Tuesday, June 21, 2016

To the One...Struggling with Anxiety: Part One

My first panic attack happened in 2006 while standing in line to meet Goofy at Disney World.

Yes, Goofy. 

How appropriate.

I'll never forget it. My heart was beating rapidly and this deep feeling of dread swept over me unlike anything I had ever felt before.

I didn't dare tell anyone, but after holding it in for over thirty minutes I could no longer contain myself. I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to get out of there and fast.

Without saying a word to my husband or any of my family, I grabbed my mother's hand and drug her out of line like a rag doll as I sobbed uncontrollably. I was surrounded by huge crowds and everything seemed to spin as I desperately tried to look for a private corner nearby where I could try to compose myself. (And, for the record, there are no private corners in Disney World.) 

"WHAT'S WRONG?!?" my Mom said in a frightened voice as I pulled her along. "BRIANNE, TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON!!"

But, I couldn't talk. I was shaking and sobbing. There I stood surrounded by hundreds of people as I was experiencing the most emotionally raw moment of my life. 

Our Family Trip to Disney World (Me, my son, my mom and my nephew)   

Looking back, I can see that a lot of things led up to that attack. It was like a series of events and thoughts that compounded on top of each other and led me to a mental breakdown.

Two years prior I had given birth to my first child and had experienced severe insomnia and anxiety due to post-partum depression. Those were long, dark, exhausting days filled with anxiety over whether or not I would ever sleep again and live a normal life. I doubted whether I was a good mom and truly feared that I would lose my mind. I felt like a stranger in my own skin and life seemed downright unbearable and hopeless. I was on multiple medications that were supposed to help me, so how did I have a panic attack while on medicine that was supposed to keep it away? 

The hardest part of my anxiety and depression was the stigma that Christians shouldn't struggle with it. I was a minister's wife at the time and, like all new moms, had anticipated the joys of motherhood. So, it felt like some sick joke that I was the one struggling, that I was the one God allowed this to happen to. I felt jaded. I was disappointed that God wasn't who I thought He was and internally grew bitter that He wouldn't give me healing. I questioned His goodness and my faith. I teeter-tottered on the edge of turning my back on a God who obviously didn't care enough to grant me the basic necessity of sleep and happiness.

But, no matter how my faith was tested, I refused to turn my back on God. I begged God to hear my cries and to show me if His Words were true.

My Buddy and I Having Fun at Disney World (before Goofy) :)
I would love to say I got overnight healing and that it was a quick fix. But, it wasn't.

But, I was led to the truth about anxiety. 

Anxiety is a learned behavior. Sure, chemical imbalances are a real thing and medication is helpful to a point, but until we un-learn the obsessive thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to the anxiety, it will simply be a cycle of deeper anxiety and more medication. Again, don't get me wrong. Medication is necessary sometimes, but without changing our thinking, it is a bandaid. 

After eight years of prayer, multiple counseling appointments, cognitive restructuring and DEEP soul searching, I was finally able to overcome my crippling anxiety and even weaned myself off of all medications. It was a lot of work, but with God's help, I was able to do it. (**Let me insert here that medication is necessary for many. Do not attempt to wean off of medication without the supervision of a doctor. It took eight years for me to feel strong enough to try weaning. And, I told myself that if I felt myself going into that deep place again, I would not be above going back on it. Medication was a gift from God to help keep my head above water as I navigated the waters of learning how to defeat anxiety.)

Though medication is sometimes the starting point for overcoming severe anxiety, it is not the end. Even wise counselors and philosophers can give you material to give you temporary victory and talk to you about 'finding strength within', but I can't write anymore of this blog series without telling you the most vital part of overcoming my hellacious struggle. 

My Faith.

Listen, I know this isn't everyone's favorite bullet point.  Many of us have negative thoughts and conceptions about church and religious people. But, I'm not saying that 'church' saved me. It was Jesus. If anything, I had many church friends shaming me for taking medication and assured me that if I had enough "joy and faith in the Lord" that I wouldn't struggle with that. (Exactly what someone struggling with anxiety and depression needs to hear... *insert eye roll*)

But, hear me out.

Anxiety is rooted in fear. Fear of failure, fear of the future, fear of loss, fear of death, fear of heights, fear of change. Fear of anything.

It turns into debilitating worry about things that we have no control over. And right there is where I found how thankful I was for my faith in Jesus.

The whole basis for faith is believing and trusting in something we can not see. Now, I'm not talking about wishful thinking or even that the universe is controlled by some positive energy that exists in many forms.

I'm talking about one God who loves you and has plans for your life bigger than what you can imagine.

I'm talking about a God who can use your deepest worries and fears to draw yourself closer to Him so you can experience what true freedom and peace of mind He gives.

I'm talking about a God who longs to show you how fear is not what He designed you for. That He sent His Son to give you hope that this world is not all there is and your struggles are not for nothing.

Truth be told, in my darkest hours I did walk away from my faith because of this struggle. There were countless days where I decided to throw in the towel and try to overcome this struggle on my own sheer will. But, friends, we can only control ourselves to a point.  What about when our greatest fears do come true and we are faced with tragedy, sickness or the loss of a child? Where is hope after that?  

That one thought brought me back to my knees and it's where I decided that my only hope was to believe there was a God who could take all of the dark, sleepless nights and turn them into victory. So I resolved within myself that it was time for me to trust God's Word and seek Him with all of my heart through prayer. God sent countless people and resources along the way to help me out. 

And I was radically changed.

My two boys. They are a big reason why I am stronger because I didn't want to pass this down to them. 

It has been twelve years since I started the journey of overcoming anxiety and depression. It has been an uphill climb, no doubt. But, looking back, I am eternally thankful for this very struggle because it led me to a deeper walk with God that is not dependent on my circumstances or my fears. Through it all God chipped away parts of my heart that kept me from living the life He meant for me to have all along. He helped me stop believing the lies of worry and fear and led me to find REST in Him alone. And, no matter what tragedy comes my way or when anxiety tries to creep back in (and it does...) I am armed with God's promises to remind me that nothing is out of His control. I have true hope and an anchor for my soul. 

The amazing thing is this gift is available to all who want it. 

You may ask, "But, where do I start?"


Ask God to help you. To lead you. And to help you overcome the walls you have built to keep Him at bay from your heart. I can not guarantee you a life without tragedy, and faith is an active journey with many ups and downs. But, standing on the other side of this anxiety I must say that I am brought to tears to see how much God loved me enough to carry me through the journey and show me how he truly came to "give life and give it to the fullest."

If you do have faith, but are in a dark place and wonder where God is in this struggle, you are not alone. I am here to encourage you and pray for you. In Part Two, I will continue to share the many resources that God led me to that led me to victory. 

THERE IS HOPE. I promise you have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. 

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10 (Jesus speaking)

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life." Matthew 6:25-27 (Jesus speaking)

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"If you seek me you will find me, if you seek me with all of your heart." Jeremiah 28:13

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (Jesus speaking)

"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." Matthew 11:28 (Jesus speaking)

"Search me, oh God and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the everlasting way." Psalm 139:23-24


Sunday, March 20, 2016

To The One....Struggling

Hello, friend. I'm so glad you came to visit this little piece of my heart.

I have blogged very inconsistently for the past few years.  Many times I sat to write, but never seemed to have the time to truly put into words the many complex thoughts that seemed to rotate around inside my head. So I quit writing.

And I was struggling.

Really struggling.

Struggling with life. Struggling with my faith. Struggling with my suffering. Struggling with how I never seemed to be able to catch a break.

And I was wondering.

Wondering where God was. Wondering what hope was. Wondering what it all was for. What it all meant. Wondering if I was being punished or if God was disappointed in me. Wondering why I just couldn't get it together.

So, I tried. Hard. Harder. I tried to be good. To be better. To be healthier. To be skinnier. To be smarter. To be kinder. To be more organized. To be more than what I felt I was.

And I was tired, no, exhausted. Tired of trying and overwhelmed by the task in front of me.

Maybe you can relate.

Friend, if I were there with you, I would hug you. Right now. And I would say to you, "You are enough."

Not because you are good. Or perfect. Or pretty. Or whatever.

Sweet friend, you were created to be so much more than this struggle. God did not mean for you to live life wondering, wandering, and grasping.

He created you to lean on Him. Oh, how that concept sounds so trite and over-used. But, let me say it this way.

You are chosen. For a purpose greater than your suffering. God, in His infinite wisdom, planned out your days before you were even born.

He knew you would be broken. He knew life would be hard. He knew people would disappoint you and hurt you. He knew that you couldn't do it alone.

And that's why He sent His Son.

I was born hearing about Jesus. Many of us were. But, to most of us, it becomes almost habit to go to church, do the rituals and believe God is. We put our faith in what our parents taught us. And we never really seek the God we hear about. Life gets busy and let's be honest, religion seems boring at times. So, life just takes over and we go day-in and day-out just winging it and enjoying the highs amid the lows.

But, where is the hope in that?

My friend, what if there is more to this life than you ever thought possible?

That your struggling is not for nothing? That this life is not meant to be haphazard or coincidental?

I pray that deep within your heart you will see past the hurts, the philosophical mumbo-jumbo that is meant to confuse, the voices of man-made rules that seek to bind people instead of freeing them and that you will hear the still, small voice of Jesus within your heart.

I pray that in your struggle, you will begin to look past the pain and bitterness and turn your eyes upwards. To the God who is there, who isn't trying to punish you or condemn you, but to walk alongside you and lead you.

Let me give you this truth: That your life is meant for more.

Don't let busy-ness, apathy or bitterness keep you from seeking the One who made you.

Don't miss out on living the life you were created to live.

Hugs and prayers to you. Don't lose hope. This isn't all there is.

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Zephaniah 3:17 - The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
1 Peter 5:6-7 - 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.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Memorial Day Thank You

The older I get the more sentimental I am on Memorial Day.

I heard the word "sacrifice" a lot growing up when referring to people who served in our armed forces. I lived in the small army town of Anniston, Alabama, so I saw soldiers regularly. But, as a young girl,  I viewed them no differently than I did a sales clerk or a postal worker. That was their job as far as I was concerned and all the talk of "sacrifice" was just as routine as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at school.

But, as I have gotten older, I have seen glimpses of the "sacrifices" so many spoke of.

I think it is because I am more aware of what shapes a person.

The storms of life have a way of coming in and forcing us to bend and sway in order to cope with what we are facing. But, when the storm is over, we are not the same as before. We are forever changed. For better or worse.

Maybe that is why I am more sentimental.

Because I see the storms I have faced, some great and some small. And they undoubtedly shaped who I am today.

But, when I compare my storms to what many soldiers have faced, I am left speechless and humbled.

I can't imagine sacrificing the safety and comfort of home and family, physical health, emotional health, sleep, missing my child's birth, etc.

I cringe to think of experiencing the brutality of war, having to take a life, seeing a life be taken, losing a brother/sister in battle, fear of losing my own life, the smells of battle, the sounds of battle, etc.

Ask yourself: "How can anyone face those things and walk away the same?!?"

And what blows my mind even more is that someone would purposefully sign up to face those storms and allow themselves to be shaped by them...for me. For you. For those who are appreciative. For those who aren't appreciative. For those who support them. For those who oppose them. For each and every inch of America.

They sacrificed it all. And some gave their very life to defend the freedoms I take so easily for granted.

So, though my words are insufficient, may I humbly say, "Thank you."

To all who have served. I will never fully comprehend all you lost and gave up on my behalf. Please know that your service was and is admirable and heroic.

Maybe, in some small way, I get it now. I see the depth behind the term "sacrifice."

And, as I raise my two boys up, I pray I can instill in them the concept of just how great a sacrifice has been given. And, one day, when they are older, they will realize the depth of that word, as I have. And may it forever shape who they are.

Let us never forget the cost of freedom.

Happy Memorial Day


Friday, November 22, 2013

My Inspirational Hodge Podge: Part 2

On Bourbon Street. At 2:30 in the afternoon. Wow. 

This post is overdue. 

And for all two of you who were actually interested in seeing my inspirational quotes, I apologize.

But, I have an excuse.  

We left town to visit family in New Orleans. (Now the picture above is making sense, yeah?)

At Cafe Du Monde: Swimming in Powdered Sugar

What a quick, but amazing trip. We ate waaaay too much Cajun food (still working that off in the gym). We got to pet alligators and snakes. We rode four-wheelers. We walked around the French Quarter (which I haven't been to since I was twelve). We went to Cabela's (best store ever). Heck, we did the whole Southern Louisiana thang.

Jackson Square: The French Quarter

It was awesome.

We soaked in family moments. 


We left our computer charger behind. 

So, we had a dead computer for *gasp* over a week. 

So, without further ado (Did I even say that right?), here are some of the quotes posted throughout my house any place I needed "taped-up motivation." 

Some of them were actually words of encouragement for myself, from myself. 

Here ya' go!

When I'm Struggling with Contentment:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -Martin Luther King

"Just remember that someone out there is more than happy with less than what you have." -Unknown

"If you are waiting for the day you finally "arrive", you will never get there. Be content or it will never be enough." -Yours Truly

"Happiness is not a destination. It is a moment by moment decision to find the blessings in whatever circumstance I am in." - Yours Truly

When I Am Snappy with My Husband and Kids:

"It is more important to show grace than to be right." -Yours Truly

"My kids will learn how to live life by my example. Don't complain. Allow mistakes. Accidents are just that. Be content. Give to others. Smile. Relax. Tickle. Laugh. And love the Lord with all you have." -Yours Truly

"My true self is shown in how I treat those closest to me. Lord, flavor my words, my actions, and my reactions with grace understanding, and love." - Yours Truly

"Three things you cannot recover in life: the WORD after it's said, the MOMENT after it's missed and the TIME after it's gone. Be careful!" - Unknown

The Most Important Quote I Say Daily (slowly and aloud)

"The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. 
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside the still waters. 
He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever." -Psalm 23

That last one reminds me that I have a God who is there and in control. Even when I don't see it. 

Memorize it. 

And when you are stressed, close your eyes and say it aloud. I'm thankful I started saying this every day. It has helped me more than any quote I or anyone else could come up with. :) 

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving! Soak in the moments. (Like we did in The Big Easy!)  
Peanut with my awesome niece, Heather, at Cabela's. (A.K.A.- "Heaven")

Me and my precious cousin, Ashley, eating Cajun food for lunch. Cajun is one of my faves.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Inspirational Hodge-Podge: Part 1

The days are so full right now. 

Not as in busy.


And, sister-friends (my new favorite phrase), I am soaking in the fullness.

Each day is new

The Lord graciously pulled me through the storms of this past year. And, I am grateful for every day during this season of un-eventfulness. Because, I know all too well that at any moment, things could change. 

Not that I live in fear or expectation of disaster...but I have come to realize and expect that life is crazy. Messy. And at times, can seem too much to bear. 

But, I can honestly say that I know the Lord has my back even when all else falls apart. He has proven Himself faithful, even when I doubted that very fact. 

It has been a time of reflection

I have been searching out scripture and quotes that inspire me to become more than what I already am. 

We are surrounded by negativity all day long. Our inner dialogue sometimes can be our own worst enemy. (Mine can be brutal and has in the past led me down the path of depression numerous times!)

I've learned to combat it...

...by talking to the One who made me and loves me in a mighty way. He longs for me (and You!) to give Him our hearts: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trust me. He can handle it. (Cuz, I have got some ugly in me, I guar-awn-tee!!)

...by getting back into the Bible daily. It is full of hope and truth to put my feet on solid ground. 

...by posting positive quotes, sayings, and scriptures wherever my eyes might land. (I like to post them where I find myself most often in times of annoyance, stress, or anger. For me, the kitchen is where I tend to find myself getting bitter or stressed. So, I place my "words" above the kitchen sink on my window. For some, it might be the car or in your reading nook... (Wait. Does anyone actually have a reading nook?) 

You see? We are all in a battle within our mind. It is actually where the greatest battle is fought. (And it is the toughest to find victory!)

But, by replacing those negative thoughts with Truth and positivity, your internal dialogue can be dramatically different. And I don't know anyone who doesn't want positive change!

Because the Truth is?

You are worth more than what you think.

You were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who does care, regardless of how you feel towards Him.

You can overcome. 

Things can get better.

There is hope.

God is hope and Hope does not disappoint. (And in those moments when it seems God is disappointing you? Been there. Mucho numero times. Take hope! He has promised to never leave you. He is working. It might be painful. It's just that sometimes we can't see how He is working it all out during the daily grind.)

Now, GO! Print out some words of life. And make your house look like a note-pad of inspiration!

PS. Truth is hard at times. It forces us to see ourselves for who we really are. Don't fight that, though. Allow it to make you all your were created to be. :) 

PSS. I will be posting some of my favorite quotes and things that are woven in and around my house later this week. I pray they will inspire you and convict you as much as they have me. Much love ladies! 


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Peanut Smells Weakness

Peanut holding a sand flea in Nags Head. Outer Banks, August 2013.

I've become that parent.  

With my first child I was the "on-top-of-it-all disciplinarian." No bad deed went unpunished. With every negative behavior, I was right there to guide and correct. But, most of all? I followed through. If I said, "no" I meant "no." I was stern and firm. (and probably patted myself on the back for doing such a fine job at this parenting thing...)

Then Peanut came along. 

He bats his eyes, folks. LITERALLY. Bats his eyes to get his way! He is one little package of bluff-calling cuteness and He. has. my. number.

Lately, he has been testing his limits like a pro. In fact, he has mastered the art of wearing me down with incredible laser-like precision.

Case in point:

I have been pushing for him to drink more water. Less milk and juice. More of the clear stuff.  

But, Boy looooooves some chocolate milk. With an unbridled passion.

Drinking his beloved "choc-ut milk" with Opie. 

I'll bet he asks me ten times a day for chocolate milk. Ten times, I tell ya! At least. 

And if begging for chocolate milk doesn't seem to be getting him anywhere, he moves on to the lesser of two evils... 


"Mommy, can I have choc-ut milk?"


"But, I want cho-cut milk."


"Can I have choc-ut milk?"

"Are you kidding me? NO!" 


"I. said. 'NOOOO'!"

"Can I have gw-ape juice?"

"NoooooOOOO. You can have water."

"But I want gw-ape juice?"


"Can I have ow-ange juice?"

(At this point, I begin to question my sanity.)

"You may have water. That is it. Now, hush!"

"But, I don't want water! I. WANT. CHOC-UT. MILK!"

Aaaaaand he full-circled his way baaack to chocolate milk. 

Like a champ.

And I cave. 

'Cuz I'm WEAK!

Turtleback Zoo, NJ. August 2013. "Mommy, can I put my head in dat water?"

Who knew I'd be going toe-to-toe with this teeny-tiny munchkin???? Persistent little booger! And as frustrated as I get, I wanna squeeze the livin' daylights out of him 'cuz he's even adorable peck-peck-pecking away at my resolve!

But, it's time to add a little something to my lipstick and mascara repertoire.

War paint.

Oh, Peanut...it. is. ON!  


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Calm After The Storm

I've been wanting to blog.


Oh, I sat down numerous times and began to write. But, it would open up a floodgate of emotions and I would end up deleting it all.

The past few months were the hardest I have ever lived, watching my son battle health issues and anxiety.

I cried out to God harder and louder than ever before.

I prayed for healing. I prayed to hear His Voice. I prayed for clarity, sanity, wisdom, patience, grace....But, most of all, I just prayed that I could keep it together for my children one. day. at a time.

I would love to say I handled it all with grace, dignity and faith. But, I didn't.

I was angry, anxious and bitter.

The bottom line?

I questioned God's goodness. His faithfulness. His trustworthiness.

And honestly? I wasn't too sure He had me like I thought He had.

But, in the midst of the storm, God, in His great mercy and love, kept whispering to this Momma that this battle was about more than Opie's health. To open my heart to Him and let Him guide my steps.

As we are now coming out of the ashes, I am truly humbled at the lessons that God allowed me to

And, though I have so far to go, I am grateful that He heard my prayers and led me step by step.

Minute by minute.

I may never know the reasons why He allowed all of this to take place. I will, however, never cease to be amazed at how He used it for good...

It is through the storm that we truly are forced to rely on His strength.

Lord, you know me inside and out. You have seen my highs and lows. You have carried me through these past few months. I am thankful for your healing in Opie's life. To see my son laughing and eating without pain is something I can't take for granted. But, while I waited for your answer, you used that time to change me. You healed parts of me where I had built walls. You revealed hard truths that I was avoiding. You taught me how to trust you more. You heard this Momma's prayers and held me in the palm of Your Hand when I was too angry and weak to go on. Your faithfulness is too great for me to understand. May I forever be changed. Thank you. For loving me too much to give me what I want. For knowing me so deeply. For taking this heart and mind and continually peeling back the layers of it to reveal Your heart in me. I pray that this change will be evident to those around me and that You will penetrate their deepest hurts to bring about healing in those dark places. You are good. You are faithful. You are my Rock. And I will spend my days serving You and thanking You for all you have done.

He is able.