You Are Not You

I sat in the waiting room with a clip board and a pen. I checked box after box.

Strongly describes me. Does not describe me at all.

I was pouring out my heart and soul on an intake form and it felt… weird.

That kind of vulnerability in such a medical way was the first step on a long journey to discovering how mental and emotional health play a role in my life. I didn’t feel like someone who was supposed to be in therapy. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t going through any kind of trauma. I was just a 19 -year-old girl with a little too much on her plate and a lot of questions about her future.

Choosing to start therapy was more of a utilization of a tool than a necessary step to help prevent my imminent destruction.

And honestly, it was great. I learned a lot about myself and how I handle emotional situations. I learned about shame and blame and all that jazz. I stepped away from the process confident that I could handle the problems I had going on without the weekly meetings with my counselor.

But around the end of the school year I started to feel different. My fears and insecurities felt so big and I felt so powerless. Suddenly I wasn’t myself. Sure, I was joking around and smiling at strangers. But every action felt empty. I didn’t want to see the people I loved and I didn’t believe that they loved me. I felt like I couldn’t take the next step in my career or just function like a normal human being. I was tired. I was sad. I was not me.

As I would later discover, I have clinical depression.

It wasn’t this dramatized, glamorous thing where I just laid in bed and cried. It was me, trying to function, and feeling it wasn’t worth it. It was all those little voices saying “you’re not good enough” but instead of it being a small whisper, it became a coach with a bullhorn, ever present and working over time.

It got bad. I thought it was what the rest of my life would be like. But somehow, by the grace of God, I had the wisdom to say something and go to a doctor.

It was not an instant fix. There is no magic pill to take to make your life perfect. Sometimes it takes chemical regulation and a change in diet and conversations of vulnerability and wisdom from your mother and the liberation of saying “I am never going to be perfect and that is okay.”

But that journey is the difference between life and death and that is not an exaggeration. I am writing this not because I want to let you all know that I beat depression! My life is perfect now! Because that is not true and I am still very much in the midst of my story and it took me months before I got the courage to sit down and write this blog. I am writing this because I didn’t know that I was not alone. I didn’t know there were ways to live with depression. That there would be good days again when the darkness could be hushed and I could celebrate being alive.

I am writing this because when you are not you anymore you need to get help.

Because not only is your life worth fighting for, it is infinitely valuable. I wouldn’t wish this journey we are on for anyone, but I will say that fighting has given me so much insight into who I am and how God created me.

Even when you are wired for struggle, your life will not be absent of the blessings that God has promised to you. You can still have a future and a plan to prosper. But please. Don’t just sit idly by. Get the help that you need to feel like yourself again.

Just because you can’t put emotional and mental health in a cast and try to reset it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a doctor. Just because you feel low doesn’t mean that you are weak or worthless. The most dangerous lie that you can believe is that things can’t change.

So be patient and take the first step on the journey. If it is a crippling weight or just a little too much on your plate, therapy, chemical regulation, and vulnerability are tools God has given us to make sure we are able to live our lives with joy and stability.

So please friends, if you are not you, fight to get your life back.

Center of the Scene

God first.

Then Family.

Then School.

Then Friends.

That was the order my life was supposed to follow. I have always been told that your time should be poured out in that order. The problem is that this is really, really hard to practically do as a student. Nothing in my life follows a recipe or a schedule anymore. I am making a thanksgiving dinner in drive thru timing. Some days I spend 3 hours playing Risk and somedays I spend 8 hours in the library. Balancing time and commitments is harder than I could have ever imagined. I imagine that as I get older and add my kids, job, and spouse into the mix it isn’t going to get any easier.

How can I keep God at the top of that list when most of the time I just need his strength to get to my 9 AM? How can I keep family above friends when I live with my best friends and my family lives an hour away? How can I keep school below God when I spend hours working for good grades and forget to read my bible so much it is embarrassing? If the rest of my life takes 12 hours a day how can I possibly match that with the effort I put into my relationship with Christ?

This morning my whole perspective was changed when our lead pastor at The Net Church, Ryan May, explained the way we should focus our lives. He showed us a picture of the nativity scene. In the center was baby Jesus in the manger. Jesus was next to his parents, wisemen on one side, shepherds on the other, and of course the animals were scattered around the scene. He said this scene is how we should model our lives. God was there in the center of our lives with everything looking at Him.

The thing that is in the center of our lives should be what is most important to us and where we take our cues from. The center of our life will be what tells us whether things are going to be ok in the future, whether we should be happy or anxious, and how we should behave. We look to that center to make the decisions that effect the rest of our lives. Having Christ in the center of our lives, as we know, means that we will not be anxious, that we will have joy, and that we will love others.

We have to be careful to not replace Christ with any of the other things in our lives, even the good things like family or friends. When we put family in the center, we let our families dictate how we feel or what we do. We put our parents or spouses’ will for our lives above what God’s will is. When we let our friends be the center we seek their approval above God’s approval and unconditional love. Things that fail can’t be at the center of our lives, it just doesn’t work that way.

My life doesn’t work as a list. Family, friendships, school, and service are all equally important to me and without them I wouldn’t be who I am. Above all of those things, at the center of who I am, is Christ. He is there to tell me who I need to be and what I am supposed to do. He tells me how to be a part of my family and reminds me of their importance. He rejoices when my friendships strengthen my faith and help me grow as a person. He teaches me about the plans he has for my future in my studies. He shows me his love for the world when I serve.

Bible study is important, but I learn so much more from God when I don’t limit him to what he can teach me through daily devotion. I live my life for Christ when I put him in the center of it all and take my cues from him. I have the Holy Spirit in me and it serves as a constant reminder that God is with me at all times.

I don’t have to exclude the good things in my life to make time for God. They are all there. A part of the scene of my life. They have a place. It just isn’t the center.

 

Expectations are the Thief of Joy

Expect more from your expectations.

Here it is. The first day. You wake up excited to get started on your new adventure. You look extra nice. You take the time to do your hair. It is going to be different this time.

But when you get there, something goes wrong. He doesn’t open your door. The boss treats you like you just graduated from first grade. Your hall smells like ramen in the worst possible way. All of the sudden things aren’t as great as you expected and your excitement turns into dread.

When we set up expectations of how something is going to go, we set ourselves up for disappointment. By fantasizing about an ideal world where everything goes our way we allow our hopes to become the reality. Reality, however, can never be perfect. Just like I wrote in my last post, excellence is possible, but perfection is unachievable.

I don’t know about you, but I have a wild imagination and I love planning. That makes avoiding expectations almost impossible. I love new beginnings because of all the possibilities and new outcomes. How could I not think about how great things could be? I have to come up with some kind of replacement for expectations.

You can give up expectations when you give over your planning to God. This is one of those solutions that is simple, but not necessarily easy. We know that God has the best plan for our lives and that when we give him control he will always do what is best for us. That doesn’t mean that it won’t take a daily surrender to Him.

In Jeremiah 29 it says,”‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.” 

We know that God has plans for our lives. That is the expectation that we should carry in our hearts. We should expect that God is in control and that by trusting in him, we are living the life he is calling us to. When there are bumps along the way we can call on God and he will show himself to us. By replacing our own expectations with the expectation that God is working in our lives we can find hope in any circumstance.

Stand For Something

What matters to you? Does it motivate you? Prove it.
Stand For Something explores the importance of core values in the lives of college freshmen and beyond.

What matters to you?

This is the most important question you are going to answer. You are going to answer this question everyday before you choose to get out of bed in the morning. It is how you will choose your major and how you will choose to speak to others. We answer this question because our values are the core of who we are. So, what matters to you?

In communications, we are trying to answer the question “What is the purpose of this organization?” In everything we say and convey our purpose as communication experts is to tell the public who we are. As individuals our purpose is not far from that.

As a Christian, I speak to show the character of Christ. As a Student, I work to show academic strength. As a friend, I listen, laugh and bond with the people around me. Everything I do is an extension of my core being and the person I am trying to be.

But what happens when I don’t know what I stand for? If I don’t know who I am, then how can I decide what I want?

If you don’t know what you stand for or even if you don’t stand for anything you can be misguided. Even if you are missing a system of navigation, you will still end up at a destination. People will always be forming opinions about you. Unintentional actions and communication are still perceived. That is why it is so crucial to identify your values.

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything

Identifying your “brand” or rather what you stand for is the first step. Ask yourself the hard questions. Do some research. Have in depth conversations with other people about their own beliefs. Finding out who you are means that you question whether or not you believe the things you have always held as true. Through this process, your faith will become the strongest it could be. Blind faith may still technically be faith, but it isn’t the kind of faith that allows you to have a true relationship with God. 

From here you grow. Once your core values have been identified, they will start to leak into everything you do. Pretty soon, your social media, your daily interactions, and even your thoughts will reflect the core of who you are. By meditating on truth you will find that it is easier to be honest and make choices you are proud of.

This is so important for us to get as college students and especially as freshmen. Everything from choosing a minor to the people we surround ourselves with has to be intentionally and carefully chosen as we develop so quickly. We are going to be molded in these next few years. Choosing to stand for something now will help guide us into the person we want to become.