Identity

#AskSteveAustin Podcast: Stop Trying to be the Proverbs 31 Woman

#AskSteveAustin Podcast: Stop Trying to be the Proverbs 31 Woman

Last week, I had the honor to talk with Steve and Lindsey Austin on the #AskSteveAustin podcast. We talked about the intersection of feminism and the Church (spoiler alert: Jesus is a feminist), rape culture, abortion, and that annoyingly perfect (though not actually real) "Proverbs 31 Woman."

This is not a conversation for the faint of heart—I'm done sugarcoating when it comes to calling out false teaching that oppresses and harms people. 

Book Review — The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices

Book Review — The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices

I wish I could introduce every one of you to my friend John Weirick. I wish you could get to know him and enjoy long meals and conversations that embody empathy and a genuine desire to connect. I would love for you to sit around his living room and share questions and thoughts that challenge your assumptions and help you grow. 

I hope some of you may get that chance, but even if you don’t, you can experience it in the pages of John’s book The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices. I don’t know how he did it, but reading The Variable Life honestly felt like connecting with him around a table full of delicious food.

In The Land Of The Free Why Are So Many Slaves?

Tomorrow is Independence Day here in these United States of America. It's the day (weekend) when we celebrate our nation's freedom. As a nation we are free to make our own decisions and laws. We are not ruled, governed or mastered by any other country. We are independent!

Cue the Star Spangled Banner and the fireworks.

Honestly, I am really excited about this 4th of July weekend. We have family visiting from out of state, and tons of really fun plans. I can't wait.

But, thinking about our country's independence has me asking another question.

Let me pause right here and tell you that this is not a post about the problems in our country, or the hot topic issues everyone is talking about. It's not a post about human-trafficking, racism, SCOTUS rulings, or the confederate flag. Those are all very real, very important issues in our country right now, and I may add my voice to the conversation, but not in this post. In this post I want to talk about something more deeply personal. Something that affects every single one of us.

In this land of freedom, why are so many of us still slaves?

You may be thinking, "I'm not a slave. I make my own decisions. I do what I want."

That's true, you are probably not a slave in the sense of another human owning your person. But, let me ask you this:

Do you feel free? Or do you feel trapped? Do you feel free? Or do you feel stuck? Do you feel free? Or do you feel guilty and regretful?

I have felt all of those things, and I am learning to live in the freedom of the only One who has the power to really set us free.

I would argue, that while we live in a free nation, many of us are not living in freedom. There are many things that enslave us:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • A Job We Hate
  • Depression
  • Bills
  • Debt
  • Chasing the American Dream
  • Guilt
  • Regret
  • An Unhappy Marriage
  • Our Own Thoughts
  • Trying to Make People Happy
  • Fighting To Be Liked
  • Addiction
  • Food
  • Habits
  • Sin

Did I hit on anything in your life that makes you feel trapped, enslaved, or anything less than free? Or is it something else?

The truth is we are all slaves to something. In fact, we may each be slaves to different things on that list, or things not even listed, but we all have one thing on the list in common.

We're All Slaves to Sin

Maybe you don't think you are slave to sin. Maybe you don't even think sin is a thing. Or you do think it's a thing, but it's not a big deal, and you're in control of it.

Let me ask you another question:

What is one thing in your life that you know is wrong, and you hate that you do it, but you can't seem to stop?

Now, not all sins are habitual, and they don't have to be habitual to enslave us. We are not just enslaved to individual sins. We are enslaved to sin as it's own entity because we are born sinners.

"Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'" (John 8:34) And we are ALL sinners (Romans 3:23)

But There is Good News!

The good news is that there is One who has the desire and the power to set us free. Set us free from sin, and set us free from all of the things on the list, and everything not on the list. We can have the true freedom that is only found in Jesus, who continues in that passage to say:

"'Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:35-36)

Jesus wants to set you free. Free from sin, shame, addiction, anxiety, depression, guilt, regret, debt, and anything keeping you from the full, abundant life He promises us in John 10:10.

How are we set free?

If Jesus wants to set us free, and has the power to set us free, why doesn't He just do it?

Well, He did. Now it's our move. We have to choose to receive His free gift of salvation and choose to follow Him. Then we are free.

Now let me be clear, the minute we make this decision everything doesn't instantly get fixed. What does instantly happen is we become children of God, our sins — past, present, and future - are forgiven, we are given new life, and the Holy Spirit lives inside us.

We are instantly given the power to walk in freedom, and that is the first step in our journey to learning to live in that freedom.

Friends, it is a process to break all of the chains that bind us, but in that process we get to really know the One who created us, loves us, and has a wonderful amazing plan for our lives. And it is the most wonderfully life-giving journey we can take.

What if you could celebrate your personal freedom while we celebrate our nation's freedom?

The Bible says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) That means every single one of us. It also says, "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) That means because of our sin, we will not only spend eternity apart from God in Hell after we die, but we will also spend our lives on earth as though we are dead, surviving without the power and freedom that comes with a relationship with Christ.

But there is good news. God had a plan. He knew that we could never pay the price for our sins, so He sent His Son, Jesus, to suffer and die a torturous death on the cross to take that punishment for us, and then to rise again on the third day to defeat sin and death.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16).

Salvation is God's free gift to us. The rest of (Romans 6:23) says "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." We have to believe it and declare Him our Lord. "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9).

If you believe that Jesus is Lord and that He died on the cross for your sins, and that God raised Him from the dead, and you want to have a relationship with Him, tell Him that.

There is no magic prayer, or special words to say. Simply tell Him from your heart that you know you are sinner, you believe that He paid for your sins on the cross and that God raised Him from the dead. Tell Him that you are sorry for sinning, and that you want Him to be the Lord of your life.

Celebrate and tell someone

Congratulations, and welcome to the family! Welcome to freedom! If you just prayed and told God those things, you are now His child. You will never be the same! It's time to celebrate and tell someone about this important moment in your life. In fact, I would love to know, and I would love to help you take your next step in your relationship with Jesus. So if you make a decision to follow Jesus today, would you please let me know? I'd love to celebrate with you!

Obsession Becomes Guilt And Paralyzation - My Anxiety Story: Part 3

By the time I was a young adult I was married, had 2 kids, and my anxiety had gone from obsession to guilt and paralyzation.

If you haven't read the beginning of my story, please do that first:

I Don't Remember Not Having Anxiety - My Anxiety Story: Part 1

Anxiety Becomes Obsession - My Anxiety Story: Part 2

I Think I'm Going To Die - My Anxiety Story: Part 2.5

Remember in Part 2 I told you about my obsession with boys, and how I was using it to try to find the answers to the questions my heart was asking, and to fill that empty place in my soul? That started around middle school, but as I got older, it got worse, and I made a lot of decisions I regret.

"Maybe if I give him my body, then he will want the rest of me." Then, maybe, I would get the answers I was looking for. Maybe I would be valuable and enough, and feel better about myself. Maybe the pain and anxiety would go away.

During that time I did a lot of things that I regret, which led to a lot of feelings of guilt later.

The thing about anxiety is it amplifies feelings, and if we don't know how to stop it from doing that, it leads to paralyzation. At least it does for me.

I can't believe I did that. I'm a horrible person. If anyone knew about it, they would hate me. I can never serve God. This totally disqualifies me from everything. I don't deserve to be happy or enjoy life. What if, what if, what if....

This house is a mess. It's too much. I can't clean it. I'll never get it done. It's too hard. I don't know how to clean it. I don't want to. What if I don't get the dish clean enough and someone uses it? What if they get sick? I really should clean it. I'm a horrible mom. I'm a horrible wife. I'm a horrible person...what if someone comes over unexpectedly...then they will know I'm a horrible wife, and mom, and person...what if they decide I shouldn't be a mom because my sink is full of dishes...

These are just a couple of examples of my spiraling thoughts. Thoughts that would leave me paralyzed, obsessing over them. Obsessing over all the things that are wrong with me, and all the ways I am horrible because of the bad things I did, or the good things I didn't do.

This left me barely functioning. Much of my time was spent sitting on the couch obsessing about these things unable to get up and do things, like the dishes. Often times, trying to escape my thoughts on social media, or blogs about how to do better at all the things I felt I was failing at. I eventually did the dishes, when it got to the point where I had to, or someone else would do them for me. And, I would take care of my kids, and even spend time with them, but I wasn't fully there. In my mind, I was in a pit. A dark, shame-filled, scary pit.

I was surviving. I was hiding. I wasn't thriving. I wasn't living.

If you knew me then, I probably seemed functional. My kids were happy and taken care of. I was terrified of something bad happening to them, so I was a super germaphobe, and very over-protective. I had friendships, and saw my family a lot. On the outside everything looked normal (at least I think it did).

But, inside I was dying. The guilt and obsessing over things I did or didn't do would come and go. Sometimes, I wouldn't think about it at all. Then one day I would think of something, and that would lead to an out of control mental spiral, and back to the pit I would go. The rest of the anxiety that I've already talked about, and the panic attacks were still there too.

The thing is even when I was "okay" and not in that pit, it was still affecting me. I couldn't make decisions, even small ones, for fear that I would make the wrong decision and something bad would happen, or someone would get mad at me. Most of my actions and the decisions that I did make, or didn't make (not deciding is deciding) were fueled by a fear of someone getting angry with me, or someone not liking me. Or they were fueled by a fear of someone getting hurt, or something bad happening and it being my fault. Very often, I would get someone else, like my husband or my mom or dad to make the decision for me. "Is it okay if I do this?" "Should I do this, or this?" "How should I handle this?"

Everything was driven by anxiety and fear.

I was paralyzed, until Jesus told me to pick up my mat and walk. In this series about my story, I've shared some of the pain, fear and affects of anxiety in my life. Can you relate? Is fear and anxiety affecting you? Do you feel stuck in the pit, like you will never be able to climb out?

I can't wait to share with you how Jesus is healing me, how He wants to heal you too, and the tools/weapons He has given us for the battle.

I Think I'm Going To Die - My Anxiety Story: Part 2.5

Before we move on to Part 3 of my anxiety story, in which obsession turns to guilt and paralyzation in my young adult life, I want to talk about something else that happened when I was a teenager.

If you haven't read parts 1 and 2 of my story please do that first:

I Don't Remember Not Having Anxiety - My Anxiety Story: Part 1

Anxiety Becomes Obsession - My Anxiety Story: Part 2

My heart is racing. My chest is tight. It hurts. I can't breathe. I'm dizzy. everything looks strange. You're talking to me, but you sound so far away. I'm getting hot. Why am I sweating? I'm going to pass out. Oh God, I'm going to pass out! I have to get out of here RIGHT NOW! No really, I have to get out of here right now, OR I'M GOING TO DIE!

Am I having a heart attack? Nope. It's a panic attack.

Sometimes, I still can't tell the difference. Sometimes, I have to ask my husband whether I am having an asthma attack or a panic attack, so I know whether to take my inhaler. It feels the same, but he can tell the difference by listening to me breathe.

Disclaimer: My husband has medical training, volunteered in EMS for 10+ years, was a 911 dispatcher, and has witnessed me have many panic attacks and asthma attacks. If you ever feel like you can't breathe, don't mess around call 911!

My point is that panic attacks really do feel like death is coming quickly. Real physical symptoms happen in our bodies when we have a panic attack. It is not all in our head. (By the way, never tell someone with anxiety or depression "it's all in your head.")

I was a sophomore in high school when I had my first panic attack shortly after the tragedy of 9/11. I am pretty sure that is what triggered the Generalized Anxiety Disorder that I already had to invite Panic Disorder (panic attacks) to the party in my brain. And by party I mean more like a terrifying haunted Halloween party than a super fun birthday party.

Panic attacks can start from an actual fear, and I've had plenty of those where something I was worried about turns into a panic attack. But they also start for seemingly no reason at all (see the end of the post for what I learned was causing my panic attacks in department stores and restaurants).

I would often be sitting in a restaurant with loved ones having a great time, and all of a sudden, boom, panic attack. I have to get out of here now! And I would. I would get up and go in the bathroom or step outside for a few minutes before I could come back to the table.

Other times, I would be in the grocery store. That's a lot scarier than a restaurant because I can't just leave without buying my stuff. What if I pass out before I get out of here? After I had kids it got even worse, what will happen to the kids if I pass out?

It is a vicious cycle once a panic attack starts because the physical symptoms are so real, they scare me too. So the panic attack starts, then the fear of what if this is not a panic attack (or before being diagnosed, what the heck is happening to me?) and I pass out, or I'm having a heart attack, and I die? This fear heightens the panic attack, which then heightens the fear that something is really wrong, which heightens the panic attack, which...you get the idea. And that's on top of whatever caused the panic attack in the first place.

The fear that I could actually be about to pass out, or die, was very real for me. I had a history of fainting since I was a small child. The feeling I get with a panic attack, and the feeling I would get right before fainting are the same. At this point in my life (29 years old) I have not actually fainted in over 10 years. In fact, I've known my husband for 12 years and he has never seen me pass out. But to this day, when a panic attack starts, I immediately think I'm going to pass out.

The fainting actually stopped after I had my 2nd heart surgery at 17 years old. No one ever linked the fainting to my heart condition, but it seems pretty obvious there was a connection. That doesn't stop me from thinking I'm going to pass out when a panic attack starts though. Something else could be wrong with my heart, I'll think, the doctors messed up before.

I found out about my heart condition at 15 years old, around the time the panic attacks started. I had one less invasive surgery at 16, which ended up causing more problems, so I had open heart surgery at 17. Then they collapsed my lung. I was diagnosed with the asthma after that, although again, no official cause was given.

So you can imagine that when a panic attack mimics heart and lung symptoms, it's pretty terrifying when one would come. And that, of course, would make the panic attack worse. Like I said, vicious cycle.

I made a lot of trips to the ER for what turned out to be panic attacks between 17 and 18 years old because no one was messing around. And when you volunteer and hang out at the fire department all the time, and mention that your chest hurts to a group of EMTs who are very protective of you and know about your heart surgery, you find yourself in the back of an ambulance before you can blink.

I so appreciate that even after this happened a couple of times and it ended up being a panic attack, they cared enough about me to not take any chances. My parents didn't take chances either, if I wasn't at the FD when it happened they would take me. If I was, as soon as I called them from the back of the ambulance, they would jump in the car to meet me at the ER. Without fail, every time.

If you are reading this, and you do not have anxiety or panic attacks, but you know someone who does, love them through it. Don't tell them they are crazy. Don't tell them it's all in their head. Don't tell them "it's just a panic attack." What if this time it's not? The physical symptoms are real, and they mimic symptoms of serious medical emergencies. If they think something might really be wrong, take them to ER to make sure it's not more serious than a panic attack. And if it happens again, do it again. This is especially important in the beginning as they are learning what a panic attack feels like, and what works for them to calm the feelings. This communicates that you love them, and that you don't think they are crazy, and that you still love them. This is super important for someone with anxiety.

Eventually, I learned how to talk myself through a panic attack, and my family and friends learned to talk me through ones that I couldn't talk myself through. And I learned to let them. I didn't need to go to the ER for a panic attack anymore because as I started to calm myself down the physical symptoms would begin to subside, showing me that it was not more serious, which would help me calm down more, which...you get the idea again. This is a positive twist on the cycle.

I have had seasons where panic attacks make daily living nearly impossible. Like the year where I couldn't drive on the highway without the worst panic attacks I've ever had. My life revolved around the fear of driving on the highway. It's strange because driving around used to be one of the things I did to calm myself. Until, one day I had a panic attack behind the wheel. And then it happened again. After that I was so terrified of having a panic attack, and what if I really passed out driving, that I would bring them on as soon as I got on the highway.

There were times when I had to pull over on the side of the highway because I was shaking so bad and so scared. It got to the point where I would do whatever I had to do to not drive on the highway. If I had to or wanted to go somewhere that required highway travel I would beg people to go with me. Sometimes, I would just have them drive, but when I was trying to get over it, I would drive, but have them there in case a panic attack started. Then they would drive.

This was a few years ago, and I can honestly say I can usually drive on the highway now without a problem. Rarely, a panic attack will start (like a few months ago when I was completely lost, and my GPS wasn't working, and it was dark), but I use the tools I now have for the battle, and call on the One who calms me.

It has been a long road to get to the place today where I can say that anxiety and panic do not control me. They are not in charge of my life anymore. I have peace and joy most days instead of crippling fear and worry. And when it does come, I have Jesus to lean into, and the tools He has given me to battle it, so it is not crippling anymore. It is my hope that this series and the ebook that I am working on will help lead you to find healing in Him as well, and give you some of the tools He has given me. If you would like to be among the first to know when the ebook is ready please subscribe below.

But before Jesus began to heal my anxiety, it was not only crippling, it became completely paralyzing. That is what I will share in Part 3.

Before I go, let me share something life changing that I learned about why I was getting panic attacks in department stores, restaurants, and other public places. It's the lights. When we have a panic attack everything looks funny, it's hard to explain, but I've seen it explained as a feeling of "unreality." Fluorescent lights are always flickering, even when we don't see it, and they actually cause us to see things in the same way that we see things when we have the "unreality" feeling. This actually tricks our brain into thinking we are having a panic attack. And because of that cycle, it causes a panic attack to start. Now that I know that, I get much fewer panic attacks in those places. I no longer go in with the fear of having one, so that helps. And if I do have one, I can usually tell myself it's the lights, find somewhere comfortable to look or move to a different isle, and I'm okay. So if you have panic attacks in those places and you don't know why, hopefully that helps.

Photo By Luigi Morante Cropped to fit. Used under Creative Commons License