[Interview] 7 Questions With Author and Speaker Welby O’Brien

BTSCelebs: Who is Welby O’Brien?

Welby O’Brien: Just a regular person who started out life with great expectations and dreams, but the Lord had other plans. Thankfully, I came to know Him at a young age, and had a solid spiritual foundation, and a growing relationship with Him that has carried me through the many bumps and heartaches along the way.

My career path has included teaching, counseling, corporate consulting, parenting, writing, public speaking, and even dog grooming. 😉

In addition to the typical challenges of life, the deep valleys I’ve passed through include a devastating divorce, raising my son as a single parent, relationship heartbreaks, losing my dad to cancer, life-threatening illness, and currently the ongoing battles of PTSD.

I would not be where I am or who I am if I had the comfortable predictable life I envisioned (and cried out to God for). He has made me strong and beautiful from the inside out, and deeply fulfilled, in spite of (and very possibly because of) the pain and disappointments along my journey. I love Romans 8:28, that with God’s children, nothing is wasted, even if it hurts like crazy and makes no sense at the time. God truly IS good!

We are in a new decade and readers are turning to your books for inspiration. Tell us about the most difficult year in your life.

2016…and here is what I wrote:

We’ve heard it said that when everything else is taken away, then we find that God is all we really need. I always believed that but never had a chance to experience it. Until the last few weeks.

Rushed to the hospital deathly ill, twice in 8 days, I lost everything. The first was an emergency appendectomy that they got to just in the nick of time. Followed days later by a deadly C.diff infection, which once again I almost did not make it through.

Instantaneously I was stripped of all comforts, and many other things essential for survival. For days I was not allowed to drink, eat, sleep, leave my room, or touch my loving husband, to name a few. Instead I was poked, pierced, probed, cut on, chained to an IV, radiated many times, and could barely function. And too sick to even turn on the T.V.

I was so deep in the valley that I could barely cry; but when I did, it felt so good to weep. Trauma and PTSD has an even deeper meaning for me now than ever before.

Then for 3 weeks due to the medication that was saving my life, my own body refused to let me eat, and I found myself literally starving to death.

The prayers of so many dear people touched my heart…and I know God heard them. The love of my precious husband held me up. But what will probably change me forever were the dark, lonely, frightening times when I was alone. I had nothing. All that was so important to me the day before this all began had vanished. It was all meaningless.

Nothing mattered except surviving. Yet surprisingly, even that paled in comparison to knowing that the Lord was there with me. In my darkness, the light of hope that heaven – and all He has said – really is true. We have no other hope but Him…and what a blessed hope that is!

Yet, as I look back I feel convicted at my lack of faith in many of the dark moments. He seemed so far away at times. Why did He not answer me and fix me? Now I realize that He WAS there and I DID trust Him.

The treasure of faith is not how MUCH you have – measured by how little you are afraid, or struggle, or wrestle or have questions – but rather WHO is the object of my faith.

The tiniest frailest line will connect me with Him…and that is all I need. That faith pleases Him and that teeny bit of faith is what has the eternal value. With or without the fear and doubts.

He WAS with me. IN my pain and fear and trauma. And every time I thought I could not take any more, He carried me a little further. What a comfort to have so many scripture verses come to mind…all through the day and seemingly endless nights. How very precious it is to be so close to Him…my Good Shepherd. And Jesus is no stranger to pain, rejection, fear and trauma.

My prayer through it all was that nothing would be wasted. I wanted to find the treasures along the way and not forget them after it was all behind me. I wanted to leave the hospital a changed person.

So here I sit writing this down as I recover and begin to rebuild, because I know my nature will be to just move on forward without looking back. If I had to sum it up, the three greatest treasures I have gained are: 1. Greater compassion for the sick and disabled. 2. Greater appreciation for ALL the blessings of life we so easily take for granted. 3. Confirmation that God and our relationship with Him through Jesus IS all we need; and in the long run nothing else matters.

Please remind me of this when I start to complain that the food isn’t to my liking, or the traffic is jammed, or I have a headache, or I wish I had a nicer house, or I feel fat.

It’s just good to be alive and be able to praise the Lord for ALL His blessings. And if He chooses to take them away for a while again, then I know He will be with me; and that is ALL I really need. Because all I really need He has already prepared for me…and in His perfect timing He will come get me to take me where I will always be with Him. And never ever again be sick. Or hungry. Or thirsty. Or in pain. Or afraid. And that hope keeps us going in the dark valleys.

Going to go eat now. And oh so gratefully! And then I will hold my precious husband tightly…oh so gratefully! And then I will sleep well tonight knowing Whose hands I am in.

“He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper…I will not fear.’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

How were you able to overcome your biggest obstacle?

I would say my biggest obstacle has been – and probably will continue to be – the desire/compulsion to have a life honoring to the Lord, yet free of physical and emotional pain.  Being a visionary and gifted with organization and problem solving, most of my conscious and subconscious efforts are spent on attempting to avoid problems altogether, or minimally to fix them immediately.

What I am learning is that just maybe God has a different plan, and it quite possibly could actually be better than mine. The longer we walk with Him, the more experiences we can look back on to confirm His wisdom, goodness, and grace.

Starting the day with the Lord’s prayer mindfully, and pausing on “Thy will be done,” and asking Him, “Lord, what do YOU want?” has totally transformed my perspective. And helped release the anxiety that comes from holding on too tightly to what we think we need.

When I let Him be my Shepherd, He does an amazing job at taking care of me. I actually have a yellow sticky note on the wall so every time I go upstairs I read, “Welby, FOLLOW ME.” And when I follow HIm, I never have to be afraid, or in a hurry.

What steps can a person take to overcome fear of the future?

First, realize that we will always be struggling with anxiety about what we do not know and can’t control. That’s just part of being human. And probably why the Lord has to keep reminding us to fear not and to trust Him…over 350 times in the Bible through the years!

Secondly, reassess where we are placing our hope. If it’s the economy, or a relationship, or body image, or a new house, or anything temporary, we might have reason to be afraid. Only God offers lasting hope, and only He is truly trustworthy.

Thirdly, replace the worry with something far better: thanksgiving and prayer. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Finally, be certain your source of truth is reliable. I urge you to investigate God’s Word, the Bible. A good place to start is the first two chapters of Genesis, the entire book of John’s Gospel, and the last two chapters of Revelation. In spite of all that’s terribly wrong in our lives and our world, we can trust Him. As a result of His love and mercy, and tremendous promises to those who are willing to receive Him, WE HAVE HOPE! Not a religion, or a pointless bunch of rules, but a one-on-one relationship with our Creator and deliverer. He promises us a future to anticipate, not to fear.

How does prayer and meditation pertain to the subject of self-care?

Self-care should encompass all areas of our lives. The most crucial thing I did as I progressed from merely surviving to actually growing was to walk with the Lord. That involved a conscious awareness of who He is and the importance of a daily relationship with Him. Reading the Bible and praying are vital components of this walk.

I don’t know how I ever would have made it without the Lord, and His amazing promises. I love how He is there to just BE with us in our pain, loss, failure and grief. We can pour out our hearts to Him, sometimes even when we have no words. Especially for me, in the middle of the night when things can hit the hardest, His Word has been a great comfort.

In addition to comfort, His Word has given me perspective, direction, strength, and wisdom. In fact, I kept a journal during the years following the divorce, and later after the death of my father, and all the scripture verses that helped me during those times of pain and loss I included in the back of the books (such as comfort in times of loneliness, peace in times of fear, faith in uncertainty, hope, and guidance, salvation, etc.).

Prayer and meditation are essentially communicating with our Creator, Savior, and Shepherd. These are not just one more thing on our to-do list, but rather are means of intimate connection with God. God Himself! Something we should never take for granted but always be amazed at!

What Bible passages do you think directly address self-care?

I call this the Survival Checklist, taken from the books Goodbye for Now (grief support and preparation) and Formerly A Wife (divorce recovery). It’s a mindset of consciously tuning in to what I NEED in all areas, and then doing it. Do a self-scan throughout the day. Stop. What do I need right now? And DO what it takes to meet that need.

Spiritual: Be open to wise input (Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad; Phil. 4:8-9 Think on those things that will build us up.)

Saturate yourself with Scripture (Col. 3:16 Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly; Psalm 119 God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path; 2 Tim 3:15-17 God’s Word is powerful and living.)

Pour out your heart to God (Phil 4:6-7 In everything by prayer and supplication present your requests to God; I Pet 5:7 Casting all your cares on Him for He cares for you.)

Trust God (Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; John 14 Believe in God, believe also in Me.)

Physical: Fill your body with healthy things (Dan 1:8 Daniel purposed in his heart to not eat the things that would defile him; Rom 12:1 Present your bodies a living sacrifice to God.)

Do some physical activity every day (1 Tim 4:8 Bodily exercise is profitable; I Cor 6:19-20 Glorify God in your body.)

Make sleep a priority (Ps 23:1-3 He makes me lie down in green pastures; Ps 127:2 He gives His beloved sleep.)

Treat yourself and take time out (Luke 4:42 Jesus took time to be alone; Luke 6:12 Jesus got alone to pray.)

Emotional: Feel the feelings in a healthy way (Heb 4:15 We have a High Priest who can sympathize with our feelings; Psalm 69 David was good at letting his feelings out: “I am weary with crying, draw near to my soul.”)

Let yourself cry (Psalm 61:1-4 Hear my cry! John 11:35 Jesus wept.)

Get good ongoing support (Gal 6:2 We are to bear each others’ burdens; I Pet 1:22 We are to love each other with a pure heart fervently.)

Keep your sense of humor (Prov 17:22 A merry heart is good medicine; Neh 8:10 The joy of the Lord is our strength.)

Let go of what is out of your control (Deut 33:27 Let Him carry us. Underneath are the everlasting arms; Phil 3:13-14 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.)

Give yourself time (Psalm 37 Wait on the Lord; Rom 8:28 Trust Him to work all things together for our good and His glory.)

Besides your current books “Goodbye for Now” and “Formerly A Wife”, what other projects or special appearances should we expect from you this year and the next?

When I married a combat veteran battling PTSD, little did I know that this was to be far more than just a solid-happy marriage to the man of my dreams. In spite of the fact that we’re not perfect by any means, and life is chock full of ups and downs, my journey in the world of posttraumatic stress has bloomed into a global ministry to others who share the same ongoing challenges.

The book, LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD, and the website rich with support resources (www.LoveOurVets.org), and our online Facebook community of those battling PTSD and their loved ones, are all the result of what I have been learning along the way.

I’ve discovered that faith and love are two crucial lifelines for those going through pain, loss, trauma, or grief: faith connecting us to God, and love connecting us to others. No one needs to be alone. Ever.

My hunch is that everyone is going through something, but most of us will try to power through or put up a good appearance. I hope if you are in a deep valley right now, that you will reach up to God, and reach out to others who care.

And for all of us, don’t wait until our lives are perfect, pain free, and under control to offer love and encouragement to someone else who needs to know that there is hope.

You can also follow my journey via my Reflection Blog at www.welbyo.com, and also my PTSD Blog at www.LoveOurVets.org.

May we all continue learning and growing, and thanking the Lord for all He has done, and will do in us, for us, and through us. God bless you!

* BTSCelebs sends a special thanks to Welby O’Brien and Frontgate Media for the interview and images.*

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