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Israel: How to Process It All

Israel: How to Process It All

What do you feel when you hear about what’s going on around the world? The evil, pain, and unbelievable circumstances some people find themselves in are hard to comprehend. Sometimes you might feel numb to it, like it’s another sad event in our world and sometimes it will hit you deeper. Something about that specific story connects with you. You are drawn to every detail and every first person account, so you watch the news non stop and read every article at your disposal. We turn to social media to watch real time videos of what’s happening to innocent lives. The problem with our access to every news outlet, opinion, and first person account is we feel pressure to over educate ourselves. To have our stance on what’s going on in the world, and while there is wisdom to educate yourself over educating yourself can be harmful. That’s what we’re all facing as the war and violence is taking place in Israel and Gaza. We are pressed to take a side, have a strong opinion on what we’re thinking and feeling.

When I first heard of what was going on in Israel I felt sad. My spirit was heavy for God’s people, but it didn’t make me anxious until the idea of the end times came up. It caused me great anxiety because my first thought was, “I’m not ready to die. I have so much life I want to live. I’m bringing a little girl into the world and I want to be able to watch her grow up and live a full life.” I was anxious because I wasn’t educated enough in the right areas. Bits and pieces from friends, preachers, news outlets, and my own education that were incomplete made me feel unaware of the truth. 

The first thing I did was pray about my anxiety. I prayed about how I was feeling, not because it’s more important than what’s going on in Israel, but because I know that God cares about me as His daughter. He cares that I am anxious because of what’s going on with his people. I confided in my husband about how I was feeling and let him in on my unfiltered thoughts and feelings. He helped me see that my anxiety had clouded my ability to see that my hope is in God, not what’s happening in the world. 

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves the hard questions to get to a place of peace, we need to explore with trusted people what’s actually going on in the depths of our hearts. Sometimes we have to understand we need more education in the right areas to have peace. Sometimes we need to take a break from the searching, reading, and watching to allow ourselves to be regulated and present to where we are. 

For most of you reading this; you’re not in Israel. You’re reading this from your couch, desk, bed, or kitchen table. You are most likely safe. You are not in immediate danger or worried about a terrorist group taking over your neighborhood. But your emotions might tell you otherwise. You might have deep anguish over what’s happening in Israel. Your heart might feel heavy, confused, shocked or anxious. Maybe you don’t feel any of those ways but you’re convinced you are supposed to because everyone else is. I don’t think there is one right way to feel or process what’s happening in Israel, but I do think there is a harmful way. Allowing it to overtake your peace, ability to be present, and create unnecessary stress and anxiety is not creating anything good within you. 

You don’t need to convince yourself you are in danger to find empathy within yourself for what’s happening to the people of Israel. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s not absorbing someone else’s pain and suffering as your own. I think the enemy uses news, education, and first person accounts to create second hand trauma within us. Which is exactly as it sounds; “emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand experiences of another.” You don’t have to have second hand trauma to have empathy and have a broken heart over what is breaking God’s heart. Thats a lie from the enemy to create disruption within you. 

So what do you do? How do you balance education and boundaries to not cause yourself second hand trauma or unnecessary anxiety? 

Know your limits – If you are not accustomed to hearing trauma on a regular basis, hearing someone share their story of being kidnapped might cause you great distress and anxiety. If you’re currently facing something traumatic personally, reading into the trauma of the war in Israel could enhance your emotions in your own personal trauma. If you’ve been a refugee of war, reading about this war could trigger some painful memories which could cause potential re-traumatization. Know the level of sensitivity your spirit has when it comes to hearing traumatic stories. You don’t have to turn a blind eye to the reality of our world, but maybe you don’t need to read every detailed story the internet has to offer. Spark notes are enough for you. The hardest part about knowing your limit is having self-control to stop yourself. You might feel tempted to keep digging, but just because you want to doesn’t always mean you should! 

Be mindful of what educating yourself is causing within you: Notice I said educating yourself. Being aware is a good thing, but if your desire to be aware turns into obsession, put up restrictions on yourself. We cannot be all-knowing, so burying yourself in every video, article, and news report is probably not producing an empathic spirit, but maybe a controlling spirit. You can obtain enough knowledge to be up to date while limiting yourself to the amount of times you check the news in a day. Know the basics, and maybe for you that’s where you stop because the more you read the more anxious you feel. Now on the other hand; know why those feelings are coming up in you. Is there something specific causing those emotions? There is a high chance there’s a root in your feelings. Maybe you are digging deep into these stories because it distracts you from your own or because this feels like a way you can control what’s happening by knowing everything.

Read truth to know the truth. 

As much as this is a physical war, it’s also a spiritual war. Educating yourself in what’s happening in both the physical and spiritual side of this is crucial to create peace and remove anxiety. When you educate yourself about what the Bible says about war, Israel, and the pain and suffering in this world, you won’t feel defeated and hopeless in the stories. You can see hope even when there is no hope, because our hope isn’t in the stories of the world. It’s in the redemptive and saving story of Jesus. When we can’t make sense of our reality, we need to hold onto something or someone. Take time to look into God’s perspective of the war so that you can have comfort in knowing He cares about what’s going on and He is in control, no matter how out of control it seems to be.

Everything going on around us in our world today can be overwhelming and lead to many emotions, which is why it’s important to know how to personally process it all. Let’s continue to pray for our brothers and sisters and remember that our hope is found in Jesus.

A Content Heart Starts in Singleness

A Content Heart Starts in Singleness

For the majority of college, I was single. And I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t always patient during singleness. I was the one in the friend group that was consumed with dating and obsessed with finding a boyfriend. I struggled with being single. I don’t really like to even say struggle because it sounds like it was a burden to be single. The only reason it was hard for me is because I made singleness hard. I didn’t like being single, therefore I didn’t like the Lord putting me in a season of singleness. I wanted a boyfriend because the whole world told me that a boyfriend gives you security, love, acceptance and companionship. I wanted a boyfriend because I didn’t want to be lonely, insecure or isolated. All my friends were in serious relationships and it seemed that their lives were much better than mine because they had boyfriends. For two years, I lived in this belief that a boyfriend would solve all these problems. Two years of obsessing over the hope of having a boyfriend one day. I was mentally exhausted from the constant search and need for someone else to give me the security and love I so desperately wanted. 

I vividly remember sitting at the counter of my college house reading and journaling when I had this thought, or rather God planted this thought in my mind. 

I was so tired of feeling sorry for myself for not being in a relationship. I knew that a relationship wouldn’t fill me, but I was acting like I was depleted and deprived because I wasn’t in a relationship. My beliefs were not lining up with my actions. God so lovingly showed me my inconsistencies. I was wasting my thoughts by being overwhelmed with desire for a relationship, so much so it decreased my quality of life. I decided to change my thoughts. I wanted to live everyday like it was my last day of being single. I was going to enjoy it even if somedays I had to force myself to see it as good. One day I would hopefully be in a relationship that would turn into marriage and I would never be single again. I wanted to make myself proud of the way I lived in it and didn’t want to waste what the Lord had me in. If you really stop and think about each day, we have no idea what it holds. It could be the day that changes your life. But instead of waiting on the day that changes everything, I want to live my life freely and confidently not waiting on a day to come. 

As I looked to the positives of singleness, contentment grew within me. I learned how to spend time with Jesus. Not just read my Bible, pray a little, and move on, but ACTUALLY spend time with him and enjoy it! I looked forward to being in His presence every day. I received all the security, acceptance, and love I needed from Him. My heart was slowly aware that the things I desperately wanted, I had in Jesus all along.

As I became more content with my season, the Lord gave me more peace in my heart about the unknowns of my future. He removed the way I idolized a future husband and provided me with deep satisfaction in Him. 

The day I started dating my now husband, I had peace leaving my season of singleness. I knew I had been obedient in learning all the Lord wanted me to grow in. 

I am grateful for my season of singleness because it taught me to be content in every season.

It created a heart posture within me to be satisfied in the Lord rather than my circumstances. Rushing from one season to the next is harmful. It steals the lessons of love, satisfaction, and being fully present with the Lord that He wanted to teach me. 

Being fulfilled by the Lord’s presence then produced satisfaction in the season I’m in now. 

Being single is wonderful, dating is wonderful, engagement and marriage are wonderful! But if you ignore contentment in singleness you will be dissatisfied in dating. You’ll want engagement, and in engagement you’ll want marriage. In marriage you’ll want kids, then you’ll want to be empty nesters. It’s an endless cycle of always wanting the next thing. 

It’s a trap that we can so easily fall into if we do not posture our hearts to be content in our current season.

It can be dangerous to view singleness as a season of waiting because of what it does to our hearts when we label it that way. Waiting can imply that your life is missing something and you are looking to that thing hopeful it will fill whatever is missing in your life. “I’m waiting for God to move in my life.” “I’m waiting for Him to give me an answer on what He wants me to do.” “I’m waiting on Him to give me a boyfriend.” When we “wait” on God to act, move, or provide and it doesn’t happen on our timeline, we view it as a punishment. In reality, we were never actually waiting on God, we were wanting God to move when we say so. 

Sure, you might feel like you are waiting for a boyfriend. But what are you wanting a boyfriend to fix in you? Fix in your life? If you never had a boyfriend, never got married, would you be content with your relationship with the Lord to fill you? 

Instead of waiting on God to give you a boyfriend, be with God in your singleness. There’s so much more at stake than your desire for a relationship. The Lord is forming in you contentment, satisfaction, and a sole desire for His presence to fill. I believe these lessons are best taught in singleness and that’s why the enemy wants us to rush out of it. If we never learn how to be content and satisfied in the Lord we will always look to something or someone else to fill us. This is why singleness is so valuable! You cannot learn that only God can fill you until he is all you have to fill you.

There will be a last day of singleness for you. So, make yourself proud of the way you lived it out! 

Focus your purpose in singleness to be closer to God, to soak in his presence, and learn how to be satisfied where he has placed you.

I promise that when you allow your heart to be satisfied in Jesus, you will lack nothing. The longing for a husband won’t change, but you will be content in where the Lord has you. Your heart’s ability to be content now will cultivate a heart of contentment for every season to come.

So, to my friend that is single today, wondering when and if her husband will ever come into her life: focus on your heart posture. Learn to be satisfied with God in your singleness, its so much more important than having a boyfriend.

Freddie is a recent grad from Auburn University with her masters in clinical mental health counseling and is on staff with LO as a counselor. She loves long walks, spending time with friends and family, and helping people find their confidence in who God made them to be!Follow Freddie on Instagram: @yourfriend_Freddie 

Changing Our Habits

Changing Our Habits

Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden Eden to work it and keep it.” From the very beginning we were told to take care of and work on the things God gives to us. God gives us this life. He has given us the responsibility to work on ourselves – not to just throw life away, but to keep up with the tending to our soul. If you are the most valued creation of God, don’t you think He wants you to take care of yourself? Not for your glory, but for His. It glorifies Him when we take care of ourselves. We should stand out as followers of Christ. Your life should model the life of Jesus. You should have discipline to take care of yourself, to have habits that glorify God and honor Him, because everything we do should point people to Jesus. From our small habits to the big ones, we are to honor God and show people who God is to us. To show people that He is so important to us that He would invalid even our habits.  

I believe we are too fearful to change our habits because we like the comfort more. We get in routines of these habits and it feels safe and secure, it’s what we know even if it’s not what you want to default to. We prioritize comfort over change. Changing a habit means we must replace, forgo, and adjust our response. We can’t just change a habit without it changing the way we live. We have romanticized and normalized change in a way that we don’t give it the credit for what it requires of us. Creating and sticking with healthy and holy habits seems like a goal we could never reach. I believe it’s not that we are unable to achieve these goals, but we have become too lazy to try. Our lives feel comfortable and although we want change, we don’t want to put in the work that would bring real change. We rather settle for a mediocre unhealthy life than to live a life worth living. We don’t just need to change our habits, we need to change our hearts. We need to take our thoughts captive and control our emotions. We cannot change the surface without changing the root, but where do we start? 

If we know our identity is rooted in Jesus, what should that say about our habits? This is where the lies of the enemy really impact the way we live, because if we believe that we don’t deserve the identity Jesus has given us in Him, we will continue to cater to the habits that lead us into sin and brokenness. You might hear that and think your habit isn’t connected with sin and brokenness; you just have a hard time stopping yourself from overeating. If it’s hard for us to break a habit, it’s because we don’t believe we are capable of being a person who doesn’t do that habit. Your identity supports your habits. Think about someone who has watched porn for years – they can’t remember their life without it, how could they cut it out of their life now? It’s a part of their life, it’s a part of their identity. If we really believe that our identity is rooted in Jesus, our habits should align with that truth. If we believe we are free from the bondage of sin because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are able to walk away from the chains holding us back. We become so attached to the identity we have rooted in our bad habits that stepping into the identity Jesus gives us is frightening. If we are going to be children of God and walk in freedom, we must believe that freedom is for us, and we must find the one who we are going to strive to be like. When you decide who you want to be like, you start to embody the qualities and lifestyle that person has.

If our habits and identity are as deeply rooted as we believe it to be, we need our habits to support and strengthen our identity. Your habit of getting drunk isn’t supporting your identity in Christ. Your habit of over-eating is feeding your identity that you don’t have self-control. Your habit of laziness tells your identity that you are not disciplined. Your habit of running back to boys that are destructive tells your identity that you are not worthy of genuine love. Your habits are important, they tell you who you are, and they shape what we believe about ourselves. It’s important for your spirituality to create healthy habits that allows space for God to be heard in our lives. Scripture challenges us to create healthy habits and calls us to act in a way that Christ does. 1 peter: 5-9 says, “prepare your minds in action, being sober minded, you also be holy in all your conduct you shall be holy because I am holy. Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth, a pure heart. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” This verse speaks to our habits if you look into what peter is saying. God has given us everything we need to live a godly life through building our knowledge of Him. Building healthy habits creates space and removes the things that distract us from growing in this knowledge. We must make every effort to add to our faith goodness, and goodness knowledge. What this says to me is that I must make the effort to support my faith by having discipline. I can’t get to where I want to be if I don’t have. I believe the enemy has this lie on our culture that says our habits are not important because they aren’t eternal. OUR HABITS SHAPE WHO WE ARE! I don’t want to live in a lie, I don’t want to live in my past life of sins and brokenness that tells me I don’t have control over my habits, and I’ll never be able to escape them. I want to live in the truth that I have everything I need to live a Godly life because of Jesus. 

Freddie is a recent grad from Auburn University with her masters in clinical mental health counseling and is on staff with LO as a counselor. She loves long walks, spending time with friends and family, and helping people find their confidence in who God made them to be!Follow Freddie on Instagram: @yourfriend_Freddie 

Spiritual Self Care

Spiritual Self Care

The last words I heard from my grandpa were to take care of myself. I think about this often not only because I loved my grandpa dearly but because I knew God had a purpose in these words. I was in a rough place, and I needed to take care of myself, but I didn’t know how. How do I care for myself, for my soul? I believe God is a God of details so for these to be the last words I’d hear my grandpa say meant something I just didn’t know what. It took years of growth, pain, and writing this blog to see God’s hand in it all.

The Lord used this phrase in every season of my life to teach me how to care for myself. For 7 years I’ve been learning to lean into caring for myself while running from the lie that caring for myself is self-centered, prideful, and sinful. The Lord planted a seed in me that day to prioritize myself, not with a self-centered mindset but with a mindset to glorify God. I am responsible to care for His creation, and I must take care of it with love and respect. Now it is my life’s mission as a counselor to help people take care of their mental, emotional, physical, and most importantly spiritual health.

My journey has looked like a lot of valleys and a lot of mountain tops, but one constant has been God. Reading back through my old journals I see the common thread, God protected me and gave me all I needed to face each day. I wholeheartedly believe God wants to take care of me, and He wants me to take care of myself. Caring for myself doesn’t look like the world’s standards of self-care. The world will tell us to binge on Netflix, spoil yourself with retail therapy, or treat yourself to anything things you desire. The definition of self-care is taking action to improve your health. Shopping and Netflix aren’t bad, but they don’t improve our health.

As a counselor, I see the benefit of self-care and I do things regularly to care for myself. What is dangerous is using self-care as a cover up to indulge in the desires of our flesh. Getting quality sleep, eating nutritious foods, and working out improves our physical health. Reading the bible, meditating on scripture, and praying improve our spiritual health. Spiritual health is maintaining the vertical relationship you have with God. When I am spiritually healthy it improves my mental, emotional, and physical health.

I believe this is what the Lord was slowly teaching me all these years; taking care of myself means taking care of my spiritual health and from there all other areas of my life will be healthy. I have found the best way to care for myself is to cover myself in the armor of God.

“Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God, praying at all times in the spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:13-18 (ESV) 

Intentionally putting on the armor of God prepares us for life and whatever battles may come, by protecting our spiritual health. We must practice using and putting on the armor of God for it to be effective. If we are not educated in the ways to use the tools God has given us to withstand enemy attacks, we will fall. To understand the significance of each piece, we must know what they protect.

Wearing the belt of truth helps us identify what is a lie and what is truth. Without putting on “the belt of truth” we welcome confusion to our lives from the words we hear. We need to be able to identify truth in our life because words bear the power of life and death. In order to put on “the belt of truth” we need to know God’s Word, which is truth.

“The breastplate of righteousness” protects our hearts. Scripture tells us everything flows from our hearts. That means our attitude, emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. In my own life I have seen that intentionally guarding my heart has been the most important piece because when it is not guarded, I allow anything in.

When we filter our lives through the gospel, we find peace because Jesus is author of it. “The shield of faith” protects us from what the enemy throws at us intending to destroy us. Our faith is an active part of the armor. When we strengthen our faith, it weakens doubt. Using our faith as a shield looks like believing in God’s word, even when His words don’t feel true, because feelings don’t make good gods.

“The helmet of salvation” protects our minds. Taking every thought captive is up to us, God has created us with the ability to control and rid any thoughts that do not need to take root.

Reminding ourselves of God’s truth is one way we can condition our thoughts to be set on Him, because our mind informs our heart and from our heart all things flow.

“The sword of the Spirit” in those verses is referenced as the Word of God. God’s Word is alive and active today. Similarly, to how a sword must be picked up in battle to be used, we need to continually spend time with God in His word, and invite God into every part of our lives, including the battles we face.

Don’t wait for the battle to come, be prepared for the battle by putting on every piece of armor daily. We can’t pick one piece of armor for the battle; we need all of it to stand firm. Care for yourself in the ways God has called you to, not by following what the current of culture lures you to. I have found that self-care is more than just taking care of my emotional, mental, and physical health. It begins with being spiritually healthy because knowing the Creator helps me understand myself, His creation.

Freddie is a recent grad from Auburn University with her masters in clinical mental health counseling and is on staff with LO as a counselor. She loves long walks, spending time with friends and family, and helping people find their confidence in who God made them to be!Follow Freddie on Instagram: @yourfriend_Freddie 

Finding God in Our Grief

Finding God in Our Grief

As I sit and write to you about grief, I am experiencing the emotions of grief alongside you, walking through this journey trying to find God in it. To only talk about the aftermath of grief would do a disservice to those mourning and belittle the pain that grief requires us to feel. Its complex and there is no one way to express or experience grief and pain. Throughout this blog I ask you to allow yourself to grief in the way you need and invite God into the pain. 

Grief is defined as the deep sorrow that is caused by someone’s death. There are a multitude of emotions that are birthed out of hurt. Anguish, hopelessness, despair, and sadness are commonly felt during the grieving process. Below the surface of grief, we can feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, stressed, heartbroken, angry, and maybe even some guilt. In the therapy world, we categorize grief into stages to better understand it. Denial & isolation, anger, bargaining or pushing off reality, depression, and acceptance. The most recent stage added is the stage of meaning. These stages are non-linear, meaning that they are not necessarily experienced in order (Ross & Kessler, 2014). The question then becomes “how do you hurt well”? I believe the best way to properly grieve is to let yourself experience each stage as it comes. Be gentle towards yourself as you navigate these emotions. When we ignore and avoid the pain of grief, we take away the gift God wants to give us, Him.  

There is something so beautiful about mourning in the presence of Jesus. In the midst of broken heartedness, if you are still you can feel the peace that surpasses all understanding. I’ve always clung to Philippians 4:6 during pain. It reminds me that regardless of the situation I’m in my soul longs to praise God in some capacity. When the ability to praise is overcome by pain, allow yourself to deeply feel the pain. Let me tell you friend, it is not a sin to feel emotions. If you don’t feel it, you can’t heal it. 

As humans we want to avoid pain altogether, it feels uncomfortable to experience the realness of pain. We want to go from the gaping wound to the healed scar in a matter of seconds but its impossible. Maybe the Christian desire to do this is because it seems like a sin to feel emotions that are seen as bad. I want to remind you that Jesus experienced every emotion while on Earth. If the perfect man can experience every emotion that comes with a hurting soul, you can too. Grief disrupts the normalcy of life while the rest of the world keeps going. When it finally feels like you can breathe again you notice the whole world hasn’t stopped, just yours. Picking back the pieces of your crushed spirit to go on in life futile. Be patient with your grief and recognize that God the healer, the provider, and the giver of peace wants to meet you in your grief. When we ignore the feelings that arise in us, we take away the comfort God wants to give us in the midst of our suffering. Avoiding the pain in the suffering removes the ability to experience great joy on the other side of the pain. Romans 8:18 

We falsely belief that God promises to take away the emotions of grief on this side of heaven, rather God promises to be close to us in our grief. We do have hope that when we are with Jesus, he will wipe away every tear and death shall be no more. There will be no mourning, nor crying, no pain.” Paraphrased Revelation 21:4. In the midst of your mourning draw closer to God; wrestle with him in your pain and do not let go. Like Jacob who wrestled with God and did not let him go until he was blessed, do not let go of God. But don’t let go of God after you wrestle with him, stay close to him. From experience I can say that there is no closeness to God like there is during a season of mourning. As you navigate this path remember that you are allowed to feel every emotion. Your anger, hurt and sadness are understood by Jesus he too felt those things. Give yourself permission to feel and let God in on the emotions to heal you. As a society we often say time heals all wounds, rather I believe that God alone can heal our wounds and uses time to do so.  

Lord, I cover my friend in your peace, knowing that her pain is severe, and her hurt is deep. I know that you are creator of peace but that doesn’t mean that you will take away our pain but rather give us incomprehensible peace in the middle of mourning. Let the pain inside be an avenue to feel your love even more. You are able and willing to bring beauty from the ashes, you bring gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:3). Thank you that you want to give us joy and peace and that while we must experience pain you are with us in it. Thank you that you can relate to us in our pain and mourning, I pray that that pain forces her to come to you with her raw emotions. Thank you that you have defeated death and we have eternal life in you, thank you that our pain and suffering is not the end. You give life and will bring her back to joy in due season.

Ross, E.K & Kessler, D. (2014) On grief and grieving: finding meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. Simon & Schuster.

Freddie is a recent grad from Auburn University with her masters in clinical mental health counseling and is on staff with LO as a counselor. She loves long walks, spending time with friends and family, and helping people find their confidence in who God made them to be!Follow Freddie on Instagram: @yourfriend_Freddie 

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