Shaken, stirred, yet not shattered

cross“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I have been on a wellness journey since 2008, when I encountered a potentially deadly infection called MRSA. I chose at that time to pursue a lifelong journey toward optimal wellness in all areas of life: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. Little did I know that in 2014 my journey would take a huge detour into the mental realm.

For the past six months I have encountered an illness that I thought I could easily skim by and heal. As a worrier, I know firsthand what it is like to have thoughts that are irrational, but I always managed to bring myself back to reality without any fear. I knew that worry was wasted energy, and that irrational thoughts were just…. irrational. I knew I had to stay rational and reasonable in order to be mentally healthy. Well, that’s easier said than done.

Like a lightning bolt from the sky came upon me the most irrational thought of all. That irrational thought led me down a very dark and scary path to full blown panic. What was it? The irrational thought that I was obsessing over was dying. Physically dying. Leaving behind my children, my husband, and my life… and my faith was shaken to its core.

I had thoughts about dying before, but it was never accompanied with absolute FEAR. For the first time in my life, I was completely and utterly frozen in a world of fear. My own mind had created a world where the imagination ran beyond wild. It ran straight off a cliff, and I was clinging to the edge.

F = False E=Evidence A=Appearing R=Real.

Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is the realm of the imaginary that something could happen. Fear is the twisted view of reality. Fear is not based on truth, love, or the “here and now.” Fear encompasses all that is scary, uncontrollable, and unREAListic. But, I found myself in a place where fear consumed my every thought, invaded every cell of my body, and left me feeling like I was on the edge of a cliff.

Faith. Is it real? Is it made up or a fantasy?

I have had to ask myself these questions a lot lately. For those of you who know me, I am a person of faith. I believe in the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, and all of the things that make the Christian faith MY faith. I grew up in a non-denominational church, so I don’t have any memories where faith was not a part of my life. My mom and dad were believers in God, too, and they made it a priority to show their faith in their lives.

Then… my world was like an hourglass that had been turned upside down. All of the sand that had settled into the past 41 years had been shaken and stirred. I no longer had any solid ground on which to stand (or so I thought). I lost my faith.

It was not by default, however, that my faith was shaken and stirred almost to the point of obliteration. I had chosen to take hold of a lie, an imaginary belief, that was not grounded in any truth.

As I grappled for a place to climb back on to the edge, I first noticed that I had to believe in myself that I was strong enough to overcome this slippery slope. I didn’t feel strong at all. No way. This was the weakest point I have ever been. So, I started grabbing onto anything, anyone, and everything that was tangible. I was desperate for a safety net.

Answered Prayers?

When I came to the realization that my faith had been shaken and stirred, I also knew it was not shattered. I still knew that I believed in God. I knew that He loved me so much that He sent his son to die on a cross for me. I knew all of the stories and verses, and so I began to quote them to myself. But, something was still missing. I was believing up to the point where I thought I was in sync with God. I thought I was doing all of the “right” things to make sure I could check off my “to do” list to be in the right line with faith. Yet, I was praying for transformation and surrender of the will. Did God answer my prayer through this new bout of mental instability?

I can’t answer that question as of yet. I know that God does miraculous things on a moment by moment basis, and I cannot question him as to “why” He is doing or allowing things to happen. Yet, what I DO KNOW is that He does allow suffering to bring people closer to Him. Look at the man called Job in the Bible. He was doing all the right things, and he was a righteous man. Still, God chose to “test” him to see if he would give up his faith. He lost everything. He lost his children, his livelihood, and he almost lost his wife. Even his wife told him to curse God and die. But, Job did not listen to her. Good man! He chose to listen and obey God in spite of all of his suffering. In the end, God blessed him with double the children, double the livestock, double everything (except the wife)! Job was the ultimate example of a refiner’s fire, and he came though it like shining gold.

No matter the cost…

I am learning through this wilderness period of pruning and regrowth that the cost to surrender to the will of God is great. There is no amount on earth (in terms of pain, loss, trial, suffering, conflict) that is WORTHY to be compared to the glory of God and His will. It also says, “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his soul?” When I prayed the prayer that God would bring me closer to Him, that my marriage would be secured, and that my life would be transformed for God’s glory, I had no idea that the cost would be this great. Yet, Jesus says to take up the cross daily and follow Him. If I am truly his child, which I claim to be, then I will do whatever it takes. The cost could be in tears, loss of sleep, countless hours of prayer on my knees, singing songs, losing material possessions… God can choose whatever He wants (and he knows my limits) to bring me closer to Him.

At the end of my life on earth it will not matter what house I lived in, what car I drove, or what clothes I wore or food that I ate. What will matter is this: did I fully surrender to the Lord in EVERY matter, and did I love Him with my WHOLE heart, and did I tell others about HIS LOVE and what HE can do for them? I hope so. I want to stand at those pearly gates one day, and hear those words, “Well done.”

So, if my story of anxiety and panic that is leading me back to Christ has helped encouraged you to do the same, will you share? Will you reply?




When the Plane doesn't land…

…this is an analogy of what anxiety and panic disorder feels like to me.plane

When I was a child I used to love to fly in airplanes. I didn’t get to fly in them very often, but I loved the feeling of arriving at the airport with my luggage in tow. I loved the smell of the warm asphalt as I was dropped off (or parked) in the lot to enter the building. I loved standing in line and getting my boarding pass. I loved going into the plane, greeting the flight attendants and pilots, and looking for my seat. I always wanted the window seat because I loved to look down on the earth during the flight.

But, something changed in me in January 2000. Suddenly, on a flight from Atlanta to Phoenix, I was no longer excited to fly. I started to worry about all the things that could go wrong on the flight. I started to worry about so many small details. I don’t want to scare anyone, so I won’t elaborate, but please understand that my whole mindset changed in one night: I went from a joyful passenger to a freaked out passenger.

Yet, I continued to try and conquer my new found fear. I would take shorter trips in duration, such as going to Denver or Orange County. Still, I didn’t like it anymore. And, in 2005, on a trip to Baltimore, I started to have a panic attack at 33,000 feet. I literally breathed in and out of a bag for almost the entire flight. But, once I heard the pilot say that we were 20 minutes from landing, ALL of my fear and panic subsided. I had to call my doctor and ask how I would be able to get home. She prescribed a nice tranquilizer that did help with my return flight. I sat next to a gentleman and talked continuously for 5 hours until we landed in Phoenix. Poor guy. I still fly the friendly skies if necessary. And, the last four flights I took in 2013 I did not use any tranquilizers. I wanted to conquer my fears.

In February 2014, a new fear decided to rear its ugly head at me. The fear of dying. I lost my mother in 2013 to a stroke. Then, one day at work I couldn’t feel my leg. Panic set in. I thought I was having a stroke. Turns out it was just a low blood sugar that triggered dizziness, loss of vision, and numbness. Paramedics were called. I was given the okay to go home. Little did I know that this was going to be the start of a new battle for health…. mental health.

The attacks were sporadic, but started to come once a month. The next one happened in March, at the opening night of a community theatre performance (three of my family members were part of the cast). Instead of this attack lasting only a few minutes, I lost full control and it went on for 8 hours! From 7pm to 4am, wave upon wave of panic swept over my body. Just as I thought I was gaining control, another wave would hit. I could only describe it in these words: I feel like I’m on a plane that won’t land.

After a few trips to the doctor, I was prescribed a common tranquilizer; in fact, it was the same one that I used to take when I boarded a plane. Again, I thought I was over the worst of it, and I didn’t expect another one to hit. But it did.

The anxiety attacks kept coming, first: once a month, then in June I had one that lasted off and on for four days. Finally, they started hitting almost every other day. It was like my body was getting addicted to anxiety. The symptoms were not as strong as a full blown panic attack, but I definitely developed generalized anxiety. I felt absolutely hopeless.

I started to do some research on my “good” days. I found a book that was helpful on relieving the symptoms at the onset. I talked with my counselor. I also started reaching out to family and friends on facebook. I didn’t care that I was being vulnerable by sharing such an embarrassing situation. I just wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. True to my findings, I wasn’t alone.

It has now been six months since my first attack. This past month has been a whirlwind of learning how to use mind-body techniques, prayer, meditation, deep breathing and sleep breathing, medication, talk therapy, and a whole lot of FAITH. I started praying on a moment by moment basis. I read my Bible, scouring the verses that talk about God being my refuge and my strength. How he casts out fear with HIS perfect love. How he loved us so much that HE sent his son to die on a cross for us, so we could have eternal life. That the death and resurrection of Jesus put the sting of death away.

I know that my plane hasn’t fully landed yet, but I can see the runway. I know I am starting on the descent path toward healing. For those of you who have dared to read this far, please know that mental health is vital to a full life. If you suspect a change in your mental health status, do not be shy or scared to tell someone. Look at what happened to Robin Williams. I wished I had known him. Maybe I could have encouraged him to seek help. No one should be alone in the battle against the unseen, unrealistic fears of the mind.

Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be afraid to speak. The best thing you can do is to start moving forward. Make that phone call to a friend or doctor. Make an effort to find healing. True healing is found when you are on the journey, and not at a specific destination. It’s a process that continues to strengthen, to shape, and to recreate beauty from the ashes of the past.

Faith, Friendship, Reflection

Nine Fruits: Part Five ~ Kindness

Kindness: a selfless, compassionate, generous, act of regard for others above your own needs.

I wonder what our world would be like if everyone practiced kindness. ALL. THE. TIME. Can you imagine what our level of social morality would be if we all could exercise kindness? I know that when I restrain my selfishness and offer my spot on the road for the car next to me, I have practiced kindness. When I choose to put down the technology and make cookies for a neighbor, I am exercising kindness. When I see that my children are giving up their beds for a visitor, they are exercising kindness.

A caveat: no one is born to be kind. Kindness is a learned trait. A baby comes into the world, and as cute and cuddly as he/she can be, babies are not concerned about being kind. As the baby grows, however, the parent can teach him how to show kindness to others. And, wouldn’t that be nice if every child learned the act of kindness and used it on a daily basis. I pray that my kids will be kind to others.

The Bible has plenty to say about showing love for one another, and kindness is one of the easiest ways to express love. Jesus said that if someone gives a cup of cold water to a stranger in need, he may have entertained an angel unaware. See Matthew 10:42

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Kindness pays it forward, and is not expecting payback.

Kindness is the gift that keeps on giving forward to the next person. Sure, you could reciprocate kindness between two people, but more often than not it is usually a one-way road. Kindness moves forward from person to person. What does it feel like to receive an unexpected gift or letter in the mail? What do you think it would feel like as the giver? Doesn’t it feel great to give of yourself?!

Kindness is given as a free gift.


Kindness can be in the form of a smile, a compliment, giving a neighbor a plate of cookies, or even a hug. Kindness is the outward expression of love, care, and concern for a fellow human being.

May we all practice a little kindness today.

It’s good for the soul.

Give a hug. Share a smile. Partake in a meal. Put love and care into action.

And, then, the world will be a wee bit better because of your kindness.