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5 Strategies for Anxiety

I’ve always seen myself as a strong person.

I’m up for a challenge. I don’t get scared. I’m not timid. I travel the world, will talk to anyone, and am always up for an adventure. Given that, I was really caught off-guard a few years ago when seemingly out of nowhere, I experienced a physical feeling of absolute terror. I felt like I was hyper-ventilating…out of control…racing thoughts…A panic attack?

“This is not ME!” I wanted to shout.

As I mentor young women, the most common confession I hear from them is that they are dealing with some degree of anxiety. It is hardly surprising given the speed of our lives, the conflict in our nation, and the 24/7 bombardment of noise. Add in the gray drear of February in MN and you have a perfect depression cocktail!

I know there’s no quick fix, and I’m not a trained therapist, but I thought I’d share what I tell myself and others when anxiety or depression creep around like a stealthy jaguar waiting to pounce.

  1. Get help. You are not alone. There is no shame in what you’re feeling. Set up an appointment with your doctor and a Christian counselor. Do your part (including getting medication if that’s what your doctor recommends) and trust God to do His.
  2. Slow down – say “no”, observe Sabbath, get sleep. What are the guard rails you have in place to protect yourself?
  3. Turn off the things that amp your anxiety – news, tv. books. Pay attention to what’s going on when you are most anxious.
  4. Lean in to relationships, experiences, and practices that bring life and peace. Make a list now. Praise music, exercise, an encouraging friend, getting outside? Our friend Mark Batterson reminds me:
  5. Affirm the truth. Satan is a lying liar and can distort anything. What are the lies you hear in your head when you’re most anxious? “You’re worthless”, “You can’t do this”, “You’re all alone – this is all on you” ? List them and then go to God’s Word and write down statements of truth (1 Peter 2:6; Psalm 32:7; Psalm 3:3;  Psalm 51:12; Philippians 4:7; Psalm 71:20;  Psalm 41:11; James 1:2-5; Psalm 37:23-24; 1 John 4:4; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Kings 8:28;  Psalm 91:4; James 4:7-8)

Lastly, a couple of resources for anxiety reducing practices:

Abide is a guided prayer app that I use. You can choose the topic, choose background music (or a rushing stream like I have), and the person praying (there are definitely some I like better than others). Some of the prayers are more like Lectio Divina, and some are Examen prayers.

Breath prayer – Breathe in a name for God. Breathe out the desire of your heart. Example: Prince of Peace…Calm my anxious heart.

Those are my thoughts. What would you add? What has been helpful to you?

 

Soul Food For Valentines Day

I don’t care if you’re married or single or widowed or dating or whatever…in my mind Valentine’s Day is a chance to remind everyone that God’s banner over us is love, that God Himself is our ultimate husband, champion, warrior, shepherd, redeemer…

What better reason to celebrate, right?!

Spoiler alert: Not to be sexist, but if you’re a guy, or if you’re in a season with toddlers and NO TIME even to go to the bathroom, or you hate recipes or being “crafty” you may want to delete this right now. Ok, I’ve warned you…now carry on.

A couple of years ago at Easter, my friend Heather gave me this vase within a vase, filled with multi-colored jelly beans on the outside. I thought it was so cute I decided to adapt the idea for Valentine’s Day. Warning: Unless you choose a candy you don’t like, it’s hard not to eat the decorations 🙁 !

I’ve made star shaped croutons to give away at Christmas before, so I thought I’d try heart shaped ones.

Parmesan Croutons

English Muffin bread

Olive flavored cooking spray (I used butter)

Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Place slices of bread on jelly roll pan and put in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove and use small heart cookie-cutter to cut croutons (I found them at Michaels).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat bread stars with cooking spray. Toss bread stars with cheese, salt, and pepper. Bake 10 minutes or til golden. Put in cellophane bag to accompany soup you drop off for a new Mama.

This salad recipe from my friend, Kitty doesn’t call for croutons, but it’s awesome and seems Valentiney 🙂

Salad part (you figure out how much 🙂 ):

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Green onion
  • Either raspberries or strawberries
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Blue Cheese
  • Candied pecans or almonds

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup raspberry vinegar

1/2 cup salad oil

1 t. salt

1 t. dry mustard

1/2 cup sugar

Blend in blender and add poppy seeds

I’m hosting a couple of gatherings over the next week so I pulled out the bunting I made last year.

 

The Most Neglected Mandate for Troubling Times

Confession: I probably gripe  5  10  15 times for every one time I pray for our leaders. Yikes!

I’m thankful I have friends like Kathy, who remind me how neglected and how important this practice is.

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2‬:‭1-4‬ NIV)

Ouch!

What if every time we started to say something critical about our leaders, we prayed for them instead?

My friend also sent this powerful prayer, written for the inauguration by Duke Kwon. I have prayed through the whole thing a couple of times, but now am going to write out a section each day in my journal to pray ig. It was written for the inauguration, but is applicable for all leaders at all times. You can just insert other names or “our leaders” if you want. I hope this will be a helpful resource for you too.

The original post appears at the Grace Church website, which can be accessed here.

GRACIOUS GOD,

We pray on behalf of our nation this day, as Mr. Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Sovereign Lord, we “lift up our eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven” (Ps. 123:1).

We pray for our new President (1 Tim. 2:1-3). As he takes the Oath of Office, we pray he may do so with humility, a clear conscience, and due consideration of the weightiness of so solemn a responsibility (Jer. 4:2Ps. 24:4). As President Trump begins the execution of the Office, we ask that you would bless him with “the fear of the Lord” — a reverent sense of dependency and accountability that would become a well-spring of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Please protect the President from the many seductions of power: the will to “win” at all costs (Mk. 10:42-45), retaliation towards enemies (Rom. 12:17-21), exploitation of the weak (Prov. 22:22), failures of faithfulness to one’s covenant of marriage (Mal. 2:14). In particular, we ask that you would guard the President’s marriage. May his devotion to his wife Melania grow and flourish.

We ask that you would give the President the character and skill to lead our nation effectively. Restrain all foolishness and evil in the meditations of his heart, the words on his lips, and the work of his hands (2 Thess. 2:7Eccl. 4:13Matt. 15:18-19). Pour into his heart such virtues as prudence, compassion, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Make him a lover of truth (Ps. 51:6). Grant him grace to repent of wrongdoing when needed (2 Tim. 2:25). We also ask that you surround the President with friends and advisors who are just and wise (Prov. 19:20).

Please direct and “channel” the President’s heart, guiding it according to your Word and will (Prov. 21:1). We pray that the policies of President Trump and his administration would promote human flourishing in our nation and around the world. We ask you to grant President Trump your justice and your righteousness (Ps. 72:1, 12-14). In the coming four years, please protect the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our nation, whether through this administration’s policies and priorities or in spite of them. Send your Spirit and pour out your loving-kindness upon the orphan (including the functionally parentless), the poor, the immigrant and the refugee, the unborn, the elderly, the racial minority (black and brown neighbors in particular), and many others who are too often diminished and forgotten (Deut. 27:19Ps. 139:13-16Prov. 14:31Zech. 7:10; Jas. 1:27). Indeed, we are bold to ask, by your kind providence, that by the end of the term of this Presidency, our nation would be by certain measures more equitable, more compassionate, more humble, more generous, and more alive to your great grace. Jesus, could you please do this? Not because we are righteous or because we deserve it, but because of your mercy (Dan. 9:17-19).

We pray for ourselves, too. We ask that you would “inaugurate” in our hearts a readiness to offer whatever honor that is due to his Office (Rom. 13:1-71 Pet. 2:17) — not least, for those who are followers of Christ, by praying for the President with earnest petitions and appropriate thanksgiving (1 Tim. 2:1-3). Help us to remain zealous to do good (Gal. 6:9). Keep us vigilant against evil (Rom. 12:21Gen. 4:7). Save us from both political triumphalism and apocalyptic despair. Sustain our hunger and thirst for righteousness and grace (Matt. 5:3-6).

And we continue to pray for our nation’s healing after a terribly divisive election. Yes, we pray for civic unity, particularly among Christians of divergent political persuasions (Jn. 17:20-21). But even more so, we ask for grace for the process by which unity is forged. We pray for truth-telling, charity, empathy, repentance, and mutual understanding. We pray not for a negative peace marked by an absence of tension or disagreement, but a positive peace marked by the presence of hope, equity, and a Godward regard for one another as fellow image-bearers. Heal us, O Emmanuel.

O Lord, on this Inauguration Day we place neither our ultimate trust nor our ultimate fears upon President Trump, a “mere mortal” whose heart is directed and re-directed by your sovereign will (Prov. 21:1Isa. 40:23Ps. 56:4; 146:3-4; Matt. 10:28). “Others besides you have ruled over us, but you alone do we worship” (Isa. 26:13). You are the King of the nations and the true Lord of history (Acts 17:26Ps. 22:28Isa. 40:21-24). Indeed, “you alone are God” (Ps. 86:10). So we gloat not; we despair not; we shrug not. King of kings, we place all our hope and trust in you.

In the name of Christ and for his glory alone,
AMEN.

 

5 Tips I’ve Learned From Great Gift-Givers

This post may be a little untimely. After all, you’re probably not thinking about Christmas shopping for next year.

But maybe you have friend with a birthday coming up and who doesn’t love giving and receiving gifts just because it’s Monday, right?

Or maybe you’re an employer who can’t give your team a raise, but wants to encourage and acknowledge their hard work.

I’m super easy to buy for because so much delights me! Give me a copy of Country Living UK to lose myself in and I’m as happy as if you had given me a car. (I’m really not a car person, so that’s probably not a fair comparison.) But not all people are so easy.

Anyway, whether you’re easy or not, don’t you know people who are just awesome gift-givers? I want to learn from them, so this past Christmas I paid close attention to gifts that particularly delighted me and made some notes.

Here’s are 5 things I came up with:

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The One Practice You May Need Most This Week

How many of you are multi-tasking right now? Admit it…

You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, listening to the guy next to you talk about his favorite Super Bowl commercial, and scrolling through this post.

Or you have CNN on the TV, while you are eating a piece of toast, feeding your toddler, and clicking back and forth between this and Twitter. Right?

Me too.

I want to do and see and hear ALL OF THE THINGS. Now.

I have a busy mind and a serious case of FOMO.

Like gawkers at an accident, I’m also perversely attracted to what outrageous thing has been said or done in our unsettled (ahem…?) political climate.

The problem with this is that it makes for a lot of noise in my little brain. A lot of different voices vying for attention.

Silence may be the most important discipline you and I need this week.

No, I don’t mean not speaking up for those without a voice. I don’t mean abdicating our responsibility to speak truth.

I mean silence as in turning off the radio. Turning off the TV news. Turning away from Twitter.

I mean making space for God. Leaning in to hear His whispers instead of the shouts of the world.

The other day I was walking around Lake of the Isles at an arctic 5 degrees. I had been listening to a podcast on my phone, but all of a sudden it stopped – frozen – and I was left with a lot of white space.

The world around me was snowy and silent. The clatter in my ears was stilled.

With this space, I found myself noticing the beauty of creation and thanking God.

Several who are experiencing injustice around the world came to mind and I prayed for them.

A new idea emerged.

The Holy Spirit prompted me to reexamine how I’m viewing a relationship.

God spoke into the silence.

Some of you reading this may be genuine candle-lighting, silence-seeking contemplatives. Bless you. That would not be me.

But my frozen phone made me think about the importance of choosing this as a discipline more often. So yesterday my Sabbath included no radio, no news, no Twitter.

Less static, more stillness.

What if, this week, we set aside time to turn off the noise, and like Samuel, said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”?

Soul Food When Injustice Seems to Overwhelm

I think this from Bustle on Instagram sums up what many of us are feeling at the end of a long week of upheaval, anxiety, and unrest.

So I’m thinking we need some good news for the weekend. 

This is my favorite picture from the week. The world is really just a small village and we belong to each other.

If you’re like me, you may resonate with the question Chris Nye poses in his article titled “Does Knowing ‘God is Sovereign’ Really Help”?

“There are times when God allows the consequences of human error to play out. And sometimes we have to suffer through it to learn, once again, to trust Him, whose kingdom and dominion never end.”

Read the whole article here.

I was so heartened to hear of lawyers offering free legal help to those immigrants confused and stuck at airports.  

But many are asking, “What can I do?” My friend Dale Hanson Bourke wrote a fantastic article titled, 6 Things Your Church Can Do During the Refugee Ban. Take a look!

And then there’s this song from the Brilliance that I want to keep playing on repeat.

When I look into the face
Of my enemy
I see my brother
I see my brother

Lastly, who can’t use a little bunny inspiration?

 

Have a great weekend, friends! Remember you’re not alone!

Theology Sound Bytes & Boundary Marker Christianity

Awhile ago I tweeted a link to an article that I thought was insightful and discerning. I didn’t agree with everything the author said. I didn’t disagree with everything. But it really made me think.

The article raised some questions about the theology of another writer and speaker who is tremendously gifted and has brought some loving correction to the church, but she is also edgy and unorthodox.  I thought it was helpful, so I passed it along.

Immediately after I put up the link to this article I got a response from one person who was relieved that I was “for” orthodoxy, and another person who was mad that I was “against” this author!  In addition I was “followed” by a group called something like “stampouthomophobia” (which had nothing to do with the article)! I just thought the article had some interesting points to consider as we all try to lead examined lives!

As John Ortberg says, we are consumed with a boundary marker Christianity – who’s in and who’s out.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about…We are all so sensitive about appearing to endorse sin, and afraid of affirming someone who’s theology isn’t EXACTLY spot on (in our eyes) that we miss the opportunity to build bridges where we can.

Theology does not lend itself well to 140 characters. The mystery and nuance of God can’t be summed up in a sound byte, or in a 500 word article. 

We were made for relationship, for theology fleshed out. What if instead of an overhead slam, our goal was to keep the tennis ball in play – to rally back and forth with respect and affirmation?

Our public discourse would be immediately improved if we didn’t assume everyone with a different political view to us was morally inferior. Sam Allbery

If we believe all truth is God’s truth (and I do), why am I afraid of affirming it in someone who is different than me?

What would happen if we majored on what we agree on rather than on what divides us?

What would happen if we affirm truth wherever we see it, even when it comes out of the mouth of a Muslim, or a transvestite or a communist?!

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This isn’t something to take lightly. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus warns us “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

We are also cautioned to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” (1 John 4:1)

But when we look at Jesus we see that He isn’t blind to the sin in the life of others, but also affirms their courage. In Luke 7, a woman who has lived a sinful life comes to the home where Jesus is having dinner and pours perfume on Jesus’ feet. When others criticize her, Jesus says,

Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.”

Those “inside the boundary markers”, with all the right words weren’t endorsed, but the otherwise “outside the boundary markers” woman was affirmed for the one thing she did that was true and right.

My wise, 86 year old aunt sent me a quote from her church the other day:

“He who realizes his sinfulness, who knows through personal experience the weakness of human nature, its inclination towards evil, that person will be quick to forgive his neighbor, pardon his neighbors offenses and will refrain from arrogant condemnation of the sins of others”  

What I feel like Jesus is impressing on me is the challenge to draw people in instead of finding ways to say they’re out. What do you think?

3 Questions For Tense Days in America

It’s been an unsettling couple weeks, hasn’t it? Kind of like someone shook up our snow globe of life and we’re trying to figure out where things are going to settle.

Sunday morning husband John and I arrived home from a trip in time to overlap briefly with our daughter and son-in-law who were in town for a wedding. We went to brunch before taking them back to the airport, talking non-stop, trying to squeeze 24 hours into our 5 hours together.

We talked a lot about the sad state of our country and the mandate we feel to do what we can to stand up for those who are being persecuted, but the tone of our conversation left me a bit troubled. Our talk was marked more by righteous indignation, anger and judgment than anything else. We shared outrageous tweets and news stories we had seen.

Later, I was reading in Acts 6 where the disciples are choosing men for special work. They look for “people whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense…”

One they choose is Stephen who is described as “full of faith and the Holy Spirit…”

Later, in verse 8 it says, “Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them.”

So, here’s the uncomfortable part. Would anyone listening to our conversation Sunday have identified me as “full of the Holy Spirit”? “Brimming with God’s grace and energy”? Not so much.

I’d be golden if a fruit of the Spirit was anger or frustration or criticism!

Yes, we need to speak truth. We need to rail against injustice. But bringing the kingdom of God will not happen if we are sucked into a vortex of CNN and Twitter madness that just fuels our anger.

To make a difference we need to be different.

We need to use different language, words marked by the grace and wisdom of Jesus.

We need to have a different spirit –  the Spirit of Jesus.

If we are to be the non-anxious presence, we need to be rooted and grounded first in Jesus.

So, 3 questions I’ve been asking myself:

  1. Am I taking time to be still, to breathe deep, to pray up, to fill up with the words of Jesus? Or am I turning first to news outlets?
  2. If someone overheard my conversation today would they note anything of Jesus in it? Anything different from the world? Am I listening with respect to the other?
  3. What does love require of me? 

“Wage peace.

Conspire justice.

Plot goodness.

Devise forgiveness.

Scheme mercy

Incite reconciliation.

Foment inclusion.

Practice resurrection.” Nathan Hamm

 

Soul Food Favorites For a Birthday Girl

Today is our daughter, Katy’s birthday. She is a thoughtful follower of Jesus. She is kind, loyal, soft-hearted, intelligent, driven, responsible…The short version of her job description as liaison between USAID and the Hill is “to make congress care about global poverty.”

In short, she’s amazing. And no, I’m not prejudiced at all. In honor of her, I thought I’d devote this post to some of her favorite things.

First, like all Crosbys, she is a West Wing groupie. Our family speaks in West Wing dialog, and watch the episode “Shiboleth” every Thanksgiving.

via GIPHY

Second, like her father, is a VORACIOUS reader. Here are two books I’ve read recently that I know she’d love. I recommend them to her and to you.

Small Great Things is an amazing fictional account of a black labor and delivery nurse, a white supremacist who accuses her of killing his baby, and a public defender. Picoult writes chapters alternately in the voice of these three characters – an incredible challenge! I thought the book helped me better understand racism, white privilege, and stereotypes. Great read!

Third, she is a foodie. She is beloved by her co-workers and interns because she is always bringing them treats. She shared this recipe that she tried recently and loved from Half Baked Harvest.

Cream of Mushroom Chicken Wild Rice Soup.

  • prep time: 15 MINUTES
  • cook time: 45 MINUTES
  • total time: 1 HOUR

yields: SERVES 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 6 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 2 ounces wild mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/2-1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Instructions

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often until the onion is soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cremini mushrooms and the wild mushrooms, cook another 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are caramelized. Stir in the thyme and cook another minute longer. Remove the pot from the heat and ladle out half of the wild mushrooms. Transfer the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Add 2 cups broth and pulse until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Return the mixture to the soup pot and add the remaining 4 cups broth plus 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to boil and stir in the rice and chicken. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and the chicken has cooked through. Shred the chicken in the pot. Stir in the milk and parmesan. Season the soup with salt + pepper. Simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes until warmed through.

Lastly, her love language is cute dogs. She knows the names of every one on her walk to work and befriends them everywhere.

So Happy Happy Birthday Sweetie, and the rest of you, have a delightful weekend with glimpses of God’s grace!

3 Things to Leave Behind When You’re Traveling Rough Roads with Someone

I am so grateful John and I get to travel a lot. But travel is not without its challenges.

We have one rule that we stick to no matter what. We never take more than a carry-on suitcase.

I don’t remember for sure, but this could have been implemented the year that John had to borrow underwear for a week when his luggage didn’t arrive in Zambia.

This afternoon I’m packing for another trip. This trip comes on the heels of losing one of our closest friends, suddenly, to a brain aneurism. It’s got me thinking…

Traveling with someone through loss, we need to travel lightly. Just like there are certain items I need to cull out in order to pack in a carry-on, there are unhelpful things we need to leave behind when we are walking through a hard time with someone.

So, here are three things I’ve learned to take out, and leave behind when going through a crisis with someone:

  1. Leave behind right to be offended. This is NOT about you. Forget your ego, your pride, your wants and prioritize what the grieving person wants. No matter what. The wife of our friend who died was wise and brave to say she didn’t want people around her right away. Close friends could have been offended, but they knew this wasn’t about them.
  2. Leave behind control/schedule. When life feels out of control, our inclination is to try to bring order. We want to do anything we can to fix things. We think we’re helping, but we need to let go of our need for control and convenience and just report for duty.
  3. Leave behind assumptions. We all know that every loss is different and everyone grieves differently, but even tiny assumptions need to be tossed. There was someone I was sure my friend would want me to call last week, to take that off her plate, but I was wrong. Other people she wanted me to call, I was surprised at.

I’ve written more about this before, but I’m interested in your thoughts. What has your experience been walking with others on rough journeys?

 

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