When Anxiety Attacks

Earlier today, I sent out messages to some of my accountability partners because of my heavy heart. I remember having anxious thoughts about certain concerns that I have been dealing with recently. After asking for their prayers, the burden felt lighter. However, on my way home from work, the thoughts came back again. This time, they were darker.

As soon as I stepped out of the office, I knew that I had to talk to God about my anxieties. So, while I was driving, I played the songs I wrote last year which were based on Biblical truths. For the first 30 minutes of my drive home, I felt peace in my heart as I was in awe of how amazing and comforting God’s Word is. I thanked Him for His grace and the privilege of writing and singing His truths. But, during the second half of my drive home, fear slowly crept in my heart. I felt my heart tighten as I heard SPECIFIC words spoken to me. Words such as “FEAR, HARM, and RAPE.”

As soon as I felt the fear, I immediately prayed and asked God to remove them from my mind and protect me from whatever attack that was. After praying, I remember feeling the fear still, so I continued to open my heart to the Lord. I reminded myself that He was in control, good, sovereign, and loving, no matter what. I  also recited verses in my head, verses about who He is and the promises that He has for us.  After doing so, I closed my hand and pounded my heart as I rebuked the fear and lies in Jesus’ name. By that time, I was already inside our village and was about to park when this song randomly played in my Spotify playlist: “Don’t Be Afraid” by Brandon Heath:

For the one who keeps it all inside
Or the one who says: No, I’m just fine
For the one who hurts too much to cry
Don’t be afraid
For the one who knows but will not say
Or the one who’s blinded by the pain
Anyone just trying to be brave

Don’t lose faith
Don’t lose heart
He is with you wherever you are
Don’t give up
When you fall apart
He is with you

You gave Him your heart
He’s keeping it safe
When you’re in the dark
Caught up in the fray
Wherever you are
Whatever you face
You’re held in the arms
That nothing can break
So don’t be afraid

I took a deep breath as I thanked the Lord for His reassurance and the security that we have in Him. Tonight, I was reminded of the importance of these three things:

1) NOT TO LET SIN LINGER ANY LONGER – During the attack, I remembered Ephesians 4:27 which says: “and do not give the devil a foothold.”  N O T  E V E N  A  H I N T. I saw how Satan can use our sins (even our anxieties) to try to distort our view of God and His truths.

2) REMEMBER WHO GOD IS AND WHO WE ARE IN HIM – 1 John 4:4 says “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.” How ironic that this happened right after I listened to songs about God’s Word and the day after I posted a blog about making 1 John 4:4 a reminder for me this new year. But somehow, God allowed these moments to happen for a reason. Tonight was a reminder for me to be intentional in seeking the Lord and His Word each day.

3) KEEP MYSELF ACCOUNTABLE – I cannot grow in my spiritual walk without being honest and accountable to God and people who will lovingly rebuke me and pray for me, when needed. It says in James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” By God’s grace, I pray that I will continue to improve in this aspect. Thank you, prayer warriors, for fighting with me, on your knees.

Is There Hope for My Broken Family?

One of the most difficult questions I’ve had to answer after our family’s 3-week vacation to the States was “How was your trip?”. Every single time a friend or a colleague asked me this, I took a deep breath, smiled, and said: “It was good! Really fun!” But, behind those answers was a heart breaking inside of me. Yes, by God’s grace, there were good and amazing highlights which I hope to share sometime soon. However, I couldn’t just let go of the fact that our family went through an emotional roller coaster ride that continued even a month after we got back to the Philippines. We went home to the same house each day and had occasional chats, but there was definitely an elephant in the room.

 

PRIDE IN THE FAMILY

The trip was supposed to be a fun time with the family because of three main reasons: 1) Our eldest sister’s wedding and meeting the extended family in Hawaii, 2) Our family reunion with my father’s side, and 3) Our whole family’s first time to travel the States together. But while we were still in the States, our different types of personalities clashed almost every day. From the smallest concerns to the biggest problems we encountered, the pride in us took over our hearts and minds.

Unfortunately, this caused us to stumble and sin not only in our thoughts, but also in the harsh and unloving words that we carelessly threw against each other. When someone made a mistake, some of us were quick to judge and comment about it. When someone made suggestions, some of us chose to disregard and belittle them. When someone opened up that he/she was hurt, the other side became defensive. When we experienced delays, hassles, or detours during the trip, blaming and getting annoyed at each other became a normal response. Moreover, smiling for the camera in between these moments was the cherry on top! It was very tiring and frustrating.

 

INDIFFERENCE IN THE FAMILY

As each day passed by, I kept telling God about my disappointment and heartbreak because of our family’s situation. There were moments when I would cry or cringe especially when I would see myself and my other family members being joyful with others, yet having not much emotion or interest back at home. It broke my heart to see how it was normal for us to worship God and serve others when we ourselves weren’t honoring God in our relationships in the family. I also noticed that some of us preferred staying out late instead of going home early to spend more time with the family. In addition, some of us kept ourselves busy with work or other interests, since it was more convenient compared to dealing with the problem. In a nutshell, our family was already giving up on each other.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.Psalm 43:5

 

HUMILITY IN THE FAMILY

Last Saturday, during a road trip with my older sister to a coffee farm, I had the opportunity to open up to her and share what I was feeling and thinking of, in relation to the elephant in the room. I said things like: “I honestly don’t know my parents and siblings anymore. We don’t make time for each other which causes us to be quick in judging and not understanding each other.” and “I’ve been ranting about this to God almost every day. I feel like He’s telling me to stop ranting and to start doing something about it!”

Our exchanges of experiences led us to agreeing that we needed to resolve issues and have a family meeting. We just couldn’t imagine seeing this problem snowball into something bigger in the years to come. I sent out a chat invite to our family’s group chat and surprisingly, they all (parents, older sister, and younger brother) confirmed their attendance for the next day. Ironically, that same road trip, I let my pride take control of me and it caused a tension between me and my sister (which I shared in my previous POST). But, God used that experience for me to understand the value and blessing of humility and by His grace, this inspired me to be intentional in praying for and facilitating our family meeting that weekend.

It was one of the awkward moments I’ve had with the family. Seeing them walk in the coffee shop one by one and knowing that we all had unresolved issues in our hearts. But somehow, God was encouraging me to trust that He is more than able to restore our relationships in His perfect timing. After Mom opened in prayer, I started to lead the discussion by sharing that the purpose of our talk that night was for us to be aware of the situation we had and to trust that God will help us restore what was broken.

I then asked everyone (including myself) two questions that night. The first question was: “What changes do you desire to see in our family?”. This was our chance to let each other know about the improvements that we wanted to see in the members of the family. After around 10 minutes, I asked them the second question: “What changes do you desire to see in YOURSELF, in relation to the family?”. I remember seeing some of their eyes widen and hearing some say “ohh my!”. I guess it was a question that they did not expect. After everyone finished typing their answers on their mobile phones, I said: “Okay! It’s now time to share our answers to the group. Let’s begin with question… #2.”

By God’s grace, He inspired me to set the tone of humility in our discussion by starting with the second question. Knowing our family (based on the previous open forums we’ve had in the past years), whenever we first shared about family issues and problems because of each other, our conversations did end up having action steps, but they also turned a bit sour afterwards. Sometimes, there would still be conversations after the open forum where some of us would say, “I still felt that I wasn’t understood when I opened up…” and all those similar responses.

So, for our recent family meeting, it was refreshing and very humbling for each of us to start the discussion by admitting our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and desires to improve ourselves within the context of family. By the time we moved on to question #1, the issues and concerns shared were willingly welcomed by each member. After a loooong time, I sincerely saw how each member was intentional in hearing out and understanding where the hurting member was coming from. There were no defensive or harsh comments made and when we were almost leaning towards a tension, the other members helped in balancing the conversation. Not only did we get to know each other and our hurts more, we also had the opportunity to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to believe in the best towards each other. Hugs were given, tears were shed, funny comments were occasionally said, tips to love each other were shared, and walls among us were slowly being destroyed.

“God, I’m done running from the reason that You sent Your Son. So I’m gonna choose to love.
Maybe I’ll hurt, maybe I’ll bruise, maybe I’ll cry, maybe I’ll lose.
Still I will choose to love.” –Francesca Battistelli

 

HOPE FOR THE FAMILY

We ended the night by encouraging each other to grow in our relationship with Jesus and in our love for each other, by the power of the Holy Spirit. My heart was overjoyed, not because all of our family concerns were solved, but because we found hope in Jesus. In spite of our weaknesses, He is more than able to transform our hearts and do miracles in our families, no matter how simple or hopeless the situations and problems may be. All it takes is a step of faith when He calls us to act on it and trust in Him.

You too might wonder: “Is there hope for my broken family?”

I think you already know the answer to it. Will you believe it? :)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13

*Note: I asked my family’s permission before blogging about this.*

My Starbucks Confession

I’d like to confess something that some of you may already know about me…

I like going to Starbucks.😅

It started when I fell in love with their frappuccinos back in college, even if I did not (and still do not) have a sweet tooth. This love grew when I realized that I could have quality, quiet times in this coffee shop! My introverted self was overjoyed! Starbucks is usually expensive and unhealthy for my body, but ironically, it has been very good for my heart. I can’t even count the number of times the Lord has spoken to me thru His word, broken me, and revealed Himself to me in the various Starbucks shops I’ve stayed at before. There were moments when I would even cry quietly or write songs and poems and not have a care in the world. It has been a safe space for me.

During my quiet time last February 25, 2018, when I was struggling with insecurities, I was encouraged to be intentional in reminding myself of my identity in Christ. Each time I bought a drink in Starbucks, I decided to ask the barista to write one identity on it. Every time they finished preparing my drink, they would call out: “One Java Chip frappuccino for REDEEMED!” or “One Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit & Honey for FORGIVEN!” …and I would receive it!

It was awkward at first, because the baristas usually gave me a confused look whenever I asked them to write these down. But as time passed by, my barista friends got used to it that even before I said my order, they would ask me in advance, “Hi Nicole! What would be your name for today? :)”

It was a really good way for me to remember my name — WHO I AM — my identity in Jesus! I am forgiven, redeemed, free, never alone, new, beautiful, accepted, alive, and many more! It fueled the desire in me to keep on digging deep in God’s word and seeing myself through His eyes. By God’s grace, this “Starbucks Identity Cups” experience even gave me the opportunities to engage in conversations about the Bible with the baristas that serve my drinks.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” -Colossians 2:6-7 

This afternoon, I was tempted to dwell on my insecurities again. I asked the Lord why He was still allowing me to have them despite me knowing and believing the truth, and even experiencing Him in my life. I didn’t get a specific answer from Him, but somehow, I did feel peace in my heart as I recalled how these insecurities have helped me to run towards Him and His word each time I hurt and fall. I felt the Lord shifting my focus on my struggle and what I can do to overcome it, to who He is and what Jesus, my Lord and Savior, has already done for me when He died and rose again. It reminded me of John 16:33 where it says:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It has been a year since I started the Starbucks Identity Cups and I am still attacked by insecurities and worries every now and then. But, Jesus has always been constant, faithful, and gracious. And because He is who He is, I will fix my eyes on Him and trust that He will finish the work that He started in my heart. I pray that I will indeed stay rooted and find my true security and identity in Christ alone.

Since this isn’t the healthiest way, I am praying that I will be able to be more resourceful in finding other shops or spots where I can journal and dig deep without being distracted. But until then, I will most likely visit this coffee shop. (Please feel free to give suggestions. :) )

Will This Bring Me Closer To You?

I always tell my siblings how much our pomeranian, Copper, likes me. Whenever I get the chance to bond with him, he stays beside me and licks me continuously! Also, 99% of the time, he comes to me when I ask him to. But, my all-time favorite moment with him happens during our walks at the park. Whenever he’s more than a meter away, he would look back at me, see me squat on the ground, run towards me, and pounce his tiny bear-like body on my legs. Afterwards, he would sit under me like a baby penguin sits under its parent.

Most of the time, his clinginess is adorable. But, there are moments when I just want him to stay still or stay at a distance from me. For example, yesterday, I brought him to the groomers so he could have his overdue haircut. Instead of sitting on the passenger’s seat, he jumped to me and attempted to sit on my lap for the whole ride. I knew I could get in trouble for this because it was a distraction while I was driving. So, I did my best to softly push him to sit still on the chair beside me.

After his grooming, I picked him up and drove back home. Again, he wouldn’t stop going near me. So, I thought of a compromise. I allowed him to sit on my left leg as I leaned it on the driver’s door. This made him feel at ease and I was still able to turn the wheel without him blocking me. However, in the future, I would need a better plan.

Nonetheless, I do enjoy hanging out with Copper. Even if there are other spaces on my bed, whenever he’s on it, he positions his body beside mine. Whenever I lay down on the floor, he would go out of his “cave” (a.k.a. the space below my bed) and sit beside me. It warms my heart to know that he trusts me and chooses to be close to me.

This scenario reminded me of how the Lord is pleased when I choose to draw near to Him too. It says in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Also, contrary to how I sometimes feel towards Copper’s clinginess, the Lord will never push us away when we seek Him. In fact, James 4:8 shows us that God will draw near to us when we draw near to Him.

In a way, this was a timely reminder for me because I have been dealing with a lot of major decisions lately. But by God’s grace, He has been helping me process my concerns with His Word, godly counsel, and prayer. Also, as I was pouring my heart out on my journal last night, I found myself writing these down:

“When faced with a difficult decision, Nicole, ask yourself this question: ‘Will this decision bring me closer to Jesus or farther away from Him?’”

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Because your love is BETTER than life, my lips will glorify you.” -Psalm 63:1,3

Can I honestly say these verses from my heart?

Do I enjoy God’s presence in my life?

Does my heart yearn for him, thirst for Him, run to him, trust him, and abide in Him and His word in every season of my life?

Do I like what God likes? Do I hate what He hates?

Do I pursue what He wants me to prioritize now?

Do I seek and love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Or do I give him my leftover minutes in a day? And linger in my doubt, laziness, distractions, pride, worry, and desire for treasures that will fade away?

If I think about choosing a decision, no matter how big or small, that will take me or others farther away from the Lord, I would immediately need to have my heart and motives checked and renewed by Him. Because it just wouldn’t make sense. WHAT OR WHO COULD BE BETTER THAN JESUS?

NOTHING! NO ONE!

Copper chooses to be as close to me as possible all the time. If my dog can do that to me, how much more should I have the desire and will to draw closer to Jesus? It boils down to making a choice… and choosing Him every single time will only be by His grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit in me.