I Did It!

This morning, I was honored to share at our Kensington Troy KMoms group. In typical me fashion, I was really excited! And then I felt like I wanted to vomit. And then it was one of those “I’m going to do it even though it scares me” things. I decided to write it out in a somewhat artistic form. After fumbling my way through the first three minutes of trying to free form my talk, I surrendered my fear of putting myself out there the extra vulnerable way, and I read what God gave me to share.

I’m glad I did. And I hope it blesses you.


K-MOMS OCTOBER 28, 2015
Laura McCullough
Taking Our Thoughts Captive

Here’s what i want you to know this morning:
I am a hot mess in love with a brilliant God.
My gut deep desire is to discover and reveal
His goodness and mercy and grace to me and to you.
As the years go by, I’m increasingly aware
Of the unreasonable tenacity of His love.
And the surprising absence of His disapproval
And the overwhelming Him-ness
Of Him.
I cannot explain His goodness.
But I know it.
I sense it.
From the depths of my being.
Even when I think I do not.
Even when my thoughts tell me no.
Even when I go left of His way.
His pursuit of me grabs my breath.
His pursuit of you makes me stare in wonder.
His divine redemption and restoration
Are the most beautiful pictures of hope
I can ever hope to see.

My family is 6 with my husband and I
And our 4 crazy kids
And now 7 with our brand new darling PUPPY!
They all make me smile and laugh
And cry and yell and say things
I’d rather not remember.
I work and I mother and I wife
And I scramble
To be everything
Everyone needs
Me to be.
And it’s hard.
It’s gritty.
It’s annoying and un-fun and weird.
I’ve had glorious peeks of radiant sunshine
In the rhythms of my days
And
I’ve had moments of steep descent
Into darkness so deep and bottomless
That I never thought I’d breathe
Again.

Life is not easy.
But it’s beautiful.
My thoughts are not pretty.
But they’re there.
They hold me captive
Then they drive me deeper
Into the arms
Of the One
Who knows me and loves me
In spite of every reason to set me aside.

I can be lonely in the middle of a crowd.
I crave approval
And accolades
And I have this insane desire
To get mail – good old fashioned mail
And surprise gifts.
And words that make me smile.
And I’m a little bit disappointed
Every day
When I open the mailbox
And it’s just bills and junk and fliers.
I’m insecure
And I have ten thousand thoughts
That are stripped of His loveliness.
I get tired of trying
And tired of smiling
And tired of wanting to be
All right.
I struggle to hope and believe
And I doubt that God will come through.
My insecurities blind me
And I am weighted down by anchors of fear.
My humanness scares me.
And my brokenness appalls me.
And I find I am a wreck
Apart from Him.

And so I abide.
Again and again
And again some more.
Because there is nowhere
Safer to be
Than in the arms
Of the One
Who loves me
Anyway.

These things will always be a struggle. I used to think there was this magical day I was never quite achieving, never quite reaching – but that when I finally did the worries would be gone and life would be free and better.

But the truth is the struggle is real. And persistent. And the mental battles are longwinded. As I traced my memories the other day, I could see themes of insecurity and fear all the way back through my early years of childhood. So I see now that my tendency toward fear, my tendency toward insecurity, my easy slide into worry and anxiety and depression … it seems to be a consistent theme in my life.

And that used to scare me beyond belief. But now I have hope because what God has shown me is that though the struggle is great, He is greater. Though the battle is fierce, I can and will become stronger as I learn to fight with the right weapons … as I learn to move forward with the armor of Him who equips me and works all things together for my good. And I find as I fight that I am winning more often, and I’m successful more frequently and the battle gets easier and less and victory takes root in my mind.

So I’ve discovered the beautiful little thing therapists call the Toolbox. And I’ve spent years exploring and developing and creating and trying out new ways to capture all those thoughts that make me feel dark and lonely and obsessed with everything but Jesus.

My Toolbox looks different from day to day, and it’ll look different for you and it’ll change over time as you find what works and what’s just hype and what makes promises that don’t deliver and what really draws you closer to the Vine.

So here’s my box. Take what you want and make it yours:

Gratitude
When I’m thankful, I’m more positive. Sometimes it’s like an old rusty hinged door – it’s hard to open the door to thankfulness. I’m thankful for nothing. And then I find that one thing. That one moment of sparkle in my day or my kids or the Bible or some experience – and that one thing makes the next thing a little easier to come up with … and then the next … and the next … and pretty soon the door is wide open and I’m sending thankfulness right to the ears of the Father.

Celebration
I celebrate you.
Some days I want what I want. And I’m mad that I don’t have it.
And my madness turns to jealousy when I see that you have what I want and I don’t.
So – I’ve fought hard to teach myself the Art of Celebration.
The art of speaking my gladness for you without getting lost in me.
The art of saying “I’m happy for you. That’s great for you. You’re going to love that house or vacation or that friendship or that experience.”
And after gut-wrenching trial and error, I find myself no longer just happy for you – I’m happy with you. And your happiness and joy become my happiness and joy and I feel lighter knowing that my jaded thoughts have become a little more pure.

I celebrate me.
I keep a journal of what I did right that day and where I succeeded and where I kept my commitments.
I write actions I took that overcame fear or ways I helped someone or served someone or reached outside of myself to love on and encourage someone else.

Coaching
I coach myself:
I parent myself in the truth.
I have to look at my thoughts as a mother looks at her child.
I pull outside of myself – sounds weird but it really isn’t – it’s taking a helicopter view of this obsessive or distracting thought …
And I tell it where it’s off and I show it what is true and I tell it “this is the way we’re going to be – our little thought family – we’re going to think this way because that way is ruthless. This way is the truth and it gives life and that’s that.

I affirm myself. Mornings are a perfect time for writing 3 things I want to believe about myself. I write them in third person because it’s easier for me to believe that Laura is amazing than it is for me to believe I’m amazing. So I write that Laura is an engaging, vibrant woman of God – because that’s who I want to be – and when I see it writing, I sit a little straighter because that version of me is now easier to reach.

I let others coach me:
I let down my guard.
My husband gets the pleasure of this little exercise, but I also do it with friends.
I spew my laundry list of worries – and sometimes it’s long and irrational and ridiculous and embarrassing.
But I tell it to someone who is rational.
Someone who loves me.
Someone who will hear it without settling in misery with me –
but instead will call out truth.
And ask me questions like “What is one good thing” and “What is one thing you’re thankful for?”
And replace my laundry list with one of things going well.
And honestly, when I do this with my husband and he says “What’s real? What’s true? What is going well?” I say “Nothing. I hate you. I don’t want to do this.”
But I do it anyway.
And I thank him for reaching down into my messiness and pulling me back up onto steady ground.”

Engaging
I write. I don’t always know what I think until I write.
So writing is a big part of my Toolbox.
I write or type my stream of thoughts.
We can call this a Brain Dump.
Just get it out on paper without censoring it or criticizing it for what it isn’t.
I often do this before bed or in the middle of the night.
I just write what I’m thinking and feel good that it’s out of my head.

I find things to do that don’t involve thinking.
I work with my hands.
Some people like to cook or clean or talk on the phone.
I like building. Crafting. Drawing. Painting. Creating.
Playing with Play Doh. Squeezing a stress ball.
Anything that makes me focus on what my hands are doing
And not on what my mind is thinking.
And as I engage with whatever medium I choose,
The weight of my thoughts lessens
And I find myself refreshed.

And lastly for now …

Meditating
I believe in unceasing prayer. To me, it’s like an app that’s always tracking my location – it runs behind everything else. My spirit prays and when I don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for me. And at the heart of it all, my prayers are always in the Lord’s house like the fragrance of incense.

And I believe in the authority and aliveness of Scripture.
I want to fill my mind with truth and that truth is rooted in the Word of God.
So I’ve started doodling. Scripture doodling. Prayer doodling. Bible Journaling.
It’s a combination of words and art.
I read a chapter or a few verses in the Bible.
And I find one or a few that catch my attention or prick my thoughts or make me want to read it again.
And I take my sketchbook and black marker and pens
And I draw lines or sections and I write the verses in fancy lettering
And I decorate it with swirls and dots and doodles and make it pretty.
And while I doodle, I look at the words and let them become my words.
Then I surround them with my prayers, written in the swooshes and across the spaces of the page.
Or I decorate my Bible with a flower or a word or a promise.
Whatever form it takes, I find myself meditating on Scripture while keeping my hands busy and I finish feeling settled and at rest.

The Bottom Line
We are thinking creatures.
Sometimes our thinking goes left.
Sometimes we’re so good at thinking that our thoughts are like a runaway bus that feels like it will never stop.
We have to train our minds on how to treat us.
What we allow is what will continue.

I am not an expert at this.
It’s a daily, moment by moment journey.
But instead of going failure by failure, I’m choosing to rise above.
And I’m inviting you to rise above, too.
To measure your days by the glory of God.
One glad thought in front of another.
One step closer to life as God says it can be.
Abundant.
Abiding.
Joyful.
And free.

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