Tag Archives: friends

The Power of Being Welcomed.

Recently I moved to a city that I knew very little about. It’s truly been a seamless transition, and I’ve actually forgotten that I’ve lived here for such a short time. What has made it such a seamless and easy transition, you ask? I have been welcomed with open arms.

One great source of welcome has been my new parish community. I’d heard a lot about this parish from other people in my age bracket. I went there and saw for myself how welcoming and kind the people were. At a recent event, a woman found out I was new to the parish and quickly made sure that I knew where she was sitting and that I was welcome to sit there, and introduced me to the people she was sitting with. On Donut Sundays, I know that can I sit at any table and find new friends. (By the way, I think every church should have an opportunity for fellowship after Mass or the Sunday service. Why is it not like this? That’s how community is built!)

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Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Lately I’ve been reflecting on how this experience is bringing me closer to Christ. By experiencing His love through the kindness of others, I am coming to know in a greater way Who He is.

The chilling truth is that many people have left the Church because they didn’t feel welcomed. Any person who is new to a church should find smiling faces and people ready to talk to them and bring them into community. It is up to us, the Body of Christ, to witness to Christ’s love. When a person is welcomed to a church, they will begin to grasp in a greater way Who Christ is. They will be more open to learning about Him. We’re called to make disciples of every nation. Let’s start in our own churches!

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Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

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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

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

Different, Yet Beautiful.

For the past two years, I spent Independence Day watching fireworks on the rooftop of my apartment building.

 

I loved being a a part of the city life, of having access to so many events at my fingertips. It was a total gift to be able to invite friends over for the 4th of July and walk up a

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

few flights of stairs to the rooftop. We could stand on the rooftop and see downtown, and watch numerous firework displays from over the lake. Now, I am in the suburbs. I definitely do not have my own apartment, but live in someone else’s home. They have graciously opened up their space to me and my (very unique) cat for a low price.

This Independence Day, my no-longer roommate drove us twenty minutes away, to another suburb’s fireworks display. By God’s provision, we found a parking spot. We followed many families of  energetic young children to the fireworks watching location, chatting about our still-single state of life and the general complexities that we never imagined would still be the reality at our respective ages.

We staked out a spot and laid out a blanket. The sun continued its setting. Music played over loudspeakers, and we continued to talk. Finally, the music stopped. All the lights turned off. There was a collective gasp in the crowd. Complete darkness covered the area as we waited for the fireworks that celebrate the freedoms and independence we are offered in the United States of America.

My life has turned out vastly different than I ever imagined. This is especially in relation to being 28, where I find myself now. As I contentedly watched the magnificent fireworks display, one of my best friends beside me, what echoed in my heart was “different, yet beautiful.”

Watching the fireworks in a well-removed location from city life, and surrounded by families, is vastly different than watching them in the city. Yet, it was beautiful.

Living in the house of married couple friends is much different than living in a house with my own husband, as I always assumed would be the case by this age. Yet it is beautiful as I benefit from the hospitality of my friends and learn more about the beauty and struggles of marriage.

Making friends with other single women my age and older, yet still trying to figure out men and how anyone finally makes it through all the steps to the altar is different than I ever expected would be the case by now. It’s different than having “couple friends” and arranging play dates, yet it is the most beautiful blessing to have these sisters to share this unique journey with.fireworks-for-blog.jpg

 

Life sure is different than I ever expected it would be at this point in my life. Still, grace and blessings abound, different blessings than I expected. Each day I find blessings and strength, treasures to hold onto. Our Father is a good, good Father.

Life is different, yet it is immensely beautiful.

Single Sundays-The Gift of Community.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

There is no question about it: every human being needs other human beings. As a single person, this is especially true. We are each a part of the Body. Yet we need the other parts of the Body to function well and fully. We can fulfill our purpose best when we are working alongside the other parts of the Body. As a spouse and a parent in the future, you will still need community outside of your spouse.

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Community is practice for marriage. That may sound silly, but in a way, it is. The people in our lives teach us to love. We learn to anticipate the needs of others. Our relationships reveal the areas we need to grow, and our strengths. We learn to forgive, both ourselves and others. These are such important qualities for marriage. I think sometimes as singles, we forget that who we are now will carry over into marriage. Getting married won’t magically change you into a more loving person. The way you are in relationships now is creating habits and norms.

A solid community will also be imperative when you begin courting. Your community can observe that person and give you feedback. Having married couples as part of your circle is a great idea. You can observe their marriage and find qualities you desire in your future marriage. They can give you advice. Who knows-they might even know another single person who would be suitable for you! As you court and begin marriage, they might be willing to serve as a mentor couple.

We need a solid faith community, people on the same road that we are. If your people are not on the same path, your friendships will not be as fulfilling as they could be. They will be empty, lacking the Living Water. People who share your faith will pray for you, giving you unseen strength. Good relationships help us to become the people we were created to be.  Positive relationships provide us encouragement, love, and understanding, qualities we need no matter what state of life we may find ourselves in. I remember a break-up I went through. I felt so weak. A solid faith community was so healing. They were a pillar of support during that difficult time, and I know the healing process would have been so much more difficult were it not for their love. There is strength in community. 

Even as a married person, you will still need community. The community you are building now will hopefully build a foundation that you can even take into your marriage and the rest of your life. They can be a blessing to your spouse and children as well as yourself! We cannot do this journey alone. As a single person now, you need supportive people in your life! Let’s be real: singleness is not easy!

With Jesus and a solid community at our side, we can stand firm and know we are not alone.

What benefits have you found in community? How are you working to build community as a single person?

Your Circle in 2017.

Who are you surrounding yourself with?

Is your current company assisting you in moving in a positive direction in your life? Or does their company allow you to stay stagnant–or even pull you down?

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”~Proverbs 13:20

I live with someone who has already achieved many of the goals I am working toward. I am

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amazed to see how this relationship has pulled me up and motivated me as I press on toward my goals. Our conversations feed me and give me fuel to keep pressing on. With some people, I feel drained. Our interactions leave me tired and without motivation to become a better me. I can compare it to setting out on a journey. If you don’t pack sufficient nourishment, you will easily tire. You will be unable to press onward until you have the good foods and hydration your body needs. On our journey to become “the best version of ourselves,” we need the nourishment of encouraging company, headed in the same direction. We need people who will keep coaching us to press onward. We need people who love us right where we are, but know that we can keep doing better–and help us to do so.

  • Are you around people who love Jesus Christ, or at least have the desire to do so?
  • Do the people you spend time with leave you feeling energized and inspired, or drain your energy?
  • Do the people you spend time with help you to become a better person, or do you feel like a lesser version of yourself after your time with them?

Don’t underestimate the power of your company. They will be your blessing or your downfall.

I pray that in 2017, you will be surrounded by a circle of inspiring people, people who will energize you and motivate you to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus and move into positive directions in your life!

Reflecting on Christmas and Gifts

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”~James 1:17

This time of year we celebrate the greatest, most perfect gift the world has ever seen: Jesus Christ! God the Father sent us His only Son as a gift. Jesus Christ coming as a human being enabled us to have a personal relationship with God, a more intimate relationship. All along the Father knew that His Son would suffer a horrific death. He sacrificed His only Son for wretched human beings! But He knew that this would bring salvation for His children. The gift of relationship with Jesus Christ is one that can’t be beat. And the gift of salvation? It’s an eternal gift!

I have asked for many gifts throughout my lifetime. In this post I am thinking specifically of gifts that I have asked of my Heavenly Father. Some gifts I have asked for years, but they are not gifts He has seen fit to give me–at least not yet. Instead, He’s given me many other gifts–gifts that have blessed my life abundantly and made my heart full.

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I have an amazing roommate. I am a hugely independent person. If one year ago you would have told me I’d be sharing a house, I wouldn’t have believed you. Having a companion to share life with has been one of the biggest blessings of this year. Especially a roommate that God truly chose and made it clear to us that this was an open door from Him. Our temperaments and our vision for life are so alike.christmas-party-cute

I have Benny, an amazingly affectionate kitty. I was “maybe” going to get a cat. Then he put his paw on my arm and looked up at me. So he came home with me. Never in my life have I met a cat like him. I am so grateful he is mine to care for and love. Every day he provides laughter to us with his antics.The Lord knew I needed him.benny-cuddle-2

The Heavenly Father has given me a job that allows me to interact with my brothers and sisters from around the world daily–one of my greatest joys. And this year, He gave me the long-awaited opportunity to travel across the world!

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I could go on and on. The thing is, what I’ve noticed is that nearly all of these gifts were unexpected. They weren’t what I prayed for, but they were still answered prayers. I didn’t ask for these gifts, but I needed them greatly. And I am so grateful. My heart is happy and full.

What great gifts from our Father are we not seeing because we’re simply focused on the ones we don’t have?

Our Father is a good, good Father!