Thursday, March 16, 2023

Swimming Around The Rock

 I have felt depression laying its desperate fingers across my mind for weeks.  Lately, as I try to make my way back to a sound mind, I have begun to feel more and more frantic.  There has to be an end, a way out and I'm so desperate to NOT feel this way that I expend all my energy trying to chase after a sound mind, which I am learning is counter-intuitive.  There's something about rest that I haven't quite learned yet, but I'm close to understanding and implementing in my life.

God promises we are never left alone and he promises that when we draw near to him, He will draw near to us.  

Do you know WHY God can promise that?  Do you know why it's so easy for God to draw near to us, when we finally surrender our own will and draw near to him, instead of striving for the answers?  BECAUSE HE'S ALREADY THERE!  It isn't that God puts up a wall and stays WAY over on his side, and then when we finally draw near to him for comfort and refuge, he can come from far off to rescue us.  I lived under that lie for most of my life, thinking that I could push God away, far from my heart and current situations.  I had such a small understanding of who God was and the depth of love Jesus poured out on the cross that I believed I had some kind of power or ability to force God back onto "his side."

The reason it is so easy and God can draw near to us swiftly is because He never went anywhere.  He has always been right by our side, just waiting for us to #1 SEE HIM and #2 be willing to show him all the dark places in our hearts and minds.  He wants us to lift them up to him, like a child shows a drawing to a parent.  He has the ability to look at the messes we make of our hearts as a loving parent looks at meaningless lines and scribbles on a page. 

Maybe what we made is complete trash.  Maybe our efforts to make a life worthy of Christ's sacrifice is a jumbled mess that doesn't make any sense.  And yet still, God asks us to show him.  Show him what we are hiding behind our back.  To stop looking down in shame, and to look up - to him.  To see his eyes.  If you were to look into God's eyes, not expecting shame and condemnation, you would find all the things you have been searching for.  His eyes are so full of love and pride for the wrecks we are.  We are broken vessels, and God is the artist who created us.  Beyond that, God finds delight that we even tried to make something to begin with and he draws us close for a hug and tells us how beautiful our creation is, for no other reason than because he believes it is true!

It is impossible for God, the creator and artist, to pile shame and guilt on us, his creation.  That is the exact opposite of what Jesus' life was about.  He lived and died to prove to us that our shame doesn't hold any weight in the eyes of God.  He knew our tendency to let shame rule us, and so he put shame to death once and for all. And all these years later, so many of us still live as if shame has a place in our lives.  We have misunderstood and mis-preached in our churches what the Cross was really about for too long.  If we aren't preaching that the Cross brings freedom from the shame that shackles us, we are doing something wrong.

Today I was really feeling the heaviness cover my mind and body.  As I was driving home from work, I was talking to God about this and was thinking about how it feels like I am swimming through a tangibly thick fog.  My movements are slow and I'm not making much progress.  And as I was pouring my heart out to God, the song Promises by Maverick City Music came on.  And as I was contemplating this thickness I was swimming through, I heard these words:

I put my faith in Jesus

My anchor to the ground

He's my hope and firm foundation

He'll never let me down

The minute I heard them, the picture in my mind that I wasn't really certain I was seeing clarified.  I saw this large rock in the middle of an ocean.  The rock cannot move.  It is fixed to the ground, anchoring itself in the midst of the wind and waves all around.  It is immovable.  And if it is my firm foundation, then what in the world am I doing, swimming around the rock, in fog I don't belong in???

As soon as I realized it was my perspective that was off, the immediate thought was to let the guilt and shame for forgetting this crush down on me.  But by the grace of God, I have been learning that shame doesn't have a place in my heart and I realized that what I really needed to do was to climb back up on the rock and just STOP.  Stop striving.  Stop trying to find the shore, as if the shore or the other side is somehow accessible by getting down from that Rock that is to be my firm foundation.  If I stay on the rock, where the footing is solid, I don't get lost in the fog and the thickness.  And I certainly don't have to try to swim through unknown and terrifying waters by myself.  But if I get down off the rock, I position myself AWAY from God, who is a place of safety and peace and protection.  

Hear me.  The depression hasn't magically gone away, just because I realized that I had once again been trying to find a sound mind by STRIVING.  But sometimes shifting perspective back to its proper place is what is needed.  Sometimes stopping and just waiting for the wind and waves to die down is necessary.  Maybe God isn't asking me to dive into the depths of the crazy in my mind and fight my way through to him.  Maybe he's simply asking me to sit on the rock for however long it takes for that fog to pass.  Because here's the thing about fog.  It DOES lift.  It DOES move away, leaving a clear path again.

And the crazy thing is that this Rock, this firm foundation, while fixed, moves through life with us.  It is always right there beside us (underneath us if we are brave enough to stand on it), ready to be a place of safety and a place of rest.  But God doesn't force us to climb back up on the rock and wait out the storm with him.  He certainly wants us to, because like any good parent, he wants to protect us (from ourselves most of the time) and he wants us to be able to navigate from a place of safety.  He understands that when we jump down into the ocean and try to swim through all the noise that we are moving away from him.  

Sure, we might stay near the rock, practicing all the things we have learned in our lives of faith, and we might not be actively running into sin.  But he wants us to understand that we don't have to get off of that foundation at all.  We don't have to be in the thick muddy waters on our own.  YES, we have to be IN THEM.  That is life and it is hard.  But we are never asked to walk it alone.  We don't have to swim blindly through the fog.  We won't get anywhere for our striving outside of God-in fact, we end up going in circles, never really making progress.  And yet, if we get up on that rock and look out, while we may not see the path, we WILL see light on the horizon.  There is HOPE out there, and we simply cannot see it while we are in the water, trying to swim through the fog.  We HAVE to get back up on the rock if we want to see the hope that is on the horizon.  And we have to wait there until the fog passes, so that we can then safely move through the waters again, clinging to the Rock that will never fail.

Monday, January 2, 2023

New Life in the New Year

For years I have watched at a distance while other people garden, anything from flowers to food for their tables.  As a kid, we grew many things, including some fruit trees, grapes and strawberries.  The strawberry patches are most memorable, because I hated picking strawberries all day in the heat of the summer.  There were things to make it more palatable: the ability to pick and eat as many strawberries as I wanted on the job, and most rewarding, a pond to jump into when a refreshing swim was needed to cool off or break up the monotony.

As an adult, in our starter home, ONE year I threw some tomato and jalapeno seeds out on the side of the house.  I didn't harvest anything, though I did manage to germinate them and get them going well, until the squirrels decided they liked it better if I stayed in my house where I belong, so they ate them. 

When we moved to this new house, the prior owners left me with an entire garden to tend to and try not to kill.  Most things made it to fall, but a few things were trampled by the dogs and lack of consistent watering through the summer while the house sat empty.  I lost a Chinese peony to the dogs trampling the flower beds, but I am hopeful it will come back in the spring.  Regardless, those plants gave me a crash course in gardening.  I had to learn some things, because I suddenly had all these extra living creatures to care for the minute we moved in.  I'm most proud of my Brazilian Jasmine, which stayed strong and continued up the vine into fall.  I did a rough experiment, and did NOT winterize it, because I want to see what all comes back in the garden with little to no effort on my part.  I like the idea of gardening, but I have learned myself well, and I know that if it takes too much day-to-day care, I am more likely to kill it.  I can garden and I can keep things alive - but they have to do their part too, by trying not to die.  It's an agreement I make with the plant--I will try to keep you alive and you will try not to die.  There is harmony when everything in the garden plays by the rules.

But now, I have upgraded my gardening game.  If I had seen this system on my own, I would have thought, "wow that's really cool but I probably can't buy something like that for another decade or so."  But my husband.  You guys, this man loves me well.  Not just because he gives me nice things, though he does.  But because he looks for ways to make my heart happy.  His gifts always have thought and love behind them, and when he hits the ball, it is usually straight out of the gift-giving park.

I don't usually like being outside in the elements (rain, snow, COLD, extreme heat).  I am so thankful I live in an area where we have a more normal four seasons because I need the break in between seasons.  It would be too much I think to live somewhere it is always hot or always cold.  At least in the Midwest you get a fair variety of things.  So while I love the idea of gardening, once the temps outside become unbearable (which to me is usually below 30 or above 85 degrees), I will become inconsistent with my care.  I have loved having house plants to tend to these last 3 months, because I can keep them alive without worrying about the conditions outside.

Enter my new toy, the Gardyn, that Kris surprised me with for Christmas.  He doesn't always spend extravagantly, but when he does, it is usually on me.  Look, he married a woman who likes nice things and who is drawn to things that are shiny and cool.  And my husband is a gadget guy, who loves to do research and get the best deal, while also benefiting from said gadget.  It's a win-win for me, really.  I get to be spoiled, and he gets to try out new tech-y toys.

So, we got the Gardyn set up on 12/28, and then were promptly without internet for another 24 hours.  I reset my sow date to 12/29, once the Wifi was back up and running consistently, and the Gardyn system used its built in hydroponics to begin watering my babies on a schedule.  The Gardyn came with 30 pods: 

Arugula x 2
Endive Lettuce
Green Mustard
Kale Lacinato
Lollo Rossa
Monte Carlo
Red Sails x 2
Red Mustard
Rouge D’hiver
Swiss Chard
Tatsoi x 2
Italian Parsely
Thai Basil
Cherry Tomatoes
Mini Eggplant
Sweet Peppers

I didn't start the green mustard, either kale variety (NEVER), or the extra Red Sails, Tatsoi and Arugula. In just 4-5 days, I have some clear winners. Leading the charge were Tatsoi (it was the very first sprout and within 4 hours had doubled in size), Rouge D'hiver, Arugula, Red Sails Lettuce, and Monte Carlo. The others are slower, and some take 10-14 days to sprout. So it's early, and I need to move them around now that I found a chart showing where it's best to place each thing in the Gardyn.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well, I started the Gardyn on 12/29, and woke up to a brand new year yesterday with my first sprout. I had been watching the plants, several times a day making excuses to go check on them. I would talk to them, like any crazy plant person, and encourage them to grow. It shocked me, and at the same time didn't, that as the new year dawned, new life was beginning in my Gardyn. It was not lost on me, this literal picture of new life. I couldn't shake this thought of New Life as I got ready for church. The music and sermon were on point, and continued to echo this idea of New Life as this new year stretches out before us.

The old dead things will be cast off. I open myself up to be pruned and shaped this year. As I cultivate and harvest and tend to my garden throughout 2023, I am making an agreement with God. I choose to let him, the ultimate Gardener, have control over my thoughts, my mind, my life. I learned a lot about myself in 2022, and one of the biggest lessons is that it's past time to let the roots be trimmed back so that I can grow fuller and healthier.

I've done a crash course in gardening over the last week, reading, studying, ensuring that I feel confident in managing the Gardyn. I have seen pictures of roots that get out of control and take over the entire system, and I immediately drew the connection between the unhealthy things in my life. There are habits and thought processes that don't belong. There are lies that have been my companions and sounding board for decades. And starting therapy last year identified several areas where I need pruning. The roots of negative thinking have grown strong and thick and deep, and have woven themselves around places in my life they do not belong. The goodness in my heart is often trying to fight against external distractions. If I don't tend to that goodness, that kindness, that tenderness, the roots will be damaged, and that will bring darkness and disease to my entire being. Little by little, sickness can creep in, if allowed, and affect everything around it.

This Gardyn, like my soul, will need constant tending to. If I just let it go and let it do its thing, it will do what it thinks is best, and honestly, I will get a harvest of something. On its own, while my Gardyn could possibly yield a bountiful harvest, it is not lost on me that by lovingly and consistently tending to the plants, I can help them thrive. If you have ever tried to keep anything alive (plant or child), you know that it requires a great deal of time and effort. You get out what you put in. So if I spend time cleaning the system, trimming the roots, cutting back places that are overgrown, giving extra help to areas not getting enough light, the results will be greater than if I just sit back and watch what happens.

We have a responsibility to take an active role in leading our thoughts and minds. We have the power to control how we think, which in turn will control how we react to the stresses in our life. I am just now scratching the surface of this. We COULD sit back and let the lies and darkness run amok in our lives. Or we could take the reins and refuse to be guided by things that do nothing but make us miserable.

I am the master of my Gardyn. I have final say in what I grow, where the plants are placed, and how much extra care they are given. It is up to me to do what is best for the Gardyn. To use the system as it was designed, but to give it the loving care the plants need to thrive. The same is true with my mind and my soul. It is up to me to grow. I can stay where I am, watching the world pass me by, watching others grow and thrive. I can wish for what they have as I watch them. But that will not move me forward. There is work I have to do to get the life that I want. To be healthy, I have to do the hard work to prune away the unhealthy, negative ways I have always allowed myself to think and live under.

This will be an interesting year as I look at my life through the Gardyn. There will be ups and downs. There will be plants that will require more time and attention. There will be plants, very likely, that will create disruption and anxiety for me. They will frustrate me and make me want to give up. Does that sound like life to anyone else?
But just like I am doing with therapy, I will press on. I will keep tending to and pruning, and giving time and attention to my Gardyn, and to my soul. It is not a one time thing. It will have to be an EVERY day effort. People who win prizes for gardening are not the ones who sit back and do nothing. They are the ones who get their hands dirty. Who devote their time to studying what's in the garden, and then using whatever tools are needed to keep the plants as healthy as possible.

The very second contaminates enter into your garden, your job gets harder. And if you don't stay on top of it, it will get out of control and when left unchecked, the darkness and disease will take over the entire system. Sin and unhealthy patterns of thinking do the exact same thing in our hearts and souls. They will destroy us, if left unchecked. I have lived this firsthand. I have watched a beautiful garden grow sick and dark and deadly. Even if a plant dies, it will wreak havoc on a healthy garden, especially if you do not remove it immediately. The only way to heal a sick garden is to completely eradicate the disease and death. Sometimes it will require complete disassembly and intense cleaning before it can be put back together. But the beauty is that no amount of death and decay is too much. The Master Gardener is capable of taking death and decay and breathing new life into it. New blooms can grow from dead ground when God is involved. He can take broken, hardened ground (and hearts) and he can breathe his gentle breath and everything touched by it will be changed. New life will spring up, because God tells it to. Because God cannot abide in death and darkness.

Aren't you tired of living under the weight of guilt and shame or fear and darkness? Isn't it time to try something new? Yes it's hard. Yes it is scary. But look at the end result of a well-tended garden. Beauty and life and new growth abound. And when that happens, it literally cleans the air of toxins. Don't you want to breathe fresh air through lungs that are no longer choked out by the lies of the world? Think about how freeing it would feel to believe that YOU can change and start a new groove for your life.

I'm not a big fan of new years resolutions. I think we make them too complicated. I likely will not lose 50 pounds this year, because I can tell you right now, I probably won't even try. I spent a lot of new years already feeling like a failure. There can be a lot of guilt and shame associated with the new year, especially if you grew up thinking you HAD to choose something to be better at in the new year. It was a "thing" to make a new year resolution-it is still a thing. I think in trying to "be better" in the new year, we lost sight of what the new year is about.

It's not about setting you up for failure. It's a chance to renew your hope. It's a chance to start over. It doesn't mean you HAVE to do something grand with 2023. The new year should give us hope, not fill us with terror. It should remind us that whatever happened in the past year, that year is over and done with. Maybe the year was filled with misery and grief for you. 2023 is a sign of hope, that maybe the pain will lighten a bit and things will seem less impossible in the coming year. Maybe the year was an amazing year, and 2023 is a chance for you to cling to the joys that 2022 brought, because you may need those reminders in the coming year. I don't know what 2023 holds for you or for me. But I know that as I sit at the start of the year, my only goal is to keep pruning the garden of my soul and to keep making more room for Jesus - because what he can grow is going to be so much better than anything I can create on my own.

You Keep Hope Alive

Days may be darkest
But Your light is greater
You light our way
God, You light our way
When evil is rising
You're rising higher
With power to save
With power to save
You keep hope alive
You keep hope alive
From the beginning to end
Your word never fails
You keep hope alive
Because You are alive
Jesus, You are alive
Death had a stronghold
But Your life was stronger
Rose from the grave
Rose up from the grave
When evil is rising
You're rising higher
With power to save
With power to save
You keep hope alive
You keep hope alive
From the beginning to end
Your word never fails
You keep hope alive
Because You are alive
Jesus, You are alive
There's hope in the morning
Hope in the evening
Hope because You're living
Hope because You're breathing
There's hope in the breaking
Hope in the sorrow
Hope for this moment
My hope for tomorrow
There's hope in the morning
Hope in the evening
Hope because You're living
Hope because You're breathing
There's hope in the breaking
Hope in the sorrow
Hope for this moment
My hope for tomorrow
You keep hope alive
You keep hope alive
From the beginning to end
Your word never fails
You keep hope alive
Because You are alive
Jesus, You are alive
You keep hope alive
You keep hope alive
From the beginning to end
Your word never fails
You keep hope alive
Because You are alive
Jesus, You are alive
There is hope
You keep hope alive
You keep hope alive
You keep hope alive
Your word never ever fails
You keep hope alive
Jesus, You are alive
You keep hope alive

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

What Are You Waiting For? Just Let It Go

Today I finished the yearly watch-thru of The Lord of the Rings.  I was struck by the scene at the end, when Frodo is standing at the edge, ring in hand.  He has come so far.  His journey was filled will trials, pain and tremendous grief.  He FINALLY made it up the mountain, and is positioned to finally throw the ring into the fires of Mordor.  It is what the entire series had been building to.  It was Frodo's purpose, and ultimately, the ring was his reason for leaving the shire.  He knew his mission, and though he stumbled along the way, he stayed focused (with the help of Samwise Gamgee) and he kept going, though the way became increasingly more difficult.  And now, he has made it to the end.  

It should be simple, right?  

Take the ring and throw it in.  

And yet, Frodo hesitates.

He knows that the ring is evil and brings ruin to all who carry it. He knows that he must destroy it-the fate of the world depends on it. But as evil does, it twists and tempts and can confuse and corrupt even the purest of hearts.  In some ways, Frodo, carrying the ring to Mordor, has become attached to the ring.  Though he knows the perils it brings, he feels a certain draw or kinship with the ring.  He has worn the ring, and he knows the ring. Every time Frodo put the ring on, it was to hide, or to feel safe.  The ring brought a certain sense of safety, and when it came time to give it up, he hesitated.

We are like that with our addictions and sins, aren't we?  We can look at it and know it is wrong, and yet we still feel a draw to it.  I saw an addict in Frodo's face in this scene and it broke my heart.

Sam, having seen what the ring had done to Frodo, how it has stripped him of everything that makes him human (much like addiction), weeps while asking, "What are you waiting for?  Just let it go."

Read that again.

"What are you waiting for? Just let it go."

Frodo stands there for a long moment, thinking.  And then he turns around, having made his choice, and he declares, "The ring is mine."  He puts the ring on and disappears, and Sam is left alone, utterly devastated.

Having traveled all the way to the end, ready to throw the ring into the fires of Mordor, Frodo decides it's too precious to him to actually give it up. He gives himself over to his desire for the ring above all else.

I find myself incredibly disappointed in Frodo.  How could he have come so far, just to run right back to the very thing that was destroying him?  It's easy to watch that and think, "You idiot!  You were right there at the edge of victory.  Why would you give it all up now?"

My heart sinks watching his face and hearing him choose the ring over freedom (for himself and those he loved).  It's the same way I have been disappointed every time my husband has used pornography to act out. The same way I am disappointed when I see one of my kids choose a path that will cause them pain.  The same way I am disappointed in myself when I go back to the same toxic ways of thinking that have always ruled my life.  It is a disappointment filled with heartbreak.  Because in each of those scenarios, I can SEE that there is a better way.  

Frodo found out as soon as he left the shire that life is incredibly difficult.  The same is true for us.  Life will put things in your path that you didn't expect, and that you certainly didn't ask for or want.  You will experience pain and sorrow and be hurt in ways you never imagined possible. You may make it almost to the very end, and find yourself hopeless and ready to give up.  

Don't let the pain and confusion and evil all around you destroy your spirit and what you know to be true.  Don't give up.  Do not lose heart.

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Do you know what I love about this? Even though Frodo chose himself and chose selfishness in that moment where victory was certain, he was given another chance to make it right. He was provided one more opportunity to do the right thing. Gollum bites Frodo's finger off and Frodo is finally free of the burden of the ring. Once the ring is removed from him, Frodo comes to his senses and his desire to destroy the ring is once more stirred up. He risks his very life for one last confrontation with Gollum where they both go over the edge, and Gollum falls, and the ring is destroyed, once and for all.  So even though he made it to the end and chose poorly, he was given one more shot at victory.

This is one of my favorite things about God.  No matter how many times we stand at the precipice of freedom, ready to throw our chains into the fires, and then we turn away and go back to the safety of our sins or addictions or fears, God says, "Try again.  Get up and fight. You can still have victory." 

I mean, he gave up his son, who didn't have to come to this broken world, to show us that victory is within our reach. To give us chance after chance after chance.  I don't know about you, but that alone is a reason to hold firmly to hope. No one but God forgives with such unwavering grace and mercy and love. We will not always do it right the first time.  We will make mistakes and we will hurt people.  But we don't have to live under the weight of shame and condemnation. We are offered a second chance. And then another. And another.  And hopefully, one day you will stand at the edge of victory and instead of holding onto that "ring," you will throw it into the flames and be free of it once and for all.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Come and Claim Him

There are many reasons to love the Lord of the Rings (books or movies-I'm not picky).  I turn the movies on at least once a year, because they take me on an entire journey, mentally and emotionally.  I have always loved one part in particular, though I have never understood why until this week.

There is this scene in the book where the elf Glorfindel has to help Frodo and his friends across the Ford of Bruinen to get to Rivendell.  In the movies, they placed this task on Arwen, and we find her at the banks of the ford, a dying Frodo laid across her horse, as the Nine Riders pursue them relentlessly.  When all seems lost, with courage in her posture and ready to give her life for this mission, Arwen looks at them and says fiercely, "If you want him, come and claim him."

As the riders rush into the water to try to get to Frodo, Arwen calls on the power of the elves and the waters rise, rushing upon the Nine Riders, giving Arwen time to escape and deliver Frodo for healing to the land of Rivendell.

"If you want him, come and claim him."


Those are fighting words.

I connect with them because, as it turns out, I am a fighter.

I resisted claiming this title for myself for a long time, feeling like it meant I thought more highly of myself than I should.  But the truth of the matter is that I am fighter.  There is a resiliency in me that until this year, I didn't really understand that I possessed.  It isn't anything that I have, dependent on myself.  It is something that comes because I TRUST Jesus.  I believe what the Bible says about him.  I have faith that I will be rescued, even if it doesn't look the way I might want it to.

And I find this challenge of "come and claim him" to be incredibly encouraging.

I am under constant attack from the arrows of the enemy.  An enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.  That enemy is running rampant in our world and entangled up in our lives.  We have a Savior, a commander who leads us and guides us through the enemy's territory.  

This world?

It's not as God intends it to be.  The garden of Eden is what He intended. But he didn't want us to be robots, forced to follow him simply because we have to.  He made us, special and set apart from all other creation, with a mind that is capable of knowing Him.  Our brains, able to think and choose and decide for ourselves set us apart from animals and other living things.  God wanted someone who would choose him because of who He is.

So, he gives us a mind unlike any other, and with it comes the power to hurt or heal (ourselves or others).  And throughout our lives, it delights God when we seek after him.  When we bring our joy and sorrow alike to him.  When we acknowledge that we are nothing, specks of dust in the grand scheme of things.  And yet, he loves us immensely, more than we can even put into words or fathom.  It makes NO sense.  I know it doesn't make sense.  That doesn't mean it isn't true.  

So, when I watch the Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring) and I see and hear Arwen say, "If you want him, come and claim him." that feels like the gauntlet is being thrown down and I can't help but get excited and want to join her in that fight.

It is not lost on me that Jesus is Arwen for us here.  His blood covers us and when the enemy comes calling, and he will, Jesus steps in, his grace and mercy speaking for us, and he says to the devil, "If you want him, come and claim him."

And THEN, when the enemy pursues, God shows up.  His waters rush in and are too powerful for the enemy.  We are covered by his blood, by his grace, and nothing the enemy can do to us can extinguish that.  We are covered.  It gives me chills to think about this scene and how Jesus has stood at the fords of my deepest pain and shame and told the devil that if he wants me, he has to come and claim me from the grasp of God himself!  Which God has proven over and over again the devil is simply incapable of doing.  This keeps hope alive, even in the darker times.

Monday, November 21, 2022

It's Not About The Lights

One minute you're putting up Christmas decorations (not the tree...not before Thanksgiving of course!!), and the next, you're a weeping bundle of emotion, devastated because your husband is less than enthusiastic about the fireplace decorations that made your heart happy.  Is he a jerk?  Is he insensitive?  Is he rude?

Of course not.  

Does he care about Christmas decorations? No.  

Does he have any issues with ME putting up decorations?  No.  

And yet, the look on his face when I asked him if he saw the lights, and then the subsequent comment of "'re lights..." utterly broke my heart.

Why?  Because it wasn't about the lights or the Christmas decorations.  And bless his heart, my husband listened when God urged him to ask me if there was something else going on outside of the lights that was upsetting me.  Because unbeknownst to my sweet husband, about an hour before the misunderstanding over the lights I was crying in the bathtub (my usual spot for self-reflection and weeping...of course...).  Because I had allowed some things that hurt my heart to kind of speak some lies to my heart.

I'm struggling to find my place.  

In life.  

At work.

As a mom.  

As a member at a new church.  

I feel disconnected.  I have tried to embrace female friendships and put myself out there.  It is terrifying and after months of pushing into this, I'm a little tired, and feeling like I'm not really connecting with anyone in the same way I see my husband doing.  And I found myself wondering tonight if I have any value.

It's the same lie that has chased me my entire life.  That I don't matter.  That I don't have anything to offer.  That if something bad were to happen, I would be alone.  I don't even believe it as I type that.  And yet, my heart was so heavy tonight with the lies, with the accusations.  Even as I could reason that it didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, that what God has called me to (to SEE people and to LOVE people just as they are RIGHT NOW) is the ONLY thing that matters.

Here's the thing: insecurity creeps in ALL THE TIME.  It is like a constant war in my mind.  The same old lies come calling, and there is this tension because I can sense that they are lies, and yet they FEEL and SOUND so real, because I have always just accepted them as true.  Now that I am working hard to become stronger and heal and stop carrying my past shame and guilt around with me, I am increasingly aware of just HOW MANY lies took up home in my heart and mind.  Unlearning decades of lies, sorting through them, weighing them against the truth about who God says I's all a bit confusing and sometimes it gets jumbled.

And sometimes I just get sad.  I used to want to rush past it and get back to "not sad" as quickly as possible.  These days, I'm learning to just sit in the sadness.  To just feel it.  To face what I am feeling, to confront and call out the lies, and speak the truth to my heart, even if I can't muster belief in the moment.  To change the structure of my brain by choosing to make a new groove.  It's OK that I feel sad.  It's okay that all I want to do tonight is lay here and cry.  It's OK, because what started out as me feeling utterly alone has brought me to this place of turning to Jesus.  Of crying out to the one who knows my pain, who sees my tears, and who longs to hold me until the tears stop and my body stills, and then keeps holding onto me.  

I can't even look at this place I am in right now and wish it away.  There is a certain beauty to understanding myself in new ways, and giving myself a little extra grace on the days where I am struggling to love myself.  The enemy is whispering lies in my mind, and yet through all the chaos and confusion, I hear God singing over me.  It's good to be so loved.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Tale of Two Houses

In 2003, Kris and I bought our first home in Hazelwood, MO.  We had two toddlers and a brand new baby, and were desperately in need of a bigger place.  It was move-in ready and was purchased in a rush by two kids barely out of their teens, who didn't know the first thing about owning a home.  It looked nice, and that mattered to me.  We didn't have to do any work to get it ready and we wasted no time settling in.  Perhaps had life been different, that home would have held different memories for me.  But within a year of moving into that home, I was knee deep in a 7.5 year on again/off again affair--all the while, my husband was battling a relentless addiction to pornography.  We had three babies, essentially, and I don't even remember much about those early years in that house.  I just know that when I look at a calendar, we moved into that house just over a year before my affair began.  So essentially, my entire affair occurred under that roof and my memories in the home became entangled.

It should make sense then that I have a lot of negative memories associated with the old house.  There isn't a single room in that home that wasn't touched in some way by the choices that Kris and I made in those early years of our marriage.  It became increasingly more painful to stay there after the affair ended, because we carry such deep connections to our memories.

I am just now learning about memories we make as babies and trauma that our bodies experience in infancy and how that impacts us as adults.  We don't carry memories in our brains as babies--our infant memories are stored in our physical body, and if my therapist (and other researchers) are right, then part of my issue with chronic pain may be tied to memories I made in my body as a baby, and trauma that I experienced, before my brain could make mental memories.  

So in light of that, it stands to reason that my memories of things I said and did in that home that spit in the face of my marriage and the vow I took would be a factor in my views of the old house.  It always felt dark to me.  There wasn't a lot of natural light at all, and it was difficult to even light up the living room, as there wasn't a way to have any kind of overhead lighting. We relied on floor lamps, which never quite give you the same light quality, and I never could make it look as bright as I wanted it to be.

As a baby, I wasn't safe physically or emotionally, and I learned how to hold pain in my body. I mistakenly taught myself a long, long time ago that NOTHING is safe.  Any kind of pain, mental or physical, mild or severe, will be treated the same way by my body--it will lock it in, fortify it, and make the breakthrough that much more elusive.  The more you dig into something, the deeper the groove becomes, until you respond the same way without even having to think about it.  It can be incredibly difficult to dig a new groove in the opposite direction.  Not impossible, but difficult.

While we are discussing it in therpay, I am not simply unlearning how I processed the affair (both in and out of my body)--I have to go back further, dig into painful memories from my childhood and deal with those first. And THEN maybe I can find my way to peace that isn't easily swayed by what my body THINKS is happening.  Many times, my brain and body are already trying to dig their way out of flight mode before I can even think rationally about a situation - big or small.  I have learned the wrong way to deal with any potential threat, and it has led to a lifetime of responding to danger (or a lack thereof) with the same panicked response, regardless of whether the danger is real or simply perceived.

It does seem highly suspect to me that my issues with chronic pain didn't begin until AFTER the affair did.  We haven't talked about it too much in therapy yet, but I know we will address it at some point, as I can pinpoint WHEN the pain began in earnest, and it lines up exactly with when I began to separate myself from my heart.  While I had bouts of depression prior to 2004, my fear and anxiety skyrocketed and over the next nearly 8 years, I reinforced the need to hold pain inside my body.  I already knew how to do it, because I had been doing it naturally since I was a baby.  But in 2004, I began in earnest to hide all of it.  And it all stayed hidden inside my body, and inside my mind.  

One therapist told me early on that if I didn't end the affair it would kill me emotionally.  That has stayed with me and as I look back at the deterioration of my soul and mental health, she was right.  That was the only thing she was right in, as she also gave me very unwise, ungodly counsel at the time.  The affair and how it affected me emotionally literally was my undoing, in so many ways.

But sometimes, we have to come completely unraveled before God can pick up the pieces and redesign them to be everything he wanted.  A lot of times we make our own messes.  Sometimes life gives us things we can't control that we would never wish for.  And there are other times where we sit in graves we have dug, and we need someone else to come in and breathe life back in where we let sin or fear or confusion choke it out.

God was already bringing light and life back to my heart while we lived in our old home and I am forever grateful for that.  The old house is where God tore down the walls Kris and I had put up to keep each other out, and the old house is where God restored our marriage.  God certainly shone brightly into the darkness there and sustained me until he was ready for me to move out of the old house.

When He knew we were ready, God brought us to a home that is quite literally full of light.  There is an addition in the home called the sunroom if the alarm system they left is to be believed.  We just call it the family room.  But it isn't just that room.  There are windows EVERYWHERE.  There is so much light in this home, and more than that, the prior owner was an electrician and so there are a billion lights and switches, and we still haven't figured out what all of them do yet!  There are a ridiculous amount of lights here, and it just makes me smile thinking about how ridiculously full of light God is!

For years after the affair ended, I hated being in that old house.  Once I understood that it was all the painful memories that I created there, God gave me just enough peace and contentment to keep me patient while we waited for this home to be ready for us.  It was still hard to walk in certain rooms and know what I had done and to know how much a part of my home this other person was, but God did a miracle in my heart that allowed me to live with my memories without them taking up too much room in my heart and mind.  It was put on the back burner, and it was something only God could have done.

And now that I am out of there and in this new home filled with so much beauty inside and out, and I look back at the other house, I see where God has brought me.  Truly from darkness to light.  First, he worked in my heart and soul and poured light in until I was bursting with it.  And now, literally in my home itself, God has redeemed and restored what the locusts had eaten.  Our home was never a safe place for us or for our marriage.  But we have another home and a second chance for this home to be what God intends it to be.

He has given me a house of light, in exchange for the one I clothed in darkness.

He has given me bright, open windows (and peace in my soul) where there used to be gloom and clouds and regret.

He has put me in a place that LOOKS like the country, feels like the county, smells like the country, IN THE CITY, only minutes from the old house.

He has given our oldest two daughters and our son-in-law a place to call home (in the old house) and given us a place for our adult kids and eventually grandkids, a respite from the craziness and busy-ness of their lives.

He has taken a home that was used for evil and given us space to invite people in for a meal or fellowship or prayer.

He has taken two weary hearts who fought hard to stay together and keep fighting to make their home a safe place from a house of darkness and placed them in a house of light, and every day reminds them how loved they are.

There isn't a day that I don't walk through this house or see a room from a different angle and think, THANK YOU GOD!  Every day in this home is an absolute joy,  And it isn't because bad things suddenly stopped happening.  I am still wrestling with knowing that my husband's addiction reared its ugly head again two months ago.  I am in therapy trying to deal with traumas I didn't know I even had, from being adopted as a baby.  Life is hard and my kids are going through things.  There are marriages crumbling all around me, that I thought would never fall, and there are so many situations where I can't see the way through.  But God sees.  God knows how to bring peace to those going through the worst or hardest fights of their lives.  But he always gives us a choice, doesn't he?  It's up to us - he just asks us to believe that what he said is true.  The same God who carved a pathway through the Red Sea so his people could flee to safety is still true today and still longs to make a pathway where there seems to be no way for whatever you are going through.

Life isn't beautiful because bad things stopped happening in this amazing blessing of a home.  Life is beautiful because I know where my hope is.  Life is beautiful because God who gives good gifts to those who love him.  This world is not my home, and as much as I love this new oasis, this house is not my home.  But if this house and the joys we have already experienced here in the last two months are ANY indication of the home to come...well, it's hard not to get excited about that!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Year So Many Things Changed...

 This has probably been the most disruptive year I can remember since 2012.  It isn't all bad.  There has been so much good, so much blessing, and so much grace.  There has also been a lot of pain, of every kind: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  And yet, even in all of that pain, there has also been tremendous grace, mercy, peace, and comfort.

2022 is a year of change for us.

Our son moved to Columbia, MO last year and so this year, we have had to learn how to manage our children being in multiple locations.  We have had to learn to love on our son from afar.  And he has not been free from the pain and change--it has been an extremely difficult year for him, especially on them mental health front.  As a parent, as a mother, it cuts deep when you cannot be there to protect and comfort and love on your kids.  So I have had to learn to love him in different ways, and try to show up for him from in genuine and tangible ways, when we can't physically be there.  And yet, in this, I have never been closer to my son.  I have watched Kris pursue his son this year with passion and purpose and this has been essential in our son continuing to learn that we love him NO MATTER WHAT.  What a blessing it has been to both see this relationship between them develop and grow, but to also see my own relationship with my son, once so tumultuous and difficult become something so beautiful.  It has been healing my heart in so many ways and my son and I share a closeness and a bond and a connection I honestly never imagined possible just 3 years ago.  It brings me to tears whenever I think about it.

Kris attended an intensive retreat back in February, and that has brought its share of changes.  All of them good.  For him and for us.  God has been preparing him to lead our family in new ways, to new horizons.  I have watched my husband dig in deep to things he has never been willing to face, let alone enter into the pain of.  He has taken step after step to heal in deeper ways and I have had the joy of watching it happen. My husband is a good, GOOD man.  When I say that, he's that guy that people describe as a GOOD man.   How I was lucky enough to spend my life with a GOOD man baffles me.    

I have also seen the enemy attack, and been devastated in ways I didn't think I could be again.  Because GOOD men are still imperfect men.  GOOD men still cause you pain.  GOOD men still misstep and GOOD men fail and disappoint you.  

But do you know what else a GOOD man who loves God and is growing also does?  

He gets up.  

He dusts himself off.  

He picks up his sword and he chases after God all over again.  

He comes to the person he loves and he is honest, even though he knows it will break her heart.  He doesn't try to hide.  He faces it and he apologizes.  And he doesn't just apologize.  He comes to you, completely broken and humbled and telling you that he has not given up the fight.  He will stand and he will fight.  And he will repair (with God's help) the damage he has done.  And beyond that, a GOOD man sits with you in your pain.  He holds you through day after day of panic attacks, even if your body won't stop trembling for hours and his back is out.  He bears up under the shortness and frustration and tense moments and words right now because it is his job to bring healing to the relationship.  And though right now, my equilibrium is off, my GOOD man has stepped up in ways I have never seen and I KNOW that I am safe with him.  So I will hold onto that truth until I finally FEEL safe again.  I am a fighter, and I know what I have and what I want.  I know what I almost threw away and I have watched God do miracle after miracle in both of our hearts and our marriage these last 10 years.  So I know that I can trust that God will bring all the hope and healing and comfort and peace as we walk down this path and navigate these difficult conversations.

I have not been without missteps myself.  At the beginning of summer, I found myself suddenly in the midst of extreme temptation.  The devil kept trying to pull me back into old habits and old ways to soothe my hurting heart, long before Kris stumbled.  But for the grace of God, I surely would have fallen back into old patterns.  When I saw it happening, I was so desperate to NOT go back there because it was so incredibly difficult to recover from and I knew it wasn't what I really wanted or needed.  So I brought my burden to Kris, and it caused him pain to know that I was struggling with wanting attention, but we worked our way through that.  

The enemy is real and fighting hard to destroy what God has not only ordained, but fully restored and healed.  And this has all also happened to me during a year of extreme spiritual growth.  And not just spiritual.  I began Pain Reprocessing Therapy and have 7 weeks under my belt.  It has been some of the most difficult work I have done in my life.  Dealing with my dead marriage in 2012 somehow felt easier than what I am walking through right now, perhaps because I wasn't trying to unpack 43 years of pent up ways of living my life, trapped with the frightened heart of a little girl.  And while Kris is right beside me through it, he isn't able to soothe the heart of that little girl.  He can't repair what is broken in her heart and mind.  I have to do that.  And so while I am not alone, I have to do the work myself, and I have to dig in to things I don't want to look at: specifically something that came up in therapy this week--I don't like that little girl.  And so that's probably the place to start, and it is likely a road on path to freedom from the neuroplastic pain that my body keeps locked up inside of it.  So I will dive in and I will fight for a sound mind and a body that knows how to properly interpret pain.

Beyond that, we have been waiting for two years to be a part of a new church plant we heard was in the works.  Covid put plans for that on hold and it has taken a while to finally get up and running.  But here we are, just 4 days away from the launch of The House in Ferguson, MO.  Kris and I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is doing in the community of Ferguson.  There is so much pain there and so much healing that is needed on so many fronts.  The House will be a place for the broken and the lonely to find a family.  It is a place to come HOME, no matter where you have been or how far or long you have run.  And it is place where those who have only known broken homes will start to understand what family really is.  

It is terrifying and exciting in equal measure.  I know God wants to use us, individually and as a couple, and that our story can bring hope to others who are drowning.  So we stand ready for this change and it has not been lost on us how the enemy will ramp up his attacks.  And believe me, he has definitely increased the intensity with which he tries to entice us back to sin.

And if that wasn't enough, we decided to throw a move into the mix.  We began earnestly saving money to finally move out of our little starter home that we raised our family in.  When we finally saved enough for our down payment and closing costs, we began the house hunt.  We didn't know how many houses we would look at or how long the process would take.  I was scared, of course, not knowing how to wait.  But God had been preparing me all summer to just sit down and wait.  He showed me he was right there with me in the waiting.  And as I tried to walk forward in faith and obedience in that through this process, he showed up and moved quickly.  We had already looked at 5 or 6 houses.  Each one had tiny little elements that showed me that God loved me, but none were the right house.  

One Thursday, possibly exactly one month ago (give or take ONE week), we looked at a house.  It had the "bones" of what we wanted, but it didn't have main level laundry and it didn't have a kitchen that would have worked for me without fully rehabbing it up front.  But it had a pool, which has become less about want and more about need over the last few years with my spine and my mental health.  We began to imagine ourselves in this home and talked about putting an offer in.  

And then the crazy stuff started happening (thanks a lot, Lindi!).

Within an hour and a half of looking at that house, my friend sent me a link to a different house she had found and jokingly asked if I had an extra $25,000.  We did not have any extra, let alone THAT much!  The house we had just looked at would have put us at the highest end of our budget with rehabbing the kitchen.  But I looked at 3 pictures and then immediately took my phone to Kris' office at work and said LOOK.  We looked at the pictures together, and I said I wanted it, even without a pool.  He was like but look--there IS a pool.  Wait what?!?  It's this beatuiful AND it has a pool?  And that pool is 20 times better than the pool I just looked at?  Kris surprised me by saying he loved the house, and he immediately starting thinking about ways to make it work.  I left his office and said "I want it."  I don't think either one of us, in that moment, seriously thought it was something that would happen.  We didn't have any extra $25,000--that adds a LOT to your monthly payment and we simply couldn't afford monthly payments at that price.  So we still talked about putting an offer in on that other house.  

Our agent was able to get us in to see the too expensive house the next day, and we were only the second people to see the home.  We had spent time praying about each house we looked at, before walking in.  We were not rushing into anything and we were trusting that God would guides us in this process.  So as I walked through the house I couldn't afford, I found myself trying not to fall in love with it.  I did envision myself there, but in a way you dream about owning a mansion and marrying a movie star when you are 13.  I didn't let myself get wrapped up in it.  The kitchen was actually smaller than I envisioned for myself (though it had the exact amount of counters I told Kris was a must) and I didn't really want to look for things to love at the house I knew we couldn't afford, so I honestly didn't even look at it in the same way I looked at the others.  I think I might have been afraid that if I looked too close, I would not be able to let it go.

Even when I went out to the back and found possibly the most gorgeous deck and pool with butterflies everywhere that anyone would want to sit out on day after day after day, I didn't let myself invest emotionally in that house.  But after we looked at it and discussed it, I knew it was something I wanted.  Kris felt the same way.  We didn't have a quick summer romance with that house....we were patient with our emotions about it.  We both wanted to put an offer in on the house.  But we couldn't offer what they were asking.  And in this market right now, good luck getting a house without offering at least asking, in most cases, waiving inspections just to sweeten the deal.

But God blessed us with a very wise and exceptional agent.  My friend who sent the link to that house is married to our agent, and I swear the two of them are an incredible team.  She found the house, and he guided us through how to approach our offer.  He advised us to offer the list price, and waive inspections.  He knew there would be multiple offers on a home like this, in a very quiet neighborhood in Ferguson.  We listened to his guidance and we looked at our budget.  It wasn't really feasible to offer asking, or offering anything at all.  And yet, we wanted to try anyway.  

We really felt God's hand guiding us through the entire process and Kris felt compelled to put out a fleece.  If you aren't familiar with the story of Gideon in the Bible, just know that Gideon asked God for a sign.  Not once, but twice.  And both times God gave him a sign.  He didn't have to.  He could have been silent, letting Gideon make the decision for himself.  But he showed up for Gideon in ways that made it clear this is what he wanted. So when Kris floated the idea of laying out a fleece and asking God to give us a sign, I was just like "okay."  What was our fleece?  Our fleece was to offer $15,000 higher than what we knew we could afford.  And it was still $10,000 LESS than asking.

If we gave up our monthly beach savings (which most of you know is a genuine sacrifice for me), we could swing the payments.  We weren't sure how to come up with the extra closing costs or down payment we would need if they did choose us, but we were trusting that God would show us one way or the other if this was the right house for us.  If the house were the right house, then we would figure out a way to quickly gather the extra money we would need to close.   

We put this offer in, though it was less than asking.  We waived all inspections in faith.  It was highly unlikely that we would even be considered.  We looked at that house on a Friday, and put our offer in on Saturday.  The sellers would decide on Sunday night.

Saturday evening, we got a text saying that there were other offers higher than ours.  We were given the opportunity to increase our offer.  We talked and prayed about it, looked at the budget and really felt like we needed to stick with our original offer.  It was already a stretch when we had asked God for a sign at the amount we offered.  So we said thanks, but no thanks.  If this house is meant to be, they will choose us.  

However, we did not believe that we would be chosen, knowing there were other offers higher than ours.  Not in a "we don't have enough faith" way.  It was more of a practical, "it would literally take a miracle" belief.  So that night, we prayed about it, and we let the house go.  I did not believe we would get it, and I felt peace about going back to make an offer on the other house or continuing to look.  But I still held out for a miracle.  I told so many people that weekend that it would take a miracle for us to get that house.  

I've forgotten a few details, but at some point Sunday night, we got our answer to the fleece we laid out.  We were given a yes.  We were given a miracle.  We got a text saying that if we went up an extra $5000 on our offer, the house was ours.  We started scrambling to see if we could come up with that much extra cash at closing.  If we took all of our beach money we have saved, and if you look at the fact our first house payment wouldn't be due until November, we would have almost the exact amount we needed.  

We asked for a sign.  We asked God to show us if we were moving in the right direction.  We put out a fleece and said if they choose us, that is a yes.  So we felt comfortable accepting their counter offer, at $5000 higher.  We wrote it up and signed it.  They signed it.  We didn't know if it would pass the occupancy inspection, but we walked forward in faith.  And it was in that that God provided another miracle.  The inspection passed with flying colors.

And then, as if that weren't enough, God did ANOTHER miracle.  The house didn't appraise for what we offered.  Do you know what amount the house actually appraised for?  The amount of our ORIGINAL offer, the one we put out in faith, as a fleece, trusting that if the home were right, then that was the right amount.  And now, I am sitting at my dining room table in my dream home that has things I never even knew were dreams, just in awe of God.  The weather for the next week is just gorgeous enough to eek out a few good days in the pool before we close it up for the year.  Today is my youngest's 17th birthday and all of the family, including my son, will be in town to celebrate her and this new home that we will some day have grandkids running around in.  It makes me weep to think about the patter of tiny feet and the laughter and the memories that will be made in this home.  I am more grateful than I have words to express.  I cannot believe that this is my life.  I am so so thankful that I have pressed into God, instead of pulling away.  We are here today because we have walked forward in faith and because God loves his children so much and he loves to give us good gifts when we sincerely seek after him.  He delights in us and this home is just a taste of how much.

So, all of that to say, 2022 has been a big year.  It has had tremendous pain, heartbreak, and devastation.  But it has had even greater amounts of comfort, peace, joy and miracles.  When I think about the work God is calling us to, and I look at this home, I see a safe haven.  For us, and for those lost and hurting and drowning in a sea of pain.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

It's Not Really Depression, Right?

 I feel like I am standing on the edge of the cliff.  Up here, I can look around and down below, and I can see a vast landscape.  It isn't luscious and green.  It isn't filled with flowers and color.  It is dark and deep, and it is an abyss that calls me by name.  It KNOWS me.  It recognizes the shape of me, the energy I put off, all the things that are in me that do not belong.  It calls to me.  It shows me beautiful things, things that look good. And yet, if I look at them from a different angle, or light shines down on them, they crumble to dust.

When I get to this point, I think I fool myself into thinking I am not depressed.  I am clinging so desperately to my own sanity, and I already feel like I am drowning.  The depression beckons me to just lay down and stop fighting.  Just stay in bed.  Just today.  Just lay down and succumb.

It is so alluring, this call to lay down and just stop. To let it all wash over me, and just spend months locked away from the world, while I suffer under the weight of it.  I look at where I am right now, and I look at what is on the horizon, and neither option is desirable.

I honestly don't want to be in either place--either in the middle of depression, or on the edge of it.  And yet, it is the place I find myself.  Yet again.  It's a ride I can't get off of. I don't have the luxury of just setting depression down and simply hoping it goes away.  My entire adult life (and likely much of my teen years) has been a balance between sanity and mental torment.  

Most days, I win.  Not the me who I am trying desperately to put to death, but the me who is fearfully and wonderfully made.  The me who loves Jesus and wants to serve him...the one who relies on HIS strength because I know I have none left...that's the me who usually gets through yet another day.

Then there are other days where I'm exhausted from fighting.  I am weak.  I give into the feelings and the chaos.  I let my mind wander around through a minefield.  It is as if during these dark times, I have convinced myself that this minefield I am trudging through is not filled with traps and pain and death! And so I spend some time there, being filled up with all things empty.  

Even while I am there, I am disgusted.  I know it isn't right.  I know it isn't true.  I know it isn't what my mind needs to be fixating on. This obsession, this compulsion to consider the what ifs - I want it to die.  I don't want to be this scared, nervous, obsessive person who is easily swayed by whatever looks good. Even if I can see it dripping with death and decay, there is still this small part of me that craves that. How? Why? I know it's empty and dead. And yet, because it's pretty on the outside, it calls to me.

This is depression.

It dresses itself up and it tries to play itself off as good.  It tries to trick me.  It tries to whisper that it is what I need.  And when you are exhausted and raw and unsettled, giving in to it sure does sound like the easiest thing to do. In fact, it IS the easy thing to do. To just lay down. To just close my eyes, stop fighting for just a few minutes, and let what happens, happen. Because I can fool myself into thinking that it'll only grip me for a few minutes or hours. But those hours turn into days, which turn into months. Dark, awful, scary months, where I can't trust my own mind or thoughts because they want to convince me that life is not worth living anymore.

I'm a little angry, if I am honest, calling this place I am in depression.

Yesterday, I felt like I was just on the edge, like I hadn't given in.

And this morning, I wonder if I have been fooling myself.

The panic, the anxiety, the things that lead into depression, that's where I am at, right?  Just there?  Not any further?  I haven't really tipped my toes into this again, have I? And what if I have?  Why does this always come with shame? Why can't I just BE unsettled and BE not okay without it also ushering in guilt and shame for feeling like this to begin with?  I want to beat myself up for finding myself here. It is a vicious cycle and it would be so easy to just let is all crash down on top of me.

I know that's a lie. Because the truth is something God showed me before I even started writing this: yes, I am here again, trying desperately not to get sucked in and pulled under. And yes it is hard. And yes, I am currently fighting a fight for literal life. 

This time around, I can see it coming - maybe not a mile off, but I'll tell you this.  The last depression in 2020?  It snuck up on me and I was completely surprised to find myself in the midst of day after day after day of struggling to get out of bed, take a shower, brush my teeth, go to work, be around people, trying NOT contemplate ways to make it all just stop.  

I just typed that I wasn't going to be surprised by it this time around and then quickly deleted it, because as I sit here writing this, I guess it has surprised me once again.  I thought I was "safer" from the depression this time around, because I could feel it creeping in. And yet, maybe I am already in the midst of it.

The difference is that right now, in this very moment, I am STILL in the fight. I do not want to let it wash over me.  Well, I WANT it to.  But I also know that I can't. No matter how exhausted I am from the constant struggle to keep my head above water, I have to keep swimming. And even though it's hard and I'm very, very tired, I choose to put one foot in front of the other.  Today, I choose to fight another day. The alternative, trying to dig myself out of that abyss, it's not something I want to do again.

I don't know how to get through it. I want to avoid it altogether. And yet, that's not usually how it works with anything in life. Sometimes we have to walk through the really hard things before there is relief. It would be too easy and I would learn nothing if it were not incredibly difficult.  I wouldn't complain if it were a little LESS difficult, but I know that the freedom and growth will be worth the struggle.

So today, while I still can, I choose to fight. 


Monday, June 20, 2022

A Psalm of Sorrow

 Go a little deeper.

That's what you are saying.

It's the calling you have placed on my heart.

You gave me ten years to rest and heal.

You gave me time to learn and grow.

And now, you want me to go deeper.

Can I be honest?

I'm not sure I want to.

Not because I don't want to be in the deep.

Not because I don't want to grow more.

Not because I don't desire MORE.

It's just, if I'm honest, I'm scared.

I don't know what to expect.

We both know the unknown has always terrified me.

How do I move forward in faith, instead of fear.

I can hear you beckon me

I feel your Spirit moving in me, drawing me deeper.

I'm not sure I'm scared about drowning.

I'm not ever certain what I am actually afraid of.

I have been in the deeps with you.

When I thought it would hurt, when I thought you would wound, instead I found healing.

I found peace.

I found freedom.

I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Time and time again, you have lavished love and grace in my life.

So why is it so easy to get distracted?

Why does the slightest wind shift my focus?

Why can't I  just stay in the deep with you?

Why am I always swimming to shore?

Why can't I just stay put and let the waves shift and move me?

I don't want to give you control.

I guess when it comes down to it, I don't want to let it all go.

Surrender, you say.

But what about all the other things?

All the stuff that tells me it is more important?

Who will worry about those?

I know the truth.

Why can't I activate the faith I cling to?

Why does this feel so hard?

It feels too big, like I will never learn.

How long will I fight against this?

I want to change.

I want to die to myself.

And yet, at the heart of it, I realize just how much of myself I still love.

I want it to look the way I want it to look.

I want to give you my heart and also hold onto the parts of it that aren't yet yours.

That's the truth, isn't it?

Admitting that I want it to be all about me.

I want the accolades.

I want to be seen.

I want what you have called me to give.

That's at the heart of what I don't want to admit.

Humility is this intangible thing that feels too big to grasp.

And yet, I know it's required.

I have to die.

I have to be willing to let you excise the parts of my heart that no longer belong.

I am alive.

I am free.

I don't have to be consumed by this.

You remind me constantly of your love and grace.

Why do I long for it to be enough, yet walk through life as if it isn't?

I hate this about myself.

I don't want to be self-centered and vain.

I don't want to feel this way.

But I do.

So what now, God?

It feels like we are at an impasse, because I don't want to let it go.

I don't want to give up this last piece of myself, the piece that makes me me.

Even though me isn't worth much.

The me who wants to live is not healthy or safe or filled with your spirit.

Why is the battle against my own will so hard?

It's MY will.  

I should be able to control this, shouldn't I?

I'm angry and I'm frustrated.

All of my insecurities rise to the surface and I don't know how to make them bow.

I don't know how to move past this.

And yet, you give me clarity.

You show up, on quiet drives to work.

You orchestrate worship that drives me to the foot of the Cross.

You remind me that you are bigger than all of my fears.

You love me, even this part of me I am trying so desperately to cling to.

You love even that girl.

The one who feels small and defeated.

The one who loves herself more than she should.

The one who knows the good she ought to do and doesn't do it.

Your grace.

Your mercy.

Your love.

Those are singing over me today as I wrestle with feelings of shame and anger and insecurity.

None of it matters.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm irrelevant.

Remind me when I forget.

Keep showing up.

Keep giving me your grace.

Keep showering your mercy upon me.

Keep lavishing this love I can't understand.

Bring me to my knees.

Give me courage to stay there, as long as it takes for you to make me clean.

Wash away anything that points to me.

Forgive me for making it about me and what I want.

Soothe my heart when it feels empty.

I know that you see me.

I know that you are the only one that matters.

Bring me back to that place where my heart was wholly about you.

To live, I must die.

I want to live.

Teach me to live.

Friday, June 17, 2022

A Psalm Of Chaos

 I am unsettled.

A bomb has gone off inside of my body.

Every moment is a battle.

Each second is a fight for control.

I choose FAITH over FEAR.

But I am still afraid.

Thoughts come unbidden.

I don’t want this.

I don’t want to think about these things.

They are not true.

They are not noble.

They are not right.

They are not pure.

They are not lovely.

They are not admirable.

I WANT to think about excellent or praiseworthy things.

So why are the *other* thoughts so loud?

I hear them, like constant screaming in my brain.

I force the negative thoughts to bow down.

They have no place in a heart that has been set free.

But the thoughts, they stand up again.

I force them to bow. Again.

Again, they rise.

Again, I make them bow.

The thoughts boomerang throughout my mind, draining my energy.

I want the roiling in my stomach to stop.

I want the constant feeling of suffocating to go away.

I want to feel stable again, even if just for a moment.

I want to not be tired from the fight.

I want the struggle to end.

But God, I don’t want to rush you.

I know that you are taking me somewhere new.

I know that you want to put this fear to death once and for all.

You want to walk me through the path to freedom from the anxiety that cripples me.

You are asking me to wait.

You are asking me to sit in this; all the while, you call me deeper.

You never promised it would be easy.

You actually promised it would be very difficult.

Because Jesus doesn’t make any sense.

The Cross is confusing.

It’s hard to understand how death can bring life.

And yet, it does.

Knowing that doesn’t make me less tired.

It doesn’t take away the shaking, the trembling, the heavy breaths that never feel quite complete.

How long am I called to sit in this?

Until it no longer has a hold on me?

How long will it take?

I’ve never been quick to learn the lesson.

So I want to rush through the pain and the stretching.

I want to be on the other side.

But I know it doesn’t work like that.

I have to walk through this, no matter how hard.

I have to sit in the panic that never quite leaves, until it no longer has a hold over me.

How do I get from here to there?

I know the end goal.

I can see it, just on the horizon.

I know that I can reach out and grab it.

Why can’t I connect my brain and my heart?

Why is it always so hard to surrender?

I can feel the resistance.

It just builds and builds, the more I desire to lay it down.

I hate this feeling.

I hate the internal struggle to let go.

To say, OK. It’s time to stop fighting.

And what about now?

When I am trying so hard to lay it down and let it go?

Why is it still so hard?

Why does relief not come?

How long do you want me to endure this?

I will.

But is there an end?

Will I ever be free of this anxiety in this earthly body?

Or is this another thorn in my side, like the pain?

Does this keep me from becoming prideful in all you have called me to do?

Does it point to you?

Or is there a deficiency in me that you want to fill?

I think there’s freedom for me.

I want there to be.

But the struggle is nearly unbearable.

The constant bringing my mind back under control has left me feeling weak and exposed.

This is spiritual warfare.

I expected it.

I knew that the enemy would ramp up efforts to divide and destroy.

I watched him do it before.


I refuse to let him have a hold in my life any longer.

If I need to put this to death once and for all, then I will buckle up and hold on for the fight of my life.

But can I rest a little along the way?

Can I have time to breathe and cry and recover?

Can I pause, when it all spills over, and just be held for a few minutes?

I close my eyes, and I call on the name of Jesus.

I sit at my desk at work, trying to hold it all together.

Tears fall down my cheeks as I try to focus.

I’m not sure I’ll make it through, and yet again, I do.

I put one foot in front of the other.

I take shallow breaths, because deep ones elude me.

I put my head in my hands and I cry out to Jesus.

Give me strength.

Give me relief.

Give me peace.

Teach me to put to death all that still remains of me.

I’ve been asking this for a while, and you are answering.

That’s why I am here, in this chaotic place.

Because I asked you to take me to the next level.

I told you that I was ready.

So I am not surprised by this.

I don’t even want you to take it away really.

It’s just that on days like today, I just want to rest.

Just for a bit.

And when I cry out for that, you remind me.

I am called to NOT be weary in doing good.

I am called to NOT give up in the kingdom work.

It’s all about you.

It has nothing to do with me.

So once again, I cry out for more of you and less of me.

Renew my mind.

Refresh my heart.

Give me strength to keep fighting.

Remind me when I am weak that it’s okay.

In my weakness, you show up best.

If weakness is what it takes for me to know you, continue to bring me to my knees.

Calm my anxious heart.

Still my shaking bones.

Ease the trembling I feel in my spirit.

My hope is in you, therefore you WILL renew my strength.

I will mount on wings like eagles.

I will run and not be weary.

I will walk and not be faint.