In this episode of the Two Kids and a Career podcast, host Jill Devine interviews Laura about why she created Seeking The Still after she was taken down by depression and anxiety at the age of 37. Jill and Laura talked about Laura’s journey and the process towards healing.
In the episode, Jill also asked Laura a lot questions about Christianity/Faith and why Jill would even think Christians would frown upon visible tattoos. Laura reminded Jill that Jesus is for everyone … no matter what you look like, no matter what music you like, no matter what! Laura said she has noticed the church has been typically known for what the church is against and not what the church is for. Laura would like to spread more awareness about what the church is for so more people know they are welcome, no matter what.
I kissed my girls goodbye and stoically rode shotgun with my husband to a treatment center for anxiety, insomnia, and emotional and physical exhaustion.
A life can be so full that it’s actually empty.
I see you there. The lovely one who volunteers for PTO, class parties, and church boards.
Yes, you, who not only chauffeurs your own kids to volleyball, dance and soccer, but also the neighbor kids and the straggler whose father frantically texts you that he is stuck at work and would you please…?
Yes, you, the employee who wins teamwork awards and gets promoted for achievements (which may mean more money, but always means more work).
Yes, you, the one who looks at her calendar every night and feels her chest constricting at the rainbow blocks of commitments on deck for tomorrow.
You can’t remember the last time you had no one to take care of except yourself. The last time you filled a day with only the things that fill you. The last time your mind felt happily still, your body rested and your soul satisfied. And let’s not even mention the ever-growing distance between you and your partner. When’s the last time you talked about the dreams you once shared?
New research published this year found a significant increase in stress among mid-life people compared to just a decade ago. When did it become normal to be burned-out, stress-out and checked-out? How do you change the course of your life to avoid a full-on breakdown and anxiety diagnosis like mine?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not by committing to fewer things, it’s by committing to the right things for you and joyfully opening your hands to let the rest of it go.
It’s Time For An Energy Edit
I had an “ah-ha” moment yesterday as I binge-watched a new Netflix show called The Home Edit where organizing gurus Clea and Joanna tackle rooms in homes of celebrities like Reese Witherspoon alongside ordinary families like mine. There is a method to their magic, and I realized that the way they organize things is similar to the way I’m learning to organize energy and time. Here’s a quick overview of how I’m learning to stop living like life is an emergency and start being intentional about savoring moments of my life. You can do this too!
ASSESS your time
Ask these key questions about your current commitments. – What on your list do you have to do? – What on your list do you enjoy doing? – What gives you energy? – What steals your energy? – What makes you feel lighter when you imagine not having to do it? – What time of day do you feel most energized? – What time of day do you crash? – What tasks could you delegate to someone else?
what are your GOALS
It’s important to dig deep when thinking about the goals you have for your time and energy. Be specific. Consider all aspects of your life as well as your body, mind and spirit. – What are your priorities? God? Family? Work? Hobbies? – How much margin do you have? How much do you need? – Are you scheduling every bit of your time, or do you have margin for when things go wrong (which they will)? – Do you practice a Sabbath? One day a week when you practice downtime and delight. If not, it’s time to fix that. – How are you prioritizing people over projects?
just say EDIT
When it comes time to edit your commitments to make your time and energy correspond with your goals, remember that “No” is a complete sentence. Feel free to consider me your official “Noach,” AKA No Coach. It is not selfish to protect your time! I remember when I was overwhelmed with three part-time jobs. I was literally sick to my stomach when I thought about resigning from one of them, but then I remembered that I work to live. I don’t live to work. I resigned and immediately felt the weight lift.
If you’re worried about hurting feelings of people who depend on you, here are some phrases I’ve learned to use when editing my time. You’ll be amazed at how you empower others when you model the wisdom of editing your schedule. And contrary to what you may believe, you are not the only one who can perform tasks well. Often stepping aside allows someone else to rise to the occasion.
Steal These Lines For Saying “No”
– Thank you for asking me, but I’m carefully protecting the margin of my schedule right now. – I’ve really enjoyed serving with you, but I’m editing my time and need to step down from this volunteer position. – I appreciate your faith in me, but adding another responsibility to my schedule will take away precious family time and I am prioritizing that in this season of my life. – No, thank you!
ORGANIZE What’s Left
Look at the flow of your energy and schedule. Just like you organize objects in a closet to make it more efficient, you can organize your time. Right now I’m experimenting with “batching” my work schedule. Mondays are for my team and weekly planning. Tuesdays are for organizational meetings. Wednesdays are for tackling my to-do list, Thursday is my video day and Friday is Freedom Friday. When I work hard to get everything done throughout the week, I can use Fridays to do things I enjoy and work on Seeking The Still. By scheduling similar tasks together and theming my days, it makes sense in my head, which helps me stay on track. I try to do my creative work in the mornings when I have the most energy. I find that I can do writing projects in much less time because I’m focused (the coffee helps, too).
ENJOY THE FREEDOM
My default mode used to be pleasing everyone and saying “yes.” Kind of like my shopping habit and overflowing closet, my schedule was packed and my energy was tapped out. This was a big reason I broke down. I’m still learning and will continuously have to go through the Energy Edit process, but there is such freedom in knowing that I can choose to do what God created me to do and say no to the rest.
If you find yourself saying that you don’t have enough time in your day, it’s time to take a look at how you’re spending that time, where you can edit things out and how you can maximize your efforts. There is no reason you can’t have a weekly Sabbath day where you have downtime to only do things that connect you to others and delight you. In fact, that’s what God commands you to do! Free yourself from your overwhelmed life. It is possible and so worth it. I’m here to help.
After those words left my mouth at dinner, I smirked and shrugged at my husband and two daughters.
“It’s so strange,” I continued. “This conference in New York called VoxCon keeps popping up in my path. I feel like I’m supposed to go, but we don’t have the money.
“So…I asked God to give me $800 if He wants me to go.”
The fact that I asked God for the money was a mini miracle in itself.
I have a spending dragon. Clothes. Home decor. Make-up. Trips. My nature is to buy now, regret later.
But I’ve been working on it. REALLY working on it. Mostly because my spending dragon was driving a wedge between me and Justin. He stresses about money. A lot. And we (mostly me) had built up a hefty balance on our credit card.
So at the advice of dear friend, I completely turned my spending over to Justin a few months ago. He took my credit card. He gave me cash to spend each week. And it was hard. I had to say no, turn the other way, and keep my spending dragon at bay.
But it worked. We paid off our credit card in December. For real.
So…the fact that this VoxCon conference kept appearing in front of me truly intrigued me and bothered me. I was obeying God in this aspect of my marriage, so why did He keep putting this conference in my path that I couldn’t afford?
The thing is…
I have learned that there is so much more to life than what we see.
And the intuition God gifted me was sizzling. It was just two weeks before the conference date, but I prayed something a little like this…
Dear Jesus – There’s this amazing conference in NYC that has captivated me. I don’t know why. And I definitely don’t know HOW it would even work for me to go. It will cost $800, and I can’t spend the money unless we have it. If you really want me to go, will you please give me $800?
Truthfully, I felt guilty even asking.
A trip to NYC was a luxury, not a need. And so many people have such bigger problems. My shame dragon kept trying to suck me down. But each time, a new email appeared in my inbox or a Facebook ad popped up, I prayed the same prayer.
Please give me $800 if I’m supposed to go.
Just a few days after I shared my prayer with Justin and the girls, I had a massive panic attack. The kind that leaves me in bed and quaking with uncertainty about the future. On the first day I made it back to work, I received this text from Justin.
Allow me to explain.
Due to hail damage, we needed to replace our roof. For a variety of reasons, it was a 5 month long saga. The one thing we knew for sure was that we’d have to pay AT LEAST our $1500 deductible and likely more. So we had that money socked away.
Do you see what I’m showing you here?!?
We were told we HAD to pay $1500. But when we got the bill it was only $700. A difference of $800.
Mind blown…but wait. Remember that I was now in the throes of an anxiety rebound. What recently sounded like a fun adventure, now seemed like a death trap and the worst idea in the world. Thanks, anxiety.
So what’s a girl to do?
Let’s take stock, shall we?
The Spirit had been stirring me up about this conference.
I didn’t have the money.
I asked God for $800 if He wanted me to go.
He gave me exactly $800.
I had a panic attack out of nowhere.
Now I didn’t want to go.
But God clearly showed me He wants me to go.
In all situations, we have a choice Messy Miracle.
We can listen to the Voice of Faith or we can listen to the voice of fear. If my journey has shown me anything, it’s that the voice of fear is a liar and the Voice of Faith is freedom. Every. Single. Time.
So…I told my team. I sought wise advice. I asked my Dad if he wanted to take a trip to NYC with me, and I booked our flights.
As I type these words, I’m sitting at the St. Louis airport waiting for our delayed flight to Manhattan. I still don’t know why this conference is calling me, but I am obeying that call.
I could feel guilty that my prayer was answered when so many aren’t.
But that’s the voice of fear. That voice WANTS ME to minimize this blessing. That voice IS DESPERATE for me to keep my answered prayer silent. That voice DOESN’T WANT us to share any hope or help or healing.
So to combat that vicious voice of fear, I choose to CELEBRATE the God who loves us so much that He answers us so specifically, right down to dollar amount.
There’s so much WE DON’T KNOW. And will never know this side of heaven. That’s the whole point. To ask. And go. And praise. And simply do the next right thing, trusting the outcome to God.
If you are in a place of doubt or fear or questioning right now, may I suggest one thing? Ask yourself…
What would happen if I stop TRYING to make this thing happen and PRAY for The Hero to show me IF and HOW.
I promise you this. No matter the outcome, the pressure you feel will be lifted.
And that thing will be in the only place it belongs…the Hands of God.
P.S. If you’d like to see how this trip unfolds, follow #SeekingTheStilNYC on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll be sharing my fears and my fun and the ever-unfolding path of seeking the still amid the chaos of life.
Trust not in myself or any man-made thing, but in the only One who deserves such trust. The One True God.
A friend emailed me this verse today, and it was a much needed reminder of where my trust needs to be: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 10:5
Read that last phrase again: We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Did you know that fear, all on its own, triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses and activates more than 30 different hormones? Fear is just a thought. That’s all it is, yet it has enormous impact on our bodies.
I don’t have much control over much in this world. Especially things like anxiety disorders, depression, and medication. But I CAN control my thoughts. I can take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
The Bible tells me I can.
So here’s what I’ve been doing since I read that verse. Every time my mind wants to worry about how I’m feeling…or how long this yuckiness will last…or whether I’m going spiral further downward…or whether I’ll have to feel like this EVERY TIME I change medication… or whether I’ll be able to make it to Anna’s party tomorrow… or whether I’ll ever get off this medicine or whether…you get the idea. As soon as a FEARFUL thought enters my mind, I’m TAKING IT CAPTIVE and handing it over to Christ.
Literally, in my mind, I snatch it and give it to Jesus.
And then I tell myself. I trust you, Jesus. I trust you. I trust you. I trust you.
If God is who He says He is, I can trust Him. Not just with the big stuff, but the everyday fears and worries. Yes, even my messy medicine tapers. If I TRULY believe Jesus walked this earth and loved me enough to take my place on a cross and that He rose from the dead, then I have to be able to believe He loves me enough to help me make it through this current trial.
On my own, it’s impossible to take every thought captive, I know this. So, I ask Jesus to help me.
Take this fearful thought, Lord. I trust you. Take the what-ifs and should-haves and could-haves. I give them to you. Again, and again, and again. I trust YOU. I love you.
Jesus. Only Jesus.
That’s Radical Trust, Messy Miracle. If the only way out is through, then Radical Trust in the healing power of Jesus is the only way I’m making it. I think it’s time for a Radical Trust revolution, don’t you? I believe it would look something like this.
Snatch…Hand it over…I trust you, Jesus. Snatch…Hand it over…I trust you, Jesus. Snatch…Hand it over…I trust you, Jesus.
He is the Almighty One. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Through Him all things were made. He is All Knowing, All Powerful, Omni-Present. He is BIGGER THAN MY FEARS. He is WORTHY OF MY TRUST. He STANDS ALONE, I STAND AMAZED, Jesus, only Jesus.
Snatch…Hand it over…I trust you, Jesus. Snatch…Hand it over…I trust you, Jesus. Snatch…Hand it over…I trust you, Jesus.
P.S. Please remind me that I wrote this tomorrow when I forget, ok?
In fact, let’s all remind each other, and often. Because your story matters, too. Where is He gnawing in you? Where are the cracks in your armor that let His light shine through? Don’t try to stop the unleashing, love. Let it flow from your mouth, or your pen, or your fingertips. It may just be your time. Maybe you were created for such a time as this.
If I could help you with one struggle in your life. What would it be? What is making your soul R E S T L E S S today? Send me a message and let know, ok?
There came a day when it was time to re-enter the land of the living.
I attended my last session of intensive outpatient therapy, and my work leave ended. The annual off-site retreat was first time I would see my colleagues from the church & school.
I felt like a piece of driftwood bobbing on the waves. I barely knew what had just happened to me, and I had no vision for the what the future held. Doubts and questions whispered in my head.
What have they heard?
Do they know where I have been?
What will they think when they see me?
I knew I couldn’t handle the overnight stay, so I planned to drive to the retreat center early Saturday to join the rest of the crew. It was my first time traveling to this location, so I dutifully entered the address in my phone and let Siri be my guide.
I knew the retreat center was in the middle of nowhere, so I wasn’t worried when the roads began winding and wrapping with few houses in between. However, as the clock ticked toward starting time for the morning session, I knew something was not right. I should have been there by now. My anxious thoughts about my co-workers were replaced with another realized fear.
I was lost.
Great, I thought to myself. Now I’ll have to make an entrance in front of the entire group. That will only make my recent absence all the more obvious to everyone in the room.
My insecurities were about to push me over the edge when I saw it suddenly appear on my right hand side. I slowed down, stopped, and stared. There, in the middle of fields of corn, sat a beautiful, abandoned church. The remnants of stone walls stood, but the roof was all pale blue sky.
I had a moment then.
I get these feelings from time-to-time, like the Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder. I didn’t have time to process what I saw as I drove by, but that feeling told me it was significant.
Just then, Siri rerouted my map, and I saw I was only 10 minutes from the retreat. My sense of responsibility kicked in, and I followed the remaining instructions to my destination. I did have to walk into a meeting already in session, but I made it through the day with no awkward moments. Until the very end…
We stood in a circle. About 30 of us holding hands, and we took turns praying out loud. When the prayer made it’s way to me, I was shaking badly. I knew It was time to be honest. My mask fit me no more. So, I prayed thanks for the people who had stood by my side. I prayed gratitude that Jesus never once stopped holding my hand. And my voice cracked with tears when I shared how difficult it was to simply take the next right step. The tears really came then, and I didn’t try to stop them. I had done what I came to do. I showed up. I was in the arena once more.
As I quietly returned to my van to head home, I felt the nudge again.
The church. I knew I had to find it, if only to prove to myself it was real.
I retraced my route on those winding roads until I saw it on my left side, now. I parked the van, grabbed my camera, and stood in awe. It took my breath away. This broken shell of a church was me. Crumbling, but standing. Fragile, but strong. Rooted in a God who gives miracles to the lost.
I stepped through the empty doorway and walked reverently to where the altar must have stood many moons ago. The open circle still marked the space where the sun once shone through colored glass. I knelt down on that hallowed, rocky ground and sobbed. I cried till there were no more tears, and I felt a burst of something in my heart. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time…hope.
If God could use a lost travel route to give me this incredible gift, what else could He do?
My past was raw and my future was uncertain. But that day, the gift of an abandoned church etched a truth on my soul. The destinations that I plan may not be God’s plan. But no matter where the winding road leads, I will NEVER be too lost to be found.
Darling, you also are never too lost to be found. Sit with that, savor it, revel in it.