All posts by Sunflower Sojourn

I am committed to sojourning with you toward Jesus Christ, the Son, as we seek to become the people we are called to be in every aspect of our lives.

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

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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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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

 

 

The Word on Wednesday-Love vs. Hatred.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:9-11

1 John contains some strong convictions about love. When we have any trace of hatred in our heart, we are still in darkness. Our hatred for a brother or sister keeps us blind and from loving God and others as we should. Notice verse 11: “they do not know where they are going.” Our hatred leads to blindness, which leads to losing direction! We are no longer following Christ when we harbor hatred. Loving our brothers and sisters completely is living in the light.

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your heart and any areas of darkness. Ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to love–especially those whom are hard to love. Clearly, hatred is not compatible at all with following Christ. We must allow any hatred to be completely uprooted from our hearts in order to walk in the light.

      Hatred blinds. Love illuminates.

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Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

The Top 3 Lessons I Learned in 2017.

Our Creator is continually molding us, using our experiences and allowing others that can draw out our best self, if we let them. At the end of each year, I like to take time and look back on the year. This year was a year of numerous changes in every aspect of my life. Reflecting back on 2017, I see how much I’ve been able to learn and mature. Without all the complexity, and if I had stayed in my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have been pushed to growth. Most of all, without these changes, I would not have developed a closer relationship with my Savior. Without further ado, here are the top 3 lessons I learned in 2017.

1. Faith truly is believing in the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There were certain decisions I made in faith, with wise consult, realizing God was leading me in a new direction. People thought I was crazy at times (even if they didn’t say it). In each situation, God came through. In fact, He came through in the nick of time in the last instance! Faith is not easy. I learned how uncomfortable it can be to live in the discomfort of now while not yet having the answer of how the situation would play out. But a life of faith brings us into a closer relationship with God. Walking by faith means sometimes taking the first step forward when you don’t know exactly where you’ll step next, or why you’re being asked to step that way! God is truly faithful.

2. Always surround yourself with positive people who truly want the best for you. When it comes down to it, the people you thought were in your corner…May not actually care about you as much as you thought. In difficult times, people will show their true character. Look at the character of those around you. Just as we are called to “test every spirit,” it’s important to examine the character of those influencing us. Negativity and criticism pull you down more than you can imagine. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way. Going forward, I’m eager to spend time with the people who encourage me and build me up, and building new relationships of this sort. Positive relationships are life-giving and bring joy.

3. When I am weak, Christ is strong. I’m actually a little bit in awe when I look back on the year. A lot has happened in one year! Especially when it came to school, I sometimes wondered how I was going to finish strong. With Christ, we are overcomers. Leaning on Him, we can accomplish so much more than we ever thought possible! We can make it through situations that seem impossible. With Christ, I made it through difficult job changes, grueling semesters of school, and (by the end of the year) multiple moves. I’m going to keep leaning on Christ’s strength as life continues to change and require great persistence!

What lessons have you learned in 2017?

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Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash