When my students and I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one line—spoken by the murderous creature to Victor Frankenstein—always gives me a cold chill:
“Slave … You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”
Each year, I tell my class, “This is such an apt personification of addiction. What starts as a small habit, seemingly under our control, quickly morphs into a monster that takes complete control of our lives.”
I speak from very painful, very personal experience.
Decades ago, when my clutter collecting craze was in full swing, I exhibited many classic signs of addiction.
- Inability to Stop. I made up elaborate budgeting spreadsheets. I put cash in envelopes. But every single time I promised myself, “I’m done buying so much stuff!” I’d see something else and make an exception, “Just this once.”
- Withdrawal Symptoms. I cut up and canceled credit cards. Then, as my anxiety level would rise and I couldn’t calm myself by running out for a quick shopping spree, I’d open new accounts.
- Social Sacrifices. The more stuff took over our home, the less space there was for people. We quit inviting friends and family over because there was no room for them to stay. Or, eventually, even sit.
- Solitude. I never shopped with friends. Going on a buying binge had one purpose: to give me my fix, for which I wanted no witnesses.
- Secrecy. I hid my purchases from my husband, and he had no idea how many credit cards “we” had. He was clueless to the extent of my possession obsession.
- Supply Maintenance. I stockpiled food, toiletries, gifts for upcoming holidays. I started numerous businesses and ordered tons of inventory. Buying these things gave me a thrill. So did storing and counting it all.
- Increasingly High Doses. Just as a drug addict needs larger and larger amounts to experience the “high,” I needed to spend more and more, purchasing bigger and better things, to feel the buying buzz.
- Risky Behavior. I “stole from Peter to pay Paul” regularly, paying bills just in the nick of time to avoid being charged late fees, having utilities shut off, defaulting on loans.
- Financial Difficulties. Our checking account balance was typically so low, I had to call the bank each day to find out how much (if anything) was available for groceries. We ultimately ended up in bankruptcy court.
- Relational Difficulties. When my husband discovered how bad things had gotten, he felt completely betrayed. The bankruptcy process was deeply humiliating for him.
If some of these sound scarily familiar, here are four things I want anyone wrestling with possession obsession to know:
1 — It’s not your fault.
Slinging blame and wallowing in guilt serve no constructive purpose. Facing the facts and taking personal responsibility do. And the most responsible thing you can do is ask for help. Starting now.
2 — You’re not alone.
Shame depends on secrecy; addiction thrives in isolation. When you reach out to those who can help and support you, shame’s power breaks and addiction’s grip loosens. You need accountability, both for individual recovery and for financial recovery.
3 — It’s not too late.
The enemy of your soul says, “You’re beyond all hope!” It’s a lie.
In Romans 7:19-25, the apostle Paul chronicles this vivid description of addiction: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
And reminds you of the hope that is always available to you:
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
4 — Yes, you can.
You can address the core issues that trigger your spending sprees and clutter collections. For me, it came down to a combination of “buying to become” and “never enough” syndrome. Over time, I retrained my brain to disconnect my identity from my possessions, and to revel in gratitude for what I already have.
You can find healthy ways to settle the everyday ordinary problems that a possession obsession promises—but utterly fails—to solve. I’d turned pretty much any “negative” emotion into an excuse to spend: sadness, anger, loneliness, and boredom all lifted (albeit temporarily) with a bit of “retail therapy.”
It took time to develop new self-soothing strategies. Over several months, I built a list of my Favorite Free Ways to Feel Better Fast (which you can download at the end of this article!)
You can develop safe systems for making necessary purchases. I always take a list when heading to Safeway or Target. My husband and I pre-plan major purchases. Whenever something catches my eye, I have a pre-decided wait time (yes, even if it’s on sale.)
I write it on my wish list and set a calendar reminder for a week away. Nine times out of ten, when the alert pops up, I think to myself, “I was going to spend how much for that?!?”
If you feel trapped in possession obsession right now, please know that I understand.
And please hear the truth: Your stuff doesn’t have to morph into a monster that enslaves you.
You can do the brave work to break free. You can learn to master your spending and storing habits so that your stuff serves you, not the other way around.
Sign up to receive updates from Cheri, and receive her FREE “15 Favorite Free Ways to Feel Better Fast” PDF.
Cheri Gregory is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the Perfect Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed. Her goal is to equip women to relate and create with less drama, more delight. Connect with Cheri on Facebook and at www.CheriGregory.com.
by guest blogger, Rachel Lewis
“Today, I am trying to cling to the hope in the midst of an unknown future that lay ahead of me. At times, I just want to fast forward a year, till I know how everything has turned out . . .” And I pondered, what to do in the waiting.
Facebook reminded me of this post I made a year ago. We had just found out we were pregnant. After 4 consecutive losses. I didn’t know if I should prepare my heart for a loss, or for the possibility of a live baby to bring home.
We were also fostering a baby boy at the time. We’d had him since he was 5 months old, and had just passed the one-year mark of him in our home. Reunification with his birth family seemed imminent. But I didn’t know how, or when, I would have to let go of this baby. And I certainly didn’t know how our family would survive the good-bye.
Our adoptive daughter’s birth mom had also recently contacted me. She wanted back into our daughter’s life. Again. After failing to follow through so many times.
All of this – at the same time. I suppose you can’t blame me for wanting to fast forward. I felt like if I only knew WHAT I was dealing with, I could face it, make a plan, and work through whatever was coming my way. But at the time, our futures remained unknown – at least, to me. And I had little control over any of the outcomes.
All I could do was wait.
Many of you won’t be able to relate to foster parenting, or struggling with fertility. But I guarantee that you have experienced a time when you wanted to hit “fast forward” on life.
Maybe you are waiting for something good to come – a baby, job, degree, promotion, or retirement. Perhaps you are waiting for answers – a diagnosis, resolution to a conflict, or a restoration of a relationship. Then again, maybe you are waiting for something hard – the passing of a loved one, the closing of a business, or the progression of a disease.
None of us loves waiting. Not for our drink at Starbucks. And certainly not for life’s big events.
But as I discovered over the last year, no matter what we are waiting for, our season of surrender is not a passive one. We can make intentional decisions, right in the midst of our unknown, in order to grow stronger in faith, perseverance and character.
Here are some key actions you can take today in your season of what to do in the waiting:
Besides praying for only the outcome we want, there are a few key things we can pray for during a time of waiting.
– Pray for God’s will. This is the hardest prayer, because we know our will is often not God’s. It’s a prayer of submission, of laying down the very depths of ourselves to His perfect wisdom.
– Pray for peace. God promises a peace that surpasses all understanding. Pray specifically for a peaceful heart, free of worry and fear.
– Pray for salvation. God is not only concerned about the here and now – he is concerned about eternity. As we faced reunification for our foster son, I began praying that God would bring people into his life who would share the gospel with him when I no longer could. Who do you need to pray for salvation for?
– Pray for growth. In every season of waiting, there is refinement in our faith and character that needs to happen, if we would be open to it. Pray that your eyes are open, and your spirit is willing to grow.
Just as muscles require being broken down through exercise in order to grow, so does our faith. Our seasons of waiting give us an opportunity to question our beliefs, expand our understanding of God’s character and his role in our lives, and more solidly define what we believe and why.
In the Bible, you will find that God often had his people wait. But they were not to be idle in the process. Instead, they were to prepare for what God ultimately was calling them to. Now is not the time to sit by passively. It is a time to prepare your heart, your home, your skill set, and your faith so that you can be ready when your season of waiting is finally over. Ask yourself, “What is the next right thing I can do?” Then go do it.
PRACTICE GOOD SELF-CARE
In a season of waiting, it is crucial to take stock in your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs, and then invest in meeting those needs. As much as you are able, exercise and eat healthy. Talk with a trusted friend, pastor or therapist. Journal or blog. Find what feeds your soul And take the necessary steps to make it a practice.
Give yourself grace. Waiting is hard. One day, you might feel as though you have got this. The next, you are all tears, anxiety and regret. Give yourself the grace to take your fears and emotions day by day, even moment by moment. Waiting is a marathon – not a sprint.
Seek out others who have survived a season of waiting like you are currently in. Be vulnerable about where you are, and allow them to speak the lessons they have learned into your life.
We are never guaranteed tomorrow. Either for us, or for our loved ones. It is so tempting to want to live for the futures we are waiting for, and miss out on the gift of today. Be present with your loved ones. And choose to be grateful for every single thing you can. Because tomorrow, they might be gone.
It is now a year later from the day I posted on Facebook. As much as I longed for answers, I now realize I would not have been able to handle all the answers at once. The unknown, while scary, actually served to protect my heart. Had I known what I know now, I would not have had the courage to follow through with God’s call.
Ironically, that season of waiting just gave way to a new season of unknowns.
Our foster son did return home 9 months ago – and we are now waiting to see if his mom will allow us back into his life at all. Our daughter’s birth mom never followed through, though we are open to her in case she is ready to make contact. And the baby we were pregnant with went to be with Jesus shortly after my post on Facebook. But God blessed us with another pregnancy after 5 consecutive losses, and we are only weeks away from holding our new daughter in our arms.
For now, in all these things, we hold onto hope.
And we wait.
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:4
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes, drinking coffee, or writing at The Lewis Note.
How do you have a consistent quiet time when life is neither consistent or quiet?
Today Erin MacPherson and I share how we each carve out consistent quiet time in our day to be with God. Even though each of us is created differently, it’s key to find what works for you. As students of our relationship with God we start to understand what ignites our passion.
Though Erin and I have different routines, this episode concludes with three key tips to help you create a daily quiet time routine in your life.
Listen to the episode and share in the comments how you are able to consistently create a quiet time.
I didn’t have my daddy leave me when I was a little girl, as Lysa Terkeurst recounts of her story in her new book Uninvited, but I have felt the slap of rejection.
The time when my seventh grade school friends planned a birthday party for everyone else, but not for me.
The time I blew it with a close friend, and I asked, “Do you still love me?” And the answer was, “A little less right now.”
The time I was passed over for a job that I felt capable to do, in favor of a younger, more talented woman.
Slap. Slap. Slap. Long after the red mark of the blow faded, the impression on my heart lasted.
With each new rejection, I made a mental note on how to never let it happen again.
So in junior high, I went on those before-school walks with my friends around the block taking covert puffs of cigarettes. I wouldn’t inhale because that would give me lung cancer which was deadly. But I pretended and puffed, earning my inclusion in the group.
I learned not to upset anyone so as not to have their love withdrawn from me. I learned to be likable, amiable Emily, becoming adept at people-pleasing.
I stopped putting myself out there for jobs I thought I could do, because there was always someone else who could do it better than me anyway.
Lysa writes, “Rejection isn’t just an emotion we feel. It’s a message that’s sent to the core of who we are, causing us to believe lies about ourselves, others and God.”
My lie was that I better blend into the crowd to be liked and accepted. That I better never tick anyone off, or I would never be truly loved. That I needed to try harder or else I would never be worthy enough to fulfill the dreams God gave me. The burn from the slaps in my past never fully healed because I kept rehearsing the scenes over and over, believing their stinging truth. I was now my own worst enemy.
I was the one rejecting myself, no one needed to do it for me.
I remember sitting at a conference with inspiring speakers. My usual M.O. means mourning that I’m not like these speakers. Oh, I’d like to be like them – inspiring, motivating, educating, but I realize I am not up to par with them. And probably never will be. The negative talk hisses, “I’m not educated like they are. I will never be able to do it as well as them. I am not equipped or connected. I just don’t have what it takes!”
During worship time, God whispered as if He sat right beside me. “Emily, what you are moaning about is sin for you. You are staying stuck in the belief that you are not enough. You think this is a belief about yourself, but it’s really what you believe about me. You believe I am not enough for you.”
“Oh, Lord, no!” was my first response. “You are sovereign, all-sufficient and every other praise adjective I was taught in Sunday School.” Yet He showed me I honored Him with my lips, but my actions showed otherwise. When I constantly let rejection define me by belittling myself, comparing myself and trying hard to be perfect, what I was really doing was telling God His approval was not enough. That what He made when He made me was obviously not good enough.
In fact, I was the clay, smashing my vessel and fisting it to God, “Not good enough! Remake me!” And The Potter takes that lump, with my uncertainties and insecurities and says, “You are my workmanship. I knit you together perfectly. I chose you as my own before the foundations of the world. When I made you, I declared it good, VERY good even. I bought you. With a heavy price. I made you enough already. When will you confidently believe it?”
I know you have your stories of rejection too. Just think back to junior high, the hotbed of so much rejection. Have you carried those wounds through adulthood? Have you let them define you? Tell lies about you? It’s funny how we try so hard to find approval in the ones who rejected and hurt us. Isn’t it enough to know the Creator of the Universe believes we are enough?
Lysa observes, “People can’t fix from the outside a perspective that needs to rewired on the inside.” Not admittance in the Cool Club or perfectly performed responses or acquiring the best suited job. None of that tells us we are enough. So it’s useless trying so hard to make it so. But there is a salve to heal the hurts of rejection. It’s turning to the Truth, running to the Life to show us the Way.
I confessed the lies I believed about myself. But I also had to confess my lack of faith in my Father. His Word is truth and He’s says we are cherished and approved! Do you know how healing it is to accept God’s approval and quit chasing after the world’s?
“Lies flee in the presence of truth.” Tune your heart to believe a new truth: You are accepted, for now and forevermore!
*All quotes taken from Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst.
Emily Nelson is part of the Kathi Lipp ministry team. More about her can be discovered and loved at her website, www.beyondtheredchair.com.
Do you ever feel “not good enough”?
Even as a Christian, you can know that all of your sins are forgiven, but still struggle with past mistakes or carry over feelings of inadequacy from life before becoming a Christian.
How do we break the cycle of bad thoughts? In this episode, I talk with Sharon Jaynes, author of Take Hold of the Faith You Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold who experienced these very same feelings.
Listen and find practical tips and encouragement for your faith.
What would it be like to be one of the original disciples? To walk with Jesus daily?
If Jesus came to you and said, “Come with me?” what would your answer be? Our view of success would definitely be altered. But how?
Well, Jesus does ask you to come with him daily. Author Suzanne Eller decided to do a Bible study where she went deep into the walks of the disciples and wrote her book Come with Me: Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads to share with us what she learned.
Download 13 Prayer for Come with Me HERE