Well Done

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If you’ve known me long, you know that a few years ago my life unraveled into a heaping mess. The proverbial thread onto which I clung was tattered and frayed. Truth be known, I believe that thread broke and I tumbled down into the abyss for a time.

I was broken, to say the least.

During this time listening to music brought me to my knees. Lyrics tore through me to my deepest wounds and ravished me.

My eyes were never dry when God spoke to me through song. It was therapy. Every song seemed to be speaking directly into some broken part of me, offering some kind of comfort. Some kind of hope.

So I continued listening. Even though I melted into a puddle of mush with every song, I continued listening. I couldn’t get enough.

God was speaking life into me through these songs.

Tonight, I was in singing class at church and we began working on two songs. Before we sang each of them we listened to a radio version of each song. These were two of the songs that, a few years ago, brought me to my knees in a puddle of tears.

As we began to listen, I anticipated that I might become emotional. But I didn’t. I was engaged in listening to the lyrics and the music of the songs, and I was moved by them, but not viscerally.

As I sat there, I began to marvel at how amazingly faithful our God is. He brought me out of despair that I didn’t think I could survive. He healed brokenness in me that I didn’t think was repairable. And He showed me tonight just how far He has brought me.

He made me whole again.

The songs?

Well Done by The Afters

Scars by I Am They

There was a time when I would hear Well Done and I would know that I had to keep hanging on because my story wasn’t over and I wanted to hear those words when I got to Heaven. That song kept me strong.

And even though I am made whole again, I do carry the scars from everything I went though, and they run deep. But you know what, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m closer to God than I ever would be if I hadn’t gone though this battle. And now I have a powerful testimony that I can use to help someone else with a similar story to mine. The song sums it up so well. I’m thankful for my scars.

If you don’t know these songs, look them up and take a listen. You won’t be sorry.

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Isolation

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6:30 am and the alarm sounds. She awakens to face another day, wondering how she will get through it. After a short snooze, she wills herself out of bed.

Feed the dogs.

Pack the lunch.

Prepare breakfast.

Dishes.

Laundry.

Loneliness.

Isolation.

Silence.

He’s gone again. But even if he were here, she wouldn’t let him in on her secret. It would only bring him down. There’s no point in doing that to him.

It had been another weekend that had knocked her off her feet. No phone calls. No invitations. Just reminders of the isolation.

Much of Saturday spent in bed. Sunday, painfully smiling through another morning amid all the happy people. Then more time in bed.

Forgotten.

Some have moved on.

Others have never given her a chance.

Then, Monday.

So much is expected of her.

Hasn’t she overcome this? People depend on her.

Family.

Clients.

But she can barely move. Hardly function.

She’s numb. Empty.

The pills, they strip her of emotion. She can’t feel much of anything anymore.

She’s a shell, screaming from the inside out.

She doesn’t want to be a burden.

She doesn’t want to be rejected.

So she hides in plain sight.

Behind a smile.

In isolation.

The Waiting

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We took one of our dogs to the vet yesterday and got some news we weren’t expecting. Sad news. Now we are just stuck in limbo, waiting on test results to see what the next steps are.

It’s hard, the waiting.

Isn’t that true of life in general? Waiting is hard. It’s in the waiting that we can sometimes feel that things are so desperate that they can’t possibly work out. Sometimes we even feel forgotten by God.

But the truth is, it’s in the waiting that God is doing His work on us. That’s when He is growing us, stretching us, molding us. That’s when we can begin to truly, deeply know Him in a way we never could without the waiting.

Without the waiting we probably wouldn’t slow down enough or have enough need to get to know Him on the level that I’m talking about. It’s a ‘my-life-depends-on-you-I-have-nothing-left’ kind of dependence. It’s a ‘you-are-my-only-hope’ kind of relationship.

And it’s beautiful and magnificent to know Him like this because He never disappoints. He always shows up with the peace and comfort that is needed. Even if we don’t get the answers we hope for, there is peace that only God can bring.

But sometimes it takes time to build that trust in Him, so the waiting may be necessary.

When we are in a season of waiting, it’s a time for us to dig in and do some work with God. It’s not meant to be an idle time to squander.

The next time you find yourself in the waiting, invite God to wait with you. You never know, it could turn out to be the ride of your life!

A Mother’s Heart

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Yesterday my kids hurt my feelings. This morning I was still having a bit of trouble getting over it. But then something happened and in an instant my mother’s heart turned from being hurt for myself to being hurt for my son. Now my own hurt seems so insignificant.

If you know Aero you know he is unique. He’s very special in many ways. Unfortunately, not many people have the privilege of knowing him the way I do. Admittedly, he’s hard to get to know. But he’s worth the effort.

It breaks my heart to see him spend every day of the summer by himself because he has no friends to hang out with. It breaks my heart to see him attend youth group events only to have no one talk to him (or at least that’s how he reports it). It breaks my heart to see him try to make plans every now and then only to have them fall through over and over again.

Most of the time it doesn’t seem to bother him but every now and then he comments about his lack of friends. He comments about how he knows people don’t like him. He stays in his room and cries. And this breaks my heart. And I don’t know how to help him.

He has such a good heart. If only more people knew. Autism is hard to live with.

Thanks for reading.

The Phone Call

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Last week I received a phone call that would possibly change our lives, at least for a little while.

There had been an incident and I was needed in an emergency meeting as soon as possible.

Mistakes had been made. Words had been spoken that couldn’t be taken back. They were out there, hanging in air, threatening to suffocate us.

And now we had to deal with them. Now we have to deal with them.

Confused, shocked, and scared, we went home, not knowing what to expect next.

I began making phone calls, sending texts and reaching out for help. And do you know what happened? God provided help and support for us. People stepped up and stepped in for us. Friends checked on us and prayed for us and let us know we are loved and not alone in this.

In the midst of what could turn out to be a nightmare of a situation with dire consequences, we are loved. We are surrounded with good people who will hold us up and remind us whose we are. We will not be forgotten because we belong to Jesus.

This is a very scary time of unknowns for our family, but the truth of God’s faithfulness remains. I will cling to that as we move forward. In the midst of uncertainty, it’s all I can do.

As the next days and weeks unfold, I ask that you pray for our family. Pray for peace. Pray for grace and mercy. Pray for God’s shield of protection to be over us. Pray for guidance and for lessons to be learned. But also, pray these things for the other families involved, as well. Pray for forgiveness.

Thank you, friends, for loving our family. We love you.

Four

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As an Enneagram 4, I find that I’m frequently longing for something, or someone, that I can deeply connect with. I’m searching for something to move me. I want mountaintop experiences on the regular. Mundane, rote, lackluster things leave me feeling empty and wanting more.

I heard a song today and listened to the lyrics for the first time. “Holy Spirit come like a flood, like a fire. Holy Spirit fall in this place, fill our hearts…God, we know you have so much more. We’re looking to a new horizon. We’re praying for your rain to pour…” I had this realization that this is one thing I’m searching for – the feeling of being in the presence of God. The emotion that goes with it. And I don’t just want this for a moment, I want this all the time.

I don’t want to just know that God is with me, or living in me. I want to feel it. I want the experience of it. I want to be moved. Maybe this isn’t realistic all the time. Maybe I’m a dreamer. Maybe this isn’t even what it’s about. But it’s what I long for.

I’ve come to understand that because I’m a 4, I grew very comfortable with the time I spent in depression. It was a time in which I felt everything viscerally. It’s odd to think that it was comfortable because it really was extremely painful, but it’s the fact that I was deep into my emotions that made it feel so authentic.

Even more difficult to understand is that I sometimes miss it. How could that possibly be? Well, it’s just as I’ve said – I was feeling everything, which is what feels authentically me. Now, though, I don’t feel things nearly as intensely. I suppose that’s a good thing. I know it is. But still, sometimes I crave the experience of the strong emotions. It’s the experience I miss. Although it ravishes me, it makes me know that I’m alive – that I’m experiencing something on a visceral level.

Now that I’m not engulfed in my feelings all the time, I just have this sense of wanting. I have this sense of longing. I feel like some part of me is missing. This is why I desire something meaningful in my life. This is why I turn to God to fill this void that I feel. I think, though, that it will not quite be filled while I’m on this side of Heaven. I think what I’m searching for can’t be captured until I meet Jesus face to face.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just not great with words and can’t really convey what it is that I’m trying to say. Now is one of those times. I’m not sad. I’m not anxious to get to Heaven. I simply realize that I want something more than this world has to offer.

So what do I do with that? Well, I make the most of the opportunities that I have to tap into meaningful moments. I cherish Spirit-filled worship. I nurture friendships. And I wait. For one day my heart will be full to the brim with all its desires.

In Awe of Him

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I love Jesus. I mean, I really, truly love Jesus with every part of my being. I could never express in mere words what he means to me. I just don’t know how. It’s beyond my capabilities.

I’ve seen him perform miracles in my life for which I am eternally grateful. I have put my life in his hands and he has gently, graciously, mercifully saved me. And I am in awe of him.

His love is boundless for me and I don’t deserve it. Yet he gives it regardless of my undeserving nature. And I am in awe of him.

My love for him is so deep and personal that it’s hard for me to talk about. It’s probably because I can’t put the right words on it to express what he means to me in my life. So I find that I don’t even try sometimes. I shy away from it because words fall short. And I am in awe of him.

While I know that I have this very meaningful relationship with Christ, does anyone else see it in me? I wonder. Is my light shining? Is it evident that I belong to Jesus?

I think it is. I do all the things. I go to church. I listen to worship music. I pray. I read my Bible. I talk about Jesus. But I don’t really share about my personal experience with him too much. So maybe that part is missing. Maybe my light could be brighter.

Maybe others need to hear what Jesus is doing, or has done, in my life. Maybe that’s more impactful than seeing me go to church. Maybe vulnerability is what people need to see. Maybe.

I’ve been really convicted the last couple of weeks that maybe I haven’t done the best job with my children. I should’ve prayed with them more. I should’ve taught them more. I should’ve…

Truth is, I could play that game all day, right? I could always do better, but I believe God will bless what I did do. I gave my children a good foundation of faith.

My prayer now is that I continue to teach them as they are grown (and almost grown). My prayer is that I will be bold in talking to them about my faith. My prayer is that they will love Jesus as much as I do.

There’s a song with lyrics that say this: “I’m a man whose one ambition is to dance with my divine.” And I think that’s so beautiful. That his only mission in life is to be with Jesus.

And that’s mine, too. Jesus is magnificent, and I’m in awe of him.

No More Hiding

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I keep feeling like I want to write something but I’m not quite sure what I want to say. I want to come up with a happy, uplifting message to share, but the truth is that’s just not how I’m feeling. Every time I start to write, though, I stop myself because I don’t want to be a downer. I don’t want to spread negativity. So, I have just been keeping all my feelings to myself. I just stuff them down and don’t talk to anyone about them.

I think I’m afraid. Ever since we moved, I have been scared to really open up and truly be myself. What if I’m not accepted? What if they don’t understand? What if they are scared of me? What if they avoid me? All of these things constantly run through my mind and keep me from saying the things that are on my mind. They keep me from opening up and being honest about who I really am.

But the truth is that now I’ve become closed off. I’ve crawled up inside my shell. I’m so scared of rejection that I don’t even try to make friends. So guess what? I don’t have any. Not in the way that I would like, anyway. I guess it’s really not fair to say I don’t have any friends at all, but here’s the extent of it. I talk to a few people at church and I talk to people at work. Occasionally, I go to lunch with someone, which is nice. But that’s it. Basically, I’m not sharing life with anyone here. I’m not connecting in the way that I always have before.

I’ve always had friends. Good friends. I’ve always made connections that run deep. So, not having that here has been really hard for me. It’s been really lonely. But, I suppose it’s my own fault. I suppose that I should be making more of an effort to get to know people. And maybe if I wasn’t so scared of my secret being found out, I might try.

The truth is, it’s not really a secret. Anyone who has paid any attention to my FB page in the last several years already knows. I guess I just assume that most people don’t pay attention, so they probably don’t know. Maybe if I just go ahead and lay it all out there, I won’t have to worry about it anymore. Of course, I won’t know who has read this, but at least I will have taken a step toward not being scared anymore.

The thing is, I know God doesn’t want me to live in fear. I know he doesn’t want me to hide this part of my life. It’s part of my story for a reason. He showed up in a powerful way for me and I know he would want me to share that with anyone who will listen. And he taught me so many valuable things that I can now pass on to others, if only I am brave enough to do so.

So here goes. For some, this won’t be news. For others, it certainly will.

For many years I have struggled with depression, probably as far back as my college years. I began getting help for it in 2014. Though I was seeing a counselor and taking medication, I wasn’t getting any better. I would go through times when I was better for a while, but then things would get bad again. I had this feeling in my gut that something was really wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just knew that we were missing something.

In 2016, things really began to spiral out of control. I was going downhill in a hurry. It was really apparent now that something more was going on. In November, we finally got the answer we had been searching for. What we thought was treatment resistant depression was really bipolar disorder.

As you can imagine, getting this diagnosis absolutely rocked my world. I had so many mixed emotions. Finally, we could understand what was happening and could start moving toward proper treatment. But, bipolar? How could I be bipolar? It took a while for me to wrap my mind around this diagnosis.

I began doing a lot of research and learning all that I could about bipolar disorder. I learned that it’s actually a spectrum of disorders and affects each person very differently. It doesn’t affect me in the typical way, which is why it was so difficult to diagnose.

Over the next couple of years, I focused heavily on getting treatment. I spent a total of seven months in intensive group therapy for about ten hours each week. I was also seeing my private therapist once or twice a week and was having regular visits with my psychiatrist during this time. Basically, therapy and getting better was almost a full time job.

It wasn’t an easy journey by any means. There were times when I couldn’t see any way out of the pit I was in. I didn’t think my life was ever going to get back on track. I didn’t think I would ever be able to work or lead any sort of normal life again. I had completely broken down, and I didn’t know if there was any recovering.

I was suicidal for about three years. I survived some incredibly dark moments that I can’t even begin to describe. I had many talks with Jesus, begging him to come get me. I didn’t think I could bear the pain I was living any longer. He knew differently.

Over time, very slowly, I began to get better. After many trials and errors, we finally found the right medications. All the therapy had paid off and I was finally stabilizing. The time between getting my diagnosis and finally feeling stable was about four years.

During those four years, I met God in ways I never imagined possible. I now know him more intimately than I ever would have if I hadn’t had to put my life in his hands. So many things in my life were stripped away during these four years that I found myself turning to him and leaning on him in ways that I hadn’t previously. And he never let me down. No matter how bad things got, I never doubted his presence, his grace, his mercy, or his love for me. And while I hope I never have to endure anything like this again in my life, I am somehow thankful for having done so.

God grew me and molded me during this process in ways he couldn’t have otherwise. I’m thankful for that. I’m grateful to be changed. I’m grateful to see the other side and see what God did for me. I’m thankful that I now have the opportunity to tell others about how good he is.

That brings me to the present. That’s why I feel like I have to share my story and not hide behind it. How will anyone know how good God has been to me if I don’t tell them? Obviously, there are so many more details to this story that I have left out, but I’m happy to share them with you or with anyone who wants to hear them.

Also, my journey is part of what lead me to be a counselor. It’s mostly why I’m so passionate about mental health. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Belonging

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We were having lunch today when we learned that the youth group was having a halloween party tonight. It was the first we had heard of it. Now, this is probably my fault for not being plugged in, though I’m not sure where I would have gotten the information. Or maybe Aero was supposed to have been relaying this information to us. Anyway, the point is, we didn’t know about the party.

Aero made a comment that made me think he might want to go, which surprised me and also got me thinking about a few things. I wondered if parents typically dropped their kids off at things like this or if they stayed with them at the events. I wondered if going to these events would help us to integrate and start to make more friends.

And then the anxiety set in.

It isn’t just that I have anxiety about who I will talk to or what I will do while I’m there, but I also have anxiety that the other people at the party just don’t want me to be there. Somehow in my mind I am convinced that I am unliked and unwanted. I feel like if I show up at an event that I will be an unwelcome guest. Like, somehow, I’m encroaching upon someone else’s territory and I better stay outside the boundary – where I belong.

How crazy is that?

Believe me, I know it’s crazy. Yet, it’s how I feel down to my core.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with thinking that other people don’t like me. I tend to assume that they don’t until I know that to not be the case. I’ve tried to talk myself out of feeling this way, but the truth is I just don’t know how. There’s just something deep within me that won’t let me believe that I belong. I always feel like an outsider.

Maybe it’s a product of moving in and out of so many places over the last two decades of my life. I never quite felt like I belonged anywhere I went, well, except Florida. But now, this is supposed to be our forever home, but something just doesn’t feel right about it. Something feels off. Worship ministry, ladies ministry, Bible class, Heartfelt, life group, work, family…I feel like I’m doing all the things, but not connecting, at least not in the way that I want to. I know these things take time…

I’m not sure what’s missing here. I’m not sure what’s off. I think maybe it’s me. I think I’m the thing that’s off. I can’t seem to relax at all when it comes to things of a social nature. I’m just anxious and uptight about it all the time. I just don’t feel comfortable. Maybe that’s what’s wrong and why we aren’t integrating the way we should be. Maybe I’m holding us back. Or maybe it shouldn’t be this hard. Maybe I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and it’s never going to work. I just don’t know.

Normally, I would end here with something that I do know, some small piece of wisdom or something. But right now I don’t have anything. I’m just kind of at a loss as to how to move forward. How do I push past all the anxiety and awkwardness that consumes me in order to get to know people in this place? I just don’t know the answer.

Fear

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Flying thousands of feet above the earth and looking out the window of the airplane, and I’m struck by the fear that has been crippling me. You’d think I was referring to a fear of flying or a fear of heights, but I’m not. No, I’m actually thinking more about fear that has come with the process of having to reinvent my life one more time.

I always knew it would be hard to move and try to settle down to our permanent home when we were in our forties. The truth is, it’s hard to make friends at this age. People already have friends. Their friend groups are set and they aren’t looking to bring new people into them. That’s just the way it goes most of the time, or at least that’s been my experience. Add to that the fact that I’m painfully shy and awkward when it comes to meeting new people, and well, it’s just a recipe for disaster, and a ticket to loneliness.

But that’s not where the fear comes in. The fear is something that has actually surprised me. A few years ago, my life took a drastic turn when I was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. I wrestled with this diagnosis for a very long time before I finally came to accept it. After a while, I even took it on as part of who I am – an important part, even. I

felt it deep within me that I was supposed to share my mental health story and use it to help others who go through similar struggles. This was something that I was ready to do. I began writing and being open about the things I experienced. I put my fear and pride aside and made myself vulnerable enough to share prices of my story.

Eventually, I didn’t feel afraid anymore. I felt empowered. I felt encouraged by those I was helping. I knew I was on the right path. It felt good.

But then we moved.

And everything was different. Different church. Different job. Different people. it didn’t feel safe anymore to share about my personal struggles. It suddenly became very scary all over again. These people don’t know me. They don’t know anything about me. What if they don’t accept me? What if I’m ostracized? What if they think I’m weird? What if they avoid me?

So I stopped sharing. I stopped writing. I stopped doing what I felt God was calling me to. I let fear get in the way. The truth? I’m still scared. I still worry that the new people will not accept me for who I am because it isn’t acceptable to talk about such things.

But that’s no way to live. In fear. Hiding from the things I’m meant to be doing. Jesus knew his fate, but that didn’t stop him from living the life he came here to live.

More truth? I’m not weird. I am perfectly ‘normal.’ Whatever that means. I just have some extra things that I deal with. But you’d never know if I didn’t tell you.

So maybe this is my little pep talk to myself. Maybe I’ll start speaking up again. Or maybe it will take some more time. Who knows.