By Maile Sundquist

I found a stone the other day outside of Target. It was a polished yellow-hued Quartz with the word “Live” embossed in black upon one of it’s flat sides. It has become popular to leave motivational stones or painted stones that lead back to websites or fan pages for people places or things. I am guilty of this marketing modality as well. This rock however, had no information on the back, just set there by someone to bless someone else, and it did. I picked it up and immediately felt convicted by the word. I haven’t really been living for years now due to health issues, chronic pain and bouts of depression and anxiety. Life has felt more like surviving, and a far cry from thriving. It has been easier to hide and distract myself with anything but the things that would help me move boldly into the direction of good health and my dreams.

Motivated by my own desire and inspired by this stone I recently purchased a pack of scripture cards for a little spiritual encouragement and pick-me-up. I’ve always found them a bit cliche and insipid but have found myself in a dark place mentally recently and have been utilizing multiple tools to aid in my mental and spiritual healing. I have implemented minimalism, relaxation aids such as palm stones, candles, and chimes, meditation apps, with some positive effects, but as a Christian, I knew I needed to be pressing into God and His word as my soul was now weary once again, and thirsty for thorough and lasting benefits. This was the third card in the stack and it immediately spoke to me.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25.

Having generalized anxiety disorder, I have found fear encroaching upon every area of my life, even places I never would have thought anxiety could take hold of. Intrusive thoughts and panic about driving or being in public. I was always known as a carefree upbeat jovial and hope-filled person, but years of suffering wore down my hope and stole my joy. I found myself in a decade long battle with myself. Stuck in a cycle of negativity that compounded and I became fearful of everything and worrying about what ifs every day. It was all consuming and there was no room for peace. When I think of this verse, I picture my old self before the physical and mental injuries. I trusted Christ more, I sought Him more, I sang, danced, helped others more. I laughed so much more! One by one these positive habits and mindsets dissolved and I was left standing on my own understanding and strength and was brought past the end of it years ago. All I saw was my suffering, no one else. Nothing else.

When this verse mentions strength, I see it not as a proud or selfish strength formed from past hurts, resentment, fear and hate, but a graceful, silent strength that is not quick to prove itself, whose foundation is on Christ and in truth and righteousness. When it speaks of dignity, I believe it is ingenious and not forced or feigned, but born of a life that exemplifies love and humility, grace and positive fruit. And when it talks of laughter, it is not a laugh heavy laden or tinged by bitterness or sadness, but a laugh that is deep and pure, joyful and exuberant, resounding. She is able to love abundantly and fully and thrive and flourish for she is led, inspired, and fueled by the creator of the universe, and not by fear or selfishness.

It is my hope to once again return to this place. Not the carefree life of a child who has little responsibility and experience, but one of peace. A life where I am able to be fully present with my child or spouse, be an active part of creating a memory in that moment in time and not have my thoughts racing or be preoccupied with my lengthy to-do list, or fixating on a conversation earlier in the day, or something I read in a news report. A life where I feel strong mentally and physically, healthy, and move throughout my life with grace and dignity, and laugh more. Much, much more!

My sister in-law recently suggested a book to me that she has received a lot of encouragement from, called Anxious For Nothing by Max Lucado. In the beginning of the book he points out the many reasons we may be stressed and anxious. He cites a statistic, from the National Institute of Mental Health, which states, ‘within a given year, nearly 50 million Americans will feel the affects of a panic attack, phobias, or other anxiety disorders.’ One of the scriptures he highlights is Philippians 4:4-8.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

This short passage of the Bible is so powerful to me. As a Christian I believe God created everything. He created man and woman in his image, and counts the stars by name. His eye is on the sparrow, and how much more is it then on mankind? What I love about Christianity is the fact that God wants to have a relationship with His creation. The fact that he sent part of himself down to earth in the person of Jesus and cared enough to sacrifice him so that those who believe may have everlasting life is pretty awesome! The writer calls Christians to rejoice and celebrate God, to not be anxious about anything, and to maintain a grateful heart as we lift up prayers to God and He will grant peace to our souls. Then he encourages us to keep our minds and thoughts on positive things which he knows will strengthen us and keep us from falling back into fret worry and fear.

I know this might sound strange to many people, but I feel a moving in my spirit. I believe God has been laying out stepping stones for me, one by one that will lead me back to Him, His word and in the end, restoration and peace. Prior to the stone or book recommendation I had been creating a sacred space in my home where I could come to pray, reflect, meditate and utilize my relaxation aids such as essential oils, chimes, singing bowl and palm stones which was decorated with my favorite things. I recently came across the prayer closet/ war room concept on YouTube and was newly inspired. Aesthetics mean a lot to me, so I will not be filling my walls with written prayers or bible verses on post its, but I plan to pray in a new, more intentional way than I have in the past, and I am extremely excited about it! Times I have dedicated myself to prayer in the past, my husband noticed a huge and positive difference in my outlook, attitude, and demeanor. Although I never walked away from my faith, I have not been praying or in scripture nearly enough and my mental emotional state is proof. I am so excited to see what God has planned!

If you are not a believer, than please do not be offended. Often when I write, I sometimes feel that I am writing to encourage not only all of you amazing stars in our Creative Constellation out there, but also myself. My hope is that everyone who reads my blogs will come away with something positive no matter how small. None of us have all the answers, but collectively I believe we can all aid in encouraging one another in this life we all share on planet earth. Life can be hard to navigate, and so can our own internal dialogues, thoughts, dreams, beliefs. I hope you are not actively struggling right now, but if you are, just know there is hope. You are not alone. There are others suffering along side you, and we all need to reach out and speak out about our struggles and not be ashamed or fearful of what others might think. We only get one life. Confucius puts it nicely, “We have two lives. The second begins when we realize we only have one.”

Time is our most precious resource, and we are only here for a finite period of time. It is so easy to live within a cloud of distraction and let hours or days slide by without our values playing out. So easy to get discouraged by the emptiness and darkness that lies within us, and all of mankind, and fall into destructive patterns of behavior that don’t breed life and happiness, but chaos and fear. My prayer for all of us who are suffering mentally, emotionally and spiritually, is that we can move as individuals and as a culture, into beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, and actions that bring contentment and joy to ourselves and those around us. Waking up with grateful hearts and helping others and focusing our mental energy outside ourselves will not only change our perspective and attitudes, but will inspire others to do the same. Fear is contagious, but so is love, so wear it more often, even when times are hard, it will come back to you. The author of love is always there, waiting to love on us when we’re ready and have grown tired of our limited sight, abilities and strength. When all else fails, and change and challenges cause us unrest, God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. He will catch us when we fall. We can rest in Him and His promises.

I am at the beginning of my road to recovery, but what I am most grateful for, is the return of hope. Without hope, we are lost. I was lost. But hope has led me back to the source of my strength, and for that I am deeply grateful. So don’t lose hope. There is always hope in a brighter tomorrow. Choose hope. Choose love. Choose life, and life will choose you! Onward and upward my friends! We can do this! Let’s Live BRIGHT!

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