A Road Trip With Anxiety

All day long I traveled with a familiar companion named Anxiety. No amount of head knowledge today could quite do the trick to shake the heavy feeling. It accompanied me to meetings, it crept in on lunch, and it made itself known as I sat down to write.

The difference between this day and the many proceeding it, is the wisdom and tools that I now carry. I have learned to acknowledge anxiety when it comes around. It refuses to be ignored, and that’s fine. But you see, I’ve decided to stop allowing Anxiety to drive. It is never invited, but some days I can’t keep it out the car. On those days, I simply tell it that if it insists on sitting in the front seat, it must do so silently. It doesn’t have access to the road map and it’s not allowed to touch the radio. No, it doesn’t get any input as to where we go.

There are several others that I would have rather had sitting in the front seat today. Joy, Laughter, Excitement just to name a few. But alas, it was Anxiety that sat next to me. Other emotions may have taken a slight backseat, but they too were invited on the trip and their input was welcomed and encouraged. I’m learning that Anxiety’s presence on the road-trip does not have to keep Joy, Laughter, or Excitement from joining the conversation. 

Joy spoke up from the backseat during my meeting this morning. I was surrounded by incredible men and women, seeing several pieces of a project come together in the coolest way. I thanked God for the umpteenth time that I work for such an incredible organization getting to do work that matters. Anxiety was there, but Joy got to do the talking.

Laughter erupted from the backseat sitting at lunch with my team. We shared stories and welcomed our new teammate. I felt known and seen and accepted. Laughter can bring such a feeling of belonging. I sat at the restaurant with a feeling of gratefulness bubbling below the surface as I giggled and conversed with some of my favorites. Anxiety was there, but Laughter repeatedly burst into the conversation.

Excitement settled in as I sat down at this table to write. The blank page and blinking cursor extended an invitation that I knew I couldn’t leave unanswered. Best laid plans fell through and I eagerly decided to fill the time with something that replenishes my soul. Anxiety is here, the punk, but Excitement directs my fingers on the keyboard.

Today, I didn’t want Anxiety to tag along on the trip, but I didn’t let it keep me from taking part in the journey. Sometimes, despite my best efforts I can’t thwart the presence of Anxiety. Instead of letting it consume me, I’m learning to give myself the grace to acknowledge that it’s in the car with me and choose to partake on the journey anyway. It is the not voice that I am tuning my ear to.

I’m learning that the best way to adventure is simply to do it anyway. I’m saying yes to new, yes to hard things, yes to doing it afraid. I have places to go. 

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The Ever Elusive Idea of Sabbath

We are not called to rest from our work, but rather to work from our rest.

– Pastor Chris Brooks

I heard this statement at my company devotion this week and it hit me in the gut. As is often the case with God, I felt like I’d stumbled upon a divine appointment. I’m not good at resting. The irony of hearing this sermon, on this day, was not lost on me.

I entered devotion that morning with a heavy heart. My back was hurting, a lot. My chiropractor told me the day before that my muscles were fighting the recent progress we’d been making to straighten out my vertebras and level my hips. The remedy? Rest. I’d spent the evening on the couch rotating between ice and heat. I did not like it one bit. In fact, it brought up my least favorite, but ever returning emotion, shame.

I felt weak, exposed, vulnerable, incompetent, and unproductive. These are the adjectives that I try to avoid through my constant activity and utter disregard for the concept of true rest. I live my life around to-do lists, tasks, and shoulds. I go from one thing to the next, constantly looking for something to accomplish or produce. Paul and I, we’re realizing, have created a culture in our home where that is not only celebrated, but expected. Grace for the opposite is a bit slim. We have trained ourselves to run ragged all week until we finally collapse in exhaustion to “rest” and most likely watch Netflix.

Watching Netflix is not resting. It’s become an act of desperation. A shoddy substitute when we are denying ourselves the grace and opportunity to pursue genuine and authentic sabbath. True rest, I know in my heart, is not what I am currently engaging in.

I strive to be intentional in the tasks I pursue on a daily basis. In my work day I am regimented and go about my responsibilities on purpose. After work, I keep our house running, meal-prep, and regularly schedule in exercise to my routine. Why then am I unable, or unwilling, to pursue rest and sabbath in the same manner? Why would I not schedule and block off time to pursue genuine rejuvenation? Why do I only settle to rest when I feel as if my body and soul are about to give out? Why is it only then, and only for short moments, that I allow myself to stop and pseudo-rest?

Ultimately, I don’t actually believe I deserve rest. I feel valuable when I am producing. This is something I have noticed in myself for a while, and it comes up in many areas of my life. My need to produce comes in stark contrast with my soul’s desire to create. For the last few months I’ve returned to this idea and danced around it again and again, without resolution. Every time I get a bit more clarity and step into a bit more vulnerability and risk, and I think that is okay.  But today, I’m confronting it in yet another facet of my life.

I had every intention of sabbathing completely today. I failed by 8:30 am. After church Paul and I talked for a long time about our lack of sabbath and intentionality toward self-care. In the Vought house we have created a culture that doesn’t prioritize self-care. We prioritize keeping our home and yard cleaned, organized, and kept up, so that it is a place of ‘rest,’ but seldom allow ourselves to enjoy that rest. Our unspoken rule has somehow become ‘You can only rest after you’ve “earned it.”‘  We may live busy lives and have a lot on our individual and collective plates, but we’ve allowed our busy to define us. Stopping feels scary. Silence and stillness are vulnerable. Pursuing rest and creativity challenges a control idol that both of us cling to more tightly than we’d like to admit. Instead of stopping and enjoying the rest that God calls us to, we trudge on in our own strength.

It’s not somewhere we’re content to stay. This is not the culture and rhythm we want our family to be known for. We’re not okay with where we are. We’re not a hundred percent sure where to start, but we’re starting. 

So today, we pursued more rest than we would normally on Sunday. We both answered the question if you had no obligations, what would you do today? We took a few hours and answered those question with action. It was a start. We took a nap, like an hour long, out like a light, nap! I tackled a project that has been on my mind and desk for a few weeks. It was a bit scary and vulnerable, but I let God prod me to create space and try something new. Paul worked in the yard doing projects and taking part in something that feeds his soul. When he began to cross the line from refreshing to doing, he stopped.  I then finished writing this blog post that I’ve been writing in my heart for a few days. It’s refreshing to put my hands to the keyboard. No matter how small the audience, it is a test of faith to push publish and brings accountability.

After pushing send, Paul and I are going to have dinner and take part in Sunday Movie Night – a new rhythm we’re starting with dreams to someday involve our kids.

I did a quick google search on scripture surrounding sabbath, and it appears to me it’s not something God takes lightly. It is a gift, but also a responsibility He has placed on us, as those whom His spirit dwells in and those that bear His image.

I’m starting with rest, and trusting that He will help me accomplish more than I can do in my own strength this week.

So this week the question is: what would it look like to actually rest, and to work the rest of the week FROM that rest? 

I Am Hungry For 2017

There is something so exhilarating about the start of a New Year.

It feels fresh, untainted, and full of possibilities. Each year I look forward to the new year with optimism and hope in my heart.

This year is no different. I am doing similar activities in preparation and reflection as the calendar leaves 2016 and enters 2017. I got a beautiful new planner, I took some intentional time yesterday to break out my variety of journals, and I set new goals.  Paul and I made a list recapping 2016 in our “Vision Journal” and then made a list of our collective New Year’s Goals for 2017. I spent time with the Lord and prayed through a “word” for this coming year. I set a few fitness goals and connected with my sister in law to keep me accountable as we delve into a reading challenge.

While the activities feel similar, there is a noticeable difference in my heart. I’m hungrier than in years past. I want more. My goals and vision this year feel weightier, that what I decide to pursue has the potential to have an impact larger than I can imagine. There is a compulsion deep inside me yearning to step out. I feel a stronger conviction to take bold action and to dream bigger.

God has been working on my heart in the last several months, challenging me, unsettling me, prodding me. I am unsure of the destination or even the course, but in 2017 I am choosing to take the next step. It seems only fitting that I feel like the word God gave me for this next year I’m embarking on is brave.

So with that friends, I am committed to be brave.

I don’t know how being brave will play out. But I have a feeling it is going to be a daily decision to say yes to the unknown, scary, new, and purpose while simultaneously saying no to fear, despair, doubt, and stagnancy.

Here’s to 2017 and all that it holds, friends. I encourage you to ask God for a word for yourself this year. It has been INCREDIBLY impactful for me in other years to have a word to hold onto as I walked through the year. I shared a bit of that story on the Mercy Multiplied Podcast MercyTalk this past week. Check it out! 

I love you all and know God has good in store for you this year!

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Three journals, three books, a planner and fresh pens…the tools to prepare for 2017

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saying yes.

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

– Joseph Campbell (Discovered in Rising Strong by Brene Brown)

I read this quote this afternoon, sitting across from the love of my life, at a new cozy coffee shop, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Paul and I have been all about this idea of “living a good story” since before I called him more than my crazy friend Paul. We were bonded by the idea of living our lives in a way that didn’t make sense to other people. We naively dreamt of throwing caution to the wind and taking on big things. It’s one of the reasons I knew I wanted to date him, and later marry him. We have tried to make it a priority to say yes to adventure.

But the more comfortable you get in life, the harder it is to say yes. Your yes becomes less hearty. It becomes more strained as the risks become higher. The pay off is greater. When you’re 20 and your bank account rarely goes above $200, or you can pack your life into one load of your vehicle (and routinely do), or it takes little to no effort to shake off the obligations of the day- saying yes is easy. 

Saying yes is hard as an adult. I should know I am 25 today. ; )

The next adventure before #thevoughts did not come with a hearty YES…at first. As of January 18th, Paul will be a student again. The hows, and whys, and whens and God moments that led to the decision for Paul to pursue his Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling would take hours to share, and I’m not entirely sure I understand how it all happened myself. But what I do know is that our God is one who does not waste unemployment, strife, anxiety, heartache, loss or pain. Instead He takes it through the fire, gently whispering the truth of WHO we are and WHOSE we are, as He refines us and calls us higher. So thankful for the God we serve.

As we approached this we began to just take the next right step.  We began to say yes and believe that God would show up. And He has. The yes to an adventure that I KNOW Paul was called to embark on, came with fear, trade-offs, and lots and lots of questions. As we’ve been aggressively tackling debt, Paul going back to school meant re-appropriating some of those funds and believing God to increase our revenue. We’ve already begun to see glimpses of His provision. We knew that it would shake up the rhythm that we’ve finally begun to walk in after a pretty tough first year or two of marriage. It meant prioritizing the other person in new ways. However, my favorite thing about the Vought house is that there has ALWAYS been room for two callings in one home. (watch this video!!) Paul has said for years that my gain is his gain, and vice versa. I actually did not bat an eye when I thought about the change that Paul going to school would bring. His yeses to prioritize my career, my callings, my passions have been unwavering and excessive at times.

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And so our adventure begin.

Paul was hesitant and cautious. But it became abundantly clear that it was no longer a maybe idea, but a HAVE to idea. So we said YES! As our yes became more hearty, God has continued to provide confirmation, excitement, and joy. The adventure awaits.


 

In somewhat related news I wanted to share my word for the year. And give you the freedom to keep me accountable.

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I felt like God was calling me to be intentional with my actions, decisions, time, dreams, interactions, relationships, etc. this year. Ironically Paul’s word was “risk.” So we’ll be taking intentional risks….I guess. ; )

I want to be an intentional person.

I want people to know that I am a person of my word and one that acts deliberately.

I want to make people feel prioritized, sought out, cared for, heard and known by the ways in which I approach relationship with them.

I want to look back in a year, two years, ten years, thirty years, and know that I have instilled a pattern in my own life and our family of intention. I want to act upon life, rather than feel as if life has been thrust upon me.

I’m currently reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown (as you might have gathered from the above quote) and the entire concept of the overcoming, owning your story, and living wholeheartedly requires intention. We don’t wake up one day emotionally, thriving people. We don’t stumble upon purpose, passion and callings.  It takes gritty work. It takes showing up. It takes wading through the darkness. As she says, you can’t skip the ugly middle part of growth.

I want to be intentional about sitting in the tension of the ugly. I want to surround myself with people familiar with the ugly and invite them to share their ugly as well.  If I’m going to become like the people I spend the most time with, I want people familiar with being intentional and people willing to be risky.

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked . . . A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

-Rising Strong 

That last line has become a new “rule” in the Vought house.

So it’s with intentionality that I’m hoping to lean into this next season. I don’t know all that it holds, but I feel God stirring. I know I’ll fall flat on my face from time to time. But I want to get good at getting up. Getting curious. And getting strong.


 

I also want to be kind. That’s my bonus word for the year.

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I want to be someone known for her kindness.

 

That’s all.

Have a great weekend friends!