Irrational Fear

Irrational Fear – Unreasonable Fear

Panic – Sudden Unreasonable terror

Technically speaking, I’m not afraid of heights. As a child, I was known to climb as high as I possibly could in any tree the adults around me would let me climb. Sometimes, my brother, sister, and I would climb to the top of our roof or treehouse and try to jump off without getting caught. So, no, I’m not afraid of heights. I am, however, afraid of falling or more specifically failing. I can’t go on rollercoasters because I’m afraid I’ll fall to my death. And sometimes, I can’t even climb stairs without a sudden panic overwhelming me for fear that I’ll manage to fall and hurt/kill myself. It’s irrational. I know. But as with my arachnophobia the logic of knowing it COULD happen is often far more convincing than the logic of knowing the odds of the bad thing not happening are in my favor.

I stood at the top of this 3-story rickety staircase for what felt like 5 minutes trying to slow my breathing and calm down enough to go back down the steps I had just climbed up. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen often, but it does. This happens all the time, not always with staircases, but often with life in general. I’m irrationally afraid of falling and failing. I regularly experience moments of rapid heartbeats & shallow breathing because of an irrational anxiety I can’t seem to shake.

Are you like this? Do you have irrational fears? It’s okay. You’ll get through it. Take a deep breath and remember 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”‬ ‭(NIV)‬‬

Dear Younger Me–A Decade in Review

On Sunday, I will be 26. In 2 weeks, it will be 2020. The end of a decade and what a decade it has been! So many things have happened to me I’ve been through so many emotionally draining things this decade. So many fabulous things and so many treacherous things. I have a feeling, from knowing people and from watching people, this decade has been intense for a lot of people. I’m going to write a letter to “younger me” and it’ll be a little personal, but I want it to be for everyone. So, here we go.

Dear younger me,
I’m proud of you. You are strong. So much stronger than you ever knew you could be. Of course, that is because of God in you, but you have to accept and embrace it, so do that. In the future, accept and embrace God’s strength in you.
I want to thank you for the things you’ve taught me. I want to thank you for hanging on and for trying. I want to thank you for being you. You tried so hard not to be you, to be different, to be who people wanted you to be, but you couldn’t. You couldn’t be anyone but you and I thank you for that. The things you hated so much about yourself this past decade have become your favorite things about yourself today. So, thank you.

Dear 16-year-old me,
This is the year you’ve started going to “normal” school again. You’re learning to be insecure. You used to believe in yourself. You used to love yourself. You used to not care what others thought. 4 years ago, you slowly started to care, but it didn’t really hit you until this year. I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry you felt the need to please people. That you felt like you had to be different than yourself and more like others.
If I could go back and tell you anything, then I would tell you to be yourself. I would tell you to believe in yourself. I would tell you that your friends, at least the real ones, will love you as you are. I know you’re afraid. I know you crave relationships. That you worry about them not loving you because they laugh at the things that make you who you are. That is wrong. It sucks and it hurts, but believe it or not, it’s their way of loving you. It’s totally unhealthy and ultimately unChristlike, but they are human. This is how they love you. Please love you, too.

Dear 17-year-old me,
I’m sorry life hurts so much. I’m sorry I expected perfection from you. Maybe if I had listened to Hannah Montana, then you wouldn’t have felt so much pressure to perform. Maybe you would have loved yourself. Maybe you would have remembered the beauty of being that 12-year-old girl who spun around the gym not caring what anyone thought of you. Maybe… maybe… maybe… I’m sorry for all that, but I’m more sorry that I wouldn’t change a thing. Your brokenness brought me closer to God. Your brokenness taught me to really appreciate those in my life who love me despite my crazy. Your brokenness taught me that brokenness is okay. What isn’t okay is wallowing in your brokenness instead of taking it to the Lord. Your brokenness taught me that, so thanks!

Dear 18-year-old me,
Thank you for being unashamedly obsessed with BarlowGirl and Demi Lovato. Thank you for surrendering your hurts and desires to God the day you turned 18. Thank you for letting Him use Demi and the Barlows to drag you from your pit of darkness and lead you to healing. Thank you for taking a chance and accepting Caitlyn’s invitation to a new church. You have no idea how much the Lord is going to use this church to heal you, grow you, and show you who He is. Jehovah Jireh. Jehovah Rapha. Jehovah Shalom.

Dear 19-year-old me,

I’m sorry I let you experience your first real heartbreak. I don’t know if I could have done anything to prevent it, because “the heart wants what it wants.” But I do know I could have softened the blow if I had been more honest about what I was thinking and feeling. In 6 years, your best friend will say you probably weren’t ready to handle it. You’ll deny it at first, but then you’ll realize it’s true. You’ll need a relatable movie, a lot of prayer, and a social media break before you’re ready to handle those feelings. Still, honesty is the best policy. You lied to yourself about your feelings and that’s what made it so hard.

P.S. Thanks for showing me that it’s okay to admit you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You knew you couldn’t handle the stress of Physics and Trigonometry, so you confessed and let it go. Thanks for that. You’ll feel guilty for that decision for a little while, but eventually, you’ll learn it was the right decision.

Dear 20-year-old me,
Last year, you got your heart broken. This year, your parents got divorced. A younger you would have expected you to give up love. After all, you are a hopeless romantic who has been forever single. You fell for someone who definitely wasn’t the one, but you tried to convince yourself he could be. And your parents divorced after fighting your whole life. Love doesn’t seem so glamorous or even realistic these days. Just you wait. Would you believe me if I told you you’ll be single and turning 26 and actually be okay with it? It’s okay. I can hear you laughing. I’m not surprised. I’m more surprised that I’m not only okay with being single, but also, believe it or not, might actually want to stay this way. Anyway, thanks for being a hopeful romantic instead of a hopeless romantic. Rose-colored glasses look way better on you than jade anyway.

Dear 21-year-old me,
You did it! You moved out on your own! You got a “grownup” job and you’re totally rocking it! You’re kind of going through a weird culture shock as you encounter non-Christian society for the first time, but you’re kind of also rocking that. Everyone everywhere will immediately know you’re the church kid and they’ll love you for it. Occasionally, you’ll be treated like a child for it, but it’s cool. Mostly it’s because you’re so… innocent compared to everyone else. Trust me, you’d rather be childlike and innocent than fit in with the crowd. A lot of your coworkers will even respect and admire you for your beliefs. You’ll feel proud about that, so way to go!

Dear 22-year-old me,
Your life is going to be really emotional for the next three years. You’re going to go on so many rollercoasters your head will spin, you’ll feel sick to your stomach, and you’ll feel crazy. 22 is supposed to be the fun year. That’s how Taylor Swift makes it sound, but she’s sort of wrong. I mean, 23 and 24 will be way worse, but 22 is the beginning. You’ll unexpectedly say goodbye to a couple of friendships at 22 and it’ll suck, but you’ll grow. 22 is the beginning of learning how to be okay with not being okay. I know you think you learned that at 18 and 20, but apparently not, cause girl, you’ve got a lot of learning to do. Just take a deep breath and get ready for the ride, because you’re gonna hate it but you’ll be stuck for quite a while.

Dear 23-year-old me,
You taught me patience. It’ll take you 8 months to move into your apartment and from there it will all hit the fan and you’ll run for cover. Except there won’t be anywhere to run, so you’ll kind of just… fall apart. Seriously, you’re going to find yourself sitting on the bathroom floor crying over a picture frame that won’t stay on the wall. That’ll be your tipping point. You’ll curse Eve for eating the apple, you’ll cry over that darn frame, then you’ll go sit in the living room eating fruity pebbles. You’ll laugh hysterically at yourself for being so pathetic and then you’ll cry several more times, because, well, life. You won’t break though. You’ll bend beyond your wildest imagination, but you won’t break, so I’m proud of you. Way to go! You never gave in to the pressure of all the pressure. Whoo!

Dear 24-year-old me,
You seriously quit your job. Then, you finally finished writing the Mask; Her Aid and published it! It’ll feel like the start of something new and beautiful, but it won’t be. You’ll find yourself crying a lot again. You’ll almost be evicted from your apartment. You and Savannah will fight so much and so intensely it’ll surprise you when you get along better after a few months. You’ll find joy in driving around making deliveries for food services, but it won’t pay enough. You’ll have to find a new job. Eventually, you’ll finally become a bus driver like Papa has recommended since you were 21. You’ll move in with the Mathers and studying to be a bus driver will be beyond stressful. How the heck did you end up working 2 jobs that involve driving? You hate driving! The Lord works in mysterious ways though.

Dear 25-year-old me,
Okay, so technically you’re still 25. Your birthday isn’t for another 4 days. That means 4 more days of falling or flying at 25. Anything can change in a matter of days, but let’s just pretend you’re 26, okay? 25 is going to be an interesting year for you. You thought 24 would break you again. A few times, you came so close to letting it. You even crashed and burned at the beginning of 2019 when you took on too much at one time. Seriously, you worked 12-hour shifts at Rhodes, Saturdays at the thrift store, and Sundays in youth. Are you crazy? If God needs rest, then so do you! Thankfully, this form of crashing and burning was only as bad as no longer doing youth or the thrift store. It could have been worse though. You thought it would be, but then you accepted the importance of rest. You took God up on His commandment of Sabbath. You won’t do anything on Saturdays and you’ll be okay with not always working between routes. You won’t use social media on Saturdays and you won’t obsess on Sundays. You’ll even take a social media break during the month leading up to 26. It’ll be weird, but you’ll use that time to “Live Fearless” and “…Be Brave.” You’ll also finally start working out every day. You do Zumba every morning, choreography a lot of afternoons, and concerts most evenings. It’ll be great! Best of all, you’ll learn to forgive. You’ll forgive those who have hurt you and you’ll learn to forgive yourself for hurting others. You’ll be obsessed with the Vampire Diaries and Victorious, and you’ll be friends with Shelby Gail again. Life will even be peaceful when you finally realize that accepting your anxiety and trust issues is the first step in overcoming them. I’m so proud of you for that! You’re sort of still in the process of all that going into 26, but you’ve already accomplished so much! Way to go!

And because you’re still you, you’ll ask your Shelby’s how you’ve changed since meeting them. Both will essentially say the same thing. You’re more confident and more willing to accept the unknown. So after all that mess of 16 to 26, you’ll actually be grateful for the crazy. It was hard and you’ll wish you can change things, but you never would even if you could. You learned so much in your teens and early 20’s that you’re really excited about the things you’ll learn in your late 20’s and early 30’s. Until the next decade, please keep calm and let God. Love you!

Love,
Me ❤

To anyone reading this. I hope you can learn to be brave and trusting. I hope you can accept your brokenness, repent from your sins–like my bitterness and anger–, and that you’ll trust God in the unknowns and comfort zones. Life is hard enough. We don’t need to add to it with perfectionism, fear, anger, bitterness, distrust, and all the other ickiness of brokenness and sin. From least to greatest: Love yourself. Love others. Love God.

 

P.S. It’s okay to be lame, so like… I hope you were able to read this letter to yourself with 2020 vision! 😉 😛 (I just cringed at my own poor “joke.” It’s so lame, but I couldn’t not do it. oh, well)

Popcorn, Panic, and Peace

I’m a socially anxious introvert, while not my identity in and of itself, that is part of who I am. Not only a I drained by social interactions, but social interactions also almost paralyze me with anxiety sometimes. I’m also someone who feels incredibly anxious if I perceive something may be unsafe or uncomfortable. In my head, I usually know most of these anxious moments are overly dramatic and that I need to calm down and just do the thing. Sometimes, I just can’t. Sometimes no matter how illogical I know I’m being, I find myself locked up in fear unable to do anything until something changes. Most people seem to be annoyed by this. Most people react with short replies and irritable answers. Then, there are people who get it and if they don’t get it, they at least realize I can’t seem to help it, so they help me. They’re patient with me. They encourage me. Sometimes they do the thing so I don’t have to.

I’ve been planning to write this post for quite a while now because about six months ago, I walked around Boerne with two of my favorite people and had a moment like this. It was absolutely ridiculous. We were in a popcorn or treat store and I was looking at all the popcorn flavors. Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks and I adore green apple flavoring. They happened to have a green apple flavored popcorn. I was both disgusted and intrigued. Could green apple popcorn be good? I wanted to know how much it cost, but felt paralyzed by the thought of asking, so I asked my friend to ask for me. She laughed a little and graciously asked for me. The popcorn was more expensive than I would have liked for something I just wanted to try, so I was bummed. Then, my other friend noticed a tray of little cups of popcorn and took it upon herself to ask if they were samples. She didn’t even ask for herself. She asked for me before I could even think about it. When the cashier said they were samples, my friend gestured for me to take one so I did. (And, FYI, I personally thought the green apple popcorn was amazing! Haha. Still didn’t buy it because I didn’t have extra money to spend, but it was really yummy! Ooh! Maybe I’ll go buy some soon! Now, I really want some! 🙈)

I don’t only have social anxiety. As I said, I also have safety anxiety. If something doesn’t feel safe, even if it logically is, I start to panic. Last Wednesday before Thanksgiving break, I busted a window in the bus I was driving because I turned too closely to a tree branch. Our mechanics fixed it very quickly, so I was able to drive it again that afternoon. Before I went out to drive it, I worried about the broken shards of glass that fell into the floor. Our head mechanic, Jason, personally went out to inspect the bus for me. He didn’t have to. I could have and would have done it, but he’s gotten to know me well enough that he knows I’ve got a bit of an anxiety problem. Instead of sighing or saying something along the lines of, “calm down,” he personally helped me know I was safe. And that’s not the only time he or the rest of the mechanics have gone out of their well to assure me I was safe and secure and ready to go. They, especially Jason, regularly go the extra mile to help me and I know it’s because they know I feel better with their expert opinion versus my own.

The reason this is important to me is because some of the other people I work with, especially two of my managers, seem to act like my questions and concerns are a problem. Sure, maybe they are. Maybe my worries are ridiculous sometimes. Actually, there’s no maybe, sometimes my anxiety is ridiculous. Like I said though, I can’t seem to always control it. Sometimes I have to be shown that my worry is silly and not just told. More importantly, I need to know I’m not seen as foolish for my worries. In fact, that’s the best way for me to quickly overcome the anxiety and face it less often. All I need a lot of the time is to know or at least feel like my worries are understood.

That’s why I wanted to write this post. I wanted to give advice to anyone reading this who has anxiety or who knows someone with anxiety. In 2019, I’ve been learning countless ways to handle my anxiety. One way is to accept it. If I accept my anxiety, then it becomes less of a problem and more of a question. If it’s a question, then there’s an answer to find and I can find that answer. If others accept my anxiety, then they can help me either my doing something or by showing me that I’m not alone. Even if they don’t understand, then at least they sympathize. They acknowledge that I’m not intentionally being difficult. And when I know that, my anxiety feels easier to overcome. I think thats probably true for others too. When they accept their mental blocks and when their people accept their mental blocks, then those blocks become easier to move. And then there is peace on earth or at least in our own little worlds.

God Doesn’t Make Wrong Turns (Part Two)

After Spring Break 2019, I wrote a blog post talking about how I went to a different town with my best friend for the day and we missed our turn, but I trusted her anyway. A few months later, we learned that while she did miss her turn, she wasn’t actually going the wrong way. If we had kept going instead of turning around, then we still would have made it to our destination. When our other friend and I told her that, she joked, “So even when I’m wrong, I’m still right.” And once again, I felt the Holy Spirit whispering to my soul, “That was about Me and it was for you.”

God Doesn’t Make Wrong Turns (Part One) was about trusting God the same way that I trusted Shelby. I thought she missed her turn, but I didn’t say anything, because I trusted she knew where she was going. This post is about trusting God when He takes me in a different direction than I expected.

When Shelby and I were going to Boerne, we took what would have been the shortest and fastest route. I usually try to do that. I try to take the shortest and fastest route to get anywhere both literally and metaphorically. I usually don’t want to take longer than I have to. Every once in a while though, I decide I want to take the scenic route instead. A month or so after Shelby and I went to Boerne, I had to go back & I decided to take the scenic route. That’s when I realized Shelby and I could have stayed on the “wrong” route and still would have made it to our destination the month before. Me taking that scenic route began a lesson in my life that I’d heard a thousand times but hadn’t applied until now. “Even when I’m wrong, I’m still right.” Shelby was joking when she said that. She’s human and she’s wrong sometimes, but God is perfect and never wrong. So, even when I think He’s wrong, He’s still right.

We all walk different journeys in life. We all have different roads maps. But we all have the same destination. Whatever our roadmaps are, our destination is God. Every Christian road leads to Him. And we think we know how to get to Him. Most of us want to take the shortest and fastest route to Him. Some of us may be able to take the short and fast route, but most of us are called to take the scenic route. We plan on the short route and we beg God to turn around when He doesn’t take the turn, but we’re usually called to take the long and scenic route. Why? I think it’s because it’s more beautiful and it’s different every time we take it.

The shorter route to Boerne goes through a town called Grey Forest and Grey Forrest is gorgeous. As gorgeous as it is, it looks the same pretty much every time I drive through. The longer route to Boerne takes a highway through the hill country. It’s always different. Various wildlife run on and along the highway. There are a bunch of ranches and farms along the route with horses, cows, goats, and even some exotic animals. And there are a few bodies of water. Bodies of water never look the same. The whole route is beautiful and looks different each time. Since realizing that, I’ve purposely taken that route every time I’ve had to go to Boerne and I need to keep that same mentality in life.

The shortest and fastest route in life might be beautiful like Grey Forrest, but it’s quiet and still. Sometimes that’s great and needed in life. Most of the time our life needs the longer and scenic route like highway 16. Things need to be moving and changing, because that’s when we see the beauty of God and His creation and His story. Yeah, Grey Forrest is a beautiful image of how unchanging and peaceful God is. But the long route is a reminder that God creates beautiful things. It’s a reminder that He has a plan, even when it takes more time to unfold than we think it will. When given the choice on which route to take, neither route is wrong. God’s okay with us choosing the short and calm route when given the opportunity. And sometimes He’ll only give us that option. Other times He’ll only give us the long route. We have to be okay with that. We have to recognize that God wants us to see something along the route before we get to the destination. And, in m experience, those are the most beautiful moments. Now, if only I could remember that when I’m begging to take the short route and He’a telling me to take the long route! Because even when I think He’s wrong, He’s still right!

Kitchen Cabinets & Malunion Fractures – A Look at 2018 & 2019

A year or so ago when I moved into my apartment, my best friend came over and unwittingly gave me a visual representation of what friendship should be. My sister and I had a random mirror standing in the living room and it was super dirty and smudged from previously being in storage. My best friend couldn’t stand looking at it and I hadn’t really felt like cleaning it, so she grabbed some Windex and cleaned the mirror. Then, maybe the same day or during a different visit, I pulled a pan or something from my kitchen cabinet and she noticed it was a chaotic mess. Again, I didn’t feel like organizing it, so I just left it that way. Again, because she didn’t like it that way, she decided to organize my kitchen cabinet, so it actually made sense when I grabbed things out of it. A few times after that, she organized a few of my other things too. It seems silly, but today I realized while listening to a podcast about anxiety that those moments were incredibly significant moments in my life because they represent something so much more important.

The podcast I was listening to is called “Directionally Challenged with Candice King and Kayla Ewell.” This podcast episode was about anxiety and it started with the question, “What does anxiety mean to you?” I thought about it and I didn’t have a chance to answer it for myself before Candice answered with the best definition I’ve ever heard. She said something like, “It’s quicksand. I get stuck and the more I struggle or try to get out the worse it gets.” Later on, she and Kayla and their guest talked about their toolboxes to get out of the quicksand. You have to have self-compassion, you have to find creative outlets, you have to find your own ways of coping, and you have to let other people help you out. While they were talking about letting other people help you out of your anxiety and or depression, something they said made me think of the mirror and the cabinet and how like real life those moments were.

2018 was a year of major anxiety for me. I faced depression and was tempted with self-harm far more than I ever would have expected to be after coming away from that in 2012 and these feelings really piled on the anxiety as I dealt with familial drama, financial drama, and kind of just life in general. Through these struggles I learned about all the tools God has given me to fight my personal battle. In order to learn about these tools though, I had to go through a long, hard battle.

For me, 2018 was a year of breaking and healing. It was a spiritual version of something in the medical world called a malunion fracture. A malunion fracture is when a broken bone grows back together without properly healing. To my uneducated knowledge, this most often happens when someone either doesn’t know they’ve been hurt, or they don’t realize they’ve been hurt as badly as they have been. For the malunion fracture to heal properly, the doctor may have to rebreak the bone and then reset it. That’s what God had to do for me this year. I had a few malunion fractures in my heart and God had to allow my heart to be rebroken so that I could heal properly. I didn’t know about these malunion fractures though until they were rebroken.

A few years ago, I really thought that God and I had tackled the bulk of my struggles with anxiety and that it wasn’t much of a struggle for me anymore. 2018 taught me I was wrong. Anxiety, depression, and self-harm are probably going to be things that I battle with for my whole life. There will be times when it’s not as bad and I’ll get stronger every time, but I’ll likely deal with these things forever and that’s okay. There are going to be times in my life when malunion fractures come up in my life and anxiety will occur because I have to deal with them. It will be hard and I probably won’t like the process but I will be necessary for me to heal and grow in my relationships with people and with God.

And here’s the thing about anxiety that I think a lot of Christians feel even more anxiety over. In and of itself, anxiety is not a sin. Anxiety is an emotion that tells me when I need to slow down and focus more on God than others or things. Sin only comes into play when I let my anxiety control me instead of choosing to let God control my anxiety. I can choose to dwell on my anxiety and let it take me to dark places or I can choose to use my anxiety to draw me closer to God and the healthy relationships He has provided for me.

That’s where my best friend cleaning my mirror and organizing my kitchen cabinet comes into the picture. Yes, she did that in a literal sense, but all throughout this year she and a few other friends have done that in a metaphorical sense as well. They’ve loved me, they’ve cared about me, and they’ve celebrated me. In doing so, they’ve helped me see my spiritual and emotional reflections better and they’ve helped me to organize the clutter of my mental cabinets.

In 2018, I was reminded what my actual identity looks like. I was reminded that it’s okay and important to rearrange things in my life and to get rid of things that negatively affect my mental health. Through my dearest friends who have chatted with me and loved me, I’ve seen what godly and healthy relationships are supposed to look like. Because of that, I’ve learned which relationships I need to just get rid of all together and which relationships I need to push to the back of my “cabinet” and not use quite as often, if ever. While doing that, God worked on my malunion fractures and reset them so that now as I head into a new year they are truly healed and ready for whatever God may have for me in the next chapter of my life.

Normally at the end/beginning of the year I give a brief recap of the year before and then set out my goals for the coming new year. This year I can’t really recap 2018 because I didn’t accomplish any of my goals. I’m going into 2019 a few pounds heavier than I went into 2018 instead of leaving 2018 twenty-five to fifty pounds lighter. I didn’t read very many books or finish any television series’. I didn’t read my Bible every day and I didn’t journal every day (though I did do a lot better at both this year than I normally do. I journaled almost every day and read my Bible or a Bible plan on average a couple times a week.) I didn’t create something new every day and I didn’t really change my eating habits very much. But all of that is okay. I don’t feel sad or discouraged by not meeting any of these goals because I can honestly say I’m leaving 2018 feeling a lot lighter than I felt during the rest of the year, because I’ve finally realized that with God I can control my anxiety. I’ve realized that asking for prayer and help is okay and so, so important. I’ve also realized that if my friendship fears were grounded in any amount of truth, then I wouldn’t have the same best friends after six years of them knowing me.

So, as I leave 2018 and head into 2019, I’m not making any plans or setting any goals. I’ll continue and start a few new practices like journaling, creating more, sleeping to the light sound of worship music in the background, tracking my daily stress levels, and keeping track of what I do and don’t eat or how I do or don’t exercise, but I’m not setting any goals. I’m just going to read my Bible, worship the Lord in song and written word, and let my friends help me when I don’t know how to help myself. Because no matter what happens in 2019 and no matter how often I feel anxious or worried, I won’t let it consume me. I will live in peace with the Lord and know that “no matter what my future holds, I know Who holds my future.”

24: Crazy (Fear)ce

24. 2018. Both the same year in my world. Both a year of constantly feeling fearful, crazy, and or fierce all at the same time or one after the other. Life is unpredictable and everchanging. I like to know things and stay where I am. 24 didn’t tell me anything until after it happened and rarely let me stay in the same place doing the same thing for longer than a few moments at a time. 24 was a year of drama. Family drama. Financial drama. Apartment drama. Just drama. I spent a lot of time praying and texting my best friend for support and prayers, and sometimes texting my other best friends and blogging for some sort of comprehension into my crazy life. I wrote a lot of songs about feeling fearful, crazy, and fierce. I listened to the same 15 to 30 songs over and over and over again without really listening to much else. And I may or may not have broken down a lot this year. Seriously, I didn’t even fangirl much this year. That’s how crazy it’s been.

To be honest, as I look back on this year, it’s probably been emotionally on par with my junior year of high school. When I was a junior in high school, I found myself struggling with depression and self-harm pretty much every single day. At 24, I felt myself on the edge of fighting the same battle almost every day as well. 24 was different though. Junior year was a year of brokenness that I gave into. As I broke, I gave in and grew weak. I focused on my depression, I lived in a constant state of anxiety, and I physically harmed myself regularly just to feel something different than the ache in my soul. 24 was a year of brokenness that I fought. When I felt depressed and anxious or was tempted to give in to the destructive addiction that is self-harm, I found other ways to cope. I reached out to my best friend, I wrote music and or blog posts, I listened to one or both of my main playlists, “Be Still” and “Fierce,” and or I let myself fangirl a little harder over old fandoms just so I could focus on something other than life’s craziness.

24 took me on a rollercoaster full of twists and turns that turned my finances, my family, and my feelings upside down and all around. Every day, often multiple times a day, I looked for a rainbow or sunshine or even just a glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel. Every night I felt like I was just getting closer and closer to eternal darkness. Every once in a while though, I saw a small ray of sunshine as the storm clouds just barely parted just enough for me to remember darkness can never last forever. New friends left their sparkle in my life, old friends reminded me who and Whose I am, and kids and teens reminded me to have faith and look for beauty.

24 did leave me often feeling depressed and anxious. It often had me so worried and stressed that I didn’t even finish one tv series in the whole 365 days of the year, I barely watched any movies, and I only read a few books. My fangirl game for 24 was majorly lacking. That may seem silly, but when you’re known as the fangirl, it says a lot. Even still, 24 taught me that I am so much stronger than I used to be, so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. If you had told me my junior year that life would get better and I would get stronger, then I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me senior year that if I ever fell into a state of darkness again, then I’d be strong enough not to give in, then I also wouldn’t have believed you. Heck, even if you had told me at 23 or 24 that I’d be strong enough to fight through darkness that could rival my junior year, then I for sure wouldn’t have believed you. Here I am though. I’m 25 and I made it through the darkness of 24 without giving in and while fighting for my life at every turn. I cried out to Jesus and gave my darkness to Him. I learned to cope in a healthy way by praying and asking for prayer. I even let myself feel the hurt and the pain and the darkness whenever necessary. I grew a lot at 24. I learned a lot too.

24 taught me that Mosaic MSC is right. Jesus does make the darkness tremble. 24 taught me there is strength in vulnerability and weakness. 24 taught me that even in fear and anxiety I am brave and strong. 24 taught me that reaching out for help, even simply asking for prayer or an ear to listen is not weakness, but strength. 24 taught me that when I let God work for me, He never gives me more than “I” can handle. 24 also taught me that family isn’t who you’re related to by blood but who you’re related to by His blood. Without music and without my church family, I wouldn’t have made it through 24 without majorly crashing and burning. With music and my church family, I was able to tuck my wings in as they carried me through the trenches and flew for me.

As I head into 25 and 2019, I’m not going to set any New Year’s goals. Instead, I’m just going to rest and rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of 24. I’m going to keep track of the things I do in 2019. I’m going to keep track of how I feel at the end of every day at 25. And, I’m going to enjoy life as it happens. Whether good or bad, I’m going to thank God for every day and remember that even on my worst days, He and His people are with me.

When Fear Creeps In

Since April 30, 2018, my only job has been as a delivery driver for the apps UberEats and Doordash. This has been great, because I’ve been able to work whenever I want and get paid whenever I want. Three weeks ago, I started a new job. That new job will be paying me nearly five dollars more an hour than I average as a delivery driver, but it will only be paying me once every two weeks. For the first pay period, I have to wait four weeks to get paid. That’s not good for someone who has been behind on bills and now doesn’t have time to work all day for a job that pays immediately if need be. Needless to say, on top of the endless stress I’ve been feeling essentially nonstop for the past two years (some from my own doing and some not), I’ve been feeling even more stress. I’m already behind on bills and now it seems like I won’t ever be able to catch up because of this waiting period until I get paid. In between the moments of unbearable stress I’ve been feeling the past two years, God has really been showing, or at least trying to show me (I don’t always listen very well), how to handle stress in a healthy way. But more than that, He’s been asking me to trust Him. That’s hard. I’m a person who likes to know things. I like to know the when, where, and how of everything in my life. I haven’t done much knowing in the past two years. Everything’s kind of just been a constant progression of “I know something you don’t know” in terms of the when, where, and how of things happening. Today, God quickly reminded me of the ways in which I can combat against stress.

  1. Be Real with God– In the past couple of days, a few relatively minor issues have arisen and I’ve been really annoyed with God about them. They’ve been things completely out of my or anyone else’s control. I’ve been trying so hard to stay positive and believe that the Lord will provide for my every need. But, as I said, my stress plate has been overloaded lately, so every small issue threatens to topple it over. In those moments, I can feel myself reaching my breaking point, so I cry out to God in frustration. He’s okay with that. I think He even wants it. Most of the time, I’m usually crying something like, “God, why are you allowing this to happen? I’m trying so hard to be positive and get back on track, but every time I’m almost there, there’s a setback and I can’t handle it.” I think it’s healthy to cry out in frustration to the Lord. I think He even wants us to. If we can’t cry out to Him, then who can we cry out to? We just have to remember where the line of respect is and remember to, with His help, reign it in after a little while.
  2. Be Grateful. Normally, about halfway through my frustrated crying, God reminds me of His blessings in my life. At first, I push back in frustration and He gives me time to get over my frustration. Then, He’s kind of like, “Okay, Brittany. You’ve had your time to express your frustration. I’m okay with that, but now it’s time to focus on the positive.” So, I reluctantly release my frustrations to Him and let Him remind me of all the things and people I have to be grateful for. In that moment, after surrendering my frustration and claiming my blessings, I feel so much better than I did in the fear-driven frustrations of before. Today, for example, He let me complain to Him and then He reminded me of something I hadn’t quite realized yet. I get paid this Friday. Then, I’ll have a week off from my new job for Thanksgiving break and will be able to make deliveries all day, every day for a week. This will be convenient because that’s the week all my bills will be due and I’ll be a little short with my coming paycheck. He also reminded me that Black Friday will probably be an exceptionally busy day as people will be shopping all day and won’t want to leave their shopping to eat, so I’ll be able to go to them. And, of course, He reminded me of my Ebenezer Stones. Those are the ways He’s provided me every time I’ve needed Him to in the past. He has always been faithful and He always will be.
  3. Be humble. Fear, at least for me, almost always accompanies a need. Most often, I’m afraid when I think a need won’t be met. In those moments, I have to be humble. I not only have to be willing to humble myself before the Lord in prayer by asking for His provision. I also may have to humble myself and ask others for help. Sometimes, that may be as simple as asking them to pray for me. Other times, that may be asking them for tangible help. Will you take care of me when I have my wisdom teeth removed or when I sprain my ankle? Will you help me fix the A/C in my car? Will you help me move all my things from my old living place to my new living place? Or even, will you lend me some money for gas? Right now, that’s the hardest thing for me to ask because I’m the main reason I’m in a financial bind.
  4. Be in community. I like to be alone more than I like to be with people, but there are people I will more readily sacrifice my alone time for than others. Those are the people who fill me when I’m in dire need of a spiritual recharge. More times than not, that spiritual recharge is needed when I’ve been living in or fighting off fear for one reason or another. In the past several months, fear has been telling me that I need to spend every waking moment working so I can pay my bills. God has been telling me to rest, not only by myself, but most importantly with His people. The past two months, I’ve been in the tightest of financial binds I’ve ever been in. It seems logical that I should spend every waking moment working until I get out of this bind. It’s not practical though. When I found myself in a dark abyss of depression in high school, it was because I was burning myself out trying to climb out of what felt like binds at the time. When I finally came out of that abyss, it was because of fellowship. Now, I have to continue to remember that. I may not be able to say yes to every social event, but when it’s a spiritual social gathering or a one on one spiritual gathering, those are the times when I know I have to say yes. These past three weeks as I’ve been waiting for a paycheck, I’ve been more stressed than I think I’ve been in a long time. Logic says I should be making deliveries whenever I’m not at my nine to five job. Practicality and health say that’s foolish. So, last weekend I spent 36 hours with my best friend at a women’s event. Then, after church the next day, I went to lunch with another friend and had dinner with my family. Today, a week later, I spent about an hour and a half after church with another friend and then had dinner with my family again. These were prime money-making hours, but that doesn’t matter if I’m spiritually burnt out. So, even though it pained me, in the beginning, to do so, I took time off and I fellowshipped. By the end of each social event, I felt recharged and ready to take on the world. If I hadn’t spent time with these darling friends of mine, then I can guarantee you I’d be writing a different post right now.

These are only four simple steps to take when overcoming fear and they pretty much encompass any other step you may need to take, but they’re not easy. Fear is a liar and a thief. Fear doesn’t want to hear our honesty. Fear is a thief of gratitude. And fear, at it’s core, is selfish. Fear is also often accompanied by misery and misery only loves company when the company is also miserable. When the company saps up your fear and gives you peace, misery wants nothing to do with it. So, next time you’re feeling afraid, try these steps. Be real with God. Be grateful. Be humble. And be in fellowship.