The One Way to Truly Manage Stress

stress2

A young woman rushes into Starbucks, brows knitted, fists clenched tight and orders a Venti Mocha Latte, “Double espresso please.”

A child chews on the eraser end of her pencil as bends over her social studies test.

Fighting through rush-hour traffic a man tightly grips his steering wheel and screams at the driver who just cut him off.

 

What do all these people have in common?

Stress.

This weekend I attended a workshop on overcoming stress. There is no way to escape stress. We all face work deadlines, family responsibilities, monthly bills, crazy-mad traffic and long, long, long checkout lines.

The speaker at the workshop said that while stress solutions like deep breathing and cat naps might reduce stress for awhile, there is only one real way to truly manage stress.

Change your mindset.

Since we can’t change the length of the checkout line or the work deadline we must change how we think about them.

Often when we are under stress we have a series of sentences we repeat over and over to ourselves. For instance, when a work deadline looms your brain might sing a refrain of:

I’m just no good at this.

I’ll never get the project done on time.

Surely, I will fail.

These choruses will not reduce stress–only increase them. What we need to do instead is pop in a new CD in our heads with a different song. Instead of telling yourself, “I’m no good at this” you might tell yourself “The boss wouldn’t give me this job if she didn’t think I could do it” or “I mastered that other difficult program, I will conquer this task too.”

As Christians we can take this on step further and use the power of Scripture to compose our truth songs. When the brain starts singing the tune “I’m no good at this” you can counter with

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

or

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” (Psalm 18:32)

Use the power of Scripture to combat stress!

Question: What is your favorite Scripture to combat stress?

phil 4-13

Finding Your True Self

true self

Finding your true self–it’s a quest we are all on.

Because too often we live in a disguise.

Did you put on your funny self today to hide the pain in your heart? Did you dress up in the competent, confident self even though you feel like a failure? Are you wearing the bubbling, outgoing self to cover up the loneliness inside?

We’ve all been there.

We don’t think anyone will love the real person inside and so we cover up the authentic self with a closet full of disguises. Or we’ve neglected the true self for so long we aren’t even sure who that is anymore.

God is in the business of resurrecting our true selves. We can find that authentic person when we believe that God truly loves us as we are. Not the disguise. Not the mask. He loves our authentic self.

Now, finding that authentic self sometimes requires a bit of discomfort as Jesus peels away the masks we have been wearing. Jesus said:

Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matthew 16:26 (MSG)

Self-sacrifice sounds painful. But don’t worry–Jesus work is gentle. Even as He asks us to give up one of our false identities, He fills us with His love and grace. And when we do make that sacrifice, we often feel a sense of relief. Release in not trying to be someone we are not.

Today ask God to reveal to you any masks you have been wearing.

Feel the freedom of being your true self as you allow Him to peel the mask away.

Remember Christ loves the real you.

Question: What masks are you sometimes tempted to wear?

 

When You Feel Like a Failure

strength of my heart

One summer my friends and I decided to have a fruit stand.

Only we didn’t sell fruit. And never mind that our street didn’t have much traffic.

We were sure that in no time, neighbors would stop by to buy all the extra tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers from our garden. My mom would have a little less to can and we would make a little cash for the candy store.

So my dad got an old table down from the attic and nailed on some long supports for a sign. I made the sign. Can you tell?

fruit stand027

The sign wasn’t perfect. The “fruit stand” wasn’t a roaring success. My brother, friend and I probably sold about 8 tomatoes, 5 cucumbers, and 20 glasses of lemonade during the week it was in operation.

The bottom line showed our fruit-vegetable-lemonade stand was a failure.

There have been many other things that I have tried and failed. Twenty-plus years ago I started speaking at schools about classical music. That speaking career flopped. I also wrote a Bible study about contentment that was never published. I wasn’t very content.

But there is one thing about failure. It’s better than not trying.

Thomas Edison wrote:

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

So I keep telling myself: Keep trying. Yes, when you try something new you might not succeed right away. You probably will experience some failure. But keep trying. Learn from the failures and move on.

My fruit stand was a bust, but my friends and I learned how to count change, make lemonade, and pick tomatoes. My classical music lectures were a failure, but now I do get to speak to women’s groups about Christ’s love. That contentment Bible study is still in a file drawer, but by God’s grace three other Bible studies have been published.

So if you’re trying something new and your first attempt looks a little like my fruit stand sign, remember to keep learning, keep growing, keep trying. You don’t know how close you are to success.

Lean on the Lord, He is our strength–even in our failures.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

Question: When have you experienced a failure that later turned into a success?

Why It’s Not Too Late to Try Something Hard

try something hard

Last week my husband and I went to Zion National Park. At first we drove up and down the scenic highway and took pictures. We hiked a few easy and moderately difficult trails. But on our third day in the park we decided to be brave and try one of the most difficult trails in the park–Angel’s Landing.

Angel's Landing002 - CopyThis trail climbs and climbs through multiple switchbacks, arriving at a place where you need to climb on a very narrow ridge, clinging to chains anchored in the stone. Although we only made it a little way on the most dangerous part because it started snowing and blowing something fierce, we felt pretty good about our fitness and bravery for having made it that far.

There was only one thing that dampened our satisfaction in our accomplishment–as we were huffing and puffing our way up the section of the trail known as Walter’s Wiggles, a couple in their 70s passed us!

We had stopped to take a couple of pictures (and catch our breath) when this very fit senior couple–zipped right on by!

view from the top of "Walter's Wiggles"

view from the top of “Walter’s Wiggles”

Let me tell you–some of my bravado for even trying this insane trail fizzled out. What did it say about my fitness if someone twenty years older could outdo me?

But what if I looked at this in another way?

What if seeing this older couple helped me to realize getting older didn’t necessarily mean getting worse? What if getting older meant I could still achieve daring things? What if getting older meant I still could climb higher and realize new goals?

Wherever we are in life, God has great plans for us. In Isaiah He tells us:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God’s plans don’t have age restrictions. If you are young and just starting out life on your own–God has a wonderful design for your life. If you are in the middle of your life, God is planning something amazing. If you are like the couple that passed me on the path, God is working out something astounding for you too. Let’s not give up!

I could let that couple that passed me on the Angel’s Landing trail discourage me.

Or I could let them inspire me. Inspire me not to use age as an excuse. Inspire me keep working at my goals. Inspire me to keep climbing higher.

And just maybe–inspire me to pass up people twenty years younger!

Question: Who inspires you to climb higher?

When You Don’t Hear Any Applause and You Doubt Your Value

Psalm 627

True confession time. I love applause.

I suppose most of us want the approval of others. We want to be told we are doing a good job. We love it when people tell us we’ve made a difference in their lives.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

The trouble comes when I base all of my value on what others think of me.

Sometimes I don’t hear an “Atta girl!” for a long time. Often rejection slips pile up much higher than acceptance letters. There are long periods of time when I don’t get any applause. And then I get a little low. OK, more than a little. I can get downright depressed. I can wonder if I’m worth anything at all.

Lately God has been teaching me a lot in Psalm 62. Last post I told about my waiting lesson from Psalm 62:1.

Another verse that jumped off the page for me was verse 7:

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

God tapped my on the shoulder and said: Did you catch that? Your honor doesn’t depend on how many trophies you get. Or how loud the applause is. Your honor depends on Me. Because you are My daughter you are treasured. You are valuable in My sight.

Wow. I’m humbled. And a little embarrassed. Embarrassed because I realized something. When I need applause and approval from people in order to feel good about myself, I am, in effect, saying that they are more important than God. I am making their opinion more significant than God’s.

Father in heaven, I am sorry for when I make the approval and opinions of people more important than Yours. Help me to remember that my honor depends on You–not on trophies, acceptance letters, or applause. Thank you for accepting me because of Jesus. Amen.

Question: What is your heart’s response to the fact that your honor depends on God?

 

 

When You Feel Like a Failure

strength of my heart

One summer my friends and I decided to have a fruit stand.

Only we didn’t sell fruit. And never mind that our street didn’t have much traffic.

We were sure that in no time, neighbors would stop by to buy all the extra tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers from our garden. My mom would have a little less to can and we would make a little cash for the candy store.

So my dad got an old table down from the attic and nailed on some long supports for a sign. I made the sign. Can you tell?

fruit stand027

The sign wasn’t perfect. The “fruit stand” wasn’t a roaring success. My brother, friend and I probably sold about 8 tomatoes, 5 cucumbers, and 20 glasses of lemonade during the week it was in operation.

The bottom line showed our fruitvegetable-lemonade stand was a failure.

There have been many other things that I have tried and failed. Twenty-plus years ago I started speaking at schools about classical music. That speaking career flopped. I also wrote a Bible study about contentment that was never published. I wasn’t very content.

But there is one thing about failure. It’s better than not trying.

Thomas Edison wrote:

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

So I keep telling myself: Keep trying. Yes, when you try something new you might not succeed right away. You probably will experience some failure. But keep trying. Learn from the failures and move on.

My fruit stand was a bust, but my friends and I learned how to count change, make lemonade, and pick tomatoes. My classical music lectures were a failure, but now I do get to speak to women’s groups about Christ’s love. That contentment Bible study is still in a file drawer, but by God’s grace two other Bible studies have been published.

So if you’re trying something new and your first attempt looks a little like my fruit stand sign, remember to keep learning, keep growing, keep trying. You don’t know how close you are to success.

Lean on the Lord, He is our strength–even in our failures.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

Question: When have you experienced a failure that later turned into a success?