Enough: my battle with the hustle, the stress, and the busy, and how I found rest

Enough.jpg

It’s Saturday morning.

 

Rainy and chilly, I tiptoe across the living room carpet, coffee in hand, hair thrown haphazardly into a messy bun. I breathe.

 

After a week of running fast and hard, it’s finally quiet. No more hustle. Just me. It’s a refreshing change of pace, but I find my mind spinning with thoughts to make up for the lack of stimulation in tasks, math problems, and meals to cook.

 

I think about how much I absolutely adore New York City. I love the noise, the lights, the crowds, the pace. I’m enamored with the culture, the resilience, the opportunities.

 

But maybe, sometimes, I identify with it a little too much? I fill my life with faster, louder, more, more, more. I say YES and tack more onto my to-do list, put more friends and meetings on my calendar, apply to serve in my church more and more and more and more – and then I collapse. Hard.

 

Because I tell myself I can’t rest, I shouldn’t take the time to be refreshed. And it’s not as though I don’t rest – just that often, those times are laden with feelings of guilt.

 

Because don’t I need to do more? Be more? Write more? Work more? Study more? Sing more? Don’t I need to prove that I can be independent, capable, and strong? That I can meet people’s expectations?

 

Don’t I need to prove that I’m enough? Continue reading

How to Help a Hurting Friend

How to Help a Hurting Friend

Maybe I talk about hurt too much. Maybe I’ve mentioned depression and stress and anxiety and failure so often that I sound like I need serious help.

 

If I do, I’m sorry.

 

But we can’t ignore pain.

 

As I sit here at my computer, I’m gazing out the window at the wet earth around me.

It’s been raining for days. A bone-chilling draft penetrates my skin, enough so that nothing warms me, not even my cup of coffee, and my beef stew is long-since hot.

 

Sometimes, that’s what hurt feels like, whether it’s mental, emotional, or physical.

 

It’s uncomfortable, and not something easily shaken away. Pain lingers, with no button to press or Band-Aid to put on to make it all better.

 

I’ve been on both sides of hurt. I’ve had friends in need, and I myself have had times like those as well.

 

Perhaps you’re mainly on the other side of things; watching friends suffer, and not knowing how to help them. Or maybe you’re the hurting one. Maybe people see you in need of help and ask, “What can I do for you?” and you simply respond, “Nothing, I’m good,” with a fake smile plastered on, reminiscent of Barbie.

 

But no matter how strong we are, or at least how strong we pretend to be, we’re all weak on the inside. We all need people around us to support us and help us to heal.

 

Are you wondering how to help a hurting friend? Here are three ways.

 

Pray For Them.

 

There’s nothing more beautiful and powerful than prayer. When a friend tells you, “I’ve been praying for you,” it’s touching. To think that someone would take the time to implore the Creator of the universe on our behalf is one of the kindest things we can hear.

Yes, because it’s a thoughtful gesture, but more so because we know that prayer works. Perhaps not always in the fix-it-quick way we might think, but in the way that God knows is best.

 

Sometimes, I can feel that someone’s been praying for me, when a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I just feel free.

It’s a blessing to get a text a little while later, saying, “Hey Amanda, I prayed for you today. How are you doing?”

 

Wow.

 

James 5:16

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

 

Stay With Them.

 

It’s almost hypocrisy to flee upon finding out someone’s aching, after promising to be there for them.

 

It’s easy to walk out of a friendship when the person’s fallen into difficult days, for it requires no energy on our part.

But please, I beg of you, if you want to help your hurting friend, stick by them. Stay alongside them when they tell you they’re “fine.” Don’t judge them when they refuse help – sometimes, they’re just testing you to see if you’ll remain by their side, because it’s what they really need.

 

Don’t give up on your friend. Forgive them if they’ve damaged your friendship. Keep loving them, even when they act like they don’t want to be loved. Trust me, they do.

 

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

 

Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

Encourage Them.

 

Encouragement is incredible. It has an innate power to keep us running when we want to give up. It inspires us to push on toward our goals. It motivates us to get out of bed in the morning because we know we are cared for.

 

Whether sharing Bible verses, sweet, comforting words, sending a care package or letter, or just letting someone know that they’re not alone, encouragement of all kinds is a blessing.

 

To your hurting friend (or perhaps even you), it may mean the world.

 

And don’t give up. Keep encouraging them and lavishing the love of Christ on your friend.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

 

*aj

There Is Always Grace

There Is Always Grace

 

I’ve been really stressed out this week.

 

You’d think that for a girl who wrote about stress as the very first topic in her book, that I’d be all set.

 

But I’m not.

 

People that try to say that stress is nonexistent are wrong, because it totally does exist. And I’m wary to admit it, but stress does consume me sometimes, especially on weeks like this.

 

(I promise I won’t talk about my problems too much; I just want to give you guys some background.)

 

Most of you know that I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I was doing great, but then I had a week of driver’s ed.

 

That was all last week. Six hours a day, five days in a row, on what was supposed to be my vacation. It wasn’t terrible, it really wasn’t, but it completely sapped my energy and I wrote a total of 300 words in that entire week, when I can usually write 300 in ten minutes. A writing rut, folks.

 

*cue dramatic sighing*

 

Plus, I have some things going on Friday through next week and I’m a little frazzled.

 

Well, maybe “a little” is an understatement. But I digress.

 

The point I want to make here is that as Christians, we try to come up with all these “cures” and “reliefs” for stress, when in reality, we’re only masking the problems. Things like “believing harder” or “confessing our sinfulness” or something.

 

We’re not really dealing with the issue of being stressed, we’re just telling ourselves that we shouldn’t be. But that isn’t fixing anything.

 

Before you write me off as super-religious, vague, and unhelpful, let me attempt to explain what I mean.

 

Stress, in and of itself, is not bad. In fact, it can be helpful when trying to achieve a goal. Deadlines are beneficial, and a little extra adrenaline never hurt anyone. Stress can motivate us to just do it.

 

But the scary part comes in when we’re so overwhelmed by stress that we let it overtake us. We let our feelings consume us and blind us to the hope we have.

 

Instead of letting stress dictate how we live our lives, we can live in grace. We can know that failing does not make us failures, as I wrote about on Saturday. We can know that we are loved no matter what we do, instead of thinking that our worth is based on our performance. We can know that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love.

 

I believe that much of our stresses revolve around having to get things done.

 

For me, this week, it’s studying enough for my test on Monday, completing 6,000 more words before Saturday, and juggling life on top of that.

 

Part of me is screaming “I CAN’T DO ALL THIS!” because it probably is too much, in the first place. But the other part of me is listening to the lies that are telling me it’s the end of the world if:

1) I fail my test,

2) I don’t get 6k written by the end of the week,

3) I miss another commitment,

4) I keep forgetting to respond to my emails,

5) I don’t write one blog post,

6) I let my friends down,

7) I don’t get to read quickly through the books people are depending on me to review.

 

I have this weight that’s pulling me down, because I feel like I have to do everything, and everything flawlessly. Is that possible? No. Do I make myself try anyway, and crush myself in the process? Why yes, yes I do. Is it smart or wise? Absolutely not. Do I know this? Yes, I do.

 

So what is wrong with me???

 

I have let stress overtake me and affect my thoughts.

 

I have decided to forget the truths in the Bible that remind me that I need not be perfect. I’ve forgotten the fact that my sins, NEVERMIND MY TEENY LITTLE MISTAKES, were all covered at The Cross. I’ve forgotten that the problems of the world are not my own, that I’m not responsible for other people, that it won’t kill off the world’s population if I take a little break from blogging.

 

God’s truths of grace and love do not depend on how well I live my life. If they did, I’d be in trouble. His grace stands in the places where I need it most, and His love endures when I feel the most unlovable.

 

Maybe I’m writing this post just for me today. Maybe I’m the only one that needs to remember that stress doesn’t have to control every hour of my life.

 

Maybe I’m the only one that needs a reminder of renewed grace for each day. Maybe I’m the only one that needs to be encouraged, especially when I do fail (because I’m very far from perfect).

 

Maybe I’m the only one that needs to be reminded to do MY best, and not necessarily expect myself to do THE best. I’ll do the best I can, but not beat myself up over what I wasn’t capable of.

 

But if that’s you too, please know that you’re not alone.

 

If you’re stressed out of your mind, I won’t try to “fix it,” I’ll only say this. You are not alone. You do not have to handle everything yourself; take some pressure off. And I promise, there is always grace for you.

 

*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.

 

Dealing With Stress: It’s Not As Hard As You Think

Dealing With Stress

 

Good morning, friends.

 

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a few weeks now. As a side note, tomorrow (February 17th) is my blogiversary! I’ve been writing here for 364 days so far, and what a journey it’s been.

 

I’m going to try to have a nice post up celebrating that tomorrow, with a survey and such…but we’ll see how it goes.

 

This year, blogging has made my life busier. I’m more consumed with writing, responding to comments, practicing with graphic design, meeting new people and staying in touch with them…all that crazy fun stuff.

 

And this is on top of schoolwork (which can drive me up the wall with discouragement at times), editing (which can hassle me with my perfectionism and procrastination), working, practicing music, and trying to take time for me.

 

Needless to say, my life can get stressful, and mostly for the pressure I put on myself. And my stress can lead to depression and discouragement. The more stressed I get, the less I want to work hard, and the less hard I work, the more stressed I get because nothing’s getting done.

 

Exasperating system, right?

 

I’m not going to keep boring you all with my woes, though. I just want to address a flaw that I’ve seen in my own life.

 

Distraction.

 

When I’m stressed, I do one of a few things.

I mope or hide.

I listen to music.

I find some book to lose myself in.

I watch YouTube videos (all good ones, mind you) or TV.

 

Basically, I turn my distractions up to drown out my life.

 

But when it comes to the end of the TV show, or the song, or the end of the book, and I’m woken back up to reality, I realize that nothing has changed. I haven’t improved my condition; I’ve enhanced it by drawing it out longer. And that is the worst feeling in the world.

 

When I use distractions – like adding more busyness to my already-hectic life – I’m essentially saying to God, You’re not enough for me. You can’t handle this, I can. My distractions can fix me, and You can’t.

 

Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not the right attitude.

 

And I know this is wrong. I totally know. I totally know I’m doing myself so much more harm than good. I know, I know, I know. But at some point in my life, that whole “Jesus is enough for me” thing seemed to be just talk, because I didn’t understand how to apply it.

 

We as Christians can waltz around, saying things like, “All you need is Jesus, and your life will be good.” Or “If you only pray, your situation will improve.” And “God will turn your life from messy to perfect.”

 

Cliché, right? And yet we say them. I mean, I suppose those first two statements could be stretched to be kind of right, but when we speak them literally, we completely deceive ourselves.

 

It’s 100% true that Jesus fills that hole in our hearts for meaning.

It’s 100% true that God has everything under control.

It’s 100% true that prayer works.

It’s 100% true that God takes us as we are, messy and sinful, and transforms our lives.

It’s 100% true that He never abandons us.

 

But He doesn’t give us easy lives.

Prayer isn’t like writing a wish list to Santa Claus or pressing a button on a vending machine.

He doesn’t (normally) speak to us in an audible voice.

He isn’t “magical” or like some genie.

 

But He does long for us to know Him.

He does speak to us in our hearts.

He does provide for our needs.

He does love us with an everlasting love.

And He can (and does!) heal our souls.

 

When we have problems, we shouldn’t hide from the God who knows what they’re like.

We shouldn’t try to handle things on our own, because quite frankly, we can’t.

 

Now, you know I can say all these things, and you can nod your little head, but just talking about something doesn’t help when it comes to practical life.

 

What should we do when we’re stressed out, depressed, discouraged, lonely, feeling hopeless, anxious, or downcast? What?

 

Pray. Cry out to God. Accept His strength.

This is our chance to say, “God, I cannot do this on my own, and I need your strength to sustain me.”

 

 

Psalm 34:17-18

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

 

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Listen to the truths in the Word of God (aka the Bible). Find refuge in Him, rather than yourself.

 

Psalm 30:5

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

 

Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

 

Psalm 119:114

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.”

 

Psalm 91:1-2

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

 

Okay, prayer and Bible is great…but we know that already. What else can we practically do to take control of our feelings?

 

Prioritize.

 

While this isn’t necessarily spiritual advice, it’s definitely helped me. For me, prioritizing means making a list (yes, a real list on paper with a pencil) of things I need to get done overall. And then, setting manageable daily goals to accomplish those goals.

If it’s still too overwhelming, I rethink my priorities.

 

Is there anything I can cut out or take a break from? Is there anything I can change my mind about and say, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do ___ right now?” Is there anything that I can put less time or effort into?

 

God doesn’t want us to be stressed. He wants us to rest in Him, and not freak out over our messy lives. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to rest.

 

And lastly…

 

Build time in for rest.

 

Rest can take all types of different forms. This may be watching TV, pursuing a hobby, hanging out with friends, or taking time just to chill out and do nothing. This isn’t wrong. It’s good to take time to breathe, and good to take time to do what you love. There is no shame in that.

 

Take time to rest, take mental breaks, but of course, don’t use those things to disguise real pressure. Deal with the pressure, and additionally, take time to unwind and relax.

 

Live refreshed. Pressures come, absolutely. But when we can control some of our stress, we should. When we are stressed, we need to turn to God and find the peace that we need. Trust me, it’s there.

 

Never forget that God is always in control, and stress doesn’t have to be.

 

*aj

Where Does Your Strength Come From?

Where Does Your

I think this is one of the most honest posts I’ve ever written. It’s nerve-wracking to post something so open, and even though I’ve talked to so many of you through comments and emails and everything, it isn’t easy to be straightforward. But here I am, and here’s my post. I hope it encourages you.

 

I’m not always sure how people perceive me, whether online or in real life. Like, what’s the impression people get when they read what I write or listen to me talk? Am I quirky? Confident? Cold? Bubbly? Fake? Scared?

 

I don’t know exactly how people see me, but I know how I see myself so many times.

 

Stressed. Weak. Afraid. Uneasy. Uncomfortable. Anxious. Frozen. Apprehensive. Shall I go on?

 

In my prayer journal this week, I wrote this.

 

“Please give me strength to face this day, this year, this life. I can’t do it on my own.”

 

It’s not as though there are too many major things going on in my life. In my head, of course, I run through a million things I need to do, tests to study for, situations and people to pray for, words I need to write, things I need to practice, jobs I need to do for people, how much I need to work, how long it’s okay to spend reading.

 

And it stresses me out.

 

The more pressures I’m put under, the weaker and more vulnerable I feel. I feel these ugly doubts creep up into my mind, that say things like, who do you think you are? A ‘writer?’ Blogging doesn’t even count.  A musician? An editor? *laughs* You think you could actually ever be good at any of those things?

 

I never voice these things out loud, but I hear them.

 

And when I become conscientious of these thoughts, I realize, wow. I really can’t do this by myself.

 

The more I feel this stress and pressure, these things that I feel like I’m drowning under, the weaker I find myself. But the beautiful thing about my weaknesses is that I do not need to rely on my own strength.

 

2 Corinthians 2:9-10

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

If I am self-sufficient and relying on my own strength to survive, I reject God in my life. And for the love of all things that taste like coffee, I don’t want to do that. I know I can not sustain myself and succeed, and so I gladly surrender.

 

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

Psalm 18:2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

 

Rest. Rest is what I need. When I know I can collapse into the arms of Jesus and give Him my burdens, I can face my day. My year. My life.

 

Are you overwhelmed? Run to Jesus, not away from Him. Are you scared? Seek refuge in your Heavenly Father, and not in yourself. Are you weak? Find your strength in your savior, and He will give you everything you need.

 

*aj

Truth From The Psalms

Truth From The Psalms

I love the book of Psalms.

I started reading this book once again on September 1st, and I’ve been doing 3 chapters a day since then. I love to read my Bible in the mornings, because it starts my day off with fresh perspective.

Psalms is honest. When everyone around us makes us feel like we have to be “fine,” we read in the Bible that we don’t have to pretend to be. Feelings are real. Depression is real. Tragedy is real. Despair is real.

And the more I read, the more I realize something.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that life will be easy, painless, or safe. What it does mean, is that God is with us through the good times and the bad. Hardship will come, but God will be with us through it.

Psalm 34:7-18

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

When I read the book of Psalms, I am reminded of a few things.

Feelings are real.

Psalm 43:5

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

 

Stress, depression, and despair are real. There is absolutely NO denying that. God gave us emotions, and we live in a broken, fallen world. It’s good to feel. At the same time, it’s painful. Emotions shift, life changes, things are unsteady. But there is one thing that does not change.

God’s truth does not change because He does not change.

 

Psalm 9:9

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

 

We can spend time in the Bible and read His truth. We can meditate on His word and learn that He never leaves us. We find out that He is the only one that can satisfy us, and He is the only one that can save us. We know that in spite of our sin, God forgives us and calls us holy. He has saved our souls, which is reason to rejoice.

We don’t need to be consumed by darkness in our lives.

 

Psalm 139:12

“Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

 

Psalm 30:5

“For his anger is but for a moment,

and his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

 

God is greater than the darkness. God is more powerful than tragedy. God lavishes us with love and grace and mercy, and we needn’t worry.

Our lives are in His hands. Tough things will come upon us, but God is always worthy of our trust.

I encourage all of you to take some time this week and read some Psalms. There are so many truths in there that bring comfort to my soul, and so many that push me to keep on going.

*aj