The Cure for an Anxious Heart

November is my favorite month. Okay, yes, I’ll admit, part of that is because it’s my birthday month, but I love feeling of November. It’s month we celebrate being thankful. We gather together with friends or family. The summer humidity drops and reveals gorgeous fall days (and gorgeous fall hair!). And one of my favorite activities: a marathon of cooking! Thanksgiving is my Super Bowl. I love making all the dishes and treats I only make once a year.

Usually, I try to do a 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge, where I post something I’m thankful for each day of the month. Truthfully: I usually fail. I recently learned consistency is not high in my strengths. In fact, it’s dead last. So this year, I’m asking you to hold me accountable and join me!

Comparison kills contentment. And in this world today, comparison isn’t merely relegated to the magazine covers in the grocery store check out line. The temptation to compare lies right in our hands. I fall victim to it too easily: looking at someone’s Instagram life and comparing to my real life. I have to constantly remind myself: that’s not the whole story.

But there’s an even greater tool to killing comparison: gratitude. Did you know studies have show that an attitude of gratitude can improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, positively affects behaviors, reduces physical ailments, and even stimulates certain areas of the brain with dopamine, improving our essential functions like eating, drinking, and sleeping. It can even increase metabolism!

Gratitude also has a spiritual effect. The word thanks (or related words) appears in the Bible 162 times, 54 of those are in Psalms. We are called to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4). We should approach our Heavenly Father with gratitude for what he has done. But thanksgiving changes our spiritual posture as well:

Philippians 4:4-6– Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

There’s a little word tucked in those verses that is secret to finding joy in even the most unjoyful of circumstances: thanksgiving.

Comparison is the killer of contentment. But thanksgiving makes what you have enough.

THEN you will have peace – a peace that is beyond our understanding. Because of thanksgiving, you can peace, not fear and anxiety. And Paul tell us how to do it: think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy. Those are things we must be thankful for.

What in your life are you thankful for today? Hit reply and let me know!

Want to join me on my 30 Days of Thanks? Post daily on Instagram or Facebook and use the hashtag #30daysofthanksfbo or tag me (Insta: @erinhwarren or Facebook: Erin H Warren). Hold me accountable – we can do this!

And you never know, it may just help us work off that extra slice of pumpkin cake!

The Moment It All Changed (and I didn’t even know)

My husband and I went on our first date 14 years ago today. We had officially met the week before at church, and what ensued was a whirlwind romance that I never saw coming. Kris had moved to Orlando in April to start a new job. We’ve spent the last 14 years growing closer but there was one area of Kris I never really knew until last week. This will be a different kind of post for me, but bare with me as I geek out a little over my husband because we both learned a lesson this week that changed the way I see our life.

Previous to his job in Orlando, Kris was a contractor for NASA. Yep. You read that right. After graduating from Georgia Tech in 2000, he took a job as an Industrial Engineer on the Space Shuttle Program. I’ve always been impressed by it, but truthfully, I didn’t know much about it.

This past week, our family did a staycation, visiting some Central Florida spots, including Kennedy Space Center. Kris hadn’t been back since he left in 2004. I hadn’t been since fifth grade. We were so excited to introduce our kids to a place that was pivotal to both of us: Kris because of his job; me because I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s watching shuttles and rockets take off on my TV then running outside to watch them blaze across the Florida sky.

Kris decided we should go in order: Rocket Garden which had the earliest test rockets and manned rockets that orbited the earth, then the Saturn V center (the moon missions) and finish with the Space Shuttle exhibit.

There’s a bus tour that takes you around the launch pads and various restricted areas. As we drove by the famous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB for short), Kris pointed out his old office – in the shadow of the VAB (geek out moment!).

IMG_9141
Kris’ old office (foreground) near the Vehicle Assembly Building

Watching our kids take in the wonder of it all was amazing. After lunch, we readied ourselves for the Shuttle experience. If you’re ever in Central Florida, this is worth the trip. As you walk into the building, the walls are lined with quotes from various people who worked in the shuttle program talking about the greatness of the program and the greatness of the people who worked on it. This is where my wife pride began swelling. I said, “Kris. These are about you! You were part of this!”

IMG_9212
“Kris! You’re part of history!” said the proud, geeking out wife.

The pre-movie leads you to one of the greatest reveals I’ve seen in entertainment. (Goosebumps!) And there she was: Atlantis. Seeing this orbiter (as Kris tells me it’s really called) up close was amazing. We snapped a bunch of pictures, then I remembered I had posted some photos of Kris from his Space Center days on Facebook years ago. I quickly pulled them up, and y’all, they were photos of Kris standing in front of Atlantis right after it landed from a mission in 2002. I excitedly showed my kids and couldn’t stop exclaiming, “This is your daddy standing under THAT exact shuttle when it had JUST returned from space.” I don’t think they were as excited as I was.

IMG_9224
The runway at KSC after Atlantis had returned from Mission STS-112. During this mission, astronauts had continued work building the International Space Station.

IMG_9219-2

We explored the exhibit, and I loved hearing the “sonic boom.” Growing up, I remember hearing this familiar double boom often as the orbiters re-entered earth’s atmosphere. It would often catch us off guard and make us jump as walls rattled in our house, but it was always a comforting sound. The orbiter was coming home. We walked up to this wall “From the Runway to the Launch Pad.” This was Kris’ job: helping streamline the processes that readied the orbiters for their next launch. I asked him a gagillion questions about what kind of projects he did. He recognized old co-workers in pictures and on videos.

IMG_9265.JPG
This was the focus of Kris’ job: streamlining the process of prepping the orbiter for its next mission.

Then it was time. If you know about shuttle history and have realized Kris worked there from 2000-2004, that meant he was there during the Columbia tragedy.

On the morning of February 1, 2003, Columbia readied for its return to Kennedy Space Center, but it never made it. As it entered earth’s atmosphere over the state of Texas, the shuttle broke apart, killing all seven astronauts on board. As a native Floridian, it was devastating. Pieces of the shuttle were found for hundreds of miles. They were collected and brought back to Kennedy Space Center. While many touched the shuttles, few were allowed to be where these pieces were kept. Kris was one. His team helped design the process for cataloging and analyzing the pieces. It was a really hard time for him. But the piece he remembers most were the windows. Behind those windows were seven astronauts, looking out, minutes from landing, eager to get home. That was what they last saw.

We entered the memorial for the Challenger and Columbia astronauts. First you walk through a hallway lined with memorabilia from each of the 14 astronauts who lost their lives. We took time at each one, remembering these were real people with real families who lost their lives.

IMG_9277
A tribute to Commander of the Shuttle Columbia, Rick Husband. The picture shows him praying with the crew before the launch, and his Bible is open to his favorite verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Then we turned the corner, and Kris fell to his knees. Before him stood a piece of the Challenger: part of the body of the shuttle and a piece of Columbia: the windows of the orbiter.

IMG_9279
The window frames of the Shuttle Columbia

Here they were again: the windows. I had no words. This was a part of my husband I hadn’t really known. What memories of those days it must have brought back: the pain, the loss, the questions, the unknown. Tears filled my eyes. I placed my hand on his shoulder as he cried. It was all I knew to do. After a few minutes, we moved on. Emotionally rocked. As we stood outside the memorial, looking at the pictures of each orbiter, Kris spoke a truth that rocked me to my core: “Erin, if Columbia hadn’t been lost, I wouldn’t have left my job. I wouldn’t have moved to Orlando. I wouldn’t have met you.”

After the Columbia tragedy, the shuttles stopped flying. During that first year, they weren’t sure if they would ever fly again. (They did eventually – 22 missions from 2006 until the program retired in 2011). But when your job is to help process the orbiter after flight, and there are no flights, your future is uncertain. At 26, Kris had too much career ahead of him to wait. So he found a job… in Orlando. He asked a friend what the biggest church in Orlando was. His friend told him First Baptist Orlando. That’s how Kris ended up there. Within a couple months of being there, we met (literally) in the pews of the Worship Center. We went on our first date and couldn’t leave each other’s side. It wasn’t the story I thought I’d have; it was better. We were married 51 weeks later on July 9, 2005.

That February morning in 2003, I watched the news of the shuttle on TV. I had no clue what that tragedy would mean for me. I had no idea my life changed that morning. I had no idea that 60 min away, a 26 year old man working at Kennedy Space Center was even more greatly affected. I had no idea that the awful, horrific, tragedy would bring me the greatest gift.

Suffering is horrible. It’s tragic. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s not always the end. Something beautiful really can come from something horrible. Ours is just one story. I think back to all the big tragedies of my lifetime: 9/11, Katrina, and so many others. How many other lives were unknowingly affected by those? I thought of our life over the last two and a half years. It was two years ago this week that Kris was in the hospital, that our life took another one of those sharp, unexpected turns. These have been hard years. I haven’t been shy about that. But they have been beautiful years too. We are not the same. God has grown us, deepened us, refined us.

This week was a reminder to shift my perspective in the tragedy. To see the possibilities. To see the hope. It’s not easy in the moment, but it’s worth fighting for.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

How God Got My Attention This Week

Confession: I wasn’t going to talk about my word, Restore, at Adore on May 14. I had already prepared another talk on Romans 12. But as I was leaving church the day before, my friend Stacey Thacker asked what I was going to talk about. When I told her, she said “I think you need to talk about your word for the year.” It felt like a Holy Spirit prompting, so I went home and redid my talk.

On Monday, when I spoke on Restore (watch here), I had no idea that my pastor’s next sermon series was entitled Restored. Often I find that when God wants to get our attention, He continually gives us the same message over and over and over in a short period of time. My ears were perked up, listening for what He had to teach me.

On Thursday, my worship leader, Angie Elkins and I were reflecting on Adore and she made an interesting comment. She said that when she was selecting worship songs for Adore, she noticed that many of the songs about restoration were also about surrender. She said, “Don’t you feel like Restore and Surrender go hand in hand?”

I thought back to my message from last Monday: while I didn’t use the word surrender, that really was my final point: There’s a posture to restore. I shared about how in 1 Peter 5, Peter says “stand firm” twice. We must stand firm and allow God to restore us. You can’t restore a moving target. And that standing firm and allowing Him to work is surrender.

On Sunday, I walked into church, “Restored” splashed across the stage and across the bulletin, my ears still perked up, and my heart anxious to learn. And wouldn’t you know: the first sermon in the Restored series was about Surrender (watch sermon here).

Y’all! God convicted me last weekend of all the areas of my life where I had tightened my fist again. Dreams and desires I once released, I now gripped and shook at God in my prayers saying, “Do this! Please, God! Do this!” God reminded me that He wants all of me: all of my heart, all of my mind, all of my soul. He wants me to surrender completely to Him.

How do we do this?

Peter gives us three ways to surrender:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world – 1 Peter 5:7-9

First – Humble yourself. I hate this one. But I know that when pride takes over my thoughts, inevitable my inability to surrender is not far behind. I start telling myself I deserve this and deserve that. That the person who hurts me deserves this and deserves that. But when I, like my pastor prompted us to do in service last Sunday, approach God with open hands, with humility, I open myself to the work HE wants do in me. And truthfully, I know that His work is always more beneficial than my striving.

Second – Cast your anxiety on Him. It’s ok to tell Him. It’s okay to have a conversation with Him. It’s ok to say “God I really want this in my life.” It’s ok to be honest about our struggles, because He already knows them anyway. But there’s a difference between casting our anxieties and praying big, bold prayers, and scheming. I had been scheming – planning the perfect scenario and then asking God to do that. I didn’t leave room for Him to work. And there’s something that happens in the act of casting our anxiety on Him. The Greek Word for cast literally means to throw upon. We can throw it all on Him; He can take it. And I feel like God probably wants to take it because Peter tells us that He cares for us.

Third – Be Watchful. Be sober-minded. Don’t let anything distract you. Hebrews 2:1 says Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. The Greek Word for pay attention literally means to turn your mind to. Drifting is our natural tendency. We must be alert. We must turn our mind to God, because Satan is out there, prowling like a roaring lion, seeking to claim territory in your life. He’s looking for ways to try to prove to you that he’s bigger than our God. But he’s not. He lost the day Jesus walked out of the grave.

As I left church on Sunday, I received an email and a text message with some timely encouragement. Just like Mary in Mark 14, God reminded me that I am seen. All He requires of me and you is that we do what we can. Will we mess up? Yes. Will others question our surrender to God? Most likely. Will it hurt? Probably. But I don’t want to miss out on what God could have done if I just opened my hands in surrender.

Because surrender and restore go hand in hand.

My Fried Hair

I visited a new hairstylist recently, excited for a small trim to clean up the ends of my hair. Instead, I found myself crying in my car afterward. Not because I didn’t like my cut or she messed up my hair, but because I messed up my hair. Because I learned my hair was dead. Fried. Bad shape. Like those commercials showing a close up of a hair strand with all kinds of holes in it. (NOT like the picture above) To me, it was a reminder of the last two years my family has walked. It was a reminder that I had pushed myself so far down the list. It was a reminder that I didn’t take care of me.

I’ve been mulling over this post for weeks, unsure of how to put words to screen. But through a friend, God prompted me to share them with my voice.

This past Monday at Adore, our Women’s Ministry night of worship, I shared my word for the year, Restore, and what God has taught me in the first five months of this year. I always thought Restore would be God giving us back all the stuff we had missed out on, but God showed me that wasn’t what Restore meant. In fact, I’m learning it’s quite the opposite!

If you’ve ever walked through a crisis before, you know the battle isn’t over once the crisis is “done.” There’s still a long way to go.

Watch the video:

 

Or listen to the audio:

It’s Gonna Be May-hem

I wrote the following post for my church’s blog almost one year ago. Today, I already feel the effects of May-hem and we are only 20 hours in! I reflected on this post today and felt that I should repost and share again. This time last year, I was at my lowest point in our family’s journey (for more – go back and read through my first post in October 2016). This month last year was the month things started going downhill again, where I watched dream after dream not just crumble but get seemingly obliterated, where the weight of the previous year became too much. 

I’m on the other side now. This May carries its own issues, and the truths I learned last year in the May-hem still encourage my weary heart. I pray they encourage yours too.


I’ve honestly had a hard time writing this week. I didn’t know what to share. I had planned to do an exercise in studying the truth of God’s Word using Jeremiah 29:11, but that somehow felt misplaced this week. It would just be a cover for what was really stirring in my heart. I even procrastinated writing this on my normal Thursday schedule.

Every morning as we drive to school, we always pray as we drive down a certain road. Some days I forget, but on those days, my two-year old usually reminds me. And that’s exactly what he did Thursday morning.

“Mommy! You forgot to pway!”

I was in the middle of a sentence and by the end of the sentence, I had already forgotten the reminder. Can any of you relate?!

One of my mentors calls this month “May-hem.” There’s a strange mix of excitement over the rapidly approaching summer break, but also sadness as a year comes to a close. It’s full of lasts: last centers, last exams, last lunches, last concerts, last award ceremonies, last class party, last precious days with teachers who’ve poured out so much of themselves this year. I want to soak up every last, and in the midst, I find myself drowning as I try to keep up with it all. Was today a special dress up day? Where are those library books due today? Was I supposed to bring ice cream today? Thursday morning at 6am, other class moms and I were texting back and forth trying to keep it all straight. Another friend posted a funny photo on Facebook of end of school year lunches: a lunchbox with a potato, two carrots, dog biscuits and four packets of hot sauce. I know many of you are with me when I say that we are crawling toward the finish line this school year. (And praise the Lord: I only have to pack lunches for two more days!)

The cruel thing about May is that all this piles on the normal stuff. The other hard areas of life don’t take a break so you can savor and enjoy those lasts. The washing machines still break. The cars still don’t start. The doctor visits still happen. The hard days at work still drag you down. I don’t know what it is in your situation, but, sweet friend, I know it’s there. The heaviness, the pain, the fear, the unknown, the illness, the plans that went awry. It doesn’t stop for May.

As I pulled into school Thursday, my sweet little boy wouldn’t let me forget:

“Mommy!” he said more emphatically, “You forgot to pway!”

I barely got the word “Father” off my lips and the tears began to well up in my eyes.

“Father, you are a good, good Father. You’ve given me more than I deserve, and it’s enough.”

The tears threatened to spill over onto my cheeks. I knew what God wanted me to say, and I did not want to say it.

“If you never did another thing for me, what you’ve done would be enough.”

And then the words I feared most left my lips as the tears left my eyes:

“I will rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice.”

I was preaching to my heart in that moment, willing it to be thankful. And apparently I needed to hear the message again, because a few hours later, sitting in tiny chairs with other parents, we watched our little four and five-year olds teach us big truth in their sweet, little voices:

“The fruit of the Spirit shows Jesus in me through:

Love – I will put others first

Joy – I will be ok with what I have

Peace – I won’t be afraid because I trust in God

 

The fruit of the Spirit shows Jesus in me through:

Patience – I will wait without complaining

Kindness – I will be nice to everyone

Goodness – I will do what is right

 

The fruit of the Spirit shows Jesus in me through:

Faithfulness – I will not give up

Gentleness – I will care for others when they mess up

Self-Control – I will think before I act

 

The fruit of the Spirit!”

I think sometimes our adult minds need a good reminder of the simplicity of the Gospel. When we give our lives to Jesus and He in turn gives us the Holy Spirit, we get His fruit. What a beautiful explanation of what the Spirit of the Lord does to our hearts.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:22-26

When mayhem sets in and our worlds are spinning, we can press on and persevere because Faithfulness lives in us. When the answer to our deepest, heartfelt prayers is wait, we can do it without complaining because Patience lives in us. When we don’t get what we want, what we have can be enough because Joy lives in us. When we want to give in to fear, we can trust Him and not be afraid because Peace lives in us. It’s not easy. Notice what happens to our fleshly passions and desires in the verse above: they are crucified. That’s a painful process. But the beauty of what begins to unfold in us is worth it. Because then we can truly do what Paul encourages:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

Amen. Let it be.

 


 

Also, the Enjoy the Word Online Bible Conference start TOMORROW!

Enjoy the Word Logo Long

I am thrilled to be part of an online Bible Conference called Enjoy the Word 2018. God has grown my passion for His Word for the last couple of years. It has breathed new life into my every day. For the first time in my life, I truly enjoy the Bible. And look at these amazing women involved! They are some of my favorite Bible teachers.

2018 Conference Speakers

Here are some of the sessions (and you get to keep the videos for LIFE!):

  • Keynote Speakers: Chris and Katie Orr – a Study through Jonah
  • Kat Lee (HelloMornings.org) – How to Build the Habit of Regular Bible Study
  • Stacey Thacker (StaceyThacker.com) – Igniting a Passion for God through His Word
  • Katie Orr (KatieOrr.me) – Too Busy for Bible Study?
  • Brooke McGlothlin (TheMOBSociety.com) – How to Control Your Emotions so They Don’t Control You
  • Elyse Fitzpatrick (ElyseFitzpatrick.com) – Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation
  • Angie Brown Elkins (chatologie.com) – How to Worship Through the Word

Click here for all the details and to register.