Tag Archives: #OfferYourStory

Running on Empty #OfferYourStory

This post is by Dr Claire Rush (@drclairerush), Advocacy Co-ordinator for Girls’ Brigade Ministries and Vice-President of GB International. She’s also a leader in a local GB group in Northern Ireland. You can read a longer version of this article in Youthwork Magazine here.

Eighteen months ago, I found myself in floods of tears. I was staring at a photo of myself in my mum’s house, taken at my graduation five years before. I didn’t recognise that bold woman in her colourful PhD gown filled with hopes, optimism and an unshakeable calling and faith to serve God wherever he would lead. Over the years since, God has placed me in a number of local, national and international leadership roles in different Christian organisations. I firmly believed that I was living out my God-given purpose, until 18 months ago that is…

Now I found my confidence in my calling and in my God-given gifts was spiralling out of control in a vortex of fear, anxiety, doubt, shame and a deep sense of failure as I faced challenges and obstacles.

I was spiritually burnout. I was barely surviving, rather than thriving, in any of my leadership roles. Something had to change…

Over the last 18 months, I’ve been on a difficult but necessary journey with God as I’ve been overcoming the identity thieves of fear, anxiety and shame. You can read more of my story in October’s Youthwork magazine.

Now I’m cultivating three disciplines in my life to ensure that I’m living the ‘life to the full’ that Jesus describes in John 10.10:

PAUSING TO RECHARGE

One of my favourite places on the planet is Iceland. I love watching its geyser explode right in front of my eyes. It’s fascinating. After the initial pillar of water propels itself into the air, the base of the geyser drains of all the water for a few minutes. Eighteen months ago, I was the human equivalent of a drained geyser: I was running on empty.

A wise mentor asked me: you’re so busy giving out, what are you replenishing yourself with? Busyness is not a badge of honour. Just like our mobile phones, we have a finite capacity. We need to ensure that we’re recharging and plugging ourselves into our ultimate power source: God.

Do you need to stop DOING FOR God and start BEING WITH him?

How are you plugging into God every day? 

CULTIVATING SELF-COMPASSION

Amid all the striving that causes us to seek perfection, it is powerful, counter-cultural and biblical to pause and remember: “I am enough”. Imagine if we all extended God’s grace to ourselves when we suffer or feel inadequate.

Some may perceive self-care as selfish but Alli Worthington in Breaking Busy reminds us that: “Self-care is one of the most other-centred choices you can make in your life. That’s because you can’t live the life God created you for, with space to be aware of his leading, if you don’t take care of yourself.” Doing things that give us joy – reading, spending time with friends, sports – are integral, not marginal to the “life to the full” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10.

For me, self-compassion is ensuring that I don’t just have a Sabbath on a Sunday but have a Sabbath hour every day: 60 minutes of doing something that lights up my soul. This could be reading for pleasure, or playing with my niece. Sabbath isn’t just a religious concept; God biologically designed us to need it. Our circaseptan cycle – heartbeat and blood pressure – rises and falls in seven day cycles. Our bodies and brains need rest on a weekly basis. A regular Sabbath reminds us who we are and puts things in perspective – we’re much more than just our leadership roles.

What does Sabbath look like for you?

DEVELOPING RESILIENCE

The Bible demonstrates through the example of Jesus, David and Mary (and many others) that following God’s calling is going to lead us into challenging and difficult situations. After all, one important component of our calling is our God-given passion, or as Bill Hybels says “our holy discontent”. Many of us throw the word passionate around so flippantly in our conversations. We’re passionate about everything – including chocolate, sunsets, Eastenders and good food. But the word passion comes from the Latin word ‘passio’ (to suffer). And here’s a difficult truth to swallow: our true passion should cause us to suffer. Our calling should lead us to the frontline of the spiritual battle. After all, we need to get close to the darkness if we’re going to punch holes in it.

Resilience helps us reject fear, one of the greatest weapons in spiritual warfare. Fear can often knock on our door and prevent us from stepping out and being all that we’re created to be. It’s no coincidence that “Fear not” is one of the most frequent commandments in the Bible. God doesn’t want us to live under a blanket of destructive fear. Resilience can help us face fear head-on and expose its lies with words of truth.

How are you cultivating resilience in your ministry and leadership?

 

Knowing it and Living it #OfferYourStory

This post is by Christina, you can follow her on Twitter @cjanebaillie

Knowing how to fix things doesn’t always mean we can.

I can point to many times, growing up, when I have felt low or anxious. In and amongst studying hard, trying to make friends, learning more of God’s truth, I struggled to see where I fit. I struggled to know what my place was and how to translate the truths of our infinite God to my confusion or sadness.

I have gone on to study a social work degree and work alongside lots of people experiencing mental health issues. It breaks my heart continually to see the struggle and know how often it is not easy to find help.

For me, as my anxiety has increased in the last few years, I felt frustrated knowing the theory. Knowing what is meant to make things easier, the things I would suggest to others in the same place, yet it not making any  difference. It led me to speaking with a counsellor, an incredible christian lady, and I found myself able to try afresh. Even the things I knew in my head, being told them by another, made a clear impact.

I continue to feel anxious about things in day to day life, yet speaking God’s truth over and throughout my life, while applying helpful techniques like actually identifying what’s making me squirm has been beneficial.

I want to be continually formed by my identity in Christ, not formed by the feeling of dread  in my gut.

I want to be joyful of being His child, not panicking over the insignificant.

I want to be assured that His grace is enough, not doubting my place amongst the community of Christ.

I pray you can also speak truth in those moments.

More Than A Story #OfferYourStory

 

Tell Me your story, show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand Me the pieces, broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you…
I see your story, I see My name
Written on every beautiful page
You see the struggle, you see the shame
I see the reason I came
Mac Powell, When Love Sees You

Sometimes when I look back on my relatively short life so far, I only see the broken and bruised pieces. I see the days swallowed by darkness and the nights lost in sleepless tossing and turning, I see my own staring eyes and weary limbs. I see a story which hurt to write and hurts to read.

I don’t think that’s how God sees my story, and I don’t think that’s how God sees yours.

God sees you.

All of you, all you’ve been through and all of your character, and He sees the reason He sent Jesus to walk through an earth and taste the darkest of human life so that we might see some of the light of heaven.

The story I live in isn’t a fairy tale. I write about mental illness, not as a fleeting moment in my past, but in the present tense as I navigate what it means to live within my restrains but hoping in a God who has none.

When we see the scars, God sees the healing.

When we see the shame, God covers it in His grace.

We can offer our stories  because we can trust in the Author.

We need to offer our stories because we need to show that there is more to our stories than mental illness.

We may have a mental health condition, but we are friends, workers, spouses, parents and much more besides.

So as we offer our stories, let’s put the chapters into context.

Mental illness is a part of my story – but it’s not the whole story.

It may be a part of your story, but you are so much more.

Vulnerability and Courage #OfferYourStory

Telling your story can be so powerful.

One of the most amazing evenings I’ve had was at a weekend spent with eight other girls. On our first evening together we all had the opportunity to share part of our stories, how God has worked in our lives, and our hopes for the future. We laughed together; we cried together, the vulnerability was just so powerful. Our vulnerability and courage in sharing our stories, no matter what they look like, can change so much for ourselves or those who hear them.

Anxiety has been a running theme throughout a lot of my life, even when I didn’t know that’s what is was. There have been times where I’ve not wanted to be alive. Things have happened that have really knocked me. I started to self harm when I was 17 and have had an up and down journey with it. God was so good and completely took this from me and I managed a year where self harm wasn’t part of my life at all. It then arose again, and now I still sometimes find myself struggling with it at 23, but I’m in a much better place and I know I’m moving forward. Many of these parts of my story used to be the bits that I didn’t tell, the bits I didn’t want to tell, but they are also the bits that have been the most powerful to tell.

Being vulnerable and sharing your story can give others the courage to share theirs, and that is awesome. You never know who you may be helping when you tell even a little of your story. Personally, I have found that sharing my story has helped me to process my feelings and situations in my life, as well as offering hope to others experiencing similar things. It has started conversations about topics such as self harm, which has led to other people having a better understanding of it and breaking those misconceptions. Sharing my story has really deepened some of my friendships, made me feel less alone and also feel more supported. Sharing your story can do so many things!

I used to think that I could only tell my story when I was 100%, but I’ve learnt that if that was the case, maybe I’d never end up sharing it! I’ve found there is something so freeing about sharing your story and being able to be honest about where you’re at now. Our stories will have different chapters, it’ll have its ups and downs, but the great thing is, our stories are still being written and who knows what the next few chapters will look like.

Written by Sophie

#OfferYourStory

Exciting news from Rachael, taking #OfferYourStory a step further!

Over at ThinkTwice we’ve been encouraging you to #OfferYourStory, whether it be to friends or to the worldwide web to celebrate World Mental Health Day and it seems like a good time to announce that parts of my story and some of the things I’ve learned about mental health and theology through my studies and my life so far will be published in a book due to be released in 2018 with SPCK.

I’m offering my story, not because it’s a spectacular story, but because the God who is writing it with me is spectacular. And so, in the words of Hemmingway, I’m hopefully going to

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

This is a book I’ve wanted to write for a very long time, in fact I started a pages document for this book when I was eighteen after I’d finished my A-Levels. Re-reading those initial thoughts I had…

View original post 152 more words

Threads of the Tapestry

I’ve had bipolar all my life. I know some people would say that’s not possible, but I can’t remember any year of my life without seeing the thread of bipolar running through. At seven I can remember wishing I wasn’t alive. At times the depression expressed itself in self-harm or eating disorders, but much of the time it has just been a grey cloud sat over my head waiting to rain.

Mania is harder to pin down, and it’s only in hindsight I can see the first flickers of it. Terms when homework suddenly seemed easy because I didn’t ned to sleep, the time when I decided to redecorate my parents’ dining room in only two days, the all-nighters I pulled when inspired to write a masterpiece.

I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until after my second child was born – the hormone typhoon attacked with force and spun my mental health completely off axis. Seth was only eight weeks old when I went back on antidepressants, repeatedly changing tablets and increasing doses, trying to find something – anything – that worked.

Then something clicked. Within a week of upping antidepressants yet again, everything felt wonderful. I could finally feel again! Words tumbled out of my mouth at great speed – there was so much to say and so little time to say it. So what if I thought everyone around me could read my thoughts and I couldn’t stop shaking? I was finally better!

Needless to say, it didn’t last. The lesser known ‘mixed state’ of bipolar kicked in, with the worst bits of both depression and mania – feeling suicidal and self-destructive but at four times the speed. I tumbled down through the rabbit hole, not understanding myself at all, until I landed in a black pit of almost catatonic depression that didn’t lift for six months.

I’d like to say that was the end of the story, but that’s rarely how bipolar works. As early summer arrives each year I find myself getting a little bit too enthusiastic, argumentative and anxious. Then, as soon as I (or someone else) has noticed that, I start to dip, and feel low for the rest of the summer before picking up again in the autumn. Over the years I’ve learnt to recognise the warning signs earlier and adjust medication and lifestyle choices accordingly – this summer I’ve been almost symptom free.

The most important thing I’ve learnt – and have to keep learning – is that bipolar is just a small part of my story. In the tapestry of my life there will always be the black stitches of depression, the red of mixed states and the stunning gold of hypomania. But they will never make up the whole picture. My story isn’t full without bipolar, but there’s so much more. And, when I think about it, that’s just the way a story should be.

Introducing #OfferYourStory

“Our stories are our offering.” – Matt Bays

I wonder what you think of your story.

Perhaps you think it’s just a little bit dull? Full of day-t0-day drudgery and the ordinary.

Possibly its a story you’d rather forget, with too much pain and trauma.

Maybe, though you’re proud how far you’ve come?

Perhaps your story doesn’t feel like it offers much.

To mark World Mental Health Day 2016, we want to get you thinking about your story, and in particular how sharing your story has helped you or someone else, because our stories offer something of ourselves and something of the God who is writing our stories.

It might be that you’ve just shared your story with your closest friends and found comfort; or it might have been writing a blog or giving your testimony to raise awareness, for others offering your story will be a private thing done between you and God in prayer.

However it looks for you, we want to encourage you to #OfferYourStory this World Mental Health Day and we’ll be sharing a few people’s stories over the coming week of God moving as people tell their stories. Stories can break down stigma and offer hope.

And yet for many of us, the stories of our mental illness are agonising to tell, and so we avoid telling them to run from the pain. But as Brennan Manning writes:

“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

The #OfferYourStory campaign is here to encourage you to let your story be a light, whether it be for one person or one hundred people, we walk in the footsteps of the storytellers of the Bible.

The stories of tears and weakness and triumph give us a glimpse of the character of God who sent His son to be the saviour of all of our stories. Dan Allender puts it beautifully saying:

“In many ways, the plot of our life is the story of humankind. It is about how we came to be who we are (Creation), how we lost ourselves (the Fall), what it means to discover the name God has written for us (Redemption) and how the end of our story reflects the great consummation of God’s story (his coming).”

So if you would like to get involved in #OfferYourStory for World Mental Health Day, get in touch on Facebook or Twitter or by dropping us an email and we’ll be sharing as many as we can.