It DOES Get Better

Once upon a time, I was the girl who hated herself, got stressed out about everything, and had major anxiety attacks that led me to self-harm. High school, allegedly the best years of your life, were the darkest years of my life. I went from slightly insecure, to totally insecure, to unsure if I even wanted to be alive. How could life ever get better than it was? Life seemed so dark and hopeless. Four years later, I’m here to tell you that life get’s better. That’s why I created this blog less than a year after I left the hole of darkness I lived in for a while. I built this blog for myself, because I needed encouragement. I still need encouragement, but not the same kind of encouragement that I needed when I started DARE to HOPE. Now, I need the encouragement that comes from being able to write about better days.

My whole life, I’ve been incredibly accident prone. I drop everything, sprain/twist my ankle more frequently than any person should be capable of, and I’ve been in more car accidents than I care to admit. I’m also a perfectionist, so being clumsy and accident prone and also a bit of an airhead sometimes, is pretty much the worst thing I can be. Scratch that. It was pretty much the worst thing I could be. It’s taken years, but now I know how to handle stressful situations like screw ups and unplanned events.

On Sunday morning, I got in another car accident. Honestly, I wasn’t even surprised it happened. I have the worst luck with cars. Not just because I’ve been in way too many car accidents, but also because I tend to have random car problems at the worst times. Anyway, I live in San Antonio and right now pretty much every major street and highway in San Antonio is undergoing construction work. I live off of one of the major roads being worked on and it leads into pretty much every other road being worked on. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that I really can’t avoid the construction because this road only goes one way into the city, the other directions leads more to the outskirts and farm land. That’s kind of irrelevant though. The point is, I was in standstill traffic and then suddenly it started going again, but seemingly out of nowhere, the cars in front of me started to slow down. I tried to stop, but my breaks kind of spazzed out on me and only worked halfway. Granted, I was probably too close to the guy in front of me to begin with, but I wasn’t any closer than anyone was to anyone else. I rear-ended him, he rear-ended another lady, and she rear-ended a second lady. For the first time ever, my airbags deployed and I was in a multiple car collision that was partially my fault (it started because the second car hit the first car and startled me). Needless to say, I was panicking a little bit, especially because the airbags deploying made me really nervous about how I and the others would come out of the accident. By the grace of God, everyone came out unscathed and the other three drivers were able to drive away from the scene. My car is probably totaled though, which sucks because it’s a mustang and I’ve always wanted a mustang.

Anyway, the whole reason I was driving in the first place–I don’t drive unless I absolutely have to, because I hate driving so much. Do you blame me? I have a pretty bad driving history. Two speeding tickets and a lot of accidents from turning left–was because I was going to church. Sunday mornings are the worst times to get in a car accident if you and all your friends and family are church people, by the way. Thankfully, I had made plans with my best friend, Shelby, for the same day, so I immediately thought to text message her that I wouldn’t be at church after all. I also called my parents and grandfather and text messaged a roommate who had been at home still when I left the house. Except for Shelby, none of them answered right away and when they did, they ended up being farther away from me than Shelby was, so when worship was over at church (she’s on the worship team) she came to pick me up and drove me to church for the second service for worship. Then we went to hang out like we had planned to before my accident.

If it were up to me, then there wouldn’t have been a car accident. If there had to be a car accident and it were up to me, then it wouldn’t have happened at the right time to cause me to miss church. That being said, I am glad it happened on a Sunday morning and that my best friend was able to pick me up. The best part though, is that it happened on a day when I had plans with her. Years ago, if something like this would have happened and I was left alone to deal with it, I probably would have ended the day with some form of self-harm before crying myself to sleep. If this had even happened a few months ago, I would have been having a panic and or anxiety attack the whole day. As it is, I still probably would have freaked out a bit more this time if I had been left alone, but I wasn’t. Even when things happen and cause negative circumstances, God is working out all things for the good of those who love him. I got to spend half the day with my best friend, which was a great distraction from what had started as a bad day. Still though, some anxiety did break through my time with Shelby, and once I wasn’t with her anymore, especially when I had to drive (borrowing my dad’s car) the anxiety really started to try to take over. By the grace of God, I was able to stop it from taking over though. If you need this encouragement today on how to avoid stress and anxiety and the worries of this world, then here’s a list of what helped keep me calm. Maybe you can use it for yourself?

  1. Text messaging and hanging out with my best friend.
  2. Retail Therapy (in my case two books and a movie I’d been wanting to for a while)
  3. A worship session with the Lord
  4. Taking control of what I can control (in this case finding a replacement car)
  5. Punching a punching bag and left some weights (read dumbbells)
  6. Taking a peppermint, lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus spearmint bubble bath that was hot it was like a sauna while in a darkened bathroom (think candle light, but with night lights and flashlights) and pop music playing while I soaked for a while before taking a shower to rinse/clean off (baths are a nice idea, but I can’t just take a bath. I need to shower after soaking in the tub)
  7. Watching a heartbreaking romance while eating popcorn and trying not to cry.
  8. Following it up with a cheesy rom-com Chick Flick and some wine.
  9. Expressing myself in an artistic way to reduce the left over stress of the day. (drawing, painting, writing, playing music)
  10. Taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I’ve made it this far so I can’t give up now, because God is on my side and He wants me to succeed as much as I want to succeed, even if my success is nothing more than not breaking down. You may not know this if you’re not anxiety prone like I am or if you’ve never dealt with any other kind of regular mental/emotional breakdown, but keeping yourself together when it seems easier to break down is actually a HUGE accomplishment if you don’t just bottle your feelings up inside and actually release them in a healthy way.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with anyone who might want to read it. I was proud of myself when I realized I made it through the day without any major breakdowns even though the threat was at the back of my mind all day. Like I said, I used to be a girl who dealt with stress in a very negative and unhealthy way. Anytime I realize that I’ve dealt with it in a (or more) positive and healthy way, I just have to give myself a pat on the back and smile over the fact that “they” were right. It DOES get better and what doesn’t kill you really DOES make you stronger! I hope this post encourages you, because it encouraged me just to be able to sit down and write it. It’s amazing how therapeutic writing and reading can be; don’t ya think?

 

If you’re reading this and can think of any time, even the smallest of moments, when you made it through a moment that you wouldn’t have been able to get through in the past, then share the memory with me. I’d love to hear and maybe draw encouragement from it for myself in the future! 🙂

Your Presence is Missed

I’m the kind of person who likes just enough structure in her life that she knows, “Okay, so I’m supposed to be here at this time and there and that time, but I have all this time to do whatever I want or need to do.” I work at a call center where I work a very consistent schedule. I work 4:45 pm to 1:15 am Tuesday through Saturday and I’m off on Sundays and Mondays. Every Sunday I wake up early to go to church and usually come home to take a nap before going to visit my family for the evening. On Monday nights, I go to a horseback riding lesson. It’s a very good schedule for me, because I have at least one thing that is consistently the same every day while the rest of the day is set aside for decompressing and relaxing. If those parts of my schedule are not exactly the same every week, then it makes me feel kind of strange and disorientated. Even if those things are the same, but someone who is normally around me is gone, it’s just as disorienting. I can literally feel their absence, especially if they’re someone I spend a lot of time with.

At work, I have a close friend named Stephanie whose presence, or lack thereof, I can always feel. For a long time, I didn’t even realize it, because for my first year and a half of working there, we shared most of the same work days, so I never really had to miss her presence. Half-way through this year though, we did what’s called a “global shift bid” where everyone has to give up their schedule and reclaim it if they can/want to or pick something new. Stephanie and I both picked something new so now we only work two of the same days. This change happened five months ago and it’s still a bit disorienting to work on her off days. It’s especially disorienting if she’s not at work for part or all of one of the days she and I normally work together.

On Sundays at church, I always see my best friend, Shelby. She’s the worship leader and she’s up on stage 99.9% of all Sundays, so it’s incredibly rare that she’s not at church. I’m not the worship leader, but it’s just as rare that I’m not at church. For the most part, I’ve seen Shelby every Sunday for four years now. When she’s not at church I definitely feel her absence. Today was one of those days. Things were a little different this time though. After I recognized the disorienting feeling, I felt a tugging at my heart asking, “Do you feel this disoriented or strange when you feel the absence of God in your life?” Yikes! Imagine how convicted you would feel to be asked that at home or at work, but to be asked that at church. Yeah, that’s definitely convicting!

I’m not a perfect Christian. Who is? I’m not even a good Christian. Again, who is? I do have a few good practices though. In every day life, when something abnormal happens I acknowledge God. If it’s good, I praise him for allowing it to happen. If it’s not so good, I pray that He in His infinite wisdom will fix the problem or change my perspective. I listen to worship music, play it on my guitar, and/or write worship lyrics on a semi-regular basis. I even tend to present myself in such a way that people around me know that I’m a Christian whether I’ve deliberately told them or not.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also have a habit of not deliberately setting aside moments for God. I try to remember to and most of the time I do remember that I need to do it, but I’m often in the middle of doing something else and then end up forgetting or I get caught up in something else. I pray in the moments when I need something or something exceptional has happened, but I don’t often deliberately sit down to have a conversation with God. Nor do I deliberately take moments out of my day to worship Him.

I’m a writer, a musician, and I like to doodle and sketch. These are three hobbies that are perfect ways both to share my prayers and praises with God. All I need is a journal and pen or pencil or even my smart phone and I can write and sketch my prayers and praises out for Him. My job is not a time consuming job. As previously stated, I work at a call center at night. I get plenty of time between calls that I could use for journaling, writing, and/or sketching. In fact, I usually do use the time between calls to do one or more of these three things. Why not do them still but for the Lord? The same goes for reading my Bible. I have a horrible habit of looking the part and carrying my Bible around with me but not actually opening it. I plan to, I really do, but I get caught up in the conversations between my coworkers, which let’s be honest, I really shouldn’t be a part of at least half the time because they tend to be rather inappropriate. Really. It’s true and they know it, because if they know I’m listening or even joining in, they (mostly the before mentioned Stephanie) try to clean up the conversation or at least apologize for it. I appreciate that, I really do, but she shouldn’t have to apologize, because I shouldn’t be a part of the conversation in the first place. These moments especially are the moments that I could and should be using my time to share my prayers and praises with God and to get answers back from Him through the Bible.

I do have moments when I feel His absence, but it’s often not until I’ve already started to slip into temptation. Like when I’m joining in on inappropriate conversations with my coworkers, or I start to feel anxious, or worried, or those moments when I know I’m about to do something I’m going to regret, but I do it anyway because I think maybe this time it will be okay. Spoiler Alert: It won’t be okay this time just like it wasn’t okay last time! I know, I know, as a Christian I’m “not supposed” to admit that I sometimes deliberately do something I’m not supposed to do, but you see, that’s exactly what Christians are supposed to do. How are non-Believers ever supposed to relate to us or come to know Jesus through us if we put up walls to block out all our imperfections? Last time I checked, there was only one perfect person and He died on the cross over 2000 years ago so that imperfect Christians like you and I could be real with Him and each other and still get into Heaven when we accept His sacrifice, repent of our sins, and try to do what He asks us to do. I’m not perfect, but I do serve a perfect God who loves me and forgives me when I repent from my sins, even the deliberate ones. Anyway, this a post for another time.

The point is, if I feel the absence of Stephanie when she’s not at work and Shelby when she’s not at church, then surely I should feel the absence of God when I’m not spending time with Him every day. If I’m not feeling that absence, then it’s definitely been too long since I’ve made it a habit to spend that extra time with Him. I pray that this will become a “problem” for me. That it will become such a strong habit for me to spend time with God daily that it feels strand and disorienting for me not to spend time with Him. I pray this same thing for you, whoever you are, who are reading this post right now. I want us to feel like something is missing from our lives when we’re not spending regular time with God, just like I feel like something is missing from my life when Stephanie isn’t at work or Shelby isn’t at church. To be completely transparent, I actually felt that way twice in the past five days, because Stephanie left work early on Wednesday and Shelby wasn’t at church today. Do you know how many times I felt like something was missing from my life because I wasn’t spending time with God this week? I’m ashamed to say it, but before this morning when He nudged my heart, I didn’t really feel like anything was missing, at least, I didn’t realize I felt like something was missing.

As often as you think of me, please pray with me and for me to deliberately spend with time. I want to feel like something is missing when I haven’t deliberately spent time with Him. I’ll be doing the same for you! If you made it this far in reading this post, then thank you and God bless you! ❤