How Disobedience Led to My Depression

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Tune into the Beulah Girl Podcast. Co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley explore finding identity in Christ. Episodes cover topics such as spiritual growth, relationships, emotional health, physical healing, ministry, and more.

When you know something, you can’t unknow it. That earthly law is true for our spiritual lives as well. I was raised by my dad and a strict Pentecostal Holiness grandmother. I was taught how to dress, which included, in the South, always wearing a slip. I was not permitted to spend an inordinate time of with boys. I was in church every time the doors were open and for special events.

I would not trade any of that, because my brothers and I all serve the Lord today. However, because I grew up knowing what it meant not just to profess Jesus but also to serve him, the beginning of my sinful choices in the area of sexual behavior caused a tension between what I knew to do and what I was doing. I guess you might compare me to the apostle Paul in that way: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).

Depression as a Result of Choices

For me, when I began to sin sexually, a tremendous condemnation-induced depression set in and would not leave. In fact, it persisted over a five-year period. When you know what you’re supposed to be doing and you don’t do it, you can’t help but be tense and frustrated and angry. And that tension and anger and frustration turned inward is what my unprofessional psychological mind would call depression.

This depression was there when I got up, when I walked into the grocery store, and when I laid my head on my pillow at night. My brother had the room next door, as I was still living at home, and he was probably most aware of what was going on. However, neither he nor anyone else could give me the solution.

Let me pause right here. Depression is a real disease. Some people might have bouts of it that last for a little while and are induced by circumstances, but probably in my case of such frequent and even constant episodes, I would’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed had I let anyone diagnose me. Instead, I put the record of self-hatred and worthlessness on the turntable and let the needle spin. And that’s an apt metaphor.

Truly the pathways our brain travels down over and over physically become deeper and easier to travel. The more I dwelled on something either good or bad, the more prone I was to feel that way about myself. In fact, when you’re depressed, you sometimes forget whom the thoughts even come from. You feel like God is condemning you. Or at least you feel like you’re condemning yourself. My depression was a result of choices. I’m not here at this moment to talk about what physical or genetic tendencies can lead to clinical depression. I’m certainly not qualified for that. What I want to talk about are my choices, their direct impact on my feelings of hopelessness, and how I found hope again.

What I’m about to discuss may sound juvenile, but I was a juvenile of the time my depression started after all. After high school, my world was opened up in some ways it probably should not have been. I still lived at home and I still worked a local job, but in college, you can go to school if you feel like it and not go if you don’t. Whereas one of my nicknames in middle and high school was “Goody Squared,” even a good girl’s worldviews as a Christian are constantly challenged as close by as in a small-town college.

Remember those days with me: You’re beginning to spread your wings and feel what it is to finally be an adult and be able to make your own choices. At my house, I no longer had a curfew. All of that “looseness” combined to create some bad situations for me to put myself in with my then-boyfriend-now- husband. Although I don’t believe that I need to air our dirty laundry here in the public arena, I think you will get the picture.

Every time we moved physically closer, my heart was in a cataclysm. My spirit knew to do the right thing, but my body and my soul were sinning against God. Like I said, for me that was my depression trigger. The activities in which we were engaged brought continuous attention, but then the pull of doing right caused guilt. The results? Closeness and thrill for the moment, followed by regret, shame, and self-hatred afterward.

And that cycle lasted for five years. You would think that if sexual sin was the cause of my depression, that when I got married and everything was “permitted,” my depression would’ve left. However, that is not the case. And that note gets me to the point of how I found help and how you can too.

Advice from My Journey

There are no tricks or magic beans in this road to wholeness, and you definitely need to get professional help if you have depression that just won’t go away. I was plain stupid for not doing more to get help with mine, especially since it lasted so long. But if you’re like me, and you know the cause of your depression and you know the source of help, here’s some advice that might assist you in your journey.

1. Get help from friends. Don’t stop talking. I have the same two friends I relied for so much help during this time. They drove me around the car, took me out to eat, and let me spend the night with them as I ranted over and over about how much I hated myself and how no one liked me and how I wasn’t good enough. I honestly can’t even remember everything I said because I have always been happy. This new depressed person was honestly really foreign to me. But regardless of what I said, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant to listen to.

I could’ve stopped talking, but by the grace of God, I didn’t. Not even when I felt suicidal. I’ll talk about that in a later post, but I want to say at this point that you can’t get help if no one knows you need it. The word “mask” is so overused in our society, but whatever it is you are wearing to cover up your depression, make sure to keep talking to somebody, and if that person won’t listen, find somebody else.

It really doesn’t matter if they know what to say even. You just need someone who is willing to listen to you and not let you talk yourself into a decision that will have lasting impact.

2. Resist old thinking patterns. When you’re free, there will still always be a temptation to go back into the old ways. You might think it’s weird that I say temptation, but on the other side of this journey of depression, I realize that for me, it can be an occasional temptation not only to have depressive thoughts and wallow in them, but also to try to use them to manipulate others into feeling sorry for me. There you go. I said it out loud. For me, a few years ago, I had an episode that lasted about thirty minutes in a bookstore parking lot.

For those few minutes, I was captive again to thoughts that I had not had for years. This time, though, was different. I knew what it was like to be free, so I began to talk out loud in my car to my thoughts and to Satan, the originator of anything that’s not godly, and I said I would not believe those thoughts again. I was free and I was going to remain free.

Sometimes you have to say out loud like a lunatic or read from a card if you don’t feel like saying it, that you are free. Our words are weapons against the enemy, and we do not need to be afraid to use them.

You may be depressed, or you may know someone who is. If you fit one of those categories, please don’t make this post about blaming yourself for your depression. Jesus absolutely adores you, no matter what choices you do or do not make. Hear my heart, though, when I say that personal choices that violate the Word of God can cause painful mental and physical side effects.

What to Do If You’re Depressed

If you are feeling trapped, get help from His Word, from friends, from a counselor, and from processing out loud. But remember that there’s a woman here who has come out on the other side. There is hope for you. As a matter of fact, there’s some Scripture that sustained me through so many of my days. May I end by sharing it with you? Psalm 27:13, 14 says this:

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

You will see His goodness, friend. I’m living proof. If you want us to pray for you and hold out hope for you, please leave us a comment below. We’re all in this together.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in our latest posts? Check out the brand new Beulah Girl podcast on Soundcloud. Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

If you’d like to read more about depression, check out A Christian Perspective: Overcoming Depression and the related article links on depression below.

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Using the Word of God to Combat Anxiety: Learning From John Piper

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We welcomed a darling baby girl into our family this past May. All the cliché things about babies you could possibly say are true about this little girl: she has completely captured our hearts, and we can’t imagine life without her.

However, though we are enamored with this little chubby-cheeked cherub, I am going to be real with you: three kids is uber-tough to handle on some days. Afternoons and evenings are particularly stressful when my oldest two get home from school, and I am chasing after a mobile, squealing infant; helping my oldest two with homework; getting dinner on the table; and ensuring all three of my kids get into bed with bodies bathed and teeth brushed. Because my husband is a head coach of two sports, most of my evenings are spent doing this alone.

Usually, the day ends with me standing in the shower escaping for a few moments of alone time to ease the tension that never has really left my upper shoulders since we had a third one. My stress exists because of the number of things I have to do during the day in taking care of three young kids — but in the midst of this kid chaos, I have been attempting to work on a project that I fear will not get done. And that low-grade fear is permeating my days and causing me anxiety.

I read an article recently by John Piper of Desiringgod.org that stated that anxiety is a state of unbelief. I’ve written about how anxiety is caused by fear, but I believe Piper was able to zoom out the lens even further and accurately assess not only the role of fear but the role of unbelief in anxiety.

What is unbelief? Unbelief is essentially not believing in or trusting God and what He says. Fear is unbelief. Behind the fear I am experiencing lies unbelief in the promises God has in His Word concerning the work He has given me. Most of us would say we believe in God and want to follow His ways, but we have trouble trusting His sovereignty and ability to help us in the midst of trying situations where the demands on us are great and our strength feels small.

What Does the Word of God Say About Combatting Anxiety?

To combat the turbulence of this season, I have felt led to turn to Isaiah 26:3. The passage says this: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you. Because he trusts in you.” Certainly, we find a measure of comfort in the reading of the words. But if we dig into this passage a little, we discover further help for fretful thoughts and unbelief.

The verse points out that the mind that is “stayed” on Christ will be in perfect peace. It’s important to look at what a mind “stayed” on Christ looks like. I thought before I did any research on the wording in this passage that a mind “stayed” on Christ was fixed on Him. Certainly, that seems logical doesn’t it? If we’re always thinking about God and “stayed” on Him then we won’t succumb to our anxious thoughts, right?

Well, that is not exactly what I found. Certainly, God wants us to think about Him, pray to Him, and meditate on Him. All of those things are good and will help us when we feel anxious. However, when it says here that the mind is stayed on God, the word “stayed” in the Hebrew means “supported by God.” The Hebrew word is “sāmūḵ” and means “upheld” or “established.”

To have a mind that is stayed on God isn’t just to think about God. To have a mind stayed on God is to be supported, established in God’s truth to the point that my mind is literally held up by God. In other words, just as a house sits firmly on a foundation, so my mind needs to be rooted in the things of God. And the verse makes an important connection between the mind at peace and the person that trusts. As the Keil and Delitszch Commentary on the Old Testament says, “Such a mind is thus kept by Jehovah, because its trust is placed in Jehovah.”

What we can conclude is that when we cling to God and what His Word says and ground ourselves in Him, this secures stability and peace in our minds.

Piper advocates this same idea in his article (although he uses different Scripture references). Instead of fixing to that which produces anxious thoughts, we can hang onto God’s truth. For instance, in my current scenario, I can switch out thoughts like, “I can’t take this. The kids are driving me crazy. I’ll never get my work done!” In their place, I can say, “I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). God will help me get this impossible workload done (Philippians 1:6). God has equipped me with all I need to do His work (Hebrews 13:21).” We stabilize our runaway thoughts with truth much like an ancient sagging floor is stabilized by a hefty crossbeam.

An Offensive Strategy to Fight Against Anxiety

So, what if we have spoken all of the right verses and we still have anxiety? We keep speaking them, and we keep seeking the Lord. As Piper explains beautifully in his article, we overcome our struggles not just by speaking truth but by the help of the Spirit who lives inside us. Additionally, he points out that just because we have anxiety doesn’t mean that we should quit the race or think we don’t have the faith of other Christians. It means that Satan has targeted us and thrown “mud on our windshield.” We need to fight back with our “windshield wipers.” We need to fight back with the Word of God and the help of His Spirit. Note what Piper says:

When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked. At first blow our belief in God’s promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether we set in motion a process of resistance. Will we turn on the windshield wipers and will we use our windshield washer? … You deal with anxieties by battling unbelief. And you battle unbelief by meditating on God’s Word and asking for the help of his Spirit. The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief. And the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit.

Christians are not exempt from anxiety. We will feel anxious, fearful, panicked in reaction to certain scenarios. However, when we feel anxiety, we have prescription in the Word of God to begin speaking that Word over us and our situation. But simply speaking verses over ourselves won’t necessarily make our anxiety go away.

There are times when we won’t be sure what specific verse speaks to our situation because we are not in touch with the lies getting us off track. Whenever we feel fear that won’t subside, then, we need to pray and ask God for His help and wisdom (James 1:5).

Truly, we don’t need to fixate on feeling bad about ourselves when we feel anxiety. We need to attach ourselves to truth that we can speak to the lies and doubts coming against us. And the more we are in the truth, the more we will be able to discern the lies that show up on our doorstep.

Conclusion:

I wish that I never had to feel anxiety again. I have been freed from certain bouts of anxiety at particular intervals for long periods of time, but it often finds its way back. There have been moments when I’ve wondered: Is this anxiety ever going to stop coming around?

Well, probably not as long as I am living on this planet. However, God has given us an offensive strategy, so when fear comes, we can stabilize unhealthy thoughts with God’s truth. My anxiety has evaporated in this season as I have replaced my worries with His assurances found in Scripture. And — I have let go of my timetable for the project and instead embraced the idea that God’s timing for its completion may be different than I originally envisioned.

What about you? Do you struggle with anxiety? Has there been a time when God gave you a particular verse to cling to that helped you? Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How to Deal with the Pain of Rejection and Find Healing

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As a middle school student, I remember sitting at a lunch table with my much cooler best friend, hearing a boy ask, “Why is she sitting here?”

He, of course, was talking about me. As his words washed over me, I sat frozen in shame. The boy’s inquiry was especially horrifying to me as he had been in my fifth grade class, but here he sat pretending like he didn’t know me. My best friend stumbled around with a defense. But as a few more incidents like that happened, and she skyrocketed to the top of our junior high social infrastructure, our friendship began to dissolve. By the time we reached high school, the only time I ever went over to her house was when her mom asked me to babysit her younger brother.

Obviously, that was middle school, but the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

As Kristin Weir notes in “The Pain of Social Rejection,” acceptance is a deep primal need. She cites the following research finding from C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky: “Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships.”

However, the truth is that at times we will get the boot in a relationship or a pink slip at a job. There will be times that we don’t measure up to the standards of others or fail in our execution of duties. Yet, if we let our hurt and anger turn to bitterness in the course of the rejection, we will find ourselves enslaved to out-of-control emotions that destroy our future relationships and opportunities.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, here are three things to keep in mind when dealing with a painful rejection:

1. View rejection as protection.

In a recent article, Lysa Terkeurst writes that there is “usually some element of protection wrapped in every rejection.” I never thought about it like that until I read her statement, but her words are true. While most of us do everything we can to be in a certain group, there are times when God may lead us away from a particular relationship or opportunity because He is protecting us.

In the case of the middle school scenario I described, the rejection felt unbearable at the time because I wanted to be liked by his group of kids. They were popular — and my best friend from my neighborhood, the one whom I had invited to attend public school with me (she was a former private school attendee), was someone I desperately wanted to impress. I can’t tell you how humiliating it was for me to be shamed in front of her by kids I had grown up with. However, rejection from that particular group was actually a good thing for me. They were a fast group of kids who ended up doing a fair share of partying, bent on wordly pursuits.

Because I was blindly pursuing inclusion in this particular group, I could not see that God had given me friends that were more my pace. While I wasn’t as thrilled about the bookish girls at the table I usually sat at, I had much more in common with them. They liked to read books and involved themselves in activities like student government and yearbook. Instead of looking for a grander friend base (when it clearly wasn’t working out), I needed to recognize God’s protection steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

2. Everyone experiences rejection: what matters is how we deal with it.

For those of us who have experienced a lot of rejection, we may think we are the only ones. Perhaps we have developed an unhealthy dialogue in our head that goes something like this: This always happens to me. I am always the one who gets left out.

However, the truth is that everyone, at some point, experiences rejection. Whether that be by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, a co-worker, or a sibling. What matters is how we react — what thoughts we allow in our heads as a result of our rejections.

In his article “How to Cope With Rejection,” Dr. Frederic Neuman notes as a psychiatrist he had one self-confident patient who didn’t have much going for him in the looks department, yet he managed to never have a shortage of girlfriends. Conversely, he had a fellow psychiatrist who by all appearances had everything going for him, yet had terrible anxiety (after the breakup of his marriage) about dating women.

What was the difference? When meeting women in a social setting, the patient usually was rejected by several prospective women in a night before he would meet one who would talk to him. He just shrugged off the rejections and kept moving. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, was paralyzed and defeated after his divorce to the point that he was afraid to put himself out there.

If we have numerous rejections or a traumatic experience that rocks our sense of worth, we may be more susceptible to rejection. While our more stable peers may brush off the slights and jeers they receive — we may internalize them and believe everything negative we hear about ourselves. The key is to know what God says about us and, as the pastor at the new church I have been attending says, preach the truth to ourselves every day.

What does God say? We are loved. We are treasured. He delights in us. He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knew us before we were born. His version of us needs to be the filter we use to accept or not accept the words and actions that come our way.

3. Past rejection shouldn’t define our relationships in the present.

Beth Moore makes an adept observation in a recent Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional that the biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be a previous one.

Recently, I had a situation where I dreaded a certain conversation I needed to have with an individual. I had offered some candid comments, and because my honesty had at times in the past caused people to cut off relationships with me, I was sweating this person’s response to me.

However, the person surprised me by not reacting in anger but rather thanking me for my honesty. We were able to have a good conversation after that, and I appreciated the person’s ability not to take offense at my words. My fear over the reaction I anticipated was unfounded. I assumed that the reaction would be one that others had to me, but I found that not to be the case.

As Moore stresses, just because we have been rejected in a past instance does not mean that we will be rejected in a future one. In fact, according to Moore, the very next person we meet may be the most key person to us on our journey. Therefore, we can’t let what has happened in a few relationships ruin or define the new relationships God wants to send our way.

We Need to Work Through Rejection

Rejection is not easy. No one wants to have a middle school type moment and be the one no one talks to or invites to the party. But we should know that rejection is something that we will all experience.

Rather than avoid new relationships or people altogether, we need to work through our rejection, forgive those who have hurt us, ask God to forgive us where we have held any grudges — and keep walking with open hearts knowing that rejection in one’s past doesn’t have to ruin the good God has for us in our future.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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When Jesus Asks You to Go Into a Storm

When Jesus Asks You to Go Into A Storm

A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon that dug into the marrow of my soul. The sermon was about the storms of life that come up suddenly — like sudden squalls on a calm lake.

The sermon made an impression on me not only because it was a compelling talk and gave a slightly different take on the story of the disciples on the sea, but because it touched off a little warning signal in my spirit. I felt a whisper all around me. Something is coming.

Though I am a firm advocate of looking for good and not projecting bad in the future, I also know that sometimes God warns us of things to come. I felt that He was giving me an oh-so-subtle heads up. I buckled down in prayer. I braced myself in spirit for the phone call, the conflict, the problem to emerge.

But, as so often happens with God, I got the slow dawning realization that perhaps the storm was one that I was going to have to walk into on my accord. A hurricane wasn’t necessarily going to brew up outside my control and leave me in the middle without a choice (as has often happened). I was going to have to choose to walk into it and trust Him to meet me in it and get me through it.

As I have shared many times on my blog, I have been through some healing these past few years — and the end result had been peace. I had set boundaries in relationships that had never been set before. I had made amends and apologies. I had experienced great gains in sifting through emotional baggage and negative unresolved emotions that had built up.

But in a way that is His own, God showed me that I was in danger of falling back into some of my old people-pleasing patterns. I had backed away from some confrontations, had remained silent when I should have spoken up. God was prompting me not to lose the lessons He had taught me, but to keep walking head-long into difficult conversations and initiate tough calls as He led me.

To stop hiding and being cowardly about facing people. To walk in the power of His Holy Spirit and not backtrack into avoidance and escapism when He directed me to places that were difficult.

Jesus Directs His Disciples Into a Storm

As the pastor pointed out in the sermon on the disciples, in John 6:16-21 Jesus directed the disciples onto the lake knowing that there was going to be a storm:

When evening came, his disciples went down into the sea, got into the boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

What is interesting to note here is that Jesus sent the disciples into the boat without Him. He left to go and pray. We must know that there are some decisions we will have to make. He will direct us — but we ourselves are the ones who must choose to walk in that way. He won’t force us.

And — even when we do our duty and listen to Christ’s command, we will find ourselves in adverse circumstances, afraid. Many of us assume that doing the will of God will lead us away from difficulty rather than towards it. But as we see in this Scripture, the disciples’ obedience led them straight into a squall.

However, just at the right moment, when the storm was reaching a fever pitch and tossing the disciples about — Jesus came to them, walking on the water, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” (v. 20).

As commentator Matthew Henry notes, Jesus walking on the water revealed His complete command over the situation. He walks above our trouble and circumstances and can teach us to do the same. However, as the accounts in Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49 relate, the disciples were afraid when they first saw Jesus because they didn’t recognize Him at first. Jesus, to them, looked like some sort of apparition. In the darkness and the winds, they couldn’t make out His face.

And perhaps we don’t recognize Jesus in our circumstance at first either.

It was only when Jesus spoke that they recognized His voice and invited them into the boat. Again, just as they chose to go into the boat at His command, they also chose to welcome Him into their boat in the midst of the storm.

And it was only then that they “immediately” (as the passage says) reached the other side. Was Jesus being merciless, then, by sending them ahead of Him into the boat into the storm? No, not at all. Sometimes, the only way to get to the other side is through an incident than around it.

My self-protective tendencies make me want to always look for the easy way, the way where no one gets offended, no one gets upset and no one gets their feathers ruffled.

But that’s not always the way Jesus would have me go.

Did He send His disciples to die in the middle of the lake? Did He send His disciples to a place He couldn’t see or control?

No, He sent them into a storm that He would meet them in the center in, even though it looked, by all appearances, that He would be sitting this one out.

Is God Asking You to Walk Into a Storm?

Perhaps God is asking you to do something hard. Confess a wrong to someone else. Confront a friend about a sin. Set a boundary in a relationship where the other person has freely walked all over you for years. Say no to a situation that is tempting you to act in ways you know you shouldn’t.

But to do so may mean a storm. It may mean a loss of a relationship. It may mean people mocking you for your beliefs. And you tell God you don’t want to go. You want to stay on the shore.

I want to as well, friend. But I know I have to go. So the Holy Spirit and I have been sifting through relationships. I have been consulting Him about what to say, which direction to go. And one by one, as I seek Him and seek His Word, I am launching out in actions that will continue to provide the boundaries around me in relationships, that will help me navigate those in a healthy way with His strategies rather than my own.

Is it easy, friend? No, it’s not. His way never is.

But is it life-changing. Life infusing? Spirit-dependent living? Yes it is.

I urge you — take His invitation. Step out. Leave behind the safe dock and embrace the winds — because it is in the storm where He will meet you.

If you would like to join in for a chat about emotional healing and maintaining that healing after you’ve walked through it, I will be talking more about that as well as the inspiration for this post. You can subscribe for free to our live video chat this Monday, August 7 @ 9 p.m. EST, watch the replay, or leave a comment below.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted: Here’s Hope You Can Cling to

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_

When I was an unmarried college student, I got a job working at a retail store in the local mall.

People that I knew would frequently come through, but I was surprised one day to see a good looking young man approach me. I recognized him as the brother of a boy I had known in my middle school days.

He smiled at me and struck up a conversation. As he continued talking to me for more than a few minutes, I found his attention flattering but began to wonder why he was lingering around me for so long. Right around the time that I began to assume that he was being flirtatious with me, these words came out of his mouth: “So, tell me about her. Does she have a boyfriend?”

I immediately paused in my shirt folding and looked to see where he was gesturing. My gaze fell on the beautiful young high school student that had just joined our staff. She had long, straight brown hair and a bubbly smile.

I felt a jolt of unpleasantness course through my veins. Though I had no interest in this young man and did not desire to “hook up” with him, I was flattered by the idea that he might be talking to me because he thought I was interesting or attractive. However, his comment underlined the real reason he was acting so friendly in my presence.

The idea made me freeze a little because I had observed flocks of guys around this particular girl on a regular basis, and it was hard not to be feel terribly plain and unnoticed working beside her.

“She has a boyfriend,” I said very evenly as I finished the last of the shirts in my pile.

His face fell and within seconds he mumbled his goodbyes and quickly exited the store. I stood there feeling slightly used and annoyed. Could he not just chat with me a few moments because I grew up near his family, and I had gone to school with his brother? Why was his only intent to use me to get to this other girl?

Although this irritated feeling in this particular incident was one I was able to shrug off within a matter of moments, I suppose that the reason the irritation was there to begin with was because of something deep within me that this situation touched on. A fear that perhaps I didn’t have what other girls had to offer.

A longing to be noticed and admired — even by somebody’s brother whom I wasn’t even interested in.

Leah from the Bible: A Woman Insecure and Unwanted

When I was a young girl, I was familiar with the story of Leah and Rachel, and here was my honest thought concerning God’s placement of it in the Bible: it reinforced my belief that it was important to be more like Rachel than Leah. Males loved Rachels.

I had a few Rachels in my immediate realm who proved this point. They were pretty, popular, sought after. Enough said.

But I never considered that the story in the Bible wasn’t to make insecure girls feel even more insecure. God’s intention in placing it there was most likely to show overlooked-feeling girls such as myself how to find confidence and belonging.

Let’s look at Leah’s story in Genesis 29. Leah was given to Jacob when Jacob didn’t even want her. Rather than the sister he thought he was getting on his wedding night, he got Leah. And when he discovered that his trickster father-in-law had made the switch, he was angry and demanded that he have Rachel. And there was nothing Leah could do to change the situation she found herself in.

She didn’t have a choice when her father, Laban, chose her to dupe Jacob, and she couldn’t get out of a marriage she was bound by covenant into, even though it meant sharing her husband with a sister that was the favored one, the one that Jacob loved.

So, as blogger and Proverbs 31 contributor Lynn Cowell points out in a blog post, Leah did what any desperate woman would do, and she attempted to offer Jacob something that would make him love her. In her society, because a woman’s fertility was valued, she bore him sons. And with each son she birthed, the Bible says that Leah believed that the child would help Jacob feel attached to her. Three times, she did this!

It’s easy to look at poor Leah here and claim that we would never repeatedly engage in the same cycle of approval-seeking (when it clearly isn’t working), but that is exactly some of us have done a thousand times.

We continue to call the man who won’t commit to a serious relationship and make excuses when he never calls us. We continue to kill ourselves out-performing everyone at our job to prove to a hard-to-please male boss that we are a good employee. We think of ways we can dress better, do our hair differently, lose a few pounds to keep the affections of a husband who is distant and unaffectionate. And though our efforts don’t work, we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that if we just do [fill in the blank], we will finally win him.

Leah fell into this trap again and again. You can almost imagine her as she presented her newest newborn to her husband with eager expectation, but he did not waver in his love for Rachel. In fact, the irony is that Rachel was barren for many years when they were first married, but Jacob showed devotion and favoritism towards her even when she had difficulty conceiving.

Have you ever been there?

But as Cowell observes, there is a turning point in the story where Leah had a heart-change. She stopped looking to her husband, and she started looking to God for her love and fulfillment. In verse 35, after the birth of her fourth son, Leah said: “This time I will praise the Lord.” And then Leah stopped bearing children for a time.

Aren’t you just cheering for Leah here? She adjusted her focus to the One who created her.

However, her change of heart may have only been temporary. She began child-bearing again — it doesn’t expressly say that did this to try once again to gain her husband’s attention, but more out of competition with her sister.

Regardless of whether Leah changed her approval-seeking ways with her husband permanently or not, her heart-change (even if only temporary) did not change her circumstances. The Scriptures give no indication that her husband began to love her. In fact, it indicates that she remained unloved. When Jacob was afraid to meet his brother, Esau, later in the story, he sent Leah out in front. Rachel was safely positioned back with him.

But Leah’s best moment was when she found strength in a God who loved her and had a purpose for her when the world was unfair to her. It turns out that Leah was in the lineage of Jesus Christ! And, though the biblical account doesn’t tell us what happened between Jacob and Leah later in life, I’d like to think that perhaps Jacob grew to respect and perhaps even love this wife he initially didn’t want.

What we do know is that Leah outlived Rachel and was buried next to him (an honor not even Rachel had).

If You Feel Unwanted

I know if you are reading this and find yourself feeling left out and unloved like Leah, you might be wondering: Does this mean my circumstances will never change? I can’t answer that. I do know that God wants us to find meaningful connections in our relationships, and I believe that He can restore any relationship.

However, I also know that sometimes God doesn’t change our circumstances the way we want. Instead, He may change us.

The encouragement is that if we find ourselves in a challenging work situation or relationship, we can know that God has a purpose for us, and though we may not be able to change the people in our situation, we can change our own perspective and find contentment and belonging despite how people may view us.

For some of us, God may make it obvious that we do need to move on from the situation we’re in. But for others of us, God may have us stick out a stressful work environment, tough family situation we want to run from, or marriage that isn’t ideal.

The Real Lesson of the Story: You Can Be Loved For Being You

So the real lesson the story isn’t that I should try to be a Rachel if I’m not. The story reminds me not to find my sole value in the desires of a person because I may be sorely disappointed. God gave us male-female relationships for our enjoyment and fulfillment, yes, but if the male is our source, the one we look to for our sense of worth, we will find ourselves on shaky ground. We may find ourselves in an unhealthy cycle of striving, like Leah, to get him to notice us or try to make him love us.

God is the only One who can love you completely in the way that you need to be loved. And He finds delight in you, just the way you are! A better way to live is to be secure in who God made you to be. When we rest in the truth that God loves us, we find the strength and grace to navigate the relationships in our life in a healthy manner — whether the people in our closest realm see the value God sees in us — or not.

Carol’s note: Please understand that my intent in writing this article is not to encourage you to stay in an abusive situation. Please seek out the help of a Christian counselor or pastor if you are being physically or emotionally abused.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_ (2)

The teenage girl stands in front of the vending machine, a frown on her face. She scans the snack selections uncertainly. Several minutes tick by. She is unaware that anyone is behind her. I am a few feet back and notice her thin shoulders.

She has lost a bit of weight in the last year. She has a new boyfriend on her arm. He is not with her now, but even though she smiles when she is with him, I notice something worried in her expression. I see a bit of a desperation in the way she clings to his hand, attaches herself to him in her every spare moment.

She surveys the snacks carefully one last time and selects a bag of chips. I get the impression that she is choosing carefully — that perhaps this one item will be all she eats today. Although what I am thinking is merely conjecture — I see myself in this girl. No, not in the selection of Doritos or the rapid weight loss — but in the fear. The desire written all over her face to be loved. The fear that maybe he’ll find out she’s not enough.

And I know he will — not because she doesn’t have enough to offer — but because she doesn’t believe that she does.

Another Story of Broken Self-Worth

I think back to 18-year-old me. I am excited. Cheeks flushed. I am packing to go on a trip. A trip to see a boy that expressly asked for me. But as I pack, I am also worried. He hasn’t seen me in a few months. Does my hair look all right? Do I look too thin?

I have never flown across the country alone before. I combat my nerves for seven straight hours with each dip of the airplane. I have written dozens of letters to this person, but I have never met his family. I haven’t been alone with him for more than a handful of hours. I want this trip to be amazing. I want everything to be perfect.

When I get off the plane, I look around expectantly, but I don’t see him. After waiting for some time (this is pre-cell phone era, people), I notice that no one is standing around.

I walk in the direction of the other people. I don’t know where I am supposed to meet him. I am not even sure I remember what he looks like. At last, just when I am getting a little panicked, I see him standing by a wall in a sweater I would never pick out. I go up and hug him, but things feel awkward and off right away. He tells me that his mom bought him the sweater. I decide that I don’t like it. I keep my opinion to myself. Tacky sweater or no, this boy is the boy of my dreams. I figure that we just need a little time to warm up to each other again.

But that doesn’t happen. In fact, the whole visit, it feels like he drifts further and further away from me, and I can’t get through to him. He is distracted, busy. He tells me he is going hunting with his friends. He has a doctor’s appointment. He doesn’t want to walk outside in the snow even though I ask. He beats me in checkers every time and laughs at the way I try to lift weights. I feel stupid. Inadequate. In the way.

At the end, when it is time to say good-bye, he hands me a letter. There is no explanation in it — just a “sorry” that is vague. He tells me that he won’t be riding with me to the airport. He is going to sleep in.

I call him twice more — once when I get to the airport and once more when I get home. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk. What did I do wrong? I obsess. Was it the way I dressed? Talked? Acted? When he doesn’t call again, I let him confirm what I was afraid of all along.

Moving On: Finding Self-Worth in the Wrong Places

I start college with high hopes of stepping out as a new person — in leaving behind the past, but I am immediately pursued by a boy I don’t even like. Initially, I go out with him just because I don’t know how to thwart his advances, and I am flattered by his attention.

We enter into a relationship. But he, too, helps to dig my self-esteem further down. He is critical of me. One day when I don on shorts (I was already self-conscious about my skinny legs), he squints and tells me he notices some cellulite forming on my thighs. (I laugh now when I write this because I definitely had nothing like cellulite on my legs at the time. Now might be a different story!)

He flirts openly with other girls on campus, and he discusses different features of attractive girls in my presence. I feel insecure and plain in comparison. I put an end to the relationship. I make the decision right then and there that I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t care if I just throw myself away.

Not too long after that, I meet a young marine. He pays attention to me. He is kind. He has money to pay for his bills. He doesn’t talk about other girls in my presence. He never makes fun of me, and I never worry that he wants someone else.

I am not ready for marriage. I am too young, but I say “yes” when he asks. He is going to have to travel a lot, and he wants to move to Georgia when he gets out. I think about how wonderful it would be to run away from my problems and be loved for the rest of my life.

But I quickly find that my problems follow me. After marriage, I find myself homesick and depressed. My husband’s love isn’t enough to convince me of my worth. I keep striving and seeking. I remember getting a break-through one day at the altar when I go forward for prayer. God tells me to forgive the boy who hurt me all those years ago (and I conclude later that that includes the others who have hurt me as well) — and He tells me something else: Carol, it wasn’t your fault.

The Question Every Woman Asks Concerning Her Worth

In Your Captivating Heart: Discover How God’s Love Can Free a Woman’s Soul, Stasi Eldredge asserts that women go through life asking this question: “Am I lovely?” The problem is that they take this question to the wrong people. I took my question to the boy in another state, the boyfriend in college — and I let them answer it for me. And the answer I got back was this: No, you are not. You are defective. You can’t hold a man’s love. Other women have something you don’t. As Eldredge notes:

You see, every girl is asking one fundamental Question, a question that is core to her heart. Little boys have a core Question too. Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? All of that rough and tumble, all that daring and superhero dress-up, all of that is a boy seeking to prove that he does have what it takes … Little girls, on the other hand, want to know, Am I lovely? Do you see me? Am I worth fighting for? The twirling skirts, the dress-up, the longing to be pretty and seen — all of that is about seeking an answer to our Question.

What if, instead of taking our question to bosses or fathers or boyfriends, we take our question to God? What if we let Him answer it, and it is from that place of security that we are able to operate out of a stable identity?

Yes, I believe that God designed a woman to want to be noticed and pursued by a man, and it’s not wrong for us to want to be what Eldredge describes as “captivating” to that special person in our life. But what if we decide to see ourselves the way God sees us so it won’t completely derail us when someone doesn’t treat us the way we should be treated or offers an opinion about us that doesn’t line up with God’s?

As Eldredge asks in a book she co-wrote with her husband, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, what if the truly most unbeautiful parts of me or you aren’t the flaws others have pointed out in us or we have imagined in ourselves, but the belief in us that says we are not enough? What if the way we can be the most beautiful is to be us without trying to morph into a more polished, prettier, smarter version of us?

Because here’s the thing that I wish I had known as a young person, and I wish I could tell the girl at the vending machine and all of us desperate women unhappy with ourselves: that we have to risk sharing our beauty with others knowing that not everyone will affirm it or acknowledge it (Eldredge, Captivating).

But if we are firm in our identity and beauty because we are daughters of God, even if another person rejects us, they can’t convince us that we don’t possess beauty or worth. Because we are too convinced (based on the fact that One bigger and more important has already convinced us) — that we do.

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why We Shouldn’t Let Rejection Define Us

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (12)I was a classroom teacher in middle and high school for eleven years. A few years ago, I arrived early to my school’s faculty meeting. That was very unusual because while I enjoy being up in the morning, I’m usually not an on-time-in-the-morning kind of person. I was the very first one there, so I had my pick of a seat.

I sat down, and as people came in, I asked if they wanted to sit with me. The first group that I asked said, “I’m sure someone will sit with you.” Another pair of teachers came in, and I offered them seats as well. They replied that they were sitting with each other. Mind you, they could’ve sat with each other and with me. The seats all around me were literally wide open. I have not felt so rejected since probably middle school.

I texted my husband with tears in my eyes, careful not to let anyone see them. I told him the story, and he could not believe that I was dealing with adult mean girls. I have never been one to sit and have a public pity party, and so I went and sat down with another group of teachers in the front.

Is rejection a new thing? Is it just something women experience? The obvious answer is no. In Chapter 53, the prophet Isaiah said that Jesus was acquainted with our sorrows and that He was despised and rejected. He suffered the ultimate rejection when His own people that He came to save nailed Him to a cross. Then, beyond that, all his disciples, the ones He knew intimately and walked with and loved for three years, pretended they didn’t even know Him. Every single one ran away in His most desperate hour.

My story is of course a lot less dramatic than the story of our Savior being rejected. Besides the rejection story I shared here, I could tell you others from middle school or from adulthood, but they never would compare to what Jesus went through. But what I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t make us feel silly when our problems aren’t as big as His or as big as others’.

He simply cradles us and helps us overcome them. As I told my husband the other day, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my resilience, the ability to bounce back from rejection, but I don’t think it has to be that way. Let’s discuss some ways that you and I can overcome the pain of rejection and help others who are hurting as well.

Three Ways to Bounce Back from Rejection

1. We have to remember that in most cases of rejection, it’s not us the person is rejecting.

In my new job as a technology trainer, it is highly likely that the people that I’m training didn’t want to be trained to begin with. They are teachers who are overloaded, stressed, and trying to placate whoever is making the current demands. They may take that frustration out on me, but it’s not me they’re rejecting, and I have no right to take it personally. As a matter of fact, if I do, I’m only hurting myself.

John Bevere would call that opportunity to be offended “taking the bait,” in his book, The Bait of Satan. I have to make the same choice not to engage in offense when I’m rejected as a Christian. It’s really the message of Jesus that is being rejected, not me. I have to love people, as Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44, even when they “despitefully use me.” Those are the people to keep on praying for the most, not hold a grudge against the most.

2. We have to realize that in most cases people don’t want to be the way they are.

They are rejecting us because they are rejecting themselves as well. If I lash out and I’m hateful to you, it’s usually because there’s something I don’t like in me. I will probably write more about this later, but when I was in college, I went through a major depression. I talked to my future husband Dusty in some ways that would have made any lesser man run in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t him I was angry at; it was myself, but because I kept repeating a sin cycle that caused my depression to persist, and felt powerless to escape, I “had” to vent somewhere, and he was the recipient of that venting. I know I’m not the only one who has exploded on others because of her own self-loathing.

Ladies, if you’re in that boat, there is hope. But while we’re getting that hope for ourselves, let’s extend it to others as well. They may be hurting and need someone who won’t run away, even when they behave badly and reject you.

3. It is inevitable that we will all continue to feel rejection, but we do have to be resilient.

If we are rejected and we hide from the possibility of being turned away, it will tempt us to build up walls that will prevent us from ever really loving people. We can’t love people if we won’t let them in, and we also can’t reject new people as a punishment for those who have rejected us in our pasts.

I love this Scripture: “Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” These were the words of the disciple John, and he knew what it felt to love Jesus, God in the flesh, but he also knew what it was to be rejected and persecuted in the most intense ways for his faith. If John could be boiled in oil, alive, and then be exiled to a lonely island and still love the Lord, I think we can find it in ourselves to get out of rejection’s pit and love again.

The story of the faculty meeting will always stay with me. So will those times I was picked last in gym class (who lets kids pick teams anyway?) or the many times I’ve discipled people who later rejected the truth and turned the other way. But just because I remember those stories doesn’t mean I have to be haunted by them.

I can embrace the cross of Calvary, and in all my receiving of forgiveness, receive deliverance from the pain of rejection as well. Oh, and I can do my utmost never to make another woman feel the pain of rejection at my hands, because I know all too well how it feels.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (13)

Sweet Friend, are you feeling rejected? Have you been healed of rejection? The women on this site would love to hear from you and be encouraged or join you in prayer. Please leave a comment below or join us for a live Blab chat on rejection Monday, April 25, @ 9 or watch the replay.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar ‘Friend’

Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar 'Friend'

I’ve been frozen for almost eleven months now. Frozen in fear. It’s debilitating and it’s crippling and it’s exhausting. But, as sick as I am of it, I’m stuck. Or at least it seems that way.

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born two months ahead of schedule. I had severe preeclampsia, and an emergency C-section was performed to save both of our lives. I visited my little girl in the NICU every day for the longest month of my life.

She was so tiny, and to me, so fragile. She had to learn how to eat and breathe on her own, and I wasn’t familiar with how to care for a full-term baby, let alone one weighing 3 1/2 pounds. Her nurses assured me that she was one of the strongest preemies they had ever seen and that I had nothing to worry about, but I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time I didn’t see her strength.

I saw her feeding tube. I saw her IV and her blood pressure cuff. I saw her heart and oxygen monitors and I heard the jarring alarms when her heart rate dropped too low. All of it terrified me.

I knew she was a miracle. I knew that we were watching God form her before our eyes. I knew deep down that we were all going to be OK, but the spirit of fear that had seized me wasn’t loosening its grip anytime soon. When the day I had been praying for finally came and our little baby got discharged, I remember asking her doctor, “Are you sure she’s ready? Should she stay longer?”

The doors of the NICU were at long last opened wide for us to leave, but I’d become so comfortable there, enclosed in that small wing of the hospital, that I was scared to do the thing we were meant to do, the thing I had longed for — go home as a family.

Home we went, and our daughter was and is perfectly fine. She has excelled in every way, and now is virtually indistinguishable from a baby born at full-term. It’s me who’s not fine. I remember all too well the alarms, the monitors, the tubes and the lonely, sleepless nights without her.

I obsess about her health, my heart sinks when I hear her crying, and I fear getting the slightest thing “wrong” because if I screw up some awful thing might happen. Basically, I’m a mess, and when anyone asks me why, I point back to the NICU.

My paranoia understandably annoys those closest to me. Quite often, I find that I can’t enjoy time with or without my daughter because I’m too worried about her. This, naturally, creates tension for everyone around me. My family has been incredibly patient during my many meltdowns over the last year, but the thing about living in fear is that it not only paralyzes you, but everyone around you. My fear controls me, but my family experiences the bondage as well.

I’ll admit it — the traumatic events surrounding my daughter’s birth have become my go-to. The NICU has become my justification for agonizing over every detail of her life. It’s not right or healthy, and at some point I’m going to have to let it go, but I have no idea how to do that.

One of my favorite songs by Jason Gray says, “There’s no thief like fear.” And it’s true. Fear has stolen my joy, my peace, my sanity, my sleep, my health and my identity. Not only is fear a thief, but it’s deceiving. When you’re afraid for as long as I’ve been afraid, you swallow the lie that there is no other way to be. You cling to your fear. You justify it. You defend it.

I was in tears one afternoon at my parents’ house, trying to get up the nerve to leave my daughter with them for a while so that my husband and I could have some much needed alone time. I was listing all the reasons why I was scared to leave her, why I had no choice but to be afraid even though it was destroying my life.

My father, in growing frustration, was shooting down my pitiful excuses one by one. Finally, I said, “None of you … not one of you knows what it’s like to visit your baby in the hospital every single day for the first month of her life.”

My dad calmly said, “Well, you’re right. But it’s time to leave the hospital.”

It’s time to leave the hospital. My daughter had been given a clean bill of health and had been discharged for several months. And I had never left the hospital. Rather than allowing myself to experience the freedom we had waited for, I turned my nose up at the miracle in favor of the terror that something, anything might go wrong. That the other shoe would eventually drop.

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus, which is found in the Gospel of John. You may be familiar with it, but the long and short of it is that Lazarus, a man Jesus loved, fell sick and died. In fact, Jesus knew he was going to die, and allowed it anyway, so that God would be glorified (John 11:4). Jesus knew the outcome; He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, gaining all the glory from his suffering and that of his family.

And even though He knew the ending would be a happy one, Jesus still wept when He reached the gravesite, knowing and feeling the pain that His children experienced as part of God’s perfect plan. The Bible says that in a loud voice, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the grave, and out he came.

Here’s where I draw the comparison to my story. What if, when Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, the man had refused?

No, Lord. I’m too afraid! You don’t know what it’s been like. You don’t know how sick I was. I could get sick again. I could get hurt. I could die all over again. I just can’t do it. I’m just going to stay here. It’s too scary out there.

It’s more than a little ridiculous. But haven’t I done just that? The Lord had miraculously delivered me, in the nick of time, from a potentially fatal illness. He had gloriously rescued my daughter from my failing womb. And when she was strong enough and His timing was right, He had called her out of that hospital and home with us.

Only I had stayed behind. Physically, I’ve been home with her and my husband nearly 11 months now. In my mind, gripped by fear, I’ve been in that little rocking chair in the NICU, staring into that isolette at a baby much too small.

The reality is that God’s plan all along was perfect. My daughter was born early by our calendar, but not God’s. He saw, ahead of time, the sickness and the suffering, and He knew the purpose of it all. He allowed the pain and planned the miracle, knowing He would take the glory. And I, in so many ways, have refused the miracle in favor of the pain.

My dad’s words to me ring in my ears almost every day. It’s time to leave the hospital. Just like it was time for Lazarus to leave the tomb. Who am I to say no, to continue to live imprisoned when freedom Himself calls to me?

It’s time for me to do what I should have done a long time ago, and that is to obey the voice of Jesus rather than the voice of fear. The voice calling me to “Come out!” instead of the voice telling me it’s safer in the dark. So much has been waiting for me on the outside.

My little preemie, almost at her first year birthday, is about to take her first steps, and so am I.

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Pregnancy Loss

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Shortly after I had a miscarriage last year, my father-in-law made this comment to me: “What you went through was a big deal, you know.”

His remark struck me as being of one of the kindest things anyone said to me after the incident. I could only nod. The loss of a child at any stage is a big deal, and it felt really good to have him acknowledge that and acknowledge me.

I had support from other people as well. A woman at church gave me a small gift on my first Sunday back. Another woman who had suffered a miscarriage earlier that year came up to me and asked me if I wanted to talk. We both shared our stories. Two friends brought me dinner and pretended not to be horrified by the fact that I hadn’t taken a shower in a few days or vacuumed my floor.

But there were other people who treated me like nothing happened. The people who couldn’t handle hearing any medical details. The people I needed help from that didn’t show up.

However, miscarriage is a big deal, and the worst part about it is that miscarriage sufferers usually suffer in silence. A woman who has had a pregnancy loss may feel ashamed. She may feel that her body is defective. She may feel like no one else understands. Miscarriage sufferers need support.

Even if you have never suffered a miscarriage, you probably know someone who has. And what they are going through or have gone through is monumental for them. Although their reactions may vary, they want to be acknowledged, noticed. Some may not be ready to talk about it, but my guess is that they still need to feel like people notice them and care.

Here are five things every woman should know about pregnancy loss (whether you are going through it or are helping someone who is):

1. Let yourself rest.

My first miscarriage occurred in my first pregnancy. It was an early miscarriage. I was probably around 7 or 8 weeks, but I still had excruciating cramping and pain and several weeks of “getting back to normal” after the miscarriage happened. Needless to say, I spent three solid days in bed. After being in bed for several days, all of the tissue passed, and the cramping stopped. However, the bleeding did not.

The recovery period was very similar to that which I experienced after my full-term pregnancies. I had light bleeding that occurred for several more weeks after the miscarriage, and then the bleeding stopped and normal monthly functions resumed another several weeks later. Even when I was able to resume my old activities and felt somewhat physically better, the grieving process was one that lasted for many more months.

I hadn’t told many people that I was pregnant, so I had the odd experience of returning back to church and work — and telling no one what had happened. While I pretended that everything was normal in my life, I felt very sad and depressed for some time. I eventually did tell some friends at work, and it felt really good to share what had happened. However, the recovery time, emotionally and physically, was more than I expected.

I have found this to be true of many women I have talked to: We as women are so used to being the caretakers of other people, we often don’t allow other people to take care of us. If we have always been in optimal health, we assume that miscarriage won’t take that much out of us.

I had a friend who began miscarrying at work on a Friday and continued throughout her day teaching. She kept popping Advil, left at her normal time to pick up her daughter — had the miscarriage that night — and then returned to work the following Monday. Suffice it to say, she was not able to make it through the day and was given stern orders by our department head to take some time off.

As she recounted this story to me, I was in utter shock! Her body and emotions needed time to heal, but we as women often don’t get the luxury of taking a break. When a miscarriage occurs, however, time is needed to let your body and soul recover.

2. Be your own health advocate.

As I mentioned before, I was extremely naïve about miscarriage. Had it not been for online forums and articles, I would not have known what to expect because no one had ever shared with me about miscarriage. I assumed it was something that would never happen to me.

While I was able to stay at home and pass everything on my own in my first miscarriage, I realize that it could have turned into a situation where I needed medical help. A nurse from my doctor’s office called to let me know that a miscarriage was inevitable based on my low hCG levels but did not really give me advice on what to do.

I never scheduled a follow-up visit or anything to see how I was doing health-wise after that miscarriage. However, in retrospect, I would advise anyone going through a miscarriage to view it as the big deal it is in terms of both your physical and emotional health. I would advise staying in contact with your doctor’s office — really watching and monitoring your symptoms — and throwing aside any qualms about going to the hospital if you are excessively bleeding or feel you need extra assistance.

With my second miscarriage, I was further along (11 1/2 weeks) and had so much bleeding immediately that I had no choice but to check into the hospital. I was a little embarrassed by what a mess I was when I checked in, and quite frankly, I didn’t really speak up for myself like I should have. I had one nurse check me in and then several more rotate through my room to care for me.

I was also scurried off to an ultrasound room and then another room for an examination. No one person was keeping tabs on how much blood loss I was experiencing. Although the doctor mentioned to me that I had an extremely low red blood cell count, I didn’t think to say how many trips I had made to the bathroom or how much tissue and blood I had lost.

At one point, I even had a nurse scold me for passing out, and I was too dumbfounded and weak to even counter.

Shortly after that, I was wheeled into an operating room for surgery, and I thought that my ordeal would be over. However, that was not the case. After the procedure, I was released even though I needed a blood transfusion. I did not realize this until I returned home and began to have problems with dizziness and a racing heartbeat.

Even at this point, I called my doctor’s office because I thought something felt wrong, but they assured me that I was most likely experiencing side effects from drugs they had given me in the operating room. I deferred to their judgment even though something didn’t feel right in my body.

I figured I would get better in a few days. However, when we went to pizza on my birthday, and I nearly collapsed walking across the parking lot, I knew something was up. I went to the follow-up at my doctor’s and laid out my symptoms. It was then that they did a blood test and discovered that my hemoglobin levels were at a 7.1 (a 7.0 is blood transfusion level).

Moral of the story: If something doesn’t feel right, speak up about it! With medical personnel all around us and professional doctors in crisp coats, we assume that they will just know what is going on.

However, I found out that while doctors can tell a lot from certain tests and procedures, you can greatly help them by letting them know about your symptoms, your health history, how much blood you are losing, etc., so that they can truly help you.

3. Ask for and accept help.

My second miscarriage was different than my first because I accepted help. I didn’t try to be the stoic survivor I was after my first miscarriage. I was very open with people that I had a pregnancy loss, and I gratefully accepted the assistance. I know the fear in telling people is that it will be worse to get over or they will act awkwardly around you, but I actually found that not to be the case at all.

Yes, there will be some who say the wrong things that hurt more than help (we will get to that in a minute), but overwhelmingly, there will also be those people who genuinely want to help and can if you let them.

At the start of my most recent miscarriage, I told my husband that morning I needed him not to go to work that day. At first, he just assumed I was experiencing a little spotting, and it was normal. He figured I could just drive myself to the doctor later that day. But I insisted that he stay with me because my mama intuition was telling me that this was bad — I did not want to be left alone with my young children in the state I was in.

Once we ascertained the situation was such that we needed to just go straight to the emergency room rather than the doctor’s office, my father-in-law came to pick up the kids and take care of them. My brother-in-law came to sit with my husband while I was in surgery. We needed help.

And when we came home and I realized that I was not doing well at all in the recovery process, I asked my husband to stay home from work for the next few days. The booster club of his team set up a meal train for us. In the weeks following, I arranged care a few mornings a week for my son (with family members and a babysitter). I was in no position to take care of my kids or my household until my health got better, and I gladly accepted the assistance.

I found people were really relieved to be able to do something for us. People generally want to assist you, but you just have to tell them how they can best be of help.

4. Know that anger is part of the grief process.

People expect to be sad after a traumatic event. They expect to cry and be depressed — but another part of the grief cycle is anger. After my second miscarriage, a good friend of mine gave me a pregnancy loss study to go through. The authors devoted an entire section of the study to dealing with anger after a miscarriage.

When I read it, a lightbulb went off in my head because I realized that I was carrying around some anger, and I needed to deal with it because my unresolved anger was making me act in wrong ways to some people. If the truth be told, the person I was angry at was God, and the other people were just getting the brunt of that.

I could not believe that God would let me go through pregnancy loss two times. I felt absolutely humiliated the second time because I had been so confident that my miscarriage tragedy was in the past. Anger in and of itself isn’t sin — but anger that isn’t dealt with can turn into bitterness and resentment.

I was able to get rid of the anger when I poured out my feelings to God. I also had some trusted friends that I talked with. I told them everything I was thinking and feeling. Being open about my anger and grief helped to get the negative emotions out.

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5. Expect that not everyone will understand.

If you choose to share your tragedy (which I recommend because I believe it leads to a speedier recovery), there will be some people who can’t handle it or won’t know how to comfort you. With my most recent miscarriage, some people did not even acknowledge that I had gone through anything when I re-emerged into the public.

The mistaken assumption people have is that they will hurt you by bringing it up, but I found that it was worse to be ignored. Then there were other situations where I thought I would get support from individuals, but I found them to be too busy or too horrified by my tragedy to help.

In those instances, do not dwell on those hurts. Think back to the times that you failed someone or avoided someone because it was awkward and you didn’t know what to say. For as many people who don’t acknowledge you, there will be those who do, so expect both and know that some people don’t know how to help a person in crisis (especially if they haven’t been through that particular crisis themselves).

You can make it easier for others by just bringing up the topic yourself and showing others that you are in a place to talk about it. And, if you are the supporting friend, a simple “How are you?” after a miscarriage will put your friend who has suffered the loss at ease and open up the conversation to go in the direction the person is most comfortable with.

We as women are used to being the nurturers of others. It is hard for us to accept assistance or allow others to take care of us. However, pregnancy loss is a time when you need to give yourself permission to slow down, ask for what you need from the people around you, and allow yourself to heal.

If you yourself have not gone through a pregnancy loss, I believe that you can still serve as a valuable support to a friend or another woman in your community who has. You can serve her best by checking up on her, listening to her, and being there for her when she most needs support.

As a survivor of two miscarriages, I don’t relish what I went through. However, I did survive — and survive well, with God’s help. He is the binder of all wounds, and He knows just how to take care of you, whatever your loss. You need only let Him. His help may come through the many hands of the people around you.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Leave a comment below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Gratitude Leads to Joy

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I sit in the doctor’s office.

It has been several months since I have had a doctor’s appointment. I want to have a check-up to see how my iron levels are — where my health is at the moment. I have had a long road of recovery this past year after a miscarriage and surgery. Immediately after my pregnancy loss, I wanted to try for another child, but I had to hold off for some time because my body needed to heal.

As the year wore on, I began to hesitate on that desire. Each month where I combatted dizziness and fatigue made me question whether I wanted to put my health on the line again with another pregnancy.

And now, one year later, as I sit flipping through pregnancy magazines, I am still unsure. I look at the young moms in the photographs with smiling, chubby babies. I eye the expensive, modern strollers and diaper bags these magazine moms sport, and I feel detached from these women.

My youngest son has been potty-trained and is now in preschool. I recently turned 36. I have given away most of our baby stuff, and I have just two small bins of baby items in my son’s room.

As these thoughts swirl in my mind, I think as I am sitting here that I don’t feel well. I feel like I am coming down with the flu. I want to go lie down for a nap. A really long one. I had a daydream that morning that I had asked the nurse to give me a pregnancy test and it came up positive. I keep having this persistent thought that maybe I am already pregnant. But I brush that thought aside and decide not to say anything about that to the doctor.

Once in the examination room, I tell the doctor my health history and that I might want to try for another child. Even as I voice the words, I can feel myself retreating further away from that decision in my own mind. I don’t feel committed to this course of action at all. I think that maybe this noncommittal attitude is for the best. I can be happy with the children I have. It will probably not be the easiest thing for me to get pregnant after all. I am over the age of 35, and from everything I have read, I know my fertility rate is on the decline.

I continue to feel worse as the day progresses. I feel an onset of nausea when I am cooking dinner. I am starving hungry but nothing sounds remotely edible. Repulsed by the smell of raw chicken near me, I am reminded of the fact that I only have a bad reaction to meat when I am pregnant. These symptoms assaulting me are only those I have when I am growing a life in my womb.

Later that evening, I rummage through the cupboard, almost on a whim, to see if I have any pregnancy tests in the vicinity. I am surprised to see one unopened in a box. The expiration date has already passed, but I reason that it still might work. I go upstairs alone to my bathroom. My husband is watching TV and my kids are asleep. I watch the first line color in, and I pause for a moment because I see just one line. How can this be? I say to myself. I feel pregnant. I glance away for a moment and then I look back. A little jolt goes through me. A second line has colored in — ever so faint. But it is there.

I call my husband upstairs and I show him. We don’t smile or celebrate like we did with my other positive pregnancy tests. We just look at each other over the double lines, and I mostly feel numb. A little tremor of excitement ripples deep inside, but I push it down because it’s still really early. And I don’t know where this is going.

A Diagnosis: Foreboding Feelings

The next few days are a blur, and I am functioning more like an I-don’t-feel-anything zombie than an expectant mother. I don’t feel like I think I should.

But because I have been writing about emotions for some time, I know better than to beat myself up for the way I am feeling (or not feeling, rather). So I decide I need to explore what is going on with me a little more in-depth. I tell God during my quiet time that I am not sure why I am so numb. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but why don’t I feel joy?

Not too long after that conversation with God, I get a phrase in my mind that I remember reading about and the phrase is this: “foreboding joy.” I know who coined that term so I pull up some Dr. Brené Brown videos on YouTube. In one such video in an interview with Oprah (*please see my note at the end about Oprah), Brown says something that immediately resonates with me: “The most terrifying, difficult emotion we experience as humans is joy.” She continues on to say that we often don’t want to “soften into [a] moment of joy because [we are] scared this moment of joy is going to be taken away.”

When I hear Brown’s explanation of foreboding joy, I have an aha! moment. Yes, that’s it! I am experiencing foreboding joy. I am afraid to let myself feel joy because I don’t want that moment to be stolen. That little ripple of excitement I felt after the pregnancy test? I suppressed it. Something inside of me said, “No ma’am, not again. Remember how happy you felt when you found out you were pregnant last time? How foolish you felt when that all came crashing down?”

However, according to Brown, what I am doing is trying to “dress rehearse tragedy” so that I can “beat vulnerability to the punch.” But what that is doing in me is making it impossible for me to really experience joy. Brown stresses that truly joyful people don’t “shut it down” when they get a “tremor of joy.” Instead, they choose thankfulness.

Quite interestingly, Brown’s statements about not “dress rehearsing” for tragedy are those that have a biblical basis. The Bible, the ultimate authority by which we are to measure our thoughts and actions, warns against foreboding thoughts. Proverbs 15:15 says, “All of the days of the despondent and afflicted are made evil, but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast” (AMP).

Joyce Meyer illuminates the meaning of this verse, saying:

Because I had been hurt so much in my life, I was really negative and expected the worst all of the time. Even after I had a strong relationship with God, I still struggled with this for a while. Then one morning, I was standing in the bathroom and I remember noticing this pressure, this evil presence around me. It wasn’t new; I realized that I’d always felt it. It made me think, ‘What bad thing is going to happen next?’ I asked God what this feeling was. He spoke to my heart that it is ‘evil forebodings.’ Later I found Proverbs 15:15 … Once I read that verse, I realized what it meant. It was the fear of something bad happening when nothing was going wrong.

Meyer goes on to say that we should expect good to happen to us rather than bad. As the Pulpit Commentary states, the “afflicted” in the verse is referring to those people who “take a gloomy view of things” and “are always taking anxious thought and forecasting evil.” The days are “made evil” by the person’s continual fretting!

Though I wasn’t necessarily “forecasting evil” to happen in my situation with the pregnancy, I was choosing to try to not let myself get too thrilled in order to brace myself for the worst — and in a way, that was choosing to take a negative view of things. And although Brown approaches the topic of joy and gratitude from a slightly different angle than the writer of Proverbs, Brown ultimately advocates a similar point: We must embrace joy and not try to push it away. As Brown asserts, we can’t embrace joy by willing ourselves to be happy. We do this by practicing intentional gratitude.

Certainly, gratitude does not feel like the right option for me in this moment. Numbness does. However, as Brown states in another video, foreboding joy is a type of armor we strap on ourselves to feel safe. And even if that option feels safe, it isn’t. Proverbs reminds us that allowing foreboding thoughts can actually bring the bad things we fear our way.

So, while I think I am protecting myself by freezing my feelings, attempting to be “practical” by not anticipating a good outcome, I’m not. Instead, I need to wrap my arms around the moments I feel tremors of joy, however scary. And even if I don’t immediately feel joyful feelings, I can fix my mind in the moment and focus on what I can be thankful for in the situation. And my intentional thankfulness opens the pathway to joy.

A Conclusion: Dictating My Emotions

I’d love to tell you that after my research on foreboding joy I have been able to immediately feel the way I want to feel. But every day has been one step at a time for me: listing what I am grateful for; choosing to give thanks even when I want to put my emotions on lockdown; fixing my thoughts on positive things when I feel scared about having another miscarriage.

My conclusion is this: Though I should pay attention to my emotions as they are useful in letting me know there is a problem, in some cases, they aren’t reliable. I can’t in this instance let them dictate how I will respond because what feels like the right way is actually not helpful, but harmful.

I have to go with what the Word tells me in Proverbs 15:15. I need to expect for and look for good. Not only that, I need to look around me and notice the things that are good right now.

Thankfulness is God’s will for me in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18) — even in this situation that feels so scary and unexpected, yet wonderful all at once.

Really, when I think about it, choosing intentional gratitude isn’t just about creating the capacity in me to feel joy; it is really about letting go of trying to somehow control or minimize pain in a situation I can’t control and choosing to plant my thoughts on good as a way of telling God that I am submitting to Him in this circumstance.

Because as the author and finisher of my faith, He has already gone before me — already knows the outcome. And though I detest uncertainty and situations that feel messy and unpredictable, this pregnancy is a chance for me to let down my human defense mechanisms and say …

Lord, even in this, I trust you.

*Author’s note: Please note that I do not ascribe to Oprah’s views. She openly denounces parts of the Bible and promotes a New Age religion of her own making. However, I included a link to an interview she did with Dr. Brene Brown because Brown is a legitimate researcher and shares her findings from research — and as stated in the article, the information she shares about foreboding thoughts and gratitude are those we can find a foundation for in Scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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