Posted in Mental Health Awareness

Exciting News

Yes, I have some exciting life news to share — earlier this year, I began work on a book with the working title of “I Found Jesus Through Anxiety and Depression” with a goal of publishing it in April 2021. It’s been a goal of mine to work on a book just like this, and I’ve got an amazing community of fellow authors and writers to write with and supporting me through the journey. I’ve already sent my editor my first content for feedback (which is exciting and makes this all very real!) My goal of the book is help break the stigma around Mental Health in faith circles.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing key pieces of the journey with you — things I’m learning, conversations I’m having, writing and book milestones, and sharing pieces and stories from the book.

And I’d love your help! If you know of anyone who is in the area of Mental Health or a Faith Leader and might be a good interview for the book (even you) please send me a message. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of the experience so far is talking to so many interesting people for and about the book.

Thanks in advance for all the support and here’s to the ups and downs of this journey to write a book!

Posted in Sermon Sunday

Stepping into Chaos

Joshua 1:1-9; Jeremiah 29:10-14

 

When I first found out I was preaching today, I began to plan the sermon. I gathered some scriptures and made some thoughtful decisions. I wrote a paragraph of what I wanted to talk about so I wouldn’t forget when it came time to write out the sermon. Then I chose to name the sermon “Stepping into Chaos.” Then the pandemic started and I questioned everything. I question whether or not I should change the name since now we have all been forced to step into this chaos. We all are making an unknown journey. Not just those who are graduating. It was for this exact reason I chose to keep the sermon title.

I always joke and say when I graduated I stepped into chaos and I haven’t found a way out yet. I thought that would change when I graduated from college, but if anything I stepped deeper into the chaos. However I no longer see the chaos as a bad thing. What is there to learn in the chaos? Does chaos have to equate to anxiety and fear? Do we ever really step out of this chaos?

In our scripture reading from Joshua this morning, we heard the commissioning of Joshua after the death of Moses. God called Joshua to lead the Israelites into a new land that God has set aside for them. God called Joshua into chaos. But Joshua was not left to figure the chaos on his own. God gave him some pretty clear instructions and words of advice. “I will not leave you nor forsake you; Be strong and courageous.” There is no reason to fret among the chaos because God is there alongside you and will not leave you. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous seven times in the beginning of his call. Where does our strength and courage come from? God tells us that as well. God tells us that if we act in accordance to the law we will have success. Our strength and courage comes from the Word of God. God calls us into the chaos, walks with us through the chaos, and even provides our strength within the chaos.

The second set of scripture came from a place of Chaos. Jeremiah and his people already stepped into the chaos and were looking for a way out. The answer they received was to wait a little while longer. Seventy years longer to be exact. They are supposed to wade through the chaos for seventy more years. Y’all I took that step five years ago when I walked across that stage and thinking of sixty-five more just seems insane! But God slips in another nugget of wisdom for bracing the chaos. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Our seniors this year are experiencing a whole new way of stepping into the chaos. Some may even feel as if they are being thrown into the chaos with no graduation ceremony to serve as an official mark of the start to chaos. Others are virtually taking that step without their friends physically around them. Some seniors know their plans for after high school others have no idea. The door to chaos is open and there is no other route to take. However, walking through that door is the hardest part. God is calling you into the chaos.

God knows what God is doing even when you have no idea. The chaos we have stepped into is a planned chaos. Switching your major fifteen times or making a career change later in life. Switching Schools or taking some time off. All of these are the twists and the turns God has for you leading you exactly where you are meant to be. It is important to trust God throughout these changes. Trusting God’s plan can be hard, there is no doubt, but it is so worth the struggle. Seek out people who are further along the path, people you worship with or friends you meet along the way. Share wisdom with each other. And Remember God has a future worth hoping for planned out just for you. How is that we know we are following the plans God has for us?

Call out and pray to God. Seek God with all of your heart. There you will find God. Together you will make the journey through the chaos and into the joy of knowing you are doing exactly what you were made for. So, be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed for the lord your God is with you wherever you go.

©Kay Smeal 2020

Posted in In My Opinion..., Mental Health Awareness, Motivational Monday, Uncategorized

Recovery is a Spiral

Progress cannot be a straight line if life is full of twists and turns. Why is it were are told that as long as we are going forward we are moving closer to our destination? If I turn left where I should have turned right, I am getting no closer to my destination by just moving forward. By having this mindset when tracking our recovery progress, we are only setting ourselves up for failure.

I don’t know about you, but I am my own biggest critic. I have a support system I am no where near worthy of, but I cannot tell myself that I am ever doing a good job. No matter how long I am able to go without self-harm behavior or how many days in a row I go without skipping a meal, I cannot see that it has been months longer between episodes or a shorter episode than ever before… All I am able to see is that I have fallen back down the stairs. I have gone backwards. I am not making any progress.

People would tell me that I have not gone back as far as I think and to look at all the progress I have made, but I just saw all the progress I lost.

I recently read this quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.

What if progress doesn’t mean going forward, but it means getting closer to a destination? What if knowing that we took a wrong turn actually helps us get closer to our destination? What if progress is more of a spiral than a straight line.

Well, my friend… then we are rocking it!

I mean think about it with me. When you make a mistake or fall back into old habits, you feel bad and work towards where you were before. You realize the wrong turn and start back to where you were before the turn. You begin to make it closer to your destination. You are making progress. You are well on the road to recovery!

I am so proud of all the hard work you are putting in!

Keep up the hard work. Stay on the Spiral. I am here for you.

Posted in In My Opinion...

Looking in the Mirror

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

-Evil Queen

Today I put on a cute shirt and a new pair of jeans. I straightened my hair and added a little make-up. What I hoped to accomplish was to squash this depressive mood in the bud. But how could I forget how much I hate looking in the mirror?

I can still remember the first time I looked in the mirror and smiled. Sadly, it wasn’t all that long ago. Mostly, looking in the mirror has led to criticizing every part of myself. It leads to a longing to be prettier. Prettier meant skinnier and tanner. I always considered myself the ugly friend, and the mirror always agreed.

I stopped looking in the mirror and started covering all reflective surfaces with cheesy quotes about self-love. This really was only putting a band-aid on the problem. I read the quotes and laughed about them, but when I did look in the mirror I still hear that inner critic. The quotes only made her louder and gave her more material to work with.

Mirrors are not the only time this critic comes out. Stepping on the scale, seeing other girls, and scrolling through social media. My critic thrives in these environments. I, on the other hand, only feel worse.

The church thinks responding to issues like this by telling people that their bodies are a temple and they should cherish it. They tell people we aren’t to be envious of others. They tell us we all have been created by God. What they don’t understand is all these “solutions” only transfer one problem into another.

Now not only do we not appreciate ourselves, but we also realize how we are failing in our faith. No, I don’t think the church realizes this is happening. In fact, I know they have well meant intentions, but we are struggling. We don’t need reasons why we should love ourselves. Most of us know that we should. What we need is someone willing to walk alongside us while we struggle with learning to love ourselves.

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

© 2020 Kay Smeal

Posted in In My Opinion...

For you are Standing on Holy Ground…

“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”

-Exodus 3:5(NLV)

This verse follows Moses seeing the burning bush and hearing God call out to him. As Moses began to approach the burning bush, God calls out, “Do not come any closer…. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” The message of removing sandals upon the entrance of holy ground is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Churches in the east, especially Eastern Orthodox churches, usually have a sign posted outside the church asking for visitors to remove their shoes. Some will quote this very Bible verse in one translation or another. Churches in the west have seemed to abandon this practice. In fact, many church circles see it as disrespectful to remove one’s shoes in the church.

I am a girl of many flip-flops. I really have enough to change my flip-flops depending on my outfit (I am just too lazy to do so). I also am more likely to be found carrying my flip-flops than I am to be actually wearing them. When sitting in the pew, I always take my shoes off and move them to the side. This carries on to when I preach and or am helping lead worship in some way. I take my shoes off and either leave them behind the pulpit or under the first pew depending on where I am and the set up of the worship space.

Why do I prefer to be barefoot in church? It all goes straight back to the verse in Exodus. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” For me this is a little more literal being an avid flip-flop wearer. I choose to not wear my shoes in church because for me the church is holy ground. The church is not the only place of holy ground but it is indeed holy ground.

Do I believe that the west does it wrong because this is not a common practice? Absolutely not. I do not think there is a right or wrong practice for wearing shoes in church. What I do believe is that there are ways to make a space more guided towards God during worship, and for me, personally, I find removing my shoes to be just one way to guide my attention towards God in worship.

 

Posted in In My Opinion...

Self-harm doesn’t mean suicidal

A very common misconception is that a person who self-harms is suicidal. While a person who has suicidal tendencies may have a history of self-harm, there is not a direct correlation between self-harm and suicidal tendencies. Actually the core motivation behind the two are actually quite different.

Those who self-harm do so for various reasons: to feel again, to punish themselves, or to release all the feelings they have bottled up inside. All of these come from a desire to cope with whatever it is they are experiencing. In fact, recently they have changed self-harm language to NSSI (Non-suicidal self injury). Here it is literally in the name not suicidal.

Those who do experience suicidal tendencies have a distorted view of what the future looks like and do not see an end to whatever it is they are experiencing. There is no desire to cope because they do not see any other way. Suicidal tendencies are not a coping mechanism; they are a way out.

Assuming everyone who self-harms is suicidal is not only wrong but it can be incredibly dangerous. The reason why a person is harming themselves and the emotions they are experiencing are tossed to the wayside while they are interrogated about suicidal thoughts. Leaving a person in their discomfort and inability to cope healthily can lead to feeling there is no way out, but it can be prevented from getting that far.

**Trigger warning**Story of how I have experienced people convinced self-harm is suicidal**

 

I started down the road of self-harm at about the average age of 13. It was not until high school that people began to realize that I was coping through self-harm. The excuses were not lining up with the type of injury and the frequency set off some flags.

I mainly scratched at my skin until it bleed, but that didn’t always provide the necessary relief. it also caused quite a bit more scaring than when I experimented with other tactics. Once I started college I realized that I wasn’t coping healthily and began to reach out for help.

It was when I started reaching out for help that I was meant with people relating self-harm to a sin because I was purposely maiming the temple of God. Those who weren’t condemning me wouldn’t believe me that I wasn’t suicidal. They were throwing readings at me that told me that I was looking for death because I was cutting. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

For me I cut to gain control. I cut to release the mass of emotions that build up inside of me. I cut because I cannot get myself out of the spiral of thoughts. I cut so I can get outside of these feelings and move back to the happiness I was at before all this happened. I cut so I can move on.

Please note I am not validating those who cut. I am not saying that it is something you should do. Please know that cutting is an unhealthy way to cope, but it is a coping mechanism for so many. Those who cut do need help finding new ways to cope. Healthier ways to gain control of themselves and the emotions that have completely flooded their systems.

Please know if you have not reached out to someone, I am here. Send me an email, message me on social media, comment. Whatever it is that you feel comfortable with. I am here for you and so are so many others. You are loved!

Posted in In My Opinion...

If I could be anywhere…

If I could choose to be anywhere, then I would choose to be exactly where I am, Perkins School of Theology. Why would I not choose some exotic place that I have never been before? Well, I plan on telling you just that.

Perkins is not a place I prayed I would end up one day. My life goals had changed so quickly and frequently I didn’t really have a plan beyond college. When I realized I needed and wanted to go to graduate school, I began to panic. Applications didn’t make me feel any better about the process. Perkins came highly recommended from a trusted friend, oh, and the application didn’t stress me out. Perkins ended up being the only place I applied.

I had a summer position lined up and all thoughts of Texas seemed to be so far away. The closer it became, the more nervous I became. Then came time to leave PA. I was a nervous wreck. Hours before I left I told my mom I didn’t want to go. The further away from PA I got, the less likely I would be to turn around. I finally made it it Texas and I only felt like I had made a huge mistake.

The feeling of making a mistake quadrupled at orientation. Everyone seemed so positive and sure Perkins is where they were supposed to be, but I shared none of those feelings. So now you are really curious why I chose Perkins out of all the places in the world, right? Be patient.

Orientation was also the beginning of realizing Perkins was exactly where I was meant to be. As the year faucet was turned on full blast, I sought out the first official person I could find to tell them this wasn’t it and I was going home. However, the person I chose was not willing to see me go and not in a typical concern of losing numbers king of way. She genuinely wanted me at Perkins. Why? She didn’t even know me.

This is how Perkins is, a family. The Perkins hug is real. From day one (of classes that is, orientation was rough), the people at Perkins have been the definition of a caring community. We laugh together and cry together. We study together and find solace in not doing our work together. However, this doesn’t stop when we leave the classroom. We have get-togethers and meet frequently for meals.

The fellow students are only a part of what makes this such an amazing community. The professors and other faculty create the space for this to occur. They are here for more than making sure we succeed academically. They are invested in our lives and want us to succeed in finding and pursuing our passions. They celebrate with us and mourn with us. They are here with us.

Leaving everyone behind in PA, including my support system, was an extremely difficult situation for me. However, I now feel so at home at Perkins and among all the people there. As much as I miss everyone in PA, I am so happy to be with everyone here in Texas.

Perkins is where the coffee is always flowing, the tissues are being handed over, and conversations about theology happen even on a Galentine’s Day outing (which ended at a coffee shop studying). Perkins is the place where your professors and faculty purchase your book and are so excited to walk this path with you. Perkins is where you aren’t afraid to walk into an office bawling or shouting about an awkward moment you just encountered. Perkins is where you get to pursue your passions in a completely supportive environment with a bounty of resources.

Perkins is where I would choose to be right now.

Posted in Reflections

Reckless Love- Cory Asbury

Before we could form words, God knew what we would say. Before we took our first breath, God was breathing for us. God has been good to us before we even could recognize God’s goodness. This is the reckless love of God.

When we are straying from the path God wills us to be on, it is God who is chasing after us. Even in our unworthiness, God has paid the ultimate price for each of us. This is the reckless love of God.

This reckless love of God is God’s continual pursuit of each one of us. It is a love that never ends. This love is for each of us as if we were the only ones. Nothing can come between us and the love of God. All of the barriers are defeated by God. This is the reckless love of God.

What walls have been knocked down in God’s pursuit of you?

Posted in Reflections

The God Who Stays- Matthew West

 When the going gets tough, we find it hard to believe God hasn’t given up on us. We find it hard to believe because we feel like giving up on ourselves. When we feel broken, we don’t see the reason of pushing on nor do we see the possibility of being fixed again. God is the God who stays.

We tend to feel ashamed and we hide from the people around us. We attempt to hide from God as well, but it is not possible to hide from God. If you have tried, you know this is true. God is the God who stays.

The truth is that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing we have done, said, or thought can separate us from the love of God. No one has the power to remove us from the presence of God. No matter how hard we try to hide from God, God is still there. God is the God who stays.

God is the God who stays. God is always welcoming us with open arms. God is there even when we feel the most alone. God is always reminding us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. God is the God who stays.

How do you know God is the God who stays?

Posted in Reflections

New Wine-Hillsong Worship

Making new wine comes from pressing and crushing. Breaking new ground comes from the act of surrendering. Neither of these processes are promised to be easy, but they always prove worthy in the end. Surrendering ourselves to the hand of God requires much trust. A trust that we know as faith.

Surrendering ourselves to God means offering ourselves up to align ourselves with the will of God. We become a vessel through which God works here on earth We admit that without God we are nothing and become full when we have God.

When we allow ourselves to become new wine, we are empowered through the Holy Spirit and freed from our hold to sin. The old passes away and we walk away holding the flame of Christ. A light that cannot be overcome.

When we have this flame we will be forever singing praises to the Lord. We will be placing ourselves back on the altar. The process of becoming new wine is an on-going process. A process that continually brings us closer to God.

Are you surrendering yourself to be made into new wine?