Good News! (AKA: Why I hide things from my Facebook newsfeed.)

Please know before you read this that my intention is absolutely NOT to offend anyone with this post. It’s meant to serve as encouragement, not criticism. I simply want to draw attention to something that’s been laid on my heart–something I’ve been wrestling with for several weeks given the overall state of affairs in our country (and world, for that matter).

If you’ve watched the news (or social media) for even 5 minutes in the last month, you’ve seen something horrific that’s made you wonder “What is happening to this planet??” With the terror attacks carried out by ISIS, the Ebola virus spreading, tensions with other various countries around the globe, and politics being the general craziness that politics always are, there’s a real shortage of positive news out there. I LOVE that Jimmy Fallon (who I just adore anyway) has aired a segment on the Tonight Show called “I Have Good News…and Good News” to try to counteract some of the overwhelming negativity we’re seeing around us right now.

It’s a scary time of uncertainty on many fronts, and regardless of your political inclinations, it can provoke hostility and alarm. It has in me (hello, anxiety disorder!).

After really struggling with a growing sense of “OHMYGOSHWHATDOWEDOWEHAVETOHIDEWE’REALLGOINGTODIE!” for several days, brought on in large part by a Facebook newsfeed FULL of fear-provoking articles, images and videos, I finally said enough is enough. I started systematically hiding those people from my Facebook. What is bothering me is that EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of those people posting things to cause alarm were Christians. Brothers and sisters, that is NOT what Jesus has called us to do.

How can we point people to Jesus by promoting sensationalism and fear? The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). We have a Living Hope, we need not fear because our God is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6) even when things get really scary and when evil prevails. He has left His peace with us, because HE HAS OVERCOME THIS WORLD! (John 16:33)  We MUST rejoice in that truth and call the people who are fearful of an unknown future to a God who is already present in the future! To the one who shelters us under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4). Who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16) so that we need not fear.

Let us speak LIFE and LIGHT to one another. JESUS STILL REIGNS!

Praying for peace for those who fear and comfort for those who mourn today.

With much love,

B

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Brittany Does ____________…with Anxiety!

Anxiety is my constant companion. Has been since I was just a little girl, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it always will be. While the fact that I have an anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, to be exact) hasn’t changed, my perspective on it has. As I’ve said to many people over the past two years, I’ve learned to make my mess my message (thank you, Joyce Meyer, for teaching me that phrase!). And, in the process of learning this, I’ve also learned the best lesson of all–to laugh at myself.

I’ve given this post it’s tongue-in-cheek title because that’s pretty much how my whole life operates, and I’d venture a guess that many of you who struggle with anxiety would say the same thing. Each day presents challenges provided free of charge by my sweet little brain, and they make performing everyday tasks a little more, shall we say, interesting.

Brittany takes a vacation…with anxiety!
Brittany goes to work…with anxiety!
Brittany does the dishes…with anxiety! [OK, so this one might be an exaggeration.]

For about three years, I had a panic attack every single time I went to the movies. I can remember one time we were going to see Iron Man (J’s a comic book nerd) and we sat in the parking lot forever before I finally had to just tell him there was no way I could go in. Even now the theater provokes more anxiety in me than almost anywhere else, and I have zero idea why. I am usually monitoring my pulse and breathing while everyone else is chowing down on popcorn.

Once in college I was required to attend a conference out of town with a counseling class I was taking. For two solid weeks leading up to it I was convinced I was going to die in the van on the way there, and proceeded to inform my family and closest friends that I loved them and would miss them. I can laugh about it now, because it was so ridiculous, but at the time it was the most real, most terrifying thing I could imagine doing. There was no way out–I went, or I failed. I shared with my small group Bible study what I was going through and was SO BLESSED by some sweet friends who got up super early the next morning to see me off and to pray with me before we left. Obviously I didn’t die, but I was SHOCKED when I got there alive!!

I share these things for a laugh, but also because I know Someone out there is dealing with the same thing, but they are too embarrassed to admit it. Maybe they’re like me and they think that others will perceive them as weak if they admit it. Maybe they’ve been hurt by people in the past when they’ve opened up about their anxiety. Maybe they don’t know how to even talk about, or they think that everyone will call them crazy.

I prayed for my anxiety to be taken away for years [and years, and years, and years…]. It took me until I was in my mid-twenties before I was willing to concede that maybe God didn’t want to take it away. Maybe He wanted to use it somehow, and maybe I would be more effective for Him with anxiety than without anxiety. Tough pill to swallow. I know this is the “thorn in my flesh”–the thing that God leaves with me to display His strength in this broken vessel.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Scholars differ on what Paul’s “thorn” was, but the point is that he was willing to be OK with God leaving it there. What’s your thorn? It’s not anxiety for everyone. But something in your life that you would deem a mess is exactly the thing that God wants to turn into your message. Will you let Him use it?

Healing

Oh friends, I’ve been avoiding this blog like it’s poisonous for the past month, and for that I’m sorry. I did start a draft once, but I just couldn’t handle working on it, so that fell by the wayside. Suffice it to say I’m horrible at grieving. Always have been, always will be, and I’m working on it.

After our miscarriage on August 6, I took three days off from work, tried to enjoy the weekend, and then launched back into my job, full steam ahead. No time to waste, big things needed to be done. While I’m so blessed by awesome coworkers who have prayed for me, encouraged me and made me laugh, I didn’t want to bring that sadness to my day job, so I just stuffed it down. I didn’t want to bring it home, either, though…couldn’t let Little Lady A know anything was wrong, could I? So I stuffed it. [I’m pretty much the poster child for dysfunctional grief, which is amusing because Bereavement Counseling was my emphasis in college and what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up. Yeah…I’m not a good role model.]

I digress.

Two weeks ago I told J that it felt like my emotions were about to snap. One random day at work I just kept feeling it welling up. I’d start crying, take 10 minutes to stop, work an hour, cry again. This lasted all morning before I finally broke down and texted my friend Tabby to ask her to pray that I would make it through the workday. Somehow I did, but I can only compare it to when you know you’re going to throw up, but you keep holding it down. I know that’s disgusting imagery, and I’m sorry, but that’s the intensity of these emotions I was refusing to deal with. James finally sat me down and said it was OK to let it out, and that I had to. My response? If I start, I’ll never stop. I could feel this raw emotion–anger, sadness, confusion??–creeping up, and if I didn’t stop it from erupting I was going to turn into some crying, howling mess. No time for that.

Fast forward two more weeks to today. Still wasn’t dealing with it. Still referring to it in terms of “losing a pregnancy” not “losing a baby” because thinking of it that way didn’t make me feel like punching a wall or sobbing. It’s been nagging at me, and I’ve been ignoring it as best I can.

Tonight I was changing A’s diaper when a searing, awful pain shot down my back between my shoulder blades. I couldn’t move and I screamed bloody murder. After some time I was able to get to the couch and get a heating pad on my back, but there was no mistaking that something was twisted, pinched, caught or otherwise-not-OK in my upper back. It’s a church night, so James was going to have to cover youth group solo since I was somewhat immobile. He and A left for church, which left me on the love seat propped up with a heating pad and my iPhone. Through a random course of events on Facebook I stumbled across the page of a couple whose son is soon to be born, but has been diagnosed with a fatal condition and isn’t expected to make it more than a few hours after delivery. My own loss, while it’s uniquely significant and tremendously painful to J, myself and our families, pales in comparison to the agony this couple will go through in grieving a child after a full 40 weeks of pregnancy.

My heart started to hurt.

I am crazy about the author/blogger/speaker/wonder-woman, Angie Smith. She speaks right to my heart…I feel like in so many ways we are the same person living in two bodies. I turn to her books and blog often for comfort and encouragement, but I haven’t over this pregnancy–see, I did it again without even thinking–over this BABY, because I knew it would be my undoing. If you don’t know Angie’s story, she and her husband lost their daughter, Audrey, immediately following her birth. Tonight I felt tugged to her blog, so I went. And I read the most beautiful letter she wrote to her sweet daughter. And I dissolved.

God knew that I needed this hour alone (a very rare thing in this house) in order to hit the pressure valve on all this emotion. Because by myself, with no one around to hear/worry/judge, that emotion came out in a cut-to-the-bone, broken way, and it’s still leaking out my eyes while I type this. One of my cardinal sins through this process has been downplaying my loss by comparing it to a.) what others have endured and b.) how bad it could have been. Here is what I feel the Lord is wanting me to realize:

a.) No one else is that baby’s mother. No one else dreamed of our plans for it like J and I did. We only had two weeks to dream, but excited parents who have waited for a baby tend to do that quick. I held that baby it’s entire existence. I had named it. It may be that no one but Jesus and I will ever know that name, but that child was desired, prayed for, planned and a child of God Almighty. Two weeks, two years or two decades…it doesn’t matter how short the time you have with your child, you love it with all your being from the second you find out it exists. Though it doesn’t hurt my feelings when people say, “Well it was only 6 weeks, it’s for the best that it happened now,” I do hope that I’m able to shed some light on the fact that it doesn’t really matter to Mom and Dad how early in the pregnancy it was. Until you’ve walked that road (and I hope and pray you haven’t, and won’t have to), you just can’t comprehend the grief of a miscarriage. I am so desperately sorry for the times I’ve scratched my head at why women are so hurt by an early pregnancy loss. Never again.

b.) It could have come at a later date, and it could have been more physically and emotionally painful. But the end result is the same. My child is with Jesus. From the moment of conception, that tiny fertilized egg has a set gender, eye color, hair color and genetic code. God knew that baby before I even knew he or she existed. The end result is the same. He or she took up residence in my body for two short weeks, changed our lives forever, and then went to spend eternity in the presence of Jesus Christ. I cannot wait to meet my baby for the first time. But, here on earth, death is always painful, no matter when it happens.

God had to (literally) knock me flat on my back to make me deal with this. I’m still scared to feel it all, but I know that’s the only way to really heal. I would ask that you pray for J and I as we begin to think about trying to conceive again at the first of the year. We are both a little gun shy and my anxiety does come into play, but we know in our hearts we want another child. And I will be more faithful in writing, to share from my heart, because I know that’s what God is asking me to do.

With much love and gratitude,

Brittany