Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Just In Time

I find God's timing interesting.  Having lived with fear and anxiety from the time I can remember, if God hadn't begun to work in my heart the way he has, I would not be weathering this current pandemic well.  Every cough, every sneeze, every ache or pain would have sent me reeling 4 weeks ago.  I have an incredible peace about me in the midst of all of this, that peace that can't be explained.  You know, God's peace, that is beyond our understanding?  Thoughts come, physical anxiety still comes and tries to overtake my body, but my mind and my heart, most of the time, are still.  This is an incredible feat, because I have never been able to say that.  Ever.

I am still having panic attacks.  Sometimes over the stupidest things.  And most of them have been happening before I can even control the thinking that leads to the panic.  It's like my body is so conditioned to panic, so attune to flight or fight mode, that it just siezes up on me and I'm already spiraling before I can understand it is happening.

There have been several issues like this over the last 3 weeks.  Two of them have been pretty severe, and God has given my husband a supernatural ability to speak to me and help lead me through them.  The other night, after one particularly bad attack, as I was calming down, I was crying and upset because I thought, "Why am I still wrestling so hard with this?  Why can't I just be done with the anxiety and panic attacks?"  They are out of my control.  My body reacts to a perceived threat before my mind even does, and it is extremely frustrating to feel like you have no control over your own body.

But in that moment, as I was feeling weak and exhausted, tense and broken, I heard God say, "My power in your weakness."  This is directly from 2 Corinthians 12:9:

"Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."

As I thought about this and talked to Kris, we both agreed that perhaps the anxiety will remain and the panic attacks will still come, because if I didn't have any weaknesses, I wouldn't go to the one who can supply all my needs.  If I were in control of my thoughts and my body at all times, I wouldn't need Christ.  

I wouldn't need to turn to the one who still brings water from the rock.  

When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided everything.  Food, shelter, light, clothes that didn't wear out.  Everything.  And when they were in desperate need of water, he provided it.  FROM A ROCK.  What?  Do you understand this?  Rocks don't typically gush water from them.  When the people desperately needed water, God gave it to them in the most unconventional way.  There was no way that the Israelites could look at themselves and think, "Hey, I got myself some water.  I did this."


God did it in such a way that there would be no doubt that it was something only HE could give to them.  They would have to look to that moment and remember, when they were tempted to trust in themselves, that God provided water from a rock. 

This is a beautiful picture of how God provides for our needs. 

If we let him. 

If we want to do it on our own, he will let us.  He will watch on, as we blunder about, trying to fill ourselves with all things not of him.  But when we surrender and when we ask him to provide what we need, he will do it and he will do it in such extraordinary ways that we can't see it and still believe we had anything to do with it.

"I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.  -  Exodus 17:6"

That is what God is doing with my pain, with my fear, with my anxiety, with my sleep.  He is providing in ways that I could never have imagined and there is no possible way for me to think I had anything to do with it. 

He asked me to be open. 

To trust. 

To have faith that is bigger than anything I could understand. 

And when I showed him just a tiny speck of trust, a small morsel of faith, he provided for me in ways that have no explanation. 

His power is made perfect in my weakness.  

When I am weak and I admit that before him, it gives him permission to come in and move in powerful ways, so that anyone who looks at my life, who knew me before and who sees me now, will know that God did this.  God brought about this change.

I'm new to this depth of faith.  But I'm in it for the long haul.  Every morning, I wake up and want to let the Spirit lead me.  This song has become a bit of an anthem for me.  There are so many beautiful reminders of how God provides for us and the joy and freedom that come from living a life led by the Spirit, and not my own whims.

This is my worship
This is my offering
In every moment
I withhold nothing

I'm learning to trust You
Even when I can't see it
And even in suffering
I have to believe it

If You say "it's wrong", then I'll say "no"
If You say "release", I'm letting go
If You're in it with me, I'll begin
And when You say to jump, I'm diving in
If You say "be still", then I will wait
If You say to trust, I will obey
I don't wanna follow my own ways
I'm done chasing feelings
Spirit lead me

It felt like a burden
But once I could grasp it
You took me further
Further than I was asking

And simply to see You
It's worth it all
My life is an altar
Let Your fire fall

If You say "it's wrong", then I'll say "no"
If You say "release", I'm letting go
If You're in it with me, I'll begin
And when You say to jump, I'm diving in
If You say "be still", then I will wait
If You say to trust, I will obey
Teach me how to follow in Your ways
I'm done chasing feelings
Spirit lead me

Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me

When all hope is gone
And Your word is all I've got
I have to believe
You still bring water from the rock
To satisfy my thirst
To love me at my worst
And even when I don't remember
You remind me of my worth

I don't trust my ways
I'm trading in my thoughts
I lay down everything
'Cause You're all that I want
I've landed on my knees
This is the cup You have for me
And even when it don't make sense
I'm gonna let Your Spirit lead

I'm gonna let Your Spirit lead (Spirit lead me)
I'm gonna let Your Spirit lead (Spirit lead me)
I'm gonna let Your Spirit lead (Spirit lead me)

Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me

If You say "it's wrong", then I'll say "no"
If You say "release", I'm letting go
If You're in it with me, I'll begin
And when You say to jump, I'm diving in
If You say "be still", then I will wait
If You say to trust, I will obey
You're the only truth, the life, the way
I'm done chasing feelings

Spirit lead me

Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me
Spirit lead me

Friday, March 13, 2020

Seeing God Everywhere

This has been the strangest and most amazing 5 days of my entire life.  There have been so many tiny little miracles that have happened since Monday morning.  Really, the fingerprints of God extend beyond that.  God has been moving and working for days, week, months, for all of eternity really, to bring me to this point in time.  To bring my heart to this place where I want nothing more than to live a life fully surrendered.  Not surrendered just a little bit or only where my fear is concerned.  Not just surrendered where my marriage and family are concerned.  But COMPLETE surrender.  The kind that the world and even those closest to me may struggle to understand.  Surrender that truly believes "God, no matter what comes my way, you will continue to give me JUST ENOUGH."

I had physical therapy again today, and learned yet another lesson.

Let me back track for a moment, just to share how I ended up at the location I did for therapy, because I believe it was the hand of God, even in that.  Kris and I work in Brentwood and last month when I had my surgeon follow up, I was so excited to be cleared to do things again, I had Kris take me up to the office where we both work so I could see everyone.  My boss, who lives in Ohio, happened to be in town that same day.  That was the first thing God orchestrated surrounding therapy.  I told Matt that I was cleared to ease back into normal life and to start physical therapy.  He began to tell me about a guy he knew, literally a stone's throw from where we work.  He actually stopped what he was working on and walked me over there and introduced me his buddy, who was a physical therapist he knew there.  I got scheduled for my first appointment that same day.  I had no idea where to even begin for therapy-I had been planning to find a SSM place near the house and just do what I have always done.  But God was preparing the way for something different, something better.

None of us knew a few weeks ago the lessons God would teach me through this therapy experience.  None of us knew that Brentwood Center of Health is exactly where I would need to be, specifically this week, as he has been teaching me to live this life of true, complete surrender.  He knew I needed someone to be gentle with my neck, as I wrote about in my last post.  He knew what he was preparing to teach me, about just how gentle my God is with me.  How gentle he is with all of us.

And he knew the words the therapist would speak to me today, words that went straight to my heart and words I heard God speak through.  As I was leaving today, we were talking about how I've lived with this chronic pain for over 15 years.  And he explained that prior to today, instead of going straight to PT the way I have always experienced it, he felt it important to help me get some relief from the pain first.  The harder work, the stretching and exercises, they can come later.  This time though, he did tell me that he had gone a little bit deeper into the tissue/muscles than the last 2 times.

A little bit deeper.

Okay, God.  I hear you!!!!

These last 5 days God has been taking me deeper.  Deeper in relationship with him.  It is so different than anything I have ever experienced.  And physical therapy is completely different too from all the others.  Do you see the connection?  There's NO way the therapist could have known that God has been calling me to go deeper in my relationship with him!


God starts out gentle.  He gives us just enough.  He takes us just where he needs us, and he does it gently, and lovingly, wanting to ease our pain.  But once you begin healing, as you respond favorably to his administrations, he will call you to go deeper.  He needs to go deeper, because healing can't just be on the surface.  It isn't done that way. 

Healing isn't complete unless you go deeper.

Your spiritual life cannot be full and powerful unless you go deeper. 

That's the message God affirmed today.  He has shown me, as I have gone deeper this week, that there's more he can heal and transform.  And just like therapy today, it can be painful.  Going deeper isn't always easy.  It may bring pain.  It may feel hard.  But in order to truly heal, deeply in a way that matters, you  have to go deeper.  You have to surrender.  You have to be willing to put in the hard work and willing to endure some pain, if you truly want to experience complete healing from what ails you.  And I can promise you this:  God will not leave you abandoned to the pain.  When you ask him to take you deeper, you have to also believe that He is right there and will carry you if the waters get too deep or the pain gets to be too much.

You have to learn how to breathe through the pain.  That's something I'm practicing at therapy and home - breathing.

My mind was always moving at a millions miles a minute.  This week, while at times it has been easy, there have been other times where I feel my mind racing, or I have anxious thoughts, or I begin to worry about something outside of the current moment.  I'm trying to get in the habit of taking those moments and learning to breathe and just be still for a moment. 

I don't have to panic.  

I don't have to be afraid.  

I can breathe, be still, and remember that my God who has always been faithful, continues to be faithful.  

In every moment.  

In every breath.

And in doing that, in surrendering to the therapy, in surrendering to the pain, I will find complete healing.

I heard Oceans by Hillsong on the drive to physical therapy today, and heard it with new ears.  In light of what God is calling me to, this idea of going deeper.  The line that struck me the most today was this:

Your grace abounds in deepest waters.

His grace ABOUNDS when the waters are over our heads.  When we feel like we are drowning, his grace is even greater.  It abounds.  It can wash over us and fill us.  Grace can be seen in the deep water.  Do you see it?  God give us His grace freely and willingly.  But it is onlys when we go deeper that His grace is multiplied to us.  Shortly after that, this line comes rushing in:

Where feet may fail, and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and you won't stop now.

That's what I've been marveling in all week.  God has been faithful in so many small and huge things thus far in my life.  It would be foolish to limit Him and think He won't be faithful still.

When my marriage was dead in part due to my adultery, He was faithful and restored what was in ruins.

When my heart was broken from watching my husband struggle in addiction and deceit, He was faithful and eventually restored beautiful memories that I thought were lost forever.

When my guilt and shame was overwhelming and suffocating me, He was faithful and restored my heart to His own.

When my hope was shattered and I didn't believe anymore, He was faithful and restored that, even to the point that anyone who knows me well knows that HOPE is my favorite word.  It lives in and through me and experiencing hope again fills me with so much joy. 

You don't know how good it is to hope again unless your hope has been stripped away.

But none of this could have happened if I hadn't decided to go deeper.  

8 years ago he called me back to Him.  He rescued me from the mess I had made of myself, and he set me apart.  That's why I started this blog back then.  To be set apart.  To share how out of the worst mistakes of my life, out of the darkest moments, God redeemed and restored me.  And here I am today, with a renewed heart for this blog, because I am being called to go deeper.   And being called to lead others to go deeper.  I don't have all the answers and am not a Bible scholar, but if you are on the precipice, if you are ready to go deeper, then jump into these deep waters with me and let's show the world how faithful God is.  How powerful He is.  How beautiful He is.

Because if you are ready, He is ready to take you to where your trust is without borders.  That's where I find myself right now.  Trusting without borders. I have never understood what that  meant and couldn't comprehend what it looked like until now.

And I am living in victory and freedom from fear that for 41 years was my constant companion.  Freedom from the anxiety that crippled me.  Freedom from the pain controlling my mind and my actions.  Freedom from sin and guilt and shame, because I accepted the free gift of grace and forgiveness offered to me on the Cross.

Are you ready to go deeper?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lessons From Physical Therapy

It feels like more than 2 days have come and gone since my last post, because a LOT has been happening within my heart and life.  After the sermon Sunday and everything God is trying to teach me about not being a slave to fear, he decided it was time to go even deeper.

Normally, he just says, "OK, it's time to work on this ONE thing."  Actually, now that I put words to it, he probably hasn't been saying that.  He has probably been saying, "Let's work on you surrendering and trusting me in every area," but all I can hear because fear stands in the way is, "just work on one thing at a time."

So, yesterday he prompts a dear friend to reach out to me and this friend starts sharing what has been going on in his life over the last year or so and how he is learning to trust God to be "just enough" for his present needs.  The words "just enough" have repeated over and over in my head.  Something about hearing those words and understanding what they meant changed everything for me.

I can't describe how it changed me, except to say that this has happened one other time in my life.  On Good Friday, when I was on the precipice but terrified to let my walls come down before God, when I thought I deserved only punishment for everything I had done, when I didn't think I was good enough, when I didn't think I deserved grace and forgiveness, God used our counselor to encourage me to "just for today, on Good Friday" let Jesus take the punishment I knew I deserved.  Because the truth was the Christ on the Cross DID take my punishment away from me.  It was placed on Jesus, whose sole purpose was to show us God's love and lead us to him. That moment changed everything for me and I have spent the last 8 years trying to do better, to be better, and to live a different way.

It just now occurs to me that in that moment, Tony was telling me to let God be "just enough" that day 8 years ago.  To just find him in that one moment and accept that his grace was "just enough" to cover me. 


I don't care what anyone says.  It is all connected.  God orchestrated all of this and tied it together so beautifully that it can't be denied.

This new lesson God is teaching and asking of me feels that same way.  Now that I know that he can be "just enough," it changes everything.  I know that my life can never go back to the way it was. 

My fear has to leave.

My pain can no longer control me.

My heart has to continue to soften towards others.

Any issues with food, good or bad, have no place in my life.

The distractions that I allow to fill my every waking moment have to end.

My life has to reflect God in EVERY single thing I do, not just where my marriage and renewed understanding of Jesus is concerned.

So I have begun a new practice.  When the pain gets bad (or the fear or anxiety are threatening), I stop and immediately breathe, ask God to give me "just enough" to get through the next moments, and then I turn up the worship music and shift my focus. 

And he has been faithful. 




I could say that it's just the shift in my focus that is relieving the pain, but I think that isn't fair to limit God like that.

If he could heal a man who hadn't walked in 38 years (John 5), simply by telling him to pick up his mat and go home, then he can easily move my pain from a 6 to a 5.  We are so stupid.  We limit God.  We can look at the miracles performed in the desert, in the Old Testament, or the miracles Jesus and his apostles performed, and we can think, "Yeah, but God doesn't still work that powerfully."



I've seen him do it.  Sure, he's not turning water to wine specifically or curing my degenerative disc disease (though he could if he wanted, he knows I wouldn't turn to him if I didn't have the pain to point me to him), but he took a heart that was lost, a prodigal who had been running from him for over 7 years and rolling around in the pig pen, and he RAN to my rescue. 

I'm sure many know the story of the prodigal son in the Bible.  It is such a beautiful picture of how God, our Father, loves us, waits for us, and chases after us.  When the son realized how he had been living, when he "came to his senses," we find this:

“So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Luke 15:20-24

He took a marriage that was dead, filled with addiction, broken vows, adultery, pain, disrespect, and discontentment and he made it into something so beautiful there aren't words to properly describe it.

He is still working miracles.  He is still moving mountains.

So, yes, he does still work and move in powerful ways.  It wasn't just something he gave to the Israelites.  It was intended for us today, right now, in this very moment.

It was with this renewed sense of turning to him and begging him to be just enough to get me through the next few moments that I went to physical therapy today.  And as I was laying there while the therapist worked on the tight muscles in my neck, I began thinking, "There's no way this guy is a physical therapist."

I have done physical therapy for my knee, for my back, and for my neck multiple times.  EVERY time it has been "here are exercises that will likely hurt, but do them anyway because that's how you get pain free.  If it hurts, you're doing it right."  I can tell you with absolutely certainty that after my knee surgery, physical therapy in that way was NOT the right answer.  I quit going after a few weeks because instead of getting better, my knee was getting worse.  It was only when I backed off and rested more and listened to my body that I began to heal and got stronger.

So when I first went to PT last week, I expected to be given specific exercises to get my range of motion back in my neck.  What the therapist did though was basically very focused massage.  Sure, there's a technical name for it, fascia something or other, but it really felt like I was getting a massage mixed in with a little chiropractic care.  And it surprised and confused me, because none of my physical therapy sessions ever went that way.

Today was no different.  As I was laying there, thinking about how gentle the therapist was being with me, I immediately connected it to God.  But I wasn't quite sure if the therapist was a chiropractor or therapist or massage person.  So I just asked him.  I was like..."So, what is your title exactly?  Are you a physical therapist or chiropractor or what?  What do you do?  Because this isn't like any physical therapy I have ever been to."

He told me they are a holistic organization that houses massage therapist, physical therapists and chiropractors.  He is technically a physical therapist though.  One definition of holistic is this: characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

He somehow instinctively knew what I needed.  Instead of manipulation of my spine or forcing me to do stretches, he took a very gentle approach and is working on the tissue and muscles that have been affected by surgery.  He is even trying to work through some of the issues I have now with my vocal range and ability to use my voice and his mission is to help people thrive, not just get by. 

One thing my friend Shawn and I have been discussing these last couple of days is just how gentle God is with us.  When we are ready to come to him for the first time, or to come back home if we were running like the prodigal, we expect he will be angry.  Like parent with a child who came home past curfew or who we caught drinking or any other number of trouble kids get into.  And we expect there will be very negative consequences because we chose to live outside of him.  I think that is why a lot of people avoid God.

They are where I was 8 years ago.

Feeling unworthy of love.

Believing that I was incapable of ever thriving.

Unable to accept that no matter the disaster I had made of my life, I could be forgiven.

There is a HUGE misunderstanding where God and Grace are concerned. 

He doesn't want to punish us.  He loves us.  Tenderly and gently, but also passionately. 

He wants us.  

Just us.  

As we are.  

He can teach us the rest as we go.  If there are changes we need to make in our lives, he will be gentle and patient and lead us when we need to be there.  I could sit and regret not delving deeper than I did these last 8 years.  But something God revealed this morning is that it's okay that I am just now going deeper.  Because 8 years ago, he called me to come back to him and really live a changed life.  So I tried to do that the best I could and even though I see a better way now, I wasn't ready. 

I am ready now.

He knew it and he began placing people around me that would speak life and truth to me as he has revealed this to me.  There are so many things I could tell you, tiny miracles I have seen God orchestrate just in the last day and a half, but even beyond that...he has been moving for weeks, likely months, years, eternity even to bring me right here to where I am today

And it took as long as it needed to. 

I can forgive myself for the regrets.  

I can forgive myself for not "getting it" 8 years ago.  

I can forgive myself for how I lived and my limited understanding of who he is for the first 33 years of my life.  

He tells me it is okay. 

He tells me that my best is good enough. 

There will be days when your best looks like laying around on the couch because you can't shake the depression that is trying to suffocate you.

There will be days when your anxiety is so high you're mind is spinning out of  control and you can't see a way through.

There will be days when you have to fight tooth and nail not to give in to temptation.

There will be days when you are just exhausted and can't put one foot in front of the other.

Even in those days, your best is enough.

You are enough.

Even in your mess.

Even in your sin.

There may come a time when he will call you to go deeper, but he doesn't look at all those days you couldn't get out of bed and find disappointment.  What you maybe couldn't see is that he was lying beside you, holding you, waiting patiently.  Hoping that you would turn your eyes to him.  That you would recognize his presence and that you would allow it to comfort you. 

Sometimes it is okay to not do

Sometimes it is okay to just sit in God's presence and weep or rail against the world or grieve losses.

So here is my encouragement today.

Let your walls down.

Try to figure out what is holding you back.

Is it fear?





Let it go.  Just for the next few minutes.  Ask God to give you "just enough" to carry you through the next few moments.  And when the fear or the memories or the temptations come back, ask him again to be "just enough" for the next moments.  Try it.  See if he isn't faithful.  Once you experience it, you will understand this song that I have been playing on repeat. 

It changes everything.

It has to.

Monday, March 9, 2020

When You Are A Slave To Fear

I have been obsessed with the band I Am They over the last few months.  Their lyrics speak to my soul and the music is so soothing.  There are many songs that I feel like could be anthems for my life.  One in particular, No Longer Slaves, is a favorite.  It starts out speaking directly to my heart.  Listen: music is powerful.  I can't explain it.  I feel everything in music.  Not just the beat, not just the instruments, and not just the words.  Those all combine and they do something deep in my heart.  There are times that it unravels me and leaves me weeping.  So when I hear the first part of this song, I feel it.  So strong.  Deep in my soul.

You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song

I don't know about you, but I am so so grateful that God surrounds us through music.  Many people look to creation - the land, the sky, the seas.  It's easy to see God in the mountains or a rainbow, or feel him in a cool breeze.  Music is also creation.  God can be seen through music, art, or theater.  The art that God speaks through the most for me has to be music.  Hands down.

There is another line in that song that says this:

I'm no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God


Look: I have been a slave to fear for as long as I can remember.  My earliest memories of my childhood are rooted in fear.  From a prison escape near the house where helicopters were flying over and radio announcers were telling us to stay inside and lock the doors, to general fear of the dark, fear has been my constant companion.

When I first came home, 8 years ago, I began to work on identifying what was keeping me enslaved, both to sin and to fear.  You can't deal with your "stuff" and get healthier if you don't face it.  So, I threw myself into facing myself.

I had to dig deep and look at myself for who I really was.  A sinner.  Broken.  Guilty of so much hurt and betrayal against so many people.  It was almost enough to overwhelm and overpower me.  Honestly, if not for my faith in God, it would have been too much for me to handle.

When you live in fear, every decision you make is rooted there.  I hate being outside at night.  I actually hate nights in general.  Something about the darkness has been offensive to me from the time I can remember.   I used to be scared to eat Sunday dinners, scared to be in my house alone in the dark, scared someone would shoot me through the sliding glass doors that I had to pass in order to get to my childhood bedroom.  Some of my fears, as you can see, are completely unrealistic.  Why would a sniper be hiding out in the middle of nowhere Indiana, in the country, waiting for an opportune time to shoot me?  What is that?  At the time though, as a young child, they were very real to me, and if I didn't do things just right, if I didn't have these mantras I would say or didn't have certain behaviors I used to cope, I wouldn't have survived the fear that was all around me in my childhood.

While we are talking about fears, here is something else that I have just always worried about or thought or feared would happen to me.  I have always just believed I would be raped, and killed, and on particularly bad days, torture would also be a part of my departure from this world.  At 41, it is still a fear that is very real and it plagues me.  And honestly, I think it has impacted every aspect of my life.  So much that until recently, I was oblivious to just how much.  I am not sure if I can adequately explain this, but I will try.

When I was a kid, the only thing I ever wanted was to be a wife and a mom.  So it shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone that knew me that I got married at 19, had a kid at 20, one at 21, one at 22, and one at 25.  I got and did exactly what I had always wanted.  But here's the thing I realized recently.  I never saw myself old.  I never even saw myself middle aged.  I saw myself with a husband and with small children.  But never, ever did I think I would live to be old enough to see my kids graduate high school or get married, as two of them are doing very soon.  I've never thought I would have grand kids.  Sure, about 5 years ago, I started thinking, "Wow, I could actually have grand kids some day."  And anyone who knows me presently knows that I would find it really hard to be mad at any of my kids for giving me a grand baby, now or in the future.  Sure, Olivia is WAY TOO YOUNG, but the others are 17 and up, and it isn't out of the realm of possibility.  But I never envisioned a future for myself. 

I realized this about myself only about a month ago.  And upon putting words to it, I immediately tried to figure out what the heck was causing that.  I still don't fully understand it.  Except to say that at some point in the last months, I have begun to see a future for myself - beyond this present moment.  I see myself attending graduations and weddings, having grand kids and growing old.  Honestly, it has been a bit of a strange experience - to realize that I never thought I would live past maybe age 28?  Now that I am well past that, I can finally see myself in the future.  I've been suicidal a handful of times in my life, but I don't think depression or suicide is a life I envisioned for myself.  It was this constant companion-this thought that I will be raped and killed.  When I say that it is an obsessive thought, unless you have had obsessive thoughts, you just might not understand how consuming it can be.

I can remember talking to my mom growing up and I never felt like she understood these irrational fears I experienced.  I think she thought I was just sensitive or being silly.  Through no fault of her own, I learned from my mother to be ashamed of my fear and to internalize it.  To shove it down and try to live as if it didn't affect every aspect of my life.  I want to make something clear.  I do not blame my mom.  She did the best that she could, with the resources she had and the emotional strength she had available at the time.

But we live in different times today.  It's okay and encouraged to look at mental illness and its role in peoples lives.  It's okay to seek treatment and therapy now.  It wasn't okay 35 years ago.  It was a shameful or secret thing to be bipolar or struggle with depression.  There was such a stigma surrounding mental illness that I began to internalize a lot and the fears became bigger in my life than they ever should have been.  Most of those closest to me know that I was adopted by my aunt and uncle as a baby.  So when I refer to my mom, I am referring to my adoptive mom, who is biologically my aunt.  I have never known my biological parents as mom and dad.  I have always seen them more like and aunt and uncle.  My mom and dad who raised me, they are my parents.  I've never wrestled with this.  I've never had bitterness over being adopted and I think one of the best, healthiest things my parents did was raise my sister and I with the knowledge that we were adopted.  We also knew that our biological mother was sick.  She was diagnosed manic-depressive and it was really severe.  She was incapable of raising us in a stable and safe environment.  But remember, this was at a time when it wasn't really okay to talk about mental illness.  Thus, my aunt and uncle, suffering from their own traumas and tragedies, took my older sister and I in and raised us as their own, with little to no knowledge of how to even deal with mental illness, much less help me or my sister in our own struggles with it.

All of that background to show you that mental illness was a very real present thing that affected my immediate family.  It also meant that I would be more susceptible to suffering myself.  I had some issues in high school and was suicidal at times.  I would self-harm and it feels so weird to tell people about it now.  It wasn't cutting.  That never occurred to me.  But when life was really hard and my emotional pain was too much, I would hold out my arms and run through the woods as fast and as long as I could, slamming my arms into trees and branches as I ran.  I did this regularly, scratching up my arms in an attempt to make the pain stop.  Either that, or I would bang my head back against the wall, or something that I carried into adulthood - I would dig my fingernails into my hands as hard as I could, feeling the pain and leaving marks because somehow, it would drown out the noise in my mind.  It quieted the crazy I often felt.  Even though it hurt, it was comforting.  I don't talk about it often, as I have a tendency to minimize things I suffer through, because others have it way worse than me.  But something I am trying to be more conscious of is NOT minimizing my pain.  Because my pain is real and it affects me very deeply.  Maybe it looks different or more desirable to the person next to me, but I can guarantee none of us are equipped to handle any of what the person next to us is going through.  To any degree.  We are flawed humans, incapable of perfection this earth, and to compare ourselves with anyone else, regardless of what they are going through, is foolish.

All of this has been swimming around in my brain for weeks.  I am almost 8 weeks post-op.  Honestly it was a really difficult surgery and an even more difficult recovery.  Kris was told after surgery that my bones were soft and the surgeon was concerned the fusion would not take.  At discharge, I was told that I would be in a hard neck brace and not be allowed to do anything strenuous with my arms for at least 12 weeks.  Initially, I was banking on a 6 week recovery time.  It was quite disappointing to learn it would be 12.  The entire experience has been hard.  The first 3 weeks home were horrible.  I was miserable and began to fear (shocker) that I would never turn a corner and start feeling better.  Finally after 3 weeks, I started feeling a little better.  But the next 3 weeks were still a constant struggle. 

The opiate epidemic is so bad that they now restrict how much pain medication they can give you and each week, I was barely making it without having to call in another RX.  For reference, they gave me 30 pills each week.  The RX was actually a lesser dose than I was already using while in pain management.  The RX allowed me up to 8 pills a day.  1 to 2 pills, every 4 hours, as needed.  Here's the thing.  In pain management, I was up to 2 pills at a time because 1 just wasn't effective.  So my dose was lower AND they were only giving me 1 in the hospital, despite numerous discussions about how pain wasn't improving with it.  When I finally started taking 2 at home, I was able to get some relief.  But in doing so, if I took as prescribed, I would run out in about 3 days.  Instead, I only took up to 4 a day (which means I was rationing and only taking it twice a day, so my pain was basically unmanageable the entire time), and was able to make the RX last a week.

I had just filled it again right before my 6 week check up.  Everything was actually looking so good that the surgeon threw away the hard neck brace and told me I could gradually start easing back into normal activity, with the note to give myself a day to recover when I added something new back in, so that I could make sure I wasn't doing anything too taxing, too quickly.  When I called Tuesday of last week, I expected to be told it was the last time he would fill the RX.  Instead, they waited two days and called me on Thursday to tell me that the surgeon would not fill the RX any longer.  After a naturally-occurring meltdown, I came to terms with it and last Thursday, took 2 of my last 4 Percocet.  And I haven't taken those last 2.  Instead, I was really sick all weekend.  Likely detoxing, though I'm not completely ruling out a stomach bug...

All of this has made me face the fear that I can't keep living the way I do, consumed by fear.  In this case, I have been so afraid of the pain going forward.  But this morning, I woke up and felt more like myself than I have in probably 2 years, without the aid of any kind of medication, RX or otherwise.  My pain was at a 6 when I woke up, but simply getting up and moving around knocked it down to a 5.  This is huge and tells me that some of the morning discomfort is likely my age.  But because I am feeling more like myself, and because I have been so introspective lately (because what else am I supposed to do after surgery?), I sit here writing it all down finally.  I feel like I should apologize now for the length, but I write this blog for me, and splitting this into two posts would only benefit the few people who read this, so this is just what you are stuck with.  ;-)

So, I have been thinking about these fears for quite some time.  It was only a month ago that I started wondering about and researching OCD.  After just reading one article, I realized that perhaps my fears are more closely tied to OCD, and not anxiety.  So as I learn and understand more about OCD, I feel like I can get a better handle on these fears that constantly bombard me, and the hope would be that I can begin to cope with them in a healthy manner.  I don't believe they will ever go away, but I have to stop letting them control me.  I've never been able to fully understand where my anxieties come from, until recently.  I have not ever been diagnosed with OCD, but when I reflect on my repetitive behaviors growing up and the obsessive thoughts that haunt me, I think maybe that's the root of all of this fear.

Yesterday at church, the sermon was called "Do Not Worry."  It was your typical extrapolation from Matthew 6:25-34, about how God cares for us so much more than the birds and flowers and he adores them!  In this passage, Jesus tells those listening not to worry about really any aspect of your life.  Those are harsh words when you every breath is filled with worry!  Talk about a gut check. 

Remember my fear that a sniper would shoot me through the glass doors going to my room?  Do you know how I would cope with it?  At the bottom of our stairs there was this plaque with a Bible verse that said, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee."  King James was big back in the 80s and 90s and so I memorized that verse exactly as it was on the sign early on and from the moment my foot hit the first stair, I would obsessively recite over and over "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.  What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee. What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee." 

It didn't really comfort me or make me less afraid, but it gave me what I needed to be able to keep going up the stairs.  And once I reached the top, when I could be seen through the glass doors, I would take off running through the small hall and across the balcony entry way where the glass doors were, until I was safely in my room.  And in my running, in my mantra, I still had this crazy fear that I was going to be shot.  This happened every day.  Multiple times a day if I had to go up and down that stairway and cross in front of that entry way more than once.  While I had less fear when it was light, the fear was still there, heightened greatly once the sun went down.

I was even terrified to take my dog outside in the dark while I was in high school.  I was convinced that someone would be hiding behind one of the trees, ready to shoot me, or take me so they could rape and kill me.  And that mantra, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" repeated until I was safely back inside with the doors locked behind me.

I ask Kris almost every night if he has locked the door and armed the alarm.  Every. Night.  And if he has gone to sleep already, I get up and check it myself, convinced that if I don't, that one night will be the night an intruder breaks in while we are asleep.  For years, Kris has had to deal with my particular brand of crazy.  It is amazing he loves me the way he does, given how much he deals with on a daily basis with me.

As I sat in church yesterday, I just heard God say that it is time to lay down the obsessive thoughts.  It's time to deal with it.  And I thought, "But God, how will I remember?  You have to remind me when I'm spiraling."  And here's the thing:  I believe that He can and that He will give me the presence of mind to identify these fears and thoughts when they come.  I've watched him do it in other areas of my life.  Declaring this doesn't mean I am no longer going to wrestle with fear or obsessive thoughts. 

But my hope, my goal, is to get to a point where I recognize the fear for what it is, and ask God to take those thoughts captive, making them obedient to Christ, instead of letting them be obedient to my fear.  Something the preacher said yesterday kind of stuck with me.  I don't even remember exactly what he said, but it was something to the affect of God cares about our fears.  He is with us in them.  He wants us to know his peace and be able to trust him, even in the fear.  So, this is my commitment:  that when the fears come, I will learn to identify them, and then view them through this lens-God is with you and nothing that happens is outside of him.  You can and will get through this, because my word is true and I have told you that I love you and I am with you and I have a place prepared for you.  So if the worst happens, if I get abducted, tortured and then killed, I will be able to handle it, knowing that God suffers with me and if I die, I get to go home.

I'm not long for this earth.  None of us are.  We are here for such a short time, and I believe what matters sharing Love and Truth with others.  We weren't made to live in this life alone.  That's why Eve was created, as a companion and help-mate for Adam.  It's why God made a way for humans to reproduce.  We were intended to live in community with one another.  And as much as I rail against it because I have issues with people in general, it is vital to my survival.

While thinking about all of this yesterday, my first thought was, "But what if one of the kids dies?  What if you lose your husband?"  But what I heard in that moment was that my God is big enough to carry me through even the most devastating circumstances.  My friend Shawn has been on my mind a lot lately.  He lost his wife and 2 of his boys almost 15  years ago.  He has walked a road that has always been a fear of mine, and he trusts God.  When push came to shove, he could give in to the grief and let it overwhelm him, or he could put action to his faith and trust God that no matter what, God had a purpose for his life. 

Not that God intended to take away half of his family.  Not that God took delight in it.  But that God was there, suffering and grieving in the same exact way Shawn was.  He was next to Shawn in the deepest pain, right there so that when the grief became too much, he could just be held.  I think this is a beautiful picture of what it is like to grieve.  Shawn hasn't shared that part with me directly.  I have just watched him live out Romans 8:28 these last 15 years and have been amazed at his faith and trust in God in the darkest times.  And I am sure there were days when he was angry or ranted or begged God to help him understand the WHY.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't have his faith firmly planted in God.  It just means he is human and grief comes to all of us. 

We have to decide how we will face it.  And I want so badly to be able to face the death of my husband or children that way (or even my own demise) - knowing that the God who has never failed me will never fail me, even in death.  He will carry me and sit with me and cry with me and love on me.  He will quietly listen while I rant and rave and question why.  And then he will tilt my face to his and say,

"You are my child.  I love you.  I have always loved you.  And one day, you will see them again.  But for now, trust me.  Know that there is good that can come from even this.  You saw how I rebuilt your marriage and gave you a tender, responsive heart where before there was nothing but stone.  Know that I've got you, and I've got this.  Trust the miracles you have already seen.  Trust me and know that I have a plan and even though it doesn't make sense now, one day it will all be revealed and your faithfulness to me and trust in my promises will yield a harvest you can't even imagine."

Look, I believe that with my whole heart.  There is not a single piece of me that doesn't wholeheartedly agree with that.  I feel it, passionately.

I can only pray that the next time I am faced with fears, obsessive thoughts, or even worse, tragedy, that I remember this and that I am able to trust what I have already seen God do.  Because his miracles in my life have been crazy amazing, even in some of my darkest times.  So if I face darker days, may I QUICKLY remember all the ways God has been faithful and has fulfilled his promises in my life.

Today, I wanted to share a song that I have loved for a while, but heard in a new way recently.  I've always been inconsistent with spiritual things: prayer and Bible reading specifically.  Consistent being the key word here.  I struggle.  I always have.   It's not like it never happens.  But I'm no where near where I want to be.  I have loved what this song represents in terms of how we stand before God guilty, but Jesus steps up and says, "No.  This one is mine.  I have her covered.  I will defend her."

Jesus is the champion of the underdog! 

And thank God for that! 

His love, his blood - it defends us. 

But what struck me today, as I was thinking about all the little things I don't do that I should - even in those tiny things where I know I can be and do better, Jesus defends me.  He doesn't see the guilt and shame I feel when I realize I am not at all where I need to be.  He sees his child who he wants to lovingly take into his arms and reassure her that it's okay.  That her best is good enough.  And it always has been.