All This Time – My Testimony

Hey guys,

So lately, I’ve been praying and I’ve been feeling extremely led to do a video blog about my testimony. How I became a Christian. My walk with God. My journey through college. And God’s faithfulness in the midst of it all.

Thus, posted a video below about my testimony.

Hopefully it encourages somebody!

 

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Overcoming Anxiety

Recently, I posted to my Instagram story, asking those who follow me for suggestions on future blog topics. And, knowing a little bit about my story and my struggle with OCD/anxiety, a friend asked that, if I was comfortable, I would share how I manage it.

And, I told her that I would be more than happy to share.😊

For those of you who don’t know me, or are new to my blog, I’ve struggled with OCD/anxiety on and off since around middle school. My struggle with OCD/anxiety is mostly a battle of the mind (to borrow a term from Joyce Meyers). It can look different for different people, but for me it mainly takes the form of thoughts. Thoughts that make me feel stressed, or that trigger my emotions in some way. When this happens, it often triggers a host of physical symptoms – symptoms like a racing heart, or the sensation of ‘tensing up’ under stress. The thoughts, mixed with the symptoms, brings us to what most people would dub “OCD” or “anxiety.

And while, dealing with this kind of anxiety can be hard, it isn’t impossible.

I believe that through Christ’s power living in us, we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us (Romans 8:3). And as intense as anxiety can sometimes be, it is no match for the God who breathed earth into being and breath into our very lungs.

And, here are some tips that have helped me overcome my own anxiety.

1. Identify the source – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Back when I was in middle school, one of my youth leaders made us memorize this verse. I can still remember being in a line of middle schoolers waiting to recite it back to her to get a piece of free candy. Years later, as an adult, I am super glad that I learned it. Because as Christians on fire for Jesus, our enemy is constantly looking for ways to defeat us, and keep us from the plans that God has for us.

One of the primary way that he will do this, is through using anxiety to defeat us—putting thoughts in our minds and making us think that they are ours. He will also lie to us in any way that He can—about ourselves and about the people that God has placed in our lives. When these kinds of self-defeating thoughts come, it is important that we identify the source. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “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.When our knowledge of God’s truth becomes more powerful than the lies that we hear about ourselves, we are in a place where we can begin demolishing these thoughts and the anxiety that comes with them.

2. Surround yourself with a community – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25. I honestly cannot speak enough about the importance of community in the life of the believer. I fell into a season a while back where I struggled to find this, and it was honestly one of the worst times for me in regards to anxiety/OCD. When we surround ourselves with people who will speak truth into our lives and encourage us in our faith, it is so much harder for the enemy to lie to us and attack us with temptation and troubling thoughts. There’s a reason that God tells us to surround ourselves with other believers. It is not only good for our Christian walk—it is good for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

3. Pray – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 I know this one probably sounds so cliche, but trust me, it works. This is not to say that if you pray, all of your problems will automatically be resolved – after all, Paul still had his thorn even after he asked God to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). However, this does not diminish the power of prayer. Praying changes something in our hearts, even at the times that we struggle. It causes us to position our hearts towards God and ‘cast all of our fears unto Him because He cares‘ (Psalm 55:22). God is with you even in your hardest moments. When we begin to praise God in the storm, anxiety slowly begins to lose its power over us. Suddenly, the things that we were once so worried about, and that we were so stressed out about seem small—by comparison of the amazing, awesome, and powerful God that we serve! A God who is greater than any form of fear or anxiety!

4. Be Real—not perfect -“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Ironically, just last week, as I was planning this blog post, one of the other leaders at my church’s youth group was asked to speak on this very topic. And one thing he mentioned that stood out to me was letting go of the need to be strong and be perfect—opening up to God and others about our areas of weakness. As your classic ‘type A’ perfectionist, this can definitely be a struggle for me. It can be hard to say to a friend or someone close to you ‘I’m not OK.’ However, as God taught me over the course of last year, one of the healthiest things that we can do as human beings is confide in each other, and be real about our struggles. We are all human, and there is not a human on this planet who has their life completely figured out. 

5. Get in the word – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. Staying plugged into God’s Word is one of our surest keys to keeping our anxiety and negative emotions in check. It has the power to break through the deepest places in our heart and penetrate through our whole being. A couple of days ago, I woke up feeling stressed about the future, and trying to discern God’s plans for me, and as soon as I broke out my Bible and put on some good worship music, I felt better. As Christians, the Bible is our lifeblood, and it is so important that we stay in the Word to steady our spirits as we go throughout our day to day lives.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with anxiety, or negative thoughts? If so, how did you combat it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.😃

Prayer – This Is How I Fight My Battles

A while back, I heard a really cool worship song called Surrounded by Michael W. Smith. 

It mostly repeats the same two lines throughout, but it’s such a great song with such a great message that I felt led to share it on this blog. It says, “This is how I fight my battles…it may look like I’m surrounded by I’m surrounded by You.” It’s a song about prayer as spiritual warfare. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about in this post.

Over this past summer I challenged myself to go deeper in my prayer life, and doing so has helped me so much in my daily battles, challenges, and concerns. It has given me peace in the midst of hardships and joy as I approach each day. I used to struggle while praying, because that’s when my OCD would typically kick in the hardest, but lately, it has been through prayer that I’ve been better able to combat it.

It is through prayer that I have been able to fight my battles. 

The Bible talks about this very subject in Ephesians 6. It instructs us to put on the full armor of God to fight our battles and live victoriously. It says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:14-18)

As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against the enemy every day. And the only way that we can effectively fight it is through seeking God consistently through prayer. 

The other day, I started reading a book by Beth Moore called Praying God’s Word. And in this book, she notes of the above passage…

Only one piece of the armor is actually a weapon. The figurative belt, shield, breastplate, shoes, and helmet are all defensive pieces of armor intended to keep us from being injured by the weapons of the evil one. The sword of the Spirit, clearly identified as the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armor of God. Second Corinthians 10:3 uses the plural, assuring us we have weapons for warfare. What would the other primary weapon be? Perhaps additional weapons might be identified elsewhere, but I believe the other primary weapon of our warfare is stated right after the words identifying the sword of the Spirit as the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17. The next verse says “And I pray in the Spirit in all occasions.” I am utterly convinced that the two major weapons with divine power in our warfare are the word of God and Spirit-empowered prayer.

Prayer, along with regular time in the Word, are our best bets of defense against spiritual attacks. And when we do these things daily, seeking God with our whole heart, we’ll have so much more strength to fight the battles that we face each day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and it doesn’t have to be anything long, it just has to be sincere.

If you’re not sure what to pray about, try making a list. Write down the things that are concerning you and start talking to God about them. Maybe you’re struggling with anxiety, or being bullied at school. Ask God to give you peace and the strength to endure and love your enemy. If you have a good friend who doesn’t know God, pray for her, and ask God to reveal Himself to her. If you see a lot of darkness at your school, pray over it—and ask that God would bring redemption and hope to the people there.

Lastly, don’t forget to praise God! Thank Him for all that He’s done for you and praise Him for who He is. You can do this by simply talking to Him, or by putting on some good worship music and praising Him through the lyrics.

The important thing is to stay connected to Him, and the way that we stay connected to anyone is through regular conversation with them!

To conclude, if any of you guys have prayer requests for me, feel free to contact me through my DM on Instagram or Twitter @authorcourtney1 or through my email address, at courtneyloves2read@gmail.com. Just be sure to title it “Prayer Request” so I know what it is! I’m always happy to pray with/for you all!

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“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther.

How about you? How has prayer impacted you in your own life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!

World Mental Health Day

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental health related problems.

Mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide (World Health Organization).

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Over the last couple years, the issue of mental health has become a prominent subject matter in the public square. Celebrities have raised awareness for those who suffer from mental illness and websites like Twitter have allowed more people to have a platform to spread information about the importance of mental health. People are starting to realize that mental health is just as important as physical health—and slowly, the stigma attached to mental health struggles is beginning to fade.

Thus, with it being such an important and widely spoken about issue, I have decided that to write a post about mental health for my blog to help raise awareness for this issue.

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may know that I’m no stranger to this issue. For years now, I have struggled with OCD and anxiety, which can at times can be crippling—making it difficult to handle situations that most people would be completely comfortable in. I struggle with both stressful, unwanted thoughts and quirks such as not wanting to touch a doorknob and checking my cups to make sure they’re clean.

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks, I have made a conscious decision.

I have made a decision to be healthy.

By choosing to be healthy, I don’t mean that my OCD has gone away entirely or even that I believe it will go away entirely. In some way, shape or form, I’ve suffered with it since childhood. When I was in grade school, I used to arrange my crayons by color and run to my mom whenever I had a thought that I considered “mean” or “bad”.

Nonetheless, I have recently discovered that there are steps that I can take to cope with it and intentionally lessen it; and I believe that many of these things can help those who struggle from other forms of mental health as well.

Pray

To clarify, I don’t believe mental health problems are a sign of a weak faith or not trusting God, as some suggest. However, I do believe we serve a God who cares about the well being of His children. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” The Bible encourages us to pray during times of trouble, and I believe that if we ask, God will give us peace during our storms—and the strength to get through them

Eat right

Before I tried it myself, I used to think that people who touted healthy eating as the answer stress and anxiety were crazy. Nonetheless, after changing my diet and implementing more whole foods and vitamins, I’ve noticed that my anxiety and even my acne has decreased tremendously. It is obviously not the answer to every problem, but it can help you feel better and more at peace. Eating less processed foods and more foods with vitamins shown to treat anxiety has helped me leaps and bounds in my journey to mental and physical health.

Exercise

I’m going to be honest—I am a complete and utter bookworm. Given the choice, I would much rather read a good book than hop on a treadmill. However, despite the fact that working out isn’t always fun for me, I have begun to take more initiative to exercise. Exercising naturally increases serotonin levels in our brains, which is often something that people with high levels of anxiety tend to lack. Through exercising, we can increase our serotonin levels while staying fit in the process.

R&R

In a world as fast paced and intense as ours, it can be hard to force ourselves to relax and unwind. There’s always something we need to do or that we can worry about. However, God didn’t intend for our bodies to work like this. As finite creatures, we cannot keep going without facing some serious burnout.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or worried, take some time for yourself. This isn’t selfish—it’s healthy. Read a book. Soak in a bubble bath. Watch your old favorite movie. Do whatever it is (within reason) that helps you relax and calm down. Don’t be afraid to slow down and let yourself rest. If you do this, you’ll be refreshed and ready to face those tasks when you return to your daily to-do-list.

Self-talk

Oftentimes, our worst stress is caused from out-of-control worry and stress. When our minds get out of hand, sometimes it’s best to try to talk ourselves down. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Sometimes we can be nicer to others than we are to ourselves, but according to the Bible, we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:30-31). It’s important that we show the same kindness to ourselves that we show to others, and part of this is remembering that things often aren’t as severe as we imagine them to be.

Talk to someone about it

Sometimes, one of the best ways to stay mentally healthy is to talk to someone—whether it be a pastor, a counselor, or a friend. Maybe you have something you need to work through, or maybe you just need another person to tell you it’s all going to be OK. There’s no shame in seeing a counselor or asking for prayer and advice. We weren’t meant to do this life alone—God has placed other people in our lives and our paths for a reason. Never be too prideful to ask for help. Furthermore, if you feel it is serious, never be afraid to contact a professional.

Note -– If you’re in a moment of crisis and you’re in emotional distress right now, don’t hesitate to talk. Call 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

How about you? Have you ever struggled with mental health? And do you have any advice for those who do? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Undefeated

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve always loved stories. I love the feeling of getting inside a character’s head. I love watching them overcome battles and struggles. I love seeing their hopes and dreams unfold at the end—as they get the happy ending we were rooting for all along.

We all have our favorite stories. Some of us enjoy romance movies/novels, where we wait for the guy to get the girl. Others enjoy action, like the Marvel series, where we watch the good guy defeat the bad guy. We each have unique tastes when it comes to stories, but regardless of the various differences between them they all have one very important thing in common.

The protagonist always has an obstacle standing in their way. 

Like these stories, we each have our own obstacles that we face on a daily basis, and as Christians, we have a common villain set on our destruction. A common enemy who wants to see us fail. Most often, the battle is within.

As an OCD struggler, I am no stranger to the reality and difficulty of internal battle. Most people tend to associate OCD with being a neat-freak, but that’s only part of it. The thing that drives people to struggle with this condition is unwanted thoughts that cause nothing but harm. It’s an internal battle, which manifests into controlling the things we can—like obsessive cleaning or tidiness. Nonetheless, slowly but surely I’m learning to gain better control over my OCD and better fight this battle.

Even if we don’t all struggle with OCD, many of us deal with intrusive thoughts on a regular basis—thoughts of insecurity, fear, and worry. All which are lies of the enemy. However, as we have the ultimate weapons to fight against these plaguing thoughts—through God and the Bible. We can’t always control the thoughts that go through our head, but we can control how we react to them.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says “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.” Meanwhile Romans 8:37 tells us that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We might not be strong enough to face these battles and internal struggles on our own, but through the blood of Christ we are warriors destined for victory. Those anxious thoughts that come through our heads and our hearts are nothing but lies of the enemy, and through God’s strength we can resist those lies and stay strong and courageous. We can take those unwelcome thoughts captive and rebuke them with the truth of God’s Word—God loves us, God is leading us, God has a plan for us, and we are characters destined for a life brimming with purpose. 

We each face trials as we travel through this world—but through Jesus, who has already won the battle, we can live victoriously. 

Defeating any arrow that might be shot our way. 

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

God Likes Us

Every once and a while, we stumble upon something that jolts us in a way that we didn’t expect.

For me, this happened recently, at my local Publix.

Like on many occasions, as we were checking out, my eyes wandered off to the magazine section, and even though I know most of the stuff over there’s complete trash (not to mention gossip), there’s always a weird impulsion to see what’s going on in good ole’ Hollywood. And, as I looked in the magazine area, I caught a quote by William Paul Young that caught my attention on a religious themed magazine: Not only does God love us, He likes us too!

For those of you who don’t know, William Paul Young is the increasingly popular author of The Shack, and whatever you think about The Shack, you have to admit, that’s a pretty insightful quote. And tonight, as I lay awake dealing with a particularly stressful OCD episode, I’m reminded of that quote.

I can’t speak for everyone, since I am only one person, but for me, this is too often an easy thing to forget. I know God loves me, as well as every other person in the world He created. And as a devout youth group attendee in my early teen years, I know literally every lyric from David Crowder Band’s ever-popular song “How He Loves” (“Ohhhhhh how he loves us oh, oh how He loves us…how He loves us oh!” Sorry, I had to do that). Nonetheless, while I know that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love, I often fall into the trap of believing there’s something I have to do (or not do) or say (or not say) or a way I have to act (or not act) to earn God’s “like“.

I’ve been a perfectionist pretty much since childhood, so I’m sure that plays into it. I have always strived for the best grades, to earn all of my teachers’ approval, and be the perfect Christian girl who has it all together (even when on the inside I know I’m not and I know I most certainly don’t). When I fall short it’s often an extremely aggravating experience for me and I tend to be far more dramatic about it than I should. I suppose in the back of my mind somewhere, I struggle with this false illusion (or delusion) that I can somehow be good enough and earn enough brownie points to earn God’s like. And as much as the Bible, churches, and evangelical culture tell me otherwise, old habits can be hard to break. Furthermore, this delusion can get all the more frustrating during an OCD episode, when my thoughts seem to be running in every sort of crazy direction with no control on my part—and I end up asking God for forgiveness 15 billion times for some frightening heretical thought or another.

As an OCD struggler, the lyrics to an old Anthem Lights song often ring so true for me.

Before I even know it I’m right back at the start. I’m doing what I hate and breaking my own heart“.

I think each one of us struggles with something. For me it’s OCD and perfectionism. For you, it may be something different. Maybe for you, it’s a struggle with an eating disorder, or a battle with depression. Maybe it’s self harm, or a temptation of some sort. Or maybe you don’t fit the mold of what you think a Christian should look like, and feel people judge you for it. I don’t know what your personal struggle is, or what difficulties you face, but I do know that even if your battle looks different than mine, the core feelings are often the same. Too often, faith can become a marathon instead of a resting place.

Nonetheless, in the midst of all of our our stress and failures and anxiety—God still likes us, delights in us even. Psalm 139:13 says

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth…”

God knows every inch of our personalities, our pasts, and our scars. He knows about our doubts and questions. He knows about our favorite foods and why our favorite movies touched us so. He knows about that time that hurt like nothing else could. And yet He rejoices in saying that “This is my Creation, this is my son or daughter. There is no one else like them.”

Not only does God loves us, He likes us too!

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My Struggle With OCD

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 (NIV)

It was before a big production in my theater class. I was talking with one of my friends, Alex, while another friend was working on setting up the chairs. Finally, both feeling guilty, we went over to help our friend set up. To our surprise, which we both got a kick out of, he was determined that they be set up a certain way. We both teased him, in a friendly sort of way, but deep down, I knew something.

That I wasn’t all that different.

It probably formed early in my childhood, as I remember lining up crayons by color in elementary school, and to this day, I organize my clothes by color and type (though they don’t stay that way for long!). It also causes me to be prone to anxious thoughts, fearful of drinking out of a cup that isn’t clean, and make sure everything is just right when I leave the house. For instance, a simple thing like “is the blowdryer unplugged?” becomes check-it-two-hundred-times-because-if-it’s-not-the-house-will-burn-up-and-we’ll-be-homeless.

I can’t tell you exactly what the root of this is, or exactly when it showed up, but I can tell you that this is my struggle, as each person battles something. Maybe it’s a physical disability that you battle, like diabetes or having to be in a wheelchair. Perhaps it’s something psychological like my OCD. Maybe it’s an eating disorder, or self harm, or an ongoing situation with bullies and drama.

I don’t know what your situation is. But I do know that you’re strong enough to overcome it! Just as I know that I’m strong enough to manage my OCD, I know that you’re strong enough to deal with whatever your facing.

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (NKJV)

You have the strength to eat right…Through Christ who strengthens you.

You have the strength to put down that razor…Through Christ who strengthens you.

You have the strength to keep your head held high when they try to bring you down…Through Christ who strengthens you.

We are warriors, because the one who overcame death lives inside of us, and is “ever present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) So put on the full am of God and keep fighting (Ephesians 6:10-11). Even when we don’t feel strong, we have His strength to keep us going.

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. 

Because nothing that we’re facing is bigger than the God that we serve. ❤️