Discarded Dreams

dreamI am hoping for another honest chat today. Have your cup of coffee yet? Coffee makes almost everything better. I’m not sure what I enjoy most, watching it brew with promise or drinking in its warmth.

Anyway, I wanted to discuss discarded dreams today. I have so many.

I am actually excited to have so many littering my memories. I planned on being an actress, a mom, a wife. I would be successful, well-known, and accomplish all I set my mind to.

I’m 22 now and far from being an actress. I’m not well-known. I haven’t succeeded at everything. My book proposal has been rejected. I’m not a mom yet, and I spent two years in so much chronic pain that I alienated myself from people.

As a teen, I would not have chosen this path for my life. It looks grimmer than I had planned. I’m not on the stage and my success rate does the tired lean! You know what, though? I’m extraordinarily happy. I’m happy because things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. I’m happy because I’ve learned more about God through chronic pain and discarded dreams than I would have learned had I been handed all my young (often vain) dreams.

I’m happy because I live a real life. It’s not a dream world full of my selfish plans. As a teen, I dreamed about me. As the years passed and chronic pain, unmet expectations, and weariness of spirit ripped more of “me,” I found delight in God. 

As I delighted in God, I discarded the dreams that revolved around me. As I delighted in God, His desires became mine. He gave me what was best, and helped me abandon all that wasn’t. I’m not famous. I work in child-care, and no one cares to see me on that stage. My first manuscript has met rejection, and my expectations are constantly trampled on when they become all about me. But the delight, hope, and life in God is worth more than all the discarded dreams of my youth.

Beyond that, God has given me so many good things … a husband, a home, a dog, a job I love, friends I enjoy, a column to write, and too many life memories to count. Discarded dreams suddenly become the things that light my path toward the better plans God had for me all along. I can wallow in self-pity, or I can turn to God and find joy all along the bumpy path of this life.

I have a choice every day. Am I going to delight in God? Or am I going to desire myself above all else?

I don’t know what’s coming. Maybe, my book will never be published. Maybe, my house will burn down, or I’ll never be given the joy of a child, but this one thing I know … delighting in God throughout it all will bring steady joy and peace to my heart.

How many more dreams will be discarded?

I suppose it doesn’t really matter because it’s not about my dreams is it?

Rather, it’s about delighting in God!

Sierra Straightforward

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My Heart Dares to Bloom

flower-bloom-heartIt’s been awhile since I talked to you. I know I’ve written often, giving you things to think about, advice to mull over, and challenges galore. However, it’s been awhile since I just talked to you as me … Sierra. So today, it’s time for a cup of coffee and an open, honest chat.

I hope you have been well. In the last couple of months, I have experienced a mixture of sadness, joy, and hope. Life rarely hands you one thing at a time. In January, I found out that some very good friends of mine will move away. I was happy for them, of course. They will be pleasing God very much by this move, but I love these people with my whole heart. The loss of their daily presence in my life will hurt deeply. I cried, but of course found joy in knowing they are going after God with their whole hearts! They officially move in the beginning of April, and I look forward to their future with them.

I still face feelings of sadness because I’m losing daily contact with people I love so dearly! January was also the month I had a birthday and it was wonderful to celebrate life with my small family! As January ended, I looked forward to the next month! February came with joy and hardship as well. I fought the hard things with denial at first, but as I sat on my front porch and accepted them, I knew hope in God again.

You see, God’s hope doesn’t flit away as my emotions do so often. Hope in God remains sure because God is sure, unmovable! As I released my own desires, and replaced them with hope in God, I found rest again. My desires can cloud my vision so fully that I forget that God knows best. He never stops knowing best, and God’s best for me is right now, in this place, surrounded by these people, facing these trials, rejoicing in this life, and knowing encompassing hope in God!

February has come to a close and with it a month of memories meant for me. I am so thankful for God in the good times and the hard times. I’m so thankful that God stands by me in the difficult moments, in the storms, and in the care-free jubilees of life! What would I do without my hope in God? I would sink ever lower until depression claimed my heart! But I don’t have to sink because God is with me. God is my hope. God is my joy. God gives life … abundant, full, and free!

I walk into March, and my heart dares to bloom as a spring flower. It blooms boldly because God is with me. It blooms boldly, because God will nurture and sustain it. It blooms because of God … and only because of Him.

If you’ve placed your hope in any other, you cannot bloom.

Place your heart and hope in God. It is in Him that you will know the bold bloom of a dependent spring flower!

Sierra Straightforward

The Hard January Day

masksOne of the saddest parts of the New Year is clicking on a news article and seeing tragedy. I absolutely hate it. I struggle knowing that it is the first — the first of many, many more. 

 
Christmastime brims with hope, joy, and life! I look forward to the day with great excitement, and when it arrives, I feel so encouraged. Then tragedy mars the joyous New Year, and all the hope, promise, and wonder of the Christmas season seems to end. 
 
However, recently I came to the realization that I’ve looked at this entire thing backwards.
 
The year 2016 contained much joy and much sadness. Though mixed with happiness, it definitely came with hard times — both personally and globally. I experienced grief, loss, and heartache. Even so, Christmastime came with the celebration of Jesus Christ, and the joy and hope was palpable. No matter the difficulties 2016 had brought, I still harbored peace and celebrated joy at the end! 
 
Heartache and grief cannot rule when God is the King of my heart!
 
The hard January day is coming. It will come over and over again this year, but we have HOPE. We have God’s truth! We can be saddened by the tragedies around us, but hopeful that God heals! We can grieve at the personal battles before us, but rest in God’s strength! We can know with assurance that He makes the hard, unwanted things glorify Him. 
 
I can’t understand how He does this, but I know that the hardship and trials we will face in 2017 will not be forgotten by our God and will come to good! It may not be the good we expect or desire, but it will be good. God’s good. And that is better than any good we can think of!
 
We don’t have to fear what is coming because we have our faithful God. We don’t have to grieve without hope or live without joy. We are alive. We are at peace! We are safe in God’s faithful promises. 
 
As I come upon that first hard January day, I won’t only look at the tragedy and the loss. I will look at my God who, in His infinite sovereignty, can make even this a vehicle for His goodness and grace. At the end of 2017, Christmastime will come just as sure as it has in the past. We will celebrate the promise of HOPE, and then we will spend the entirety of a New Year living it out!
So, I encourage all of us to take this day and live out our hope in God — no matter what comes and no matter what doesn’t.

 

Celebrate Your Growth!

life-growthAs I wrote about the past five years of my life, seeing my progression encouraged my heart. Often our actions in junior high and high school embarrass us. We shrink into the shadows when we look at how we behaved at 17, 18, and 19. But I am discovering the importance of looking back and seeing one’s progress.

Don’t focus on the way you were and wilt. That’s not you anymore! You’ve grown, matured, and developed into a stronger woman who depends on God. When you look back, consider the now as well. Celebrate the growth!

Just this week, I was unexpectedly pulled out of my usual job area and placed in one I hadn’t worked in for nearly two years! I didn’t experience frustration or fear at the challenge. The old me would have. Instead, I was flexible, all hands on deck! I’m not gloating about how great I did this week (I still have plenty of room to improve!), but it was so encouraging to see that I had grown so much.

In the same way, sharing my story with you the past few weeks has reminded me that I’m not the little, sensitive, scared 17-year-old that I used to be. I still have many weak spots to work through and make mistakes every day, but I’m growing, and sometimes this growth needs to be celebrated!

So today, I encourage you to sit down and write about the past five years of life. If you don’t like writing, pull out photos and reflect on how you have grown. Thank God for His love and patience. Enjoy the fact that you aren’t the same woman of five years ago. Recognize your growth and celebrate it!

We too often critique ourselves and get frustrated when we don’t measure up, but today I encourage you to look back and recognize how you have improved, grown, and developed.

You have! It’s time you acknowledged it.

Growing with you,

Sierra Straightforward

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My Story | The Valley’s End

dance-valleyAfter the surgery, visible healing followed. I could stand for longer than 5 minutes. I could walk and run without intense pain. Overall, recovery took longer than expected, but the joy of feeling my body heal was worth the struggle! I had finally reached the moment I had dreamed of for so long.

On May 23rd, Ben and I were wed, and over the course of the next year we became one. It was a wonderful first year, a year in the sunshine, a year of healing.

For a long time leading up to my surgery, I spent many nights crying, many days frustrated, and many months confused. But God knew all along that this would be my story. This would be the way of my healing. This would be my lot.

No amount of asking why or railing against the pain in anger could change the course of this story. I just had to wait. I had to learn WHO my God was, rather than WHY I feelt so much pain all the time.

I still get migraines often. I throw up. I get sick easily, and to this day, I deal with chronic pain. I believe it will follow me the rest of my life, but there has been incredible healing in this valley. I have learned to accept my story, to not be angry with it, to live within it even as I learn how to better care for myself.

Having emerged from the valley with scars to show for it, I urge you to wait patiently within the valley you find yourself in. I urge you to learn about WHO instead of always searching for the WHY. I encourage you to remember that while shadows, rocks, and unexpected holes litter your valley…you can also find sunshine, hope, and love.

Look up, not down. Grieve, but not without hope. Worship God through the tears. Wait on Him. His story for you does not change even when your feelings and emotions rage. Trust God with your life, the whole of your heart. Walk through the valley, and when you get near the end, reflect on all He has shown you. You will be amazed! You will see miracles. You will find love abundant, God ever caring!

Still reflecting,

Sierra Straightforward

My Story | Miracles in the Valley

doctor-appointmentThe healing process can prove slow and painful. Exhaustion dragged me down as I entered my sixth year with chronic pain. My determination waned along with my will to improve. A valley, though hard and fiery, can become in many ways a comfortable place to stay.

Ben and I dated seriously and knew that we would get engaged by the end of the year, though we kept our plans quiet. He was finishing his final year in the Institute of Ministry, so I left my beloved daycare job at Wolf Mountain to join him. I taught Junior High, did secretarial work, and took classes all while we happily dated. I also quietly sat undetermined to take the necessary steps for surgery.

Somewhere along the way, I finally picked up the slack and began making the calls to switch my insurance to my new county, hoping to acquire a primary doctor so my body could get on with physical healing.

On December 23rd of that year (2014), Ben proposed. My heart brimmed with dreams, and the planning began. Ben was my anchor and proved over and over that he really was the keeper of my heart. In the process of finding decor, making paper roses, and feeling beautiful in my simple (yet detailed wedding dress), my medical insurance finally updated me to my present county … in February!

Needing the surgery, wedding plans took a back seat while I tended to the medical hurdles. I hoped to accomplish it before our May 23rd wedding, but May approached quickly, and the hoops to jump through seemed endless. First, I had to have a series of doctor’s appointments in order for them to recommend me for surgery. Once they placed the request, the waiting game began.

Though simple in nature, the procedure still required the insurance company’s approval. As experience had taught me, a response could take a month if not longer. After that, we would need to schedule a surgery date, and then factor in healing time. It all seemed impossible to meet before our May 23rd wedding date. I needed a miracle!

Hope abounded and with it a renewed determination to heal. I made calls and worked hard to get the appointments as fast as possible. My first doctor’s appointment was scheduled for March 11, but I called the office every day to see if anyone had cancelled so I could have my appointment sooner. Finally, someone cancelled and I was schedule for March 3rd! Praise God!

After the multiple doctors’ appointments, I finally had a surgeon. I scheduled two appointments — the first so the surgeon could look at me and recommend surgery, and the second for the actual procedure. It would take a miracle to get this surgery less than week after the general appointment.

I prayed desperately for this desire of my heart, reigning in my wild pleas as I asked that it only be done if it was God’s timing. I would receive an answer on Monday or Tuesday. I was used to hearing a no, but I was convinced that God would give me a yes. Though I admit my confidence wavered, then flew back in with strength.

I let Monday go by without calling, because surely it would be Tuesday before we received an actual answer. Then Tuesday came … and I was not happy with what I heard. The request was faxed to my primary care doctor, but they never got it. My request for surgery hadn’t even crossed with the insurance company, and they would no doubt take days to approve the surgery. I was disappointed.

But this time, I wasn’t giving up! I picked up the phone and made calls back and forth between both the surgeon’s office and my primary doctor’s office. After things sorted out and my paperwork was submitted to the insurance company, I felt better. I had done everything on my part that could be done.

After all the calls on Tuesday, I stopped the work I was doing at the school and knelt to pray as I again begged God for surgery if it be His desire for me. Waiting wasn’t as difficult as I had made it in the past. God knew my needs, and He knew the timing with which those needs should be met.

I went to my IIM Tuesday class. Prayer requests were asked for, I gave mine, and we prayed that I would have surgery soon.

Minutes later, I was called with this news, “The insurance company went ahead and approved your surgery.” She kept on going, but I was amazed at God. The insurance company approved my surgery in less than 24 hrs! I cried in awe.

This is sunshine in the valley. This is healing in sight. This is wonder because my God is great.

Still in Awe,

Sierra Straightforward

My Story | The Hard Middle

Fall of 2013 dawned as a time of beginnings. I still struggled with my chronic pain, but my job as a child-care worker and my growing friendship with Ben added a vitality to my life that I had left behind in the many months before. The emotional cavities in my heart were healing as Ben helped me grow and live a fuller life. We began officially dating in October. We had a magical Christmas holiday and made long-lasting memories. I really liked dating Ben, and I loved him! By December of 2013, I was certain I would marry him.

We talked about everything that was important, shared the same passions, complimented each other’s strengths, and stood by during weakness. He became my best friend. I avoided calling him boyfriend because boyfriend seemed too shallow for what he meant to me. Long distance proved hard, but fun.

Story4Enduring chronic pain seemed more hopeful alongside a best friend who refused to leave and always comforted me through the tears. The following February (2014), while I took a shower, I noticed a lump on my body. Fear stole my breathe. I had never seen it before, but in the previous months I had experienced a different kind of pain.

Continue reading “My Story | The Hard Middle”

My Story | Shreds of Hope

My first year working at Wolf Mountain Christian camp was interesting, to say the least. I had never enjoyed children all that much, so working as primary child care provider for the staff kidsinfants was totally new and overwhelming. I didn’t have any real experience with little humans. It scared me! What if something bad happened on my watch?

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Strained health and tight finances prevented me from attending college, working a job, and participating in theater. While the child care job provided flexibility, stability, and time to rest, it didn’t come without its share of responsibilities and struggles.

Continue reading “My Story | Shreds of Hope”

My Story | The Valley Depths

Several months before I turned 17, I experienced strong chest pains. It became so intense I could barely breathe, carry my books, or even open a door. My parents had left on an important trip, so if I experienced any problems I was to call Grandma who lived close by. She came over in the night, checked my blood pressure, and made the executive decision to take me to the ER.

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I put on some clothes and got in the car with Grandma. Though my blood pressure seemed fine, the chest pain caused concern. It had started in my left arm and became progressively worse. On the drive there, the realization of how fast my life could change struck me. What I heard tonight could alter my life forever. Would I receive bad news? Did I have a tumor? Cancer? What was hurting my body? Even after leaving behind the overwhelming thoughts of death I mentioned in my last post, I still worried a bit of what might come.

Continue reading “My Story | The Valley Depths”

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My Story | Age 16

I’ve alluded to my personal story in previous posts, but I wanted to take the next several weeks and share with you in detail the struggles, trials, and triumphs of the last 5 years! I want to take September & part of October to reflect on all God has shown me through these valleys and mountaintops.Story1

At 16, I was almost a year into my chronic headaches. I was a year into those beginning feelings of loss. Loss of health. Loss of physical ability. Loss of capability. Loss of confidence. To this day, I’m not certain whether or not I needed to feel those emotions, but I did and they hurt.

Moving from a physically-able body to a chronically-pained one proved to be a difficult process. I internalized the struggle and fought vainly to overcome it. I spent so much time in pain that I barely made room for anything else. In effect, I worshiped my pain.

 

In the summer of 2012, I worked in Leadership Live at Ironwood Christian Camp — a program for teens to learn about the ministry and apply that same knowledge to actual labor. I also grew up at this camp, but that is a story for another time.

Anyway, I worked 6 weeks with 10 other girls, crammed into a tiny room, while serving in the camp kitchen! Surprisingly, I loved it. But my pain remained deep and perplexing.

Continue reading “My Story | Age 16”

Concerning Change | A Letter to You

We’ve spent several weeks discussing change. I’ve shared practical advice, showed you part of my story, and encouraged you to press on. Today, I write to you as though I’m writing a letter to my friend.

ChangePart4

Dear,

Don’t fear life and change. You should change, grow, and learn. Make mistakes and embrace the lessons learned from them. You should feel a bit disoriented every now and again because change comes fast and it can be hard! Find the joy in transition as your heart brims with gratitude for this beautiful and complex life. But above all, your changing heart should find inexplicable rest in your never-changing God.

You can embrace change with both hands and a steady heart because of God’s faithfulness and steadfastness. He has promised to never leave or forsake you. Let this ever-changing life pull you closer to Christ. You can depend on Him. You must depend on Him because He is the only One who can and will bring you through it.

You will only live life well when you fully and deeply rely on your never-changing God. The next time you crack under the pressure and the demands of life, feel that frailty, give it to God, and then rest in His strength.

Change can make you a better woman. Hold tight to God’s promises and rest in His never-changing character. Become more like Him. Don’t fear the transition that has the potential to bring you nearer to Christ.

My dear —

Don’t be afraid.

Trust God … fully, resolutely, faithfully.

Why?

Because God is with you and He will never leave or forsake you.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

When the Journey Changes

At the age of 15, I experienced intense, regular headaches. They came so often that I began to worry. By 16, I suffered with unbearable migraines. I would lie down in the school nurses station between classes so I could gather enough stamina to sit upright for the lecture. I would groan quietly to deal with the sharp twists and turns knifing through my head.

It was agony.

near the beginning of my chronic pain journey
Near the beginning of my chronic pain journey

For the last 4 years or so, I’ve recounted this tumultuous journey of chronic pain. Every chronic pain story differs, but each one hurts. My own journey holds much personal depth, and I hope that soon I can adequately communicate my experience with you.

However, in the past year, I have known healing and rest from physical pain. It still remains, but not in the same agonizing way. I am not in darkness. How unique that you and I should meet when this journey of mine has just begun to change.

You see, I recently did a 5-minute cardio workout. Those of you with chronic pain understand the significance of that statement. It feels so good to have my muscles burning again. It is a happiness that I have just begun to re-experience. I thank God for a body that can move intensely for 5 minutes and for these moments of exercise that leave my body burning in the best type of pain I could ever wish for.

This is healing pain. My journey has just begun to change, and I must record it.

I have clearly documented my chronic pain. It is set in my history, but I cannot only recount the dark and hard part of my journey. I must also share when it is full of light and ease. I must remember today. I must remember this healing. No journey stays the same forever. At times, I felt as though the pain held me tight, pulling me closer and swallowing me up. But that’s not the truth.

It can feel desperate, black, and eternal, but this chronic pain journey has slowly changed throughout the last 6 years. Here I am today, having completed a 5-minute intense cardio work-out! The journey does change. It just takes time.

Whatever you face today is hard and often unbearable. But if I could offer you a cup of coffee and have you sit at my kitchen table, I would tell you this …

Don’t impatiently wait for the journey to change. Keep living day by day, step by step. If you need to cry, do it. If you fall into discouragement, fall. But let every pain, heartbreak, and discouragement push you closer to Christ. He is your refuge. Trust in Him.

It is easy to remember and memorize the hard times, but when a moment of joy, light-living, and healing comes your way…savor it, recount it, weave it tightly into your history. That is your journey changing, and just as you remember the hard times, remember the good times too.

As you pray for healing, strength, and guidance, bind your heart closer to God. You may not always receive the answer you hope for, but never let your wishes stand as a barricade between you and the Savior who loves you more deeply, freely, and fully than anyone else ever will. To be frustrated at God is to forfeit your only peace and hope.

You are not alone on this path. Everyone deals with some type of chronic pain. It may not be physical, but it could be mental, emotional, and even spiritual. We all hurt in some way. We were not meant for this world after all. But we have hope! Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to You. Then, look at others and really see them. Ask how they are doing. See how you can share in the burden.

The journey will change, and it will most assuredly take a long time. But we cannot lose heart, God is our refuge and there is joy to be realized in this life of hard valleys. As a woman struggling under chronic pain, I experienced 5 minutes of intense cardio.

That is joy. It is healing.

And I am determined to remember it.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

 

 

 

On Worry | Part 3

It all came back. Not in the force of the dark thoughts that I had before. This was totally different, but it had the same effect. These new thoughts twisted my gut and imprisoned me. I didn’t expect it. I hadn’t dealt with an onslaught like this for a long, long time. But, it came. Fast and sure, and plunged me back in the depths. Even though I’d climbed out before, I didn’t know how to crawl out now. I felt trapped. I felt broken. I felt dark.

worry3I had succumbed, dived deep, and here I struggled again. Frustration and heartbreak overwhelmed me. This all over again?! The earlier darkness hadn’t returned but worry plagued me, thick and suffocating.

If only…

What if….

Maybe if I…

How come I didn’t…

It circled endlessly, tearing at my heart. As I backed away from social media, talked to my husband, and worked through these personal struggles, I realized the root of my worries. I also began to apply, once again, Scripture truths to my life.

I asked myself the hard questions. Who defines my worth? Christ. Is this____ true about my life? No. Is this____ real in my life today? No. So, what is true? What is real? I did the hard work once more. I wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards. I prayed. I even started re-reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. (I highly recommend it!) I combated the wrong thoughts and chose to cling to real things and the truths of God. Once again, I found freedom from worry, from unreal things that didn’t matter. I found refuge in God, His Scripture. I’m 21 and anxiety, worry, what if’s, and unreal thoughts still come back to shake me to my core. I am imperfect. I get ragged and I fall back into the depths easily. Anxiety will follow me for the rest of my life.

BUT–

 There is hope. There is always hope for me and for you!

I have a sure way to fight this darkness. I know I hold the victory as I meditate on God’s truth, throwing out the untrue and unlovely, and embracing that which is real, honorable, and true. A lifetime struggle can look discouraging, but that is where I have to pause.

Am I facing the future right now? No. Is the future real right now? No.

What is true? This moment, right here. I can choose God’s truth or my own worry. What is real? The victory I have in Him. What do I need to think on? The truths of God.

Doesn’t all of this sound redundant? It is! We are experts at repetition. We just have to learn how to meditate the right way!

Perhaps, today you face discouragement because, after months of a worry-free mind, it has all come back. You crumple, not expecting this. The force of worry consumes you.

It buries you.

It pushes and pulls you.

It pierces you deeply.

You are not alone. It just happened to me. I am sure it will happen again.

BUT–

Decide to think on the truths of God. Ask yourself the hard questions, banish the unlovely and dark thoughts, and focus on real and true ones. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Experience refuge in God all over again.

Don’t despair! Rather, bask in the knowledge that God has the power to rescue you every time you fall! Every time! God will not refuse helping, comforting, and rescuing us — even after the 100th time you fall back into deep worry.

You will know freedom as you know Christ.

And you will have victory again!

Don’t dwell on the anxiety you may face tomorrow, two weeks from now, or next year.

What is real today?

The victory you have when you remain rooted in God.  

What do you need to think on today? 

The truths of God.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

If you missed them, catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

On Worry | Part 2

Last week, we talked about the depths of worry. (Don’t miss part one.) We discussed verbally admitting the struggle and touched the surface of freedom from darkness. By now, you know that I fight some deep, perplexing issues. We all do! We may struggle differently, but we all struggle deeply. This is a safe place for us to talk about it. So, let’s dive right in. If you haven’t written Philippians 4:8 on a 3×5 card yet, you will definitely want to by the end of this post!

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For the rest of this article, you’ll read what I like to call the Truth Process. This process is hard and easy all at the same time. But the good news is that one can live free of worry, even when it doesn’t feel possible. I can’t express to you the depths of my worry. Maybe if we sat over a cup of coffee, I could adequately describe how far I sank, but we aren’t face-to-face, and I’d rather show you the way of HOPE than drone on about my own past darkness.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

As a teen, I began the process of thinking on truth. I memorized this verse. We often say it’s too hard to meditate. But if you’re the anxious worrier that I was (and still can be sometimes!), you are an EXPERT at it. In other words, we excel at meditating! But the problem comes in dwelling on the wrong things. We focus on what could be, what might be, what I might do, what I didn’t do, on dark things, on lies, and on destruction.

So how do we use our expert meditating skills the right way? Let me share three practical ways (aka–>the Truth Process) to change those bad habits.

#1. Write Philippians 4:8 and other Scriptural truths on 3×5 cards. 

Be sure to write down Philippians 4:8 (one of the most helpful verse for freedom from anxiety), but also study Scripture to find other verses that give you comfort, strength, and hope. Remember, God wrote these truths for us! He gave His Word to help and sustain us — to tell of His love, His care, His power! Keep that in mind as you look for Scripture to write down.

After you compile 3-4 verses, carry them with you wherever you go. Read the card(s) every time you walk through a doorway, pass a trash can, look out a window … you get the point! Pick a daily action that you do frequently, and when you find yourself doing that action, read the verse as well! Just do it. You will be amazed at the subtle changes you’ll begin to see. The invasion of truth in a dark, battered mind makes a huge difference.

#2. Ask yourself, “Is this True? Is this Real?” 

We can’t just read Scripture and be done with it. We have to apply it as well. When you read Philippians 4:8, pull your anxiety parallel to God’s Word. Is this _____ true about my life? Is this _____ real? Is this ____ lovely? Continue asking yourself if these thoughts line up with Philippians 4:8. If you can’t say yes to any of these questions, then you have to throw the thought out.

How can you throw out a thought? How can you stop thinking it? Restructure the questions above. So, what is true? What is real? What is lovely? Answer those questions after you reject the untrue, unreal, and unlovely thoughts that we are so apt to focus on. You’ll begin to see a huge change!

#3. Do this over and over and over and over again. 

You won’t see much change if you don’t continually think on truth, discard wrong thoughts, and think on truth some more. It took a lot of the same dark thoughts to plunge you into despair and anxiety. It’s going to take daily, hourly, minutely meditation on truth for you to live free from anxiety. You have to keep reading Scripture, memorizing it, knowing it, and then applying it.

Ask yourself the hard questions, throw away the untrue, unlovely thoughts. Next, think again on what is true and real. You will find that God’s truth overrides darkness every time. You will find freedom from despair.

Perhaps you say I’ve had victory before, but I’m ragged again. What do I do?  Oh my dear, I understand. I recently went through a whole struggle myself, but I’ll talk about that next week. You are not alone. Keep thinking on truth and come again. We will find truth and comfort together.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

P.S. Consider reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. While I wrote this article in my own words, I’ve taken the advice from her!

On Worry | Part 1

I washed my hands all the time. I fretted about everything. I cried easily. Anxiety plagued me. I lived in prison — a prison of my own making. My struggle with anxiety increased in my early teens. I feared stealing, lying, cheating, killing myself, and so many others things.

Today, I open part 1 of my journey through worry. I hope you’ll stay for all of it.

worry1

A life of constant worry lead to exhaustion. I felt stuck in a black hole, unsure of how to climb out. How could I go from chains to freedom? How could I break the cycle of questions and torments, especially when trapped so deep? Would it ever happen? Or would I always live like this?

These feelings tormented me.

As a young girl, this did so much damage. Such thoughts always lead to deep damage. Eventually, I voiced my twisted, dark thoughts, because I couldn’t cope alone anymore. It wasn’t hard for those close to me to know I struggled, but it was hard for me to verbally admit it.

But at last, I told my Mom the struggles I faced. I was tired of the endless darkness. My Mom gave me the first shreds of hope. She wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards for me to read over and over again. She also bought me Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. This book pointed me to Scripture and showed practical ways to break out of my self-destructive thinking patterns.

However, it isn’t easy reaching this point. Admitting one’s struggles takes courage. It’s hard to share the dark thoughts inside us or to say, “I’m afraid I’m going to kill myself.” If I could travel back to my life as a young teen, I’d tell myself three things. Continue reading “On Worry | Part 1”