Day 24: Practice

How did it go? 

Another week, another “Therapy Friday.” For the first time in a few weeks, I didn’t leave wiping away tears. (I’ve noticed I still struggle to make eye contact with my therapist though. Is this normal?) Whatever clicked yesterday (or when I was in California) seems to have stayed.

I feel more confident in my abilities. I have a better idea of what I want. I feel more empowered, more capable, to change my current environment.

I feel a little more at peace with myself.

I’ve also started reading my Bible differently.

What did I learn?

It’s interesting what you can learn from the unlikeliest of places. The Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast reads Harry Potter “as if it is a sacred text.” (Note: as if. It does not treat the novels as a Bible.) The hosts discuss one chapter a week through a specific theme, and they use sacred reading practices to analyze pieces of the text.

Regardless of how you may feel about using sacred reading to read Harry Potter, the podcast has actually taught me new reading practices for reading my Bible. My favorite reading practice they use is lectio divina.

The practice is adjusted for reading the novels—the hosts choose a short passage, discuss what is literally occurring in that moment of the text, discuss what the text could mean allegorically, discuss what that particular passage reminds them of, and then discuss what the passage calls them to do.

Reading my Bible in this way has made me feel closer to God. It has made me feel that certain passages are speaking to me, that I can find meaning in places I didn’t think I could before.

I’ve decided to work through the book of James and start from the beginning. While I am not very far along (since I just started), I’ve already noticed a difference in the way I approach my Bible reading time. I credit this reading to helping me maintain some positivity, even when I don’t know if I can.

Most of all, I’ve learned when we don’t know how we can push on, God will be there to help us to our feet.

Days 20 & 21: Small Faith

How did it go?

Yesterday marked Day 20 in my 30-day positivity challenge, which means I am almost “done.” My goal, though, is to not be done with positivity just because the challenge itself is over. I was (and still am) hoping the challenge could transform, or help transform, the way I think and process through my anxiety and depression. I can feel the change that just trying to think positively has brought on, and that has made a difference in my overall outlook.

Having said that, I am combining Day 20 and Day 21 for a few reasons. The first is because yesterday was an emotional day that I needed to process. I had a friend visit me at my dad’s last night and we were all up until midnight, chatting. Between the emotions and the late night, I was tuckered out. The second reason is because today is yet another day of travel. This time, I’m heading back to the East Coast (“home”). While I have layovers, I won’t make it home until past midnight, and, even though I’ll sleep on the flights, I’ll be exhausted. Plus, let’s face it, I can only do so much positive reframing of flying before I’m lying to myself. (I hate flying. It gives me a ton of anxiety. I think it’s a control thing.)

Like I said, I can feel even a small change come over me when I work to reframe my thoughts into positivity. It’s somewhere between a fog and a physical feeling of being lighter. It just provides me a better way to go about my day: my tears come to a halt (though maybe not abruptly), my heart rate (sort of) slows down, I can breathe a little easier. Maybe the biggest change in feeling, though, is the feeling like my brain has changed.

Everything we think releases chemicals in our brain, and focusing on negativity can quickly drain our brain of its life force. In fact, negative thinking literally programs our brains to receive negative chemicals, making you more likely to be negative. In other words, it can turn into a constant cycle.

No matter what happens, I don’t want to be in that cycle.

What did I learn?

As usual, I need to reprogram myself to speak with God and listen to Him consistently each day. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I think that acknowledging that it’s a need is the first step.

Part of positivity is “keeping your head up.” That is, believe in the best possible outcome. It’s amazing what simple belief can do.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. – Matthew 17:20 (NKJV)

How powerful, right!? Just a tiny bit of faith can move mountains! I am determined to have that faith. But it’s something I can only achieve if I meet with God each day.

I want to also say this: note that Jesus did not say “and it will move immediately.” He only said it would move. In that word (or, really, the lack of a word), I am reminded that everything will happen in God’s timing. The mountain will move, even if it doesn’t happen immediately. Heck, it will move, even if it seems so incremental we can’t even see it. But our faith will move it because He is on our side.

What do you need believing for right now? What mountain do you need your mustard seed sized faith to move? I encourage you to plant that small seed of faith and see what fruit grows.

Day 19: It Isn’t Over Yet

How did it go?

I went to my first Oakland Athletics game in (roughly) 5 years with my dad today, and, though I got a little sunburned, I was not disappointed.

We were playing the Minnesota Twins, and they had a good lead. Before the second inning had even begun, we were down 3 – 0. At the 3rd inning, we scored 2 runs, and by the end of the 8th inning it was a tied game: 5 – 5.

The game ended in the 12th inning with an Athletics walkoff home run. The final score was 6 – 5.

At the top of the 11th inning, my dad suggested we get going. We had been in the sun since we got there, we were burned, and it appeared the game may not end in our favor. “But it’s not over yet!” I told him, on the edge of my seat, hands clasped together, waiting.

He chuckled and told me, “alright, let’s give it one more, how’s that?”

Of course, we were glad we stayed. We saw that winning home run, got to watch the team rush the field, got to clap with the rest of the fans.

We got to see the end because we chose to just give it a little bit longer. We got to see the end because we decided it would be worth it.

What did I learn?

We have to stay faithful.

If we give in because of what we cannot see, we will miss the miracles God has in store for us. If we trust only the scoreboard of us against the enemy and forget about the capabilities we have, we will give in too soon, and we won’t be available for whatever comes next.

The Athletics could have given up. A baseball game is “supposed” to only be 9 innings. At the bottom of the 9th, the team could have decided this is pointless; we won’t be able to score; let’s stop doing our best. But they didn’t. They knew they had fans who had come to see them, who were cheering for them. Because they didn’t give up in outfield, they continued to perform at bat, and they eventually won.

If we feel defeated and we allow that defeat to take root, we will stop trying (outfield). If we stop trying, stop listening to God and communicating with Him daily (at bat), we will be unable to win any battle brought against us.

And know there are always others cheering for you. God, for one. But others, too. Strangers who are going through something similar and who also hope for freedom or answers. Family and friends who want to see you do more than just survive. Those people are not going to go home, no matter how late the innings go. Because they want what you do: hope, freedom, miracles.

As my dad used to joke with me, “it ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings.”

Don’t let the scoreboard determine your fate. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe. Don’t give up on the dreams God has given you. It isn’t over until God decides it is.

Are you looking at the scoreboard thinking you won’t win? What battle are you fighting that God wants you to win? What miracle are you waiting on?

Remember: it only takes one really good hit for that ball to fly through the air and the stands and be a home run.

So let God guide your hit and you’ll hit it out of the park.

Day 18: God Knows Who I Am

How did it go?

Another day of travel. This time, though, it was to visit family.

I didn’t realize how hard it might be on my heart to visit. I always cry when I see my dad, because I usually have a long time between visits, and this time was no different. Coming back also brought me back to when my relationship began.

The few hours I’ve been “home” have brought on a lot of emotions.

I’ve also realized whatever I am going through has helped me connect more with my dad.

Maybe I am beginning to see the small blessings in everything.

I also came across an article today while sitting in the airport on healing anxiety, and I found it pretty powerful. I think I am going to take some of the advice about writing and health and see where it takes me. Maybe if I feel I am dedicating time to my writing (and thereby my spiritual body) and maybe if I feel better about my physical body, I will begin to feel better overall.

What did I learn?

While on the airplane, I was able to journal a bit, and I was able to continue to see what gives me anxiety.

I don’t really know who I am.

Day 11 of this challenge was about researching myself, and I think that’s something that will continue. I know, you’re thinking well, duh, you don’t just find yourself overnight. I think I was hoping I would.

For a while now I have felt that, at 25, I’m supposed to know who I am and exactly what I want in life. I guess that’s part of the whole needing to plan everything part of myself. As it turns out, I may not know exactly what I want or who I am.

And that’s okay.

So I’m going to do more than research myself—I’m going to experiment. I’m going to pray for guidance, direction, and self-discovery. Because God knows who He wants me to be.

Day 17: When We Aren’t Looking

How did it go?

Has something ever happened that made you feel God is leading you in a certain direction? Maybe you’ve prayed about something for a while, and nothing seems to be happening, then all of a sudden, when you’re not thinking about it, something happens.

That was me today. (Kind of.)

Today was one of those days where this cool, positive thing happened, and it made the rest of my day easier. Because that’s what I focused on.

Another positive thing? My Week One recap of this positivity challenge was published on Odyssey Online two days ago! I am pretty proud of how it turned out, so that definitely gave me some positive vibes.

Other than that, in all honesty, today was relatively boring. But I did learn something.

What did I learn?

God works most especially when we aren’t focused on and begging for a specific outcome.

I stopped looking for this thing. I continued to pray, but I spoke positivity over it. I stopped talking about it to others. I even stopped trying to not be so frustrated that it wasn’t where I was.

Then it happened.

Nothing is done or finalized, but I do feel He is guiding me in the direction He needs me to be right now.

He wants us to relax, find peace with Him, before we can move forward.

Maybe some days I need boring in order to find calmness, contentment, and to be able to move forward.

Day 16: Preparation

How did it go?

There are some days that things just hit you and you’re overwhelmed with…maybe not calm, but a sense of…relief?

I had a moment today where I just completely broke down. And I mean broke. I sat in a crumpled heap on the floor of my hotel room and cried as I struggled to change my outfit. I had gone where I was supposed to go, done what I was told to do…and, yet, it still wasn’t right, still wasn’t enough. And as I sat there in a crumpled, defeated, ruined make-up heap, bawling into the phone to my mother, asking why I couldn’t do anything right…something came over me.

This isn’t it.

That’s when that sense of relief hit me. I finally realized I can’t do it anymore. I’m made for something else.

And as I poured my heart out to my mother, my only ear right now, I realized…I am sick. Every day I wake up afraid, nauseous, with a pounding headache. Sure, my anxiety and depression are partly to blame, I will admit that. But it’s more than that.

I hate to say it, especially since I love describing things in writing, but it’s difficult to explain. But after that incident, faking smiles throughout the rest of the day, performing who I am for others…it was easier. Because I knew something they didn’t.

There are better things in store.

What did I learn? 

God will often allow us to feel the pain of our pasts, of our choices, to show us, to convince us, we aren’t where He desires us to be. I say allow because He can take our pain away, but sometimes we need that pain as a reminder when we aren’t listening.

I have never felt that more fully than I did today.

Do I feel guilty? Yes. Because I took risks I didn’t have to take for a dream I thought God had given me. But that guilt can be used to an advantage: a lesson. It can teach me how to overcome obstacles and recover from my mistakes.

I realize, too, that if it weren’t for my faith, what I struggle with on a day-to-day basis would make me feel I don’t have value. But I do. Because my God says I do. My God has told me I have gifts, talents, and things to offer. My God has given me dreams. I may have strayed, but He is still with me, guiding me.

I hear a still, small voice in my head in a lot of moments throughout the day: patience.

Patience in just about everything is vital, but none more so than when you are waiting on God to move. He will make sure you are ready; He won’t allow anything if you aren’t.

It won’t be easy to be positive in an environment I thoroughly don’t enjoy. But my positivity will come from God, knowing He is preparing me for something.

So, if you’re struggling, let me encourage you. Maybe God is preparing you.

Day 14: A Day in the Moment

How did it go?

When I got home after work yesterday, I got out of my car to find a very flat tire. The flat probably accounted for the loud bang I heard as I exited the freeway, which I took to be me running over something pretty solid.

AAA came by to put on the spare, and I drove it down to the tire store. This morning, I got the call it was fixed—the tire just needed a patch.

Thank God for small positive things.

But the best part of the day was walking Belle to the tire place (because how else was I going to get there and get my car?). It was a cooler day today, for once not extremely hot and humid, and she seemed to have so much fun on the walk. I also noticed that, while she did want to run after some bunnies, by the time we got to the part of the walk it was vital for her to pay attention (since we were next to a freeway and busy street), she walked well and behaved. She definitely isn’t the same as she was when we first moved (in a good way).

It made me proud of how I’ve trained her. Much like a parent smiles at their child when the child finally grasps a concept, I couldn’t stop smiling at Belle. I am just so proud.

Because of the car, though, I worked from home today. Just having Belle lay at my feet while I worked was an incredibly calming feeling. I chuckled at her intermittent groans when she stretched; I smiled and leaned down to pet her when I would get up to stretch; I laughed when she insisted on squishing onto the couch next to me and one of the cats.

Today, then, was just about being present in the moment, whatever that meant. It felt weird, almost unnatural, because I’m so used to planning everything. At the same time, though, it was a bit of a relief—as if someone had given me permission to not have to look ahead for right now—and that was just fine.

What did I learn?

It’s okay to simply be in the moment. What matters is what you do with that.

Meditation, especially on God’s word, is going to be vital for me. I need to get back to my Bible study. I need to have conversations with God. I need to stop just telling Him what I want, because He already knows my heart; instead, I need to be quiet and not drown Him out.

I need to slow down and be in the moment more. I’m just still figuring out how to do that, what it means.

That’s how I’m learning to be positive.

What do you do to slow down? How to you talk with God? And how do you know when you hear Him?