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Let’s Talk Herb(s)!

Stress Management: Tool #2 – Herbal Aids

Before delving into the discussion and research concerning herbal aids for stress management, it is necessary to issue a word of caution: It is very important for you to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist to ensure there are no interactions between any herbs you are considering taking and any medical conditions you have and/or medications you take.  THIS BLOG POST IS INTENDED TO RELAY RESEARCH RESULTS AND IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE.

Research has found that herbal aids, when used responsibly, often help people manage stress and the symptoms of stress.  Recently, a study conducted in Europe using self-reported ratings on the PSS-10 scale (Perceived Stress Scale-10) concluded that “the short-term use of herbal remedies seems … effective in reducing perceived stress” (Gasparini, et al., 2016, p. 465).  The study revealed approximately a 50% decrease in perceived stress after consuming certain herbal aids, including hops, valerian and melissa.

Depression.  Studies show a correlation between stress and depression (Clinton and Langberg 2011); therefore, considering herbal aids used to relieve depression may serve to aid in stress reduction.  Depression is often a response to, or effect of, both acute and prolonged stress.  A 2008 Harvard study reported that persons suffering with mild depression found the use of various herbal supplements to be beneficial in helping to relieve their depression (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008).  The findings of the study include benefit from folic acid, which helps the brain to produce serotonin, which can improve mood, and in many patients, stimulated their response to their prescribed antidepressant medication.  The study reported that similar benefits were produced through supplementation with SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). As with folic acid, SAMe is reported to help the brain produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, and can bring the brain’s levels of these neurotransmitters to a normal level in patients with a deficiency thereof (Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression, 2008).  This report stated that “eight studies compared SAMe to a tricyclic antidepressant; six concluded that SAMe was equivalent to the drug (p. 4).”  Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression (2008) reported that St. John’s Wort and Omega-3 fatty acids also have been found beneficial in helping to minimize depression in patients.

Anxiety.  Similarly, Lakhan and Vieria (2010) state that in other research passionflower, kava, St. John’s wort, lysine and magnesium have been effective in the treatment of anxiety.  Clinton, et al. (2005) add that melatonin may be useful in aiding sleep, which may help break the cycle of sleeplessness leading to stress, and stress leading to sleeplessness.

Clearly, many studies have shown that, when used responsibly, herbal aids can often help diminish and control the perception and effects of stress.

Need more information on managing stress?  Contact Angela at AngelaGlickLifeCoach.com for one-on-one and group coaching for stress management.

References

Clinton, T., Hart, A. and Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief and trauma.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The quick-reference guide to counseling women: 40 topics, spiritual insights and easy-to-use action steps. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Gasparini, M., Aurilia, C., Lubian, D., & Testa, M. (2016). Herbal remedies and the self-treatment of stress: An Italian survey. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 8(4), 465-470.

Herbal and Dietary Supplements for Depression. (2008). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 25(4), 4-5.

Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2010). Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal, 942-55. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42McNealus, K. (2018, February).  Let’s talk about stress. Exceptional Parent Magazine, 16-19. Retrieved from https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530360703/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=a6bef996

 

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It’s About Time!

Stress Management: Tool #1 – Time Management

It’s probably no surprise that one of the greatest sources of stress in a person’s life is his or her schedule.  What may surprise you, though, is that God has much to say about how we spend our time.  “For everything there is a season,’ says Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘and a time for every matter under heaven.”  Luke 12:25 admonishes, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (NIV).  Worry is a product of stress (Hanna, 2017), and it is not only not productive, but often slows us down and makes us less effective.  Mark 4:19 admonishes that “the worries of this life . . . come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (emphasis added).  I don’t know about you, but I want to be fruitful, and be a good steward of the time I’ve been given: Whitney (2014) points out that if a person is, as Scripture teaches, accountable for how she uses her talents (Matthew 14:25-30), and her words (Matthew 12:36), it is reasonable to expect that she will also be held accountable for time unwisely spent!

Before we can implement other stress management techniques available to us, we need to make room in our schedule.  Yes, yes, I can hear you now, my friend: ‘WHAT?!  Angela!  That’s the problem!! I don’t have any TIME!’  I know, I know.  And this is where many folks quickly get stuck and give up hope of being able to effectively manage their stress.  (Which, of course, often leads to a sense of failure, self-deprecation, and . . . more stress!)

Clinton and Hawkins (2009) advise that people must “Stop majoring in minor things,” and that we should “decide what is important and live for that.”  I say amen to that!  This means prioritizing the things that are commanding our time, and learning to say “no.”  Yes, I know . . . it can be really hard.  Even those of us who practice it often occasionally come up against a necessary “no” that gives us heartburn; but trust me – it’s better to say “no” than to add more stress!  We simply must confront and overcome our guilt feelings about saying “no” to good things that take away from the best things.

Many of us have difficulty accepting our limitations, but we do, in fact, have them and we are wise to recognize and accept them.  This means we have to develop and maintain healthy boundaries.  Even the National Institutes of Mental Health stress the importance of setting priorities and boundaries, in part by learning to say no to things that overwhelm our schedules!  For help with this (in addition to contacting your friendly, helpful stress and time management coach) I highly recommend the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (1992, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

It is imperative for us to master our calendars in order to be able to intentionally create space for implementing any or all of the other stress management techniques available to us, several of which will be addressed here in upcoming posts.

Need permission to say, “no” and to start eliminating life-draining activities so you can put more life-giving experiences on your schedule?  Here it is:  I’m giving you permission to reclaim the time that God has given you, so you can become healthier and less stressed out!

Need more detailed, one-on-one help managing your schedule, determining what should stay and what should be weeded out?  Contact me at angelaglicklifecoach@gmail.com – it can be done!

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Stress – Cause and Effect

So, this is a bit research-y, but bear with me, because that’s exactly what it is.  The result of some research I recently conducted to give me a feel for the real problem, so I could better guide my research for helping to cope with it.  I promise it’s the most research-y part of the series.  And trust me, it only scratches the surface!  It’s not long, and I do hope you learn something new…please post a comment to tell me if you do, and what it was!

The Problem: Stress

Stress is a pervasive disorder that discriminates against no one, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sex, or age.  What was originally designed for self-preservation and survival has, over time, become an illness of epidemic proportions.  In fact, McNealus (2018) reports that “Over 70% of American adults say that they experience stress or anxiety daily, and that it impacts their life” (p. 16).  Approximately twenty million Americans currently suffer from the physical, emotional and psychological effects of stress (Clinton, Hart and Ohlschlager, 2005).  However, that is not how God intended stress to function, or more specifically, to malfunction.

Stress Was Meant for Good

Stress for Spiritual Growth.  Although stress typically has a negative connotation due to its vast and varied adverse effects (see “EFFECT” below), it has benefits, as well.  Clinton and Langberg (2011) point out that God can use stress to reveal sin in a woman’s life.  Furthermore, Clinton, et al. (2005) teach that “God uses times of difficulty and adversity to stretch us and develop our character. This mechanism also keeps life exciting, enabling us to be creative and productive” (p. 163).  Additionally, Clinton and Hawkins (2009, “Stress”) point out that “stress is a normal part of life and can be positive, alerting us to a problem area needing attention and helping us respond to it” (n.p.).

Stress for Survival.  Clinton and Langberg (2011) write that “stress is the common term for general adaptation syndrome (GAS), or the fight or flight syndrome.  It is the body’s natural response to threatening situations…” (p. 300).[1]  When this fight or flight response is engaged, the body releases stress hormones, specifically adrenaline and cortisol.  According to the Mayo Clinic (2016), adrenaline serves to boost energy levels and cortisol serves to suppress those bodily functions that it deems non-essential to survival, such as digestion and functions of the reproductive system.  These responses are helpful if a person is in jeopardy, such as facing physical attack; after the threat has passed, these hormones return to normal levels and the body resumes normal functionality (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

When Stress Goes Bad

Unfortunately, when a person is under constant stress, the body begins to malfunction.  Chronic stress, or stress that is prolonged, turns into a disease known as “distress” (Clinton, et al., 2005, p. 163).  Some of the causes of distress include poor outlook, job stress, financial strain, juggling too many roles, and chronic illness.  For a more detailed list of causes of and contributors to stress (“stressors”), including those particular to women, see “CAUSE,” below.  Some of the adverse effects of long-term exposure to stress include headache, heart disease, substance abuse, and even diabetes.  For more on these adverse effects, see “EFFECT,” below.

CAUSE

Causes of and Contributors to Stress

A few factors unique to women that contribute to stress include trying to maintain multiple roles, such as managing a career while being a wife and mother (Clinton & Langberg, 2011).  However, some personalities lend themselves to stress more easily than others.  Blom, M., Georgiades, A., Janszky, I., Alinaghizadeh, H., Lindvall, B., & Ahnve, S. (2009) would add that “common stress behaviors include constant perceived time urgency, impatience, or easily aroused irritation, as well as hostility and competitiveness” (p. 227). Those who have extremely driven or perfectionistic personalities, or exhibit the aforementioned behaviors not only experience increased stress, but it is likely that these individuals contribute to increased levels of stress in those around them.

Clinton, et al. (2005) Give a partial summary of causes for stress: “External Stressors include adverse physical conditions such as pain, illness, extreme temperatures, noise, foul air, hurried schedule; or stressful psychological environments such as work demands, abusive or conflictual relationships, the environment and unpredictable events” (p. 163).  Clinton, et al. continue,

Internal stressors can also be physical such as infections, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, poor health habits; or psychological such as intense worry about finances, work, family and relationship problems, worrying about a harmful event that may or may not occur, an emptiness, negative attitude and feelings, personality traits such as perfectionism, trying to do too much, change and loss. (p. 163).

EFFECT

Adverse Effects and Symptoms of Stress

Stress frequently leads to physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual dysfunction and illness, ranging from seemingly minor effects, such as forgetfulness (Bosse-Smith, 2010) and weight gain (Mayo Clinic, 2016), to life-threatening results.  “Women are more likely to experience physical symptoms of stress [than men]” (Clinton & Langberg, 2011, p. 300).  Some of these physical symptoms include “headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and difficulty sleeping.  Stress can also affect a woman’s relationships adversely as well as her body, mind, and spirit” (Clinton & Langberg, 2011, p. 301).  Chronic stress, or distress, can also diminish the body’s natural ability to ward of disease (King, 2013).  King (2013) goes on to note that there is a correlation between chronic stress and diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  In people with pre-existing heart conditions, acute stress can lead to a heart attack or stroke (Aldwin, 2007).  Furthermore, McNealus (2018) cites stress as a possible cause of inflammation, which Aldwin (2007) reports, if left unchecked, can lead to autoimmune disease.

Adverse Effects and Symptoms of Stress During Childhood Development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, conducted between 1995 and 1997, uncovered a correlation between toxic stress during childhood and future health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and substance abuse.  ACEs include divorce of parents, domestic violence and parental alcoholism (Gunnar, n.d.).  Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., and Marks, J. S., conclude their results of the ACE study thus: “We found a strong graded relationship between the breadth of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults” (p. 245). Further, in response to the ACE study, Edwards, V. J., Holden, G. W., Felitti, V. J., and Anda, R. F. (2013) found that “The interaction of an emotionally abusive family environment with the various maltreatment types had a significant effect on mental health scores” (p. 1453).  In other words, childhood stress has lasting, harmful physical and emotional effects on a woman well into adulthood.

Stress, Childhood Development, and Future Outcomes

Gunnar (n.d.) reports that too much stress, for too long a period of time, can have “devastating consequences for developing brains.”  Gunnar refers to such conditions as “toxic stress,” and teaches that toxic stress is “a severe, prolonged release of stress chemicals . . . often caused when a child lacks supportive and nurturing adults.” This type of toxic stress is capable of causing brain damage, killing and/or prohibiting the development of brain cells.  Adults can often be the source of childhood stress (e.g., physical, emotional, verbal and/or sexual abuse inflicted by adults on children); this means the child actually must approach and even depend on the very person who is causing their severe stress.  Complicating matters is that children have no innate coping skills for handling stress.

Closing Thoughts

Stress can be good, if we listen to our body and spirit.  When we ignore them, we endanger ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally.  But there is hope!  Stay tuned for some reasonable, realistic management techniques to keep your unhealthy stress levels down, and to cope with “negative stress” when it inevitably arrives on your doorstep.

Resources

Aldwin, C. M. (2007). Stress, coping, and development: An integrative perspective. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu

Blom, M., Georgiades, A., Janszky, I., Alinaghizadeh, H., Lindvall, B., & Ahnve, S. (2009). Daily stress and social support among women with CAD: Results from a 1-year randomized controlled stress management intervention study. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 16(3), 227-235. doi: 10.1007/s12529-009-9031-y

Bosse-Smith, L. (2010). I want my life back!: Life management for busy women. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016).  About the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study. Violence Prevention.  Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html

Clinton, T., Hart, A. and Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief and trauma.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T. and Hawkins, R. (2009). The quick-reference guide to biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Clinton, T., & Langberg, D. (2011). The quick-reference guide to counseling women: 40 topics, spiritual insights and easy-to-use action steps. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Edwards, V. J., Holden, G. W., Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2003, August). Relationship between multiple forms of childhood maltreatment and adult mental health in community respondents: results from the adverse childhood experiences study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(8), 1453-60. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.160.8.1453

Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998).  Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245-258.

Gunnar, M. (n.d.).  Child development core story, part 3: Stress.  Project for Babies.  Retrieved from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/project-for-babies/

King, L.A. (2013). Experience psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

McNealus, K. (2018, February).  Let’s talk about stress. Exceptional Parent Magazine, 16-19. Retrieved from https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530360703/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=a6bef996

Mayo Clinic. (2016). Stress management. Healthy Lifestyle. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

[1] The concept of GAS was founded by Hans Selye in 1950.

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Stress Management Series Intro

Women today are living with increased responsibilities, such as trying to manage a career, a husband, children, ministry, household chores, financial management, exercise, and much more.  A common societal expectation is that women can “do it all,” and do it gracefully (which, dear ladies, we have contributed to significantly, bless our hearts!).  Unfortunately, these unrealistic expectations have facilitated a collective mindset that the busier a woman is, the greater her value.  This leads to completely unmanageable levels of stress in a woman’s life, and women have begun to wear that stress as a badge of honor, boasting about their busyness and feeling guilty for having “down time” in their schedules.

While it is true that no one can avoid stress all the time, managing stress is a choice.  The choice to be made is whether or not the woman will swap stress’ false badge of honor for a badge of courage, shifting her mindset and choosing to cope with and control her stress before it controls or even kills her.  Stress management is a must in the contemporary woman’s life, and it does not have to come with a prescription or be complicated, confusing, time-consuming or costly.

I will endeavor in the coming weeks to give you some tools for your stress management toolbox.  Over the next couple of weeks, starting with this post, I will share some introductory thoughts and a bit of my story.  I will move into why stress can be good and what happens when it goes bad.  And then I will proceed to spend a bit of time each week on some techniques for becoming victorious over the stress that is threatening to consume so many women’s lives, relationships and physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health.

My goal is that this will be an ongoing series of not-too-long posts, so they’ll be helpful but not suck up too much of your time.  I mean, that would be sort of counterproductive, right?  I do hope you’ll join me on this journey, and I look forward to your feedback, as well as suggestions for future blog topics.  Be sure to subscribe to my blog so that my posts go directly into your email and you can read them at your leisure!

And don’t forget, any time you want one-on-one help with your individual challenges, send me a message through my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/angelaglicklifecoach

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Fear demands courage. Courage requires fear.

Fear demands courage.  Courage requires fear.

They can’t live without each other.  If you’ve ever been afraid and you’re still here, it’s because of courage.  Courage to pray. Courage to put one foot in front of the other. Courage to stand strong, courage to get back on your feet when you fall.

And we wouldn’t need courage if there was no fear. 

Fear is a training ground for courage.  How would we know how strong we truly are, or understand our potential, or begin to grasp God’s greatness if we never experienced fear?

I don’t think it’s fair to tell a person not to be afraid.  Yes, the Bible instructs us not to fear, and purportedly it does so 365 times.  I’ve heard it, and I believe it.  But I don’t think it means to deny our fear.  Denial of our emotions is the beginning of disaster. Denial of our emotions can, and almost certainly will, over time, cause or contribute to potentially severe health issues (high blood pressure, heart attacks, severe and ongoing headaches, diabetes, autoimmune issues and so much more).  Denial of our emotions can, and often does, take a severe and sometimes irreversible toll on our mental health (nervous breakdowns, depression, anxiety, and even suicide).  And then there’s our spiritual life.  Denying our emotions can dramatically strain our relationship with God, our sense of purpose, and the wellness in our soul that comes from being able to live in a place of hope.  Finally, our relational life takes a beating when we deny our emotions (divorce, infidelity, alienation of family and friends and on and on).

Some folks label emotions as “good” and “bad.”  I’ve done it myself, in the interest of brevity and simplicity.  But I think it’s tricky and dangerous to call fear a “bad” emotion.  It’s perfectly valid.  It must be, because it is God-given.  It serves a healthy purpose, to warn us off from taking harmful actions or engaging in detrimental behaviors.  What I think the Scriptures are saying is not to never experience fear, but rather not to unpack and camp out in a place of fear; not to let it take over our emotional, physical, spiritual and relational wellbeing; not to let it drive or control our hearts, minds or actions.

Feel the fear.  Confess the fear.  Pray about the fear.  Find a trusted confidant and talk about/cry about/rail against/scream about the fear.  But let it be like an afternoon thundershower.  When it’s over, see the light of hope.  Feel the freshness of grace on your skin.  Sense the renewal on the horizon.  And then look closer.  Look inside.  Look for him.  Can you see him?  There he is, reaching out to you.  Take his hand.  Let Jesus help you up, and even lean on him.  It’s one of the reasons he’s here.  Allow him to introduce you to the Victor in you (1 Cor. 6:19).  Allow the fear, accept the help, and dig deep for the courage that is in you.  Lift your chin a little higher and march on, wiser and stronger for your inevitable encounter with fear.

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Dealing with Insecurities

Let’s face it. We all struggle with insecurity. I mean, I don’t think I know a single person  who doesn’t struggle with insecurity in some form at some time.

There is a public figure who’s circle I am peripherally a part of, and frankly I don’t give her much thought other than respecting who she is and the accomplishments that she has achieved. And I have never once had the thought in my head, ‘Wow! I really wish Suzie Q would send me a card’ … until I found out that I didn’t make the cut, but a number of other people received handwritten cards from her.  After that, I found little tiny whispers of thoughts creeping into my head: what do I have to do to make the grade next time? What do I have to do to be in this person‘s inner circle? When I realized what was happening, I was, of course, apalled.

At Christmas time, I put a note out in the public space of the apartment building where my husband and I live. It was a very kind note thanking my neighbors for being people I can trust, for being pleasant, for being the kinds of neighbors to help each other out, etc. I almost didn’t hang it. I mean, what if they thought it was a dork, or a jerk, or some kind of loser?

We all struggle with insecurity from time to time, and that’s alright. The important thing is to learn to recognize it for what it is.  It’s a lie. Don’t beat yourself up for having insecurities, but do try to learn to recognize when they are rearing their ugly heads. When they do, look them in the eye, and remind them that you were created to be perfectly you, and that’s exactly what you are.  Perfectly you. God made only one of you, and He made you exactly the way He wanted you. There is only one of you, and you are a blessing to this world.

Then straighten your crown and march on. 🙂

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Monday Moment for New Year’s Day (a few days late)

It is fitting that this post would be late, given it’s content, unrealistic expectations.  However, the reason for its tardiness is that my laptop crashed (yes, my less than 5-month-old laptop’s hard drive mangled itself with all my info on it, *sigh*), and try as I might, I couldn’t locate this file on January 1.  Anyhoo, I found it today and I think it’s still worth sharing…

If you know me you know that I don’t do new year’s resolutions.  I long ago resolved to be the best version of myself that I’m capable of being every day.  Some days I shine like … something really, really shiny … and some days I suck the light right out of my space.  But every day I try to be the best I can, to give every day all I have to give.  And every day I go to the well (yes, the one for which this blog is named) and I refill.  The well of living water.  I live at that well.  I can’t live apart from that well.  If I stray from that well I quickly sink into the quicksand of despair, become toxic to myself and those around me, and claw my way back to the well as quickly as possible.

I set difficult, sometimes unrealistic goals for myself during the year, and I modify them as needed.  I long ago decided to stop setting unattainable goals for myself on January 1 that would leave me feeling inadequate, inept, unworthy and often fat, ugly and stupid.  People battle this type of thinking all year long – why set ourselves up on the first day of a brand spanking new year to flop horribly in, statistically speaking, approximately three weeks?!

No, you won’t find me declaring at 12:01 on January 1, 2018 that I resolve to lose 10, 20, 30, or 50 pounds in the coming 12 months.  If it was that easy I wouldn’t need to declare such a thing.  I would simply do it.  Nor will you find me vowing to stop drinking, or eating sugar, or swearing on January 1.  Instead, I try daily to learn more self-control with the help of the Lord (because without his help … well … you wouldn’t like me much and neither would I).

I openly decry the notion of new year’s resolutions, without shame or reservation.  Because we beat ourselves up plenty 365 days every year; I think it’s a horrible idea to choose one day each year when we vow to achieve unrealistic goals and then bludgeon ourselves emotionally when we, predictably, cannot or do not achieve them.

I’d rather see us all make a commitment to ourselves and to God every day that we will strive to be present, that we will strive to be kind to ourselves and others, and that we will do our best that day to be more Christlike and to stretch ourselves to live fuller, richer lives that further the kingdom of God every day of every year, and then take positive steps to grow in those areas.  We all have room for improvement and we can all take measurable steps to move into that improvement.  One day at a time.  Realistically.

That said, I have a delightful habit of keeping a monthly journal of major events and accomplishments and then reviewing them on December 31/January 1.  It’s such a joy to see what I’ve accomplished, overcome, and celebrated throughout the year, with God’s good grace!  I encourage everyone to spend their time reviewing the past year in a positive light instead of setting themselves up for disappointment and self-recrimination in the next!

May you have a fulfilling, joyful, blessed and peaceful 2018!

Shalom,

Angela

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Monday Moment at the Well

A few thoughts for you to unwrap and spend some time with today:

Before you were born, before the birth of Jesus, before God created the Earth, before time as we understand it, He has been there.  Look back.  All the trials – the ones you’re amazed you survived … well, you did.  Look back at all those perfect moments in the arms of a loved one, at the beautiful sunsets … He gave you those moments, those sunsets.

God was, and is, always there.  You are never alone.  And there has never been a moment in your life when you were not extravagantly loved.

Merry Christmas from The Well.

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Finding Majesty Amid the Chaos

If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m not a snow person.  I grew up in North Florida and lived in the South for more than half my life.  I’ve lived in the Midwest and the North and I’ve never developed an affection for the stuff.  The only kind of white Christmas I’ve ever found appealing was one near white sandy beaches.

But today I was driving in the countryside in Upstate New York after an early morning snowfall, on my way to an appointment.  I rounded a corner and honest to Pete, what I saw had tears rolling down my cheeks in seconds.  I crossed over a creek and it was one of the most perfect scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  All the trees had a coat of light, fluffy snow on them.  The rocks in the creek had a coat of snow on them, and the shoreline and the ground in the woods were covered in that same fluffy white snow.  The contrast of the nearly black creek made it all the more stunning.

I was overwhelmed.  I mean, truly humbled, awed and overcome by the beauty of that scene.  Only God can create such splendor.  And that’s what had me crying.  God’s majesty, God’s power, God’s glory, God’s complete rule and love are all around us, every minute of every day.  And He created something for everyone, didn’t He?  Some of us love summer, some of us dream of fall foliage, some love rain, some love snow, some are mountain people, some prefer flat desert lands, some thrive in tropical climes…  and isn’t it just like our great God to gift us with all of it?

I don’t love snow.  I’m a tropics-loving Southern gal.  But there is no denying that I had a momentary love for snow this morning.  I couldn’t safely stop for a photo, but I will try to hold onto that scene in my memory for a long time to come.  I’m glad I was paying attention, that I allowed myself to break out of my thoughts and my planning to really absorb what was before me.

It’s a busy time of year, when it’s easy to become overwhelmed with “to do” lists and stressed out over our schedules, finances, relationships, and all the “shoulds” in our heads.  But I urge you to take a moment and notice the beauty all around you.  Soak it in.  It may help you to remember that you are small, your problems are small, today is short (as is your life here on Earth).  Savor the scenes in the snow as you drive, the atmosphere of Christmas while you shop – the hustle and bustle, the music, the whole scene – and remember the reason for it all.  Jesus.

Now for a cup of hot chocolate…

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It’s a Wonderful Life

I am so very grateful for my little life right now. I know it is going to change – Andrew and I both feel it in the air, in our prayers, in our growing spiritual passions. And I look forward to that part of our journey, as well.
 
But for now, it is perfect just the way it is.
 
Today I enjoyed a nice hot shower after I walked downstairs on capable legs to go out and brush off my nice car that runs well, so that someone could plow the lot so I don’t have to shovel. I spent a long time in prayer, Scripture reading, and other stuff without being rushed. I have our Christmas lights on in our warm apartment in the middle of the day, which I rarely do (you’re welcome, National Grid). I have a cozy, purring, loving kitty draped over my shoulder. I have a full belly and I’m sipping hot cocoa. I have a husband and friends who love me and a chosen family I’m honored to be a part of. I have hope for the dreams God is giving me, and hope and peace through the assurance of His presence with me in this life and the next.
 
So, rather than complaining about this stupid snow (oops) or that this is our most frugal Christmas yet (I am NOT trying to garner sympathy – we knowingly chose vacation over December’s Christmas/anniversary/birthday treats and continue to affirm what a perfect choice it was!!), I am genuinely overjoyed and my heart is so full of love that it seems to want to keep leaking out of my eyes. Of the people on this planet, I am among the richest … in every way imaginable, and I just wanted to share that with you today.