Finding Quiet in a Not so Quiet Space
Mary Jane Armstrong
So many people are telling others what to think, who to believe. And what to say. In turn the world is living with and in more chaos every day.
So the question that comes to mind is how do we stop the noise, the voices, the chaos from invading our homes, our minds, influencing our lives?
We abide. To abide in the Greek means to not become another or different, to be present, one with ... meno. That's understandable, a clear definition, right? But wait, we must ask ..
Who do we remain one with, present, and not becoming another or different from, so the chaos stops?
John 15 (specifically, John 15:5) - a famous passage that we acknowledge, shake our heads in agreement with, and even attempt to live out - gives us the "not so easy answer." We abide in Jesus.
How? By being present with him through the Spirit whom Jesus left as our helper. This is why it's not so easy, if we are being honest with ourselves.
Often, we are confused on who is the Spirit and how does He help us? Or, we are running the race as a sprint and not a marathon,...more
Brave Enough To Change
Mary Jane Armstrong
Have you ever tried to dance with an untrained partner? Or, maybe you were the untrained partner trying to dance a beautiful waltz with the most eloquent, graceful, skilled teacher.
Clumsy, awkward, out of sync, frustrated, embarrassed, determined, and focused on succeeding are the emotions racing through your mind and body. With every step your partner takes or attempts to lead you in, you become aware of who is watching, and the longing to end the dance is magnified.
Finally, the moment arrives, the dance ends, and you sit down exhausted, discouraged, and anxious to leave the room because you fear you’ll have to dance the dance all over again.
Now, imagine yourself dancing in sync: the smooth rhythmic movements of two people gliding around the floor expressing the joy they feel as the music comes alive within their very souls.
No one else exists but each other.
So in tune with one another and with the music, they can read one another’s minds, anticipating one another’s next move. They are one: one with the music as it binds them together...more
Did you know that you CAN rewire and retrain your brain? It’s true! It’s called neuroplasticity. Science used to say that this could only be achieved in childhood, but research now tells us that it’s possible at any age.
When we are young, our brains have the most pliability. It’s no surprise that, the lies we believe and trauma we experience deeply affect the way our brains respond. Think of it like a pathway that you walk repeatedly. It becomes worn, easy to find, and the path of least resistance. This is the same for patterns in our lives, and the lies we believe!
The good news, incredible news, is that God has given us direction. Brave Enough is built on the truth spoken through Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In holding our minds captive, and replacing those lies with truth, we are rewiring our brains. In replacing lies with God’s truth, we are allowing His light to shine on new...more
Mary Jane Armstrong
Grab your journal or a notepad. Then, follow along with me as we take a few minutes to think about the barriers that keep us from believing in ourselves and seeing ourselves as God sees us.
Let's begin by defining the word "Barrier." A Barrier is an obstacle that prevents movement or access.
Stop right now and answer this question, "What barriers exist when it comes to moving forward in affirming your self-worth?"
Now, read these words out loud.
I am not enough
I will never measure up
I am weak
I am no one
I am nothing
I fall short
I don't belong
I am a failure
How do you feel after making these statements? Journal your answer.
Now, read these words out loud.
I am enough
I do measure up
I am strong
I am someone significant
I will succeed
I do belong
I am loved
How do you feel after making these statements? Journal your answer
These are just a few messages we repeatedly rehearse, either silently or out loud over...more
Mary Jane Armstrong
I love a good story. A joy of mine is making up stories for my grandkids. The kids enjoy filling the role(s) of the main character(s). For over twelve years, I have “spun a good story,” and my grandkids egg me on.
“Tell us one more, grandma!”
Oral traditions also come to mind. Generation after generation, clan after clan, tribe after tribe, family after family, telling the stories that make them a family, a line, or a tribe. Maybe you can remember a story from a grandparent, a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a close family friend. Some make us laugh. Others make us sad. Stories can be told as folktales, ballads, chants, prose, or verses; however, they all communicate culture, ideas, knowledge, or even art. Stories are powerful.
So, why do we hide parts of our stories? For many years, I did. Until realizing these very parts of my story held power over my life. You see … Secrets enslave us to many different feelings and emotions. However, when we find the courage to tell our story to ourselves and someone else, the power releases its hold.
Self-care is the fun stuff in our life. My definition of self-care is doing things for yourself without feeling guilty. The funny thing about self-care is it doesn’t require much. A lot of people put self-care into their daily routine as a forced thing. Then they feel tired out from it and they stop doing it. Look at the benefits of self-care.
It helps with the sensory, emotional, spiritual, physical, and social parts of us. People who take care of themselves are happier and have more stamina to get more accomplished. As important as it is to have a plan for doing work, it is perhaps more important to have a plan for self-care. It is so important to make sure you take good care of your body, mind, and soul every day. Not just when you get sick. Practicing self-care isn’t always easy.
Most of us are crazy busy, have stressful jobs, or are too consumed with technology and are too busy to make time for ourselves. Me time is usually the last on our agenda. Burning the candle at both ends so-to-speak comes with significant consequences. Which may include, but...more
Mary Jane Armstong
These words, "if you could see where Jesus brought me from to where I am today, then you would know the reason why I love him so," are words to an old hymn that resonates in my mind today.
The life I should be living, based on how I was raised, I am not. The life I now live is not the life I deserve. My current life has been gifted to me, all because a kind and gracious God loves me. Yes, he allowed me to experience some awful things, but how could he not; we live in a fallen, sick world. Yes, he watched it all, and he, too, cried. As a matter of fact, he is collecting a tear bottle for you and me.
Ancient Middle Eastern times speak of tear bottles. The stories are centered on the collection of tears during times of mourning or separation from loved ones. In the old days, the women would collect their tears while their loved one was away, at war with another nation. When their loved one returned, the tear bottle would be presented as a sign of love and devotion. In stories from ancient Roman days, mourners would collect their tears using a bottle and leave...more
Mary Jane Armstrong
Can you identify a moment when your life was forever changed? Maybe the day you met your life partner or the moment … (you fill in the blank).
For me, it was the day I became serious about finding the answers to questions like these, “Why do I feel anxious about so many things? Why can’t I control my emotions? Why do I want to stay in bed and pull the covers up over my head? Why do I keep doing the things I don’t want to do? Why do I think this way when it’s so destructive to my relationships?”
These are serious questions and worthy of finding answers. Questions like these force us to stop and self-reflect on the “why’s” of life, which means we have to find the reasons or purpose of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Leading us back to painful experiences that were not processed healthily. Or leading us to lies, we believe about ourselves, God, and others. Self-reflection is very important, and asking the “why” of life brings transformation.
Knowing who I am, why I do what I do, how my past shaped me but cannot keep me captive is empowering—a...more
Mary Jane Armstrong
As a child, I lived life “scared.” As a teenager, I lived life “scared.” And, for most of my adult life, I lived life “scared.” Scared is defined as being fearful or frightened which adequately describes the way I was living life.
For example, more often than not, I lived fearful that the people I loved the most would decide I wasn’t good enough and walk away. I was also frightened that someone might see me as I saw myself: disgusting — thus validating my worst nightmare.
What’s interesting about living life scared is that this emotion was part of my DNA and I had no idea there was a different option; a different way to “feel” about life. A different way to experience life.
Maybe you can relate?
So, when did the light come on? When was I able to identify fear as the lens through which I viewed most of my life?
It wasn’t until I became Brave Enough to ask the Lord for His help. Looking at my past was too hard. I was too scared and I couldn’t do it alone, which is why I found the first step the hardest; acknowledging my fear...more
Self-care is the collection of habits that support and strengthen your mental health and wellbeing. In other words, self-care is your personal program for taking care of yourself — especially your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Remember that taking a little me-time isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity. So, here are a few tips to take care of yourself and why it’s important.
1. Prioritize: Make a plan of action for yourself and make sure that self-care is part of that plan.
2. Practice Breathing and Meditating: Take time to go to your Garden Spots, Man Cave, Closet, etc. Focus only on spiritual health and being with the Holy Spirit.
3. Do One Good Thing for Yourself Every Week: Go get your nails done, get a massage, get a haircut, etc. Do it for you.
4. Learn Something New: Teach yourself a new language, try painting, writing, carpentry, automotive, etc.
5. Exercise: Go for a walk, run, lift weights, play golf, go hiking, etc.
Mary Jane Armstrong
Living green will change your life. Many of us grew up in less-than-peaceful environments. As a matter of fact, if you were like me, peace was hard to find and a valuable commodity. However, it’s amazing to me how we crave peace but, because it is so unfamiliar to us, we also push it away without understanding why.
We do exactly the opposite of what we want and what is good for us. Why? The feeling of peace is so foreign to us, we fear it. After all, by embracing peace, the adrenaline rush of being on guard and ready for the next “foot to drop,” will stop. By embracing peace, we will have to deal with the emotions that are causing us to stand guard, ready to fight at the drop of a hat. The familiarity of protecting oneself at all costs, and the familiarity of knowing harm could be around the next corner has served us well. Therefore, peace must take a back seat to our self-development.
What we do not realize is the constant state of being on guard, or living yellow and red, harms us. Healthline (...more
COVID-19 put a halt to meeting in person where we could have human touch, see each person and their body language, hear the clarity of each other’s inflection of tone, and (what I especially loved the best) the fragrant smell of each other as we lingeringly hugged!
“What? No way can Brave Enough to Change be held over Zoom!” is what I at first thought. This thought connects to the faulty beliefs that ask these questions, “How can a person feel safe enough to delve deep into their heart and share the insights the Holy Spirit reveals over Zoom? It’s one thing to share my ugliness and gnarlies in person, so how can anyone be transparent and honest over an impersonal media screen?! Furthermore, isn’t it true that not being able to have a physical touch of care and support makes Zoom Brave Enough to Change impossible?!”
There is no such thing as the “impossible” when God is at the center. God at the center recognizes Jesus’ shed blood and resurrection covers all things, which includes His forgiveness; thus, nothing is impossible for God. Add to this, the abiding...more
Have you ever found yourself in awe of nature? The beauty of a hummingbird. The sunset, or sunrise that takes your breath away. The birth of a new baby leaving you in awe of the power and strength of a mother. I have and I bet you have, too. Why? Because all of Creation sends awe-inspiring messages if we quiet ourselves long enough to listen.
As a matter of fact, in the book of Romans, chapter 1, verse 20, Paul reminds us that God reveals himself to us through all of creation; “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
God is all around us, revealing to us who He is and how much He loves us as part of His creation. Not only does God long to reveal Himself to us, but He also longs to reveal how He sees you and me.
We may see all of our faults and failures, but God sees all of our gifts and potential. We may see our shame and limitations, but God sees His Son and all things being...more
Who are we really? Are we the sum of what people see or read about on social media platforms? Are other’s opinions so important that we develop a media image that must be maintained and if our followers were to look beyond this image, would they see someone entirely different; would they see an imposter? Have social media platforms stolen our true identities?
The imposer’s life is all about what others think of us. We ask ourselves questions like, “How can I build a larger following? How do I get more likes on my …? Or, do the comments being left show others I am beautiful, kind, loving, successful? If not, what do I need to do, so they will see me as I wish them to see me?”
So, we focus on creating a “social media” image, and our value becomes based on likes, comments, and followers. These thoughts and passions out of fear of someone seeing the “real us,” drive us to perform, to put on media masks. These masks keep us safe, or so we think. But in reality, they steal our identity and leave us longing for someone to truly see us. Over time, we develop deep...more
“I am forever grateful to my God; He believed in me when I doubted myself the most!” Mary Armstrong
Have you ever faced a challenge and felt you were not up for it? Even more so, have you ever felt that the challenge you faced was laughing at you, as if to say, “You know you are going to fail."
That was me several years ago. The roller coaster of doing the same thing over and over again and each time thinking and hoping that the result would be different began to make me feel a bit crazy. However, the defining moment arrived when a loved one looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s never going to change, is it?” What they meant was, “You’re never going to change are you?”
I will never forget that day. It was the day I came face to face with my dysfunctional behaviors and stood at the crossroads of having to either believe my loved one was right or that my God was bigger.
Of course, those of us who know and serve God, those of us who have been raised with Christian doctrine, know, intellectually, that God’s BIG and His character is beyond our...more
Ever said these words before, “Why can’t I …? Better yet, how many times do you follow these words with, “It’s never going to change” or “You’re never going to change.” I’ve said these words, too. My husband has said these words to me, and it can feel overwhelming and hopeless.
One of my life verses is found in the Bible in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul, the author of the letter, was speaking of being content and is teaching a lesson to the Philippians, and to us, on gratitude in the midst of unfavorable circumstances including suffering. However, God has been faithful, and is faithful, to this verse, when I face the pain of figuring out the “Whys” in my life.
Some examples of whys in my life I've found in self-development have been, when I have felt, or said, “Why isn’t this relationship working? I’m calling it quits.” Or, “Because I can’t change this behavior (spending too much money, eating too much food, watching too much TV), I’m done trying to figure it out; it’s hopeless.”...more
Life has such a funny way of taking a quick turn down an unknown path, like the COVID-19 pathway. This pathway, like many others that have surprised us, requires a rapid “pivot.” I actually love this word, “pivot.” It rolls off the tongue and reminds me that there’s a central point that remains the same to keep movement going forward. Additionally, the pivot requires one to turn and go another direction for my spiritual health, but the pivot is the central point. Webster Dictionary defines the word “pivot” as “the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.”
So, this makes me ask the question, “what are the central points in my life that require a rapid pivot to continue moving forward and protect my spiritual health?"
Family is a pivot point. COVID-19 will not diminish the value I place on my family. So, since family is a central point, it requires me to pivot quickly. For example, my birthday celebration still happened, we just wore masks and socially distanced ourselves. Family visits still happen, they just look a little...more
Do you think God cries when you cry?
It’s hard to imagine that the God of the Universe feels sorrow when we feel sorrow. It’s also hard to imagine that God feels our fear, our pain, our anger, and the many emotions we experience throughout our day; including the varied emotions COVID-19 creates within us. After all, God is divine, not human, like us. Right?
Early in my emotional healing, I will never forget, when I discovered Psalm 56:8. “You keep track of all my sorrows.” David is acknowledging that God is fully aware of our sorrow, so much so that he keeps a record of our individual sufferings and pain. In Revelation 21:4 John writes that one day, “He (Jesus) will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. For the old order of things have passed away.” Again, the Bible acknowledges human emotion and emotional healing on a divine level.
We can also look at the book of Genesis where scripture tells us that we are created (human beings) in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Humans are...more
60 days ago, life forever changed for you and for me.
Today, we find ourselves in a sea of confusing messages and days filled with disappointments. Questions like, "Should we listen to our leaders and stay home to stay healthy", or "Is it time to get the economy up and running so let’s not stay home and stay healthy?" are everywhere. Disappointments affect our family and friendship structures. When will your senior graduate? When can your adult kids and grandkids come visit?
Then there’s daily life and important relationships: Do we stay safe by not hugging or getting within six feet of one another or is our need for touch and closeness more important? How wide should be our relationship “circle” be? When can we open up our “circle” and how big should our “circle” become once we can widen it? What if I come down with COVID-19, will I die? Or, is it all fake news?
Who would have thought 60 days ago our mental wellness would be challenged and bombarded with so many questions and messages? Quite honestly, at times, it’s too much. My mind...more
I can’t wait to see “Little Women” in the theater! A classic story with an amazing plot and powerful characters which is why I can’t wait to see it. I know I’m not alone, we all Iove a good story. You know, the story that leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat. It captures your attention from the very beginning and all of a sudden you are connecting with the storyteller as if you are right there experiencing the same thoughts and emotions. Yep, stories are powerful!
So, I ask myself, why did I wake this morning longing for people to know their story matters. In my search for spiritual health, I stumbled upon a quote by C. S. Lewis, “the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened” ( ...more
We will one day fully know and be known by Him!
I cannot tell you how many women have asked me one, if not both, of these questions: “What did I do to cause this?” Or, “Why didn’t my (whomever) want me?”
The simple truth is, as a child with limited understanding, the only way we can process abandonment, trauma, abuse, or rejection, is to blame ourselves. Thus, allowing shame and the lies associated with the pain to take root in the foundation of how we see ourselves and our emotional health, God, and others. Quite honestly, because these lies become foundational to our understanding of self, God, and others, they haunt us for years to come.
The haunting lasts beyond the church walls. Personal experience has shown me that we walk into a church setting seeking relief from the pain; seeking answers to these questions that have become foundational drivers of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Without a doubt, this is an important transformational step because when a church is a place where Jesus is taught, where prayer is learned, and...more
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
About the time you think you have arrived at total freedom, the Spirit gently taps your shoulder and brings to your attention another area in which He wants to work on your spiritual health. This happened to me this past week.
I’m driving to meet a friend for coffee, when the Spirit, in response to a question I asked him, “What is going on within my soul?” spoke ever so softly, “You need to attach to others.” Now, this may sound strange to you, but I immediately knew what the Spirit meant.
You see as a child, to survive some of the painful moments in my life, I disassociated myself from whatever situation, or more importantly people, who were causing me pain. Worse yet, as a child who truly couldn’t understand why I wasn’t as accepted as others, and to deal with the pain of rejection, I emotionally and relationally detached. This shattered my emotional and spiritual health.
Now, back to my coffee date, sitting with my sweet friend, she listened as I processed...more
The Lotus flower is so beautiful. I’m not sure if its beauty captures you because it grows out of the mud. Or, if its beauty is magnified because it grows amidst the messy, swampy parts of nature. Regardless, I do know this: It reminds me that out of the ugly, messy, and muddy parts of life, beauty has the potential to burst forth. Hope and self-development are found in remembering this beauty. It may not be seen today, or tomorrow, but the promise is waiting. The lover of our soul promises to lift us above the mire of life and capture those around us with His beauty. Our responsibility is to surrender all of ourselves to Him and trust He will keep His promises. We can place our quiet confidence in Him. Trusting He will lift us up, He will give us a firm place to stand, and He will radiate His beauty. Surrender is the seed, obedience and trust nourish it, and God brings forth the beauty.
My God, my Healer, my Creator,
Maker of my body,
Creator of all my days,
I place my trust in you;
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Phil 3:12 (ESV)
Speaking From Experience
The Apostle Paul knew what he was talking about when he said the words above, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Phil 3:12 (ESV)
That’s my heart’s cry. I know I have not obtained all of the freedom and spiritual health Christ has secured on my behalf. I know I am in no way, shape, or form, perfected in Him. However, I choose to “press on.”
I love Webster’s definition of, “to press on;” to continue moving forward in a forceful or steady way. Brave Enough to Change has definitely taught me to move forward forcefully using all of the spiritual resources given me by the Spirit to keep the enemy firmly planted (in Christ) on my feet. That the lies that at one time controlled my emotional responses to...more