Identity

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.

Anxiety Becomes Obsession - My Anxiety Story: Part 2

I don't really want to write this. It is hard and embarrassing to share this part of my story. People I knew in real life during this time might see it. What will they think?

But I am learning to find my identity in the One who created me, not in the ones who judge me. And I am trying to embrace the calling He gave me to use my experience to help point others to Him and the grace and healing He offers. So, I pray, "Jesus, make me brave," and I begin to type.

As I grew into a teenager my childhood anxiety (read about that in Part 1) grew with me. What started as fears of bad things happening combined with my feelings of never being good enough, and took on a life of it's own.

The teen years bring their own doubts, fears, and identity struggles. It's a time of figuring out who we are, where we fit in the world, and what our value is.

For me, as for so many others, it was a time of begging for answers to the questions: Do I matter? Am I lovable? Am I loved? Do I fit?

I tried to find my answers in relationships with boys. If I could find a boyfriend to answer yes to these questions then my heart would be okay. There are so many issues with this approach, which I will address another time, but in reality my heart would never be okay until I learned to find the answers in Jesus. The One who created us is the One who gets to determine our value.

I didn't know that then, and for now I want to focus on how my anxiety turned my search to answer those questions into obsession...with boys.

My anxiety has a way of turning a thought into a mental grenade. If something triggers it, it explodes and imbeds shrapnel in every crevice and corner of my mind. Once that happens 90% of my mental energy focuses on removing the debris and finding relief for the pain. The other 10% is reserved for basic life functions like barely breathing and putting on a mask to get through the day.

So in high school, the grenade was my identity and self-worth. Of course, I didn't know I was asking all of these questions, or that I was trying to find answers in unhealthy ways. That realization came from later reflection. What I knew was that I was hurting, and that when I had a boyfriend who I thought loved me I hurt less. Until he hurt me, then I hurt more. Until he loved me again, then I hurt less. And it was a vicious spiral with the hurt getting deeper, and the less getting lesser. But it turned into obsession, usually with one particular boy, although there were a few others mixed in. I was only okay, when I had a boyfriend.

But, I wasn't really okay then either. Sure I felt a little better, but then there was the constant fear of losing him again, and the fact that a guy will never be enough to fill that deep empty longing in our souls. There is only One who can fill that place. One who loves us unconditionally. One who loves us enough to die for us. But that truth hadn't invaded my heart yet, so I was obsessed with filling that void and trying to remove the shrapnel in my mind and heart.

The truth is, boys are not the only thing I've obsessed about in this anxiety battle. Throughout my life it's been different things. And again, like in part 1 it would get worse before it got better. In part 3, I'll talk about how it paralyzed me in my early adult life.

Is your anxiety like a mental grenade? Is it causing you to obsess about something? Boys? Girls? Popularity? Your looks? Sports? Your family? Your job? Your children? Your ministry? Anything?

You are not alone. I have met the One who will defuse the grenade. He wants to defuse yours too. It is my hope and prayer you will find hope and healing in Jesus through this series, and through the free resource I am creating for you. It is almost ready, and if you would like to be among the first to know when it's available please subscribe below. I will happily send you an email when it's ready.

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

"No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?"

"Right"

"I love you"

"I love you too"

"Good Night"

"Good Night"

"No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?"

"Right"

"I love you"

"I love you too"

"Good Night"

"Good Night"

"No thunderstorms..."

This was the routine repeated over and over again during my childhood bedtime. I would continue to repeat the cycle as Mom or Dad walked out of the room, down the hallway, down the stairs (depending on whose house I was at that night), and out of range.

Thunderstorms, bad dreams, and doctor shows were my biggest fears. I was terrified of doctors because of a traumatic hospitilization for Cellulitus when I was 3 years old, and was, therefore, also terrified of doctor shows.

So, at some point I apparently decided that saying "No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?" and having my mom or dad assure me with the word "right" meant that those things would not exist that night.

Totally logical right?... No? Well, that's how anxiety works.

This in and of itself is enough to show there was anxiety brewing in that little mind and heart of mine, but the repetition of it is much more telling.

Why did I need to repeat it over and over again?

Because I could never decide which was the most important part to say last. If I didn't say "I love you" last, and I died, or they died then "I love you" wouldn't have been our last words to each other. If I didn't say "No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?" last then mabye it wouldn't be true for that night. So it became part of the bed time routine and one of the first coping mechanisms I had.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (basically anxious about all the things, all the time disorder) and panic attacks. I was diagnosed in high school when the panic attacks started, but I do not remember a time in my life prior to that when I wasn't anxious about something.

Fear and anxiety were a big part of my life. They dominated my emotions, and controlled many aspects of my life and my decisions, especially as I got older. But that'll be for Part 2.

The biggest thing that I remember about my anxiety as a child, is that the things I would worry about were so far removed from what I should have been concerned about at that age.

I remember once making my dad prove to me that the smoke alarm worked because I was afraid the house would catch on fire.

I remember being really scared when I went to bed and my dad was in the rec-room in the basement. My bedroom was on the 2nd floor, and the front door was right by the stairs. So that meant that if an intruder came in to get me, he would be entering between where I was and where Dad was. They could get to me to hurt me before Dad would be able to get to me to protect me.

Of course, Dad would have been up those stairs and tackling the "bad guy" long before he could get to me, but my anxious heart didn't know that. And I didn't let my parents know just how anxious my heart was.

I wish I would have told them more about my anxiety sooner. First of all, then they could have gotten me help sooner. But also because I'm learning that talking about it helps. When we keep the monsters in our heads hidden in the darkness, they can only grow. But when we bring them into the light by talking about them, they start to shrink and eventually die.

I had fears, worries, and anxieties as a child, more than probably most kids, but as I got older the anxiety monster got bigger and more intense. Anxiety began to manifest as obsessions late in middle school. 9/11 happened during high school, and that triggered the start of full blown panic attacks.

It got a lot worse before it got better. But it is better. So much better. I still have it, but it doesn't control me anymore. God is healing me, and showing me tools to help me fight the anxiety battle and win. I have peace now a lot of the time, and when the fear comes it's not as intense, doesn't last as long, and isn't paralyzing.

It is my hope that through this series, and some free resources I am working on, you too will be able to find healing, hope, and freedom in the One who offers it to you.

3 Reasons A Guy (Or Girl) Will Never Be Enough To Satisfy You

So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Maybe you are in a great relationship, and you can’t wait to celebrate. Maybe for you it’s Singles Awareness Day. Or perhaps you fall into the camp of “it’s complicated.”

Whatever your relationship status is, one thing is certain: love and relationships are in our faces this time of year. Everywhere you go there are red and pink hearts, “I Love You” teddy bears, roses, and candy. Society is screaming at us “you need a relationship to be satisfied, to be good enough, to be happy.”

But it’s a big fat lie. The truth is whether we are happily married for 50 years, or single forever, a man will never be enough to fill that deep empty longing inside us.

Sure relationships can be great, and in fact can be very satisfying. I am happily married, so I know how great relationships can be. I have also experienced plenty of heartbreak, and painful relationships in my life. But my husband, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your future significant other will never, can never, be enough to fill that empty place.

3 Reasons A Guy/Girl Cannot Be Enough to Satisfy You

1. He is human.

The thing about that person you are dating, or want to date, is he is human. And the thing about humans is that we are not perfect. We mess up. We hurt each other. No human can love you perfectly, and you cannot love another person perfectly either. Even in the greatest relationships, hurt happens. Yes, there is forgiveness and communication and all of the things that make great relationships great. But at the end of the day if we are relying on another imperfect person to do everything right to fill that hole inside of us, we will be disappointed.

2. It’s too big of a hole.

Can you imagine someone expecting you to meet every single one of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs 24/7? That’s a lot of pressure. And it’s impossible. That deep longing inside of us, that intense desire to be fully known and fully loved, that emptiness, is too big for a person to fill.

3. You Were Created for More.

You were created with this deep desire that we’re talking about. That feeling of wanting to be loved, of wanting someone to know everything about you, and still love you, of wanting a relationship with someone who can fully satisfy you and meet all of your needs, was put inside of you on purpose. Your Creator put it there so you would search for Him. It was never meant to be filled by another human being. Yes it’s true that He designed us to be relational beings, and it is good and necessary for us to have other people in our lives who we can trust, have fun with and do life with. But, that void in you, the one you want to fill with a boyfriend or girlfriend, can only be filled by the One who created you.

He already knows you. He knows everything about you, and He Loves You Enough to Die For You.

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are in a relationship, single, or complicated, will you meet and get to the know the only one who can really fully satisfy you?