Celiac, Auto-immune disease, & Mental Health: Managing Challenges

By: Donna Gibbs

October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. I have numerous friends who wrestle with the symptoms and limitations of celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder. In those with Celiac disease, the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune response that attacks the small intestine. If you have celiac, then gluten robs you of life satisfaction. Gluten creates risky health complications. Gluten is downright dangerous. 

I too have an autoimmune disease that requires my omitting gluten. It’s not fun. It’s not my choice. I’d much rather enjoy homemade biscuits, a hot loaf of bread from Carrabba’s, or a fresh-made doughnut from my favorite local bakery. But I can’t. I haven’t had that pleasure in years. For me, ingesting gluten would be irresponsible. It would rob me of remission, and I have learned to live with that fact. (I’m hoping for a large dose of homemade biscuits in heaven!!)

Some of you can relate. Maybe it’s not Celiac, or even an auto-immune disease, but you may endure the hardship of a challenging physical battle each day of your life. It’s tough living with the daily trials and restrictions of a chronic condition. As you probably know quite well, that day after day battle requires large doses of support and self-discipline. 

But some of you reading this blog wrestle with a more hidden condition. You don’t have Celiac disease, or any other serious auto-immune disease. (I hope you don’t.) You wrestle with a more silent, but equally as powerful struggle: mental illness. While you may have no negative consequences from a slice of bread, there are other things that will certainly trigger you. Those triggers bring unwelcomed symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms can become very serious. Much like someone with Celiac, you must take very seriously your “ingestion” of triggers. You too must omit some things from your life in order to ensure that you remain stable. For instance, if you wrestle with anxiety, then you must abstain from caffeine. If you wrestle with depression, you must abstain from alcohol. If you wrestle with fear, you must abstain from dark horror or sci-fi movies or books. If you wrestle with anger, you must abstain from long viewings of the news. If you struggle with any chronic mental illness, you must be mindful of anything that enters your brain, which is your most important bodily organ. You must be mindful of who you spend your time with. Like foods, people can be either toxic or medicinal. You must be aware of your triggers, and sometimes those triggers are unique to you alone (you must become your own expert). In a nutshell, your triggers can be as toxic for your mental health as a bread bar would be for someone with Celiac. That sounds harsh. But it’s true.

Whether we wrestle with a mental, spiritual, or physical health concern, our ownership of our health is key! That ownership takes a grown-up perspective! It requires relinquishing and grieving what we SO want to put into our bodies or minds, but can’t afford. And then owning our own health, because we have the exclusive responsibility for ourselves. That ownership may sometimes require radical steps to ensure that we are our best version of ourselves. Not perfect. But as stable as we can be this side of eternity. Perfectly imperfect!

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, and is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

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You’ve Been Through a Tough Season: It’s Time for Resilience.

by Donna Gibbs

You’ve been through a tough season of pain. You’re finally beginning to heal and discover hope again. You feel like you’re beginning to understand the meaning of the word, Resilient. You are bouncing back from the unthinkable, but you still crave something more. What is that you crave? Purpose. You read of heroes of old. Heroes like Esther, who used her suffering and her position to change the trajectory of history. You consider heroes of today, those in your life who inspire you. You, too, desire that God would use you—and maybe even use your pain. 

But how?

It is quite simple, actually. Despite your suffering, you have talents, gifts, and abilities, right? Maybe they are a bit dusty due to a season of discouragement, but they are still there. Now, marry those strengths with your greatest point of pain, and you have a beautiful formula for purpose:

Strengths + Sufferings = Purpose

What does that formula look in real-life terms? Let me give you some examples:

A gifted pastor with a history of childhood sexual abuse uses his terrible experience to educate, and more effectively minister to his parishioners who have suffered the same kind of abuse

A woman who easily connects with children and was once abused by her husband volunteers to provide childcare in a shelter for survivors of domestic violence

A widowed man with the gifts of mercy and compassion leads a support group related to grief

A woman with the gift of hospitality who lost her child to cancer serves as a greeter at a special luncheon hosted for grieving mothers

A wise businessman who experienced the trauma of divorce offers financial coaching to those who are adjusting to the financial challenges of separation

A teen with a gift for writing whose mother spent years in prison writes notes of encouragement to other children whose parents are imprisoned

An introverted woman who thrives in one-on-one relationships and battled a decade-long addiction to drugs mentors and encourages another female to overcome her drug addiction

A gifted public speaker who has suffered many health issues teaches a class on nutrition

A happily married couple whose marriage survived bankruptcy reaches out to another couple after the husband receives a pink slip from his employer

A retired talented carpenter who previously lost his home to a tornado provides practical reconstruction help to those who have lost their homes to natural disasters

Obviously, there are no limits as to how God can use our suffering to produce something beautiful. 

His creativity has no restrictions. 

Our job is to be willing and available for him to use us. If this discussion pulls at your heartstrings, then your next step is to simply submit. Submit your strengths, gifts, passions, and abilities to God. He orchestrated them anyway. Submit your hurt to God and be willing for him to use you if and when he desires. (No need to panic. God is probably not calling you to speak to audiences across the country about your greatest pains. He is far more creative than that.)

Then anticipate and be alert daily to opportunities. Next, it’s time to act. It’s time to allow your hurt to be used for greater purpose. Respond to opportunities. Lastly, enjoy the reward. God provides an extra layer of healing and joy when we allow Him to use something so uncomfortable in our lives to yield something so beautiful, to give back to others in a positive way.

Your pain doesn’t have to just end with pain. That would be doubly tragic. Pains end can be purpose. For an ultimate dose of resilience, let purpose begin!!

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How to Silence Your Insecurities… and Take Your Life Back!

by Donna Gibbs

If you’re like most of us, you struggle. You wrestle at times with thoughts that you aren’t good enough. That you don’t measure up. That you aren’t attractive enough… or successful enough… or spiritual enough… or popular enough. The more you contemplate your inadequacies, the more you struggle. A quick trip to the mall, to the virtual reality of social media, or even a church campus, gives you more evidence that you aren’t enough. Enough already!

Satan has a crack in the door. And He is determined to shove it wide open!

Mental stability hinges on the accuracy and consistency of our thoughts. And when we are wrestling with insecurity, our thoughts are anything but truthful and stable. Destructive thoughts are propelled by comparisons. Comparisons rarely result in an appreciation of ourselves or others. Instead, they scream an exaggerated conclusion regarding weaknesses. Either we don’t measure up. Or in our arrogance, the person who is the object of our comparison fails to measure up. The enemy, who can’t steal our worth, steals our perception of our worth. 

Satan is a vicious thief who robs us through an illusion. 

But since perception is reality, the illusion still has the power to create an enormous amount of mental turmoil.

I believe Satan is less interested in the mental anguish that our insecurities bring, and more interested in the cascade of messes that result from that mental anguish. You see, our thoughts lead to our emotions. And our emotions lead to our behaviors. With that said, you can imagine the impact of an unstable foundation of misguided thoughts regarding ourselves. The battle for our significance is a nasty war, and the enemy has no concern about how messy it becomes. The unnecessary cascade of problems wreaks havoc on our emotions, our relationships, and even our life development. Our toxic conclusions about ourselves bleed toxicity into every part of our lives. 

If you have ever struggled with feeling that you didn’t measure up, you understand the resulting toxicity that I am referring to. Your emotions have suffered a beating. And perhaps your relationships have as well. 

The enemy intends that insecurity touch every part of your life. 

Every. 

Part.

It’s time you take your life back. 

But you’ll have to leave those insecurities behind. And you won’t be able to relinquish those destructive conclusions until you embrace truthful conclusions. 

Friends, Jesus was bold and unapologetic about defining Himself. When questioned or falsely accused, He firmly declared that He was the “I Am” or “The Son of Man” or “The Light of the World”. Jesus didn’t allow anyone, or anything, to define Him. He boldly refuted and boldly corrected false attacks regarding His identity.

No one defined Jesus. Jesus defined Himself. 

And He longs to define you.

Let Him in. He has something to say. Something powerfully truthful. And His healing words will rescue your identity, free you from insecurities, and release you from the false illusion of inadequacies that have plagued every aspect of your life!

Let’s get this rescue mission started!

Need some help? That’s what Silencing Insecurities is designed to do! I’ll consider it a privilege to join you in your journey of believing God’s truth about you! 

www.silencinginsecurity.com

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Silencing Insecurity For Good

by Donna Gibbs

I felt a sense of vulnerability and a rage of anger unlike anything I had ever experienced.

My wallet had been stolen and the offender was using my identity for his own good pleasures.

I had been robbed.

I felt defenseless and violated.

If only I had known a thief had been lurking, I would have been more careful. I would have kept my guard up and been more alert.

But now, it was too late. The damage was done. I’d been betrayed by an unknown enemy, and the destruction was to my credit, my pride, and my overall sense of security.

Millions of people fall victim to identity theft every year.

The majority of those victims have no idea they have been targeted until months, or even years, after the crime.

But I want to talk to you about an even more common, subtler, and more dangerous form of identity theft that is claiming unsuspecting victims.

It is the theft of our purpose, our joy, our stability, and our very being.

Webster defines identity crisis as “personal, psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one’s social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one’s personality.

Unfortunately, I know only a few individuals whose “psychosocial conflict” ended in adolescence.

In fact, many women at every stage and circumstance in life continue to be just as conflicted as they were in adolescence.

What about you? Are you secure in who you are?

Or do you still feel like a teenager who is tossed to and fro by each passing circumstance?

If this describes you, then you will likely relate to some of these testimonies:

“I don’t know what to do with myself now that my children are out of the home. Who am I if not a mother?”

“When my husband left me, he took part of me with him. He was my everything.”

“I just finished college and everyone says I have great potential. Yet I am still trying to find myself, and I truly have no idea who I really am.”

“I take care of my husband and constantly run around taking care of the kids. I think I have lost myself in the midst of caring for everyone else.”

“My husband struggles with an addiction to pornography. Clearly I am not good enough or attractive enough. This is my fault.”

“I was abused as a young child. I’ve spent my life believing I am dirty and deserving of what happened to me.”

“My physical condition has gotten worse, and I can’t do the things I once could. I feel so inadequate.”

“I work so hard to keep everyone happy, and I hate conflict. I lose sleep if I learn someone is disappointed in me.”

“If only I had a boyfriend, I would feel better about myself. I feel so anxious and dejected when I don’t have someone special in my life.”

“My past prevents me from having a future. I don’t expect to ever be able to experience happiness.”

“If only I were thinner . . . smarter…younger…”

“I feel worthless.”

If you have ever struggled with thoughts or emotions like these, then you have been the target of identity theft.

Unfortunately, you are not alone.

So, join with your sisters, and let’s enter a journey that is mysterious but also freeing.

It’s time to stop the theft of your identity and gain stability through rescuing the significance of the person you were created to be.

Let’s get to know our “thieves,” those areas that trap us and leave us vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy.

We’re living in a society surrounded by thieves, so we need to be prepared, don’t you think?

Thankfully, God always provides a way out. I want to give you a word of hope.

You don’t have to live the rest of your life feeling that you don’t measure up. 

You don’t have to settle for living as if you aren’t enough.

You don’t have to settle for living with the emotional instability that results from insecurities.

You don’t have to settle for the relational chaos, indecisiveness, and unnecessary suffering invited by an inaccurate belief system regarding yourself.

It’s time to stop the theft of your identity and gain stability through rescuing the significance of the person you were created to be.

It’s time to experience freedom from your insecurities.

Let God’s truths about who you are rescue you from the oppression of your false beliefs.  Submit your thoughts to His thoughts.

God loves you with an outlandish, radical love.

And I promise you, that love He has for you is beyond anything you’ve ever experienced in this life. Allow His love to cover you, to wash over you, to heal you, to retrain your thoughts about yourself, to stabilize your emotions, and to influence your decisions.

As you accept that covering of love and seek Him for insight regarding your worth, you will find healing for your mind and your emotions.

Let His be the solitary voice that declares your worth.

And then follow His footsteps by boldly correcting any attack of the enemy that fuels a false belief about who you really are.

Boldly refute the lies.

Let His be the solitary voice that declares your worth.

It’s time to stop the theft of your identity and gain stability by rescuing your significance as the person you were created to be.

It’s time to disarm the thief and take back the security that never should have been stolen.

Let’s get this rescue mission started!

If you enjoyed this blog post, see more at www.silencinginsecurity.com

Following Shalom

by Ashleigh Beason

Shalom, a word that has had so much meaning to my life.  A flourishing wholeness, peace, but not just any peace, a God peace.  Something we all long for.  A word that I have had a hard time grasping in this season.  

If you know me at all you know vulnerability is difficult for me. With a counselor mindset everything always has to be okay…always….but this past season has been a difficult one.  A lot of new transitions come with a variety of new fears.  In asking a friend for advice, she said, “Ash, the only thing I know to tell you to do at this point is to follow peace…to follow shalom.”

I have had to fight every morning for even an ounce of peace.  What I have not been doing is recognizing that peace is everywhere… Peace is something we were created for. It’s how our journey began in the Garden of Eden and it’s how our journey will end in Heaven.

In the meantime, we are all in desperate need of peace. In fact, every behavior choice we make can be analyzed as an attempt to find the peace our heart desires or to numb the pain of failing to find it. We long for something else, something more, an opportunity to find our true home of joy, meaning, and peace.  It’s not the addiction, but an Eden experience that people really want.

What is it that brings you peace? What is it that lets you breathe again, that puts you at ease?  Take yourself there.

Peace is more than a feeling, it’s more than a place, it’s a person. Peace is a person to abide in and that person is Jesus. Ultimately, the only true peace we can find in this world is the One who IS peace. The only one who can pick up the million different pieces of my life is the creator of PEACE, Jesus. He is standing at the cross offering us PEACE in the midst of a thousand pieces.

That is the only thing that will create that flourishing wholeness, that shalom my heart so longs for.  And isn’t it interesting that the word Shalom encompasses both God’s peace and wholeness?  This peace, this Jesus is what makes us whole in these pieces that can be life.

In the morning when you wake up there are two chairs you can choose to sit in…one of Fear and one of peace, and whichever one you choose to sit in is the one that will determine how you will live your day. So this morning and every morning I choose peace…I choose the One who IS peace. I choose to follow shalom, to follow Jesus.

“Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

Sometimes the first step to finding peace is talking to someone about the pieces of your life which you can’t seem make fit together. We at Summit Wellness Centers are here to help.

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Rip Current

by Lori Heagney

Many years ago I was wading in the ocean in waist deep water when out of nowhere a rip current knocked me off my feet and pulled me under. I was shocked and terrified. I held my breath. I wanted to fight, but I couldn’t. It was out of my control and I couldn’t do anything about it.

I remember opening my eyes and seeing the sun shine through the water above me. That moment is indelibly etched in my memory. It was strangely beautiful and I felt at peace. I mentally gave in to the experience, knowing that eventually I would surface. It seemed like minutes, but was probably just seconds before I broke through the water and was able to breath again. I was nowhere close to where I had first stepped into the ocean, but I was thankful I had survived. 

Eighteen months ago today, my husband died after his 4-year long battle with a rare bone marrow disease. The experience hit me like the rip current once had. 

It knocked me off my feet.

I was shocked and terrified. 

I held my breath. 

I wanted to fight, but I couldn’t. 

It was out of my control and I couldn’t do anything about it. 

My story didn’t end there. I did not drown in my sorrow, though I thought I might at times. The rip current of grief was strong, but God proved Himself stronger. Throughout my season of grief, He showed me over and over that He is truly sovereign and if I let go and “gave in” to His plans, no matter how much I wanted to fight them, He would show compassion in my season of grief. He promised me that I would surface again. 

The rip current pulled me under without warning, as did my husband’s death. Just as my experience so many years ago, it also brought me to a new place, no where close to where my journey began. 

I have grieved and I have grown. 

I gave in and found peace. 

I was stretched and it made me stronger. 

I kept my eyes on the “Son” and it made all the difference.

I know how hard it is to lose someone you care for. I have also questioned “why?” and wondered what point there was to my suffering. Now that I have surfaced and I’m healing, I can see how God is using this experience for His good. All of us experience a myriad of losses in our lives. Grief is no stranger to any of us. If you are struggling with loss and grief on your own and feel like you are still under water, make a call to us today. We are here to help. 

Though the Lord brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. – Lamentations 3:32

Bulimia: A Word For Those Who Struggle

by Donna Gibbs

Each week, I work with individuals who have unintentionally become a slave to a raging eating disorder. Eating disorders are challenging monsters, and they make for hard counseling work. But I must say that it is also some of the most rewarding work that I do. Seeing the transition in a person who has almost lost their life then become someone who can speak life into the lives of others is a privilege I can hardly describe. I’m going to invite you to have a taste of that experience for just a moment. Below is a letter written by one who has barely escaped the horror of bulimia…written to another who has just discovered that they are a slave to this wretched disorder. 

Hey,
You don’t know me, but I know you. I know you very well. I know the pain you feel, the hurt you have and the depths of despair and darkness that surrounds you. You’re in a dark place, that’s driven by anger, anger at yourself. You’re angry you can’t control certain things in your life. Angry you don’t know all the answers. Angry you’re not where you want to be or where you think you should be or where you think other people want you to be. Angry because you think that you’re not good enough and you don’t want other people to know that you aren’t. There’s this voice telling you you’re not worth it, you’ll never be worth it, you don’t deserve worth the way you are. It tells you in order to have worth, success, acceptance, love and control, you have to do what it says. It hurts you. It forces you to hurt yourself. It makes you cry and purge and eat and purge and cry. It tells you this is the way to get what you truly want. Yeah, you suck now, but just keep listening to that voice and it will make all your wants and dreams come to life. It makes promise after promise. But you always seem to come up short. There’s always another goal to achieve, and you always think that’s the last goal. But it never is.

But what it doesn’t tell you is that it hates you. It hates you so much it convinces you to hate yourself. This voice doesn’t want you to succeed. It wants to kill and destroy everything you have ever held dear. It will take everything from you. Your family, friends, job, grades. Your happiness, excitement, wonder, curiosity, attention, time. It will thin your hair, destroy your teeth, and weaken your fingernails. It will strain your heart, destroy your esophagus, and wreak havoc on your digestive system. But ultimately, it will take your life. It won’t just physically kill you, it will emotionally and mentally destroy you first until you are just wanting to die. It will become all consuming. Until you eat, breathe, sleep bulimia. It will become the only thing you care about, the only thing on your mind. Nothing else will matter.

Every time you purge, you flush away so much more than food. You flush away your life. You flush away any chance at true happiness. Every time you purge you fall deeper and deeper into the lie. Into the black hole that is bulimia. This black hole will suck you in and utterly destroy you. There is no such thing as happiness in an eating disorder. Only death.

I’m writing to you, not to scare you, but to show you there is hope. You can stop. You can recover. I have been in the nasty clutches of bulimia for well over 8 years now. I have been at the bottom of the pit just wishing to die. I’ve been to a lot of therapy, doctors and inpatient once. But here I am. Alive. I’ve been down the road that you are headed, and I can tell you, from experience, it’s not a trail worth taking. It’s not glamorous, or cool, or trendy. It’s only dead ends, smoke, and fun house mirrors. If there was anything worth having or keeping in bulimia, I wouldn’t have wanted to recover. It’s taken so much from me. More than you’d ever want to hear about. Don’t let it take another minute away from you. Your life is precious. You are so strong, and brave. Eating disorders try to take people who are strong and beautiful, and make them believe they are weak and ugly. Don’t let it lie to you. Don’t let it take over your mind and life. Throw that negative voice out and retake the throne of your mind and be the queen that you truly are. You can have control of your own life without purging. I hope this letter helps you.
You are worth it. Just as you are.

If you are reading this, and relating to the belief system described above, the obsession with bulimia (or any other eating disorder), the thoughts of worthlessness…please let someone know. I know you have worked hard to keep this a secret, but you have become a slave to an unworthy master, and there is help for you. The promises of the eating disorder are empty, but there is a hope that is rich and full of life! Reach out today! I promise you, there is a way out of bulimia! We at Summit Wellness Centers stand with you – it’s your time to take back your life!

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Suicide: Let’s Better Understand.

by Donna Gibbs

Suicide. That’s a tough subject for this week. Most people aren’t even comfortable speaking this word out loud. This is a subject that brings discomfort, fear, insecurity, pain. We often stumble on our words when someone begins discussing suicide – we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. We may be afraid to acknowledge our own thoughts of suicide, for fear of how someone will respond. So, we often say nothing at all. Truth is, in the time it takes you to read this brief blog, someone will make a decision to take their own life, and loved ones will be left to cope with the catastrophic and all too complex impact of that decision.

Suicide is on the rise. It is indeed a public health issue, and we at Summit Wellness Centers are not comfortable staying silent with such a life-altering statistic. Look around you….everyone you see knows a story about suicide. Many people have been directly impacted by a friend or a loved-one’s taking their own life. Some of you reading these words are curious about this blog because you yourself have experienced thoughts of suicide. Maybe you are experiencing those thoughts right now. You know what it feels like to be trapped. To be stuck. To be hopeless. To feel unworthy. It’s not that you want to die, you just need the pain to stop, and it may seem to you that there is no way out. 

A study of the Psalms reveals that even David, a man of loyalty, a “man after God’s own heart”, came to a place where he felt hopeless. With legitimate enemies pressing in, exhaustion, discouragement, physical pain – he saw no way out. He begged God to take his life. I don’t think David really wanted to die. I think he just wanted life to stop closing in on him, and he could see no end to the struggle. 

The suicide of a prominent pastor is in the news right now. I pray for Indian Hills church, and think of them often, as I appreciate the pain and confusion they are feeling. Naturally, we question how a man of faith could come to that place of brokenness. But I’m here to say that no one is immune. In fact, those in ministry may even be the most prone to discouragement. They carry a perceived weight on their shoulders, live in a glass house, are expected to be many things to many people, and often live isolated lives, with few places or people they can trust in their own pain. I recall the phone call I received years ago regarding the death of a good pastor friend. I remember weeping with a broken heart when I heard the word suicide. I drove to his house in disbelief. Surely this can’t be! You see, David Treadway was not just any colleague to me. He had been instrumental in the development of my counseling ministry. He understood the need for a safe place. He had survived the suicide of his own mother. But years later, after moving away and taking the position as a Senior Pastor, even he succumbed to hopelessness. You see, a person who commits suicide doesn’t do so as a selfish act. They do so as a perceived selfless act. They are disillusioned, suffering, and unfortunately, miss opportunities for help. While this is not the case 100% of the time, it is true that in most every case, if someone will reach out for help, the suicidal ideation will diminish, and they can begin to more clearly see a path of hope. 

As a community, as the body of Christ, we need to work together towards prevention – reducing risk and increasing resilience in those of every age group who are at risk. The vulnerability to suicide is a complex one, and we must be willing to take the time for tough, real conversations. (If you are in any type of ministry, recognize your risk. Get help before there is a problem. In fact, I would recommend making Christian Counseling a routine part of your general ministry self-care. Churches, I recommend you support this decision, and provide resources for this much-needed care. Just imagine the impact that could have on the mental health of those who are serving in the trenches!)

There is help. There is hope. There is healing. If you are contemplating suicide today, I want to challenge you to postpone your decision until you can think it through with a professional counselor. Seek them out right now. If you can’tlocate anyone, go to the emergency room of your local hospital – there will be someone there you can talk to about this decision. 

If you are a loved-one, suffering through the wake of the unthinkable suicide, I want to also invite you to reach out for help. You do not have to walk that lonely and confusing road alone. Reach out to a professional Christian Counselor or find a Survivors of Suicide (SOS) group. And don’t forget: There is help. There is hope. There is healing. 

If you are suicidal and need to speak to someone immediately, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Set Free: Reflections on Independence.

by Donna Gibbs

This week, we had the privilege to celebrate our independence. Independence Day marks the anniversary of the birth of America, and our gift of freedom. I wonder sometimes why I was awarded the unearned privilege of being born an American. I did nothing to deserve that gift of citizenship. I consider those who struggle as a result of their unearned birthing into a third-world culture. And, I wonder why I should be so blessed to live what I perceive to be an easier life.

With that said, I don’t know of anyone, on the left or the right, that doesn’t have concern about present-day America. With each day that passes, it seems to appear a little less like the America I was born into. My children do not experience the security of a terror-free country. The America they see has conflict. Chaos. Fear. Financial instability. It’s a country that no longer respects the God that got us where we are. It’s utterly heartbreaking.

So while I celebrate the fact that I still believe I live in the greatest country on earth, I still mourn. As I celebrate Independence Day, I will pray for America, the land that I love. And, while I am incredibly grateful to have been born with this citizenship, I will also praise God that my hope is in Him, and not in America. My freedom today, and my freedom for eternity, is not based on my country. It is gifted by my God. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” -Galatians 5:1. (If you wrestle today with the oppression of an addiction, a debilitating depression, or an abusive marriage, or any other emotional struggle, I want to encourage you that you can have independence from that trial. You can be free. You don’t have to be a slave to an unworthy master. Remember, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”.)

America’s freedom has never been bought by politicians. It’s been bought by the bravest people of America – those who gave their blood so that we could keep ours. We did nothing to deserve their gift. They gave it anyway. And, today, there continue to be soldiers standing in the gap for us, willing to give their lives for the good of America. I am so grateful for these heroes, and their sacrificial families!

Our hope for eternal freedom was also bought with an ultimate price. And, that freedom is an eternal citizenship that we could never have earned. It’s not that we were born into it. We made a choice to accept it, and were “born again” into that citizenship. If you don’t know Christ, and your only hope for freedom is in your country, I’d beg you to seek Him. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  America may not always be free. But, God’s promises never fade, and freedom in Christ can be had today, and for all of eternity. For that, I am forever grateful!

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I’m Anxious! Help!

by Donna Gibbs

This blog is always designed to be relevant to the struggles of everyday life, and to the issues that come through the door of our counseling centers. So when I considered the most relevant topic of the week, I knew this week’s blog had to be about anxiety. Without a doubt, this is a season that fuels the sparks of anxiety. The news is full of domestic and international unrest, causing even those not naturally bent toward anxiety to experience some of the pangs of fear. For those who are predisposed toward anxiety, or those who are vulnerable due to some previous trauma, these concerns can potentially fuel a fear that is crippling.

If you are experiencing anxiety regarding your current circumstances, or anything else in this tumultuous world, then you are likely experiencing some physical symptoms of discomfort: shallow breathing with rapid heart rate, nausea, headache, dizziness, sweating, and/or tingling. The genuine physical cascade of symptoms creates even more angst, often landing individuals experiencing these symptoms in the ER with concern of heart-attack or some other serious condition. I am going to share a brief checklist below of steps to take if anxiety is getting the best of you:

1. See your physician to rule out potential medical issues related to your physical symptoms.

2. Having ruled out medical complications, talk truthfully to yourself about your anxiety. A panic attack will feel like it can kill you. Truth is, it cannot hurt you. Reminding yourself of this truth diminishes the power of the bully of anxiety. Your season of anxiety will pass.

3. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants (yes – skip that much-loved morning pick-me-up coffee, your afternoon sweet tea, and your favorite chocolate dessert). These will only increase your unwelcomed symptoms.

4. Breathe deeply. Be mindful of your breathing, and allow your symptoms to calm. You can gain control of your physical symptoms, vs their controlling you.

5. Exercise. Exercise positively impacts areas in the brain that channel serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine (the great mental health chemicals in the brain). Exercise works like a med! While you’re at it, take advantage of the self-induced increased heart-rate, and get some practice lowering your pulse so that you have more confidence when you encounter an elevated pulse due to anxiety or panic attack.

6. Reduce unnecessary stressors. Some stressors of life are unavoidable. But unnecessary stressors invite unnecessary suffering. You’re already suffering enough. It’s time to simplify.

7. Tell yourself the truth. Much of anxiety is a battle of the mind. Tell yourself the truth, not a minimized or exaggerated version of the truth that creates angst. If you have difficulty discerning truth, seek help. A professional counselor can help you discern and replace destructive thoughts.

8. Assertively use meditation and repetition. Anxiety is fueled by repetition and meditation on destructive and false beliefs. Recovery is found in repetition and meditation of truth. As I often tell clients, “You get out the same way you got in”. Cling to scriptural truths. Agree with God. Test your thoughts against His. And then allow Him to “transform and renew your mind” (Romans 12:2). Your brain, and your anxiety, will literally be changed through the tools of meditation and repetition of truth. Neuroplasticity is a beautiful thing!

9. Consider meds if your anxious thoughts are obsessive and crippling (if they are interfering with daily functioning). Be cautious about use of acute meds which can be addictive if overused. Ask your physician to provide information regarding a group of maintenance meds, or SSRI’s, that may assist you in managing crippling symptoms. Remember, meds are not a cure-all; you’re still going to have to do the hard work.

10. Don’t allow anxiety to bully you! It will shrink your world if you allow. In fear of the next episode of panic, you’ll avoid the people or places that you fear will leave you vulnerable. This only empowers the anxiety. Instead, embrace opposite action. Don’t believe the anxiety! Rebel against the bully.

Finally, let’s remember that a little bit of anxious concern is good. Yes, it can allow us to be more pro-active, more focused, and more detail-oriented. It can keep our care at a healthy level. But, a good thing turned too high… is still too high. So keep check on your concern, and when it turns toxic, take some of the steps above to turn it down. 

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