Nine Ways to Combat Burnout

Combatting Burnout; Life vs. Workload

 

Twenty-four hours after posting about my personal experience with burnout my blog traffic went up 850%.  850% y’all.  This is validating and maddening.  And no one is doing anything about it.  The people that notice what’s going on host seminars and tell people to do more yoga.  We need more than that.  Can you imagine if Google ran healthcare?  After every code blue we’d all probably get two weeks at a yoga retreat.  (Can I get an ‘Ohm’men?)

 

After seeing the increased traffic, I immediately felt on the hook.  I shared my thoughts on burnout and felt like it was necessary I share ideas on how to move away from the scary side and more towards the joy side of the burnout spectrum.  I came up with 9 different ways to move things towards the side of joy.  (The recovering perfectionist in me is hating that it’s not an even 10.) But then I realized I didn’t really explain the symptoms of burnout either.  Keep reading. 

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Nursechoice.com describes being on the “brink” of burnout as experiencing the following:

  • Apathy (lack of emotion): It’s scary sometimes how talking about something like seeing a dead body evokes no emotion.  We have dissociated ourselves as a defense mechanism – a normal response to trauma – but this is not where we want to be with our humanity.  Showing emotion is not weakness.  It takes courage and vulnerability to not armor up and let ourselves feel and be seen.  I could go on and on about Brene Brown’s research and what it means to be real with people.  I’ll let you have that journey.

Recently I heard a story about a local nurse shaming another nurse for crying when her patient was dying.  Are you kidding me?  I get to cry because that’s incredibly sad.  Does any of this sound familiar to those coming back from combat with PTSD?

  • Depersonalization (they’re things, not people): This is very easy to slip into in the operating room. The person on the table, lying there unconscious and naked, and we are all oblivious to this- it might as well be a tree trunk we are operating on.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Oh my gosh this made me laugh.  Between getting calls in the middle of the night to do a case, to waking up at 2am realizing I forgot to chart the patient’s tube feed, to my body aching so that I can’t sleep, to hearing the monitor’s alarms in my nightmares – This one was just funny to me.
  • Short tempered: We have no patience because patience takes energy. No energy, no patience.
  • Physical disorders: I don’t know if they mean disorders from chronic flight-or-flight stress and cortisol pumping through our veins – or the cancer we give ourselves from the diabetic doughnuts, radiation exposure, and processed food we eat.

 

 

I’ve come up with some things that I feel like would help us combat burnout that is within our own control.  I’ll be honest I got a little overwhelmed reading it all- maybe pick one thing a week to work on.  Start small and give yourself grace along the way.

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

  1. Decrease the Workload

This all about balance and one way to tip the scales towards the ‘joy side’ is to decrease your workload.  That looks different for everyone.  For some, it means taking that break that is offered to you.  Some people are saying “duh,” but you’d be surprised at how many people pass on the breaks when they are either offered or available.  Either they are “too busy” or “they won’t do it like you can” or they don’t want to be bothersome or needy. 

 

Amy E. Smith, creator of the Joy Junkie Podcast (I highly recommend her) says it best:

“Putting other people ahead of yourself is poison disguised as nobility.”

 

One more time for the people in the back (say it out loud to yourself): Putting other people ahead of yourself is poison disguised as nobility.  There is a reason why the flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first.  Your everyday work life is not a matter of life and death for everyone, only the people you are caring for.  Yes, if I had to make a choice between saving my life and a child’s I hope that in that moment I could choose to save them and sacrifice myself.  But that’s not what we are doing here every day at work.  You cannot, CANNOT, care for people if you haven’t cared for yourself first.  Get that thought out of your head that self care is selfish- it’s not.  If you are tired, lack energy, your emotional cup is empty- you will not be able to have empathy.  That is the reason of why we went into healthcare (or insert your career), right? Because we see a need and we want to fulfill it.  But the only way you can really do that is by taking care of your needs first.  It is not selfish to do so, it’s necessary.

 

So while at work- take the break.  I’m not calling for people to become lazy.  I’m saying to take those breaks when you can.  You’ve trained your body to ignore the cues (aching joints, dry mouth, brain fog).  Since we won’t notice them we need to take care of them on a regular basis.  Drink the water.  Put your phone down and just close your eyes for 10 minutes and meditate, go to your car if you can.

 

If you are able to financially, start cutting back your schedule and hours you work, even if it’s a little at a time.  Start saying no to work projects.  If they don’t have the staff to get the work done- that is their problem, not yours.  If everyone was able to only give what they can give and not over-extend themselves, and the company is not getting what it needs done- then they need to hire more workers.  We cannot keep extending our humans to the breaking point.  That’s not ok.  If you are in management and you are the one being squeezed, it will take an extra amount of energy to have firm boundaries.

 

Let’s say you are in charge of keeping a group staffed and production at a certain pace.  If you have firm boundaries and don’t push your staff to the end of the burnout spectrum, things are going to start to go wrong.  You have to expect that production is going to go down and your superiors are going to start questioning things.  It has to start hurting for things to change in some facilities.  Some have to see numbers drop before they are willing to do anything.  What you tolerate is what will continue.  But even so, if they see you as unwilling to do what they want and you get fired- I pray for God’s direction, guidance, and redemption for your life.  When you stand up for injustice, God takes over and goes before you to make your paths strait.  Be brave.  Because, personally, I don’t want to go down with that sinking ship.  I don’t want to be a part of an organization that treats their workers like robots.  Bye Falicia.

 2. Increase the Life

Again, increasing the “life” side of the equation looks different for everyone.  Maybe it means scheduling vacation every so many weeks.  Or getting regular massages, pedicures, scheduling a night out with a friend.  (Hint: scheduling is soo soo important.  If it takes up time, it gets on the calendar.  For me, my Fridays are sacred.  I do not schedule anything work related on Fridays.  Those days are for me to do whatever I want.   Do the fun thing.

When I was a kid my mom knew the look on my face as soon as I would wake up – usually once or twice a semester.  She would say , “let’s take a mental health day.”  And she and I would skip work and school and get bagels and go to the zoo.  I had no idea what mental health was or why we were celebrating it but I am so grateful for her example.  I’m sure she needed it just as much as I did but it definitely refueled me to make it through the season. Eat the bagel.  Go to the zoo.

3. Find a Creative Outlet

We are creative beings.  If you’re one of those people who say “I’m not creative,” stop saying that.  Unless you don’t want to be creative -because you can literally convince your brain of anything – positive and negative.  I read the book Called to Create by Jordan Raynor and it motivated me to take the photography classes I’ve always been wanting to do.  The thing about being creative is it is vulnerable. It’s part of our humanity.  If you are a good nurse and let perfection do the driving, shame is riding shot gun.  You’ll never be perfect; therefore, you’ll always be dealing with shame.  (Cue Brene Brown quotes).  “There is no innovation and creativity without failure.”  You’re gonna make some weird stuff.  And it’s gonna feel vulnerable to failure, disappointment, a ridicule.  But eventually you’re going to find that thing that sparks you.  That makes you forget to pee -in a good way.  That passion that fuels you and brings you to life.  Whatever it is, find it.  Who knows, maybe it will be another career path for you.  Look at what you create and be proud.  Hang it on the wall.  Remember it is a piece of you and you were brave enough to create it.  We were created in God’s image and he was the most creative of all of us.

 

“Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and unfold creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.” – Tim Keller.

 4. Take the Vacation

I am amazed at the number of millennials with no job willing to pack a backpack and a head to wherever with a friend a document it.  They become “influencers” and make money for traveling with no money.  I am truly jealous of their stories and life experiences.  If I had to guts to do that when I was twenty I would be in South America right now blogging about my favorite sandals to wear in Bali while riding an Elephant.  They’d be locally sourced made from recycled peanuts. 

My point is, there’s something to be said for travel – and it can be done on a budget.

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain.

 5. Love Yourself

This should be number one- because it’s the only way any of this is going to work.  I haven’t figured out a trend as to why, but I get the feeling a lot of nurses do not find themselves worthy of love and belonging and kill themselves trying to can earn it. 

You.  Are. Worthy.

You are worth it.  You are worth caring for.  You are worth loving.  You are worth saying no for.  You are worthy of a break, a vacation, a hug, a cry, a complement.  You are worth it all because you are a child of God.  Don’t believe it if you were to say it to yourself?  Chart a new path in your brain.  Our brains a plastic and moldable.  Write it on 75 post it notes and say it out loud 947 times a day until it starts to feel real.  You can even use progressive affirmations like “I’m figuring out what it looks like to feel worthy.” Or “I’m on my way…” Affirmations  help cultivate the self love we need so badly. Here is my blog on what God thinks of you.  And to go a step further, when you say an affirmation and pair it with the scent of an essential oil, its physical properties enter your brain directly to the limbic system, bypassing the processing center.  You are “pavolving” into loving yourself.

6. Take Care of Your Body

Put the pop (yes I say pop) down.  Drink the water.  Go for a walk.  Join a gym.  And in the words of Rachel Hollis: “eat the stupid salad.”  Your body can’t function on processed food.  Give it vitamins and nutrients.  It’s trying so hard to constantly detoxify and heal.  So thank it and give it some support.

Image result for rachel hollis eat the stupid salad7. Get Emotional Support

This means a whole lot of things.  Bring your tribe in closer.  Take time with friends and family or a counselor- someone who can give you empathy.  This is so important to take care of our emotional wellbeing.  Remember the end of the burnout spectrum is suicide or drug use.  It’s normal and natural to numb pain.  There’s nothing “wrong with you” if you’re crying on the way to work, praying to get stuck in the elevator to avoid work, or wondering what it would be like if you didn’t turn the wheel and went off that cliff.  It means you need help.  If you are at that point you need drastic change- and quickly.  Talk to your people.  If you don’t have people, find some people at church, or a counselor.  This is serious.

 

Support can also look like paying for services like  Amazon or Shipt grocery delivery, and fast food delivery.  I pay an annual fee to have my groceries delivered- it is worth every penny to save me an hour every week (or more) going to the store.  Is 52 hours of time worth $50?  You bet.  (Want to try Shipt Grocery Delivery? Here’s my code for $50 off: mHT8M). Sometimes I’m working while they are shopping.  And other times I am literally laying on the couch reading or scrolling Instagram and I feel not one ounce of guilt for it because that is what I need in the moment.

Start saying no.  I am not naturally tactful.  I am a recovering people-pleasing doormat.  (See what I did there- I’m not identifying with something I don’t want to be so I’m ‘in recovery’ or ‘figuring out what it looks like to____’).  My go-to phrase for saying no is with kindness and grace.  Something like “thank you so much for the invite but I’m going to have to pass.”  Or “I won’t be able to make it” and not explain why or give an excuse.  It keeps me from lying.  Lying feels yucky and I try to be as trustworthy as I can.  I always say “thank you for thinking of me but at this time I can’t commit” to whatever it is.  Amy Smith goes into immense detail in her Podcast, the Joy Junkie, and how to perfect the “no.”  It’s amazing how liberating it is to gain back your power.

 

There’s also laundry services, asking your spouse to pick up a few responsibilities, delegating to other family members, paying for a lawn service or nanny.  Or what about moving?  Downsizing to a more minimal lifestyle will do wonders for mental health as well as your pocket.  Sell some junk so you can take a day off.  Have a garage sale, donate to charity instead of buying Christmas gifts, or move to a smaller house.  Have you heard that saying “more money more problems?” You don’t need that over time paycheck as much as you need to start living your short and precious life.  You only get so many sunrises with coffee.  It’s time to start living.

 8. Give Your Time and Money.

This is going to sound absolutely counterintuitive because I’ve been talking about working less, having less money, and spending money on yourself and vacations.  But there’s something that happens when you give with a cheerful heart.  One year I bought 10 QuickTrip gift cards and wrote on the back a few affirmations.  I kept them in my car and gave them to the people with signs on the street corner.  It gave me so much joy that I would look forward to stopping by them.  Or volunteer at a local homeless shelter.  No matter how much I encounter the less fortunate at my job, I’m still humbled at hearing their stories.

 9. Practice Gratitude

Brene Brown, with whom I clearly have a woman crush as much as I talk about her, researches shame and vulnerability and has written books sharing her findings. She has found in her research the key to joy is GRATITUDE. For my research nerds -there is a direct correlation between the amount of gratitude one observes and the amount of joy they experience.  Don’t spend your money on an app or a fancy notebook, just stop and look around and thank God for your socks, your air conditioning, the fact that you don’t have dirt for floors (there is a tech I used to work with who had dirt floors- in America people.). This kind of goes with number 8 – the more you give to those less fortunate, the more you spend time with them, the more you share your blessings with them, the more you are grateful for your own situation – the more joy you will have.

 

And I am grateful for you.

 

Shameless plug: If you want to know more about using essential oils to combat fatigue, help your thyroid, use with prayer and meditation, anxiety and panic support, or CBD send me a message.  I’d love to connect and give you more tools.

There Is No Grace In Medicine

 

“We’ve got no food. We’ve got no jobs. Our pets HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!… What are we doing here, Harry??”- Lloyd, Dumb and Dumber

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I think I’m finally ready to share this.  I wrote it over a year ago.  As the status does not change I become more and more passionate about it.

 

There is an illness infiltrating the medical field that many are not aware of.  Only this illness is not infecting the patients, its affecting the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel.  It’s insidious and most don’t even realize it’s taking place in their lives.

Burnout

There are predictable symptoms and progression, just like a disease process.  Statistics say almost half of physicians had a least one symptom of burnout and only 54% would choose medicine again as career path.  – We are regretting going into healthcare.

 

One end of the burnout spectrum is joy and on the other end is suicide and drug use.  It’s predictable, it’s linear, and it’s killing the people behind the number one industry in America.

 

It’s an imbalance of life vs. workload.  The less demanding your job is, the less amount of time you need to fill your “cup”.  This “cup” is our most precious asset (besides time)- our energy.  Our energy is what makes us human.  It gives us life.  When we don’t have energy, we can’t smile, can’t laugh, can’t have empathy, can’t care for others or ourselves.  We lose our humanity and become zombies.

 

Let’s say you get paid to take photos of nature- I picture this person as a care-free, low stress, creative soul.  They leave for work when they want to- or maybe they get the thrill of capturing that sunset but it’s worth it for them to be out after dark.  They look at their work with pride and crack open a beer and laugh with their friends.  Their imaginary work life is what I want when I grow up.  They don’t need much time to fill their “cup” because it’s also being filled why they work.

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But the more on-the-job stress that is added, more time is required to fill your “cup”.  So the ER nurse who is running her butt off, fueled by a heart-attack-inducing energy drink and adrenaline,  is saving people- one after the other. Her non-work life probably requires a lot of physical rest to give her adrenal glands a reset, a creative outlet, and help doing every day chores.  Someone to help with laundry and dishes and cooking.  Because if she spends all of her free time trying to keep up with every day living- her “cup” never gets refilled.  She goes back to the ER to do 14 hour shifts where she doesn’t get to sit down, she gets 10 minutes to shove a doughnut in her mouth at midnight, and water (?) – she will just apologize to her kidneys and pray they hang in there until the fourth day when she will actually get the chance to drink.  If you’re in the medical field you are probably shaking your head in agreement at this point.  If you are in the corporate world where you get an hour for lunch, you get to take off to get your kid from school, you get to go to a doctor’s appointment, you get to call in sick, or you get to drink and pee whenever you want; consider yourself informed of what is actually going on behind the scenes of healthcare.  Basic human needs are ignored here.  It’s like stepping into a third world country.

 

Where I live there is still an underlying assumption that the woman takes care of the household and the children while the man is out making money to support his family.  But since women started working outside the home during the war- we have discovered we can be successful workers too.  I won’t go into my personal experiences of making less than my male peer for doing the exact same thing- dare I say better because I’m hard wired as a woman to pay attention to detail.  This is not about men vs women because we are made to have our own set of strengths, complimented by the others weaknesses.  But we have to bring to light the 1950’s culture that is still going on in the workplace.

 

In 2009, 19% of surgeons were women.  In 2015, 19% of surgeons were women(1).  (I’m focusing on the operating room because that is my personal experience- I acknowledge not all healthcare environments are this culture).  Ninety-one percent of nurses are female (2).  So by default, in my facility, we have a 1950’s model of the Panam situation in Catch Me If You Can where the men are flying the plane and the women are the servers.

 

I could do a whole blog post on the types of women that go into nursing and their personalities.  It’s my impression that a lot of nurses want so badly to be perfect, to care for, to serve, to sacrifice for, and to please -at all costs- their physicians and patients.  It can take a tremendous amount of energy for some nurses to stand up against injustice because of this ‘aim to please’ mentality.  So these women are in a culture to serve and please (mostly) men.  Healthcare is constantly changing and becoming more demanding for these employees and they are still being asked to do the laundry and the cooking and cleaning at home.  They never get time to recharge.  A lot of households are moving away from this trend but I still see it where I live.  And what about single parents?

 

But I won’t forget the surgeons – they are being exploited too.  They are no longer running their own practices- they are owned by the hospital. They are being pressured to bring in certain amounts of revenue.  When you do the math and see the numbers (or else they will be replaced by the next eager surgeon on the assembly line) they have to work all day, operate on anyone they can, and take call all the time.  They never get a chance to recharge.  They work from 7:00am to 8:00pm and get calls in the middle of the night.  They come in on Saturdays to do non-emergent cases because they can’t get to them during the week.  They are hiring PA’s to follow up with their patients because they don’t have the time to see their patients themselves.  And bringing their nurses and scrub techs along with them into the late nights and weekends.

 

There are so many things driving this increased demand on our healthcare workers.  I’m not interested in those politics or statistics. I’m interested in the microcosm view of what is around me and what I see.  I see tired nurses and techs and surgeons.  They are burned out.  They have no voice.  They feel stuck.  They can’t afford to call in and leave their already critically understaffed co-workers to die a slow death, picking up their workload.  Financially they are strained and can’t afford a sabbatical.  They are being pressured to be perfect and keep up efficiency at work to keep the surgeons and administration happy with their numbers.  They are stressed out making their patients happy and provide empathy while being a an over-worked zombie.  Heaven forbid they make a human mistake during all of this, they’ll be verbally abused for it.  They have no time to work on themselves or grow in personal development because they are operating in survival mode all the time.

 

I’ve experienced burnout for years, myself. I found that I was surrounded by hateful and unhappy people; doctors, nurses, patients, ancillary staff. “Thank you’s” and “great job” were a rare gift.  No one wanted to be there and a lot were struggling at being a human. I began to feel like my soul slowly was degrading, dying a slow death. My morals and values were slipping. I was working holidays and suppressing the guilt that I traded money for irreplaceable family joy and memories. I was overeating just to get enough endorphins to get me through my shift. I was lonely because none of my family understood how I felt. I was cynical. It almost didn’t matter what I did because I felt like most things were out of my control. I was being emotionally abused by my coworkers and physicians. My boundaries were no more. It was “normal” to be yelled at by so-and-so ‘that’s just how he is.’

 

I was trapped in a job I didn’t enjoy anymore in order to make the money to support the life style I had become accustomed to. We were so desperately in need of workers that I was unable to take a day off without a years notice.  Sick and vomiting? Go to work, they’ll give you an IV. Didn’t sleep on your call shift? Work 24 hours post call since it’s double the pay. Going through a divorce and need a mental health day? Hah, that is laughable.

 

Hospitals are overworking, underpaying, and under supplying their employees. In the past we’ve had supplies and medications -that would add to patient comfort -taken away just simply due to cost.  Everything needed to be faster to increase volume and revenue. There was always a person over my shoulder snapping their fingers.

I found myself exhausted even after an 8 hour shift. I decreased my hours from 65 to 40 per week.  I worked less and had normal daytime hours, but why was I so tired? I had little emotional energy to give my family after I’d come home and take a power nap. Was there something wrong with me? I was depressed and unhappy despite having checked off all the boxes: well paying career, a family, dream house, nice car.

 

I attended a mandatory seminar where the phrase “burnout” was referred to as one of the many cause of poor communication in healthcare. I went to my car after it was over and just broke down and cried. I was burned out. I quickly did a google search to confirm my suspicion.  I was horrified to read the next level on the progression of symptoms was drugs, alcohol, and suicide.  Being female with access to controlled medications I was at a very high risk.

How did I get here? How did this happen? Every day I went to work I hit the ground running- going as fast as I humanly can to keep up with the usual pace. I was holding my body in a constant state of fight or flight to keep vigilance in case someone tried to die. My adrenal glands were trying to keep up with my sympathetic nervous system’s requirements.  Not to mention, everything I did was not motivated out of goodwill towards the patient.  I was doing and charting out of fear of how my actions would be judged in the case of a malpractice law suit.  I liken every day to that caveman who has no tribe (everyone for themselves). You’re being sent out to defend for yourself against all the beasts of the world (lawyers, job security, mean doctors, unhappy patients). You keep your sympathetic nervous system in constant state of fear and it’s exhausting you to the point of giving up on life. That is the best way I can describe burnout.

 

I’ve managed to figure out a way to keep myself on the burnout scale closer to the “joy” end by cutting back significantly on my hours.  I’ve taken up a creative hobby and side job.  I’ve invested financially into passions of mine.  I’m praying every day that one of them takes off so I can leave my Masters Degree and healthcare altogether.  That may never happen but in the mean time I don’t lose hope.

 

There is no grace in medicine.  Our administrators have turned their gaze from us to the dollar signs.  People have forgotten healthcare workers are not robots- we are humans and we are trying the best we can with the information and supplies we have and we are dying a slow death because of it. Someone send help.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a researcher. While I did my fair share of Masters thesis reference pages – I do not care about format.  I’m just concerned about giving credit where I find my statistics.  I’m not consumed with spending a large amount of time finding accurate and recent data – that’s not the point of this opinion blog post.

 

Our Evolution

Lauren Garrison Photography | LaurenGarrison.org

“Try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue, and inertia, and timidity. Take up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world. You make your own choices. You can decide if life isn’t worth living. That would be the worst thing you can do – how do you know? Try it, see. So pick it up. Pick up the battle and make it a better world. Just where you are. Yes, it can be better and it must be better. It is up to us.”

– Maya Angelou

I often think of what 80-year-old Lauren would say to thirty-something-year-old Lauren. “What are we doing here Harry?”- Dumb and Dumber. “What are we doing here, Lauren?

Go ahead and put on Lauren Daigle’s song “Rescue” on repeat while you read this. I’ll wait. And then you’ll need tissues because I only cry to that song 87.27% of the time.

Recently I took a personality test. I don’t care if you think it’s voodoo because it felt like I was looking into a foggy mirror and finally wiped the fog off to see my true self. It suddenly made all my quirks and weirdness make sense. I can’t help that sometimes I’m not feeling very people-y. Sometimes I’m so into my feelings that I can’t verbalize what’s happening on the inside. But discovering I’m an INFJ made sense. My DNA is aligned perfectly and orchestrated so that I can communicate more effectively through writing. And that’s okay. I’m okay. It’s ok that I’m not a stay-at-home-mom with perfectly made paleo organic meals and smile on my face as I clean the toilets. That’s not my hill I’m supposed to die on. I applaud the women to whom that is their calling because that does not look easy. I’m not perfect but I’m the way I’m supposed to be. Other famous INFJ’s include Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, Carl Jung, and Florence Nightingale. That is incredibly motivating to know that I am among the greats (in my opinion) of this world. My girl Maya Angelou was an extroverted NJF. Nonetheless, I am honored to be part of the 2% who have the personality to make such waves. (Send me your Myers-Briggs Personality- I’d love to hear it!)

Now for the waves.

“Heal. So we don’t have another generation of trauma passing itself off as culture.” -unknown

Sometimes I think about how humanity has been consistent over time throughout the Bible. We still have all the same social issues: prostitution, abuse, infidelity, murder, pride, shame, deception. But on the other hand we went thousands of years living life the same way and It’s only been the last couple hundred that we have plumbing, social media, in vitro fertilization, and outer space missions. Our evolution is taking off. We, as the people of this earth, are making incredible strides exponentially.

One time, at my place of work, I apologized to an African-American woman for a racial slur. You know what she said? “I don’t recall you every saying that. Thank you for the apology. Look at you. Such character.” I was shaking and wanted to crawl into a hole and she embraced my effort. I am so grateful for her kindness. Another time I apologized – also at my place of employment (no I wasn’t fired!) – for calling a physician a “douche bag” to his face (twice because he didn’t hear me the first time) for telling a student that she was stealing a banana from the physicians after being offered a banana. When I finally got to apologize he also couldn’t remember what I had said. He hugged me and told me how much he enjoyed working with me. Both times I was scared and didn’t want to apologize. Both times I did it on my own because I value integrity over safety. Both times I didn’t deserve their mercy and love. Both times I was absolutely liberated of my own shame and it felt amazing. Both times I was in the wrong but wanted to make it right. Both times I was well-intentioned (I wanted to be liked by the woman, and I wanted to stand up against abuse of power with the physician).

If I can implore you to evolve and learn and read books and blogs and listen to podcasts on how to be a better person – do the things. When I turned 30 I didn’t even have a TV (demon box). No TV’s are not all bad- we have more TV’s than we have people living in our house. But we only have a limited number of minutes on this planet. Are you trading it for increased knowledge and time spent defending the defenseless? Are you trading your precious time for TV shows that give you a false idea of real life? Or iphone games for the love of God? What are you doing with your precious time?

Learn more about what it means to be a good human. Educate yourself on abuse. This is something I feel that so many people don’t understand the different forms of abuse. They unknowingly utilize these tools because they don’t comprehend how damaging it can be. These behaviors keep getting passed down from generation to generation because people don’t know how or why to deal with their pain or shame. We all fall somewhere on the abuse spectrum. None of us are innocent. I have cursed at my husband (but lort help me sometimes). I have used my position to get things I might not have otherwise. But the more we can educate ourselves and try try try to do better and be better and help those around us be better or escape the oppression. Let’s do that. Sometimes abuse can be so under the radar and progressive that even the most intelligent of souls can’t recognize it.

I love the frog analogy: If you drop a frog in boiling water he will jump out. If you place a frog in tepid water and slowly turn up the heat he will boil to death because he doesn’t notice the change in temperature.

Whatever your background is, your education level, your age. Look for opportunities to apologize, to stand up against someone being hurtful. The biggest thing I remind myself about humans that puts things into perspective for me:

Everyone is trying their best. Yes, everyone. Some of us just have way better tools than others.

Hurting people hurt people. If your heart is full of love and joy it will spill out and run over onto others. If your heart is full of shame and judgement it will spill out hatred onto those around you.

Equip yourself with awesome (free) tools. They’re all out there. But you have to be willing to look at yourself and see where you were chipping away at someone’s eyeball with a socket wrench. Ouch. Find a better tool that will get the job done. And lift and equip those around you. Don’t be a democrat or republican or an independent. Be a humanitarian. That is the basis of being Christ-like. Don’t follow the masses, don’t do what your parents did. Carve the way through the wilderness because you love and value God’s people. You are worth it. They are worth it.

It definitely won’t be easy at times. I didn’t talk to my own dad for 10 months. My own flesh and blood has been using the same worn out ineffective tools his parents gave him (shame, perfectionism, pride, entitlement). He has no idea there are better tools out there. He doesn’t know they are free but that you just have to look for them. But I do know he is trying his best. He may not be getting anywhere but he’s trying.

I keep talking about abuse but I don’t even know if you know what I’m talking about. I’m going to do my best to list them here. If you’ve made it this far reading this- print this off and highlight behaviors you recognize in yourself or other people. (Courtesy of a basic Pinterest search). And then tell me how you’re doing. What did you do right? What do you need to work on?

Abuse: the use of an object for something other than what it was intended.

Physical Abuse

• Hitting, harming, physically injuring, restraining, choking, spitting, punching someone

• Blocking exits

• Driving recklessly

• Preventing someone from leaving a threatening environment

• Locking someone out of their home

• Destroying or threatening to destroy objects

• Injuring pets

• Substance abuse

• The threat of their physical safety through verbal attacks or violent intimidation through throwing or breaking objects. (How many people saw their mom throw a frying pan at their dad amiright?)

Verbal Abuse

• Name calling

• Swearing

• Yelling at

• Belittling, condescending, sarcastic speech

• Offensive verbiage or racist remarks

Sexual Abuse

• Threatening to or having an affair

• Forced sexual encounters, rape, molestation

• Sexual put-downs

• Withholding sex in order to manipulate someone’s actions

• Using pornography

• Demanding sex as payment

• Paying for sex

• Exposure to ideas sexual in nature as a child

• Unconsentual touching groping

• Body shaming

Emotional Abuse

• Invalidation of feelings,

• Using guilt or shame

• Withholding affection

• Deliberate lack of sleep to disorient someone

• Silent treatment

• Stalking

• Playing mind games

• Humiliation

• Hyper critical

• Ignoring

• Jealousy/false accusations

• Monitoring phone calls/texts/emails

• Isolating from friends and family

• Controlling and making decisions

• Threatening to injure onself to control someone

• Guilt trips/blaming

• Manipulation

• Gas-lighting, making someone think something that happened did not happen

• Neglect, lack of emotion or empathy

• Using children or triangulating other family members to control outcomes

• Telling someone who they can spend time with or be friends with

• Demanding perfection

• Making light of or denying the abuse

Financial Abuse

• Preventing someone from getting or keeping a job

• Controlling of finances through decision-making or prevention of access

• Refusing to pay child support

• Deliberately destroying someone’s credit

Spiritual abuse

• Criticizing someone’s faith

• Cutting someone off from practicing their faith

• Using scripture or someone’s faith to control their behaviors or shame them.

Abuse of Power

• Using one’s social or financial status to harm, control, or manipulate people or situations or withhold someone’s rights

What it means to have boundaries with yourself

This one single topic I believe can change your life forever.  Stay with me here, this isn’t an infomercial.  I want to share with you the idea that the boundaries you have with yourself can drastically affect the relationships you have with yourself, with God, with your friends, family, coworkers.  How in the world do you have a boundary with yourself?  What is a boundary anyways?

First we need to define what a boundary is.  It’s much like a house with a yard and a fence.  I often think of my emotional self as a “house” with different “rooms” (parts of myself).  I also have a “porch” where decisions take place: It’s there that I decide what I’m willing to take inside my “house” (my emotional self).  For example, when someone gives me a compliment I literally picture it as someone giving me flowers on my door step.  I choose to bring them inside to admire them for a while. Those flowers (compliments) look good, smell good, and brighten my day in my home but do not determine its worth or valueMy house is the same whether or not there are flowers inside.  Another example would be when some people try to hand me a heaping pile of steaming poo that also looks like a guilt trip.  I can choose to bring it inside into my house where I have to smell it and hold it and cry over the effects of this lingering gift.  Or I can stand on my porch and hand it right back to them and say “currently I am not accepting guilt trips.”  No poo in my house!  But outside my house is my yard with a fence. It separates me from other people, everyone in fact.  I am the only one who lives in my house and it is my job to protect it.  Sometimes I have neighbors on the other side of my fence that I call friends and family who help me from time to time but ultimately this is my responsibility to decide who comes in and out.  If someone crosses that line without being invited there will be consequences.  Now, don’t get me wrong I do let people in.  Those people have my trust and I allow them into my home, some people different rooms than others.  This is the vulnerability glue that holds us together with other humans.  It is part of our ingrained primal instincts to be a part of our herd, our humanness.  Some let others come and go in and out of their house, leaving it in ruins, with little value because they didn’t protect their fence line and then resent them for ruining their house.  Others have let no one in their house in years because someone tried to burn it down once- so they live like hoarders with piles of stuff they haven’t gone through.  So much so, they can’t even walk around, they just stay in one room.  (Are you following, this analogy is getting deep…)

So now we are operating under the assumption that our emotional selves are a house with one owner and it is our job to protect the house, yard and fence.  What happens when someone crosses it uninvited? It really depends on what it is. Maybe the person didn’t see it – they didn’t know it was there and you just need to bring it to their attention- in a kind way.  Like “Hey I saw you texted me last night.  I turn my ringer off at 8:30 so I won’t be answering any texts or phone calls after that.”  Or maybe you need to reinforce it:  “Like I said before, I don’t want your wet bathing suit to be left on the floor.  Please respect our household rules or there will be consequences.” But sometimes people do not respect your boundaries and mow over them- almost challenging you to enforce them: “Next time you choose to come to my house without calling me first you will not be allowed in.”

The main thing that makes a boundary a boundary isn’t the fence – it is what happens if someone crosses it. Otherwise, why would it be there? Consequences to boundaries ideally should be considered at the same time of placing the boundary; Although, sometimes you don’t have time to think about it, because you thought it wouldn’t be crossed. For instance, a guy grabs your butt at a party- do you slap them?  Tell them off?  Call the police and file a report?  The last one is a bit extreme but you get the point.  The consequence should be one that “fits” your conviction to the boundary. If you don’t want your mother-in-law absolutely to not give your children ice cream, and this is extremely important to you, then you may threaten that they may not spend time together unsupervised.  But this may not be an issue for others.

One reason I am in love with PD (personal development) is because I realized I get to grow and learn and become a better version of myself through teaching myself things like boundaries.  A fascination with psychology of humans, I suppose.  Because, like many others, I didn’t grow up in a household where these things were talked about, or even known about.  I am so grateful and honored that I get to be the one to stop these patterns of behavior and instill them in later generations.  I get to alter the course of my own family and help others do the same.  I am by no means perfect and need do overs, permission slips to be human, and have to clean up messy deliveries of information.  But that’s ok because that means that I’m trying and that I care.

Which brings me to my main point- we know how to have boundaries with other people and the consequences but how do we have boundaries with ourselves?  This is something so many people struggle with and it looks like self-control– which is a piece of boundaries anyways. It takes self-control to not blow up on your husband for not putting his dishes in the sink.  Instead of yelling (which is what we want to do because we probably feel unappreciated) is realizing first that it is NORMAL that we want to yell- we are being human.  But we have evolved and realize that he is also human, we assume he did not have ill-willed intention toward you, we give him grace and say “Hey babe, I saw you left your dishes in the sink after dinner.  It would really mean a lot to me if you put them in the dishwasher next time.”  Chances are when your husband, who loves and cares for you, hears that kind request, instead of yelling, he will probably respond with a willingness to help- rather than look for a spiteful defense from the attack of all the yelling.

Grace + Self-control + Kindness = Boundaries with self (aka a term I’m going to coin as Autogenous Boundaries).

What does this look like?

I go through a process in my head.  For an easy example let’s say there’s a warm chocolate chip cookie in the breakroom at work. I’ve been on a diet and lost two pounds and really I don’t want to eat the cookie because I know it will derail the rest of the day.  But my salad is gone from my stomach already and I have 3 hours left of work.  So first I acknowledge my primal human self: “Of course you want to have that cookie! It looks and smells so good and you’re hungry!”  Then I set the Autogenous Boundary: “But the reality is you know what will happen if you eat the cookie, it negates the salad you worked so hard to choke down and will probably come with a autogenous guilt trip which will mean a stop for some fried chicken on the way home.  So if you decide to eat that cookie you will regret it and not lose the weight OR you will have to have that protein shake for dinner (consequences).”  It sounds simple because it is.

Something I was not taught, but now that I am in my thirties, I am fortunate to have learned what types and flavors of abuse there are: physical, emotional, spiritual, verbal, sexual, and there may be more.  I wish everyone was taught not to accept certain behaviors but also how to have Autogenous Boundaries to avoid it themselves.  Behaviors I may have used to but no longer tolerate without exception are:

  • Violations of my body (physical or sexual aggression or threats)
  • Name calling and belittling
  • Violent intimidation, threats, or violent behavior (slamming doors, throwing things, breaking things, punching things)
  • False accusations of my intentions
  • Snarky comments
  • Blaming
  • Guilt trips
  • “Always and never” statements
  • Cursing
  • Voice raising
  • Actual finger pointing
  • Threat of harm to myself or other living things, including suicide

These things stay on the other side of the fence and if they occur all kinds of alarms get set off. Once, I went to buy a clock from someone.  It was not as described and was broken.  I politely declined to buy the piece.  They then started cursing, yelling, and threatening to “beat up” my husband who was not present.  I quickly removed myself from the scene and filed a police report.  While some might say “he called you a mean name get over it,” he threatened the safety of my husband and disrespected my boundary of how I feel I deserve to be treated.  You teach people how to treat you based on what you tolerate- what you allow will continue. That is a necessary piece to drive the whole idea of boundaries- your house has to be worth protection TO YOU, regardless of the value others place on your house.  (Click on What God Says About Me for how to find value in your house).  It is how you (and God) value your house- whether it is a pristine mansion or a shaky shack- it’s up to you to place enough value on it to protect it.  Whatever kind of house you have emotionally it is worth protecting at all costs.  Until you can believe that, you will not have the stamina to protect it.  If you don’t currently identify with that statement: “my (emotional) house is worth protecting at all costs,” you can use progressive language like “I’m figuring out how to value my house,” or “I’m on my way to see what it looks like to value my house in order to protect it.” If you are consistent then eventually you can believe it.

So now we have our valuable house with a yard and fence and we are standing on the porch with a gun. Okay, maybe not a gun, maybe welcoming arms with a discerning alarm system.  These alarm systems are like muscles – the more you use them the better they become.  So don’t beat yourself up if you are “trigger happy” when you first start to protect your fence line.  But trust your gut- if it smells fishy it’s usuallya fish.

All this lead up to say: Autogenous Boundaries are like boundaries with others, except with yourself. Acknowledge the human wants and gut reactions.  Give yourself grace and an allowance to be a human.  Then understand the consequences and don’t allow yourself to fall into patterns of behavior because you didn’t have good boundaries with yourself.  This is how people gain weight, get lazy at work, gain additions, quit brushing their teeth, live their life being swallowed in unnecessary guilt and shame, and tolerate being a people-pleasing doormat.  (How to be a Christian without being a doormat). I have heard myself in an argument say in my head “no self, you’re not going to say that!” Or “If you don’t brush your teeth I’m going to spank you!”-not a real consequence.  But what about a mom who has a child with an addiction: “Of course you want to give him money to get his car out of impound, but we are not going to do that because he has to suffer the consequences of his own actions.”  Or the very rampant problem, infidelity?  Go through the process: “Of course you want to go flirt with the security guard at work. You have been going through a lot in your marriage lately.  It’s human to crave belonging.  BUT there are some SERIOUS consequences to that- so we are not going to do that.  We will instead avoid the temptation and take the stairs.”  (Just to clarify that was a made up scenario). But you get the idea.

If we can give ourselves grace for our human wants, and even primal needs, then we can better set behavioral boundaries with ourselves- whether it’s about our weight, our arguments, our addictions, or our relationships. That understanding will then free us to live our best life- one that we can be proud of.

 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us. power, love, and self-discipline.” -II Timothy 1:7

Photo credit: Lauren Garrison Photography

What God Says About Me…

I’ve been meaning to post something sooner- I have a lot of posts started but haven’t finished yet. In the mean time we’ve experienced two deaths in our family, traveling, a pipe burst, Christmas and all its glory, etc etc. So I dug into my “archives” from early in my journey with God. I am very grateful for my journaling because I can look back and, not only see how far I’ve come, but also remind myself of things I’ve forgotten.

Sometimes I get hung up in finding material for my blog. I’ll spend two hours writing something and then I’ll say to myself: “This isn’t good enough.” Or “This is too basic and common sense.” But I have to remind myself – if I think I’m a 5 or 6 on the knowledge scale then I get to help the 3’s and 4’s, not the 7’s and 8’s.

Just this morning I heard about a study where people who were trying to change their habits were either instructed to say “I can’t” versus “I don’t.” Those who said “I don’t” were far more successful at avoiding the unwanted behavior than those who said “I can’t” because “I don’t” is associated with their identity. It’s who you are. Such a small change but a good reminder. It’s all semantics. How we talk to ourselves can be life giving or take the wind completely out of our sails. I get it. When someone else your entire life has told you unkind things about yourself- these can be hard to dispel. But you didn’t believe those bad things right away- you were convinced after the repetition. To replace the good with the bad it takes repetition. And you won’t always believe it. But don’t forget WHOSE you are. This is why I personally need to read the Bible every day. (I’ve just started the ‘read the Bible in 365’ plan on the Bible app! You can do it with friends too!) I need the constant reminder to love myself and others, to remind me that I am wanted and loved and pursued. I even saved this picture of Jesus laughing to my phone lock screen. I needed to picture Him as my best friend, not the angry judge above me. I’d imagine him reclined in the chair beside me, so intrigued and intently listening to what I say.

Once in my life I only cared what others thought of me. My favorite adjective was the F bomb. The tighter my clothes the better. The dirtier my jokes the funnier. I thought my only value was in my body and my ability to earn money. Any and all transformation is absolutely God’s doing (for His glory) and I am forever grateful for His guidance and freedom from my shackles.

So without further ado I give you my list of things I felt God saying to me as I first started to read, pray, and study the Bible. This is what the Holy Spirit did inside of me those mornings I couldn’t wait to get up at 4:30am to spend time with Him. I hope it touches your soul.

What God says about me

I love you.

I appreciate you.

I am grateful for you.

You are a rare and beautiful treasure.

I forgive you. Even for the things you’re not sorry for.

I’m proud of you. I’m proud to be your dad.

I smile and laugh and clap with unending joy for you.

I created everything for you and want you to enjoy it. You are why I do everything I do.

I want to spend time with you because you are important to me.

You are worth listening to, worthy of sacrifice, worthy of time and love and attention.

I hold you to a high standard.

You’re free from bondage.

I give you grace, undeserved favor. No matter what you do I will always love you and pursue you.

I’m not going to beat you up for what Jesus already got beat up for.

You have a special calling today.

I believe in you and I’m cheering and clapping and jumping for you.

I believe you will succeed.

I’m not going to give up on you.

I relentlessly pursue you.

I’m not going to give you what you think you deserve.

You are my prized possession.

I am patient with you. I am ready when you are.

I will come to you wherever you are.

I have compassion for you.

I get you. I understand what you’re going through. Don’t give up.

Everything you do- do it for me.

I delight in you.

My power that raises the dead to life is in you.

I give you infinite peace.

I am your greatest comfort and hold you in my hand. Close your eyes and surround yourself with my warm arms of grace.

I have bottled every one of your tears because your pain is important to me.

I’ve put you in my parade of victory and triumph.

I never grow tired or weary- you can depend on me. I will make you strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do not be shy or ashamed- you are free from all guilt and regret.

Trust me. I will always be honest.

I’m renewing your spirit and give you endless hope.

Don’t worry, you won’t be on earth for long before I bring you to my home with me. I’m preparing your castle. You’re going to love it.

Everything awesome is from me, my gift to you.

The old you is gone. I’m proud of the you that you’ve become.

No matter what you’re going through in right here. I’ll never leave you.

I’ve made you brand new. You are my bride. Your dress is sparkling white.

Celebrate your weaknesses for without them I could not work inside you. I need you to need me.

Trials are my way of making you strong. You’re tough and I’m preparing you for something amazing. You’ll see.

Please don’t doubt me- I will give you all the knowledge, wisdom, and things you need. Let me be enough for you.

I will never tempt you- I will show you the way out, just ask.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 25:8

2 Corinthians 2:14

Isaiah 40:28-29

2 Corinthians 3:17

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Isaiah 41:10

2 Cor. 5:17

Isaiah 43:2

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 12:9

James 1:2-4

James 1:5-6

James 1:13

(Photo credit: https://thejesusquestion.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/jesus_laughing21.jpg)

Fear Camping

A couple weeks ago I was talking to someone who is afraid of heights- even 2nd story balconies gets them woozy. I thought of the most extreme heights activity: sleeping, hanging on the side of a mountain (cliff camping). I asked if they could do that for a briefcase full of cash (my favorite game of inquiry). Their response was so intriguing to me I’m still thinking about it weeks later:

“If I had to do that I think I would just jump.”

To clarify I asked, “so you’re saying you’d do the very thing you were afraid of happening just to avoid the feeling?

“Yes.”

Ok y’all let’s break this down. Let’s say you’re doing something that causes a heaping amount of fear (stuttering while public speaking, standing up to your boss) so you DO the thing you’re afraid of happening- you end up stuttering during your speech, you appear timid when standing up to your boss. To avoid the feeling of fear you just jump right off the cliff into the pit. By this we can deduce that:

The pain of dying (jumping into the feared action) is less than the PAIN of fear.

Satan loves fear! We literally become self-fulfilling prophesies by jumping to the thing that we fear happening. Since then I’ve called this scenario jumping off the cliff. For example, your mom makes a triggering comment that makes you FEEL like there’s a hint of rejection in it. Rather than sit there in your “fear-filled cliff hammock” and just FEEL THE FEAR, you jump off the cliff and go strait to rejecting HER with the cold shoulder or a snarky comment. It’s more comfortable to sit in that familiar pain than to feel the feeling of fear.

There’s nothing wrong with being afraid- fear is one of those instincts gifted to us by God to keep us safe. Without it we would surely die to lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). But fear is just an EMOTION- like sadness, excitement- it is just another red light in our dash board. Our emotions (dash lights) alert us to POSSIBLE issues. As with any emotion- anger, sadness- it matters what you DO when you’re feeling these feelings. Feelings will always come and go but you have the CHOICE of what to do when they come.

Once in my late teens my “service engine light” came on the dash of my car. I informed my mom and she told me to service it right away because it could be a serious issue. I took my car into the shop. They ran a $75 test. The results came back as my gas cap wasn’t screwed on tight enough. I was thankful it wasn’t an expensive issue – but it was a $75 lesson. Likewise, our emotions are warning lights that show up on our theoretical ‘feelings dashboard.’ They are only there to alert us of a POSSIBLE problem. It takes our discernment and wisdom to run the “test” and decide if it’s the transmission or a screw cap came loose (hah!).

Where we live in the Midwest of the USA we are mostly threat free majority of the time- we get in our vehicles, go to work, pick up the kids, do homework, go out to eat, watch a movie, go to bed. Very little actual threats to our lives happen- there are no bears jumping out of bushes, no wolves hiding in the darkness. But we still maintain the dashboard lights for these primal instincts. So we replace them with other threats: fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of heights, fear of loneliness, fear of intimacy, fear of imperfection.

I invite you to take notice of what your fears are. Thank your soul for giving you these fears in order to help keep you safe. Then make a note of what your actions are when you’re afraid. Are you doing the very thing you’re afraid of? Are you becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy?

I’m a firm believer in the theory of thought: Whatever you think you are, you are.

What is the connection between fear, faith?

“As He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die! ” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith? ” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? — even the winds and the sea obey Him! ””

Matthew 8:23-27 HCSB

The only weapon we have to combat fear is faith.

I don’t have to fear if my Heavenly Father loves me- I know he always will. I don’t have to fear how I’m going to pay the bills if my husband divorces me- I know God will find a way. I don’t have to fear what I will do with my life after my house has burned down- I know God will provide. I don’t have to fear what the girls are saying about me behind my back- I know who I am in Christ.

Let me remind you that you have been given an incredible power. You can call upon it at any time! Give voice to your fears, tell God about them. And then tell your fears these truths:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”

2 Timothy 1:7 HCSB

http://bible.com/72/2ti.1.7.hcsb

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.”

1 John 4:18 HCSB

“Cast all your care on Him, because He cares about you.”

1 Peter 5:7 HCSB

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.”

Philippians 4:8 HCSB

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.””

John 16:33 HCSB

“The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.””

Deuteronomy 31:8 HCSB

Photo credit: https://shaunynews.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/10065576734_8dde2b6d7b_o.jpg

Remember that one time when…

My first post! I hesitated immensely and really thought for a while about what I wanted MY FIRST post to be. It sets the tone. Where do I want to take this? How much sharing about my personal life do I want to divulge? What’s the theme? (Cue eighth grade writing assignment nightmares).

It just so happens that yesterday marks the 3 year anniversary of a decision I took that would change my life forever. No, I didn’t decide to become sober (a very brave thing indeed). But I did choose to embrace the fact that life is short and that I’m the one in control of how it goes (for the most part).

August 12, 2014 was the last day I would be who I “was.”

August 13, 2014 I sped home at 7am after my 24 hour call shift at the hospital. I walked in, looked at everything for about 10 seconds, not knowing where to start or what to do. Then I snapped out of it and quickly starting snatching overnight bags, stuffing them full of essential clothing and toiletries I could quickly get my hands on. In the silence of me standing in my bedroom after zipping my bag I heard the front door unlock as clear and loud as I’ve ever heard it. I sprung to the bedroom patio door and bolted out as fast as I could around to the side gate. It truly was in slow motion, like a bad dream, trying to run through quick sand. I sprinted as fast as I could until I got about 3 houses down-literally running FOR my life. I peered back over my shoulder to see the 6’1″ man standing there in the front yard staring at me in his white t-shirt and work jeans. The rest of this story involves me waiting at flagpole for the police to come (God’s symbol of my freedom). Three hours later the two police cars would drive off, I would hug my neighbor goodbye, my mom, her friend (I had never met before), and myself would drive to my new sanctuary.

THAT was the day I made the very brave decision to leave the abuse, the gaslighting, the threats, the narcissism, the lies, the blaming, the victimization, and the martyring in my marriage.

This blog isn’t JUST going to be about the perils of abuse. But whatever topic presents itself I always want to bring it back around to “The Fruits of the Spirit.” I want to notice the God in my life. Feeling Him move and seeing His plan come into action. I owe all I am today to the one moment, on my bed, feeling absolutely hopeless, pleading: “God save me. If you do exist you HAVE to do something to help me. Because if you can’t then no one can.”

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth —”
Ephesians 5:8-9 HCSB