Book Review: Lady Dragon, Tela Du

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My author friend Kendra E. Ardnek’s newest book released yesterday, and I’m pleased to share it with you all.

Continue reading “Book Review: Lady Dragon, Tela Du”

More Of My Book: Mending (+ free wallpaper!)

More of My Book_ Mending

Happy Tuesday, lovely readers. I hope you’ve had a wonderful week.

Tuesday always creeps up on me and I almost forgot to post. But I suppose I didn’t, since I’m here now.

 

I was inspired this week by one of Ann Voskamp’s blog posts. It made me cry (in a good way), and I highly recommend reading it. Her writing is exquisite.

 

Anyway, I wanted to share the final segment of chapter one of my book. I’m at 13k right now, and because April so far has just been chaotic and impossible, I’ve brought my goal down to 20k. That doesn’t mean anything significant – it just means I’ll be writing at a more manageable pace.

 

My book is turning out to be different than I imagined, but I’m really happy with it. And my cabin mates – Hannah, Jonathan, Hann, Jessi, Anna, Rachel, another Anna, and a few others still – are some of the most encouraging people I’ve met. I’ve accomplished more than I ever would’ve without the encouragement.

 

Today’s segment is on depression. Sound depressing? Maybe. It’s a tough topic. But instead of giving us the excuse to wade neck-high in self pity over our feelings, I want us to find hope in the truth that we have to hold onto.

 

Enjoy!

 

The word depression used to frighten me. I thought of teenagers sitting alone in their rooms, wearing all black, blasting rock music, and choosing not to be happy. It was always a touchy subject in my mind, and a bit intimidating.

But then I experienced depression of my own and my entire perspective changed.

Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a bad word, nor is it entirely a bad thing. We shouldn’t act as though topics such as depression should be avoided; rather, we should confront the problems we have without shame.

The problems arise when we allow our depression to control us. Bad things happen when we let our minds wander much too far, when we allow ourselves to think such negative, distorted thoughts, and when we trade God’s truths for our feelings.

And as much as depression has become such a cultural norm, and it should not be brushed under the rug as “a ploy for attention,” we need to face it and learn how not to be consumed by it.

 

What is Depression? Can Christians Be Depressed?

 

As I’ve said before, I have nowhere near all the answers. I’m not a professional. I’m just a girl wanting to share what I’ve experienced and what I’m learning in my crazy life, and the things that have immensely helped me.

I know that depression can have multiple forms, none of which should be taken lightly.

Whether your depression is medical, clinical, or emotional, it hurts. I know it does. It hurts to feel empty. It hurts to feel like nothing matters. It hurts to feel constantly weighted by a seemingly unshakable dark cloud. It hurts, because depression is a fog, and you can’t see anything in front of you except the inky blackness. All that’s visible is the here and now, which can seem to be so overwhelming when everything feels utterly hopeless.

People often attempt to say that Christians can’t suffer from depression for the simple reason that our lives should be in total order once we’re saved. Or, that being depressed is a sin or a petty feeling and we should just get over it.

I highly disagree.

Instead, I’d say this. Christians often suffer from depression, and torture themselves over it because they believe they shouldn’t feel the pain or numbness. This only leads to feeling worse, because you can’t just whip yourself out of a mindset or condition – especially one that’s not even a spiritual problem in the first place. Healing is a process. If it’s medical or clinical depression, a person will need medical attention, and not just lectures from someone ordering them to “snap out of it.” Similarly, those with emotional depression will need time to heal. Time to rebuild the joy in their hearts. No amount of sermons, books, blog posts, lectures, or conversations can heal a tormented soul – only God can.

 

Is There Anything I Can Do About My Depression?

 

What sets us apart from the rest of the world is the fact that we have a hope to hold onto. We know that God will hold us up when our weakness is the greatest. We know that God cares for us and loves us unconditionally. We know that in our Lord, we can find true rest. We know that God’s presence is with us always. We know that in our lowest times, God still reaches us. We know that even when life is full of torment, God loves us and wants us to rely on Him for strength.

Hearing those things doesn’t make everything instantly feel better; of course it doesn’t. It may take years to grasp those concepts, even the ones found in the verses we memorized as kids. In the middle of our depression, those truths, while comforting, may seem distant or not applicable to us. This is normal. We’ve trained our minds to think things contrary to truth, and it’s only natural for it to take time for us to come back to what’s right and good.

Nevertheless, we must keep feeding our minds with what the Bible says. Thinking the thoughts that God says about us. Reading the Scriptures over and over. Praying for God to bring us through. Meditating on verses that remind us that God has a plan through it all. Believing God for the strength and peace He promises.

And while none of these things are magic, they help. And slowly, with the proper approach and by filling our minds with truth, we can begin to mend.

 

*aj

 

Still reading? Enjoy a free wallpaper!

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More of My Book! (Theme: Overcoming Anxiety)

More of My Book! (Theme_ Overcoming Anxiety)

Hi again, friends!

 

Whoa. I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday again.

 

Last Tuesday, I was in Puerto Rico with a really close friend of mine, Gabriela, and our families. It was AMAZING. Gabs and I stayed up really late writing for NaNoWriMo and blogging and talking and baking and watching movies and laughing.

 

So I miss that. A lot. Here’s a picture of us in a coffee shop drinking expensive and delicious latte frappes, all the while pretending like I would never have to go home.

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And here’s us under a nice tree with the ocean in the background, in the SWELTERING sun, trekking through famous forts and ports and such.

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I mention all this because…it was in Puerto Rico where I started writing my book.

 

Hadn’t heard the news? Yep, I’m writing a book! I shared the news last Saturday, and you can read about that here. And then, because I was really excited about it, I decided to share a portion of my first chapter of that book. Want to read it if you haven’t already? Right here.

 

As I said last Tuesday, the format and style is a little different than a regular blog post of mine. Why? Because while writing is writing, blogging and book-writing are two totally different arts. I find books to be a bit more formal, but can still take on different tones based on audiences.

 

 

So apparently, you all liked my sneak peek that I shared (???). I got so much encouragement, and it inspired me so much, so I decided to share another snippet.

 

For those of you who aren’t interested, don’t worry. My Saturday post will be a regular one, and if I continue to share sections, that’ll only be a Tuesday occurrence.

 

Today’s segment of chapter 1 is on anxiety.

 

That is, anxiety over the past, the present, the future, and how to overcome it all.

 

Anxiety Over the Past

 

Have you ever done something that you thought was a good idea at the time, and later realized how stupid it was? And then regretted it for years?

Yes, I think we all have. Whether we’ve done something that has hurt ourselves or has hurt someone else, we all have things we wish we hadn’t done. Things we feel would make life oh-so-much better if they hadn’t happened.

I can only “get” so much of what regret feels like, seeing as though I’m only a teenager, but we all have things that weigh on us because we feel guilty.

And for a lot of us, we can become anxious because of it, and for a few reasons.

We may be afraid that healing is impossible. We may be afraid that we’ll never be forgiven. We may be afraid that we’ll repeat our mistakes. These are valid feelings and fears – but we cannot live bogged down by what is in the past.

Anxious fear, while it is completely legitimate and we should not try to explain it away, is not to be suffered in alone.

God has made us new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He does not count our pasts against us, so why should we do it of ourselves?

Why should we live chained to the fear that we’ll mess up again?

Why should we live so caught up in what is over and done that we miss what is right in front of us?

God has forgiven us, and He wants to see us forgive ourselves. To move on, to focus on the greater things He has for us.

Oh, again, this isn’t some easy task that requires the push of a button and three clicks of our heels. Healing from anxiety over the past takes time, but God loves us and His patience never runs out on us. He’s always there for us to come back to and see our worth, to see that we’re forgiven, to see that we’re loved, and to know that He will never leave us to handle our problems alone.

 

Anxiety Over the Present

 

Present anxiety seems to me to be the toughest to deal with.

The panic of, “What am I doing?!” and “Where am I supposed to be?” and “How do I know if people actually care about me?”

Friends, I know what it feels like.

I know what it feels like to sit paralyzed, holding the phone, not knowing if I should call someone because I’m terrified to be rejected.

I know what it’s like to lay in my bed and cry for what feels like an eternity because I’m so afraid I’m going to mess up my life.

I have felt every ounce of pain when I’m convinced I must be doing the wrong thing, or I picked the wrong career path, or I’ve come so far that I can’t be fixed.

It’s paralyzing and petrifying, and that’s when I’m the most anxious.

See, I know the Bible says to be anxious for nothing in Philippians 4, and that by prayer, we should let our requests be known to God and He will give us peace.

I know all the verses. I know I should cast my cares on Him because He really does care for me.

But when I am in the middle of it, I freeze. I forget that there is a solution to my misery. I forget that I am loved and counted righteous no matter what I do. I feel like I have no hope.

But my feelings are incorrect. The feelings – those same feelings that are such a part of my personality – are wrong about one thing: Truth.

The truth that God will never leave me or forsake me, especially when I’m struggling, is never more true than when I feel like I’m alone.

The truth that I am loved with an everlasting love is not conditional, for it does not change when I feel unlovable.

The truth that I can be content and have joy in all situations is not dependent on my material possessions or circumstances, but upon a God who does not change.

When I feel the most anxious over what’s going on in my life, when I’m paralyzed with fear, and when it hurts like it never has before, the promises of God still stand.

 

Anxiety Over the Future

 

I once was utterly panicked over where I’d be in the years ahead.

In middle school and in the years before, I had absolutely no desire to go to college because I was afraid that I’d change my mind about what I wanted to do.

One day, I wanted to be a teacher. The next, I wanted to be a hairdresser. A week later, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and a little after that, I decided writing was much too difficult and I’d like to simply be a mother instead.

Thinking about the future – five, ten, fifteen years in advance – sent me into a bit of a panic. What if I get a degree in something that I decide I hate? What if the first day on my dream job is a flop and I start questioning my existence? What if I fail? What if I never marry?

And the panic-filed “what-ifs” cluttered my mind until my future planning almost became nonexistent.

Of course I knew that anxiety wasn’t really healthy for me. Of course I’d been told that God was in control. But did I believe it? I don’t know if I did.

Somewhere in my mind, and I assume in the minds of others, we think that we have to do everything alone. I think we have it in our minds that God holds the future, but hold in our hearts the burden that we have to handle everything ourselves. While this seems like such a paradox, it’s a prevalent mindset.

In a way, it’s connected to the stress ordeal – we think we must handle everything, know everything, be in control. But we don’t.

The best liberation from anxiety over the future is knowing that God is bigger than anything. He is bigger than our stress, He is bigger than our anxiety and fears. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing is too hard for Him to handle.

But what about our pain? What about the fact that life is really scary and unpredictable, and so many times we really don’t know what to do?

Pain exists. Anxiety is real. But God is more powerful than anything we struggle with, and He is worthy of our trust. He’ll never let us down.

It’s not worth it to live in a state of anxiety, yet in those times, we must cling to God the most instead of running from Him. Can life be terrifying? Absolutely. But nothing is terrifying to God. He wants us to run to Him in our pain so that we can grow in our relationship with Him.

Is it hard? Yeah, it is. And I won’t pretend that I know it all or that I have a perfect life.

But whatever the state of our lives may be, God does not change. He always wants us to look to Him in the midst of our problems. No, we can’t do this life alone – and that, friends, is alright.

*aj

Sneak Peek of My Book!

Sneak Peek of My Book!

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

 

On Saturday, I announced to you all that I am writing a book. Aaahh! I’m really excited, and I am having a ridiculous amount of fun with it.  And what better way to kick off the excitement than to share a sneak peek of the first chapter that I’m writing?

 

My first chapter is about stress, anxiety, and depression, and effectively dealing with it. While this may seem dismal, fear not! I decided to write this book, specifically dealing with issues pertaining to the Christian life, in order to confront the tough things we all face.

 

So while some topics may seem more serious or somber, I want to share this message: there is always hope, and God will never abandon us.

 

I hope you enjoy this excerpt. The writing style is slightly more formal than what I use here, on Scattered Journal Pages, because I’m not quite sure who my audience will wind up being for my book. Who knows where I’ll be by the end!

 

Stress: Parts 1 and 2 of Chapter 1

 

If you’d mentioned the word “stress” to me when I was a preteen, I would’ve laughed and said that it probably wasn’t that bad, whatever it was like. If you’d slipped the words “anxiety” or “depression” into a conversation, I might have solemnly said, “Oh, Christians don’t deal with those things.” But I would have been undeniably wrong.

Whether you deal with any of these things or you don’t, or whether your depression or anxiety is medical or emotional, all these things are real. They’re painful, and there is no questioning the fact that they exist. However, they don’t have to undo us. They don’t have to ruin our lives.

 

Stressing Over Work, School, and Life in General

 

When I started high school, I had no idea what I was in for. I was sure I wouldn’t survive. So many days, I did school from 8 A.M. until 10 P.M., with only a few breaks, and I was utterly overwhelmed. I was terrified of failure, terrified of a B, terrified that I wouldn’t learn or something ridiculous like that. I was so scared that I would not get everything done, and of course I did, but I barely made it.

It was awful.

School became where I got my identity, and not who I knew God saw me as; that was poisonous. I placed so much of my worth on how much work I got accomplished, and for that year and the next, stress became my way of life.

I was absolutely miserable.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe your job’s got you tied up and it consumes every thought. You’re a workaholic. Or like in my case, a schoolaholic. Maybe your living situation isn’t the greatest and it weighs on you emotionally. I get it, because I’ve been there.

But that’s not what God wants for any of us.

Anything that takes up most or all of our thought life becomes greater than God in our finite minds. I don’t mean to condemn at all, because I understand what it’s like entirely.

Stress is like an ache, something that gnaws at the depth of your soul. It’s that pit in your stomach that manifests itself when you’re lying in bed and you remember all the things you need to accomplish. It consumes every thought, and every decision is made with whatever is wrong in the back of your mind.

It is so painful, so often unbearable, but many times, it seems inescapable.

And that’s what’s the worst of it.

 

But we are not without hope.

 

Stress Over Things out of Your Control

           

I think a lot. Many times, I worry about other people’s problems and forget that they can be handled by the people whose problems they are. Or maybe they can’t be handled. But it’s alright.

Sometimes I think that I must be responsible for everyone else, and every problem in the world, and that so often causes me uncalled-for stress and pressure.

I’m not talking about “bearing each others burdens,” as Galatians 6:2 says. I think it’s absolutely wonderful to help others, to have compassion, to pray for them, and to support them in their times of need. That is a beautiful thing, and something none of us can live without.

What I am speaking about is when we’re constantly letting ourselves be consumed by things that we have absolutely no power over, be it another’s poor life choices, the happenings in politics, or things that go on in the world.

But it’s not our responsibility to “fix it.” Oftentimes, that’s such a difficult stress to overcome, and simply because we can do absolutely nothing about it.

For us Christians, we don’t have to let that stress overtake us.

Because we know that the world is in the hands of God.

And while it’s definitely not easy, it’s possible to leave the weight of the world on God’s shoulders and not our own. We know that He sees all. We know that He wants the best for us. Yet, we spend days worrying and nights sleepless over what we cannot change.

The evil in the world is not of God’s orchestration; it is because of sin. We live in a fallen world, and we can’t expect it to always be good.

We have pain, we suffer. But this world is not our home, and the way the world works is out of our control.

By prayer and trust in God, let us let go of the misconception that says that we need to handle it all; we don’t.

We have to let God be God, and let Him be in control.

 

So, what do you think? Would you want any more excerpts of chapter 1 this month? Let me know in the comments!

 

*aj

 

BONUS:

I made a wallpaper for my iPod yesterday, and wanted to share it because I thought it really fit. This is one of my favorite Bible verses ever. And oh my word, graphic design is so. much. fun.

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.