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.

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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.

 

1 Samuel 7

I sat down a few minutes ago to read my Bible and spend some time with God. I’m currently reading John and 1 Samuel, alternating days. Today was a 1 Samuel day and I sat down maybe not quite as excited as I should have been. Typically I find myself “getting more” from New Testament books, such as Ephesians or James. Recently, though, I’ve been praying that God reveal Himself to me throughout all of His Word. So I sat down, and by verse 3, God was pounding on my heart.

Samuel told them, If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths (a Canaanite goddess) that are among you, dedicate yourselves to the Lord, and worship only Him. Then He will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines.

Verse 2 says that the whole house of Israel began to seek the Lord, and Samuel’s response was that they had a few things to do!

They needed to:

  1. Get rid of the foreign gods
  2. Dedicate themselves to the Lord
  3. Worship the Lord only

Verse 4 says that they did just that.

A few verses down the Israelites find themselves under threat of the Philistines, so they cried out to Samuel to cry out to God on their behalf. He did, and the Lord answered. After the Philistines fled, Samuel set up a stone, naming it Ebenezer (Stone of Help).

After I finished reading and taking notes, I was rolling this passage around in my head. Samuel had basically told the Israelites to

  1. Remove the things from their lives that were coming between them and God
  2. Set themselves apart for God’s use
  3. Make the Lord their first priority

Then, when there were no things competing for the space between the Israelites and God, He answered Samuel’s prayer. I sat there thinking, “Man, this is good stuff! I need to blog about this!” I then sat at the computer and typed the first few words and thought, “Wait. What is between God and I right now? I can’t sit down and talk about how wonderful and applicable this piece of Scripture is whilst ignoring it in my own life.”

So I did some self-exploration and asked God what my “gods” were; what had I been putting before Him lately, because I knew that I was not where I needed to be. I got three phrases: sleep, laziness, and people-pleasing.

Sleep, I got. I often choose to sleep in, thus forcing something to be at the sidelines – and they tell me I’m not supposed to wear pajamas to school so spending time with God often gets neglected.

Laziness. I got that one too. I don’t know why it often seems like so much work to read my Bible or pray when scrolling through Facebook is all too easy.

People-pleasing. This one took me a minute. It’s not like I’m selling drugs to please people; however, I do tend to strive to make everyone happy all the time. I cannot stand when people are upset or mad at me – or if I even think they are. So I often find myself saying “yes” to things when I’m running myself ragged. I haven’t been resting in God at all recently if I’m to be honest. I people-please and then I stress myself out to the point of exhaustion and tears.

Now, the Israelites did what Samuel told them to do, but we know the Israelites have a track record for resorting back to their own ways. We are no different. I know that if I don’t continually work at my relationship with God, if I don’t continually take my gods off the shelf, I’ll be right back where I was. This blog post is essentially my Ebenezer, a stone of remembrance for taking my gods off the shelf today and to remember to keep them that way.

 

Sawdust and Sugar

Do you remember back in elementary or middle school when you would learn a concept but you didn’t really know why you were learning it? As a concept it made sense, but it didn’t seem to have a place in “real life”? But then you get older and it suddenly makes sense as to why you had to learn it? Division, for example. As a kid I wondered why I really needed to know division – was I really going to need to figure out how many 7 lb. bags of potatoes were in a 34 lb. pot of mashed potatoes? But then, sure enough, there I am one day,  trying to figure out how many standard sized water bottles I drank if I had drank 60 oz of water because I was trying to start drinking more water and the app I was using to track it annoyingly didn’t count by increments of water bottles. It happened. I used the division (I’m sure I’ve used division way more than that in my practical life, but that is the only example I could think of off the top of my head). I understood why I had to learn the putrid skill of “seeing how many times something went into something else.” It now made sense.

I had one of these moments recently, not about math but about sin. As a follower of Christ, I understood that sin was missing God’s mark, disobeying, etc. But this weekend as I was snowed in at a cabin with some friends, we were having a discussion about what God had been doing in one of our friend’s life. She talked about how in deciding to let something go in her life, she was freeing herself for what God had intended for her in that something’s place. Hmm. That got my wheels turning.

Only a few hours later, I was sitting on the couch in our cozy quite chilly cabin reading Everyday Saint: Rejecting Sin, Choosing Love by Jim Hampton. I came across a passage that was talking about the very same thing. Jim says, “sin is a paltry shadow of real truth, beauty, and goodness, and that what God wants to give us is far more glorious and wonderful that the poor substitutes to which we cling.” Hmm.

Suddenly, sin not only meant missing the mark or disobeying God, it meant using our God-given free will to choose to, as Mr. Hampton said, cling to poor substitutes of something much, much better. It’s like wanting a cup of coffee and needing something to sweeten it with. You think to yourself, “Hmm.. I have sugar in the cabinet, but I also have a maple tree in the back yard. I think I’ll go saw off a limb and put the sawdust in my coffee.”

It. Makes. No. Sense.

So why do we settle for maple tree sawdust instead of sugar – an intended sweetener?  Why do we cling to worry when we’re intended to have peace? Why do we cling to any number of things when they’re a pale imitation of what we’re meant to have?

Sin is trading in Eden for a life of pain. It’s trading in gem stones for pebbles. It’s sawdust for sugar.