Climb out of the Self-Doubt Pit

We’ve heard this all before: Life is a roller coaster, filled with ups and downs and twists and turns. Despite the cliche, it’s still true that sometimes we feel like we are doing well managing life, and other times, we’re drowning.

It’s incredibly easy to get into a rut. And it’s nearly effortless to get into a cycle of negativity and self-doubt, or to throw yourself into the pit of self-pity.

For all my efforts to be a positive person, I’m very good at beating up on myself. I hear the voice of doubt. You know the one that says “You can’t do this and nothing will ever change.”

That was me not too long ago. I was caught in the routine of “I don’t have what it takes to finish the novel I’m working on.” “The tendinitis is back in my foot…probably because I’ve gained weight and can’t seem to control my eating.” “I’m getting older and nothing is going to be better.” Yeah, you get the idea.

However, I hate drowning in that pit, so I was determined to get back to my regular routine, do my morning devotional, and set aside time to write and try to combat all my negative thoughts.

Negativity is a strong force, and it takes effort to fight it.

I’ve been reading through a book called “Standing Strong” by Alli Worthington. (This isn’t the first book by this author that I’ve read. I’m also a fan of “Fierce Faith” and I’ve blogged about that book previously). It had been a while since I had picked up “Standing Strong.” And when I realized where I had left off in the book, I had to chuckle, and marvel, at God’s timing.

I was in the middle of a chapter on self-doubt!

There were so many good nuggets of information in this chapter, and good reminders — Philippians 4:13, for example, “I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.” (NLV). I don’t like taking Bible verses out of context, but she followed up with “When we bring God into any battle – we win.” All of this was a reminder to put God first, pray to him and let him guide your steps.

Then, two other reminders popped up more than once over various sources. One was to honor the calling of my life, and to honor the life I’ve been given. With all of my negativity, how much honoring, and gratitude, have I given for my life recently? Yikes!

The other reminder was to have confidence. That doesn’t mean walking around like a know-it-all. Confidence means taking a step forward, even when it’s scary, even when you’re not sure of what you’re doing — or better phrased, when you’re not sure what the outcome will be. This confidence comes from God. It all starts with Him FIRST! The rest will follow.

How can you climb out of the pit of negativity? We can’t do it on our own strength. Without thoughtful, intentional prayer, and intentional action, nothing changes. NOW is the time to break the cycle and step out in confidence and honor all that He’s given you and me.

Will it be easy? No, of course not. There will be obstacles. But guess what? I don’t have to stay stuck. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to pick yourself up again and keep going. And that’s when you lean on God, lean on his strength, like it says in Philippians.

I want to honor the life I’ve been given and honor the calling on my life. I can only do that by bringing God into the battle.

How about you? Has a friend spoken truth into your life? Have you run across the same message or words again and again that fill you with hope? I’d love to hear your story.

Let’s encourage one another.

Maintaining Peace

My father is a gardener. His summer gardens filled with veggies are magnificent. When I lived in the same town as my folks, most of my grocery shopping was at their house, enjoying fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, corn and more. It was all so much better than a grocery store.

But that garden didn’t happen all on its own. Dad didn’t plant seeds and only hoped that nature would provide. He worked at that garden. He was out there every day watering and weeding, and coaxing his plants along so they would grow well. It took time and effort. But, man oh man, was that effort worth it. And Dad’s greatest delight was sharing the fruits (or vegetables) of his labor with friends and neighbors. His garden grew abundantly and he was able to share.  

Recently, I was reading in the book of Psalms, and Psalm 34:14 jumped out at me, “Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” (NLT)

We all know we’re to pray and pray for peace. Not just world peace, but more inner peace.  The peace that comes from God. Sometimes you feel that peace, and other times, you don’t. I’ve come to realize that it’s not just a one-shot prayer. I guess I never thought about working to maintain peace.

It’s like exercise (I bet you can tell where I’m going with this). I’ll have a great workout one day, and I want that to be enough to last at least for a week or longer. But no, the reality is I have to get up and work out again the next day to maintain good health. One and done doesn’t work.

You can’t maintain a home by only vacuuming once (I wish!), or maintaining your car without an oil change. You have to be consistent.

You have to be a master gardener with your prayer life.

We should strive for more than once a week at church talking with God. We need to seek Him daily, and to seek peace daily. Maintaining peace requires coming to God every day, arms open, palms up, asking what does God want from you today. We have to seek his peace every day. We have to water our faith so it will grow.

When things go off the rails, we have to believe that God is still with us, even if we don’t “feel” him. We maintain that peace with the knowledge that He’s always here.

I’m not telling you anything new. However, there are times when a verse from Scripture just jumps out at you. Maybe it’s a reminder from God, or it speaks to you because of whatever circumstance you’re going through at the moment. Regardless, “Search for peace, and work to maintain it” spoke to me today. Especially the “work to maintain it” part. It’s the reminder that we have to take things day-by-day and just do the next thing that’s in front of us. Maintenance isn’t necessarily easy. But like my Dad’s garden, isn’t it always worth it?

What do you think?

Are you a Pinball Wizard?

@RebeccaYauger

I don’t know if this is true for you, but it seems in the past week or so, I feel like a ball in a pinball machine, just being bounced around from side to side, and up and down.

Like most of us, I started the new year with goals, dreams, and aspirations of what I want to accomplish. It’s going okay — not great, as evidenced from my blog last week about my frustration.

This week, I started again with a fresh attitude. And almost immediately there were numerous things that cried out for my attention and had me floundering. Like I mentioned last time, I felt like I had too many tabs open on my computer, or more accurately, too many tabs open in my brain! I was quickly pulled in so many different directions that I wasn’t doing any of things that I needed to do.

I was like a pinball in the machine, rebounding off the obstacles around me. I’d rather be a pinball wizard. In the Pete Townshend song, the pinball wizard is the one who mastered the game. All I want to do is master my to-do list.

This leads me to a question. Why do we always feel like we have to do everything at once? Most of us know that when we get scattered, nothing gets done well, or done correctly, therefore we’re not accomplishing anything and we’re making more mistakes.

How do we rectify this?

It should be simple:

*Do one thing at a time
*Slow down to do that one thing very well
*Move on to the next thing – and do that one very well.

But time can work against me. Until I tackle everything I want to right now, I may have to spend extra hours in the evening or get up earlier in the morning to get a jump start on things. It will be  worth it to find that quiet time where I can concentrate before the rest of the day intrudes.

This is not a new concept, but it is one that bears remembering. It’s okay to re-group and begin again. (I wrote about something similar for my writer’s group, if you’re interested).

So, in order to start again, here are some suggestions:

  1. PRAY OVER YOUR DAY FIRST! Remember the words of James 1:5 (NIV) “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Am I going to be instantly smarter by asking for wisdom? No. But in making time for prayer every day, I hope to stay within God’s will and on the path He has for me.
  2. Make a List. If you don’t have a to-do list, then make one. Whether it’s on your phone, computer, or handwritten, it helps to have a list to stay organized. Find a system that works for you.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Maybe attempt the biggest job first, so the heaviest weight is off of your shoulders.
  4. Get up earlier (or stay up later) and do some things in peace and quiet before the rest of the house wakes up, or while the rest of the house is asleep.

These are all fairly simple to do for those times when we’re being bounced around. Let’s try to be the pinball wizard, instead of the pin ball itself.

Hang in there, friends, and we’ll get through this.

 

Do You Have Four Minutes?

Right now seems to be a season of flux for me. It looks like some changes are coming. For one, I’m taking a break right now from working on any novels. I am still writing daily using a writing prompt, and I hope to work on this blog a little more. But I will need to make some decisions about what direction I want to go with my career soon.

As a Christian, I want to follow God’s path for my life. I want to  use the gifts He’s given me for His good, not mine. Most of the time, I feel like I just need to get out of the way and quit overthinking everything.  There are some very simple mantras that stick in my head, like “Do the Work.” Or “Take Action.” Both of those are great and exactly what I need to do. But when you’re lost on which direction to go, it’s easy to just stop. And that doesn’t feel right either.

Sometimes, though, it’s okay to stop. Take a break. Just breathe for a moment. And that’s where the title of this blog comes in: Do you have four minutes?

Recently at church, one of our teaching pastors, Ryan Leak (@ryanleak), talked about our prayer life. In this fast-paced world, we’re not always stopping to pray, and most certainly aren’t taking time out for quiet time with the Lord. We all know the passage in Psalm 46 that says “Be Still and know that I am God.” Yet most of us aren’t still. So, Ryan suggested an experiment. For four minutes, you sit still. Set a timer (because yes, it feels strange at first). But quiet yourself. You can start out praying, but God knows our hearts. He hears from us enough, but do we take time to hear from Him? So be still, for four minutes. And absorb the silence.

Now, you may not hear the booming voice of God. You may not hear anything. The answers may not come, but for four minutes, you focus on God. You quiet your heart. Maybe you find peace.

As I’m struggling in this season where I’m purposely taking a break, I’m going to try to be still for four minutes a day. Will I find the answers I need? Will my path suddenly appear before me? I don’t know. But I do know that for four minutes a day, I will revel in the quiet. I will settle my racing thoughts. I will have a peaceful moment. Maybe the answers will come, maybe they won’t. But I do know they certainly won’t come unless I stop long enough to listen. I’m setting aside four minutes a day to listen.

What about you? Do you have four minutes?