Creating a Path for Sustainable Life-Change

As is commonplace with this time of year, people have bought into the idea of changing some aspect of their lives. Whether that be their diet, their careers, or moral behaviors they are eagerly looking to improve their lives. I would make the case that most of us are going about creating this change in the wrong manner. In the next few moments I aim to provide a different perspective for pursuing change. The premise of this article is based on the work of Mr. David Bowden at Spoken Gospel.

Perhaps the most common area of change for our time is the infamous diet change. Striving to change the way we eat for one reason or another. May it be to lose weight, to lower blood pressure, increase heart health or all of the above, I can assure you the path you are taking is doomed from the beginning. Right now, you are possibly questioning my sanity or thinking I am simply a man full of myself. I approach this topic not having mastered change, but seeing truth and hoping to apply it. In the next few moments, I hope to show you a better approach to change and prove neither of your assumptions about me are true.

In this article, I will focus primarily on examples of dietary change, but the principles easily transfer to any other type of life change. Some of the most common approaches to implementing dietary change focus on different forms of deprivation tactics. We withhold certain foods in an effort to shed pounds or inches. We blindly assume if we starve out the bad and flood our bodies with the good, then positive change will occur. I would alter the statement to say temporary positive change might occur.

If we take this to an extreme, one might avoid any place where these foods are commonly known to exist. So one might avoid the donut shop, or your favorite comfort food restaurant. While this might make sense at the time, the effort is placed in the wrong place which results in very little lasting, positive change.

If we are seeking to truly weed out unhealthy eating habits or behaviors we must take the proper steps to create lasting change. We eat certain foods because we love them an emotional ty to a food or we believe they are what we love. They fill us with joy or provide us comfort. Simply depriving ourselves of the foods we love is unlikely to last in the longterm. Our unconscious-self will seek out our true affections. It is only a matter of time before our will breaks and our heart gets what it wants.

So if we chose not to use these common tactics, what do we use? I would say the best chance we have at sustainable dietary change is to slowly change the dietary affections of our heart.

Houston - We Have a Problem

If I were to recount all of the times I was forced to actually deal with OCD (Obsessive-compulsive Disorder) without my medication prior to 2018, I probably would place the estimate somewhere in the two-dozen range.  Which really does not seem to be that big of a deal when you think about it from a distance.  When you are intimately dealing with OCD/anxiety and are faced with dealing without medication, you would think the world was coming to an end.  Really? Yes, really.  It is that bad if you do not have the tools to cope.  Tools? What tools you might ask?  Well, if you are anything like I was, my “tools” were... my friends at the time, Xanax and Prozac.

They were held under lock-and-key and RIGHTLY so.  These chemicals are not something anyone should be experiementing with.  These medications require full supervision from a qualified physician.  I was seeing a certified physician who fully understood my condition.  So why was it I had to play phone-tag gymnastics to get my medications refilled?   I was attending my appointments, doing things by the book.  I would request refills early, as early as allowed by law.  I would call the pharmacy, then the doctor, then the pharmacy.  Sounds simple enough when I can write it down in one sentence. When lived out, it involves an absorbent amount of time, energy, and frustration to get a regular refill.  So every 30 days this phone-tag gymnastics would occur.

Without these tools of mine, I could not cope.  I did not even know where to begin.  I had heard some people mention something called CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I am not a therapist or a subject matter expert, so my words about CBT/OCD/medication are a part of my story, and should not be considered advice or a recommendation.  I was told this CBT might be helpful.  I was told it had been proven helpful for “people like you” or “people with your condition.”  The last thing I wanted to do was to go to another psychologist.

The last time I had sat on the proverbial coach, I was verbally poked and prodded like a laboratory animal.  The only difference was that the psychologist I visited used words instead of scientific equipment.  My experience with psychologists had been a poor one and a really expensive one. One with zero benefits other than getting out of the house.   I could have gone to the ice cream shop and got a mental boost from the mention of ice cream.  So, as with other mentions of possible therapies, I was not real keen on investigating this one.  As with anything dealing with mental health, everything is up to the patient to pursue. Do not count on any office personnel giving you the encouragement to get certain things done.

Without my tools, I was a royal mess.  I am sure my crankiness was at an all-time high.  My fear would skyrocket.  I imagine it is not that different from a drug addict running out of their drug of choice, except He/She can easily go down to their supplier to pick up some more.  I was at the mercy of the two different players, the pharmacy and the doctor’s office.  If either of them failed to return calls, which occurred OFTEN, then I was left without my only way to cope.   The other factor which I have yet to mention was the way the OCD/anxiety makes social interaction increasingly more difficult. So combine fighting off the strange withdrawal symptoms that comes from being without your medications, plus the weird way I suddenly did not want to interact with anyone. It was no wonder all I wanted to do was sleep!

 

So here we have a situation.  I am beholden to the pharmacy and the physician’s office.  Every 30 days or so, I am put through the wringer.  Hopefully I can get a refill so I can try to lead a “normal” life. 

 

iCloud Photo Stream

If you are a bit confused at the name, that’s okay. For many, the name Photo Stream and Photo Library do not seem too far apart. Apple is such a fantastic marketing company it is a wonder they would keep two product names which are so similar, yet have different functionality and purpose. My hope, is that this article will provide some insight into both iCloud Photo Stream versus iCloud Photo Library.

iCloud Photo Stream is a free service included with iCloud which allows users to sync 1000 of your latest photos wirelessly between your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. So what’s with iCloud Photo Stream if there’s already iCloud Photo Library ? If we take a quick look back iCloud Photo Stream preceded iCloud Photo Library. So here’s the simple rule, if you already using iCloud Photo Library, you do not need to worry about iCloud Photo Stream. If you are looking for a cheaper option which won’t take up your existing iCloud space, turn on iCloud Photo Stream.

A Few Things to Note

iCloud Photo Stream does NOT include video. iCloud Photo Stream should not be considered a backup as it only stores the last 1000 photos. It is a great way to access your photos across devices, but it is simply that, a convenience feature.

I hope this has served to clear up any confusion. If not, let me know and I would be happy to address your questions.

iCloud Photo Library

What is iCloud Photo Library?
iCloud Photo Library is an optional feature of iCloud which allows you to backup, sync, and share your images including video. 

Many people ask me the following question(s).

1) Should I turn on iCloud Photo Library?
2) Is iCloud Photo Library Safe or Secure?
3) Do You Have iCloud Photo Library Setup On Your iPhone?

Should I turn on iCloud Photo Library?


My answer to this question is not the simple “yes or no” answer most people will be seeking.  I usually address this question with the statement “…well that depends.”  Inevitably the person asking will follow with “…that depends on what?”  My answer will vary based on the users answer to another question.  I follow this question with the question. Do you back up your iOS photos to another location such as your computer?

I would also ask how often the user backs up their photos? In my experience, most users who are not already utilizing iCloud to backup their photos fail to backup their photos manually. I would say this is the case nine times out of ten. Another situation I have observed is that many iOS users have their iCloud account partially setup on their device. Which could mean part of their data gets backed up and part of it does not. They incorrectly assume all is well since they are logged into iCloud.

It is my experience that the majority of iOS device owners can afford to spend the $1.00-3.00 cost per month to secure their data on iCloud. At the very least, I encourage most to buy the $1.00 per month plan. At the time of this article the $1.00 plan gets the user 50 GB of iCloud storage. I also advise iOS users to take a once over (5 minutes) on their iCloud settings to ensure everything is being properly backed up. I’ll be adding more posts as to what I recommend on basic iCloud settings.

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Is iCloud Photo Library Safe or Secure?


To answer this question, one should start by defining “Safe or Secure.” Really a user could mean several different things when using these terms. I believe the question behind this question is two-fold. If we referring to the safety of iCloud Photo Library as a long-term solution? Or is iCloud Photo Library safe from of a security breach?

I would say it depends on what a user’s valid alternatives are. If a user is committed to backing up their photos to their computer manually as an alternative, one could argue that their computer is a safer solution. It is important to consider if a user would actually perform the backup on a consistent basis. Many will claim they will perform a manual backup, but when it comes down to it, they fail to do it for weeks on end. In this case, I would argue iCloud Photo Library is a safer alternative. iCloud works automatically without the physical act of performing a backup.

If we were to ask if iCloud Photo Library safe from of a security breach? I would tend to lean on the side of caution and not use a blanket “yes or no” answer. I do believe that Apple cares deeply about the data of their users. I do believe that Apple has more than adequate resources eagerly devoted to securing iCloud as a backup solution. I do not believe that anyone can completely escape security breaches at this point in time. I do believe that of any company, Apple is amongst the most trustworthy companies to lookout for the good of their customers.

Do You Have iCloud Photo Library Setup On Your iPhone?

Yes! I absolutely do. I do this even though I backup my photos manually to an external hard drive. Why? It costs me very little and ensures my photos are safe somewhere. Even when I forget to back them up.

Understanding iCloud

In order to better understand iCloud we need to think about where we came from.  We do not have to look too far back on the history of iOS devices to remember a time when users actually plugged in their iOS devices to their computer to backup their data.  iTunes was the guardian of our digital lives.  To be honest, most of us detested the process!  Before there was iCloud backups, the majority of iPhone users were largely dependent on regularly backing up their photos manually to their computer.  What this ultimately meant was that the vast majority of users were failing to backup their devices.

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Device backup was a huge pain point and Apple sought a more elegant solution for their users.  At the time, Apple had a product called .Mac which served a variety of different purposes for Mac users.  What began as an effort to fix everything wrong with iTunes and manual backups became an all encompassing backup solution.  I believe it is important to have a proper understanding of iCloud in order to fully embrace it as a backup solution.  Seeing iCloud as an all-encompassing backup solution for iOS devices, “The What” will help us to understand “The Why.”  So many times we neglect understanding why we are doing it in the first place.  This results in the act of maintaining our iCloud backup as a meaningless waste of time.

If we will stop and think of iCloud as not merely an annoyance, but as a means of protecting our important data and memories, our photos.  Maintaining iCloud means we keep all of those precious photos of our loved ones in a safe place.  Maintaining iCloud means we can easily contact people at a moments notice because we have their information tucked away in a safe place.  Maintaining iCloud means that we have precious data from all of our apps easily accessible when an accident happens with our phone.  It also means that we no longer need to plug in our iOS devices to our laptop or desktop computer, yay! 

Choose Wisely

When you experience a move of God all you want to do is tell people about what God has done.  Filled with such hope and confidence, all you want to do is share it.  So here I was completely intent on telling my story any and every chance I got when something unexpected happened. All of a sudden, I lost all motivation to tell my story. The bizarre confidence I had gained in telling my story was gone. I looked up and all of a sudden my story had lost its excitement. What I once felt could not be stopped had come to a screeching halt.  So hold on...what has just happened here?! I was just soaring above the trees telling my story of hope to all who might come along and then...thud.

I awoke with a mouth full of dirt, face firmly planted on the ground. I picked myself up and dusted off the soil from my clothes.  Now, I had mentioned in my prior two posts that my story was becoming increasingly more real the more that I told it. So what would happen if I stopped telling it? Would my story be any different?  If my story loses steam what happens?  Does it change my story?

A lesson I have learned in other areas of my life is that what we do not know has the potential to hurt us.  Early in the sharing of our story, we must learn to choose wisely who we share it with.  When God moves we want to shout it from the mountaintops, but what we may not realize is there is a time for everything.  Early in the process of telling your story, the response of others can play a crucial role in fueling your story.

Who we choose to share it with can have damaging consequences.  It can fan the flame or it has the power to extinguish your flame.  This is the perfect time to take it to God.  Ask Him who you should share your story with and when.  Seek His guidance before you blurt out all that God has done!  The time will come when you share your story with anyone willing to listen, but now is not the time.  Pray often and choose wisely...

A Story To Tell

So, here I stood a new person! I was so excited and so scared at the same time. Excited for what God had done, scared to go back to the Spirit of Fear I knew too well. I had yet to tell a soul. Until one morning when God told me to tell my daughter who was nine at the time. We had about twenty or thirty minutes drive to get where we were going. So how do I explain this to a nine year old? Somehow God gave me the words to say. The more I told, the more excitement and confidence I gained. I dropped her off at her grandma’s and headed to my counselor’s office. On my drive there God told me to tell my counselor. After telling my counselor, I left his office and began my way back home.

I can not remember how, but before I knew it I was telling my mom over the phone. My story was becoming real the more I told it. The next thing I remember was being at a client’s office and God telling me to tell my client. God began to use my story to speak to other people. He was saying things to people I do not remember saying. Weird, I know.

During my time with my client, she asked me to stop so she could write something down. I was baffled that God would say something to others through my story. It was clear by now that I had to continue telling my story. I remember distinctly having a conversation with God before telling my client. I say conversation, but I was largely debating with God as to why I should tell my client.

I was silly to try and debate with God, but I was being real. In this conversation/debate God revealed two things to me. One, God did not write my story so I could keep it to myself. Two, I needed to tell my story as much as other people needed to hear it. Telling it was essential to my healing.

So I had told most of the people who needed to hear it, but I shied away from telling my wife Kristi. Of anyone who needed to hear it, She did, but I was afraid. What if it did not last? How hard it would be for her to hear this and then see me backslide towards a Sprit of Fear. The time had come to tell her and I could not hide from it anymore.

Of anyone who needed this story besides myself, Kristi was on the top of my list. She had seen me at my worst and knew my anxiety might not go away. She had taken care of me when I could not take care of myself. I feel she was as hesitant to believe in this miracle as I was. Mainly because it would change everything about our lives going forward.

A Bizarre Confidence

God, I remember when you did the impossible. I was taking a basic programming class in a long line of classes working towards finishing a degree I had started years before. I knew the concepts in this class, I just was not familiar with this specific language. I was dreading going through a class as basic as this as my knowledge was more adept than this class would lead you to believe. I would not say that the class was beneath me, but I was not thrilled about having to spend my time going through it. At the same time, it was a programming class which was the focus of my degree. So I was somewhat happy to be taking a core class which would lead me to towards completing my degree. It was here, in the basic, in the mundane, where God chose to do the impossible. Finishing this whole degree was something I felt God led me to do. I was still experiencing chronic anxiety on a regular basis. My anxiety level had quickly increased while taking classes. I believe my wife Kristi was irritated with me and my insistence on finishing this degree. I was stuck trying to defend my decision while trying to gain confidence in my field of programming. I was stuck on an assignment which was taking far too long for what it was worth.

It was here in the middle of my frustration where God showed up. This assignment tripped me up and I was exhausted from trying to solve it. It was a defining moment where God said, “Craig what is the simplest, most unelegant way you could solve this problem?” In less than thirty minutes, I solved the problem I had just spent four hours trying to figure out. I was blown away!

So I approached my next problem. Within thirty minutes I had solved this one. I continued with my next one and yet again I completed it. I began to feel this bizarre confidence, not in myself, but that God had created me for this. I felt confident that with God’s help, I could solve any programming problem that was put in front of me. I did not know all of this language, but I had no doubt I could face any challenge with God’s help.

Over the next twenty-four hours I experienced something I will never forget. I awoke the next morning still bearing this bizarre confidence I had discovered the day before. There was this freedom, I was significantly lighter than before. Anxiety which had held me captive just the day before was GONE! I went through the day in disbelief. This couldn’t be right?!? I had prayed for God to help me with my anxiety before, but this time it was completely gone.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It was at this time I remembere a verse in the Bible which says that God prays on our behalf even when we do not know what to pray. Another twenty-four hours went by and I still felt this way. Could this be my new normal?

Being Made Holy

The life we were meant to live is in His kingdom. A real life without celebrity, worldly wealth or glamor. A life which starts by our realization of how badly we need a savior, Jesus. Our only reasonable response to this realization is complete surrender and awe to Jesus. A cornerstone in the foundation of a kingdom life is one's ability to learn to live by faith. If you examen the most influential people of the Bible, you will quickly notice they have one thing in common. Theses individuals learned to live by faith.

Take David, not King David, but David before becoming king over Israel. David remembered God's faithfulness in past events and went out to fight Goliath. He was appalled by this man's lack of respect for God. He didn't see this 9 foot giant as the rest of the Israelites did. David saw just one more of these little battles he had been fighting all his life.

The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” (1 Samuel 17:37 NIV84)

David realized he had the power of God behind him and that God fights differently than man. God had prepared David through each small battle while watching over sheep. Each seemingly small fight to protect sheep was a faith builder. People only saw a shepherd boy, but God saw a mighty warrior.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV84)

Our actions or inactions cannot make us holy. There is only one who makes us holy and this battle has been won. Jesus makes us holy, we just have to be willing to accept His gift. Our next reasonable response is to wholly surrender to Him. Our lives are not our own.

Being made holy is not about our actions, but the condition of our heart. God is refining us through each small or seemingly large battle. After each battle we come out of the fire a little closer to God. We learn to leave the things of this world behind and pickup our cross.

Accepting My Condition

In a previous article, I wrote about the choices I had when faced with chronic anxiety. One of the topics I touched on during this series was the idea of “Accepting My Condition.” Many times friends or family members will encourage you to “accept your condition” as a piece of advice. While I mentioned that people do not understand what they are asking when they propose this piece of advice, I failed to consider what it might have meant. My advice from Make It All Go Away was not completely off-base, but it did not consider all of the other possible implications. To be fair, my interpretation of their advice was not completely based on truth. When you are living in the midst of fear much of what you are believing is based on lies. My interpretation was focused on statements like, “you are not like you used to be”, “you are less than you once were,” or “you’ll never be what you could have been.” It was focused on telling me what I am not.

Now, accepting my condition might reveal some new challenges, but I doubt that it is all about telling me what I am not. Asking the right questions will reveal possible wisdom. Accepting my condition might mean that I realize my new-found limitations and make adjustments. Accepting who I am now is merely embracing a better understanding of who God created me to be. It is not believing that I lost something, but that I have gained understanding of who I am.

So what can come of this newfound understanding? A discovery of the environmental conditions which I can best thrive in. While it is true that finding work which meets these criteria is much more difficult than before, it means I now know what is needed for me to thrive. It means I now know what I am looking for in a career opportunity.

It is not saying everything I can not do, it is saying what conditions are needed for me to do my best. It is like discovering the recipe or formula needed for fulfilling work for Craig. Some might venture to say this new found understanding is clarity. Clarity is something people pray for, long for, and seek. I have not been given a list of limitations, I have been given a gift!

The Dangers of Flying Blind

If you have ever attended a leadership training or a team building event, you have most likely experienced an exercise I like to call Flying Blind. The exercise typically involves pairing up with another person you do not know well. Next one person is assigned to be the eyes for each pair. The other person is blindfolded and is told to allow the verbal instructions from their partner to direct their steps. There are times in following Christ where one might feel like the blindfolded person in the training exercise. I can tell you from experience that your ability to hone in on the Father’s voice is the key to successfully following God. We must intentionally guard against all forms of distraction, mental fog, or disruption in our line of communication with God.

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This is a point in our walk where we are extremely vulnerable. We must be extremely diligent in pursuing the things of God. Sometimes we make the mistake of reading too much into what God is showing us. If we do not take intentional steps to remain impartial, there is the potential for us to use what God has shown us to affirm things we want deep in our hearts.

So what do we do to remain impartial? We must seek humility and guard against all forms of pride. We ask our brothers or sisters in Christ to hold us accountable in advance. We regularly meet with them and allow them to speak into our lives. We allow our own assumptions about things God has shown or told us to be tested by God and our brothers or sisters in Christ. If we do not test these assumptions, the consequences can be devastating. Any of our assumptions which are proven wrong we destroy.

We use God’s promises to sustain us and error on the side of humility. This is a time where your prayer life will take a drastic turn. It becomes a place to LISTEN and HEAR from God and not solely a place to voice our wants or desires. One tactic I have found incredibly beneficial is that of taking the perspective of a steward. Pray from this perspective and it will change your life. Go ahead! Try it!

Pray this prayer... God we(I) surrender these gifts and abilities you have blessed us with. We seek to do only YOUR will. Provide us with clarity and help us to remain humble while following you. In Your Hands. -Amen

Agreements - The Enemy of God and Man - Part 1

The human brain is one of the most fascinating creations on planet Earth. One could spend their entire life devoted to studying the brain and not scratch the surface of all it has to offer. What we choose to believe in our lives has the power to raise us up or derail our lives for all eternity. It is no wonder that our Enemy, The Devil, spends vasts amount of time and energy right in the middle of shaping or reshaping our belief system. It is in our belief system where most of the battle is won or lost. If this area is so important to the human condition, why do we as believers not spend more time here? Shaping our childrens’ beliefs should be at the top of our lists as parents. Still we spend time on things like not raising one of “those” types of kids. Largely as parents, I believe we make parenting about ourselves and not about the kids. Yep, I said it, we are selfish.

I do not have to spend much time to show you that humans are selfish, do I? As parents we do not teach our kids to say “mine.” This response is innate, something we come out of the womb with. So why so much hostility when I suggest that parents are selfish? Usually when we fight some type of feedback it is because deep down we know there is truth in it.

It is not that shaping our children into being a well-mannered, productive member of society is such a bad thing. The problem lies in that we are not giving our kids, essential truth (Bible-based), to take with them into adulthood. We fail in teaching our kids about identity in Christ, what it means to live for Christ, finding our Chazown or dream. Why? I believe it is because we, as adults, do not have a good grip on what these things mean for us. We cannot teach what we do not understand.

I am not suggesting nor do I believe that we are doomed as a species. I am saying we need to wake up to what is really important as humans, as parents, and as Believers. This topic is extremely broad, so I will begin by covering the lies which we believe which have such a strong pull on our lives. Being able to discern lies from truth is one of the essentials of living as a believer. If we cannot tell the difference, we will fall for lies every time.

How can I tell we as humans cannot tell the difference between the truth and lies? I am guilty of believing lies and applying those lies to my life. These lies or agreements, are beliefs about life or anything which set themselves up against the knowledge of God(the Bible). As long as these agreements present themselves as truth in our lives, they have the power to prevent us as Believers from living the lives God has planned for us as His children.

Make It All Go Away - Part 2

Many might ask me why I did not or do not just pray for God to “Make It All Go Away.” This is an completely valid question as it touches on many things besides the fact that if this prayer was answered, the fear/anxiety would all be gone. On the surface this makes complete sense. When one starts digging, there are other factors to consider besides what seems so obvious. There are two things to keep in mind with this prayer, the faith required to pray this and the potential costs of praying this prayer. When examining the faith required to pray this kind of prayer I would consider two things. The amount required means the believer actually believes God can or will do this. Quite simply, one believes God is capable of answering the prayer. The second part when examining the faith required is one is willing to voice this concern and submit this to God regardless of the outcome. No matter what the outcome, the faith of the believer is strong enough to handle God’s answer.

My personal struggle was not whether God was or is able to answer the prayer. I completely believe God is able to do abundantly more than I can ask, think, or imagine. My struggle lies within the second part of this idea. If God says No, was my faith in a place to handle His answer. At the time of this event, I was not at a place where my faith could handle His answer. My concern was that His answer would cause a crisis of belief when it comes to my faith.

The second thing to think about is the potential costs of praying this prayer. One might say, Praying is free, what cost? I would look beyond financial costs. What happens if God says No? Is the faith of the believer strong enough to handle this answer? If one values something they tend to protect it. The level of protection varies depending on the amount they value the item. In my case, my faith, was as important as the air I breath. This was all I had at the time. I could not handle a crisis of belief. Not at that time.

So why did I not pray this prayer? Quite simply... FEAR. Was this fear rational, no. But the potential cost was not something I would dare take a chance on. When fear grips you as much as it had a hold on me, you begin to accept ideas(sometimes called agreements) that develop as the line between the truth and lies gets blurry. The further inside your head you go, the harder it is to find your way out. We’ll discuss finding your way out in greater detail later.

From this, I learned to ask one question, what lies am I believing which set themselve up against the Word of God?

Make It All Go Away - Part 1

There are a few things you come to realize when you wake up knowing chronic anxiety is part of your everyday life. You soon realize that you will never be like “them” again. By them I mean people who seem “normal” who have never had it out with anxiety or fear. You will always have an intimate knowledge of what it means to live in fear. Fear means something different to you than it does to “them.” It is at this point you have a few choices to make. You can pray God will “Make It All Go Away,” You can dig into the fight against fear, or You can give in to living a life of fear. None of these choices seem like good ones. If you were to ask me which one I would choose A) Pray to God He will Make it all go away B) Dig into the fight against fear C) Give in to fear D) None of the above. I would choose D) None of the above. I believe I have thought “Make it all go away,” but this was never really a choice for me. When originally faced with the choice my faith was not in a place where I could pray this kind of prayer.

People, doctors, friends, family members will most likely be at a loss when it comes to giving you advice in this area. Unless they have personally had it out with fear or anxiety, they will be unable to understand the battle. Most likely you will be able to tell if they “get it” or not. As much as they want to help you, they will disappoint you. Perhaps the best thing they can do is with love, compassionately admit they do not understand.

If you are anything like me, you are left with choice B) Dig into the fight against fear or choice C) Give in to fear. Here is where I would choose choice D) None of the above. Many will encourage you to just accept your condition (the fear is a permanent part of your life.) They do this with a great heart, but they do not truly understand what they are asking you to do. They do not understand that for you, fear does not stand still. It only gets worse or gets better. There is no in between when it comes to fear.

So, here we are...I am not about to just “give in” or “accept my condition.” This leaves me with the choice to B) Dig into the fight against fear. What does it really mean to fight against the fear? I believe the song No Longer Slaves by I AM THEY says it best.

Getting Outside Your Head

So if I am not taking a pill to remove the anxiety, how do I deal with it when it comes? One of the biggest challenges in dealing with anxiety in a healthy way is knowing what to do when the anxiety comes. Keep in mind I am not a doctor or a counselor and this series is more of an informal expression of my experiences. I do not begin to think this will work for everyone, but my hope is that this will help someone. In this post, I would like to address one practical way of dealing with anxiety. There is nothing magical about these methods, but I believe we look too hard for something miraculous when God has given us a brain to apply basic methodologies in dealing with stressful situations. The key is to understand the situations and learn to deal with the associated anxiety in a healthy manner. This post will deal with the idea of “Getting Outside of Your Head.”

Fear and anxiety is a tricky thing, but I believe that God has given us practical ways to combat fear and/or anxiety. If you think about anxiety and the fear that goes with it, you will soon realize that what you are experiencing is largely trapped inside the walls of your brain. One of these practical ways of dealing with anxiety is to get outside of your brain. The symptoms such as tapping your foot or checking a lock are the physical manifestations of what is going on the inside. In previous articles, I mentioned habits which I developed to accompany my anxiety. These habits and others are side effects of the anxiety itself. I hesitate to say these are ways to deal with the anxiety because they are reactionary in that they do not actually process the anxiety in a healthy way. What I want to get to is a way to actually process the event or situation which is at the root of an individual’s anxiety.

The feelings we experience when it comes to anxiety are a complex range of fears, emotions, and beliefs which we have developed over time. You might say you understand the fears and emotions part, but what do I mean when I say beliefs? I do not mean this in a philosophical manner, but the practical application of beliefs. We begin to believe certain things will happen given certain conditions. Specifically in someone with OCD(Obsessive-compulsive Disorder), we believe that if we do not check something, something bad will happen to us or those we love. If we are sensitive towards cleanliness, then we might believe if we do not clean our hands then something bad will happen to us.

These beliefs characterize a situation in one particular point of view. Typically this “view” is the worst case scenario. So how do we get outside our own head? I will not pretend I even know part of the ways to accomplish this, but I will give a few. One basic way to do this is by taking a walk or changing up your routine. Crazy, I know, this is so basic, but what does this have to do with anything? A part of getting outside of our brain is to see things as other people see them. To see things in a different way. To experience something different than you do in your typical day.

If you have ever flown on a plane then you can recall the way the buildings, trees, and cities get so small when you are in the air flying thousands of feet up. Suddenly, the city which was all encompassing, now seems so small. The vehicles and buildings now seem less significant. The things which you have been fearing may now seem somewhat smaller. Many refer to this experience as obtaining a birds-eye view.

If you can practically find a way to accomplish this, your fears do not disappear, but suddenly your life-experience is different. It is an incredible way to break up the monotony of fear or anxiety. It breaks the cycle of your routine enough to jar them loose. In a way, it gives your mind a break. I am not saying this is the end all, magic pill, because it is not. What does happen if done regularly, is provide your brain a place to escape. If you have ever experienced overwhelming anxiety or fear, you will know that this is something we all want in that moment. We seek a way to escape our anxiety or fear.

If Only, I Could...

If Only, I Could...

Thinking back to childhood I can remember several times I wanted to be something I was not. I recall seeing friends or classmates who excelled at something, wishing I could only do what comes so natural to them. I remember a friend who was extremely athletic and he could crush it at any sport he chose to participate in. I remember seeing friends who could make friends with anyone or talk to any girl they wish.

The Danger in What You Cannot See

In my last post, I mentioned the danger often being in things we cannot see. There is a certain level of risk in everything we do. Avoiding risk should never be our primary goal. Learning to take calculated risks and make wise choices is what life is all about. Without risk there is no reward. There are proper ways of making decisions which involve evaluating the risk involved, identifying viable alternatives to achieving the goal, and surrounding yourself with people who can speak into your life. In the process making my decision to attend university for Mobile Development, I failed to do all three of the items mentioned above. I allowed my blind ambition to justify spending an exorbitant amount of money to attend an unproven program at an online university. There is a time and a place to discuss the high costs of traditional education, but I will table this topic for another post.

What I do want to address is allowing my blind ambition to throw caution to the wind and enroll in a very costly educational institution. I did all of this without looking for viable alternatives first. Keep in mind that other educational options such as Treehouse with their TechDegree were not as widespread. My first mistake was I failed to weigh the risks involved in my online education. I did not ask the right questions. I saw an avenue to pursue my dream and I jumped on it.

I also do not want to paint the picture that this particular university program is not good for anyone. I realize it has its place and will benefit certain people better than others. I already had a traditional university education and I chose this one regardless. What I realize now is that a program such as Treehouse would have been a better fit for me personally.

I started using Treehouse after I had been in school for a year and a half. It got me through many of the courses at university which were in their infancy. These courses lacked the basic instruction which Treehouse provided.

In the end, I left university because it failed to accomplish my goals at becoming a Mobile Developer. So here I was with a base level knowledge with no portfolio to show for my work. I had some of the skills I needed to make mobile applications, but couldn’t tell you where to start. I had accrued most of the cost of the program which at the time which was about $60,000.

I was able to land a few jobs as a developer, but it had nothing to do with my investment in the university program. I now had a pile of student loan debt which I had little means to pay for. One of my positions I convinced my employer to make an app for iOS. I submitted it to the App Store and it was approved. My first app was published!

Putting it All On the Line

When making life altering decisions, the danger is often not in what you can see, it’s what you can not foresee. I so desperately wanted to make apps, I believe I was blind to any and all danger just up ahead. I thank God for protecting me and my family while I chased after a dream. My dream is still very much alive, but the challenges I can see now in looking back could have done much more damage. Apple had this great encentive program for employees which helped them pay for school and Full Sail Online (FSO) was one of their approved schools. This was one of the pillars I built my decision on when going back to school. I could work full-time at Apple while attending university online. My employee discount was a big help in paying for my computer used for school. All of my ducks were lining up perfectly, or so I thought.

I already had a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Business Management. Many of my courses from the University of Central Oklahoma transferred to FSO which helped me to jump ahead into the program. I had quite a bit of experience when it came to web development so this also helped me to skip through some of the web development basics. The other basic courses were pretty solid since they had been taught for many years at FSO. Early on, I had no doubts about the quality of my education which served to distract me when I should have been paying closer attention.

I was so entrenched into the idea of building apps, and I was getting so close to actually learning about it. The grueling schedule of an accelerated bachelors degree started to sink in. I was going to school full-time, working at Apple full-time and doing my best to be both a dad and a husband with my leftovers. My excitement and ambition had carried me this far, but I did not see many of the hurdles in front of me.

It was merely months into this new adventure and other Mobile Development students were dropping like flies. This would have been the time to stop, take note, and ask questions to faculty, but I had way too much on my plate. This and I chalked it up to their lack of programming experience. I also hated conflict and this seemed to be pretty confrontational, which I avoid as much as possible.

The more I got into the program, the more the program required from me. I countered this demand with more effort. This was not the first time my I would use my work ethic to try and solve a problem. I was a night owl so I figured I would stay up an hour extra each night. This and I would take less breaks from studying. I know what you are thinking, just bear with me.

My grades were holding very well and I was convinced my extra work was paying off. My relationships with my daughter, my wife Kristi, and God all suffered during this time. I did not want to admit it, but they were getting the short end of the stick. I justified it by saying this was for a short period of time and it would be over. This came up a few times in discussions and my solution was to quit working to focus on school. So I did. I’ll revisit this later.

Thinking my relationships were more important than my job at Apple, I had good reason to move forward. Or was I asking enough questions? Things were moving very fast and I was making tough decisions for the good of my family. I knew leaving Apple would never be fun, I just did not know it would like this.

The App Store

After roughly three years of working at Apple, I could tell this would not last forever. The grind of retail and the numerous product launches had started to take its toll. My position as Conceierge at Apple no longer existed and I had explored several other positions within the store. One of these included being a team mentor which I thoroughly loved. Another was teaching about Apple products as well as repairing iPhones, iPads, and iPods. The App Store had launched and I became enthralled in the world of apps. Working in an Apple retail store one typically becomes known for something, some specialty. I soon became known for two things. One was for helping individuals with accessibility challenges. I began having people come into the store asking for me by name. My managers were gracious enough to allow me to spend loads of time investing in this community. It was an utter joy to see the look on the faces of customers who never knew such things were possible.

It was as if I had given these individuals a new hope where they believed none existed. I was blessed to connect with so many individuals on such an increadible level. These individuals yearned to interact with others in ways people without accessibility challenges can not appreaciate.

Another thing I became known for at Apple was for my knowledge of apps in the App Store. The week of July 10, 2008 was one of the most exciting weeks I can remember while working at Apple. I was hooked on apps and I could hardly keep up with what apps had been released in the App Store. Not only that, but my church, Life.Church, had released YouVersion, the Bible app, as one of the first apps in the App Store.

The Bible was now available to download for free on my iPhone. At the time, I knew this was big, but I had no idea how big it would prove to be. As I began this journey into apps, I began to see a new path for my life. I desperately wanted in on this world Apple called the App Store, but how? What do I do to get started? Could I one day work at YouVersion?

This year would prove to be a turning point of sorts for my life. I knew the field where I wanted to work, now I just needed to gain some experience. Since I worked at Apple, I was not allowed to publish any apps in the App Store. So I knew this would involve leaving Apple or working directly for Apple making apps.

In 2011, I began pursuing my dream of building apps by attending Full Sail University Online. I started as one of the few(there were approximately 16 of us) new Mobile Development Bachelor of Science students. The program was completely new to the university and one of the few in the United States at the time. I knew the road ahead would be tough, but it is what I did not know which would proven to derail my career in Mobile Development.