Soul Food

Soul Food {May 2017}

This month, the word “interruption” was showing up everywhere I looked. Soon it started becoming reality, and I am now learning to face the unexpected boldly and with resolve. This is some of the media that came with me and helped me find a sense of steadiness and companionship.

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  • “Frustrated” and “Love Less” by R.LUM.R. I discovered him when he was featured on Phangs’ new single, and wow he’s good. Passionate and full of slow-groove.
  • “First Love” by Holly Ann. Came up on shuffle on my comfort playlist and met me right where I was. “In your perfect goodness, you pull me out of where I feel safe…”
  • “Don’t Cry, 2020” and “Are We Alone?” by COIN. I have a few friends who really like COIN so I listened their new album when it came out. These two songs were my favorites; fun to listen to while also somehow a little sobering.
  • KYKO’s “Wildlife” ep. I enjoyed his first ep a lot so I was excited to see he’d released another! He mixes happy electronic vibes with thoughtful lyrics carried by his unique voice, and I’m into it. The live session of “Dive In” is wonderful, too.
  • “Meet Me in The Hallway” and “Sweet Creature” by Harry Styles. Moody and interesting. I didn’t end up liking most of his new album lyrically (sorry, Harry!), but these two hit me in a sweet spot.
  • “Seven” by Authentic Fiction. Authentic Fiction was the name taken by Jordan Watts, whom we lost four years ago this month. He saved my life. I will always listen to his voice and hear his words, telling me the kingdom is right here in my chest.
  • Cimorelli’s cover of “Symphony.” These sisters all have such beautiful voices and nail their harmonies. This song was a perfect choice for them. They also covered “The Night We Met,” a song I’ve loved for a few years now, and it’s equally stunning.
  • “May I Have This Dance” by Francis and The Lights ft. Chance The Rapper. Overwhelmingly lovely vibes and some beautifully poignant lyrics. I’m obsessed. “All the things we carried, now we’re down to our bare feet…”
  • I also checked out Francis’ album, and “See Her Out (That’s Just Life)” and “Friends (ft. Bon Iver)” were stand-outs. He’s like a reincarnation of Phil Collins and James Blake. Both of whom are still alive and making music but whatever you know what I mean.
  • “Immanuel” by Loud Harp. Something to soak into and harmonize with.
  • “Wasted Time” “Hindenburg” and “Excuses” by Cereus Bright. Cozy indie-folk to spend an afternoon with.
  • Caleb’s “To The Ends of The World” album. These guys are now known as Colony House. They’ve been my absolute favorites since this ep from 2011. And rediscovering it was so special for me. My favorite song from it is “Better Off,” followed closely by “The Hardest Part of Losing You,” but all of them are so, so good. Please do give it a listen.

If you want all of these songs on one playlist, I already made it! It’s on YouTube and Spotify. Scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • “Why We Should Share Our Stories of Loss and Disappointment,” a TED talk by Rebecca Peyton. Moving and full of truth.
  • Tips on creativity in songwriting from Tessa Violet. Solid advice and perspective.
  • Hidden Figures. Such a powerful film! I’m so glad these amazing women are being highlighted so that more of us can be inspired by them and learn from them, as well as so that more can see the realities of what they went through.
  • Tom Holland’s interview with Ellen. He’s precious, I’m over the moon for him, his dog has the same name as me, everything’s great.
  • Katie Gregoire taking on the purity movement. She nails it. Wow she nails it.
  • Tessa Violet’s video about the Enneagram. I love personality studies, but I never really “got” Enneagram. After seeing her passion for it, I decided to follow her advice and read the descriptions until I found my heart-tug– and I found it! I am a six. Here’s the website with the type descriptions she mentioned if you want to explore. Make sure to share yours with me if you find it!
  • This wonderful simplified explanation of the overarching story of the Bible and humanity, courtesy of The Bible Project. Their work is incredibly valuable and I highly recommend pretty much every video they’ve made.
  • Cinderella. The original animated Disney film is a masterpiece. I also watched Cinderella II, and I don’t care if it’s cheesy and not at all on par with the original; it’s nostalgic and I still love it.
  • Kati Morton’s video on repressed memories. Kati is a licensed therapist, and her videos are so helpful and informative.
  • “How to Road Trip! 48 States in 110 Days.” A little less than eight minutes of living vicariously through these fun people.
  • Basically everything by Brad and Hailey Devine. Their travel videos are amazing, their Instagrams (his, hers) are gorgeous, and their relationship gives me butterflies. And their wedding video? Ugh. Swoon.
  • Andy Mineo talking about anxiety and self care. I love when people with influence talk openly about their mental health experiences. Andy’s perspective is important and he shares it eloquently.
  • Hacksaw Ridge. I’ve wanted to watch it since I first heard about it, but I didn’t think I ever would because I’m so sensitive and the unanimous report was that it is horrifyingly graphic. But the story sounded so special (and I am such a fan of Andrew Garfield) that I finally decided to try it. And yes, the reports are true. But getting to witness the remarkable actions of Desmond Doss? Worth it. Because the story and the love all over it are also true.
  • Continued watching Scorpion and Designated Survivor, and both had their season finales this month. The latter’s was good, the former’s was “meh.”

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  • “You Know How Hurt People, Hurt People? How To Stop The Cycle of Hurt” by Lauren Casper. So, so good. “That’s what love does in the face of cruelty. It surprises, confuses, and then teaches.”
  • “About Who’s In Charge of The Blogosphere: An Ongoing Conversation” by Ann Voskamp. I’d been eavesdropping on this conversation from the beginning, and Ann’s insight is spot-on. When we say it’s okay to silence someone because we don’t agree with them, we create a dangerous gray area where anyone can silence anyone, and soon no one has a voice except for those in power. Censorship does not bring healing.
  • Random comic books. It was Free Comic Book Day on May 6th, so I found and read the new edition of Marvel’s Secret Empire and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. I also read a bunch of random classic Spider-Man comics my brother passed down to me. I didn’t realize how into comic books I could be; I might seek out more.
  • Undaunted by Christine Caine. Good, just didn’t leave any lasting impression on me. However…
  • Unashamed, also by Christine Caine. Such a timely, helpful book for me. It’s so important to be able to recognize shame so we can reject it and move forward into abundant life without it, and this book has some helpful insights for that process.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Volume One) by Akira Himekawa. I don’t normally read manga, but my brother owns the Legend of Zelda series and I’ve really enjoyed them (plus I was in the mood for a graphic novel after Free Comic Book Day). Pretty artwork and interesting concepts.
  • “Sermon Notes for Cynics” by Addie Zierman. It was good for me to read something from someone a bit further into the process of healing from church baggage than I am. I’ve been using her print-out, and it truly does help.
  • The news that we found a dinosaur fossil that still has armor, skin, and guts! I cried.
  • If you want regular bookish updates from me, I’m on Goodreads!

What fed you this month?

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On Media & Art · Practical · Testimonies · The Basics

How I’m Replacing My Anxiety: On Power, Positivity, & Choices

dsc05066When I picked up a dingy little book at a yard sale for a few cents, it was simply because the title seemed interesting to me: “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.”

I was struggling with questions about anxiety and how big a role it played in my life, so much so that it was nearly all I could think about every day. I knew nothing about this book, but I’d reached a point where I was willing to hear out anyone who might be able help me figure out what I could do about what I was facing.

During the time I read the book, not only did I receive deep convictions from its words, but I also had an open conversation with a counselor friend of mine about anxiety and its presence in me. These things paired together, following God’s revelation to me about the peace He’s made for me to walk in, have helped me find a grip on my peace and led me in the process of beating my fear.

If you struggle with anxiety, I want to share what I took away from “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” by Dr. Susan Jeffers with you. I know every experience is a bit different and not everything works the same in everyone. If these things end up not doing for you what they do for me, nothing is wrong with you; you are working hard and doing an incredible job, finding the best weapons and strategies for your own battle. Do not let shame lie to you, and do not give up. This is just my experience, and if you end up being able to share in it, it would be cruel of me to keep what I’ve learned from you.

Not everything I learned from the book is completely related to anxiety, but all of it has been transformative for me. These were my four main takeaways:

1) Fear is based on the lie, “I can’t handle it.”

When I become obsessive and fearful about something in my life, no matter how big or small, there is one common belief that fuels the anxiety: I believe that if the bad thing I’m anticipating happens, it will be too much for me and will overcome me. Usually I am not even aware that I believe this, but the presence of the fear reveals it about me.

A few months ago, I was overwhelmingly anxious about visiting my old stomping grounds. I didn’t want it to be a painful experience, and I’d had panic attacks the last few times I’d been there. But I asked myself: what would happen if my fears were true, and it was painful and I did have a panic attack? I’d have a few difficult hours in my day– and then I’d go home. It might take me a few days to recover, but I’d recover. Was that devastating enough to keep me away? Despite the anxiety I still hosted, I decided to go– and it ended up bringing a lot of healing for the bitterness I’d been hosting toward that place. I did have a panic attack, but afterward I had a lot of good moments, too. I’m glad I didn’t let fear keep me from them.

Two years ago, I was terrified to drop out of college, because I didn’t want to be occupation-less, lose relationships, or be looked down upon for it. But what happened when I did drop out… and I did become occupation-less, lose relationships, and get looked down upon? I cried. I was hurt. I grieved. I wrestled with armfuls of questions, for months. Then I made my peace with it, and realized I was healthier emotionally than I’d ever been before. I became grateful for the opportunity to live a life more true to what I was made for. My fears might have become reality, but it didn’t ruin me; in the long run, it healed me. I survived it and found treasure along the way. I needed things to happen the way they did.

When I accept my fears at face value, they seem giant and domineering. But when I look deep enough into them, I can see how small they are against the backdrop of everything else life holds. I can see that no matter what happens, positive or negative, it won’t be the end of me. I have experienced deeply painful, terribly oppressive times, lasting moments and lasting years– and I am still here. I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. What we’re scared of does happen sometimes. But we survive. We learn and we keep walking. Nothing is final or too much for us.

Nothing can come for us that is bigger than He who is for us.

2) We can hold fear from two positions: pain, or power.

How you view your circumstances is known as your locus of control, and there are two possible versions of it: an external one or an internal one. If your locus of control is external, it means that you believe life happens to you and there’s nothing you can do to alter your circumstances. However, if your locus of control is internal, it means that you believe you have the power to use what you have in your given circumstances to create the life you want.

I refused to consider this concept when I first learned about it. My locus of control was completely external; I believed I was stuck where I was in life, which was a terribly harrowing belief to have, because it was eating me alive to stay in my circumstances. When I was told I could change my situation if I wanted to, I immediately shut the idea out, because I didn’t believe I was capable of doing that. But multiple people from multiple areas of my life all began unknowingly asking me the same thing: “Have you ever thought about doing something else?”

And my answer, when I finally gave one, was: “…no. Is that possible?”

Once I opened myself up to the idea of making my own changes, once I realized I had power over myself– God showed me how to use it. He didn’t leave me floundering by myself, nor did He become angry at me like I feared. It turned out that He was the one who made me powerful in the first place. Using that power was not, in fact, a rebellion against Him, but rather a submission to Him and His design for me.

It took months for me to say yes to my new direction, and even longer to tell anyone about it and begin acting on it. But I did. I started making changes. I left old things and started pursuing new ones. It was still hard, but a different kind of hard than before; this was the kind I knew was going to birth good things.

I’m not stuck anymore. I know that, at any time, if what I’m doing is not good for me, I can change it and do something else. I have the power to do that.

When we’re in any situation, we are making a choice to stay there. We can choose not to stay there anymore if we want to. I used to constantly say, “I can’t do that because this thing is preventing me.” But the truth is that there is truly nothing I can’t do.

If I wanted to move to Los Angeles today, I could. I don’t have money, transportation, or a place to stay, but I could pack a suitcase and get on a bus, and once I arrived I could find a shelter somewhere. Would it be the wisest thing for me to do? Probably not. So I choose not to do it. But I don’t get to say that I can’t do it.

If I want something badly enough, I have ability to go get it. It is just that sometimes the payoffs of not doing it at this point in time might outweigh having it right now. That’s okay! It teaches me patience and trust. Life is largely about the process; waiting times are not times we have to despise or rush to escape. Sometimes it’s the right time to make a change; other times, it’s the right time to wait it out for a while. But we are never stuck. Once we understand that, we are living from a much more productive and positive place.

I think a lot of us grew up viewing power and control as negative things. I have known and been affected by controlling people my entire life, so I know it’s easy to have those negative connotations. But do you know why controlling, manipulative people do what they do? They feel powerless. The reason they are seeking to control you is that they see power in you and want to benefit from it; they don’t believe they can do what they want to do themselves, so they use other people. Controlling people have an external locus of control.

A healthy sense of power is so different from that. When you believe you are powerful, you believe in your ability to do what you want to do, not to make someone else do it. A truly powerful person is someone who knows they are in control of their own actions and attitudes, and exercises that control in order to make good choices and love well.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; it’s something He gives us and wants to see in our lives. It is not simply the ability to keep yourself from bad choices, like we seem to teach all the time– it’s also using your power to make really good ones. When you use your power well, you are demonstrating spiritual growth.

This all affects our relationships with fear and anxiety because if you believe in your power, you will start using it. With an internal locus of control, you know that your circumstances don’t control you– you control you. Whatever fear is living in you, you know you are bigger than it and that you can combat it. You do not allow yourself to become a victim of anxiety, but rather a master over it. You might have anxiety, but it is you that owns it, not the other way around.

When I am afraid, I have a choice. I can choose to succumb to it and let it lead me, or I can choose to ride the wave out and get through it. Fear still exists for me, but it doesn’t have to win out over me.

It’s a cliché now, but it’s still true: when you learn you are powerful, you begin to realize you also carry responsibility. You realize you can’t blame others for your happiness (or lack thereof) anymore, because you are in control of your experience. No one can be responsible for your quality of life except for you.

There’s an important distinction between your experiences in life and your experiences of life. Things happen to us that we had no hand in. We don’t get to choose where we grew up, or what programs accept us, or who falls in love with us. But we do get to choose how we let those things affect us. Bitterness? Despondency? Entitlement? Those are responses. And while we may not be able to choose our initial feelings and it’s important for us to recognize them, we one hundred percent control what we decide to feed and sit in versus what we decide to let go of and move past. We have control over how we choose to live; we have the power to look at everything through a hopeful lens instead of a victimized one.

I have found that when I take responsibility for my feelings and my mindset along with my behavior, it is easier for me to be kind to others and to love my enemies. I can’t get mad at someone for not giving me something I have the ability to give myself. It doesn’t mean I’m condoning their negative behavior; it just means I’m not letting it change my positive behavior.

3) Being positive is not being in denial, it’s being perceptive.

Many of us have been told that when we look for the positive, we are not aware of the reality of the situation and are being oblivious to what’s going on. But let’s take a minute to think about this: what makes it so that a positive mindset is less realistic than a negative one? Both are perspectives, ways of viewing reality. And the way you view reality determines how you treat it. So if we choose a negative mindset in the name of being realistic, what we are really doing is determining to have a negative reality.

Choosing a positive mindset is not being unrealistic– it is choosing to have the best experience possible in reality. When we view life through a positive lens, we don’t need denial, because we can see possibilities for ways to make things better, and we are more likely to act on those possibilities because we believe they can make a difference.

Positivity is not weak, it is empowering.

It can be wildly hard to get rid of a negative mindset when you’ve been hosting one your whole life, or when you are in environments that are full of the kind of talk that fuels one. Perseverance matters so much in this. Our subconscious’  believe what they are told; if they are fed insecurities, lies, and thoughts of helplessness, and they aren’t also being fed a greater measure of affirmations, truths, and motivation, they will continue to operate out of destructive patterns.

We have to out-talk our negativity. When you feel insecure, name strengths and good traits you possess and point out to yourself how you’re doing a good job; when someone tells you something that is against your God-given identity, reaffirm your identity and what it means for you; when you start to feel helpless, tell yourself that you are powerful and remind yourself of all your options. Be kind to yourself. Be active and relentless about it, and have people in your life who echo these kinds of healing words to you. Let love, not fear, have the final word in you.

4) When it comes to making decisions, there is no loss, only gain.

I am the queen of indecisiveness. If there are multiple options, I pretty much go into paralysis until it’s narrowed down to two, at which point I will toss the two options every possible way they can be turned, then make a very hesitant choice. I will proceed to doubt my choice for weeks. What a fun cycle, eh?

But making decisions is actually a lot less complicated and dire than I’ve believed it to be. No matter which option I choose, the truth is that there is not a losing decision. On any path I walk, there is a wealth of lessons, experiences, and treasures for me to find. I think often we fear making a bad choice because we don’t want to miss out on something good. But what if we had a different perspective when making a decision? What if we focused on what the different options have to give instead of what we’d potentially lose? When we do that, we are no longer looking for the least costly option, but instead for the most rewarding one. It is much more productive to function this way.

And if you end up being unsatisfied with your decision? You can still make a different one! It is okay to make mistakes. No matter how many zigzags you make on your path, you’ll still be able to get to where you’re going. We gain lessons and experiences from everything we go through. God’s business is redemption; nothing is wasted. And He knows what you’re going to choose before you choose it, so you can rest in knowing it’s all part of something bigger, something that will always work out for your good.

——-

Phew! There is so much to unpack in these concepts, so much we can reap from them. I encourage you to keep ruminating on them. And, if you’d like, I so recommend reading “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.” The last two chapters are a bit out there and I admit I only skimmed them because they were more opinion-based, but the rest of the book was such a transformative tool in my life.

Anxiety doesn’t own me anymore. I am better equipped to face it than I knew I could be. All of this is my story; I’m not going to present it as the cure or the never-failing balm for anxiety. But I wanted to share my experience and the tools I’ve found useful, if there’s any chance you might be helped by it, too. I am rooting for you and fully believe in a breakthrough for you, however in comes into your life. Thank you for being interested in how in came into mine.