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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Undercover Edge by Derrick Levasseur



I bought 'The Undercover Edge' by Derrick Levasseur on January 9th and finished it this morning. I had a hard time putting it down (in the 30-60 minutes I get a day to do something else besides laundry, dishes, cry, listen to children cry, watch 'Peppa Pig', etc. LOL) I was discussing the book with someone earlier this week and the first question they asked me was, "Would you have even read the book had he not won 'Big Brother' or been on 'Big Brother' for that matter?"

And the truth of the matter is this-- 'The Undercover Edge' reaches much deeper than simply a man relaying how he won one of the greatest TV shows (I'm allowed to interject a little opinion, right? ;)) of our time. If someone would have suggested this book to me and I had no idea who Derrick Levasseur was, I would still have finished the book in a week because I *needed* the book-- regardless of who wrote it.

I needed 'The Undercover Edge.'

As you probably guessed from my previous paragraph, I'm a stay at home Mother of three young children and truth be told-- since first having a baby 7 years ago-- I've kind of lost myself in a way. I don't know who I am anymore outside of changing diapers, making dinner, washing loads of dishes, organizing, putting toys away.

And not only that - but from September 2008-December 2008, I didn't leave my house. Not once. I quit my job. I dropped out of college. I was bound by my demon called anxiety. I couldn't even bring myself to pull out of my driveway. Every time I did, I felt like I was going to pass out. Anxiety had taken over. And to this day, I still find myself struggling with it. I still find it difficult to leave my house some days- the only difference is, I have children that are in school, I have a fridge that needs food.... I HAVE to leave the house. There's no option at this point in my life.

So, here I was-- starting 'The Undercover Edge' on January 11, 2018, not knowing how it was going to change the course of my life.

The first thing I took from 'The Undercover Edge' was: WHO I AM.

Levasseur mentions Carl Jung on page 11 of his book and it peaked my interest. After doing a bit of research, I was able to locate a personality test Jung created. (LINK HERE) It felt like the first step towards truly understanding myself. My 30-year old self. My 30-year old, mother of three self. Not knowing who *I* am means I don't know my strengths.. I don't know my weaknesses.. I don't know what my first step should be. Levasseur stated, "By confronting our shortcomings, we can usually gain some measure of control over them, and more often than not we can make significant improvements." And as someone that has been struggling with anxiety since she was 13 years old, I would say I need to make significant improvements- which all starts with me knowing who I really am. Something I didn't even think about until I picked up this book.

After taking the personality test, I found out I am "The Advocate"- INFJ. I couldn't believe how well this described me and gave me motivation. It described my strengths as being: creative, insightful, inspiring, convincing, decisive, and determined. It described my weaknesses as being: overly sensitive, extremely private, a perfectionist, have to have a cause, and burns out easily. This test hit the nail on the head-- and now I knew what I needed to sit down and work on. Honestly- perfectionism, being sensitive, and being extremely private are all roots of my anxiety. So scared of falling short, so scared of messing up, wearing my heart on my sleeve, getting discouraged by little things, and then not sharing this pain with others.

Once I identified these strengths and weaknesses-- Derrick encouraged me to look inside myself and figure out what my motivation is. Levasseur states, "You have to accept that in most cases, people need to feel that their actions are beneficial to them." (Page 36) Being a stay at home Mom, I struggle with my purpose-- and I struggle with finding my motivation. Of course, I take care of my husband, my children, and my house--- BUT, what's my motivation for taking care of ME? What is my motivation for utilizing my strengths and healing my weaknesses?

My motivation should be my soul. My spirit. My overall mental health. In chapter 3, Leveasseur discusses taking care of our bodies- our physical health, our mental health, our spiritual health. This should be my motivation. I need to take control of my weaknesses, take control of my mental health, overcome my weaknesses so I am mentally healthy and stable.

I have struggled with mental health as long as I can remember. I wish I could relay all that life has thrown at me, but I'll save that for a rainy day. I'm in constant battle every single day to be in control of my mind- and that should be my motivation alone. Take it back. Take my mind back. Take my spirit back.

And one way I can try and accomplish this task is by listening. I have been trying to take every thing Levasseur spoke in this book and grow from it. Listening has also been one of my greatest weaknesses. I know I didn't technically 'hear' Derrick speak these words, but I believe taking these words and applying them to my life is listening all the same. Leveasseur states, "Do remind yourself to listen carefully. Do take a second before responding to gain additional information.... Don't think of listening as an obligation. It's an opportunity to gather intelligence." (Page 88) One thing about dealing with mental health troubles for the past 17 years is this: I stopped listening to others. I began thinking "They have no idea what they're talking about..." "I know more than they do about this mental health problem... they won't offer me a thing!" And the sad thing is-- I hindered my own growth by thinking this. Reading "The Undercover Edge" opened my mind to this. I don't progress. I don't learn how to cope because I don't take the time to listen. I think I know it all. This chapter convicted my heart and made me realize how much progress I've delayed because of stubbornness and a lack of truly listening. I had to really open up my heart and my mind and see the person I AM versus the person I could BE if I would just be quiet and hear the words in this book!

Listening has hindered progress, but so has the lack of being a true leader... a true example. I have always desired to be an advocate for those struggling with anxiety, hypochondria, and depression. I wanted to be that person that said: I've been there before! I haven't left my house for 90 days straight... and I'm now a proud Mother of three children that takes trips to the grocery store and drives our children to school every morning. But the truth of the matter is- I haven't been the greatest example of healthy coping. It was just 9 months ago that I found myself drinking 8-9 bottles of wine a week to just relax in my own home. I was starting to drink at 10AM just to make it through the day. As soon as I brought my children home from school, I popped another bottle. It was becoming the only way I could function. Levasseur states in chapter seven, "People learn better when they have an example to follow." (Page 135) And once again, conviction struck me. I'm trying to be an advocate for those struggling with mental health disorders and my coping mechanism is alcohol? Not an example. Not a woman trying to take hold of her weaknesses and build them up. Not a woman striving to empower others. Not a woman listening to what others were telling her (find a healthier way to cope.)

I want to be an inspiration to others- not an example of what not to become. Levasseur states, "By definition, it's a leader's responsibility to inspire others. You accomplish this fundamental duty by loving what you do and letting others see your enthusiasm." (Page 144) Coping with alcohol. Letting my weaknesses take hold of me. Not listening. All of these were terrible examples-- and not at all what a leader should be doing. When I should have been with friends inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves, I was too busy being consumed by fear and panic-- which in turn led to me being too drunk to function much less inspire.

Alcohol, anxiety, hypochondria, and depression had taken over my life. I wasn't the woman I had aspired to be. I wasn't the best version of myself. The person I wanted my children to admire....

And then I opened 'The Undercover Edge.'

I realize it's only been 7 days since I pre-ordered it from Amazon Prime.
And I realize it's only been a few hours since I turned the last page...

But Levasseur gave me a drive like I haven't had in a long time to be a better..... me.

I've critiqued my character flaws.
I've asked myself who I want to be.
I've identified my weaknesses and embraced them.
I'm trying my hardest not to be a hypocrite and to be honest with all of you.
I've gone through adversity.
I've faced my demons.

Levasseur said it best- "Inspiration can be found almost anywhere. You can see it in a person, or learn it from their actions. You can find it in someone who's part of your life or someone you don't even know..." (Page 243)

I found it reading "The Undercover Edge." And I know you can too.

If you are struggling with mental health... If you are struggling with anxiety...If you are struggling with depression...If you are struggling with hypochondria.. If you are struggling with self-esteem or a sense of self...

pick this book up. You won't regret it.

I can't wait to share further progress with all of you-- and hopefully another blog about chasing my dreams... but that's for another time.


Monday, January 15, 2018

The Journey of Proverbs: Chapter Seven



We begin chapter 7 with the same word from God: treasure the instructions given in Proverbs. Th author states, "Do what I say and you'll live well." That's my desire- to live well. God Almighty's teaching is as precious as your eye sight- guard it with all of your heart. We are instructed to keep wisdom close like a sibling. Hold insight and understanding close like a companion. Wisdom and understanding will keep you from an immoral lifestyle and from those who do not obey God's word.

The author talks about how he stood at his window and looked outside and saw many gullible people walking past. Among them was a young man with no sense. As the young man turned, he walked to the house of a woman dressed as a prostitute. She was dressed to seduce him. She was rebellious. She threw her arms around him and kissed him. She told him she had all of the stuff to make a feast and she told him she was hoping he would share in that feast with her. She also told the young man that she spread fresh, clean linens on her bed and sprayed her bed with perfumes and fragrances. She asked him to come make love all night. She said her husband was not home- he was away on business and wouldn't be home for a month.

Next thing you know, the young man was eating out of her hand. She seduced him. She caused him to yield all that he was to her. He was like an ox headed to the slaughter. He had no idea being seduced by her was going to cost him his life. 

God tells us again- Now therefore, my sons, listen to me and pay attention to the words of my mouth. He asks us to not fool around with women like this-- don't even put yourself near temptation. She is the death of many men. Do not go down that evil, immoral way. 






Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Taking Back My Mind: Learning Self-Control






Sitting here, talking to God today-- He kept overwhelming my spirit about: self-control.

In Galatians chapter 5, we learn that one of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. This is something we should be working towards, seeking with all of our hearts.

I know this is one area of my life I need the most work- and what better time to start than now.

I read a quote once that stated, "Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don't control what you think, you can't control what you do." 

And another great thought is this: "Self-discipline is your ability to listen to and take action based on your inner voice- regardless of how you feel, other influences, or temptations you face- is the key to self-mastery." 

I am someone that struggles with self-control-- especially when it comes to the battlefield of my mind. I honestly just let my mind run away with itself most days. I do little to control what I am thinking about-- which in turns means that I do little to control........................ me.

While researching on Pinterest, I found a great thought that I'm going to write down and keep with me at all times. 

"Like a muscle, the more you exercise self-control on a consistent basis, the stronger you get. As your self-control increases, the more you gain the ability to direct your life in a manner that is congruent with the true you. The more congruent your actions are with your thoughts and feelings, the better you feel about yourself and the decisions you make. Every time you feel good about a decision you make, it raises your self-esteem and your self-confidence. You also reinforce in your mind what you are capable of and it makes it less difficult to make similar decisions in life." 

Once I can grasp the concept of the fact that I CAN control my thoughts- my emotions- how I react to said thoughts----- I WILL gain strength. Once I gain strength- I will start becoming the TRUE version of myself. 

Being in control of my thoughts is difficult for me. Anxiety creates a block and makes it so tough for me to do at times. One great way to build up this strength- the strength to control thoughts- is to realize what I DO have control over.

Ruben Chavez broke this down for us on 'Think Grow Prosper." He told us about 26 things we DO have control over:

1. Our beliefs.
2 Our attitudes.
3. Our thoughts.
4. Our perspective.
5. How honest we are.
6. Who our friends are.
7. What books we read.
8. How often we exercise.
9. The types of food we eat.
10. The risks we take.
11. How we interpret situations.
12. How kind we are to others.
13. How kind we are to ourselves.
14. How often we say 'I love you'
15. How often we say 'thank you'
16. How we express our feelings.
17. Whether or not we ask for help
18. How often we express our feelings.
19. How many times we smile in a day.
20. The amount of effort we put forth.
21. How we spend/invest our money.
22. How much time we spend worrying.
23. How often we think about the past.
24. Whether or not we judge other people.
25. Whether or not we try again after a setback.
26. How much we appreciate the things we have.

Each day, I plan on trying to control one of these situations to prove to myself I HAVE that power. I do have it- I just need to tap into it.

The Bible gives a great picture of what a man or woman without self-control looks like.

Proverbs 12:16- "The [arrogant] fool’s anger is quickly known [because he lacks self-control and common sense], But a prudent man ignores an insult."

Proverbs 14:29- "He who is slow to anger has great understanding [and profits from his self-control], But he who is quick-tempered exposes and exalts his foolishness [for all to see]."

Proverbs 17:27- "He who has knowledge restrains and is careful with his words, And a man of understanding and wisdom has a cool spirit (self-control, an even temper)."

Proverbs 25:28- "Like a city that is broken down and without walls [leaving it unprotected] Is a man who has no self-control over his spirit [and sets himself up for trouble]."

Matthew 5:5- "“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth."

Ephesians 4:1-2- "So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another [a]in [unselfish] love." 

Refuse to have a quick temper.
Refuse to be like a broken down city without walls.
Refuse to be an arrogant fool.
Refuse to lack self-control.

It is not healthy and it all goes back to one thing: WORKING ON IT. It will not happen over time, but it can happen with perseverance and PUSH. 

What do you need to exercise self-control over? It is your thoughts? Your eating habits? Your recreational activities? Your drinking habit? What steps can you take to learn more self-control?

It is within our reach. We just have to tap into that power. We have thought of ourselves as victims... too weak to overcome for far too long. You HAVE the ability. I HAVE the ability. We just have to push ourselves to find it. 


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The Journey of Proverbs: Chapter Six


Proverbs chapter six starts off talking about debt. If we are in debt to our neighbor or in debt to a stranger-- if we made a pledge with our lips/word of mouth- God encourages us to release ourselves from this obligation. Pay it off- and be done with it. When we are in debt to someone whether it is a person or a business, we are within their clutches. God tells us to run like a deer from the hunter. Pay off the debt and refuse to be in that mess again.

The Ant

Proverbs chapter six discusses the ant.

The writer tells us to observe the ant- this will only make us wiser. Even though the ant has no chief, no ruler, she still works all summer collecting food for the winter. She plans ahead. Through this, God encourages us to not be lazy. Laziness is a spirit. And laziness can tear things down in our lives, take things away from us, and break us down if we are not careful to control it. 

The Message says it best: Proverbs 6:6-11--

"How long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed? A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy-- do you know what comes next?"

It will leave us helpless if we are not careful.

Our Mouths

Proverbs 6:12 states, "A worthless person, a wicked man, is one who walks with a perverse, corrupt, and vulgar mouth." These wicked people plot trouble and evil. They spread discord and strife. 

We have to ensure that God would never describe us as "worthless, wicked, perverse, corrupt, or vulgar." 

Catastrophe is right around the corner for these individuals. Proverbs says their lives will be ruined beyond repair.

God help us.

Seven Things God Loathes.

Proverbs 6:16 begins by telling us six things God hates- and one more that he loathes with a passion.

Eyes that are arrogant (a proud look)
A tongue that lies
Hands that murder the innocent. 
Heart that hatches evil plots.
Feet that race down the path to evil.
A mouth that lies (half-truths)
A troublemaker in the family (Sows discord/spreads rumors among friends)

Remember What We Have Been Taught

God encourages to never forget what He taught us. This stuff is dangerous to our souls. Remember this! Say it every day. These teachings will watch over us while we sleep, when we are awake, they will speak to us if we let them.

Proverbs 6 states, "Sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, moral discipline is a life path."

Following these commandments will keep us from immorality and temptations. Remembering these teachings will keep us from adultery.

The author writes, "Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants?.... it's the same when you have sex with your neighbor's wife. Touch her and you'll pay for it. No excuses." [The Message]

Adultery is just as theft- it is a brainless act. Soul-destroying. Self-destructive. 

Your reputation will be ruined forever. 

And a reputation is worth more than rubies.