Healing Hurts :: 5 Steps to Overcome an Identity Crisis



Life today is lived at a break-neck speed. We’re sophisticated, educated, wealthy; going, doing, acquiring. Our cluttered minds are numbed with the social, news and entertainment media available at our fingertips every waking moment.


The world is off Center and dragging us with it. With lives so focused on caring and living for others, no wonder women wake up one day and suddenly find themselves dizzy with doubt about who they are.

Who’s got time to stop and think? 
To ponder self and life’s meaning? 

Identity Crisis shows up in all seasons of life, often brought on by sudden life changes and displays various external behaviors depending on the person.

Adolescence, midlife, empty nest, divorce, death of a spouse, career change, Perimenopause, sexual or gender confusion, etc… Let’s look at these tough times of life and find answers that bring relief and peace.


What is an Identity Crisis?

  • Conflict when the visible you doesn’t match the “real” you. 
  • Disillusionment when roles or relationships are removed or changed.
  • Confusion possibly brought on by childhood trauma or abuse. 

What Are The Emotional Symptoms?
Anxiety –– Who am I?
Depression –– My life is hopeless.
Self-doubt — I can’t do anything right.
Low self-worth — I’m no good.
Self-conscious — My body is unacceptable.

What Are Some Outward Symptoms?
Attitudes and behaviors turn negative 
Unhealthy friendships are prominent 
Sexual immorality / Substance abuse 
Poor choices and impulsive decisions 
Can’t set long-term goals for future

Women are always putting themselves at the bottom of the list. We’re so concerned with taking care of everyone else that when we finally do have time for ourselves we’re too exhausted to care anymore! Without realizing it, we find our identity in doing rather than being; life is about others vs. life with God. If continued long term these unhealthy habits may set us up for a hard fall.

Often people in the church give the pat answer, “If our identity is in Christ, we should be fine.” Well, that is true and sounds good, but even a believer can find herself suddenly drowning in life changes that bring about an emotional upheaval. 

How can a Follower of Christ stay strong during these troubling times? 

1. Examine Your Center
How do you start your day? Checking email on your phone before you drag out of bed? Try going to bed and getting up earlier so you can spend time with God in prayer and meditation first thing! I suggest at least 15-30 minutes of silence with the Lord before reading the Bible or a devotional. If we don’t fuel our spirit in silence and solitude, we’ll have no strength available when turmoil comes. 
2. Examine Your Health
Often our emotions get the best of us in times of stress because we are nutritionally and physically deficient. Too much sugar, caffeine and fast-food, combined with not enough sleep and no exercise can leave us vulnerable.
3. Examine Your Dreams
What about life brings you joy… bird watching, gardening, reading? Do you have old interests left unexplored? New ones unchallenged? Have you always wanted to paint, sky dive, go to college? What are you waiting for? “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than your think!” 
4. Examine Your Relationships
It’s possible that not all your relationships are healthy. Do you have co-workers or family members who are so negative that it drains you to be around them? Take a step back. Find people who make you smile or laugh. Spend more time with them.
5. Examine Your Self
If reading this you find yourself in a state of despair over your life situation, past mistakes or what appears to be a hopeless future, please find a counselor, trusted friend or family member to whom you can share your pain. Often just talking it out resets our mind, energies and path. As always, feel free to email me if you need a friend!

Your real life is hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:3


Find strength for the journey with the @Newsboys   http://youtu.be/z8j-YLb37Yk




Resources:
Biblical Counseling Keys: Identity: Who Are You? by @JuneHunt www.hopefortheheart.org
Embracing Your Second Calling by @DaleHansonBourke 
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom by Joan Chittister www.joanchittister.org


Virtues~n~Vices :: INTEGRITY

Virtue: a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.
Vice: a practice of wrongdoing, corruption of virtue; an unholy habit.

Integrity: Honesty and reliability in all things; consistency in the face of difficult circumstances. Integrating truth and action with body, mind, spirit and heart.

Hypocrisy: Pretending to have virtues or moral beliefs that one doesn’t actually have.



We get the word Integrity from the Latin adjective integer which means whole, complete, in sound condition. So for our discussion, integrity is wholeness in qualities as honesty, consistency of character.

What does it mean to live with integrity in our modern world?



Some people think they “have integrity” as long as they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they clam to hold. That’s not necessarily a good thing because those values and personal principles may be immoral.


While living in addiction, I insisted on being honest with my kids about my lifestyle so as not to be a hypocrite. I was living consistent with my values and beliefs but it was a life far from integrity!


This month we’ve been working Step 5: Admitting our wrongs to God, ourselves and another human being. We’ve also looked at Anne Paulk’s book Restoring Sexual Identity. Coming clean to another person about your most shameful wrongs and stepping out of an unwanted lifestyle require tremendous Integrity. 

Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. ~ Psalm 25:21 NIV


We think we can be accepted as long as we try to be what others want us to be. Deep down we want to be different but fear and cowardice stop us. Only with God’s help can we stop pretending, living a self-divided, not knowing who we really are.  


“Integrity is a natural wholeness that opens the door to supernatural holiness.” ~ Donald DeMarco


Once we desire to live a life pleasing to God and not man, we will learn His requirements and strive to live by them. Integrity – being what we say we are – keeps us from claiming to be upright while living as if we don’t know God. 



Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ~Roman 12:2 NLT


Do you struggle with integrity in certain areas of your life? 


Reach out to God for strength as you watch or listen to Travis Ryan’s video below… 


Be Fearless with Integrity. Watch Travis Ryan http://youtu.be/e2ZtkVpx0F0






Resources: 
Christian Virtue by Patty Woodmansee
The Heart of Virtue by Donald DeMarco
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Wikipedia

BOOK REVIEW: Restoring Sexual Identity by Anne Paulk





Restoring Sexual Identity: 
Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction
by Anne Paulk
Harvest House Publishers 2003
269 pp

Let me start by saying I first read this book in 2007 when I was at the forefront of my own SSA (Same-Sex Attraction) battle. I was ready to leave behind a lifestyle I’d been involved in for several years and I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions, the feelings and thoughts in my mind. Like many women in my position, I had many questions… Why do I have these feeling? Will I struggle with this forever? By reading Restoring Sexual Identity I came to understand the root of my SSA and learned how to manage my emotions, work through my feelings and heal my relationships.

Here’s a sample of what you will learn from Anne Paulk:

  • Where Same-Sex Attraction comes from.
  • How lesbian attraction develops.
  • How to overcome past abuse.
  • The importance of a support system.
  • How to have healthy relationships with men and women.

I highly recommend this book to any woman struggling with unwanted Same-Sex Attraction or for any parent with a daughter who struggles. This is an excellent resource that deals with real life questions and answers them with Christ-centered solutions.

Working the Steps : STEP 5

Step 5: 

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

This step is probably one of the most challenging. It’s one thing to take our moral inventory in Step 4, but it’s quite another to admit our wrongs to another person. While living an addictive lifestyle, we’ve gotten very good at keeping secrets, hiding our shame in lies and denial. Now it’s time to come clean with God, ourselves and another human being. 


Here are some tips to help with each area of Step 5…


Admitting wrongs to God:
It’s easy to justify not really working this part because after all, doesn’t God know everything I did already? Yes, that’s true. But not the point. We need to sit down and have a personal conversation with God, using our listed inventory from Step 4 if necessary. But more importantly, be open and honest about the things we did, that caused harm to ourselves and others, directly to God. It will probably be emotional, but that’s part of the healing.


Admitting wrongs to ourselves:
OK, didn’t I do this when I wrote out my inventory? Yes, and no. Most likely your inventory was taken in silence, with pencil and paper. This work needs to be audible. Sit down in front of a mirror, looking at yourself, going through the inventory list, honestly admit to yourself the wrongs done. If you’re anything like me, dealing with myself in the mirror is always painful. But often pain comes before healing.


Admitting wrongs to another human being:
The first two parts of Step 5 were rough, but this one is the clincher. Start first by carefully choosing a trustworthy person who won’t use your past against you. Find someone dependable, who will provide unconditional acceptance and not be shock or offended by what your reveal. When you’re comfortable with the person, sharing will be that much easier. Refrain from unnecessary detailed explanations. 


Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.~ James 5:16

You make be tempted to procrastinate on this painful step. Don’t. The sooner you get Step 5 behind you, the faster you’ll be on the road to full and complete healing. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions. 


Also, here are some excellent resources:


Life Recovery Bible
The Twelve Steps for Christians 
Recovery: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice
The Solid Rock Road




Take it Step by Step with @Bryan_Duncan http://youtu.be/swNgb9ya6WM

Coming in May on Reaching Hurting Women!

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Working the Steps: Step 5 
Having taken our moral inventory in April, it’s now time to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to ourselves, God and another person.









This month’s book review:  Restoring Sexual Identity by Anne Paulk  
Do you or someone you know struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction? Anne Paulk answers the most commonly asked questions from both homosexuals desiring change and friends and relatives of women struggling with same sex attraction





Virtues ~n~ Vices :: INTEGRITY  
Admitting wrongs to others is tough. So is standing up to your past and stepping out of an unwanted lifestyle. Let’s talk about what it means to live a life of integrity.







Healing Hurts :: Personal Identity Crisis
Do you find yourself asking, “What is my purpose in life?” Women are dizzy with doubt about who they are and what they’re supposed to do with their life. Let’s work through this tough time of life together.






















Are You Hiding Behind Your Baggage?
We all have baggage from our past. But when we hide behind it instead of taking the next step to grow, we limit ourselves, our relationships and our future.






See these articles accented by some beautiful praise and worship music on Reaching Hurting Women in May! 




Photos courtesy 123rf.com

Healing Hurts :: ANXIETY

anxiety: distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.



Anxiety seems to be an inevitable part of life. Stimulated by fear, when life comes at us with both barrels, we go into a panic attack or worse, shut down completely. 


Often, we bring anxiety on ourselves, with our too busy, over-productive, thoughtless style of modern work, play and home life. We rush around trying to cram as much into one day as we possible can. And we wonder why we have anxiety! 


If we take a simpler approach to our day we’re less stressed and worried, by slowing down, we find meaning and purpose in whatever task we’ve been assigned, whether it’s scrubbing dishes, driving a bus or delegating duties to an office. If we put more care-filled thought into our daily routine, the mundane will turn beautiful and our self-inflicted anxiety will fade away.


Another word for anxiety is worry. And fear is always at the root of worry. We learned last month in our Virtues~n~Vices column that faith is the only thing that can counteract fear. If you are running low on faith… I have just the answer for you. God’s Word! 


Here are a some Scripture references that help me in times of anxiety. Look them up. When one speaks to you, write it on a 3×5 card and keep it with you. 


God’s Word will renew your mind and remove your anxiety!


Joshua 1:9
Psalms 16:8; 27:1; 34:4; 55:22; 56:11; Psalm 91
Proverbs 3:5-6; 12:25
Isaiah 26:3; 41:10
Matthew 6:25-34
John 14:27
2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 4:15-18; 9:8; 10:5
Philippians 4:8

2 Timothy 1:7; 4:18


5 STEPS THAT OVERCOME ANXIETY
  1. Check Your Inputs Media influences are a recipe for anxiety and depression. Why do we think we need to know everything that’s going on in the world to survive each day? It’s simply not true. There’s very little we can do to change the head lines. Why clutter your mind with all the trivia, frivolity, drama and violence? Life’s too short to waste brain matter on unnecessary input. Instead, fill your mind with praise music to lift your spirit, read a good old book! Need help finding one? Email me.
  2. Check Your Thoughts – Think about what you are thinking about. Journal your thoughts in times of anxiety, trace them back, find the input that triggered those thoughts. You may need to eliminate an activity, a friend or program that’s triggering anxiety. 
  3. Check Your Activity Lack of exercise, not enough or too much sleep can cause depression and anxiety. Take a walk, look at the birds. Are they worrying?  Stillness, silence and solitude work wonders for anxiety. Yoga has been instrumental in my own mental and physical health. (Now don’t get ruffled about yoga… there are Christian Yoga books now.) Also, get yourself on a good sleep routine. There’s a lot of research showing the importance of circadian sleep rhythm – sleep when the sun does. 
  4. Check Your Diet – Eat closer to the earth. Cut caffeine and sugar. Drop soda, drink more water. Look for hidden sugars, high-glycemic levels in bread, grains, fruit, veggies, condiments, etc. By eating more organic, non-processed foods we will naturally feel better. 
  5. Check Your Focus – What do you spend your day thinking about? Take your mind off worries by helping someone else. Become a mentor, volunteer, lead or take a class. There’s always someone who has more problems. When we take our mind off ourselves and put it on someone else, it’s amazing how insignificant our worries seem. 


I hope this week’s column has been helpful to you. I know what it’s like to suffer with anxiety and panic attacks. If you have a serious problem, don’t hesitate to get medical assistance. God has given us doctors to help us. I was on medication for a couple of years to help me press through some tough times. During those years, I stayed busy renewing my mind with Scripture. Soon I had the strength and ability to live without anxiety medication. 



Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. ~ Philippians 4:6-7 (Amplified)


Are anxious thoughts creeping in? 


Watch or listen to @HillsongUnited sing Mighty To Save http://youtu.be/-08YZF87OBQ

* Helpful Resources: 
Hope for the Heart Biblical Counseling Keys: Worry – The Joy Stealer by June Hunt
Hope for Today Bible by Joel and Victoria Osteen
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
The Rule of St. Benedict 
Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: COURAGE


Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. 
~ Maya Angelou

Virtue: a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.

Vice: a practice of wrongdoing, essentially corruption of the virtue; unholy habit.

Courage: the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation in spite of fear; choosing the morally difficult right over the easier wrong.
Cowardice: the inability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation; 
choosing the easy way out.

Like many of you, I grew up with the lion in The Wizard of Oz as an example of courage and cowardliness. When Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man meet the lion he acts like a bully. He thinks by being rough and tough he can hide his true cowardly nature. At the root of cowardliness is fear and selfishness.



When the wizard finally awards the lion his “Courage” medal it’s for an act of bravery in the face of fear and danger, motivated by unselfish love. At the root of true courage is LOVE. 




You may be in the midst of serious personal trials: job loss, marriage and family stress, health issues, financial problems, etc. How can you find courage to press through?


The first and best thing that helps me during trials is God’s Word. The book of Psalms is a wonderful place to start. Many of the psalms were written during times of great pain and suffering. These sweet songs can help supply us with words so in our pain we can find a way to praise the Lord. God knows our heart, if we honestly cry out to Him, He promises to hear and answer.


Another way to find the courage to face our own troubles is to help someone else. When we get our mind off our problems, by sowing a seed of goodness in another person’s life, God will give us the strength to press through our own life struggles.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6



Be encouraged! Watch I Will Not Be Moved by @Natalie Grant http://youtu.be/2wu8YM-XDvs

BOOK REVIEW ~ Feeding Your Appetites: Take Control of What’s Controlling You!



Feeding Your Appetites: 
Take Control of What’s Controlling You! 
by @SteveArterburn
Thomas Nelson Publishers 2006
206 pp





If you’re not familiar with Stephen Arterburn — check him out. He has been an incredibly important influence on me from the early days of my recovery. In fact The Life Recovery Biblewhich he edited and produced with David Stoop, saved my life!


Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and is the host of the nationally syndicated “New Life Live!” daily radio program. Steve’s also the founder of the Women of Faith conferences and has written over 60 books. This isn’t a Stephen Arterburn advertisement, but I want to put into perspective the value you will get from reading his book.


In Feeding Your Appetites Mr. Arterburn shows us in the beginning, at creation, all our appetites were intended for good. It was only after the fall of man that our natural appetites took on unhealthy purposes.


The career we choose…

  • the way we spend our money
  • how often we want sex and what kind we want
  • the types of friends we build relationships with
  • the amount of champagne we drink at a party  
  • how we prioritize our activities

…all reflect our distinctive appetites and desires. 

Our appetites motivate us to seek fulfillment, but they must be managed or they will lead us into a world of regret and tremendous emotional pain. When an appetite intended to help us survive is managed incorrectly, it may become a trap holding us in a deadly grip. Until we give ourselves and our appetites completely over to God, we will remain trapped. Stephen Arterburn

 

While reading Feeding Your Appetites we will recognize the influences that have led to our poor choices, we will pave new pathways and learn how to fill these natural voids in healthy ways. We will begin to cultivate godly appetites and ultimately live a surrendered life. To ensure our success Stephen has a simple Twelve Step process to help us evaluate our circumstances and map the areas where we’re struggling. Also included is a study guide for use with family or small groups.


If you struggle with appetites that have grown out of control consider reading Feeding Your Appetites by Stephen Arterburn.

An enjoyable read that can bring a better life. I highly recommend it!




Working the Steps: Step 4




Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The first time I worked this step was in therapy almost eight years ago. It was shocking to see all my addictions, compulsions and perversions written down on paper. Because much of my life had been lived in a daze of fantasy and denial; it was like reading about someone else.

In Steps One, Two and Three, with the help of the Virtues: Honesty, Hope and Faith, we have submitted to God’s authority over our lives and have converted our doubt and fear into peace with God. In Step 4 we beginning the growth steps, by examining our past behavior we will work towards understanding and eventually finding peace with ourselves.

It’s critical when taking our inventory that we look at our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Often when reflecting on ourselves we focus on the bad things and beat ourselves down with guilt and condemnation. But when we include our strengths in the evaluation we can see the potential for greatness God has put in us which accelerates us forward on our recovery journey.

In the traditional AA Step Four, we take only a moral inventory: weaknesses, wrongs, character defects, faults and shortcomings. In the Christ-centered Celebrate Recovery, Step Four includes also a Spiritual Inventory. Let me clarify with text from the Celebrate Recovery Bible:

Inventory:

  • THE PERSON: List persons or things we resent. (Fear and anger are clues.)
  • THE CAUSE: List specific actions someone took that hurt us. (Why we resent them?)
  • THE EFFECT: List how the specific hurtful action effected us.
  • THE DAMAGE: List how that specific hurtful action still effects us.
  • MY PART: Honestly determine any resentments, sins, or injury we’re responsible for.

Spiritual Inventory:

  • OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS: Who hurt us? Are we still holding a grudge? Seeking revenge? Jealous? Bad attitude? Who have I hurt?
  • OUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE: Is there an area of life we’re keeping from God? What have been our life priorities? What was wrong with those priorities? Who did those priorities affect and how?
  • OUR BODY: How have we mistreated our body? Are there activities / habits that caused physical harm?
  • OUR FAMILY: Have we mistreated anyone in our family? Do we owe them amends? What family secret are we denying?
  • OUR CHURCH: Have we been faithful to our church in the past? Have w been critical instead of active and supportive? Have we discouraged our family’s support of their church?

Step Four begins the process of coming clean. With pen and paper in hand, prayerfully ask God to reveal His truth about you to you. Remember, God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2Tim. 1:7) With strength given by the Holy Spirit we can push through the denial, past resentments and the fear of acknowledging who and what we have been, to become free and whole in Jesus Christ.

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. — Lamentations 3:40

I hope you enjoy the theme song for our Working the Steps series:
Step by Step by @Bryan_Duncan http://youtu.be/swNgb9ya6WM

Resources: Life Recovery Bible, Celebrate Recovery Bible, The Twelve Steps for Christians.

Coming in April on Reaching Hurting Women…



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Working the Steps: Step 4 
We’ll learn how to take our personal inventories, both moral and spiritual; uncovering weaknesses and balancing them with our strengths.



This month’s book review:
Feeding Your Appetites by Stephen Arterburn
Money, sex, food, work, ego… what’s controlling you?




Virtues~n~Vices: COURAGE Having stepped through our moral and spiritual inventory and tackled what’s controlling our lives; it’s time to climb into the virtue of courage and learn what to do when we lose it.




Healing Hurts: ANXIETY 

Anxiety is an inevitable part of life. Whether stimulated by fear or worry, when life comes at us with both barrels we may go into a panic attack and shut down completely.








See these articles accented by some wonderful praise and worship music on Reaching Hurting Women in April. 


Blessings!