Life Tips

I wrote this up for my teen daughter and my youth group girls. Get the printable of it HERE.

Don’t write anything down you wouldn’t want someone to read. Do pray about how you’re really feeling about the thing you want to write down. Talk to a close, trusted friend. Process in relationship, not isolation.

Don’t post pictures on social media with boyfriends.Do post with friends and family.

Don’t make the duck face or stick out your tongue in selfies – it just looks bad (unless you’re taking an obvious funny-face picture).Do smile, have fun, and be you!

Don’t spend too much time on social media because it will make you feel bad. Do get with friends in real life.

Remember, images you look at will stay in your brain long after you’ve looked. Choose wisely what you look at and watch.

Don’t ever talk bad about someone behind their back. You’ll have a clear conscience and there will be less drama in your life.

Be kind to everyone. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you can always be kind.

Listen to those who are different from you. Really listen and then consider honestly what they've said. It's easy to have blind spots when we're mostly around people just like us.

Things to keep in your purse or backpack: Pads, ibuprofen, a nail file, Chapstick (Burt’s Bees is the best), gum or mints, tweezers, a book, and a pen.

Don’t be passive aggressive. If you’re upset or unsure about a thing, face it, talk about it, be honest with yourself and others. (A few passive aggressive statements are: “I’m not mad!” when you are, and “Fine. Whatever.” “Why are you getting so upset?” “I was only joking.” “I thought you knew.”).

Feel and grieve the things that hurt. Don’t stuff your feelings or pretend they don’t exist. God gave us emotions, and often they alert us to deeper truths to what is going on inside us. Pay attention to them. What are they trying to tell you about what’s really going on in your heart? Be honest and brave enough to face where they lead.

Freedom usually comes after pain. Stick with the pain until it has done its work. It hurts and is hard, but if you stay with it instead of refusing it or running from it, freedom and healing will come. 

Be honest with God. He knows all your junk anyway. The enemy will try and tell you that you can’t approach God because you keep messing up, but it’s a lie. You can always approach God because He sits on a throne of grace. He’s always ready when you are.

Ask God to help you understand the Bible. Ask Him to speak to you through it, and to make it alive and fresh for you. Keep at it. Stay humble.

(What would you add?)

Sarah Mae

Sarah Mae spends her days home-making, home-educating, writing, reading, and drinking salted caramel mochas. Her family embraces life in the beautiful Amish country-side of Pennsylvania. She is the owner of the community site Allume and the co-host of the national Christian women’s social media conference.

People can’t manipulate you if you don’t let them

Recently when my youngest daughter found herself in a manipulative situation with a friend, there was an opportunity to learn and grow.

I was sitting in my living one afternoon when I heard the friend say to her, “If you don’t do this, I’m going to tell your mom,” and “If you don’t ______, I’m going to leave.”
The little girl was trying to manipulate my daughter, so once she left, I pulled my daughter aside and asked her about her friend’s threats. She shared what they were about, and we talked about how they made her feel and how to deal with them. I said to her, “The next time your friend comes to play, and she threatens to leave or tell on you, I want you to say, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, but if you have to go or tell, you can do that.’”

My daughter is only nine, so I figured it would be a while before she felt confident enough to use this strategy — my goodness, I still struggle to use it in situations like that.

A week later, her friend came over to play again, and after she went home, my daughter came to me and said, “Mom! I did what you said, and it worked! She told me she was going to leave if I didn’t ______, and I said I was sorry she felt that way but that she could go if she really wanted to. She left, but a few minutes later, she came back and didn’t make any more threats!”

I was stunned that my nine-year-old handled the situation with such grace and fortitude. What a gift to have learned such a lifelong lesson at such a young age!

People can’t manipulate you if you don’t let them.

Read the whole article over at (in)courage today: For Those Who Struggle With a Manipulative Relationship

Love, Sarah Mae

Related: The Complicated Heart on Instagram

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Sarah Mae

Sarah Mae spends her days home-making, home-educating, writing, reading, and drinking salted caramel mochas. Her family embraces life in the beautiful Amish country-side of Pennsylvania. She is the owner of the community site Allume and the co-host of the national Christian women’s social media conference.

My Journey with Anxiety and Depression and Why I Choose to Take Medication

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. In fact, it occurred to me today that I haven’t written a new post here since before updating my blog look.

Now seems like a good time to write since I keep getting emails from some of you who are experiencing anxiety and depression and the sometimes stigma that comes along with considering taking medication to help.

Specifically, I’ve been asked to share my journey with anxiety and the choice to try medication.

First, I want to tell you how I felt before going on medication: (excerpted from an (in)courage article I wrote in October 2017):

It feels like being stuck in a glass box. You can see out but you can’t get out.

It feels like you have to cook a feast for 50 people while also cleaning your house and schooling your kids, and you have less than a day to do it (but really you have nothing to do).

It feels like drowning and trying to swim is just too hard.

It feels like rage under your skin.

It feels like fog.

It feels like loneliness when you’re surrounded by people.

It feels like being in a slow-motion dream.

Everyone else seems so normal. Everyone seems to have energy. Everyone seems to be able to get dressed and do things and take pleasure in air and people and pumpkins.

I am tired. I am so tired and I am sad and I feel overwhelmed nearly all the time for no reason. My body crawls with anxiety, in the middle of the night, during the day.

I am jealous of people who seem to be able to function well and get things done and enjoy life.

I am tired. I have tried to claw out of this box, this thing that has me under it. But I can’t. I can’t fix this weary soul.

“God, help.”

I don’t know when it got so bad, and honestly, I thought what I was experiencing was depression. When I went to talk to my doctor and after he evaluated me, he said I was experiencing anxiety which usually leads to depression; they’re like sisters, he told me. At first I was confused by a diagnosis of anxiety because I’m such a chill person. I don’t tend to overly worry, and I really do trust God with everything, albeit imperfectly. But the more I thought about it, the more I could see it.

As one example, I would wake up in the middle of the night, several nights a week, with a feeling of steel moving up my shoulders and neck accompanied by overwhelming feelings of not doing enough for my kids. I felt guilty about anything that didn’t involve me being a good mom, a perfect mom, doing all the right things. My husband constantly assured me I was a good mother, but I couldn’t hear it, I just thought he didn’t understand.

I felt tired most of the time, but I’d had my blood checked, my thyroid checked, and a physical, and all was normal. I had only two or three good days in a whole month, meaning, I felt motivated and awake enough to get stuff done, whether that was housework or writing.

I for sure didn’t want to see anyone, even my good friends, unless it was a good day. I had convinced myself that I, the extrovert, had become an introvert. I even skipped a fourth of July fireworks celebration with my family opting instead to stay home and be alone.

There were traces of anxiety and depression at different times in my life, but the last few years I noticed it getting worse. I was convinced I just needed to eat healthier, take supplements, workout, and read my Bible more consistently.

My husband had begun making comments like, “You’ve lost your fun.” One dear friend who I vacationed with didn’t understand why I kept going back to my room to sleep instead of hanging out with everyone. It was like pulling teeth to convince me to have fun. It wasn’t fun. Nothing was fun. Just leave me alone.

I had cried out to God several times over the years about my depression, asking Him to help me. And He did. He surrounded me with love and tenderness and He used friends to encourage me and lift me up. I felt held even in the darkest times. I’ve been open to dealing with and healing root wounds and sin and repenting when need be. But even my happiest times, my gratefulness (I am so grateful for my life and my family), the darkness just lingered. Often it felt like a heavy blanket over me that I couldn’t get out from under.

I had concluded that this was just a burden, my “thorn”, that I would have to live with. I decided that I would bear it with praise in the pain. One day, when the sadness covered every inch of my soul, I play worship music and just cried and thanked God that He was with me in it. I wasn’t alone.

Deciding on Medication

I had never, ever considered taking medication for my depression.

The idea of putting something into my body that could potentially cause cancer or a heart attack or some other awful side-effect made me put the idea on the “no way” list. Plus, I thought the only people who needed medication were people who were really bad off, or suicidal or something. I was not suicidal.

In October 2017 my husband and I decided to put our children in school after homeschooling for ten years. That’s a whole other story. Once they were gone and I was home alone during the day, the depression got worse. I would cry on and off for hours, not understanding why. And then feelings of worthlessness would set in because I wasn’t working, feeling unable to write or do anything of purpose. My kids going to school was like a Band-Aid being ripped off; somehow, they kept the wound covered.

I didn’t want to tell my husband how I felt because he was a very “pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps” kind of guy, and I just felt stupid. I didn’t even give him an opportunity to be anything other than what I perceived him to be. I talked to friends instead.

My friends were so kind and supportive, and a couple of them mentioned to me that they had used medication for depression and it helped. I had no idea. Then I read a blog post where Liz Curis Higgs talked about her depression and how she was taking medication to help. She writes: "If your body needs more serotonin, then swallow your pride and swallow the pill your doctor prescribes for you. Don’t let the fear of “What will people think?” keep you from getting the help you need." 

All of a sudden, the idea of medication began lingering in my brain, and the fears of side-effects faded.

I told one friend, “I think I’m only considering medication because I’m writing a book and I need to be able to get it done. If I weren’t writing, I would just live like this.”

She replied so wisely, “But Sarah, maybe God is saying you don’t have to live like this.”

Maybe you don’t have to live like this. 

Maybe I could live in the light. Maybe I don’t have to suffer in the dark. Maybe, just maybe, something is a little whack with my brain chemistry, but I don’t have to live with it.

That’s the day I called up a doctor she recommended, a Christian man at a Christian medical practice, who was kind and sympathetic, and who told me there was nothing wrong with getting help. I left there with a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication.

I still hadn’t told my husband.

Instead of telling him, I treated him unkindly, being short with him and angry that I couldn’t tell him. Really, I was feeling shame and taking it out on him.

Being a good and kind man, one morning he asked me to go to breakfast with him because he wanted to talk. I told him I didn’t have time. “Please” he said.

I agreed, and over a restaurant breakfast, and with tears in my eyes and unfounded fear in my heart, I told him about my depression and anxiety and the meds I had just picked up.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked.

“I was afraid you’d think I was stupid.”

“You never even gave me a chance.”

He was right. I didn’t give him a chance, yet here he was initiating a breakfast to set things right. He held my hand and said, “If you need to take medication, take medication.”

And now I do, without shame, and it has helped.

The Meds are Working

“THE MEDS ARE WORKING!” I typed in all caps in an Instagram post.

I sleep through the night and I want to do things again. I don’t feel as tired as I used to feel. I’d say my anxiety is all but gone, and the depression, while showing up subtly at times, is also nearly gone.

I am functioning much better than before, and I am so grateful that there was help for me. I would have lived with my anxiety and depression before, but now I know I don’t have to live with it, and I am praising God for medical advances and medication that helps wonky brains out.

Many of you know that I’ve been working on a book about the traumatic relationship I had with my mom. Well one of the things I did for the book was read through my mom’s journals and I even interviewed one of her ex-husbands. It became so evident that my mom suffered from depression and anxiety, and I think that somehow her brain chemicals went right on down the line to me. And they might continue on to my kids, in which I will know how to acknowledge it, talk with them about, and be open to all the help that’s available.

Our brains are subject to the fallenness of this world, and sometimes the redeeming is found in medical help, as we all know with all sorts of various medical issues and problems so many face. Medical intervention is a gift.

If you are depressed or experiencing overwhelming anxiety, I would encourage you to be open and honest with safe, kind people, and be willing to talk to a doctor. You may not need medication, and I’m not advocating that everyone with depression and anxiety get some. I’m saying, be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, have Him search your heart and see what’s going on and where He you might need healing or repentance, and if He leads you toward the option of medication, you have no need to fear. He is with you and ultimately, in control of every bit of your body and mind. You do not need to be afraid.

Well, wow, that turned into a much longer post than I planned. I hope this is helpful for those of you who struggle and for those of you who know people who struggle with depression and anxiety.

If you have questions, I’ll do my best to answer them, but know that ultimately, I’m going to point you to the guiding of the Spirit and to a wise, kind doctor.

With love,

Sarah Mae

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Sarah Mae

Sarah Mae spends her days home-making, home-educating, writing, reading, and drinking salted caramel mochas. Her family embraces life in the beautiful Amish country-side of Pennsylvania. She is the owner of the community site Allume and the co-host of the national Christian women’s social media conference.

Truth for the Downcast Soul

There’s a girl I know who is precious and young and has a tender smile that makes you think she’s just fine.

But I found out recently that this girl has darkness swirling around her mind and she can’t shake it and she’s just very sad. She’s so sad in fact that she wants to cut herself or hang herself, and my God, she’s only a young thing. And my brain tells me maybe she was abused in some way, but maybe she just suffers from the darkness. I don’t know. What I know is that she needs to know that even in the dark, there is light, because there’s nowhere she can go where God won’t go for her, where He isn’t already.

You all know I have been in the depths, but I’ve also been on the wings of eagles. I have felt God and I have soared with Him, even in my darkness, even in the anxiety and depression, there have been heights with such awesome views, I can only praise Him.

One of the reasons I love Jesus so much is because He is close to the brokenhearted. He is gentle and kind and tells me to come and rest with Him. He tells me I’m not alone, and I’m not my brokenness. He fills me with light and beauty and He leads tenderly. I have never feared God in the sense of being afraid of Him; He’s my Father. I fear Him in that I respect Him and remember He is God (!!!), but I know I can run to Him with anything and everything, and He will surround me in grace and mercy and help.

Why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you these things because maybe you have a darkness swirling around you and you need to know that God wants you to know that He hears your cries and He wants to heal your broken heart. He will be with you in the depths, and He will be gentle with you.

If this is you, I created something to encourage your spirit. To get it for free, just click here or enter your email below.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:7-12

Love, SM

Sarah Mae

Sarah Mae spends her days home-making, home-educating, writing, reading, and drinking salted caramel mochas. Her family embraces life in the beautiful Amish country-side of Pennsylvania. She is the owner of the community site Allume and the co-host of the national Christian women’s social media conference.

Give Yourself Time

My youngest daughter is so much like me.

There’s this fieriness to her, this loudness, this tenderness, this bent toward wanting to scream and then cry when someone wrongs her; she is so dear and so thoughtful and so… worried. She’s worried she won’t be able to control her temper, find peace in conflict, or just breathe long enough to not yell at her brother when he irritates her. She thinks she’ll never change.

“Oh sweet Caroline, you are so much like me,” I tell her as we drive, just the two of us.

“No, mom, not really.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you know how to control your anger and I don’t. I’ll never be able to.”

And there it is, the lie that she’ll never change, the start of a downward thought process that can lead to despair if not corrected in truth.

“Care, how old are you?”

“Eight.”

“Well, I’m 37, so I’ve got some years on you, and through those years God has helped me to have self-control, and He will help you too, but give yourself time to grow and learn and surrender and wait as He helps you. You can have self-control. Here, I’ll share some of what I’ve learned…”

Read the rest over at (in)courage today!

SM

Sarah Mae

Sarah Mae spends her days home-making, home-educating, writing, reading, and drinking salted caramel mochas. Her family embraces life in the beautiful Amish country-side of Pennsylvania. She is the owner of the community site Allume and the co-host of the national Christian women’s social media conference.