Friday, November 14, 2014

Double Edged

I have this friend. She is beautiful and special and a magnificently thoughtful mother. She and I shared too few moments together when she lived here, and she has long since moved to the other side of the country, but we have a bond. 

We both love and adore our savior and our children. And we both have our gray sky days.

Depression. It's a heavy, weighted word. It can sometimes be overlaid with shades of shame. And it is an often misunderstood disease. Even I don't understand it, and I've been treading its waters since puberty. 

For me and my own particular journey, depression is not something that makes me sad. It is something that makes me nothing. It slowly leaks all of the color and joy from my world, and presses me down so hard that I am foggy and sleepy and restless. It pulls me away from family and friends and makes me a quiet and gray person who lives on the edges of life, not IN IT.

The problem with depression is that it is also sneaky, gradual, and relentless. It can tug pieces of you away until you don't fully realize you have unraveled. It starts very small and you gradually give up more and more to it. You may realize these defeats for what they are- a new cycle of the disease- or you may be full in it when somebody else points it out to you. Either way is hard, but the former is best. The more you know your disease, the more armed you are to fight it. 

My friend and I share this battle. Despite both of us being very strong in our faith. Despite us both being good, dedicated mothers. If prayer could cure depression, neither of us would have it. If focusing on our blessings could make it go away, we would never have to fight it off. 

I've struggled with why I have this particular challenge forever. The other morning I woke up to a gray day. I knew I'd have to fight for energy to push through. I was praying about it when I felt God speaking to me. An idea I had never had before.

What if I was struggling with this because it was forearming me to be able to help my children when they battled it? 

In one single moment, this battle I have been fighting for 25 years turned into a blessing. 

Depression is hereditary, coming down to me from both sides. It's almost a given that one of my children will have to go head to head with it at some point. 

And I will be able to help them so much more than if I didn't know what it was like to feel gray in a world full of sunshine. 

I texted my friend, who confirmed for me that her mom tells her the same thing all the time- that she has so many more tools to help her children should they need it. 

Wow. Just...wow. 

I've been changing my perspective about God lately. Trying to work my mind around the fact that HE  sees the whole picture- every single moment of my life, every mistake, every struggle. None of it is a surprise to Him. He sees the masterpiece as He paints it. I only see a postage stamp sized view of it. 

I know I don't ever fight this disease alone- but now I know I may be fighting it for a PURPOSE. 

This realization is just more confirmation of how God carries me. Every single thing, good and bad, in my life can and should be used to propel me forward. Mistakes teach us what not to do, what doesn't work, and the beauty of grace. Blessings teach us gratitude. And struggles teach us to rely on God and dig deep for His help. 

All of it can be used to teach our children about life. Even the things that we have been shamed about- our struggles with depression, our feelings of worth, our deepest hurts. 

I love an amazing God, who helps me to overcome all things. But who also uses the broken things of this world to teach me more about who I am, and what I can do. In turn I can teach my children the same thing. 

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Jeremiah 33:6 - Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.

Isaiah chapter 9:

2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, [and] not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, [and] as [men] rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

5 For every battle of the warrior [is] with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but [this] shall be with burning [and] fuel of fire.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crush




The tears started hard and fast in the carpool lane. A wave of sadness and loss that I didn't expect, had no inkling of, and couldn't hold back. I was holding my rosary, praying for those both in and out of my life. And grief swelled like the ocean in my soul. 

So I cried. Behind my glasses. Big sobs and hard tears that felt....awesome.

I've been living behind a wall. A huge, crushing, brick edifice I built myself. I put it up, stone by stone, out of self protection and fear. 

Sometimes love seems like an invitation to pain. An outstretched hand to a crushing blow. An offering that will surely, one day, be rebuffed and rejected. 

So I built this wall to keep everyone out. With evey instance of pain and rejection stone went higher. 

Until I was insulated, isolated. 

Safe. But alone. 

This is not how God designed me. This is not being true to the nature Christ died to give to me. I am not meant to hide my love, to squash my feelings, or to turn my back.

I've been led here, to this point, by life. But that doesn't make it right. 

I've been crushed. What I thought was true and good and whole has been lost. What I created and nurtured and strove for- relationships of depth and mutual care- have been removed from me. 

I've been pruned, down to the very bottom of myself. 

And lately when I pray I have asked God how much more I have to lose. In return I have lost more. 

I have asked Him when it will end. In turn it hasn't. 

I've asked how many times I can get back up. In turn I have struggled back to my feet more times than I can count.

Pain is not easy. Pain stretches the parts of yourself that have never seen the light. It brings forward all of your deepest fears and worst flaws. It shines light on your beliefs and your hard held bondages. It frays the edges of your faith, and then unravels it.

Until you build and edifice to live behind. Then you are protected. From the world. From others. 

But what I have realized is that this edifice is also between me and God. Between me and the best parts of myself he has given me- my heart for love and service. My desire to always be the first one to help, to give, to serve, and to nurture. 

My heart has been so hardened, so angry, and so numb. I could stay that way forever. I could keep others out and enjoy the solitude of my tower.

But I would be denying myself the very best parts of life in Christ- freedom to love. To love and know when you are hurt or rejected by the world, that God is always and forever the balm and healing for that devastation. 

I can live in the freedom of knowing hurt will come. Pain will surface. I won't be protected from what life has to give- but I will be healed of its injury.

I don't have to be afraid anymore. I don't have to be scared of rejection. I don't have to worry about others opinions. I've lost it all. I've experienced it all.

And I'm still here, with a God who will stand outside of my wall and knock. Who will remind me that this is not who I am, or who I was designed to be.

I've locked my heart up, refused to cry. I've stored up feelings of hatred and disgust and deep betrayal. It has kept me safe from having to feel. 

I don't want to be like the world. I don't want to hold myself away from others out of fear. I don't want to be scared. I want to live. I want to serve. 

So I prayed for the wall to come down. And in turn, I began to feel again.

To soften. To mourn. To hurt and to grieve. 

To cry in carpool. To cry in the shower. To cry at Christmas music and diaper commercials. To begin to say, again:

I love you.

I am here.

I am open. 

I began to soften back into the beauty of this life, to allow the horrible and the perfect and the mundane to effect me again, and not numb myself. 

To say everything, no matter how silly or sentimental I may seem. To be vulnerable. 

Because behind that wall is who I am slowly leaving behind. The person who hid and raged and stopped caring.

Outside there is a chance of being crushed, and being hurt. The world offers no guarantee of safety or of help. 

So it's a really good thing I don't belong to the world. 


Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


Galatians 5:1
[ Freedom in Christ ] It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

I can't live in fear of hurt. And I can't be in bondage to what others may do or think of me. And I know I cannot love behind a wall.

So the choices are clear: to soften, and allow the love of Christ to be in me and flow through me again. To be vulnerable to pain. To offer my hand and my heart and service without being afraid of the repercussions to my heart. 

To be open to being crushed, by stepping outside of the crushed wall I've been hiding behind. 


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lily


Dear Lily,

I remember hearing when I was pregnant that I would fall into this chasm of love the first time I saw you. I anticipated that, waited for it. And it didn't happen. Of course I loved you- would have died for you within minutes. But this deep and wide feeling of attachment that would undo me? No.


That came on night four when you came home. Your daddy was asleep and I was getting ready to nurse you. I looked down at you and this wave crashed over me- not a small thing. A tsunami of gratitude and love and KNOWING that I had never felt for another human being on this earth. I looked at you and thought- "This. This is it. What I have never known. What I have needed to my bones but never could speak." And it was you, in your tiny little body.

You became as important to my living as air. You have become my compass and my guide to what is important and right in this life.

You have made me a better person, just by living. 


We've had a ripple through our family this past year. A whirlpool of shifting tides. I know you have felt it and I know I've done the best I could to explain it to you. You will remember this time- hushed conversations and finding mommy crying at times. You will remember that your feet didn't feel so solid on the ground for a while- that you could feel the tremor of the earth as our lives moved and stilled. 

You may never know the details- but you will know this: our family can weather anything. The four of us are together, always. No matter what comes, it is us. Us and our God and our faith.

You have taught me so much in these times. You have a powerful sense of justice and fairness that most adults do not posses. You are entirely driven by your own sense of right and wrong and you always err on the side of compassion. I've watched your navigate tough waters- waters you should never have to, with an ear to your own conscience. You are wise enough to love even past being hurt.

I look at you and want so much to be like you.  


If I could give you one thing to take through the rest of your life it would be peace. Peace deep enough to carry your feet and your heart through the dark places every life travels. Peace that comes from knowing your identity is grounded in faith and family and that you can make mistakes and be forgiven.

Peace of heart, mind, and soul. 

I want you to know I would do anything for you. My love for you is a million times more than that moment in the dark 7 years ago. It is enough to protect you from anything and not count the cost to myself. It is enough to give you all of me for as long or as much you need.

I'm so lucky to be able to go through this life with you, to watch you grow. To see what kind of woman you will be-will you climb the pyramids of Egypt or will you rock babies all day? Who will you find to love? Will you marry or will you go on adventures alone? 

The one thing I know for sure is that I will be here, with you, for it all. 





I love you, sweet girl. To the moon and back. Forever. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Called

Most of us know the story of Jesus asking his disciples "Who do you say that I am?"

We've read it and heard it in Sunday school and in church. Just like I did this past Sunday. The story was told, and as always, it struck a chord with me. It resonates because the answer is true for me- he is my savior. 

But then, working just along the edges of my prayers was this question- "Who do I say YOU are?"

It's a much harder question to answer. It's a question of worthiness and of giving yourself permission to be loved. 

It's about stepping out into the faith that if you love Christ, you are loved in return. And not only loved, forgiven. And not only forgiven, but a new creation. And not only a new creation but righteous.

No pressure. 

Ahem.

This is what I grapple with the most. I want to feel SMALL. I want to feel unworthy. I want to feel lost in the shuffle. I don't want to be important or to be beloved.

Because then I have to wrestle with feelings of being worthy. And those are feelings even pandora would run away from.

I've spent a lot of time trying to be good. Trying to be love able. Trying to serve and give. I've cultivated a mindset of jumping in when others don't because I've been there. I've been the homeless kid asking for money. I've been the kid at school with no lunch. I've been the woman at the grocery store with not enough cash. A thousand different scenarios. 

We've all been there right? When we look around and there's not a friendly face to be found? When circumstances rise up to us and circle like jackals. And we feel alone in the fight, backed up against a wall. 

When we think we've established a life where we need never feel lonely again. But we still end up there, where it's only us with our thoughts and deeds. When we end up misunderstood and judged and left behind. 

That's where all the scripture about crying out in the wilderness, about saving grace and redeeming love should be relevant.

But sometimes you are still alone with just words. Words of life and of truth, yes. But God never promised to remove loneliness and pain. Just that in the midst of it, he would be there.

And so when he asks me "Who do I say that you are?" The answer is loaded with emotion and fear. 

I am His. I am all of the things He has said. 

But to FEEL that...to really be in it, to walk in it -even when everything around you is telling you that you are alone? Well that's another story.


Habakkuk 3:16-19 

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. 



Wow. That's a lot of faith right there. And that's what it comes down to then right? That if we believe God is who he says he is, we have to believe that we are also his creation, made in his image, and beloved by Him.


Despite our circumstances and our sadness. Despite the world that tells us we are unimportant or others who disregard us.


The world and people can and may reject us. The word of man can be betrayed and vows revoked. Nothing in this life is certain.


Nothing but the love of God. Despite how unworthy we may feel or how small we are. How much we want to hide or how much we wrestle with the worthiness of our lives. 



Psalm 34:17-18 

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.



Who does he say that I am? His. Even as work toward being worthy, he calls me by name. 

And despite my feelings of unworthiness, I answer and I follow. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bitterness

I have been laid bare, stripped away of all that was me.

Before what has happened and after what has been wrought are the remains of who I was and the life I was stepping glibly through.

I shouldered my burden of childhood and carried it high and proud on my back. I used its weight to propel me forward, and it's weight reminded me in many ways and in every conversation that I would never go back there.

I was who I chose to be. I was a woman immersed in a life I created. I was loved and I loved in returned. I served and I loved to serve.

And between the then me and the now me lies a shriveling of self, a backstep into who I never wanted to repossess. The hard edged, hard worded person I had left long ago.

The battle with circumstance has poisoned the sweetness of faith I worked so hard to wrap around my heart.

Have you ever been thirsty? So thirsty you would drink anything, anything, to remove the desperate calling of your body for replenishment? And have you ever taken that first sip and realized the water was bitter? Tainted?

But you drink anyway. Because you thirst. 

And this water makes you sick. But still, you are thirsty, so you still drink. And soon the sickness and the bitterness become like nothing. You no longer taste or realize how sick you have become. 

That's how the world, and life, and hurt, can turn your once cared for garden of a soul into a stumbling block of stony field.

It's not an overnight process, but a moment by moment slip and allowance of outside forces to become more important than the truth you know. 

And here is the Truth:

God is bigger than life. That He is and always will be working for your good. That our troubles here, in this plane, create in us a deeper need for Him and a calling home to where we are destined. 

Every tear is counted and every moment we spend in pain or in fear can create a carved path for our feet to tread to the cross.

Or it can lower us into a state of perpetual wrath, of giving over to thoughts of only wrongs and betrayals. It can lower our vision into only seeing the turned back of friends instead of the open arms of our Savior. 

Bitterness is sadness and anger given root and wings. It is savage in its spread and unretreating in its repetitive thought patterns. 

It has hooks and claws. But it is also a slow moving monster, and it has had me without me knowing.

In the tossing storm of the past few months my eyeline has shifted. It has moved from heaven to the horizon. It has turned from caring about God's idea of who I am to who everyone else thinks I am.

I am a bitter Christian with a loving God. One who is faithful even when I am not. One who loves me and wants to give safe haven when the world is storm tossed. 


Hebrews 12:14-15 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. 




Defiled. It's such an intimidating word, but important. Because defiled is what your mind becomes when you allow your circumstances and your situation to outshine the knowledge that God is sovereign. That He is awake to all things, even when you are asleep. That when you rage and cry and scream and wail He is still in control. 


I lost my way in this. I allowed my life to become bigger than my God. I let my troubles become much much bigger than what I know to be true.


I don't like to give evil a lot of credit. I tend to try to ignore the fact that there is a force other than the One I love and live for in this world. But I can see, step by step, how insidious and easy it is to get a foothold in my thoughts. And once it is there how moment by moment it creeps and finds other thoughts to feed on.

1 Peter 5:8 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.



In praying to God to change my circumstances and repair the broken things, I never prayed to guard my thoughts. 

Bitterness works it's way in the dark. It twists the actions of others through a lens of fear and hurt, so that everything becomes personal. It makes the innocuous hurtful and casts doubt upon every action others take. 

It twists the victor into a victim, and the hopeful into a wretch.

And I'm weary of being hopeless.

I have an amazing, vibrant, loving God. He has given me more than the world could ever take away from me. 

I'm stepping into a new life, one that is much barer of those I thought would be here for the journey. It's much quieter, and filled with confusion and hurt. 

But it is also filled with the symphony of my husbands voice, my children's calling and singing and laughing. It is filled with God's grace and His open arms and his word that speaks of home and life.

It is filled with all that can edge the bitterness away, push the stony ground beneath the cover of life that can regrow even in the barren places. 

It is filled with Him. 

Colossians 3:12-14 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Storm

The weather map lit up red. Angry welts broken by bands of dark green, pushing it's way directly across my area. Light flashed outside through purple rain clouds and thunder danced hard and turbulent. The kind you hear and feel all across your body- but mostly in your chest, next to your heart.

I tried to tell myself it was an ordinary storm. A typical Texas dust up that would be over soon. Then the sky turned yellow and the tv blared warning warning warning and I knew. 

I was alone in a small rented apartment in Texas. And I was scared. Right across from the door to my home was a floor to ceiling window overlooking the street and also the monstrous storm heading my way. I was on the second floor. No basement.  No cover. No shelter. 

So I stood. And watched as my world changed.

The sizzle and pop of eletrical lines being taken down by the twister began first. Lighting struck cloud to cloud, the heaviness and urgency of Mother Nature pushing the clouds closer to where I stood, framed by only wood. The dark finger of the tornado touched the horizon just as the first raindrops hit the glass in front of me. 

Hell broke loose. Rain pounded the building, lighting and thunder coming in waves directly over my head. 

Then stillness. 

Silence.

I looked up, watching as the rain began swirling in a gentle arc, the leaves on the trees pulling off and up one by one. A sound like a far off train hit my ears just about when I watched the pool furniture begin to lift slowly up, like ghosts dancing in the air. 

And then nothing. 

It lifted as if it had never been, the clouds skidding away. The thunder echoing farther and farther.

But everything around me was altered. The landscape had changed, touched by something huge and monstrous and bigger than I could have ever anticipated. 

Everything my eyes touched was bitten, broken, missing. 

Damaged and wounded and in need of repair. 

And although this had happend to my world, I was helpless to keep it at bay. 

Storms are like that. Great works of nature that can sow great harvests or ruin entirely the landscape they touch.

And we don't know which until it has passed.


I've been reminded over and over of those moments I went through that day in the past week. The terror mixed with awe. The wonder at the storm and the remains of what it left behind. The hard work of putting things to right after, and how they still were never quite as they were before.

And the lingering fear of another one.

I feel like I've lived that monster over the past few months. The devastation and the fear and the ripping up of what I thought was safe and whole and real. The pulling of the foundation under my feet. 

I have been helpless to change the outcome. I have had to sit and watch, and have faith that it would work out as it was supposed to.

And I still don't know if it has. 

Faith is supposed to be believing everything is as it should be. But sometimes our faith gets pulled up by the storm. It gets worn by the wind and the rain and looks much different after than before. Unrecognizable.

I need a faith I can hold and cling to in the eye of the monster. One that holds true in the wind and rain and silence and destruction. 

I can't say that is true anymore. I have found the altered landscape created a distance to my faith I've never walked before. An ebb. A questioning of what this all was for and why God would allow this monster to unsettle and destroy things I've held dear and loved.

If you're looking for a happy wrap up, it's not here. I'm still there, in the moments you walk out into the life you've knowns forever, and do not recognize it. When you have to feel your way and stumble past things that were not there in your path before. When the landmarks you've used all your life have been pulled down. 

I'm there. Without a map. With a distant God who has a plan I don't understand and maybe don't believe in anymore.

I'm there in the ruins and hoping my own two feet will carry me through. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Broken Things


When I was baptized at 7, I was given a beautiful statue of St Mary. Cream, gold, and light pink, she sat on my dresser and watched me. Her eyes were downcast, her face serene. Sometimes I would take her down and hold her. I would wrap her in a blanket, set her next to me for picnics. She was treasured not just for what she was, but for what she represented- a mother.

I took her on every move, every switch from home to home. She was a tangible reminder of hope and of a home I had lost.

When I was 13, I dropped her. I remember watching in slow motion as she fell, her pieces scattering everywhere on the tile floor. Small daggers rained over my feet, drawing miniscule drops of bright red blood. I could not move for fear of injury. There was no place to go, no movement that would not cause pain.

I feel like I have been living in that very moment for the past several months.

Paralyzed. Held in place by the fear of pain. In suspended motion, waiting for rescue- while the broken pieces of something I held so precious sit around me.

Anger, bitterness, sadness, helplessness. All of these are things we go though. Seasons we live through. These seasons can either make you bitter and turn your back on what you know is true, or they can make you draw closer to God and the truth that no matter what, He is working for your good.

He is sovereign. He knows everthying that is, everything that will be, and everything that has been. Nothing that happens is a surprise to him.

But for us, living down here with our humanity and the dirt and pain that just living can create- this is sometimes such cold comfort.

I have watched, silent and unmoving, as people I have loved for years have turned their faces away from me. I have been quiet as their silence descended on myself and my family like a shroud, weighing us down.

I have listened to the battering ram of words thrown at me. I have sat still in the accusation. Not because I am without guilt or mistakes, but because I cannot defend myself against untruth.

Only God can do that.

I could hurl a million words at this situation. I could wail and weep and cry and wring my hands. I could be loud and bold and angry with those involved.

But in the end, it would get me nowhere. My only defense is my faith.


I have tried to hold tight to the words in Exodus 14:14- "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."


Please don't mistake me- I have shook my hands at God and begged him to reveal the truth. I have cried and broken down so fully that I was afraid for my own sanity.

This has been pain like none other. To keep quiet. To hide my tears. To hold my head up when all I wanted to do was fall on the ground.

Here's the thing though- pain always hurts. But pain always teaches. Always.

When I have felt like ALL was taken from me- my friendships, my good name, my reputation, my peace... He was still there.

When I felt there would never be any rest ever again...He brought me comfort.

When I cried in front of my children and saw the fear in their eyes, He gave me the words to help them understand.

He led my husband to hold me and pray over me- when I was to angry to pray.

He covered me. In the times when I wept and hid and hurt and agonized, he was there. Covering me with His love.

I still don't understand. I don't think I ever will. And even now, months later, there are still fresh wounds and losses.

But what I am learning most of all is this: I can allow this to make me hard. I could let it drain me of the kindness and the love I have worked really hard to be able to show the world. I could let it turn me back into the closed off hurting woman I once was. Or I could use it to propel me even deeper into faith and love than I have ever been before.

Some days I truly don't know which way it will go. Let's just be really honest- if you don't put yourself out there you arent rejected. If you don't reach out, you wont be rebuffed. If you don't give of yourself nobody will tell you you aren't good enough. You won't ever be betrayed if you don't allow anybody close enough to betray you.

But you will be alone.

I don't think God wants us to be alone. I think he wants us to be discerning, and to be careful of our company. But I think surely he wants us to have joy. And I don't know about you, but most of my joy comes from loving others and my interactions with them. Much of my joy comes from being KNOWN and from knowing others and trying to serve them.

It's a hard battle being fought in my heart. From day to day I cannot tell you which way it will go. All I know is God knows. And that enough for me right now.

I remember when I broke my statue. I stood for what seemed like hours, crying and wishing it had not happened. I called out for help, but nobody came.


So I had to move my feet- step down on the glass. I had to kneel among the fragments of what I loved and pick them up. I had to bleed.

I bled and wept as I put her back together, piece by small piece. My hands are still scarred, to this day.

She was never the same, but she was still precious. She was still treasured, although she was not whole. And she was loved even through the brokenness.