You Love Me Anyway

Last week I was looking at the verses I had highlighted in Deuteronomy. When I was reading the highlighted verses in chapter 31, God moved my heart.

20 When I bring them into the land I swore to give their fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey, they will eat their fill and prosper. They will turn to other gods and worship them, despising Me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many troubles and afflictions come to them, this song will testify against them because their descendants will not have forgotten it. For I know what they are prone to do, even before I bring them into the land I swore to give them (emphasis mine).

God knew that the Israelites would turn away from Him, but He gave them the promised land anyway; they were still His chosen people.

We read the stories of the Israelites turning from God and we think, “How could you be so… well, stupid?” But we do the same thing. We are in the same boat as the Israelites.

It reminds me of a line from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it/ Prone to leave the God I love”

We have a tendency to try and fill our lives with anything and everything – just like the Israelites did. When God gave us free will in the very beginning, He knew that this would be a side effect, yet He chose to do it anyway. He knows our hearts are prone to wander, yet He loves us anyway. No matter how far we go, He’s waiting. No matter what we try to fill the God-shaped hole in our heart with, He’s waiting. What beautiful, gracious love.

To me, this kind of love makes me want to do anything but stray. It makes me want to draw near to the Father who loves me so fiercely, the Father that would send His son to bridge the gap between Him and me, the Father that sees the blood of Jesus rather than my trespasses.

Photo Credit: Cristina Gottardi

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What is the Importance of Biblical Law?

As some of you may know from following me on social media, I have been reading the Bible chronologically since July. As of this week, I have finished the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as well as Job! I have now finished the Torah, or the books of the Law (those first five books), which aren’t always the most exciting to read; however, I learned a lot.

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I have read Genesis and Exodus before, but God’s Word is alive and speaks to our hearts. I took away things I didn’t get the other times I have read those books. The latter books of the Torah – the books that really dig deep into the law – were foreign territory .

Since beginning a relationship with Jesus, the Law has always been a perplexing concept. If Jesus came and died for our salvation, what is the importance of the Law? I have struggled with this question for six years. It’s part of the reason that I never read past Exodus in the books of the Law up until recently.

I still have questions and there are still things that I do not understand, but during my journey through these books, I have learned why, as Christ followers, it is important to read the Law:

  1. The Law reveals to us what is important to God’s heart.
    • For example, there are severe consequences for idolatry. This reveals to us that this matter is important to God. Exodus 34:14 tells us that God is a jealous God. He is our Creator and our Father. Just as an earthly father desires a relationship with his children, our heavenly Father desires a relationship with us.
  2. The Law shows us that we are not good enough by ourselves.
    • The Israelites were given the Law and they struggled immensely with living by it. God knew that it would be that way – that’s why He gave them the regulations for sin and guilt offerings. There are 613 laws in the Old Testament – that’s a lot to remember! The Law points out our inadequacy and our need for a Savior.
  3. The Law shows us the importance of Christ.
    • When Matthew 5:17 says that Christ came to fulfill the Law, that means when God looks at someone who has been covered by the blood of Christ, He sees a check mark next to each law. I have read this verse of Scripture several times, but never truly understood the meaning until recently. Jesus does not make the Law irrelevant, He makes it complete. 

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Having a personal relationship with the Creator without being bound to the Law is amazing. Jesus is our mediator, our sin sacrifice, our fulfillment of the Law. This is the best news!

The Law is not pointless, it’s just no longer the way to reach God. Jesus is the link to our Father – the only link. When we believe Him and accept Him, He meets the requirements for us, and we are blameless before the Father. As a follower of Christ don’t skip over the Law, but let it remind you of the beautiful sacrifice of our Savior.

Reading through the books of the Law has humbled me greatly. I expected to be utterly bored, but this process has strengthened my relationship with Christ in ways that I never thought it would.

Photo Credit: Ben White

I’m a Kind Person… but Not Always

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

You may disagree with me, but this is one of the biggest, fattest lies we tell ourselves and others.

I wrote a post last year on the topic on the importance of being careful with our words and what Scripture has to say about it. This time, however, God has laid a bit of a different message on my heart.

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At work, I try to be a positive, uplifting force to those around me. I try to shake things off as they come and be a voice of calm in the chaos. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but I try. I try to encourage and love on my peers at school. We’re all in the same boat, and sometimes we just need a positive word to make the day a little better. At my internship, I work with a grateful heart. Sometimes, though, I come home, and it all falls apart.

My cheerful, positive personality is genuine, but sometimes I get tired. Sometimes, when I get home after a long day, I find it much more difficult to find the silver lining, to realize that something is really not a big deal. Then my words become less kind. I can become harsh and insensitive, frustrated and annoyed. My husband doesn’t deserve that – he has long days, too!

Sometimes we are less kind with the people closest to us because we let our guard down, but in all honesty, they should be the people we are the kindest to. We should be encouraging, lifting up, and loving everyone we come into contact with with our words and actions – especially our families. If there is tension in our family life – it doesn’t matter if it’s your siblings, cousins, in-laws, parents, spouse, whoever – it’s going to affect our work life, our school life, and our hearts.

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Ironically, the Bible app’s verse of the day is Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (NLT).

This verse has been on my heart for some time – maybe not enough. Our words – and actions for that matter – really do impact people, especially those we love. We shouldn’t just say we love them, we should show them, and that includes speaking kindly to them even when we aren’t feeling our greatest. Everyone deserves to be treated kindly and with respect, regardless of how we feel at the moment. I know that if the words that come out of my mouth in a moment of frustration were said to me, I would be hurt, and that bothers me. So I am working on this. I am quick to catch myself and apologize if I get snappy or harsh. That doesn’t take away what I said, but it shows that I am trying, and I’ve realized that people notice when you try to change. Your words may still hurt them, but they see that you are a struggling, flesh-and-blood human, just like they are.

Have the strength to be kind when you don’t feel like it, because the bottom line is, we really should treat people how we want to be treated, because actions matter, words matter, and people matter. 

Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Satisfied in You

I mentioned last week about my struggles last year that resulted in me taking antidepressants. Though they improved my symptoms, I still struggled greatly for awhile. I would lie in bed at night plagued by negative thoughts. I felt angry and bitter and guilt and upset over feeling angry and bitter. It was a vicious cycle. One night sometime after I went to the doctor, I was lying in bed unable to sleep. I turned on Spotify and listened to the discover weekly playlist that had been compiled for me based on songs I had listened to. I was lying there not paying much attention to the music until one song came on.  Satisfied in You (Psalm 42) by The Sing Team struck me in ways I had never expected; I had never heard the song before. The lyrics shook me to the core:

I have lost my appetite
And a flood is welling up behind my eyes
So I eat the tears I cry
And if that were not enough
They know just the words to cut and tear and prod
When they ask me “Whereʼs your God?”

Why are you downcast, oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I can remember when You showed Your face to me

As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for You
And when I survey Your splendor, You so faithfully renew
Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh

When Iʼm looking at the ground
Itʼs an inbred feedback loop that drags me down
So itʼs time to lift my brow
And remember better days
When I loved to worship You and learn Your ways
Singing sweetest songs of praise

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about Your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal Your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is You

So when Iʼm drowning out at sea
And all Your breakers and Your waves crash down on me
Iʼll recall your safety scheme
Youʼre the one who made the waves
And Your Son went out to suffer in my place
And to show me that Iʼm safe

Why am I down?
Why so disturbed?
I am satisfied in You

From the first line, I was hooked. I listened to the cries of a broken soul. I listened to the hope that the broken soul found. I listened as I sighed and traded sorrow for peace.

•••

I still struggled. I still had bad nights. But I would listen to that song. I would read Psalm 42. It became my lifeline. I would ask myself the same question that psalmist did: “Why are you downcast, oh my soul?” God had been so faithful to me. These trials weren’t going to last forever. I stopped trying so hard. I stopped torturing myself with feelings of guilt. I simply gave in to the peace the Father was offering. I became satisfied in Him. Again and again.

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To this day that song makes me think about the first time I heard it, the night that it was a life raft for me. Ironically, with this post already being planned for this week, a few weeks ago our pastor spoke on Psalm 42. I again sat and reflected on God’s faithfulness. How I came out of that trial with more empathy and more hope than ever before.

When feelings from before try to creep their way back into my life, I remember the night that I said “no” to my downcast, disturbed soul, the night that I “lifted my brows and remembered better days,” the night that I allowed myself to become satisfied in Him and filled with His peace.

•••

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Photo Credit: Gary Bendig

One in Four

One in four people will have a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Does this number surprise you? It doesn’t surprise me. As a psychology major, the prevalence of mental disorders is well known to me – I just never thought I would end up being the one in four.

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In the fall of 2015 I started noticing that my PMS was becoming abnormal. As the months went on, I almost physically couldn’t stand being around people – especially the people I was closest to – because I would get so irritated or angry. It wouldn’t have bothered me if I could go an entire day or more without talking to someone. I would lay in bed for hours watching TV. It would take everything in me to convince myself to get up. To interact. I didn’t really care to eat. I was so ashamed of the way I felt that even when I wasn’t PMSing I still didn’t want to be around people. I still wanted isolation. Finally, in May of 2016 I went to see my doctor. I told her what was going on, and she said that my symptoms sounded like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (or PMDD).

I started on an antidepressant. This didn’t bother me. Because of my study of psychology I knew how beneficial medication could be when needed. By the time the next month rolled around, my symptoms were much less extreme. As time went on, I was able to better manage my emotions and my reactions. I could be around my loved ones without wishing for a way out. I was starting to feel normal again.

•••

Not many people knew I was taking medication. There is a belief that is common in the church that if you are a Christian, then you shouldn’t need things like antidepressants. In all honesty, I digress.
We live in a world full of sin, death, and disease and depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, conversion disorder, and panic disorder still exist whether you are a believer or not.

Because of this stigma around medication, I chose to stop taking my antidepressants too soon, in all honesty. I felt that if people knew they would look down on me because I should have had it together. I should have been able to overcome my problem without a pill. I study mental health and behavior, I know what happens in the brain and how therapy/medication can help, and yet I still felt this way. Something is wrong here. Because I chose to medicate and my symptoms calmed down to a manageable point, I was able to think more clearly. I was able to calm myself down enough to pray and to seek Him. I believe that God has equipped many men and women in the field of counseling. Therapy is a wonderful thing. Medication can be, too, when necessary. Seeking help doesn’t make you any less of a believer. 

As an believer, as an individual, you have the right to make the choice of how you choose to seek help if you need it. My decision was one that I thought about, one that I prayed about, one that I had peace about. If you found yourself in the same situation as I found myself in, your choice could have been different. You could have chose to seek counseling. Or to not to seek outside help. Or to seek help some other way. And that is perfectly okay. But don’t let someone make you think that because you are a Christian, you aren’t allowed to have mental health issues –  that would be like saying you aren’t allowed to have diabetes. I fully believe that through the power of Christ in us we can overcome the obstacles in our life – but just like we go to a doctor when we are sick, we are allowed to reach out when we are struggling mentally.

I am a Christian and I was on antidepressants. I’m okay with that. I’m grateful for it. When I struggle now, when symptoms start to creep back in, I can handle it because the time that I spent on medication allowed me to learn how to control what was happening, which I couldn’t do beforehand. Think. Research. Pray. Make the decision that you need to.

Photo Credit: Misael Nevarez

Even If You Don’t

“I know You’re able and I know You can/
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand/
But even if You don’t/
My hope is You alone/
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt/
Would all go away if You’d just say the word/
But even if You don’t/
My hope is You alone”

-“Even If” by MercyMe

I find this song and the message in it so beautiful. As a believer, things happen that I don’t understand. It can be so frustrating sometimes when I know that God could do x, but it doesn’t happen. I think this is particularly the case when it comes to health. We know God can bring healing – there’s several accounts in the Bible of God’s healing power as well as several accounts of it happening today – but sometimes He doesn’t. Why? I don’t know. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

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Even so, it can be so incredibly hard when you’re amidst a terrible situation, and the miracle you’re praying for doesn’t happen. It can make you fall on your knees and scream why until your throat is raw. It can make you doubt. It can make you angry. But can it also be well with your soul?

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Recently I was talking about how while I pray for miracles, I also pray for God’s will and for the strength for whatever happens to be well with my soul. I started thinking about it this way: When you see someone whose illness or injury has been healed, it inspires awe and praise of God. But have you ever heard a story about someone with a serious injury or disease that, though they haven’t been healed, they are one of the most faith-filled, joyous people you’ve ever heard of? I don’t know about you, but that inspires just as much awe and praise in my heart! It brings me to tears when I hear stories of people in terrible circumstances that can praise the Lord more than someone like me! How great is their faith!

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You bet I pray for miracles – but I also pray for strength and for God’s will. The things that happen on this Earth are bigger than me and the way that I would like things to happen. We live in a fallen world of sin, death, and disease. Bad things happen. Sometimes God steps in, but sometimes He doesn’t. I don’t know why, but all I can do is cling to the Rock that is higher than I, and as the song says, “[pray that You] give me the strength to be able to sing, ‘it is well with my soul'” and allow the miracles that don’t happen to strengthen my faith and my empathy towards others who are in similar situations. When the miracles come, I praise the Lord. When the miracles don’t come, I praise the Lord. It is well with my soul.

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Photo credit: Ben White

The Burning Bush and the Gentle Whisper

For the longest time I thought that feeling God’s presence or hearing from God had to be this big, monumental thing. Sometimes it is – but it’s not always.

Sometimes we encounter God in ways that can only be described as “big,” but sometimes He comes in the little moments, like in 1 Kings 19:11-13:

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

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I’ve experienced what I would call “Burning Bush” moments, moments when the Holy Spirit’s presence is so powerful, so overwhelming, that it shakes me to my core – but I’ve also had countless “Gentle Whisper” moments that are just as significant. Often times I have felt the Lord’s presence the most when I’ve been lying in bed in the middle of the night, crying out to Him, and then suddenly feeling peace that is unexplainable; or when I’m reading His Word and feel a tug at my heart; or when I’m worshiping, amazed that I am singing to my Savior.

It’s not important whether the experiences we have with God are big or little, what’s important is that we are encountering God Almighty. I honestly don’t think Elijah was like, “Gee, God, why did You have to come in a whisper? I would have much preferred You come to me in some sort of burning forestry like you did with Moses.”

Both Elijah and Moses had encounters with God, each equally as real and significant as the other. Don’t become so disheartened by the fact that you haven’t had any “big moments” that you become deafened to the gentle whisper. God is the God that appeared to both Moses and Elijah, and He speaks to our hearts in different ways.

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You will seek me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

We Have Now

Last week I posted about my husband and I battling the laziness in our lives, and this post is a follow up because I felt the need to clarify something.

Battling laziness in our lives is crucial, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of our relationships. Or, really, I guess we should just include “relationships with other people” as an area of life that laziness infects.

A few months a go, a fellow blogger wrote a post about the book Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford. The book is set up in short snippets talking about the importance of being in the moment and taking every chance to love the people in our lives. It is well worth purchasing. It has reminded me of little truths that I had forgotten: The dishes can wait. The vacuuming can wait. Facebook can wait.

I am so bad about trying to multitask (News flash: multitasking doesn’t work. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Instead of doing multiple things at once, our brains are actually having to switch back and forth between tasks repeatedly, using more mental energy). If I’m on my phone, I’m not really paying attention to the person in front of me. If all I can think about are the chores I need to do, I’m not giving someone my full attention. I am bad about it and I know it, yet I still have trouble stopping.

We live in a world that is constantly telling us to go, go, go and we don’t know how to slow down. We’re so concerned with being productive that we don’t know how to be intentional.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to put my focus and energy on things that matter: my relationship with God and with other people. Keeping up with my home is important, but not at the expense of these. Keeping up with my health should not interfere with my relationships.

I’m trying to choose – and it is a choice – to be in the moment with the people around me. I’m trying to make the most of the numerous opportunities to love that I am presented with each day. I’m trying to realize that all we have is right now.
*Note: New posts coming every Friday*

The Monster Inside Me

It starts sneaking it’s way in, and before long, you don’t really notice it anymore because it becomes the new normal. The sad thing is, you don’t even want it to be gone because it’s taken up a permanent residence inside of you; it’s a part of you. What you don’t realize, though, is that it’s squeezing the joy out of you life as it gets its sleazy little tentacles wrapped tighter and tighter around your heart.

Anger.

Are you surprised that that was what I was talking about? I would have been, probably. Throughout my life, anger has probably been one of the hardest things for me to overcome – especially since I didn’t know how it was affecting me. It has a snowball effect: the longer you let it go, the bigger it gets and the harder it gets to stop.

At some point I guess I either no longer noticed or no longer cared how the anger in my life was affecting me, because I no longer tried to keep it at bay. When something made me angry – even something minuscule that shouldn’t of bothered me – I just rolled with it. And the sneaky thing about anger is that it isn’t always obvious. I didn’t – always – lash out or express my anger in overt ways. Most of the time I just hid it and brewed about it secretly. Before I knew it, my little anger problem was breeding some ugly friends: cynicism and bitterness. Soon, they, too, were taking up permanent residence inside of me, robbing me of joy, love, and contentment.

I began seeing people only for what the did wrong or for how they were lacking, never for what they did right or the abundance of good things in them. I was quick to criticize (even if it was only in my head) and quite slow to praise. I thought, “Oh, sure, they did it right this time, but what about the other hundred times that they didn’t?” That kind of thinking kills your spirit, drains your compassion, and just plain hardens your heart.

I didn’t have an outlet; I just kept bottling up my anger and adding to my List of Things That People Do Wrong. It kept getting bigger and bigger and quite frankly I didn’t care; the problem was with them, not me.

I’m not sure when it happened – when I started noticing that my heart had all of these ugly tangles trying to squeeze every last bit of love out, leaving it shriveled up and dry – but I wasn’t okay with it.

I wasn’t okay with the fact that my husband expected me to tell him all the things he should have done or that he did do and should have done better. He should know that I appreciate him and all that he does – and he does a lot – but I wasn’t showing him that.

I didn’t want nearly every thought I had about my loved ones to be negative. I wanted to once again look through eyes of love, not the eyes of a critic.

So, I decided to change. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I knew that my thoughts definitely weren’t falling into the “Obedient to Christ” category. So every time I was angered over something small or started criticizing someone or held on to bitterness, I rebuked the thought. I try to take a step back and pray, asking God for wisdom in the situation. I reflect and ask, “Is my criticism necessary? Is my anger justified?” And it’s not easy; it uses way more mental energy to change a thought than to just think it.

It can be hard and tiring and I fail sometimes, but my heart is no longer a dark, shriveled up thing, it’s filling with light and love and compassion again. I’d rather try hard and say to my husband, “Can we talk about this?” instead of yelling at him when we disagree – I’m sure he prefers that, too.

And, no, I don’t like painting this picture of myself. I don’t like saying, “See how awful I can be sometimes!” but the story ends with growth and healing. I also know that I am not the only one who has let the life-sucking monster that is anger make a home in my heart. I tell you this unflattering tale of myself so that if this is you, you might realize what anger is doing to you, or if you’ve realized it already, you can take heart and battle it.

Until next time, lovelies.

Worthless and Not Good Enough

Student. Wife. Friend. Daughter. Blogger. Follower of Christ. Babysitter. Employee.
These are all titles that I hold. These are also areas of my life where I often times find myself feeling like I’m not enough, and I know I’m not the only one.

How many times do we find ourselves thinking, “If only I had done it differently,” or “Why did I have to say that?” or “They deserve better than me”?

I know for me, it can be rather often. Especially lately as I’m learning to balance school, work, housework, and my relationships. I’ve often felt like I’m failing in one or more – and by more, I mean all – of these areas. I’ve been carrying around this weight of just not feeling good enough.

My thoughts have consisted of such negative statements about myself that I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless, honestly. Anyone else?

So am I sitting here on this beautiful Thursday afternoon saying, “What’s the point of trying when all I’m going to do is mess up?”

No.

I’m telling you that it’s okay to be human and it’s okay to mess up, but its not okay to get stuck. We can’t tell ourselves that we are worthless and good for nothing; that’s poison to the spirit and it’s a lie. I’m going to tell you something that you may find preposterous: you’re allowed to have rough days. You’re allowed to have rough moments. But the key thing is don’t stay there. Learn to let go. Learn to breathe and say, “it’s a bad moment or even a bad day, but it’s not a bad life.”

So what can we don’t feel like we’re good enough? When we are completely overwhelmed with everything going on? Here are a few things to try:

  • Learn to sincerely say, “I’m sorry.” You’d be surprised how freeing it is when you humble yourself and admit that you’re wrong instead of getting defensive.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this really worth arguing over?” If not, say, “I’m sorry, let’s drop it, this isn’t worth it.”
  • Take a walk and think and pray.
  • When negative thoughts are consuming you, combat them with truth.
  • Remember that even little victories are still victories.
  • Implement small changes; remember you aren’t going to change overnight.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink plenty of water. Exercise. Eat well. Have time to yourself. You’ll feel better all around.
  • Get up early and spend time with God.
  • Spend your time doing things that matter.
  • Take the focus off of yourself and do something for someone else.
  • Remember the truth. Christ didn’t die because we are wonderful human beings that are oh so lovable. Christ died because of His love for us. Remember you are loved. Remember Christ died for you despite of your shortcomings. Even on your worst day, you are loved.

We all have days where we feel like we aren’t good enough, and that is an awful feeling; However, we don’t have to passively sit by and let these feelings attack and consume us. We have the choice to not only change the way we talk to ourselves, but to actually do something! For example, lately I’ve been having an issue with getting angry with my husband over little things and it makes me feel awful. I don’t want to get angry with him, yet I do, and then I feel like a terrible human being and a terrible wife. So instead of spiraling into an upset mess, I’ve started trying to actually do something about the situation. I remind myself that this doesn’t make me a bad wife and then I choose to change my behavior.

So while I’m telling you to chin up, I’m also telling you that we need to take responsibility for ourselves. Feeling like we aren’t good enough is awful, as I’ve previously said, but we are capable of changing our thoughts and behaviors, and doing things to relieve stress and take care of ourselves. Every small change is a step in the right direction, even if that first small change is saying, “I don’t have to feel this way.” Some days you will be able to successfully combat your hopeless feelings and you’ll say, “Wow, that was awesome!” and other days the battle is longer and harder, and that’s okay. Fight it anyway.

And remember, these things we tell ourselves about being worthless and not good enough simply aren’t true; you can tell a flower it’s hideous, but it doesn’t change it’s beauty.