember that your value is found in His love. A bunch of letters after your name or publications in prestigious journals won’t go with you to the grave. Only our relationship with Christ will be eternal.

Depend on God to help you with your academics as you put forth your best effort! Remember who you are and Who created you! Live a balanced life, not forgetting other aspects of yourself.

(Note: A dear reader requested this topic. A very important and necessary topic, for sure! I hope that I provided something helpful for you in this post!)

Next up: finance and mental health!

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith

Happy Birthday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr!

Today in the USA, we celebrate the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a great man who trumpeted equality in a time when blatant and unashamed inequality reigned. Ultimately, he paid the price for fighting with his life. Still today, his legacy echoes on and encourages us, as we continue to press for true equality for all races. There is still a long, long way to go. Thanks to Martin Luther King Jr.’s example, we can be strong and continue dreaming and working for equality and peace between all races and people.

Check out my thoughts from last year on MLK Jr. and how the way he lived his life can relate to our lives.

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Photo by Jerónimo Bernot on Unsplash

Letting God…Be God.

An exciting possibility recently surfaced in my life, quite unexpectedly. Immediately I began to play out what might occur, when, and how all the other aspects of my life would be affected by this possibility. In my mind, I began to manipulate everything to work out nicely. Essentially, I began to try to take the reins and to plan out each detail.

Especially for those of us with leadership abilities and tendencies, it can be difficult to give over control of our lives. In fact, it can be difficult even to see when we are seeking control, since it is part of the very fabric of our nature. However, all this planning is in vain. You see, GOD is ultimately in control. Though it’s important to have a direction…It is all “God willing.No amount of planning or manipulation on our part can accomplish what God has for us.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The good news is, I don’t need to plot out every aspect of my life! I can let go of stress and anxiety as I learn to simply trust. My Creator knew my path and all the beautiful twists and turns it would take before I was even in my mother’s womb! I could never have imagined the beautiful experiences I would have in my life, the connections I would meet that would shape my life, and how so many details would seamlessly meld together at a perfect time. As I look in awe over the numerous miracles in my life, I look forward to seeing how He will do it again!

Isn’t it amazing the miracles that happen….When we let God, be God!

“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 glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”~Ephesians 3:20-21

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Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash

Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith and Mental Health.

Faith can be a huge help when it comes to mental health struggles. In fact, it has been shown that faith can have a positive impact on mental health and on reducing anxious or depressive symptoms! Faith can also assist you in thinking positively, since faith gives us hope. We know that faith enriches our lives in so many ways and gives us hope for eternity as well.

Please be aware: there is a danger of “over-spiritualizing” mental health. There is a real biological component to many (if not most) struggles with mental health, including depression and anxiety. If someone tells you to simply pray it away, they are not looking at the whole picture. It’s true that faith in God can assist us in our struggles with mental health. In fact, forgetting the spiritual component of ourselves can be detrimental. But please realize there is more going on than a lack in prayer life and support that person as they seek whatever other help may be necessary for them.

Below are a few ways to find improved mental health with faith:

  • Soak yourself in the Word. Instead of letting negative thoughts take root, read God’s word. Do an internet search for the promises of God. There are many! Study His Word consistently. The Psalms are also a great place to take refuge in times of difficulty. There is a Psalm for all kinds of emotions and occasions.
  • Pray. Yes, it’s simple, but many people forget to do it! Instead of letting yourself fester in negative emotions, bring it God right away. Allow Him to carry your burden. Seek a close relationship with Him.
  • Recognize when your struggles are caused by sin, past or present. Confess your sin and learn to live in freedom from guilt and shame. Walk into the freedom and life that Jesus Christ offers. He doesn’t want us to live trapped in guilt about our past. He tells us to “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
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    Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash
  • Praise in every circumstance. Learn to thank God for your blessings instead of focusing on what you don’t have. This practice will not only keep you rooted in thankfulness to the Lord, it will help you to stay mindful of the great things in your life and remind you that you are truly blessed! Praise is a mindset changer.
  • Get in the practice of doing the Examen. This allows you to stay in gratitude. Gratitude has positive effects on mental health (similar to praise, above). The Examen also keeps you rooted in listening to the voice of God in your life and seeking His will for you. (Also: check out this journal, which I used a number of years ago. Though it’s not specifically an Examen journal, it more or less follows the same pattern.)
  • Read books that focus on God and His goodness. There are so many books out there, from this generation and from when the Church was in its earliest beginnings. Reading these inspirational books can help you delve into a deeper walk with God. I’ll leave a short reading list at the end of this post. Please leave any other suggestions you have. (Of course, I’m going to leave my motherly caution to be careful of what you read, as there are many false teachers out there and books with half-truths!)
  • Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who truly live what they believe. This can do wonders when you yourself are struggling with faith. These people can give you encouragement in the tough times.
  • Seek (Christian) therapy. Struggles with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. are affected by and can be exacerbated by our past  & present relationships and life situations. A therapist in the world can assist you. However, looking at life from a godly perspective takes into account the entire picture and remembers your relationship with your Creator and Savior. As always, I recommend Christian therapy if you are looking for truth-based and sound therapy. In my experience with Christian therapy, the therapist will ask questions about your relationship with God, about how God fits in with what you are feeling and experiencing, and also will feed you truths from His Word.

Faith has been crucial to many people struggling with their mental health. Faith gives us hope in our earthly future (Jeremiah 29:11) and in an eternal future! However, please don’t be afraid to seek help in the resources and people that God has given, when needed! Remember, He told us that “where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).

(Short) Recommended Reading List

  • The Holy Bible
  • Josiah’s Fire by Tahni Cullen
  • To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal, MD
  • Left to Tell & Led by Faith by Imaculee Ilibagiza (note: Left to Tell takes place during the Rwandan genocide; not recommended for sensitive readers)
  • Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young (spot-on devotion for each day)
  • God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
  • There is More by Randy Clark
  • Please leave other suggestions in the comments!

Next up: higher education and mental health!

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

Mental Health Series: Resuming!

My dear readers,

Over 3 months ago (!), I informed you that I was putting the mental health series on hold for the sake of my own mental health. I do apologize for the tremendous delay. I am happy to tell you that I successfully completed my first full-time semester of graduate school! I’m settled in a new house, working less, and still have a little time before school starts. That being said, the mental health series will resume later today (January 8, 2018) and continue each Monday until the series is completed! The topic for today will be: faith and mental health. Stay tuned, and thanks for bearing with me!

God bless!

 

P.S. If there’s a topic you want to hear about in the series, please don’t be afraid to let me know!

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

 

Together journeying toward the Creator and becoming the creations we were meant to be.